Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Eating Elsewhere: Napa

I forgot to share! Earlier this month, Jon and I spent a weekend in Napa — celebrating our three-year anniversary. Since we were staying at the Carneros Inn, we had dinner our first night at FARM and breakfast the next morning at the Boon Fly Cafe. I highly recommend them, even though I wasn't a big fan of our main waiter at FARM ... and Jon had some technical difficulties with the teapot at Boon Fly. The food at both was immensely enjoyable. And they are such charming spots.

We also had to go to Bistro Jeanty so I could order up the tomato soup in puff pastry. It is so good, I would make the drive to/from Napa just for that soup. The mushroom pasta special I had that day was also ridiculously good. Jon's Nicoise salad was bigger than his torso, and I think he ate almost all of it. (He started off his meal with some other salad that I don't recall. Can you tell that he's a much healthier eater than I am?)

What else ... Thomas Keller's Ad Hoc! Okay, so Jon and I are not really good with restaurants that have a single fixed menu. Even if they say it's because they're trying to create a family-style vibe. See, we don't always favor the same kinds of dishes. But we wanted to give Ad Hoc a try anyway. The food was fine (I liked it better than Jon), and the service was friendly but on the slow side. We probably wouldn't go back, but that's partly because there are so many great places to eat in the area. (Note: I loved that the servers at Ad Hoc get to wear Converse All-Stars!)

Monday, October 08, 2007

If You Find Yourself in Cupertino ...

You must check out the new Whole Foods. It is enormous! And there are so many food stations! I think I could eat lunch there for an entire month and not have the same meal twice. (Though some of their food is a bit bland for me, I like that the co-workers and I can go here and all get whatever cuisine it is we're craving. Makes the daily "Where are we going to lunch?" debate much easier to resolve.)

The new location is: 20955 Stevens Creek Boulevard — which is basically across the street from the old store.

For the Singaporean food fans out there: Have you tried Merlion (at 19628 Stevens Creek)? I've had mixed reaction to the service and food there. But the one thing I've consistently enjoyed is the garlic veggie noodles, which is satisfying and not too pricey.

In the same strip mall: In case you're wondering what the deal is with Ramen Rama, the last I heard (a month or so ago), the place is *hoping* to be open by Christmas! I guess they're having problems with the permits. Sucks. On rainy days (like we're expecting this week), I love me a big bowl of noodle soup.

And speaking of noodle soups! My current favorite is served at Fatima (10125 Bandley Drive). They have these thick homemade noodles in a spicy broth ... Mmmm ...

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Secret Restaurant Menus

Apparently, In-n-Out isn't the only place that offers special items if you know the secret codes. Check out this SJ Mercury article about restaurants all over the Bay Area that have outside-the-menu options for those in the know.

Which now includes you.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Quattro, East Palo Alto

Jon and I have been meaning to try this place for some time, but the review by Michael Bauer last year scared us off a bit. Recently though, some co-workers dined here and had nothing but good things to say about the food. So off we went to East Palo Alto for a purpose other than Ikea knick-knacks.

Since it wasn't too cold on Friday night, and the dining room was a bit loud, we opted for an outdoor table. Walking through the restaurant, we couldn't help notice how very busy it was. On the patio, however, it was just us and a group of 20 or so women celebrating something (we're not sure what; they seemed like co-workers).

The restaurant and the patio are both gorgeous. The latter actually gets more attractive as it gets darker, when the shadows from the fountain grasses and the pebble fire feature become more prominent. There are plenty of heat lamps outside, so there's no need to worry about the dropping temperatures.

Our waitress promptly took our drink orders ... But then she disappeared, prompting Jon to ask me: "Did our waitress get fired?" Shortly after that, she finally returned to take our dinner requests. (In the end, the service was so-so. Every time they brought a dish to the table, they would accidentally leave Jon's in front of me. And then they brought us an extra dessert, which we rejected, but that didn't stop them from charging us for it.)

Jon started his meal with an artichoke salad that was delicious. I don't usually even like salads, but I would have eaten his if he had let me. My choice, the crudo, was good — nothing spectacular. It came with salmon, ahi, hamachi and one plump oyster. I didn't finish the tuna because ahi and pesto together? I don't think so.

Next up were our entrees, which included two pasta dishes: the shitake-stuffed chicken over spinach/potato gnocchi (the special for the evening) for Jon, and the fettucini with buffalo ragu for me. So let me state the positive first: The flavors were excellent. And now for the negative: Both of our pastas were overcooked. Jon's gnocchi was mushy and some of my noodles were dry and clumped together. Not a good look for pasta. (Note: I've been told by other patrons that the pasta isn't always this bad; maybe it was just an off night.)

You know that Vanessa Williams song, "Save the Best for Last"? Well, apparently, Quattro is familiar with it, too. Because that's exactly what they did. I would definitely return for their donut platter. A trio of cinnamon and sugar donuts is served alongside two sauces: chocolate and caramel with roasted bananas. SO GOOD. Seriously.

I don't even know what else was on that dessert menu. And frankly, I no longer care what's on their dinner menu. I wonder if I can get those donuts to go ...

2050 University Avenue
Four Seasons Hotel
East Palo Alto, CA 94303
(650) 566-1200

Monday, August 13, 2007

John Bentley's, Redwood City

john bentleyMy sister is a picky eater. There are very few restaurants that she really likes. And when she is fond of a place, you can bet that you'll find her there ALL THE TIME.

When she recently raved about the John Bentley's in Redwood City, I was a little surprised. Jon and I had dined at the Woodside location and, while the meal was fine, didn't find it to be all that impressive. After she tried out the Woodside John Bentley's, she agreed with our assessment of the restaurant. And maintained that the RWC one was much better, and that we HAD to try it.

So we did.

A few weeks ago, four of us made our way to El Camino — near the border of RWC and Atherton. I can't remember everything that was ordered at our table because there was so much food. But know this: Everything was good. Really good.

I started with a special that night: gorgonzola-stuffed figs. Delicious. For me, a dish like this can easily be overpowered by the smell and flavor of the gorgonzola. But not this time around.

Next up, I had the grilled and marinated quail on a bed of arugula. I'm almost drooling just thinking about this one — crispy on the outside, tender and juicy on the inside.

For my main course, I ordered the crispy nuggets of sweetbread served with shallots, smoked bacon and Yukon golds. By now, I was actually starting to get a bit full, but did the best I could with this tasty entree. The accompanying grain mustard sauce didn't do much for me, but really, bacon and sweetbreads is usually a good combination in my book. (Note: It's not quite as good as the sweetbread appetizer at Village Pub.)

The desserts — which, as you can see in the photo above, my sister ordered about eight of — were underwhelming for me. Nothing was very memorable. In fact, I can't even remember what I ordered. (Maybe the sticky toffee pudding cake?)

Overall, it was a fantastic meal, even though the desserts were disappointing. (To be fair, maybe I was just too stuffed to really enjoy the last course.) The service was excellent; the server had clearly done her homework and referred back to all of the dishes that my sister and her husband had ordered during their previous visit. It's little things like that — and those figs! and the quail! — that keep you coming back to a restaurant. Again. And again.

John Bentley's
2915 El Camino Real
Redwood City, CA
(650) 365-7777

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Kaygetsu, Menlo Park

I have been wanting to try this restaurant for a while now, but every time Jon looks at their menu online, he gets scared off by the prices. (The Kaiseki dinner is about $100/person.) So when we're craving Japanese, we usually end up at one of our usual, lower-priced favorites. (Like Naomi.)

But earlier this month, for my birthday dinner, I finally got Jon to go with me to Kaygetsu. Since it's located in a strip mall, I wasn't expecting much ambiance. But this part of the mall must've been renovated not too long ago, because it was actually quite nice. The restaurant itself is on a corner, next to an optometrist, and has about a dozen tables as well as another half-dozen or so seats at the sushi bar.

Since the dinner was a few weeks ago — and turning a year older probably is affecting my memory — I can't recall every single dish we ordered. Since seven-course meals aren't Jon's favorite, we decided to order à la carte.

The highlight of my meal was the otoro. At $12 per piece, it's steep. But that fatty tuna, taken from the belly, was melt-in-your-mouth delicious. Well worth the cost. I also tried the chawan mushi (custard with shrimp, unagi and shitake) and the tako gohan (the octopus with rice dish is one of their current season specialties). Both were tasty, but I didn't want to fill up too much. Afterall, I still had the main attraction: a whole, deep-fried sole.

As a kid, my mom used to serve up deep-fried fish all the time — so it seemed appropriate, on my birthday, to go this route. If you've spent any time reading this blog, you know that deep-fried is almost always my favorite way to prepare anything. And I really enjoyed the platter at Kaygetsu. In one bite, you were treated to tender and flaky fish.

Jon went a healthier route, opting for the hamachi teriyaki. Usually, I stay clear of teriyaki at Japanese restaurants in the U.S. because they tend to overwhelm the meat or fish in sauce. If a restaurant is working with good, quality fish, I want to taste that — and not the sauce. Thankfully, Kaygetsu does it right. Their home-made sauce is neither too sweet nor too thick. Phew.

Service here was also spot-on. As each dish is delivered to the table, the server offers an explanation of what you're about to enjoy. Despite ordering what we thought was a good amount of food, we were still in/out of there in about an hour. (We don't waste much time when we're hungry.) And the bill wasn't too bad, even with that $12 otoro. Sure, you can easily ring up a high tab here, but I realized that we can also pop in for a quick bite that won't set us back much more than the other places we frequent. So the next time we decide on Japanese for dinner, we might have to make another trip to the strip mall.

325 Sharon Park Drive
Menlo Park, CA 94025
(650) 234-1084

Friday, June 08, 2007

Why, Hello Blog!

I know I haven't posted in a while. The past month or so has been busy on all fronts, and the only recent meal I can think of right now to recommend to you: Fondue at Crepes Cafe in Menlo Park. If you order the dinner (two-person minimum), you get to share an appetizer crepe served with grilled veggies, caramalized onions, creamy chicken and mushrooms; a side salad each; and, of course, a pot of bubbling cheese.

What more could you ask for? (Okay, maybe the fruit that the menu says comes with the dinner — but we saw no sign of.) During our visit, Jon and I opted for the Savoyard. With gruyere, emmental and comte, it's considered the classic cheese fondue.

Since I was in NYC last month, I can offer a few more suggestions if you're lucky enough to make it out there any time soon: The Modern, Yakitori Totto, Pastis, Per Se, Shake Shack and Nobu 57.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Crepes Cafe, Menlo Park

I have no idea how Crepes Cafe eluded me for so long. This place is a gem! (As long as you don't mind the train rolling through the station across the street every so often — which I didn't.)

I recently went for Sunday brunch with three girlfriends. Each of us ordered a different crepe (in both the sweet and savory categories) and they were all so good. I had the bananas and chocolate combination, but next time I'm going for the Belle Helene (pears and chocolate).

Most of the seating is outdoors, with heat lamps and a covered patio allowing for year-round al fresco dining. Although the restaurant was busy when we visited, service was still very friendly and efficient.

The fact that they offer fondue as well just makes this place even better in my book.

Crepes Cafe
1195 Merrill Street
Menlo Park, CA
(650) 473-0506

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Pho Binh Hoa, Redwood City

It's no secret that Jon and I are regulars at El Grullense — the one that's located inside the little strip mall on Woodside Road. But the other night, during our (at least) weekly visit, we noticed that the Asian restaurant a few doors down, Happy Day, had changed its name. It's now Pho Binh Hoa and, as the name implies, specializes in Vietnamese food.

Very affordable Vietnamese food.

Last night, we popped in for dinner. I ordered a bowl of pho that was the size of my head, and it was only six bucks. I went with the rare steak (which gets cooked in the delicious hot broth) and well-done flank version. But the latter meat was a bit too fatty for my taste. So next time, I think I'll ask for just the rare steak.

Jon, who does not like soups (it's crazy — I know!), ordered a stir-fried chicken and rice dish. He also is not super into white rice, so he ate up most of his chicken, but not all of his rice. And he left his side of soup untouched.

Okay, remember how my pho arrived in a giant bowl? Well, to neither of our surprise, I couldn't finish it. But, given what Jon left behind of his meal, and that I only consumed about 50 percent of mine, the extremely sweet server was very concerned when she came to clear our table. She was so sincere, that I admit, it further endeared this place to me. The first staffer we encountered here (a gentleman who may be the proprietor?) was also very kind. Oh, and this place is super-clean, so it earns extra points with both of us for that. And the easy-listening '80s music is a nice touch.

With our entrees and a drink each (fresh-pressed lemonade for Jon, iced coffee with condensed milk for me), our bill totaled less than $20. BTW, for those who enjoy those pearl drinks — the ones with the tapioca balls in them — they offer several flavors here.

Pho with beef is one of two standard dishes by which I judge a Vietnamese restaurant. The other is the rice vermicelli served with bbq pork and an eggroll. So I'll be making a return visit to Pho Binh Hoa to report back on that one.

In the meantime, check it our for yourself — and don't be scared by the tripe on the menu! (Coincidentally, El Grullense offers tripe as well. But the few times I've ordered a tripe taco, the cashier seems to question if I know what I'm asking for.)

Pho Hoa Binh
756 Woodside Road
Redwood City, CA
(650) 369-3767

Monday, April 16, 2007

Vallco ... Er, I mean Cupertino Square

If you spend much time in Cupertino, you probably know that Vallco Shopping Center is undergoing a massive overhaul — which even includes a new name: Cupertino Square. I've only been to two restaurants there, Alexander's Steakhouse and Benihana,* but there are a couple that I'll probably be frequenting for lunch when their doors finally open.

CPK ASAP has had a coming soon banner out for months now. So today, I decided to look into the situation, because I'm tired of being teased about their opening. It turns out, the ground has been dug up, but they're still waiting for PG&E to come in and lay down some pipes. Only then can construction of the actual interior commence. So it's going to be at least a few months before I can get some BBQ chicken salad for lunch.

In addition to the yet-to-open CPK ASAP, Cupertino Square will also be home to an Islands burger joint. This has one of my coworkers very excited, because in Northern California you can only currently enjoy Islands in the Sacramento area.

* Speaking of Benihana, did I ever tell you that we went there for Jon's birthday a couple of months ago? We did, because we had some gift cards for the place. So when I called to get a reservation at the Burlingame location, I discovered that it's closed for a big renovation. Like a year-long renovation. I can't wait to see what it looks like afterwards! It'd better be really cool if they shut down for this long.

Giada Book-Signing

I am a big Giada de Laurentiis fan because her recipes are actually within my culinary reach. I was at Books, Inc. at Stanford Shopping Center this weekend and noticed that she will be there this Friday at 2pm, signing copies of her new book, Everyday Pasta.

For more info, including the rules for the book-signing, click here.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Dutch Goose, Menlo Park

Let me break this down nice and simple: If you like deviled eggs, you'll love the Dutch Goose. They serve these spicy deviled eggs ($1.25 for an order of two halves; $10 for a whole plate) that are delish. While we were waiting in line tonight, I was kidding with Jon and said I was just going to order a plate of eggs for my dinner. After I tasted them, I wish I had actually made good on that notion. Next time ...

(Apparently, the Dutch Goose's egg recipe goes several owners back — to Pete Eccles, who was the guy who gave the place its name. Before he came along, it was called the Busy Bee.)

As far as the other food here, it's your average hamburger, hot dog, etc., joint. The fries aren't consistently crispy enough for my taste. The ambiance is ... well, don't let it deter you. The wood booths and long tables feature years and years of carved names and sentiments. It's one of those eateries that's just an institution 'round here (especially amongst Stanford students and alum). But, really, how can you NOT love a place that sells bags of peanuts and lets you throw the shells right down on the floor?

Other perks: 12 beers on tap, plenty of flat-screen TVs, a heated patio out back, a pool table, and even some arcade games.

Dutch Goose
3567 Alameda de las Pulgas
Menlo Park, CA
(650) 854-3245

Monday, April 02, 2007

Chronicle's Top 100

Of the 17 new restaurants that Michael Bauer et al added to this year's Top 100, three are located in the Peninsula: Junnoon and Mantra in Palo Alto (both upscale Indian) and Kaygetsu in Menlo Park.

Actually, the only other Peninsula/South Bay eateries that made the annual list are Koi Palace in Daly City, Amber India in Mountain View and Manresa in Los Gatos. Hmmm ... I think the 650 and 408 are a bit underrpresented. What about Navio in Half Moon Bay? Or Evvia and Tamarine in PA? I'd gladly dine at either of those restaurants before I return to Junnoon or Amber India. (When we dined at the two Indian restaurants, the service was a little lacking — e.g., the wrong dish brought to the table, a nearly one hour wait for a table despite having a reservation.)

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Trader Joe's

You don't need me to tell you how great Trader Joe's is ... So since I haven't gone to any new restaurants in a couple of weeks (we went to Naomi Sushi a few nights ago and had a yummy meal as always), I thought I'd post about some TJ treats I recently discovered and love: 1) dried lychees, and 2) wasabi peas.

And stay away from the dried dragonfruit. Blech.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Young's Ice Cream & Candy Bar, Redwood City

Two posts in two days! Maybe this means I'm getting back into a regular food-blog groove?

Last Friday, after dinner at Mandaloun, we headed across the street to Young's. Because, despite already being quite satisfied from the churros at Mandaloun, who can resist a place that sells ice cream and candy? Not me.

The place caught my eye because the sign out front has an old-time drugstore look to it. Cute! Charming! Oh, and did I mention they have ice cream AND candy? In one convenient, and clean, location? The service was so friendly, which I must admit, shocked me because there were teenagers behind the counter. (Yes, I'm one of those people who assumes teenagers are up to no good 9 out of 10 times.)

In the candy department, you'll find a lot of the usual offerings. (Think Sweet Factory.) And the Loard's ice cream flavors aren't groundbreaking, but I'm all for oldies/goodies. I went with a scoop of the banana, which was delicious. Although I like my ice cream plain and simple, they did have a good selection of toppings. Which makes sense, since they have plenty of candy available to turn into toppings.

Those of you not familiar with Loard's: It's a Bay Area ice cream company that dates back about 50 years. It's rich. It's creamy. It's good stuff.

(BTW, eggnog ice cream was still on the menu last week. And, really, I think that's something that should only be served in late November or December. Otherwise, it just comes across like you never refresh your inventory. Maybe it's just me/my hang-up.)

In addition to frozen and sweet treats, Young's stocks a variety of knick-knacks, toys, small gift items. They also have these ice-cream cones that are made of chocolate chip cookies. I had never seen them before, but Jon claims to have. I couldn't convince him to order one just to see if they're good or not.

Apparently, he's not willing to fatten himself up for the sake of my food blog.

Young's Ice Cream & Candy Bar
2020 Broadway
Redwood City, CA
(650) 364-7500

Monday, March 12, 2007

Mandaloun, Redwood City

If you follow this blog with any regularity, you probably know by now that there are a few sure-fire ways to entice me into a restaurant: fried-to-order donuts, beignets and churros.

And so it was that we ended up dining at Mandaloun on Friday night. Churros with chocolate-espresso dipping sauce for dessert? Count me in.

Since I was checking the online menu on Friday, by the time we walked through the Mediterranean restaurant's doors that evening, I already knew what I was going to order. Sadly, Mandaloun's online and real-time menus weren't in sync. Neither were the prices: online, the small plates were listed at 3 for $15; they have since been upped to $18. (By the way, I see that today, the site is updated to show the price increase ... and a more current menu!)

We decided to share just one small plate: polenta with a yummy bolognese sauce, topped with farmer's cheese. Although we both had really hoped to order the salt cod and fries starter that we had heard such good things about, the polenta dish more than satisfied us.

Next up were our entrees: Jon opted for the flat iron steak, served with fries; I went with the rabbit. My plate also included potato puree (basically mashed potatoes), onions and apples in a mustard-y broth. I thought my dish was okay, but Jon LOVED his. I looked over at his side of the table and asked if his portion was really small, or if he was just consuming his dinner really quickly. He said it was the latter, because the meat was delicious. (I thought the fries, although crispy, needed some seasoning. They sprinkled sea salt on the steak, but didn't have any for the fries???)

Non-food impressions of Mandaloun: The space is beautiful — lots of wood, stone and ironwork — definitely stands out from most of the other businesses on this strip of downtown Redwood City. We sat in what is called the "Fireplace Room," which is just a nice way of saying "the patio." It's basically an outdoor area in front of the main dining room/bar that's sealed shut with plastic screens when it's cold out. (Yes, there was a fireplace.)

The service was so-so. When I asked what kind of tea they had, the waiter said, "Chamomile?" in a bid to steer me in that direction. It turned out, he was hoping I would answer affirmatively because he couldn't remember what other teas they offer. And this may sound a bit nit-picky: When the teapot was brought to the table, it was accompanied by a large mug. Personally, I prefer smaller cups for hot tea because it allows the tea to cool down/become drinkable faster.

The timing was off with the service, too. We hadn't even finished our one small/starter plate, when our entrees came out. Then, we waited for what felt like a lifetime before our dessert order was taken. Towards the end of our meal, our area of the restaurant was starting to fill up. So our waiter was preoccupied taking orders from other tables, and then (apparently) hanging out at the bar with his co-workers.

At least the dessert was worth the wait. I was a bit annoyed that our waiter didn't bring us any utensils for the dessert course, but luckily, I still had my spoon from my tea. And let's be real here: I would have gladly devoured those churros with my hands, and happily licked my fingers of any residual chocolate-espresso sauce.

So I guess our experience at Mandaloun ended on a high note. But if we go back, I might be inclined to just order up dessert at the bar. Especially since they offer one of my favorite dessert wines (Inniskillin “Ice Wine” Cabernet Franc).

I hope Mandaloun is the start of something in Redwood City — and that more sophisticated dining options open up here. If the car and foot traffic that we saw on Friday night is any indication, the town is ready for it.

2021 Broadway Street
Redwood City, CA
(650) 367-7974

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Weekend Dining

Jon's parents were in town this weekend and when they visit, we tend to eat out. We usually reach into the "Greatest Hits" file and proceed to make reservations. So we decided on The Village Pub for Friday night's dinner, and Tamarine for Saturday.

  • The Village Pub - Jon and I have been here several times before, and have never been disappointed. I love the food, the service and the ambiance here. The four starters at the table were: sweetbreads (me); lettuce salad (Jon); Caesar salad (FIL); and cabbage soup (MIL). I usually don't order sweetbreads because it kinda grosses Jon out. But this place is the exception. The dish is so delicious here, I would gladly tell Jon to sit at another table if he can't handle my sweetbread-consumption. Theu are crispy on the outside, and velvety smooth on the inside. The poached egg on top makes the appetizer even more rich, but you won't hear me complaining.

    Our entrees were: maple brined porch chops (me); pub burger (Jon); steak frites (FIL); and poached sole (MIL). Thumbs-up all around. Note: Jon likes the food at The Village Pub, but thinks it can be a bit heavy. So his entree is usually the burger off of the Pub Menu.

    So after we were done enjoying our entrees, the GM stopped by our table. He mentioned that he'd read my blog; he actually remembered Jon's name; he referred to some comments I had posted about previous dining experiences at The Village Pub; and he even got to talking about South Carolina with the in-laws. As if all of that wasn't nice enough, he even offered to comp our desserts! My father-in-law was way impressed by all of the above.

    I ended up being the only one to order dessert — the hot chocolate, served with pomegranate marshmallows and three miniature palmiers. (Note: The chocolate souffle here is completely awesome, but I decided to branch out and try a different dessert.) The hot chocolate, which is made with Valrhona, was so good. Thick, creamy and not overly sweet. At first, I thought the marshmallows were just ehhh ... But that was when I was just popping them, straight-up, in my mouth. Once I actually dunked them in the hot chocolate, the flavors totally came together and made sense. The palmiers were delightly crispy and buttery. And, really, who doesn't love miniaturized sweets?

  • Tamarine - Saturday night's dinner was just as satisfying as Friday's, although the cuisine and the restaurant were so different. Jon's parents have been to Tamarine a couple of times before. We decided to go back again because they've enjoyed it so much in the past, and there aren't a lot of Vietnamese dining options where they live (Hilton Head Island, SC).

    To start, we ordered the crispy mushroom rolls; crab and garlic noodles; and salt and pepper calamari. For our main course, we shared the shaking beef (of course); hoisin lamb chops (the chops themselves are fine, but I really love the sweet potato fries that they're served with); lemongrass bass (Jon thinks it's fun just to say it); and the curried long beans. It was just the right amount of food for all four of us.

    And, of course, I saved room for dessert! I have such a soft spot for fried bananas because it was my favorite dessert growing up. My mom made it all the time. So if it's on a menu (and this is very important: no coconut in the batter!), I am all over it.
We ate so well this weekend. And now it's back to frozen pizzas ... *sigh*

Friday, March 02, 2007

Beard Papa, Redwood City

Before we go any further, I'd just like to say:


Has it really been over four weeks since my last post here? Daaaamn.

It's not that we haven't been eating out. Because — trust — I have NOT been cooking any more than usual. It's just that things have been a bit busy and, instead of trying new places, we've been going back to visit restaurants that we already know and love. Like La Bodeguita, Flea Street Cafe and El Grullense.

But last Friday, after dinner at Old Port Lobster Shack, we made our first visit to the Beard Papa in downtown Redwood City. Actually, I had to buy some baskets from Cost Plus, and then remembered that Beard Papa is just around the corner.

So anyway! As full as I was from my fried clams and lobster roll dinner, I still decided to order two cream puffs: one vanilla, the other chocolate. The specialty flavor was pumpkin — which I just didn't feel right ordering because I associate pumpkin and all things pumpkin-flavored with the fall. And we're quickly approaching spring here, people.

I brought the pair of cream puffs home to enjoy with a pot of green tea. Way back when I visited the SF Beard Papa, I wasn't all that impressed with the goods. I'm not sure why, but this time around, I couldn't get enough of that vanilla cream puff! I didn't share any of it with Jon. I was totally surprised that I liked it so much AND that I was able to fit it all in my tummy (after the very satsifying OPLS meal). The exterior was perfectly crunchy, while the pastry itself still managed to be light on the inside. And the real vanilla bean in the smooth, creamy custard filling? Good stuff.

After I devoured the vanilla, I forged ahead with the chocolate cream puff. While also quite tasty, I could only make my way through about half of it before calling it quits. I liked that the chocolate wasn't overly sweet.

Maybe the fact that the cream puffs are more geographically compatible (being in RWC now, and not just SF) made them more delicious this time? I have no idea. I just know it was straight-up awesome. And I'm going back for more. Soon.

Beard Papa
835 Middlefield Road
Redwood City, CA
(650) 365-7272

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Amber India, Mountain View

This past weekend, we found ourselves dining in Mountain View two nights in a row ... And both times, someone else did all of the ordering for us. And it was a few nights ago, so my memory of the evening is already hazy.

So this is yet another recap with no detailed menu items to speak of. Sorry!

But really, the important thing here is: If you like Indian food, you should go to Amber India. The food is tasty, and there's lots to choose from. I'm pretty sure we started with the Assorted Tandoori Hors d’Oeuvres (chicken tikka, seekh kabab and Anari kebab)and the Assorted Vegetable Platter (samosa, pakoda, harra kebab and papadum) — both of which were great. (I do love the sampler platters! Especially if there are deep-fried items involved.)

Of the main dishes, my favorites were a lamb curry and a chicken curry. Again, apologies for not being able to give any real useful details here. Nothing that our table ordered was bad though, so I'm sure whatever you order — assuming the description appeals to you — will be good.

The service here is so-so. Our party was rather large (about 15 people), and we had a 7:30pm reservation. Yet we didn't sit down until just after 8pm. And there was some confusion because two different waiters tried to take our order. And things were coming out from the kitchen rather slowly. But this place is so popular and crowded, I guess you sort of expect that.

Amber India
2290 El Camino Real, #9
Mountain View, CA
(650) 968-7511

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Spice Island, Mountain View

A while back, Jon and I enjoyed our first Singaporean dining experience (at Shiok Kitchen). We didn't know much about the cuisine, but were happy with what we ordered. Afterwards, however, we decided to extend a dinner invitation to a Singaporean couple we met through Jon's grad program. Yes, they would be our culinary guides!

So on Friday night, the four of us went off to Spice Islands. Located in downtown Mountain View, it appears to be one of a zillion restaurant options in the area. Even with all of the parking lots they have there, it took us 15 minutes to get a space! And that was after some serious stalking!

But it was worth it. I wish I could tell you exactly what we ordered, but I'm not sure. Our friends consulted with us, but did the actually ordering for the table. For the appetizers, there was a spring roll type of thing and some sort of layered egg dish. Both good. The entrees included curry fish head, okra, short ribs, and noodles with seafood.

Although I liked the flavor of the curry for the fish head entree, I can't really recommend it. The fish part was such a pain to eat! Too many bones. And in the thick sauce, I couldn't make out what I was spooning out; more often than not, ended up with a chunk of bones. No fun. My favorite item was the okra, which I generally just love anyway. But the flavors were sensational here — spicy with a hint of shrimp paste. And our dinner companions explained to us that in Singapore, okra is called "ladyfingers." (Quite different from the spongey cakes that we refer to as ladyfingers.)

So I guess this is only a semi-useful summary of our Spice Island experience, since I can't properly tell you everything we ate. But if you're craving some Singaporean food, you'll have to trust me — and our friends &#151 on this one and try the place for yourself. On a weekend evening, just give yourself plenty of time to find parking!

Spice Island
210 Hope Street
Mountain View, CA
(650) 961-0628

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Quick Brunch Bites

Just a few brief notes on a couple of recent places I tried ...

Let me start by saying that I absolutely adore brunch. It is my favorite meal — partly because it really is two meals in one. You can have your sweet or your savory. And you don't have to get up early.

A few weeks ago, I went to Cafe Brioche for the first time. I had read all sorts of rave reviews about how it was supposed to serve one of the best brunches in Palo Alto. As I expected, there was a short wait for a table for two when I arrived that Saturday morning. I wish I could tell you what I ate, but it really was THAT unmemorable. Nothing special. At all. So I'm not sure why there's so much love for Cafe Brioche. (Maybe I just made a bad menu choice?) The service was friendly but oh so very s-l-o-w. Even though I can't remember what I ordered, I do remember waiting 30 minutes for the check. And asking for it TWICE.

This past weekend, I met some friends for brunch at Scott's Seafood in Town & Country Village. First of all, I probably should have known better than to pick a brunch spot that has the word "seafood" in its name AND is a sort of a mini-chain here in the Bay Area. And secondly, that strip mall is one giant mess. The parking lot is a disaster — with people and cars behaving badly. I ordered an omelet that was decent, but not better than anything I can whip up at home (and that's saying a lot since I don't even like to cook). The accompanying home fries and biscuit were horrendous. I am a firm believer that it is really hard to go wrong with potatoes, but these? These had some sort of funky taste to them that I just couldn't figure out. The service at Scott's was very good, but it didn't make up for the blah food.

I wish I had better things to report. But after these two experiences, I think I need to go back to Alana's for my next brunch outing.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Eating Elsewhere: Carmel

Poor neglected blog. Last January, I posted 28 times. This January? Not so much. This is just my second post of the new year. What's even sadder: The January 2007 posts thus far are not about the Peninsula!

It's pathetic, I know. But I can't complain because I've been busy with fun freelancing work and fun traveling. Jon and I spent the recent three-day weekend in Carmel Valley. To celebrate my sister's birthday, we had dinner at the Chef's Table at Marinus. SO AWESOME. Everything about the evening was amazing. We ended up consuming 10 savory courses and 3 desserts.


The next day, Jon had the brilliant idea to drive down Highway 1 to one of my favorite places on the planet: Big Sur Bakery. I love this place. It is so cozy and charming. And the food equally comforting (and delicious!). Behold the breakfast pizza:

big sur bakery

After Marinus and BSB, I thought dinner at Bouchee in Carmel would be a let-down. But it so wasn't! Another great meal. Jon enjoyed the Kampachi Sashimi and the Free-Range Sonoma Chicken. I had the Monterey Abalone and the Beef Short Rib "à la Bourguignonne". Dessert was just as good: Churros with Hazelnut Hot Chocolate. (I was considering the beignets, but since they're chocolate, and I like mine plain and straightforward, we only ordered the churros.)

More pictures and descriptions from our Marinus and Big Sur Bakery visits can be seen/read here.

Oh, you know what our first meal was once we got home? Quizno's. We are so all over the map when it comes to food.

Monday, January 08, 2007

Eating Elsewhere: Turks & Caicos

It's been a few weeks since my last post, but I've got good excuses for my blogging absence:

1) The obvious one - The Holidays.
2) And I was on vacation.

#1 involved lots of good eating, family time, post-Christmas shopping, gift-giving and -receiving.

#2 involved Hilton Head Island, SC, and Providenciales, Turks & Caicos. Jon headed out to the East Coast a few days before me (work gets in the way of all the fun!). So we met up in HH for New Year's. And a couple of days later, we were off to the Caribbean.

Since this is a food-related site, let's talk about the food. We made it a priority to hit up the usual/favorite HH spots. It was my first visit to Turks, however, so we mainly took the advice of others. In case you're ever in Provo (which is how most folks refer to Providenciales), here are my dining-out picks:
  • Fancy Meal: O Soleil
  • Casual/Expensive Meal:* Bay Bistro
  • Casual/Cheap Meal: Da Conch Shack
  • Meal with a View: Magnolia


Prices were high pretty much everywhere we went. So your belly may be full, but your wallet will be empty. The best value was Da Conch Shack — where, for $12, I got a plate of fried conch; mac'n'cheese (it was baked-up so crispy, it was like a slice of mac'n'cheese); and fried plantains. So so good!

You can get more details on Provo restaurants here.

* This category explained: You don't have to dress up to dine here because the ambiance is very casual, laid-back, beachfront. But the entrees are still around $30.