Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Sibby's Cupcakery, San Mateo

Where does the time go?

I've been meaning to post about these mini-cupcakes from Sibby's for over a week now:


They are just as delicious as they are adorable. Jon and I ordered 2 dozen for a recent holiday dinner party. Since we believe in variety, we went with the Sibby's Sampler — which I'm told is anywhere from 4-6 flavors.

We were quite pleased with ours: mocha, grandma's teacake (chocolate), gingerbread, snickerdoodle, eggnog and carrot. In fact, we — and our guests — enjoyed them so much, Jon and I are now scheduled to bring a batch of Sibby's mini-cupcakes to Christmas Eve dinner.

Here's the thing about Sibby's though: There's a minimum order of 1 dozen for the regular cupcakes or 2 dozen for the minis. And they don't have an actual storefront. You call/email your order and they'll either deliver it for a fee, or you can stop by their San Mateo location and pick up yourself. Whichever way you go, it's definitely worth checking out.

Sibby's Cupcakery

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Bistro Vida, Menlo Park

Over the past couple of years, Jon and I have enjoyed dinner at Bistro Vida on numerous occasions. I love the ambiance (feels much more like a bistro in Paris than its neighbor, Left Bank restaurant) and the food is usually quite tasty. BUT ... the service is not the greatest. Friendly, but slow.

I kept hearing that the weekend brunch was the real reason to come here, so I finally got around to stopping by on Sunday morning. It was around 11:30am, and the restaurant was about half-full when I walked in. But over the course of my two-hour meal, it filled up almost entirely. Families. Small clusters of friends. Couples. Bistro Vida clearly has widespread appeal.

I ordered the French toast along with a side of frites (which are great here). Maybe my expectations were too high, but I didn't find myself loving the French toast. It was fine, but not addictive — as other diners have deemed it. The texture was more crunchy than eggy, so it's different than most French toasts that are served in restaurants. Different can be good thing, but in this case, it wasn't for me.

I'm glad I made it to Bistro Vida for brunch, but I think I'll stick to the dinner for future visits.

Bistro Vida
641 Santa Cruz Avenue
Menlo Park, CA
(650) 462-1686

Friday, December 08, 2006

Tanglewood, Santana Row

When my sister heard that her absolute favorite server from the The Grill on the Alley (in the San Jose Fairmont) had been hired at Tanglewood, she immediately made a reservation for the Santana Row eatery.

Now I have to say, I haven't had the greatest dining experiences at the upscale shopping center. Food sometimes seems far too pricey for what you get. Stunning decor, but service is lacking. A lot of the restaurants in Santana Row are offshoots of well-known/successful local establishments (e.g., Chris Yeo's Straits Cafe and Sino, Bradley Ogden's Yankee Pier).

Tanglewood comes with a nice pedigree as well. The restaurant's proprietor is Roland Passot -- who is behind San Francisco's highly regarded La Folie. And Chef Quentin Topping is a graduate of Harvard University as well as the California Culinary Academy.

When I went to the Tanglewood web site the afternoon of our dinner reservation, I spotted a buttermilk-fried quail dish that sounded incredible. Did I mention that it comes with honey-butter mini biscuits? Drool. Sadly, it wasn't available the night my sister and I were there. But they had another quail option, served over grits and with a small salad topped with a fried quail egg. Although the quail itself wasn't fried, it was still quite tasty. And those grits were awesome. I could have eaten an entire bowl.

My sister opted for the Ahi salad that I don't remember much about. All I know is, she practically licked her plate clean. So it scored high marks with her.

Given that the Chef spent some time in the Boston area, I decided that my main entree should be a "Real New England Lobster Roll" (as the menu describes it).


I was a bit hesitant because the roll comes dressed, instead of naked, but the lobster mixture was delicious. There were chunks of sweet lobster meat, crunchy chopped celery, creamy mayo, and even a hint of curry. It was a nice combination of flavors and textures. Oh, and they did the bread right (i.e., a buttery New England-style hot dog bun). The onion rings were also very good.

My sister ordered the chicken, which was sort of a take on the traditional Thanksgiving dinner. It was served over mashed sweet potatoes, with tiny marshallows sprinkled on the plate (even toasted -- a sweet detail!) and some cranberry sauce. Tasty. But I looked at her plate after she finished off her meal, and there were just too many bones to have to pick through. I don't like to work that hard to get some meat.

Next up were the desserts: a triple-layer carrot cake with cream cheese frosting for me, and an apple tart with salty caramel ice cream for her. They were good, but her ice cream was the only stand-out on both of our plates. (That's a little glass of cold apple cider in the photo below.)


The service throughout the evening was top-notch. The server my sister had come to see was actually off the night we dined at Tanglewood (bummer!), but I'm sure he couldn't have done much better than our waitress did. This restaurant, by the way, is beautiful. Dark wood, patterned silk upholstery on the banquettes, and this cool sueded table liner (instead of the usual white paper that sits on top of most restaurant tables). I loved watching the kitchen's sliding glass doors -- such a simple idea, yet it makes so much sense (you get to peek into the kitchen, the servers can see each other and there's no risk of bumping as someone comes in and someone else goes out).

Okay, so is there any downside of this place? Yes. The portions are small. And they're not cheap. My sister and I are not big eaters, yet we found ourselves still hungry after our three-course meal (that was just over $100, pre-tip). If I go back to Tanglewood, I might have to order a couple of appetizers in fill me up. I'm sure they'll be delicious, but whether or not the bill will be worth it is another question.

334 Santana Row, #1000
San Jose, CA
(408) 244-0464

Monday, December 04, 2006

Shiok, Menlo Park

I hadn't heard of this restaurant before Colin emailed to tell me about it. But once I took a look at the menu, I put it at the top of my list of places to try.

First of all, I have to say: Since we didn't have any prior experience with Singaporean food, we went into this rather blindly. We didn't know what the go-to Singaporean items were -- the Pad Thai or Shaking Beef of the cuisine, if you will. So we just picked what sounded good (from the lengthy menu) and crossed our fingers.

We chose well.

Since it was a chilly night, I quickly ordered myself a cup of the delicious, sweet honey-ginger tea. For our starters, Jon and I went with the Beef Samosa with Yogurt Mint Sauce and the Chicken Satay with Peanut Sauce. The lightly breaded chicken was good (you definitely need to dip it into the sauce), but the samosas were outstanding. Inside the crispy pastry shell was a minced beef, onion and potato mix that was flavorful but not too spicy.

Noodles and rice -- comfort foods to me -- seemed like perfect entree selections for the evening. The Hor Fun is described as stir-fried broad rice noodles in rich egg gravy, with vegetables and your choice of seafood, beef or chicken. We opted for just the veggies. While we were expecting a heaping plate of noodles, what we got looked more like a stew. This is because that egg gravy is really thick. But there were definitely a lot of noodles in the bowl, and it was a satisfying dish.

Because I love Chinese sausage and claypot dishes, the next entree was a no-brainer for me: The Claypot Rice with marinated chicken, Chinese sausage, mushroom and bok choy. Simple and tasty. It reminded me a lot of a meal my mom used to make quite often when I was growing up.

Finally, we got to the dessert menu. In keeping with the theme of ordering food that's reminiscent of my mom's cooking, I ordered the Banana Roll (sans the ice cream -- it was just too cold!). Again, the beauty is in the simplicity: Just sliced bananas in a spring roll-wrapper that had been deep-fried. Awesome. Jon ordered the Fried Ice Cream, which was coconut ice cream with a layer of sponge cake around it, deep-fried and then drizzled with chocolate syrup. I didn't sample his, but since he ate it all, I can only assume it was good.

The decor here is attractive, but nothing fancy. I was a little thrown by the melamine cups, plates and spoons; it just seemed a tad too casual. When our bill arrived, we were surprised that our three-course meal was under $50. Maybe all of that plastic dishware (less breakage) helps them keep costs down?

Shiok Kitchen
1137 Chestnut Street
Menlo Park, CA
(650) 838-9448

Monday, November 27, 2006

Dairy Queen, Redwood City

After picking up Jon from the airport on Friday night, we drove by the Dairy Queen on Woodside Road. It was 9:02pm and the lights were off, the place totally shut down. Weird, right?

The next night, while on a KFC run (please don't judge me!), we noticed that across the street -- where DQ sits -- it was all dark again. Two nights in a row. Nothing going on at the DQ. Was it closed? Say it ain't so!

Jon spotted a sign in the window and decided to drive through the deserted parking lot to check it out. Turns out, they were just closed for the Thanksgiving holiday week (yes, an entire week) so they'll re-open this Wednesday.


Jon always gets some sort of peanut butter-related Blizzard (I think) and I'm all about the kids' size chocolate-dipped cone. Of course, now that I'm writing this, I really want a DQ cone. Just 48 hours until the doors open again ...

Oh! BTW, did you know that there's a Foster's Freeze in Menlo Park? I had no idea, until the other day. So I guess if DQ ever does close (which I hope it never does), at least we know that's nearby.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

John Bentley's, Woodside

After talking about going to John Bentley's for months and months, we finally ate there this past weekend. Located in an old firehouse, the restaurant is quite charming. The front dining room isn't very large. The focal point of the space is the rather modern fireplace that I really liked (you know, the whole juxtaposition between old and new thing). We were seated in the outdoor-ish dining room. I think it's technically a porch, but it totally doesn't feel like it because of all the enclosures and heat and comfy banquette seating that they have going on back there.

To start, I had one of the evening's specials: figs stuffed with blue cheese, served with greens and crostini. I could have done with a little less cheese in my figs, but it was fine (I spread some of the excess on the bread). Jon had the Dungeness crab cakes, which were tasty, but hardly special in my book. (Note: Maybe I've just never had outstanding crab cakes -- even in Baltimore -- so I don't know when it's really impressive and when it's not.)

Moving on.

For my main course, I enjoyed another special: halibut served over wild rice with green beans in a delicous beurre blanc. Loved it. The fish was so tender and flaky. Jon ordered the roast rack of lamb with scalloped parsnips and a grain mustard sauce. Parsnips! What a nice change from the usual potatoes. Very very good.

Finally, for dessert, I went with the panna cotta with strawberry and mango sauce, while Jon chose the apple tart with (some flavor I can't remember) ice cream. His was better, hands down. The tart was fairly large in diameter, but it was also pretty flat. There was just a thin layer of sliced apples in the puff pastry shell. Excellent. My panna cotta was a little too soft for my taste; sure, I like it creamy, but firmer (more gelatin, please!).

All in all -- food, service, ambiance -- it was a good meal, but nothing spectacular. For the most part, the dishes seemed fairly safe.

Although I'm glad we finally tried it, I think the next time we feel like spending $150 on dinner, we might have to drive right past John Bentley's and over to Village Pub instead.

John Bentley's
2991 Woodside Road
Woodside, CA
(650) 851-4988

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Kanpai, Palo Alto

I recently learned that the owners of Menlo Park's Naomi Sushi -- a place Jon and I both like -- opened another Japanese restaurant in Palo Alto. Kanpai takes over the space formerly occupied by Jidai-ya. How do I know this? Because the chopstick wrappers still say Jidai-ya on them.

Details, people.

Anyway! In terms of ambiance and service, Kanpai is definitely a step up from Naomi. It's not too slick though, so you'll still be fine wearing jeans and sneakers here.

This is what we ordered:
  • San Jose tofu (deep fried cubes in a light, flavorful broth)
  • Edemame
  • Ikura (salmon roe)
  • Hamachi (yellowtail)
  • Toro (fatty tuna)
  • Kanpai Special Roll (tempura shrimp + avocado + eel)
  • Tempura asparagus
  • 49er Roll (tuna + avocado + spicy yellowtail)
  • Palo Alto Roll (um ... I can't remember!)
One of the nice things is that the nigiri is sold in single pieces ... Well, it's nice in that if you're just looking to sample something, you're only committed to one bite of sushi. But the prices are a bit steep, I think. Our overall dinner came to about $80.

I thoroughly enjoyed my selections, but Jon remarked that his -- which are the last three on the list -- were just okay. He thought the asparagus was too bitter and the 49er Roll not spicy enough. And this is coming from a man who doesn't even like really spicy food; I guess his point was that it was bland.

We ate fairly early last night -- and it was a Tuesday night -- so Kanpai wasn't too crowded during our visit. But I hear that the place gets packed later in the week and during the weekend. While I would definitely make a return-trip here, I may have a tougher time convincing Jon -- especially with so many other good sushi/Japanese food options in the area.

330 Lytton Avenue
Palo Alto, CA
(650) 325-2696

Monday, November 13, 2006

St. Michael's Alley, Palo Alto

Okay, this is going to be short and sweet ... Because I'm in the middle of working on several freelance articles ... And I wanted to mention this little eatery, but don't have time for anything too detailed.

I met up with some friends for brunch at St. Michael's Alley on Saturday, and since it was the first visit for everyone, we all commented on what a cute place it is. (Note: I like that they actually offer brunch both weekend days, and not just on Sunday.) The dining room isn't very big, but there are a couple of outdoor tables and seating at the bar as well.

Dishes enjoyed at our table: cinnamon-pear pancakes (the daily special); fruit sundae (which was basically a fruit salad, served in a bowl -- not a parfait glass, as I thought it would be -- with granola and yogurt); and Blue Monkey pancakes (blueberry and banana combined). All were delicious, and not too pricey. My short stack of pancakes and a side of crispy bacon came to about $10.

The restaurant wasn't too crowded when we showed up (which was good for us, since they don't accept brunch reservations), but it started to fill up around noon. On a sunny morning, when people aren't huddled inside their warm homes underneath a pile of blankets, I imagine that St. Michael's Alley probably attracts even more diners looking for a tasty meal, as well as lovely ambiance and service.

St. Michael's Alley
806 Emerson Street
Palo Alto, CA
(650) 326 2530

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Oakville Grocery's T-Day Menu

I have absolutely no intention of ever -- EVER -- cooking a Thanksgiving dinner. Luckily, there are other members of my family who enjoy doing that. But if you're playing host this year and feeling a little unsure when it comes to your culinary skills, get yourself to Oakville Grocery.

They're offering traditional, but definitely gourmet, to-go meals. All you have to do is reheat, place on pretty platters, and serve at your Thanksgiving table. You can even test out Oakville's Thanksgiving meals at their customer appreciation parties, scheduled for this Thursday night at the Stanford and San Francisco locations. The entire Thanksgiving menu will be available for you to enjoy, as well as some goodies from the Fall Catering menu. (I'm sure this is going to be waaaay better than Costco free food sampling!)

From Oakville's press release:
Starters include homemade butternut squash and pear soup, wild mushroom tartlets, Medjool dates stuffed with blue cheese and walnuts and petite crab cakes. Side dishes range from our traditional classic cranberry sauce, roasted garlic mashed potatoes, turkey gravy and artisan bread dressing with fennel and apples to Oakville favorites such as creamed spinach with Parmigiano Reggiano, maple-baked sweet potatoes and brussel sprouts with pancetta and cippolini onions. Oakville is known for its wonderful cheese and charcuterie selections and the stores are brimming with local and imported artisan products from house-made Gorgonzola Torta to Farmer’s pate.

As for dessert, finish off your feast with an assortment of delectable pies from Napa Valley’s Sweetie Pies Bakery. Choose from freshly baked apple crisp, classic pumpkin or maple pecan.
You can order your Thanksgiving meal from Oakville as late as Sunday, November 19. And in case you can't make it to either of the parties this week, call them up and they'll fax you a menu. So easy, it's making me think that maybe I should host a Thanksgiving dinner one of these years!

Oakville Grocery
When: Thursday, November 9, 6-8pm
Where: Palo Alto (Stanford Shopping Center); San Francisco (The Cannery at Del Monte Square)

Friday, November 03, 2006

La Bodeguita del Medio, Palo Alto

I love this place. It's as simple as that. The food, the drinks, the vibe. La Bodeguita is now one of my favorite restaurants in the Peninsula.

Last night, Jon and I walked in (without a reservation) just after 5:30pm. Since that's what time the Cuban restaurant opens, we didn't have a problem getting a table. But if you're planning to arrive after 7pm, get a reservation. The main dining room -- as well as the bar area, which features some tables as well -- were both full when we were done with our meal.

We started off with a pair of mojitos. Fantastic. Even though I had to go non-alcoholic because I forgot my ID and the waitress actually carded me! Anyway. The drinks -- they live up to their reputation as the best mojitos in town. With rum or without.

For our appetizers, I opted for the empanadas -- a trio of flaky pastries stuffed with shredded pork -- and it was delicious. Loved the textures and flavors, and even the coconut sauce lightly drizzled over the dish (I'm not usually a fan of coconut-anything). Jon couldn't decide between the crab cakes and the croquetas, so he ordered both. The crab cakes were good, but weren't anything extraordinary. The deep-fried potato fritters, however, were awesome with the tamarind-chipotle dipping sauce.

The entrees: I had the ropa vieja (tender shredded skirt steak served over yellow rice with a few plaintain slices) and Jon had the masitas (spicy roasted pork with white rice, black beans and carmelized onions). We couldn't agree on whose dish was better (I thought mine, he thought his), but we did come to the consensus that both were amazing. The only disappointment for me were the plantains. They were on the dry side, and some slices were even gummy. I actually prefered the sweet plantain chips that served as garnish on my plate.

I purposely didn't finish off my entire dinner because I was saving room for dessert. We decided to share the Havana Bananas, which consisted of carmelized bananas, walnuts, and vanilla ice cream sprinkled with cinnamon. It was simple and tasty, but nothing special.

Last night, there were quite a few large groups in the dining room -- and this does seem like a great place to imbibe and dine with a gathering of friends.The decor here has a tropical feel to it, and Hemingway's influence is clear (his picture is on the menu, and his words are featured behind the bar). The restaurant's walls are filled with paintings from Cuban artists.

You may not be able to make it to the original La Bodeguita del Medio in Havana. But I can't imagine the food is that much better there anyway. And the Palo Alto eatery does offer plenty of rum cocktails and even cigars. No passport required, but remember to bring your ID.

La Bodeguita del Medio
463 South California Avenue
Palo Alto, CA
(650) 326-7762

Monday, October 30, 2006

Erik's Delicafe, Redwood City

I am not much of a sandwich person, yet I still find myself drawn to Erik's Delicafe. Since I used to frequent the establishment back in my Santa Cruz college days, I think the appeal is partly nostalgia for me. I won't go to Quizno's, Subway or Togo's, but Erik's I will gladly order from.

Erik's isn't the kind of place you crave or even go out of your way for. I happened to be at a fabric store in Redwood City yesterday when I spotted it in the strip mall. Since my husband had never been to an Erik's before, we decided to pop in.

There's nothing fancy about the menu here. In fact, you could argue that the sandwiches can easily be made at home in your own kitchen. And what's wrong with that? Erik's offers simple, solid food at affordable prices. And, at a time when fancy sandwich shops are charging double-digits and leaving customers dissatisfied, Erik's is a nice respite. The sandwiches are made to order (quickly, might I add) with fresh ingredients. I usually opt for the half-sandwich/cup of soup combo. (I love the names of the sandwiches -- yesterday I had the Raging Bull, but the R.E.O. Speadwagon is also fun to order.)

I admit that the ambiance here is a little cheesy -- with the fake barnwood walls and ceilings, iron kettle in the room, etc. But where else around here can you get your beverages served in mason jars?

Erik's DeliCafe
See web site for locations throughout the Peninsula and South Bay (mainly the latter).

Friday, October 20, 2006

Junnoon, Palo Alto

When we went to Junnoon on Wednesday night, I was a little surprised that the place was so packed. First, it was Wednesday (is that the new Thursday? which *was* the new Friday?). Second, I made my reservation on Open Table just a few hours prior, and it looked like there was quite a bit of availability for the evening.

When you enter the restaurant, there's a lounge/bar area that looks quite comfy. But the actual dining room -- at least when we were there -- had an awkward configuration to it. There were a lot of tables set up for 6-10 people, so maybe that's why it was so strange. A table of 3 was sandwiched between a party of 6 and a party of 10 (or so). What a miserable spot. Most of the tables for 2 were next to each other, with little room between tables.

But on to the food ...

Jon started with the Bombay Crab and Cod Cake, while I ordered the Minced Beef Patty. The cake was delicious, and had a lovely presentation on top of the mung bean relish. When my dish arrived at the table, I was a little surprised. I thought the patty was encased in puff pastry ... But what I got was a patty and some bread on the side. Hmmm. It turns out, I got the Velvet Lamb Kebob by mistake. D'oh. It was okay -- maybe it would have been better if I wasn't so looking forward to the Beef Patty. The lamb mixture was pan seared, but overall, too mushy for my taste. The flavors were nice though.

For our entrees, I had the Rice Flaked Sea Bass and Jon went with the Junnoon "Kaathi" Roll with chicken. I loved the crispy rice topping on the Sea Bass, and the fish itself was moist and flaky. The best way to describe Jon's was: chicken, wrapped in an omelet, wrapped in "paratha" bread. The thing was a monster, but it was so tasty, he ate it all up.

I absolutely love Mango Lassi -- it may be my favorite thing at most Indian restaurants -- and Junnoon serves a version that also includes Passion Fruit. It was so yummy, I had to order two.

Except for delivering the wrong appetizer to me, the service was fine throughout the night. I was too full (damn Mango Lassis!) to try out any of the desserts, but upon glancing at the menu, none of them really stood out to me as must-tries.

Around the same time that Junnoon opened up (in February), another upscale Indian restaurant arrived on the Palo Alto dining scene: Mantra. I'd be interested to check out that place soon to see if the food is as good as Junnoon's.

150 University Avenue
Palo Alto, CA
(650) 329-9644

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Update: Beard Papa

Judith sent me an email this morning with the scoop on the Redwood City Beard Papa:

Grand Opening!
November 10, 2006

835 Middlefield Road, RWC
Hours: Sun-Thurs = 9am-10pm; Fri-Sat = 10am-11pm

Vanilla Cream Puffs: 1 = $1.75; 6 = $10; 12 = $20

Special flavors will be rotated weekly, but may include: chocolate, caramel, gree tea, pumpkin, milk tea and strawberry. (Prices are slightly higher for these non-vanilla flavors.)

FREE! The first 50 customers for the first 5 days to order 12 or more cream puffs will receive a Beard Papa Coffee Thermos.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Gochi Fusion Tapas, Cupertino

Yes, yes, I have raved about Gochi in the past ... But that was when my experiences were limited to the midday. With mainly rice and noodle dishes on their lunch menu, I couldn't figure out why the words "fusion tapas" appear in the restaurant's name. Well, now that I've been to Gochi for dinner, I get it.

The dinner menu is COMPLETELY different from the lunch one. Much more extensive, with really creative offerings. But just like lunch, this place gets packed in the evening. When five of us showed up without reservations last night at 6:10pm -- 10 minutes after they opened their doors -- we were told that there was ONE table available for us, but we would have to finish eating by 8pm. No problem, especially given how efficient the service was.

We shared all of the dishes, including: crab coquettes; sashimi (no one seemed to want the chewy octopus!); hamachi carpaccio; braised beef tongue (for real); pizza with crab meat, cheese, bacon and mushrooms (sounds strange, right? not bad though, and apparently one of their most popular items); BBQ eel claypot; and ground chicken claypot.

My favorites were the hamachi (the ponzu sauce added a nice, light flavor), the beef tongue (so tender) and the eel claypot. When I come here for lunch, I usually order the unadon (eel over rice). But the claypot took the dish up a notch -- with more flavors and CRISPY rice. SO GOOD. If they had that on the lunch menu, I'd order it every other day. And never get sick of it.

The desserts were fairly standard, with the Earl Grey Creme Brulee being the most distinctive of the bunch. The green tea ice cream was another good way to end the meal -- not too chalky, not too sweet.

Oh! I must also recommend the Shochu cocktails here. (Shochu is often referred to as the "Japanese vodka.") I had the lychee drink last night and it was refreshing and yummy. Another reason why coming here for dinner is better: cocktails!

Gochi Fusion Tapas
19980 Homestead Road
Cupertino, CA
(408) 725-0542

Friday, October 13, 2006

La Baguette, Palo Alto

It's hard to believe, but one of my favorite bakeries in the Peninsula is actually located in the shopping mall. It's not tucked away on a cute side-street in downtown Menlo Park. Or housed in a charming bungalow or Victorian. Nope, it's just sitting there next to a Banana Republic and a big ol' Macy's.

But let me tell you, I could eat their raspberry rings morning, noon and night. In fact, I have had it for breakfast ... as well as for dinner (just last night, which is what prompted this post). My husband always opts for one of their sandwiches. They're pretty simple but yummy -- just the delicious bread, meat, cheese and BUTTER. Yes butter. How Parisian!

There are lots of other great treats here, too, including cakes that look divine. And if raspberry rings aren't your thing, you can't go wrong with one of La Baguette's croissants.

La Baguette
170 Stanford Shopping Center
Palo Alto, CA
(650) 321-0535

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Oakville Grocery, Palo Alto

I stopped into Oakville last night to pick up some Tea Sweets -- these excellent little cookies that are made by Amai Bakery in NYC. But as soon as I walked in, I knew I was in trouble. Yes, there's a reason why I only pop into the store a few times a year. It's dangerous, I tell you!

You'll want to put every other thing you come across in your basket. Pumpkin spread! Waffle mix! Fig balsamic! Pomegranate simple syrup! And then there's all the prepared foods and sandwiches.

After about half of an hour, I walked out having spent about the same amount of money as we normally do for a week's worth of groceries. But all I had in my bag were cookies and a couple tins of tea. *sigh*

And this is why I can't go back to Oakville until 2007!

Oakville Grocery
715 Stanford Shopping Center
Palo Alto, CA
(650) 328-9000

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Waiting for Beard Papa

Okay, for months now, I've heard that Beard Papa is "opening soon" in Redwood City. I heard June, then August, and September ... And now, people, it is OCTOBER. So where are the cream puffs?! (4-5 months does not equal soon!)*

Of course, I Googled. Nothing concrete came up. The Beard Papa corporate web site just gives an address (835 Middlefield Road), but no opening date.

Then I got smart and searched the Craigslist job postings. Sure enough, there was one for "Supervisor, Barista and Baker Positions" for the RWC location. The jobs were posted on Sunday for an October 20th hire date; but it also says the doors will open this month. Fingers are officially crossed now!

This is my favorite part of the job description:
Our location will be in the new entertainment hub of Downtown Redwood City next to the new 20-screen Century Theatres (just opened in July) and the Fox Live-venue Theatre (with recent concerts from Hootie and the Blowfish to Dave Brubeck).
Hootie? And the Blowfish? What kind of potential employees will be lured by this?

* While I didn't think the Beard Papa cream puffs were to-die-for (as some people do), I thought they were good -- and I'm interested in trying some of the non-vanilla flavors. Also, to me, they aren't worth a trip up to San Francisco. But sure I'd go across town to grab one.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Site Update

PHEW!!! I just switched over to the beta version of Blogger, which includes some cool new features. One of which is the ability to label/categorize posts. So I just went through EVERY SINGLE post on this site to give them each a label. (I don't know if anyone actually signed up for the RSS feed of this site, but hopefully, my updates these past few hours didn't cause any weirdness.)

While labeling posts, I noticed that my Manresa review is now cut off! Right in the middle! Strange stuff. I'm not sure how that happened. But I guess that means I'll just have to go back again soon!

Higuma, Redwood City

Since I've heard that Higuma gets ridiculously crowded at lunchtime -- it's a small restaurant with maybe a dozen tables, and five chairs at the sushi bar -- Jon and I decided to try out the place for dinner. At 5:30pm. Chances of any place being packed at that hour are usually slim.

The restaurant was about one-third full when we arrived, and the take-out service was doing brisk business. We settled into a seat by the window, but with a clear shot of the sushi bar so we could watch the chef in action. (Thankfully, the restaurant has a courtyard-ish area in front of it, so you don't have to look out on to busy El Camino Real.)

There are a few dishes that I tend to use as a measurement of how compatible a Japanese restaurant is with my palate: unadon, tempura and udon. Higuma offers all three; I went with the unagi over rice last night. Jon opted for an all-sushi dinner.

The unadon was about a B- in my grade book. I would have liked it grilled just a bit more, for more texture/crispiness on the outside. The sweet basting sauce had a nice flavor to it. But I was telling Jon that part of the problem is that I have become addicted to Gochi's unadon and find their offering to be so superior to most other places I've visited.

Jon enjoyed his various sushi items -- the fish was very fresh-- but was slightly disappointed in the spicy tuna roll. (That's his Japanese restaurant barometer.) He prefers the spicy tuna served down the street at Naomi.

I pointed out, however, that the service at Higuma is much better than Naomi. The staff at Higuma was so attentive -- checking in with us often, making sure our cup of hot tea was always filled. They were such a delight. Whereas at Naomi, we've often sat there for a while waiting and waiting for someone to stop by our table to take our order, refill a drink, etc.

I'm definitely putting Higuma on my list of places to revisit. I've still gotta try the tempura and udon here! And some of the nigiri, as I only had one bite of Jon's sushi last night.

(BTW, I don't think the restaurant is open during the weekends at all. And, in case you have trouble finding it, it's located in a white cottage with a navy awning, and is just south of Whipple Avenue.)

540 El Camino Real
Redwood City, CA
(650) 369-3240

Monday, October 02, 2006

Manka's, Inverness

manka'sOkay, this is going to be a LOOOONG one!

When we planned our anniversary trip to Manka’s, we only reserved dinner at the lodge’s restaurant one night (Friday) because we thought it would be lame to eat there more than once -- despite the fact that we had only heard/read good things about the restaurant.

Well, it turned out that breakfast at Manka’s was complimentary both mornings we were there because they had a chef-in-training in the kitchen. And c’mon, who can pass up a free three-course breakfast!

But wait, dinner on Friday got such rave reviews, we also decided we needed to eat there again on Saturday.

Yes. We ended up eating FOUR meals at Manka’s during our weekend there. So call us lame. I don’t care because we were so frickin’ well fed. I got over the whole exploring other places thing after biting into their delicious biscuits at Friday’s dinner. So I’ll back up a bit and start there… making my way through all of the culinary delights at Manka’s.

Friday Night
The aforementioned biscuits. They tasted like biscuits I had had before. Bite after bite, I kept trying to place it. Finally, we realized that Manka’s biscuits were similar to the famous Meetinghouse biscuits! They served them with a scoop of spiced butter, but we barely spread any on. The biscuits are so good, you don’t need any butter! And coming from me, that’s really saying something.

Next up was the warm beet puree that was poured over a chilled garlic panna cotta. Yeah, that’s right -- garlic panna cotta. By itself, maybe it would have been weird; but combined with that puree, it was divine.

Then we had the salt cod cakes that featured a crispy exterior, flaky fish, and chunks of warm potato. Delicious. Even though I’m not a salad person, I even liked the arugula and tomatoes on the side. Yes, this restaurant could do no wrong.

The palate cleanser was basically a cucumber sorbet. It did its job.

Then we had the meat dish: a lamb shank that was shared. The server doled out a bit for each of us, then left the remainder on the table for us to fight over. The meat just fell off of that bone, and the beans on the side were quite tasty. There was also a yummy lamb meatball. Since I opted for the cheese course, I graciously allowed Jon to eat more of the lamb.

The cheese course consisted of two goat cheeses that I do not remember the names of. Sorry. One was a tad too salty for my taste, I do remember that. But I loved the figs poached in port and the candied/fried walnuts. Yeah, who wouldn’t love candied/fried anything!

Finally, we got to the dessert: upside-down plum cake with freshly whipped cream on top. One server presented the cake, the other followed him around with a gigantic bowl of whipped cream. He made sure that whatever dollop he gave you was sufficient before moving on to another table. That dessert was simply awesome.

Saturday Morning
manka'sJon and I started with a pot of black tea each. Then we were served small glasses of fresh Gravenstein apple juice. So naturally sweet and good.

The first food item we got was a wheatberry porridge with chopped apples, served beside a pool of dairy milk. It sounded very hippie-dippie, but tasted great. In fact, I need to learn how to make this at home.

Coming in second was a plate of goat cheese soufflé and scrambled eggs. Sure, anyone can make scrambled eggs, but that soufflé was a thing of beauty. The texture was perfect – crisp on the outside, warm and fluffy on the inside. That soufflé didn’t even stand a chance with Jon, who does not consider himself a fan of goat cheese.

We ended our breakfast with a wedge of waffle (about a quarter the size of a standard round waffle) that was topped with honey syrup and those same candied/fried walnuts from dinner. Apparently, they know they’re going to have satisfied customers if they let them walk out the restaurant with memories of those candied/fried walnuts on their minds/palates.

Saturday Night
So I should mention that Manka’s menu changes daily, depending on what the kitchen gathers from local farms and such. Which is why we were cool with coming here two nights in a row; we knew we’d get something completely different -- but hopefully just as delicious.

Jon decided to go vegetarian on Saturday, while I stuck to the regular menu. My meal started with a mussel soup, while his was butternut squash. While both were good, I preferred his.

Next, I enjoyed squab served atop escarole with chunks of toasted bread thrown in. Jon’s was pretty much the same dish, minus the bird. And I believe he had tomatoes on his plate. For the third course, I was served a chunk of pork belly with haricot vert and figs; no bacon for Jon.

The palate cleanser was billed as “an ice of Inverness apples” but it was more like apple-flavored whipped cream. Good spices (cinnamon, cardamom) in it as well.

The main course is where mine and Jon’s meals diverged the most: I had venison with fingerling potatoes, while he had special dish that consisted of lobster mushrooms, zucchini and house-made spaetzle. As good as mine was, I thought his was even better.

The rest of our dinners were the same: We shared a cheese platter with goat’s and cow’s milk cheese. I really liked that Humboldt Fog! It was rich and creamy, not too tangy, slightly sweet even. I have a feeling it would be great when paired with anything (Manka’s served it with quince).

Finally, we were treated to a slice each of the flourless chocolate torte, with poached pears and mascarpone. Delicious!

Sunday Morning
manka'sOur final meal at Manka’s started with fresh-pressed orange juice. Then a plate of dairy cheese came to the table. I loved the figs with huckleberry sauce that accompanied the cheese. I could have easily eaten an entire bowl of the fruits.

Next came a poached egg served over creamy polenta, with two strips of bacon on the side. I have to say, usually I prefer fried polenta; the creamy version doesn’t do much for me. But this was the best polenta I’ve ever had. It was great by itself, but add in that salty and crispy bacon, and the flavors and textures were superb.

Breakfast ended much the same way that dinner on Friday night did: with a plum cake and whipped cream. The nighttime version had a hint of almond to it; other than that, they seemed quite similar. I liked it the first time it was served to us, and still liked it the second time.

So our stomachs were very happy all weekend, thanks to the kitchen at Manka’s!

P.S. I mentioned that breakfast was free both mornings, but dinner was not. Friday night set us back $58 per person (excluding the optional cheese course); the fixed priced for Saturday was $88. I really don't know why there's such a huge increase. Except that the restaurant seems to be busier on Saturdays. Sure, there were more meat items on the menu the second night, but Jon went veggie anyway, and it wasn't $30 more in quantity or quality.

P.P.S. I tried to take photos at dinner, but the lighting was too poor. And of course, using a flash would have been a faux pas. The breakfast photos turned out a little better because I put my dishes directly underneath the small lamp on our table.

30 Callendar Way
Inverness, CA
(415) 669-1034

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Food Bloggers/Photographers

Today's Chronicle has a good article on camera-totin' food bloggers. This is something that I'm often torn about ... I don't offer up too many photos on this site because:
  • I'm not a great photographer, so more often than not, I don't think I can do the food justice.
  • I don't want to become one of those people (as the story touches on) that lets getting the perfect shot overshadow enjoying the food itself.
  • My husband isn't really a fan of me bringing out the camera with every course, although he's gotten better about it.

Yet I realize that:

  • In addition to smell, taste and texture, food is also a visual thing. There's a reason why people say, "Wow. Just looking at that [insert tantalizing treat here] is making me hungry!"
  • Some presentations are so beautiful, that it doesn't seem sufficient to describe them. Again, there's a reason why people say, "A picture is worth a thousand words." Some culinary creations really do need to be seen.

Anyway. The Chron piece is good, solid reporting. And it includes one of my favorite restaurants -- Chicago's Alinea. The chef mentions that they get at least one food blogger/photographer a night. During my dinner visit, in addition to myself, there were two other tables in our (small) dining room that were snapping pictures. (Most of my photos didn't really convey how gorgeous the dishes really were.)

Friday, September 22, 2006

Dairy Belle

So a co-worker and I were on our way to In-n-Out today for lunch, when I noticed that there was a Dairy Belle on the other side of the road. I asked him if he had ever been, and he said he had and that it's actually pretty good. A quick U-turn later and In-n-Out was replaced by Dairy Belle as our destination.

I debated and debated -- there's quite a menu here -- and finally decided on a bacon cheeseburger and fries. The co-worker told me that the shakes here are great ("better than In-n-Out"), but I decided that with the cheese, the bacon and the fries, a shake might be just too much. (In addition to classics like vanilla, chocolate and strawberry, they offer some harder-to-find flavors such as pineapple and butterscotch.)

Even though I was all prepared for a big greasy mess of a burger, that's not what I got. The paper wrapped around my burger didn't even have any grease seeping through it! Despite the cheese and the bacon, this was a pretty clean burger. Nothing all over my face. No grease stains on my clothes. But I should also note that I didn't get "everything" (lettuce, tomato, mayo, etc.) on my burger. And the meat itself was fine; better than your average fast-food joint. The fries were very good -- crispy and, again, not too greasy.

Getting back to the extensive menu ... Aside from burgers, they also have fish'n' chips, hot dogs, ice cream products (dipped cones!), chili and a bunch of sandwich options. Note: Don't come here if you're on a diet.

So now that I've experienced both, if I had to choose between In-n-Out and Dairy Belle, which would I choose? Hmmm ... Since the co-worker said that DB beats I/n/O when it comes to shakes, I'd have to go with DB. I'm not crazy about I/n/O's fries -- yeah yeah, I know they're fresh, but they're only good for the first minute they're out of the fryer. And I like that I can get bacon on my burger at DB. And they have a bunch of other deep-fried offerings, which is great for days when I'm okay with showering eight times after eating.

Dairy Belle
See web site for locations. (I'm actually not sure which one I went to today -- probably Sunnyvale? But could be one of the San Jose outposts?)

Thursday, September 21, 2006


I've been coming to Hobee's for years. When I was in college, I'd frequent the downtown Santa Cruz location for breakfast. Now that I live in the Peninsula, there are several locations to choose from. Plus, there's one right down the street from my office. I can't really tell you much about the food I've eaten here, because most of it has never been all that memorable. You see, as far as I'm concerned, the only reason to go to Hobee's is the blueberry coffeecake -- whatever follows that is just filler. Inconsequential.

But that blueberry coffeecake? It is SO damn good! (Who cares if it's not good for you. Mmm... All that butter... Sugar...)

So if you ever visit a Hobee's, whatever you do, get the coffeecake.

Oh, and the hashbrowns are pretty tasty, too.

And if you're at the one in Cupertino, try to sit outside.

See web site for locations.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Sancho's Taqueria, Redwood City

For months now, Jon and I have been intrigued by this Sancho's place that is advertised on a shuttle that is often parked at Woodside Plaza. But since we're such big fans of El Grullense, it's been tough for us to try out other local Mexican eateries.

Then the SF Chronicle came out with its "Bargain Bites" guide, which included a section on the Peninsula/South Bay. Sancho's was among the restaurants listed. So last night, we finally dragged ourselves up the hill to eat there. (I think it's still RWC, but maybe it's Emerald Hills?) We had to walk around a bit to locate it because it's quite small (only one table, plus a handful of counter seating inside) and there's a lot of dusty construction going on up there. A new parking lot is going in and some other business that is a mystery to me right now.

Anyway! So we found the place. And it's very cute -- lots of Day of the Dead-ish arts and crafts. Since it was our first time at Sancho's, we decided to try some basics that we love: fish tacos ($3), carnitas tacos ($1.25) and a grilled chicken burrito ($5). The fish is lightly battered and fried (always a good thing in my book), and served with a bit of shredded cabbage, diced tomatoes and a chipotle remoulade. I normally do not like sauces on top of my deep-fried food (because of the sogginess factor), but this I did not mind. It was tasty (though not too spicy), and the fish still managed to have a nice crunch to it.

The carnitas taco was also good, but since there's very little to a regular taco -- just the meat, salsa, onions and cilantro -- I would have liked more heat to my salsa. BTW, I actually prefer this bare-bones taco to the kind where layers of stuff are piled onto the meat. That, to me, is overkill.

Also kept simple is the regular burrito at Sancho's. It was just rice, beans, salsa and meat. Okay, usually I do like cheese in my burritos, but its absence did not diminish the deliciousness of the burrito. (El Grullense's chicken burrito is often quite greasy, so I prefer Sancho's in this department.)

The downside to Sancho's is that I didn't see any horchata on the menu, and they only take cash. Boo. But the meal was so cheap, it's not hard to scrounge up that kind of change around the house.

Sancho's Taqueria
3205 Oak Knoll Drive
Redwood City, CA
(650) 364-8226

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Tomokazu, Cupertino

I've often said that I could eat Japanese food EVERY DAY. And there's a new employee in the office who also claims the same. So, we've been putting ourselves to the test, and lunching at lots of Japanese restaurants lately. The newest one in our rotation is Tomokazu, where we've already gone twice this week.

In terms of selection, price, service and ambiance, this is definitely towards the top of our list of regulars. When you walk up to the place (or pull into the parking lot if you're driving), the restaurant doesn't look too impressive. The missing awning over the front steps doesn't help! But walk in, and you'll find a lovely, calming space. There are comfy booths lining two walls, a sushi bar along another, and window seating that overlooks a beautiful Japanese garden complete with koi pond.

The menu includes lots of our favorite dishes (sashimi, una don, udon, tonkatsu). A three-item bento box here will set you back about $11.50. In addition to the box itself, you get a bowl of miso soup to start with and a scoop of ice-cream to end with. (The latter is a nice touch, especially since it's been so hot this week.)

My first lunch here consisted of an order of hamachi (delicious) and una don (good, but definitely not as good as the same dish at Gochi). The next day -- yes, we came here two consecutive days -- I had a bento box with the saba, tempura and sashimi (which is a mix of tuna and salmon, but you can request just one or the other). I like tempura that isn't too heavy on the batter (I don't like a lot of excess) and offers a good variety of vegetables. Tomokazu's met this criteria; I'm now a big fan of their tempura.

I can't remember what the co-workers ordered, but everyone enjoyed their meals. So I'm sure we'll be back again soon. Maybe even tomorrow. You never know...

20625 Alves Drive
Cupertino, CA
(408) 863-0168

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Quick Bites

Not full-on reviews... Just my brief take on a couple of places I recently tried...
  • Oasis Beer Garden
    241 El Camino Real, Menlo Park
    Seems like a good places for large groups or dining with kids. The menu is simple and tasty (not anything mind-blowing), with burgers, pizzas, wings, fries, etc. On a nice afternoon, be sure to sit outside -- where there's even an odd TV in a wooden cabinet for your viewing pleasure.

  • San Remo Pizzeria & Ristorante
    1152 San Carlos Avenue, San Carlos
    My sister LOVES this place. She's been going here for years. I, however, have a very different opinion of San Remo. I do not understand the appeal of this place AT ALL. On Saturday night, Jon had a pasta with pomodoro sauce. He was clearly disappointed when his dish arrived at the table, as the sauce seemed a bit thin and he was expecting nice chunks of tomato. Sadly, it was also pretty bland. (The homemade tagliatelle was good though.) I ordered a pizza with sausage and mushrooms. Again, it seemed to suffer from a flavorless sauce -- possibly the same one that covered Jon's pasta? Anyway. I walked out still hungry, and with lots of leftover pizza that I had no intention of eating.

    Overall, the service was okay. Our waitress was actually very sweet and competent. But when we arrived at 4:30pm -- which is when they open -- we were rudely told by a staffmember that they don't open for another ten minutes (as if WE were the ones who did something wrong). Then, five minutes later, we were told it would be another 10-15 minutes. Is this any way to run a business?

Eating Elsewhere: Los Angeles

I've been meaning to write about a few places we visited in L.A. over Labor Day weekend, and am just now sitting down to do just that. So here are few suggestions if you find yourself down south:

  • Roscoe's Chicken and Waffles. I love fried chicken. And I love homemade waffles. So, really, what could be better at 8am?

  • Sprinkles Cupcakes. This is the first cupcake shop I've ever visited where there's actually a line out the door! But the place is small, so it only takes a handful of patrons to make this happen. The short wait was definitely worth it, as these are some of the best cupcakes I've ever had. Flavors we sampled: peanut-butter chocolate, banana, red velvet and strawberry. Jon's favorite was the pb-choc; mine was the red velvet. But the strawberry was surprisingly yummy (the ladies in front of us recommended it). Not too sweet.


  • Jin Patisserie. By far, one of my favorite tea spots. Ever. I like to order the Afternoon Tea, a good mix of sweets and savories. On our recent visit, Jon went with the chicken salad sandwich on olive bread. It was SO good! I got a package of mango candies to go, too, and am still enjoying them. (The woman at Jin said they should last a few weeks if they're sealed up properly.)

(Image from Sprinkle's web site)

Friday, September 08, 2006

Nola, Palo Alto

I must admit: When we showed up at Nola on Wednesday night, around 6 o'clock, I didn't expect much of a crowd. But the bar was pretty full and there were people (mostly smokers) spilling out into the street. Things were looking very promising. Because even if the food was just-okay, at least Nola seemed like it would be a good time.

And it was. Plus, the food was actually delicious!

The hostess originally tried to seat us downstairs, but we requested a move to a table upstairs, overlooking the courtyard. That area just has more of a New Orleans-vibe than the dining room that faces Ramona Street. So definitely ask for to be seated upstairs if you come here.

There were four of us, and we shared two appetizers: Hot Crab Dip and N.O.La Frites. I would highly recommend both of these dishes. But I wish the dip came with a few more slices of garlic bread. And of the three varieties of frites, the sweet potato ones were a slight disappointment; I wanted them to be thinner and crispier. Still, the Cajun fries and zucchini chips more than made up for it. They were so good!

For my entree, I picked the Southern-style Fried Chicken. The free range chicken was juicy on the inside, but I wanted a little more crunch to the outside. The corn was tasty though, and the mashed potatoes were awesome. Jon went with the mini Ahi Tacos (it's an appetizer that includes four of them), as well as a fried chicken Po-Boy. He had the same gripe about the chicken batter that I did, but aside from that, loved his dinner. Others at the table enjoyed the Nawlin's Spicy Jambalaya and the potato-crusted Mahi Mahi.

We still managed to leave some room for dessert, and went with the Beignets Du Monde and Big Fat Decadent Sundae. While they both get a thumbs up, I have to warn you that the beignets here are not like those from Cafe Du Monde. (Maybe it's true that you really can't find that style of beignet anywhere outside the New Orleans city limit.) Nola's version is denser, and definitely needs a dip in one of the three sauces that accompany the beignets. They're good, but more like donuts than the light and airy beignets in the Big Easy.

With drinks and dinner, it was about $40 per person. So not a super-cheap night out, but like I said, it was a fun night out.

Unfortunately, once Jon and I pulled into our driveway, I realized that I forgot my sunglasses. So we had to go back to Nolas to retrieve them. And you know what? The restaurant was even busier than when we had left after dinner! People just kept showing up! Didn't they know it was a school night!? I was both shocked and pleased that a place in downtown Palo Alto could pull in such a crowd. There is some semblance of a nightlife in the suburbs!

535 Ramona Street
Palo Alto, CA
(650) 328-2722

Friday, September 01, 2006

La Patisserie, Cupertino

I can't believe I haven't written about this place yet! After a satisfying lunch at Ramen Rama today, a co-worker and I decided to grab some sweets at La Patisserie -- which is in the same strip mall off of Stevens Creek.

I often complain (to anyone who will listen) that the Peninsula/South Bay is lacking in really good bakeries. You know, a place with tasty cookies and cakes -- like Tartine, Citizen Cake or DeLessio in San Francisco. But La Patisserie is one of the few places I've found down this way that can satisfy my sweet tooth.

The cakes are beautiful to look at, and just as wonderful once you take a bite. I am a big fan of their classic strawberry shortcake. But they also have a chocolate version that is topped with chocolate-dipped strawberries. Decadent! Whether your taste leans towards something rich or something light, La Patisserie probably has something to tempt you.

The cookies and tarts that I've tried have also been quite good. The fresh fruit tartlet is a winner -- no surprise considering it features an ALL-BUTTER shell. Today, I picked up a couple of mini-turnovers (available in apricot or raspberry), and they are proving to be the perfect afternoon treat.

La Patisserie
19758 Stevens Creek Boulevard
Cupertino, CA
(408) 446-4744

Monday, August 28, 2006

Alana's Cafe, Redwood City

Breakfast is my favorite meal of the day. But on the weekends, it's tough for me to drag myself out of the house in the morning to get a bite to eat. So when we do make the effort to go out for breakfast, it had better be good.

I was having trouble sleeping in on Saturday morning, and since Jon and I were already planning to hit the driving range early, I figured we should grab food somewhere while we're out and about. Alana's came to mind because we've driven by it before and I always comment on how cute it is. The restaurant is located in a blue Victorian, broken up into several dining spaces and with a lovely garden/patio in front.

Since it was a bit chilly when we arrived, we opted to dine inside -- at the table-for-two next to the faux fireplace. I ordered a hot chocolate (not water-based -- yay!) and a small stack of the Swedish oatmeal pancakes with bananas on the side. Jon went with the Farmer's Garden plate (homefries, tomatoes, scallions, mushrooms, cheddar and provolone sauteed and topped with two poached eggs). He also got a blueberry-lemon scone, one of three fruit options they had that morning. (The other two were cherry-something and papaya-coconut. I was surprised by that last one, and wasn't sure if I even heard her right.)

The pancakes were delicious! The oats made for a nice texture, but didn't overwhelm the batter or -- what I feared -- make it too dry. It's got a good flavor to it, too, so you don't need much maple syrup. Jon's scone was awesome. It was fresh out of the oven, so it was warm with a crusty top. He approved of his Farmer's Garden dish as well, as evidenced by the clean plate he left behind. The homefries were also a hit. Ideally, I'd like them a tad crispier, but they were perfectly seasoned.

The service was just as impressive as the food and ambiance. The staff was very friendly -- a tough task at 8am on a Saturday!

Since we got to Alana's shortly after they opened, it wasn't too crowded while we were there. But I hear this place gets crazy-crowded on the weekends. While we were in the middle of our breakfast, a man walked in to meet a friend of his who was already seated. "Isn't this place great!" he exclaimed, as he made his way to the table by the window. The friend confirmed that it was. And Jon and I also looked at each other and nodded in agreement.

Alana's Cafe
1020 Main Street
Redwood City, CA
(650) 366-1498

Friday, August 25, 2006


Cocoa Bon
Last week, I received an email from Chris at Cocoa Bon, letting me know about the grand opening of their new place in downtown Los Gatos. Unfortunately, I was out of town last weekend -- or else you know I would not have missed the chance for chocolate and wine tasting. Anyway! The new store, which should be bigger/better than the old Valley Fair one, is now open and I am definitely going to check it out soon.

Cocoa Bon
78 West Main Street
Los Gatos, CA
(408) 354-5900

The Counter Burger
I haven't had a chance to go to The Counter yet (it just opened this week), but James wrote to tell me about his experience:
[My] friends and I had to go check it out this past Saturday. However, we didn't end up ordering a regular burger; we ordered one with every single possible topping (all the cheeses, toppings, and sauces) and we dared our friend Tim to finish it within 30 minutes. The burger ended up weighing 5 pounds and had a total of 54 toppings... The entire thing was a sight to behold (and apparently no one had ever attempted it before).
You can read more -- and see the crazy photos -- at his web site.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Eating Elsewhere: NYC and Boston

We got back late Tuesday night from a week-long trip to the East Coast. As you can probably guess, there was a lot of good eating to be done in NYC and Boston. Believe it or not, the photo below is a FRIED TWINKIE from the Chip Shop in Brooklyn.

deep-fried twinkies

Although I was a bit skeptical, the Twinkie turned out to be quite good. The outside had a nice crunch to it, while the cake was still spongey and moist. (I think the heat from the frying process causes the cream filling to melt/become absorbed into the cake.) The raspberry coulis was a fancy touch! Here are some of the other food highlights from our vacation:

New York
  • Lunch at The Modern Bar Room, before taking in the MoMA.
  • Afternoon Tea at the Tea Box, on the lower level of Takashimaya.
  • Crispy rice with spicy tuna at Koi. (We first had this dish at the original Koi location in L.A. and loved it. So of course, when our hotel restaurant turned out to be Koi, we *had* to pop downstairs for a bite.)
  • Breakfast at Balthazar. (When you're dining here, it's easy to pretend you're in Paris.)
  • Small plates at The Stanton Social. (I loved the French onion soup dumplings! And the dessert of warm doughnuts!)


  • Meatball sandwiches at Quincy Market. (It was so hard to pick just one place to eat in there!)
  • Italian in the North End of the city, specifically at Piccolo Venezia.
  • Breakfast at Tealuxe.
  • Fried dough and Fenway Franks at the Red Sox-Yankees game.
  • Fried Ipswich clams at Jasper White's Summer Shack.
  • Dessert at Finale.
  • Yummy pizzas at Todd English's Beacon Hill location of Figs.
And now we'll get back to our regularly scheduled programming of local eating establishments!

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Bad Blogger

I've been a little sluggish in regards to posting lately... I'm still eating out a lot, but not necessarily at new places (maybe once a week?) and not necessarily in the suburbs (shame on me). Plus, it's summer -- so the hammock in the backyard is more enticing than the computer in the back office.

I didn't even get around to posting that:
  • Carvel opened in Los Altos. At Foothill Crossing on Homestead Road.
  • The movie theater FINALLY opened in downtown Redwood City. Hopefully, that means the restaurants (Fat Burgers, Beard Papa, etc.) will be in business soon.
  • The Counter Burger in Palo Alto had a pre-opening party last Friday and then held fundraisers (for local charities) the next day. The party was to help get their staff trained and ready to go. The official opening is next Monday, August 21.

Oh! I lunched at the Saratoga Country Club last week. I didn't bother blogging about it because: 1) It's not open to the public, and 2) It wasn't a very good experience. The service was funky as heck -- strange because the staff should (I think) be warmer, considering that the clientele consists of members who dine there often. The first person we encountered actually gave us a dirty look when we walked in (a party of eight) because apparently he was too busy doing nothing to put together a larger table for us. Then the waitress almost got into an argument with my sister about whether or not her fork was dirty -- it was, and the waitress finally conceded defeat. But if a diner says a fork is dirty and requests a new one, why stand around staring at the fork -- holding it up to the light -- and turn it into a debate? Just grab another frickin' fork, lady. In addition to the not-quite-right service, the food wasn't THAT great. On the menu, the coconut shrimp was described as being served "with plantains." You know what their definition of "with plantains" is? A two-inch, half-slice of a plantain. I kid you not. It was more like a plantain garnish. The coconut shrimp was actually tasty, and I liked how buttery the rice and veggies underneath it were, but I couldn't get over my plantain disappointment.

So that's all I know. With Jon starting school soon, I'll probably find myself scavenging for food around the Stanford campus a bit more. If anyone has any suggestions, as always, they are much appreciated.

Monday, August 14, 2006

Alexander's Steakhouse, Cupertino

I must admit, I was a little skeptical about this place. Even though I had read numerous positive reviews, I just couldn't bring myself to believe that -- in the middle of Vallco Shopping Center -- was some kind of culinary gem. Driving by the place didn't offer any reassurances, as the exterior of the restaurant is dull and uninteresting.

But once you enter the building, you're instantly transported into another world -- one where you can drop $100 for an ounce of caviar or 2-3 times that much for a cut of Kobe beef. In case you had any doubts that they're serious about their meat at Alexander's, the first thing you notice here are the shelves of beef dry-aging on the other side of a window.

While waiting for other members of our dinner party to arrive, I must've said at least half a dozen times, "THIS used to be an EL TORITO!?!" Sure, the outside wasn't pretty. The inside, however, was sleek and contemporary. The waiting area included a couple of comfy couches and a stone fireplace, as well as a decent-sized bar.

Once our party of six was complete, we were seated at a corner table in the first dining room. Alexander's is indeed a steakhouse, but there are lots of Asian influences. (The menu actually reminded me of a place we ate at in Tokyo.) We snacked on edamame, seasoned with togarashi, while deciding what to order. So many things sounded so good, that we ended up over-ordering. I can't possibly go into detail about everything that made its way to the table. Instead, here is a quick rundown of what we liked and what we didn't like:

The Good

  • Mushroom Soup (the soup changes regularly)
  • Maine Lobster Tempura
  • Sea of Cortez Scallops (the scallops are gigantic)
  • Crab, Crab and Crab Again
  • Hamachi Shots (before shooting these into your mouth, you may want to loosen the hamachi et. al. from the glass a bit; otherwise, the sweet ponzu sauce is all you get at first and it's overwhelming)
  • Filet Mignon
  • Cow & Crustacean (the steak part was good, the lobster presentation was so-so)
  • 28-Day Dry Aged New York
  • All 4 Love (I liked 3 out of 4 of the beef presentations -- the kobe sashimi was eh; the marinated jicama that the kobe was wrapped around was overly sweet)
  • Mac 'N Cheese (with truffle oil!)
  • Sauteed Chanterelle Mushrooms
  • Crimini Mushrooms
  • Haricots Verts (with bacon!)
  • Mashed Potatoes (mmmm... so buttery, and with chives!)
  • Steak Fries (these are HUGE -- you only get three to an order -- but deliciously crispy and well-seasoned with cumin)

The Bad

  • Sashimi Quartet (I like my raw fish to be relatively uncluttered -- so the fish itself really shines -- and this dish just had too many other flavors going on for my taste)
  • Crab Hand Roll
  • Portobello (described as "Gruyere Fondue" but was basically a portobello mushroom with some melted cheese on it -- disappointing because I was expecting some fondue presentation!)
  • Sweet Corn Medley

The good definitely outweighed the bad. My absolute favorite savory dish of the evening was the Maine Lobster Tempura. It was ridiculously good. The tempura coating was nice and light, so that it didn't overwhelm the sweet lobster meat. Next time, I would seriously consider just ordering two orders of this small plate for my entree. The only downside to this awesome dish was that it was really hard for anything else I consumed to follow in its footsteps...

That is, until the Eden dessert came along! The platter consisted of an apple souffle (with caramel sauce), peach souffle glace, and strawberry/chocolate fondue. I loved everything about this dish. The consensus among the table was that this was hands-down the best dessert. The Chocolate (Valhrona chocolate crunch cake) also received a big thumbs-up. But the trio of Creme Brulee (blueberry, Meyer lemon and mint) didn't fare so well. The Devilish (milk chocolate cheesecake, truffles, chocolate ice cream) fell somewhere in the middle of the spectrum.

Given how much food we indulged in, we were pretty full by the time the bill arrived. Yet the restaurant had one more treat in store for us: cotton candy! You know we couldn't pass that up. The flavor of the night was Leapin' Lime, so three bright green spun sugar creations were brought to our table. Delicious!

P.S. I wish I had brought my camera because the presentation for a lot of the dishes was really something. Beautiful plating.

Alexander's Steakhouse
10330 N. Wolfe Road
Cupertino, CA
(408) 446-2222

Friday, August 11, 2006

Marvin Gardens, Belmont

I don't know exactly what it is about ramshackle-looking eateries with large patios filled with rustic picnic tables, but I kinda like them. Maybe it's because, even in the fancy Silicon Valley, they don't feel compelled to be slick or pretentious. Maybe it's because their focus is on serving good food and drinks in an environment that's conducive to hanging out for hours with good friends.

And, in the case of Marvin Gardens, occasionally, you get to experience the residual trembles from the nearby CalTrains. And by nearby, I mean literally right behind the the restaurant's patio area -- right over your head as you enjoy your pint and burger. After a few trains, you just learn to pause your conversation. No biggie.

Jon and I met up with a couple of friends at Marvin Gardens last night. I ordered the fish and chips, which consisted of beer-battered rock cod. (The fish part of the plate was good -- better than the chips.) Jon ordered the veggie pizza, which he enjoyed (an individual-size is probably sufficient for one person). Our compadres ordered the fish and chips as well, and the El Gato burger (ground sirloin on toasted French roll with green chili pepper and jack cheese).

The restaurant's web site boasts that they serve "primo excellent food," and although that's a bit of an exaggeration, our meal here was quite tasty. I would go back again and, when I'm not wearing a white t-shirt, maybe try the half slab of ribs.

What I found especially appealing about Marvin Gardens is that everywhere we turned -- inside and outside -- there were groups of people that looked to be having a grand time. Young, old. Women, men. Families, coworkers, friends from back in the day. It's a neighborhood-joint kind of place where things are easy, casual and most importantly, fun.

Marvin Gardens
1160 Old County Road
Belmont, CA
(650) 592-6154

Monday, August 07, 2006

Coupa Cafe, Palo Alto

I think this is my new favorite cafe in the Peninsula... Not that I really had a previous favorite... But this place has everything I like in a cafe:

  • Good ambiance (comfy and cozy, with indoor and outdoor seating)
  • Good food (including lots of sweet or savory food options)
  • Lots of beverages to choose from
  • Friendly service (order at the counter, they'll bring the food to you)
Jon and I stopped in yesterday before catching an early screening of "Little Miss Sunshine" (which, by the way, is hilarious!). Jon ordered a blueberry scone, BLT croissant sandwich and orangeade. I had a slice of Quiche Lorraine and an iced "Chuao" chocolate. The grand total was about $25, but it was a good amount of food (his sandwich and my quiche each came with a small helping of salad). Food-wise, the only gripe was that the crust on the quiche was gummy in some spots, and yet perfectly flaky in others.

As promised, that Chuao was spicy! At first, it goes down nice and smooth. Then suddenly, the chile and pepper kicks in and you feel the heat. I loved it. Coupa is actually known for its Chuao Chocolatier treats -- with unique fillings such as banana caramel and chevre -- as well as the strong Venezuelan coffee that's served up here.

We were in a bit of a hurry, so didn't really get to relax and hang out as much as we would have liked to. (I dig the leather couch in the back room, situated right in front of a fireplace.) Next weekend, maybe!

Coupa Cafe
538 Ramona Street
Palo Alto, CA
(650) 322-6872

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Pho Vi Hoa, Los Altos

On Monday, my sister and I had plans to lunch at Alexander's Steakhouse in Cupertino -- sort of a recon mission, so we could determine whether we should reserve a table for a larger siblings + spouses dinner later. I was reviewing the menu all Monday morning, pondering which appetizers and entrees and desserts we would order. (Mmm... Hamachi Sashimi...)

So we pulled into the parking lot and stumbled upon a mall security truck and a Sheriff's car blocking one lane. No problem. We went to the next lane. Then we got out and headed towards the door, where an employee was loitering. He proceeded to tell us that the restaurant is closed on Mondays. CLOSED! How did I not notice this during my half-a-dozen visits to the site that morning!

Anyway. I asked him for other nearby lunch recommendations, and you know what he told me? "There's a TGIFriday's across the street." Um, no. So my sister and I got back in the car all disappointed and famished (not a good combination). She then decided that she would take me to her favorite Vietnamese restaurant in Los Altos. She had been raving about Pho Vi Hoa for so long, that I put up with the sort-of far drive (remember, I'm HUNGRY) to check this place out.

When we arrived at the little strip mall in Los Altos, the parking lot was crazy -- full of bad drivers who were probably just as hungry and cranky as we were. We fought it out and got a parking spot, then walked over to the restaurant, where we were greeted by a line. *sigh* I was so unhappy. Like you would not believe, and so I started whining about how we could have just gone to Pho Hoa down the street from my office, and what makes this place so special, and blah blah blah... Goodness, I was such a pain.

But the thing about pho places is, the turnover is pretty quick. The wait ended up only being about five minutes, which probably felt like five million to my sister, who had to at least pretend to listen to me. She eats here about once a week with her husband, so she didn't even need to look at the menu. The waitress came over in about 30 seconds flat to take our order, which I was not prepared for. But we both ended up getting the classic Bun Thit Nuong -- a bowl of rice vermicelli with grilled pork, served with fish sauce. It was really, really good. And it made me shut up. The quality and flavor of the meat here is better than what you get at Pho Hoa, making it definitely worth the longer drive. We also ordered the Goi Cuon -- shrimp and pork spring rolls -- which were very tasty as well.

With a couple of drinks, two large satisfying noodle bowls and the appetizer, our total (before tax and tip) was about $25. It seemed a little pricier than Pho Hoa, but you'll find less fat on your meat and nicer ambiance at Pho Vi Hoa. So yes, the next time my sister drags me here, I won't be such an ingrate!

Pho Vi Hoa
4546 El Camino Real
Suite A12
Los Altos, CA
(650) 947-1290

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Birthday Dinner

I celebrated a birthday not too long ago, and Jon gave me the option of dining anywhere my heart (and stomach) desired. So where did we go? The Old Port Lobster Shack.

Yes, I know I've written about my OPLS dining experiences before (not once, but twice). But during this visit, in addition to the outstanding naked lobster roll, I ordered the fried Ipswich clams for the first time. At $21.75, the appetizer seemed a little pricey, but hey, it was my birthday.

Thankfully, like the $17.75 lobster roll, they turned out to be worth every single penny. The clams are whole, with the belly on. We're not just talking about some frozen strips here. The clams are sweet and crunchy and delicious.

The clams portion, which also comes with a helping of fries, is rather generous. Between Jon and I, we actually didn't even finish them off. I sat there for a while after devouring my lobster roll, hoping to make more room in my tummy for those remaining clams. But no go.

And this brings me to my only problem with OPLS: I'm always so satisfied and full from the appetizers and main dishes, that I never get a chance to try out their desserts. And I love me some dessert. So, sadly, I did not enjoy any of their homemade bread pudding or blueberry pie on my birthday. Oh well -- at least it's a good reason to make yet anothe visit to OPLS!

Old Port Lobster Shack
851 Veterans Boulevard
Redwood City, CA
(650) 366-2400

P.S. The SJ Merc finally published a review of the restaurant this past weekend.

Monday, July 31, 2006

Neotte Teabar, Palo Alto

Jon and I first took notice of Neotte months and months ago -- back when the weather was cold enough to make a hot cup of tea sound like a sensational idea. Then the temperatures began to rise and we sort of forgot about going there. But last Friday, while sitting at my chilly, air-conditioned workstation trying to think of a good place to meet up with a friend in downtown Palo Alto, Neotte popped into my head.

Of course, once I parked my car and stepped out onto the sidewalk, it was blazing hot (okay, probably in the 80s -- not the 100s or anything crazy like that). And just when I was starting to regret my meet-up location, I saw that Neotte offers any of their teas iced. I opted for an iced Hong Kong milk tea, and my pal Evelyn ordered an iced white tea. Both were absolutely refreshing. No added sugar required.

Neotte also carries a few snacks (cakes, Chinese treats), and most of their teas are available for purchase in well-designed metal canisters. You'll also find some very cute teacups and pots for sale. The space is modern and simple, with a dozen or so tables and a few armchairs to relax in. Quite a few people were there with their laptops, so I'm guessing there's free wi-fi here.

So if you think -- like I previously did -- that Neotte is only a good place to go when it's rainy or cold, think again. With its friendly service, calm ambiance and delicious cold or hot teas, this is a solid year-round hang-out.

Neotte Teabar
429 University Avenue
Palo Alto, CA
(650) 330-1738

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Flea St. Cafe, Menlo Park

So it's got a strange name (Pulgas = fleas in Spanish). And it doesn't look like much from the outside. But Flea St. Cafe is one of the most charming restaurants I've experienced in the Peninsula.

Jon and I went with his parents to Flea St. on a recent Friday night. Our waiter was over-the-top enthusiastic about all of the items on the menu. He reminded me of that character Alec Baldwin played on "Friends" -- the one who is so in love with EVERYTHING. "The Chef is a genius!" "This is magnificent!" "That is exquisite!" (But the waiter managed to be entertaining/endearing instead of annoying.)

To start, Jon's dad and I both had the heirloom tomato soup with a puffed pastry crown.* It was delicious! I loved the cilantro in the soup, and it wasn't too creamy or rich. And the pastry was light and flaky. Jon had the blue corn almond vegetable fritto misto. I had just a bite of his and it was very good; the blue corn made for a nice crust on the veggies. Jon's mom went with the red beet goat cheese ravioli, which is not actually pasta. The ravioli's shell is made of thin shavings of beet, making for a gorgeous presentation.

For our main courses, it went down like this: I ordered the lamb special (served two ways -- osso bucco and thinly sliced tenderloin); Jon had the pork chop; his mom had the halibut cartoccio; and his dad had the grilled bavette. It was all so very good. I didn't finish my lamb, however, because I was saving room for dessert! (Jon's dad ate the leftovers the next day and the dish was still terrific.)

While Jon's dad abstained from dessert, Jon ordered the vanilla gelato served with a Russian tea cake cookie (the cookie was good, the gelato was -- eh -- vanilla gelato, not my favorite dessert). His mom chose wisely, ordering the bread pudding with rum sauce. And I enjoyed the rose petal lavender angel food cake served with strawberries and lemon mousse. Yum!

Since Jon's parents only visit us a couple of times a year, we try to take them to restaurants we really like. This was a little risky because neither of us had previously dined at Flea St. Cafe. But the place did not disappoint, and we all walked out at the end of the meal with full bellies and big smiles.

Flea St. Cafe
3607 Alameda de las Pulgas
Menlo Park, CA
(650) 854-1226

* By the way, the BEST tomato soup in puff pastry I have ever had was at Bistro Jeanty in Napa. I believe it's also on the menu at Jeanty at Jack's in San Francisco.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Eating Elsewhere: Pismo Beach

Prior to receiving an invitation to a wedding in Pismo Beach, I didn't really know where the place was. And for those of you who also need a little geography lesson here, it's basically halfway between San Francisco and Los Angeles, along the coast. We stayed at a hotel overlooking the ocean (pretty! and not ridiculously hot!), but Jon and I still managed to venture into town a couple of times during our short stay in Pismo.

"Town" is filled with plenty of shops and restaurants. Nearly every place had a long line on Saturday night, so we opted for the one that seemed to have the shortest wait of them all: Mo's. Now, usually, if a restaurant is the only one that isn't packed, you have to wonder about the quality, right? But in this case, because I think most people come to Pismo for the excellent seafood and Mo's is a barbecue joint, I figured that was the reason it wasn't backed up around the corner. The food itself was quite good. Jon had the Shredded Chicken Sandwich, while I opted for the Rib Combo (1/2 slab of Philthy Phil's Pork Ribs and Sweet Carolina's Pork Ribs). Of the two sauces, I preferred the Phil's -- which was spicier and less sweet than the Carolina's. The meat itself was tender and just fell off of the bone. Jon liked the potato salad more than I did, but we both agreed that the corn muffins served with honey butter were delish.

splash cafeOn Sunday, we went back into town for lunch with six others. We decided on Splash Cafe, which we had read good things about... But apparently, everyone else had also read about the place, because by 11:30am the line already stretched around the corner. (It wasn't nearly as bad as what we witnessed the previous night though.) It took us about half an hour to get to the register to place our order. Then you get to the hard part: Finding a table. It was obvious that we weren't going to nab a table for eight, so we had to split up into three groups to enjoy our meal. But that was the only downside of the place. The food was awesome. Splash Cafe claims to have the best clam chowder and Jon's dad seemed ready to accept that after he took one bite of the creamy concoction. I went with the oysters and chips. The fried oysters were plump and juicy, while the fries were served crispy and hot. No complaints here. Jon and his mom both ordered the ahi tacos, which were piled high with fish. At $4.50 for a pair, they were a great deal.

So there you have it. If you ever find yourself in Pismo Beach, you've got at least two good dining options. Oh, and don't miss the place on the corner of Pomeroy and Dolliver that has all sorts of yummy fudge, and you can watch saltwater taffy being made!

Mo's SmokeHouse BBQ
221 Pomeroy Street
Pismo Beach, CA
(805) 773-6193

Splash Cafe
197 Pomeroy Street
Pismo Beach, CA
(805) 773-4653

Friday, July 21, 2006

Canton Delights, Cupertino

Once upon a time, I worked in San Francisco. I took public transportation to and from work. Within a one-block radius of the office, I could get my morning coffee from Peet's or Starbucks or Tully's. The lunch possiblities seemed endless -- and this was even before the Ferry Plaza really became a culinary scene.

Now I work in the suburbs. And one of the things I hate the most about my job location is that you have to drive most days in order to get a decent lunch. So when a co-worker suggested we try this Cantonese dim sum place within walking distance, I was all for it.

During lunch, Canton Delights offers a choice of dim sum (which is wheeled to your table) or lunch entrees that you order from a menu. We went with the former, deciding that we should try a lot of them to really get a feel for whether this place would warrant repeat visits. Of the three of us, I was the only one who had no knowledge of the Chinese language; one dining companion spoke Mandarin, while another spoke both Mandarin and Cantonese. Basically, I just had to sit back and let them do all of the food-selecting.

Here's what we ended up ordering:
  • Cha Siu Bau (steamed barbecue pork buns)
  • Fung Jao (steamed chicken feet in spicy sauce)
  • Naai Wong Bau (steamed egg custard creme buns)
  • Ha Gau (steamed shrimp dumplings)
  • Siu Mai (steamed minced pork dumplings)
  • Siu Lun Bau (steamed Shanghai minced meat dumplings)
  • Fun Gwoh (steamed veggie dumplings)
  • Daan Tart (baked mini egg custards)
  • Ha Cheun (rice-noodle rolls with shrimp)
  • Loh Mai Gai (steamed rice with meat, wrapped in a lotus leaf)
If you're thinking that this was a lot of food for three people, you would be absolutely right. But most of the dishes, unfortunately, were just slightly above average. My favorite of the bunch was the steamed pork bun, which had a good ratio of bun to sweet pork filling. We initially ordered the baked mini egg custards as our dessert, but they weren't very satisfying; the crust was a bit gummy, and not flaky. The steamed egg custard creme buns were a better way to end the meal.

So, while there is definitely better dim sum to be had in the South Bay, we may still find ourselves back at Canton Delights some day... When we're craving dumplings and no one wants to drive to Joy Luck or HC Dumpling House.

Canton Delights
10125 Bandley Drive
Cupertino, CA
(408) 777-9888

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Kitsho Sushi, Cupertino

I could eat Japanese food every day. Really, I could. So I'm always on the lookout for new Japanese restaurants to try. Yesterday, the co-workers and I popped into Kitsho -- just off Stevens Creek Boulevard, across from Sears -- for an inaugural visit.

We walked in around 11:45, just before the lunch rush, and were immediately seated in the middle of the restaurant. One of the co-workers asked the sushi chef if we could move to a table by the window (he loves his natural light). We got approval, but the waitress still didn't seem too pleased. She was a bit cranky with us, but her mood/service improved by the time we finished eating.

I was too hungry to focus on what the others at the table ordered. I went with the Kitsho Bento Box, so for about $12, I got: miso soup; a small bowl of salad (I didn't eat it); several slices of fresh tuna sashimi (excellent, not too fishy); a rather generous portion of tempura (including two shrimps and a good variety of veggies); a few pieces of fried chicken; and a serving of broiled mackarel. Overall, that bento box earned a B+ in my book.

What else... I also ordered unagi, which had a bit more sauce on it than I like. The co-worker next to me ordered the sashimi appetizer with salmon and tuna, and she fully endorsed the raw fish here. On a future visit, I'll have to try the toro and hamachi. I have a feeling I'll be going back to Kitsho... a lot. (Don't be surprised if I make a repeat visit today even!)

19541 Richwood Drive
Cupertino, CA
(408) 873-1444

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Alpine Inn Beer Garden, Portola Valley

So here's the thing: Portola Valley scares me. Just a little. It's all woodsy and full of nature -- big trees, dirt roads, creeks, bugs, birds, etc. A couple of weeks ago, while driving to a friend's house in PV, we almost ran over a coyote. And there was a lady riding a horse alongside us on the road. Jon rather enjoys this type of environment. Me? Not so much. It feels too removed from civilization or something.

Yet I still agreed to go to the Alpine Inn Beer Garden the other night -- an eatery most locals refer to as "Zott's" (short for Rossotti's, one of its former names). This place is RUSTIC. Yes, worthy of all capital letters. Afterall, it is one of the oldest establishments on the Peninsula, dating back about 150 years. It's been a gambling house, a saloon, a "picnic park," and now, it's a restaurant/beer garden.

After parking in the dirt parking lot, we headed into the oversized shack to order our food. A bar immediately greets you when you enter the restaurant, with the grill towards the back of the room. This is where you actually do your food ordering. I went with a cheeseburger with a side of pickles and a large side of fries (there were three of us eating). After you've ordered and paid for your food, you head towards the bar area and order your drinks. Efficient? Maybe not. But I just did as I was told.

Then we went outside to secure a spot at one of the 2-3 dozen picnic tables in the beer garden. It's a massive space, with trees offering much-welcome shade and a creek adding to the feeling that you are indeed deep in this thing called nature. When our order was ready, our name was called on the outdoor speaker and we went inside to retrieve our food.

The burgers here are rectangular, served on a roll that's been put on the grill as well (nice!). The cheese in the cheeseburgers = cheddar. As good as the burger was, it was the crinkle-cut fries that really got me. They're crispy, and still managed to be tasty even after they had been on our table for over half an hour. (I saw Jon checking out another group's bag of peanuts; he likes that you can just throw the shells on the ground here.)

So I admit it: On a warm summer night, sitting in the garden at Zott's, is hard to beat. Even with the tree sap getting my arms all sticky. Even with the bugs landing on me and my food. Even with all that nature that freaks me out so much.

Alpine Inn Beer Garden
3915 Alpine Road
Portola Valley, CA
(650) 854-4004

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Upcoming Event: Connoisseurs' Marketplace

While driving to Draeger's in Menlo Park last night, I noticed a road closure sign along Santa Cruz Avenue. This weekend, part of the street will be shut down to cars for the 20th Connoisseurs' Marketplace. Here's a description, from the event's web site:

Summer festival season is in full swing. At the top of every festival lovers “must-do” list is Connoisseurs’ Marketplace, Menlo Park’s annual celebration of the Bay Area’s best in visual, performing and culinary arts. Every year on the third weekend in July, charming Santa Cruz Avenue is transformed into a moveable feast with big crowds and a colorful sea of tents. Presented by the Menlo Park Chamber of Commerce, this year’s 20th annual festival will be held on July 15-16 with thousands of visitors pouring onto the downtown streets for a vibrant celebration of art, music, food, and all-around family fun.

Connoisseurs' Marketplace
July 15-16, 10am-6pm
Santa Cruz Avenue, between El Camino Real and Johnson Street

After-hours concert featuring Double Funk Crunch, 5:30-8pm on July 15 in Fremont Park