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