There's something alluring about pop-ups -- both their ephemerality and the sense of community you feel eating with like-minded people who are willing to seek out birria tacos made out of a home garage on a Tuesday afternoon or to support a software engineer pursuing his true passion for making Asian-inspired croissants.
Pop-ups often lay the foundation for permanent locations for food businesses, and it's exciting to follow up-and-comers as they transition to bigger things.
In no particular order, below are five pop-ups of note happening throughout the Midpeninsula.
Amandine Project chef series
Jean-Luc Kayigire, owner of Los Altos cocktail bar Amandine Project, started last fall a pop-up dinner series featuring international chefs. The first event was a six-course meal cooked by Rodolfo Castellanos, the well-known chef-owner of Origen Oaxaca in Oaxaca, Mexico, which he opened after cooking in San Francisco restaurants, including the acclaimed and now-closed Jardinière. Earlier this month, chef Raisaku Sawai flew in from Maibashi, Japan, to make his Japanese-influenced Italian food using produce from Luna Vez Farms in Los Altos and pasta from Los Altos Italian restaurant Tre Monti.
Kayigire has been inviting chefs he meets while traveling or through connections he's made as a restaurant owner. (His business partner recently introduced him to Sawai on a trip to Japan, where Kayigire said he's opening a gin and vodka distillery.) The goal of the pop-ups, he said, is to bring more visibility to Los Altos.
"Our job is introducing as many people as possible to come enjoy Los Altos," he said. "I know a lot of chefs. For me, that's the best way I can give back to Los Altos."
Because Amandine doesn't have a kitchen, most of the dinners have been hosted at Bumble in Los Altos, but once the forthcoming State Street Market, a massive food hall, opens downtown, Kayigire hopes to move it there.
The next pop-up will be in April and feature a yet-to-be-named chef from Paris.
Follow Amandine Project at instagram.com/amandineproject/ for updates.
Little Sky Bakery
Tian Mayimin has drawn a local following for her naturally leavened breads, baked out of her Menlo Park home. A former criminal defense attorney and entrepreneur, she started experimenting with baking after moving to California, using a starter that has reportedly been nurtured by monks for more than a hundred years.
You can now find her orange-olive oil challah, sourdough baguettes and country bread at several local farmers markets: Portola Valley (Thursdays from 2-5 p.m.), downtown Palo Alto (Saturdays 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.), Menlo Park (Sundays from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.), and Mountain View (Sundays 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.), where she recently started doing grilled cheese and breakfast sandwiches. She also delivers on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays in Menlo Park and Palo Alto.
Visit littleskybakery.com for updates.
Lil' Eagle Burger
The Peninsula's only smashburger pop-up is run by Zack Fernandes, a communications manager at Apple by day and burger obsessive by night. He only serves smashburgers -- his latest iteration being two 2-ounce patties made from an 80-20 chuck blend, smashed to peak thinness and topped with gooey Kraft American cheese, caramelized onions and a mayo-based sauce that he "umamifies" with fish sauce and other ingredients on an unfussy potato bun.
"Burgers are such a quintessential immigrant food for me," said Fernandes, who was born in Singapore and moved to the United States as a teenager. "George Motz talks about this in his book ("Hamburger America") and some videos, but there would be no hamburger if the hamburg steak from Germany didn't end up at a world's fair in New York where some dude slapped it in between two slices of bread.
"I think it's funny that people view the hamburger as being so distinctly American," he said, "and forget about that very important factor."
You can find Lil' Eagle in undisclosed parking lots, Redwood City bar Timber & Salt or Palo Alto natural wine bar Salvaje. His next pop-up is set for March 21 at Salvaje (369 Lytton Ave., Palo Alto).
Follow Fernandes at instagram.com/zachareats/ for updates.
Bagel Tuesdays at Manresa Bread
Manresa Bread hosts two of its own pop-ups weekly: bagels on Tuesdays and pizza on Wednesdays, though the latter is only available at the Campbell location. All three locations of the bakery (Los Altos, Los Gatos and Campbell) serve naturally fermented sourdough bagels -- plain, sesame, everything and cinnamon raisin -- from 7 a.m. until the bakery sells out.
Manresa Bread, the bakery spinoff of the three-Michelin-star Manresa in Los Gatos, is the grain-forward brainchild of Avery Ruzicka, who was recently named a semifinalist for a James Beard award.
Manresa Bread is located at 271 State St., Los Altos. Call 650.946.2293 or visit manresabread.com.
The Peninsula's sole Swedish sweets pop-up serves kardemummabullar (a cardamom bun), drömmar (Swedish dream cookies, akin to a Mexican wedding cookie), semlor (a yeasted bun sliced in half and filled with cream, traditionally served on Fat Tuesday) and other baked goods. Something Swede-ish owner Denise Touhey, who grew up in Belmont with her Swedish grandmother, draws inspiration from Swedish cookbooks and family recipes. She pops up on Thursdays at Woodside cafe The Village Hub, 3154 Woodside Road.
Follow Something Swede-ish at instagram.com/somethingswede_ish/ for updates.
For a list of more pop-ups throughout the broader Peninsula and South Bay, go to thesixfifty.com.