Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Bouchon--New York, NY

If you make it to Rockefeller Plaza, try Bouchon's chocolate, praline and cocoa nib tart. It will set you back $7, but the two layers of rich, creamy chocolate make it worth every penny.

A chocolate-covered Swiss roll sits next to the tart in the photo. It was firm but flavorful.

Monday, July 28, 2014

La Baguette (food truck)--New York, NY

Our family found that the best food value in New York can be found in the halal food trucks. Although there are some duds out there, we found most offer excellent food at a great price.

One that we liked in particular is La Baguette, a truck that can be found on 40th, near Broadway. The chicken kabob can be $3 or $4 (prices can vary at the same truck, which is why prices are often not posted). The chicken over rice (top) will make you full for $5 and the meat-packed lamb gyro above was a steal for $4.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Go! Go! Curry! New York, NY

Today for brunch we shared a Grand Slam with extra rice ($14), which included a pork cutlet, chicken cutlet, two sausages, a boiled egg and a shrimp tempura. Overall, it was delicious, though the shrimp was mealy and the sausages a bit salty. No complaints, though! I liked that there was a strong curry flavor without it being too spicy for the kids.

The homage to Yankee Hideki Matsui is endearing.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

At Sarge's in Manhattan...

...where the pastrami sandwich was OK, the chicken noodle soup gave the kids stomach aches and this gigantic peanut butter chocolate cheesecake saved the day!

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Xi'an Famous Foods--New York, NY

I'm here to say the Emperor has no clothes.

With a bit of anticipation due to positive reviews on the internet and a lot of high-profile press, we tried Xi'an for dinner. From the start, they make it clear they dictate the take-it or leave-it terms: No credit cards, no servers (so clear the table after you're done, please), almost no counter space (and certainly no tables) and no tap water. That last was the most inconvenient "no" of all, as the food was very salty. It almost seemed like a business strategy: Make the customers thirst to death and offer nothing free to drink. If the amount of business they're getting was any indication, though, a lot of people were falling for it.

Ox Tail Noodles
I got the Ox Tail Noodles, which did offer tender, fall-off-the-bone meat. I ordered the dish spicy, but it ended up being pretty mild. I enjoyed the wide, chewy noodles in the Stewed Pork Noodles, as did the kids. You can get the similar noodles, though, at QQ locally in Cupertino.

The Buckwheat Cold Noodles came with too much cilantro for the kids to enjoy and the acidity was a bit strong. The noodles also didn't have the elasticity that I would have wanted.

Stewed Pork Burger

Of all puffery about Xi'an Famous Foods on the internet, though, what I found most difficult to justify is the praise for their Stewed Pork Burger. The meat was dry and it passed among the four of us with nobody wanting to finish it.

Well, at least they're upfront about it

Of the more than 250 reviews I've given, I know this seems to be one of the harshest. I don't mean it to be, though. The saltiness and the overdone pork aside, there'd good food to be had here. However, for a restaurant that clearly puts its customers in their place (see above), and given that this is New York, I expected a lot and Xi'an just didn't deliver. Not on food quality and certainly not on hospitality.

Xi'an Famous Foods
25 W 45th St.
New York, NY 10036
(212) 786-2068

Monday, July 21, 2014

Noodles and Company--Cupertino, CA

On our way to De Anza College earlier this week I took the boys to Noodles and Company for lunch.  I got the pad thai with shrimp, a dish that was buried under an overabundance of bean sprouts. The pasta and the shrimp were adequate, though they didn't stand out. I wondered why the leaves of the parsley weren't separated from the stem. Was it laziness? Or, was it for appearance? Either way, it was more or less a big branch on the dish that I had to push aside this way and that throughout lunch.

Though the boys liked the pasta itself in their spaghetti dishes (one got a regular, the other got a small), they found the meatballs too salty to finish. 
Small vs. Regular size comparison
The quality of the food was so-so, but what really caught me was how fast costs add up. The added shrimp, for example, came at an additional $3.34, or nearly 50 cents per shrimp. With tax, the two regular dishes plus the small one came out to more than $26, which is a lot to pay for ordinary food--and we still left hungry. I liked the ambiance at Noodles and Company, though. The restaurant is clean with an abundance of natural light.

Noodles and Company
20735 Stevens Creek Blvd.
Cupertino, CA 95014

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Mercado and Taqueria de Amigos--Pescadero, CA

Yes, this is a gas station and yes, the food here is amazing! The shrimp in the special (above) was succulent, though a little too spicy for the boys. The fish in the tacos was cooked to perfection and left me regretting we can't get anything quite like it here in the Mountain View/Los Altos area.

The boys shared a chicken burrito, which was good on its own, though overshadowed by the seafood dishes. 

We dropped by this restaurant while in Pescadero really as a last resort. However, it was a great surprise and I'd love to go back. One bite and you'll forget you're in a gas station (except when you need to get a key to go to the restroom--but isn't that part of the charm?).

Mercado and Taqueria de Amigos--Pescadero, CA
1999 Pescadero Creek Rd.
Pescadero, CA
(650) 879-0232

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Troutmere--La Honda, CA

To kick off the 4th of July weekend, we took the kids to Troutmere in La Honda. As far as sure catch (aka "fish-in-a-barrel") operations go, Troutmere is pretty good. In Tahoe, I had issues with whacking the fish to death in front of the kids with a steel rod. At Troutmere, though, you take the hook out of the fish and toss it into a bucket. You then get them cleaned and gutted for 50 cents each.

If there's any downside, it's that this pond is stocked so full of trout, your kids will each catch a fish within 30 seconds tops. A typical trout of eight to ten inches, including the cleaning, will set you back about five dollars. (Also, there's a $5 admission charge per car.) So, costs will add up quickly. We had to tell the kids to stop for a short while so we could draw things out a little.

That said, the fish was delicious! They send you home with the fish in a bag of ice. Just add some salt and coat the trout with flour and you're ready for frying in the pan!

The skin was crispy and, to me, irresistible. Take a few seconds to scrape the tender meat off the bone and you've got a terrific fillet!