Friday, September 30, 2011

Chinese2door--Cupertino, CA

Earlier this month we started using a food delivery service called "Chinese2door", which delivers Chinese food in the South Bay and the Peninsula. Jenny found them on craigslist, but they can now also be found on Facebook. For a mere $20 one can get two meat dishes and and a veggie dish. And, here's the best part: Included are taxes and delivery to your door!

The choices change every day, but generally there's a list of six dishes to choose from, four of them meat, two veg. For our first try we got seafood pot stew, sauteed pork slices with bean curd and sauteed bok choy with mushrooms. The dishes come with rice.

The dinner was more than enough for four of us. One of my boys really enjoyed the sauteed pork and I had to agree it was the best of the three dishes. The seafood stew had clams, shrimp and tofu. However, the crab was imitation and was a bit doughy. The mushrooms in the vegetable dish was a bit on the chewy side.

They said on the phone and in their craigslist ad that there was no MSG--I'm very happy to confirm that. They also told my wife on the phone that this was real Chinese food and "not Panda Express--there's no sweet and sour chicken". With the ad partly in Chinese text and with this being the Bay Area, I expected nothing less.

We tried the service twice more. A couple of additional comments: their egg plant dish looked unappealing, but it tasted and went down fine. Secondly, fish is their strength.

While I would have liked more meat in the meat dishes, for a home delivery of $20 that includes tax for what's obviously a home-cooked meal I can't complain. Have a back-up plan, though, as over the past week or so they've been fairly unresponsive.

Friday, September 23, 2011

"Unbelievable Chicken"

A couple of weekends ago we had friends over and I barbecued some chicken using a recipe that received a lot of hype on the web. The name of the dish, "Unbelievable Chicken", is well-suited, as the result was unbelievably delicious. I of course had nothing to do with the development of the recipe--I was only following instructions. And yet, I couldn't help but feel proud of what was served to our guests. You will be, too. What really stands out is the flavor, a combination of citrus, sweet and sour.


1/4 cup cider vinegar
3 tablespoons prepared coarse-ground mustard
3 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
1 lime, juiced
1/2 lemon, juiced
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
ground black pepper to taste
6 tablespoons olive oil
6 skinless, boneless chicken breast halves

In a large glass bowl, mix the cider vinegar, mustard, garlic, lime juice, lemon juice, brown sugar, salt, and pepper. Whisk in the olive oil. Place chicken in the mixture. Cover, and marinate 8 hours, or overnight.
Preheat an outdoor grill for high heat.
Lightly oil the grill grate. Place chicken on the prepared grill, and cook 6 to 8 minutes per side, until juices run clear. Discard marinade.

We let the chicken marinate for almost a full 24 hours. If there's anything I would add to the recipe, it's that when grilling chicken it's imperative that you give the chicken sufficient time for indirect heating on the grill. That is, use the direct heat to begin with until the skin and flesh are browned (no raw parts showing), then move the meat to a section of the grill not directly over the heat, which should be set to medium. As always, whether it be chicken, pork, veggies or beef, close the lid of the barbecue while grilling,especially when using indirect heat. Once over the indirect heat, flip after seven minutes or so, then check your thickest chunk of meat for doneness. Remember that breast cooks faster than dark meat. You're good to go once juices run clear.

The breast took the flavor better, I thought, than the dark meat. Jenny disagreed.

As for the dessert, everyone loved it. What got everyone talking were the chocolate wafers, which were Annie's Chocolate Mint Thins. As simple the sandwiches were to make--just place a small scoop of chocolate ice cream between the thins--they were a smash.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Best Bite--Mountain View, CA

I met a grad school buddy at Best Bite earlier this week for dinner. I thought it the perfect choice given its proximity to home and the to-die-for meal I had there earlier. This time around, though, wasn't the religious experience my first visit was. Second visits seldom are. The flavor, juiciness and tenderness were all there, but this time around the meat was undercooked close to the bone of the Cornish game hen, leaving pink sinewy strands of meat stuck stubbornly to the bone (last time, all the meat fell off on its own).

Perhaps the bigger issue was the cost. While my friend reported his dinner was good, the dish he ordered was $14 for five small pieces of chicken breast. My six-piece dish was $15. Considering these prices, and the twenty minute wait, I'd recommend chicken at Falafel and Kabob instead. The surroundings there aren't quite as elegant as at Best Bite, but their skewered chicken dish is nearly a third cheaper, you won't wait more than ten minutes and their chicken never--ever--disappoints.

Best Bite
1414 W El Camino Real
Mountain View, CA 94040
(650) 988-8895

Friday, September 9, 2011

Mama Chen--Santa Clara, CA

Looking to get filled up with soup and fun on the cheap, we ventured to Mama Chen in Santa Clara. Our measuring stick, beef noodle soup, wasn't anything extraordinary at Mama Chen. The beef was tender and the noodles were chewy. However, the portion was small. The beef fried fun, however, was served hot, greasy and beefy and carried us to full stomachs.

Overall, the dishes we got were unremarkable. That was partly our doing--we wanted to see what Mama Chen could do with a generic, plain vanilla order. So often the true test of a restaurant is to see if it can make turn something that's merely ordinary into something special. Despite our dishes being rather predictable, there were dishes at other tables that looked very interesting, especially the buns and rice dishes.

It's those enticing dishes that would make me want to return. However, the stinky tofu at this restaurant was duly pungent (can't fault them for that!) and was a turn off to some in our family. However, one can't dispute Mama Chen's value. We were filled up for $20 with taxes but before tips.

Mama Chen
5075 Stevens Creek Blvd
Ste 10
Santa Clara, CA 95051
(408) 249-9888

Friday, September 2, 2011

The Donut Man--Glendora, CA

Our trip through SoCal wrapped up with a donut stop in Glendora. Knowing this institution would get crowded very quickly after opening, we got their early. Indeed, there was already a line at 7:30 on a Sunday morning. Known for their strawberry and peach donuts, we got some of the latter, which was out of this world. The peach itself was fresh, firm and tasted as though it was just cut. The "donut" was sweet and super soft. The Bavarian cream donut was good, but it was something that could be found elsewhere. The same could be said about the tiger's tail, which my mom-in-law actually enjoyed more than the peach donut because it "tasted more like a donut".

For me and Jenny, though, the peach donut was what made The Donut Man special. The firmness and the slightly tart flavor of the peach matched perfectly the soft sugary donut. What a delightful little sandwich!

The Donut Man
915 E Rt 66
Glendora, CA 91740
(626) 335-9111