Successful First Year For Enchanté

Posted on April 4, 2016 by  
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Enchante Boutique HotelA year after opening the doors to Enchanté Boutique Hotel, proprietor Abigail Ahrens has her eyes on its renaissance.

“My job is to keep coming up with things that would have the community involved and make a difference,” said the longtime Los Altos resident and lifelong Francophile.

Styled with her collection of antiques, Ahrens’ hotel features 19 guest rooms ranging from $300 to $675 per night, as well as a canine concierge service, a public outdoor plaza and a bistro serving light afternoon fare. Beginning April 10, the bistro opens for Sunday brunch.

“It’s all about the comfort of the guests,” said assistant general manager Paula Nicolas. “What’s unique about this property is that it really feels like you’re staying in the guest rooms of an estate.”

Nicolas should know. The Los Altos native lived for a year with a family in the south of France, where she hoped eventually to work. And then she came home.

Before Enchanté, the triangular parcel at the corner of San Antonio Road and Main Street sat empty for 20 years. Developers planned an office building until Ahrens saw it as the ideal location for her boutique hotel.

Ahrens envisioned her business as a way to reinvest in the city – and in a way she thought would be familiar. Visitors frequently inquired about short-term rentals, and she began to consider the idea of opening a hotel.

The hotel stands as a gift to Los Altos, providing transient occupancy taxes in perpetuity. The aficionado of all things French sold her residence and spent three years gathering the artwork, fabrics and furnishings to add to her personal collection, such as the French farm table grounding the bistro.

The hotel’s 15 employees include management with experience at luxury hospitality companies – Nicolas from Four Seasons and general manager Josh Steinhart from Rosewood.

And the small-business structure enables Enchanté to cater to its visitors. If a guest makes a special request, a staff member can walk to the grocery store and purchase the item.

Of all the requests and queries Ahrens’ has received this year, food service has topped the list. The hotel’s executive chef Jaime Arteaga cooks up banquets for special events alongside candlelit dinners for two. In August last year, confusion over the hotel’s food service permit prompted a monthlong public review and city council vote to allow the business to serve patrons beyond its guests during select hours.

Ahrens developed the outdoor public plaza in exchange for an incentive of no onsite parking.  Looking toward the future, Ahrens plans to provide a “Suite Ride” concierge with luxury car rentals to and from the hotel. As to edible offerings, the hotel will add special-occasion high-tea events in addition to the weekly brunch.

For more information, visit:



Using Only The Finest Ingredients

Posted on March 2, 2016 by  
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Chef Nobu Hoyo of Voyageur du TempsLos Altos has its own resident artisan baker crafting handmade Japanese and French breads and pastries at Voyageur du Temps, the Craftsman-style former railroad station on First Street.

Chef Nobu Hoyo arrives seven hours before customers enter Voyageur’s front door at opening time. If one walks past the curbside kitchen window in the dark hours between midnight and sunrise, Hoyo and his staff are in full swing, music pumping, fully engrossed in an early-morning dance of whisking, rolling, patting, spreading, shaping and baking fresh daily Voyageur creations. Hoyo’s pride of product is like that of a father for his offspring. His Instagram feed is rich with photos presenting beautifully crafted pastries and bread captioned with the loving moniker “my babies.”

Hoyo’s passion for bread began early, while still in his first career as a professional soccer player for Team Bellmare from the coastal town of Hiratsuka, Japan. When the team was on tour in Japan and Europe, Hoyo could be found studying the bread making of renowned bakeries in his free time, eventually forsaking soccer balls for French boules.

Hoyo has spent 10 years practicing and refining his baking skills, training in both Tokyo and Paris. Those early years of the disciplined practice and rigor of professional soccer taught him never to give up. His first reward for his hard work came in 2007, when he received the Special Judges Prize from the California Raisin Committee for his pastry recipe using raisins. In 2009, he received an outstanding performance award for his bread recipe in a contest sponsored by Nisshin Flour Milling. In March 2014, Voyageur du Temps opened with Hoyo at the helm, simultaneously fulfilling his dream of living in California.

Hoyo’s small-batch specialties are masterpieces of thoughtful blueprinting. He uses organic eggs and blends several types of flours to achieve the best flavor. His flours are imported from Rogers Foods in Canada, which prides itself on natural, whole-grain flour products produced without the use of food additives or genetically modified organisms.


Draeger’s Prepares For Renovation

Posted on September 8, 2015 by  
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Draegers PlanDraeger’s Market in Los Altos is prepping for a face-lift following the company’s 90th anniversary this year.

The in-process plan for the 342 First St. gourmet grocery store includes an expansion, seismic upgrades, parking improvements, revitalized landscaping and a new onsite loading area.

The Los Altos City Council paved the way for the project this summer after approving an application for renovation and expansion. The project was among the first to put into practice the city’s revised policy for public noticing – posting a larger billboard in front of the store that illustrates impending changes.

“It’s actually been a pretty good thing,” said company owner Richard Draeger of the new policy. “We’ve gotten a lot of positive comments from our customers.”

Draeger said the company and Field Paoli Architects are collaborating on the project’s detailed drawings with the intent to apply for permits next summer.

“If all goes well, we could potentially start (construction) either before or after the holidays next year,” he said. “I think our design is going to reflect the small-town character of Los Altos.”

The company plans to complete the project in a 12-month construction timeline, with the store remaining open throughout the work.

Draeger’s – first founded as a deli and liquor store in San Francisco in 1925 – today operates four Bay Area markets in Los Altos, Menlo Park, San Mateo and Danville.

In September 1986, the company purchased the Whitecliff Market in Los Altos and fully modernized the space before taking over operations. But it hasn’t been refurbished in nearly three decades.

“It’s been quite a few years since we’ve remodeled the store,” Draeger said. “I think what customers are really looking forward to is just a new look.”

The existing site includes a 21,343-square-foot building and a parking lot with 72 spaces. The renovation adds nearly 3,000 square feet to the store by knocking out a vacant adjacent building the family owns. The added space also makes way for a new loading bay in the rear of the building, which Draeger said would improve traffic circulation.

The project features new bicycle racks, 15 more parking spaces and a new sidewalk along its frontage on First Street. To enhance safety, the sidewalk’s curb cut – where motorists enter and exit the parking lot – will be moved toward the center of the lot. Two sidewalk bulb-outs, designed to improve visibility for vehicles, will be added to the sidewalk. With some residents voicing concern over the bulb-outs, city staff will evaluate the need for street lighting and safety features for the bulb-outs.

For more information, visit:


Enchanté Starts Food & Beverage Service

Posted on September 3, 2015 by  
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Enchanté HotelLocal gourmands take note: Enchanté Boutique Hotel now serves beverages and small plates to the general public.

Their food and beverage service is from 4 p.m. to midnight on weekdays and 7 a.m. to midnight on weekends, holidays and for up to six special events per year. The bistro is now open from 4 to 10 p.m. daily, according to hotel owner Abigail Ahrens.

Ahrens developed the plaza as a public benefit in exchange for an incentive of no onsite parking. However, she added three curbside public parking spaces in front of the hotel. The plaza incorporates public land with private property, which has an easement for public use.

Unable to previously serve potential patrons, her revenue stream and business reputation have suffered. She said thousands of people have requested food service since opening the hotel earlier this year and she has had to turn them away.

Enchanté General Manager Josh Steinhart confirmed that the bistro would not be open during all of the permitted hours. “We just want the opportunity to do special activities, which would include serving on special occasions,” he said.

For more information, visit:



New Zealand Couple Stops In Los Altos

Posted on August 7, 2015 by  
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Fred SmitsHaving driven 28,000 miles around the United States the past 12 months in their 1957 Mercedes-Benz 220S towing a modern camping trailer, Fred and Elisabeth Smits stopped by the Saturday morning car gathering outside Main Street Cafe & Books July 18 to share their experiences and do a little show-and-tell.

The recently retired couple decided a few years ago to spend their first five or so years of retirement driving around the world. The Smits started the journey by shipping their completely rebuilt Mercedes and custom camping trailer from their home in Auckland to Los Angeles. From there, they have driven across the southern states to Florida with a diversion to Las Vegas and the Grand Canyon, up the East Coast to Maine, then across the northern U.S. with a stop at the Indianapolis 500 race, and finally past Mount Rushmore to Seattle and down the coast to Los Altos.

The Smits had learned of the local gathering from members of the Mercedes-Benz Club of America and stopped by during their last two weeks before their one-year U.S. visa expires. They will be crossing into Mexico and the second leg of their journey.

During the next 12 months, their plan is to drive all the way to the tip of South America before returning north to Buenos Aires, where they will ship their rig to Europe. From there, plans are a little more flexible – maybe even 18 months in Europe – before crossing Russian and China and heading down through Southeast Asia, then shipping the rig to Australia for the last leg before home.

So far, so good, they report. During this year they’ve flushed out and repaired a few mechanical issues with the rebuilt car and settled into a routine of camping on the road for approximately two weeks at a time before spending a few days in a hotel to catch up on laundry and correspondence.

Elisabeth said not one day have they wondered why they undertook the odyssey or thought about heading home early. With nearly 30,000 miles under the wheels already, the Smits said they’re still looking forward to each new day and the sights it will bring.


Outdoor Movie Nights Arrive In August

Posted on July 12, 2015 by  
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The Lego MovieThe Los Altos Village Association is scheduled to host free outdoor Friday Movie Nights in August.

Movies are screened 8:30 p.m. on Main Street at the Third Street intersection. Main Street is closed between Second and Third streets beginning at 5 p.m. Attendees may set out chairs, sleeping bags, blankets and picnic items beginning at 6 p.m. Seating is first come, first served.

This year’s lineup:

• Aug. 7: “101 Dalmatians” (1961). In London, Cruella De Vil and her thugs abduct a litter of Dalmatian puppies so that she can make herself a lovely Dalmatian coat.

• Aug. 14: “The LEGO Movie.” An ordinary LEGO construction worker – mistaken as “the Special,” an extraordinary being – is recruited to join a quest to stop an evil tyrant from gluing the LEGO universe into eternal stasis.

• Aug. 21: “Rescuers Down Under.” A boy living in the Australian outback frees a trapped golden eagle only to be kidnapped by an evil poacher.

• Aug. 28: “Frozen.” Anna, a fearless princess, sets off on an epic journey alongside a mountain man, his loyal reindeer and a naive snowman to find her newly crowned sister, Snow Queen Elsa.

For more information, visit


Art & Wine Festival – This Weekend

Posted on July 8, 2015 by  
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Los Altos Art & Wine FestivalThe Los Altos Arts & Wine Festival is set for this weekend, and it promises to be as big as ever. Assistance from many organizations and businesses is crucial to the success of the event, according to LAVA Executive Director Nancy Dunaway, who is particularly grateful for the ongoing support of Main Stage sponsor and local retailer Walgreens. This is the 13th year that Walgreens has been on board as a sponsor. The Walgreens booth is located at the intersection of Main and State streets during the festival.

The Arts and Wine Committee partnered with two organizations in new ways this year.

The San Jose Tech Museum of Innovation hosts a “Social Robot” corner in Plaza 6, next to the Costume Bank at 169 State St. Stop by to speak with, dress and command a robot. The Social Robot exhibit is dedicated to the memory of Bob Grimm, a Tech Museum board member who lived much of his life in Los Altos.

Ride-sharing company Lyft offers $20 off a ride from the festival for new Lyft customers who use the special Los Altos Arts & Wine Festival code. Those who purchase an official Arts & Wine Festival glass receive a card with more information.

Those driving to the festival are encouraged to park at Los Altos High School, 201 Almond Ave., and take the free shuttle to and from the festival. Provided by Corinthian Transportation Services, the shuttle drops off riders at Edith Avenue, next to the shaded Village Park, and picks them up there as well.

Since 2006, Pacific Fine Arts of Pine Grove has selected the nearly 400 artisans and craftspeople offering a wide variety artwork, jewelry, crafts and creativity during the festival. Dana and Troy Hale-Mounier, owners of Pacific Fine Arts, have worked extensively with the Arts and Wine Committee to provide a premier selection and the best and brightest the festival world has to offer to Los Altos every year, according to Dunaway.

Dancing at the Art & Wine FestivalSaturday’s 6 p.m. dance concert, hosted by LAVA on the Walgreens Main Stage in Central Plaza, features Sage for the fourth consecutive year. “It’s a great way to end a fun day at the festival,” said Dunaway, who recommended that concertgoers enjoy dinner from the many food vendors or downtown restaurants.

The festival is scheduled to run 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. For more information on the Los Altos Village Association and the 36th annual Arts & Wine Festival, call 949-5282 or visit ?


Local Couple Launch Restaurant

Posted on June 5, 2015 by  
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TURN.Logo.containedJim and Julie Otis are prepared to realize their longtime dream.  The couple – lifelong Los Altos residents – wanted to ensure that their farm-to-fork restaurant was done well. After years of brainstorming and many months of planning, Turn Bar & Grill is scheduled to open in downtown Los Altos this month.

“It’s been an interesting ride,” Julie said. “I’m a big believer in things being right if there aren’t a lot of stumbling blocks.”

The process may have been smooth, but it wasn’t simple. When the 295 Main St. corner space opened up, the Turn team knocked down walls to combine the former sites of A.G. Ferrari Foods and Jamba Juice. They also added a semiprivate room for parties of up to 40, plus patio seating in front of the building.

Julie has 15 years’ experience in technology marketing and sales; Jim has a decade in the restaurant industry. But now, his passion has become hers.

The casual, full-service restaurant features a menu of American favorites with a foodie twist – grilled Angus T-bone steak topped with spinach and an egg, for example. According to Julie, the restaurant favors seasonal fare with an emphasis on locally sourced meats, seafood and cheeses.

The spacious dining area comprises three distinct sections for hosting everything from first dates to family gatherings. A few recessed televisions encourage game-night screenings, and a rustic wood and marble bar serves wine and craft cocktails. Mixologists stir up happy-hour libations with fresh-squeezed juices and concoctions like Spa Water and Granny’s Moonshine.

The restaurant is slated to open the week of June 15 for dinner only, with daily lunch and weekend brunch added at a date to be announced. For more, visit:


Children’s Author Visits Linden Tree

Posted on June 3, 2015 by  
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Jennifer Chambliss BertmanChildren’s author and Mountain View native Jennifer Chambliss Bertman is scheduled to visit Linden Tree Books in Los Altos 6-8 p.m. Friday for a book signing of her debut novel.

Set in San Francisco, “Book Scavenger” (Henry Holt, 2015) is a middle-grade adventure in which two 12-year-old friends hunt for books while they themselves are being hunted, using puzzle-solving skills to solve a mystery. As they race against time, Emily and James rush from clue to clue, desperate to figure out the secret at the heart of the game. The book is recommended for ages 8-12.

In keeping with the book’s theme, downtown visitors at Friday’s 6-8 p.m. First Friday event can participate in a “Book Scavenger” hunt, with copies hidden around surrounding businesses. Clues are already posted on Linden Tree’s website ( When they find a “Book Scavenger” book or cover, children can snap a photo and send it to Linden Tree.

Growing up in Mountain View, Chambliss Bertman attended Springer elementary, Blach Intermediate and Mountain View High schools. She is slated to appear at Springer and Blach today and at Bullis Charter School Friday.

Currently living in Boulder, Colo., Chambliss Bertman previously lived in San Francisco, which served as inspiration for “Book Scavenger” as she imagined a child discovering mysteries in the books she came across.

“I liked the idea of a book holding a mystery,” she said.

Her first novel was the culmination of 10 years of work. Chambliss Bertman said she is working on a sequel to “Book Scavenger,” due out next year.

Linden Tree Books is located at 265 State St. For more information, call 949-3390 or visit:


Kiwanis Pet Parade This Saturday

Posted on May 13, 2015 by  
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Kiwanis Pet ParadeThe Kiwanis Club of Los Altos is scheduled to host the 68th annual Kiwanis Pet Parade 10 a.m. Saturday in downtown Los Altos.

The event showcases a variety of pets marching or being toted down Main and State streets, accompanied by their owners.

Monique Kane, executive director of the Community Health Awareness Council, will serve as this year’s grand marshal. After 29 years with the agency, Kane recently announced her retirement.

The first Pet Parade took place in 1947, five years before the city of Los Altos was incorporated. Over the years, it has become a spring tradition that attracts thousands of children and a range of pets – from cats and dogs to snails and llamas – on foot, on horseback, in wagons and on bicycles.

Representatives from local bands, schools and community groups join the procession.

Local dignitaries in classic cars accompany the marchers. This year’s guests will include Los Altos Mayor Jan Pepper, Los Altos Hills Mayor Courtenay C. Corrigan, Los Altos Police Chief Tuck Younis, Los Altos School District Superintendent Jeff Baier and Board of Trustees President Steve Taglio and Mountain View Los Altos Union High School District Superintendent Barry Groves and Board of Trustees President Susan Sweeley.


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