Sunday, June 25, 2017

Beacon Hill Chocolates--Boston, MA

Oh, my goodness. What is it with Boston and their access to amazing chocolate products? Four years ago I had a religious experience at LA Burdick with their hot chocolate. Then, earlier this month friends visited from Boston and gave us a box from Beacon Hill Chocolates. And, because they did, they're now pretty much friends for life.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Cafe Florian--Foster City, CA

For me, it wouldn't be Father's Day without an eat-till-you-drop buffet and Cafe Florian, at the Crowne Plaza in Foster City, didn't disappoint. 

As long as the lines weren't long, there was Dungeness crab, mussels, oysters and shrimp in abundance at Cafe Florian.

Though I tried to get my money’s worth from the crab and prime rib (both were fine), my favorite of the day was the Kobe beef sliders with bacon tomato jam. The sweetness of the jam countered the savory cheese and beef perfectly. I normally don’t eat bread at a buffet, but I had three sliders.

Kobe beef slider with prime rib and pork rib (in the background) with sweet potato fries

The pork ribs, if anything, were slightly overdone but the delicious sauce and sweet potato fries made up for it. In fact, I probably would have been very happy just treating this as an all-the-ribs-you-can eat pork fest. (Whatever happened to those?)

One nice treat about Florian that I haven't yet found at any other Sunday brunch buffet was an ice cream freezer. The kids raided it for popsicles and ice cream sandwiches and, for them, it was the difference between a good buffet and a When-can-we-come-here-again? buffet. If you're not into frozen desserts, they still have you covered--the selection of baked treats is positively immense.

On that note, one item normally found at a traditional Sunday brunch but wasn't here is eggs Benedict. This dish isn't make-or-break for me, but I've come to expect it with brunch.

The lines were at their longest at around 11:00 and at that point Florian struggled to keep up with the demand on crab. The crowd thinned out a lot by noon. A mandatory tip of 18% was added to the check for the buffet. The service was very attentive and worthy of this minimum.

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Choice Lunch

Another school year ended and another nine months spent with a different lunch provider at my boys' elementary school in the Los Altos School District. We lost count, but it has been at least three different vendors in as many years.

Pea snaps, cantaloupe, chocolate milk and spaghetti: Lunch at my kids' school for $6

Both of my kids ate Choice Lunch food twice per week and they have generally negative feedback about it; some valid, some specious (Example: "It comes in a truck, so it isn't fresh." Well, of course it comes in a truck, the school doesn't have a kitchen.). The most common:

1) Much of the food that's supposed to be soft is hard and crunchy, such as the pasta and potato skins. Also, the food is often stuck together as one piece.
2) The hot item comes in a dish with an overlying plastic film. This film, more often than not, is bonded to the container with an iron grip and ripping it off sometimes means ripping the cardboard dish.
3) The food you get looks nothing like the food you order on the Choice Lunch website.

Kids can be harsh when it comes to school lunch, though. Tyler brought home his lunch last week (pictured above) and the plastic film came off fine. Yes, the pasta was a little bit stiff, but it was still acceptable. The negatives? The meat sauce it came with had little meat. Also, it ain't cheap--at $6 the price is a multiple of what many others are paying for lunch around the Bay Area. My understanding, though, is some of this is going to the school.

The verdict: Knowing what the kids are getting for their $6, we never had reservations about ordering the lunch for them given the convenience and, in truth, I don't think the food is really that bad. Getting food to a location in massive quantities and having it taste fresh is hard. It's an age-old problem not limited to school lunch--when's the last time anyone raved about airplane food?

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

The cell cake

I never thought I'd write a post about my kids' homework, much less their science homework, but this one was too delicious to pass up.

Given the choice between a cake model of a cell, writing a computer program or filling out a worksheet, Tyler chose, with his class partner, to bake a chocolate cake. Tyler's mom helped by softening the fondant using the microwave for about 15 seconds. They made little wells in the fondant for the food coloring and then kneaded away at it. As a glue to hold the candy in place, they added a thin layer of water to the fondant.

There are a lot of wonderful examples of cell-cake projects to be found on the internet. But, what I found to be even more useful than the cake itself is the de-coder table the boys put together, which explains the function of each part of the cell and its corresponding goodie.

After eating a piece of this very heavy--but delicious--cake, you'll swear your cell membranes are lined with fondant, too!

Friday, June 2, 2017

Dumpling Depot--Sunnyvale, CA

I had lunch with Jenny and Dylan today at Dumpling Depot in Sunnyvale. We'd been there recently for the first time and came away impressed. This visit was no different--Dumpling Depot thrilled us again.

Over our two visits we had lamb, pork and zucchini dumplings. These standard dumpling orders come at a dozen to a plate. See menu below. We also tried the xiao lung bao ("Shanghai Soup Dumpling"),Yes, the filling in each case was terrific--Jenny especially liked the crunchiness of the zucchini dumplings and hence those were her favorite. But, the skin and the hot sauce are what really make the experience special.

The skin was chewy, soft yet impervious to the juice inside the dumpling. That said, the skin for the xiao long bao was on the thicker side. That other special quality of Dumpling Depot, the proprietary homemade hot sauce, offers a hot, creamy taste but doesn't have the irritating bite you might get, from say, a habenero pepper. The sauce even looks great.

There's nothing to dislike about Dumpling Depot--even the service is exemplary. Both times we were there, the staff made rounds from one table to another making polite, easy conversation, yet are senstive enough to know if you want to be left alone.

Both times we ate at Dumpling Depot we came in at about 1:00 on a weekday. Both times, there was plenty of seating available. Make the Depot your next stop. This is precisely the kind of establishment the Bay Area needs more of.

Dumpling Depot