Wednesday, December 5, 2018

Great Awakenings in Pacific Grove, CA

Shown here is "The Works" omelet. Not only did this dish hit the spot, there's enough here to feed a bear. It's a bargain, too, at $12. We waited about half an hour for a weekend brunch, but it was worth the wait.

Saturday, December 1, 2018

The Reuben at Gunther's in San Jose...

...featuring both pastrami and corned beef for $15. A little on the salty side, but the meat is juicy and tender. I went here yesterday for lunch and it wasn't crowded. Mine didn't come with Russian dressing, but that was fine with me.

Thursday, November 15, 2018

Cafe Chenar--Phoenix, AZ

What a delightful lunch we had here yesterday! Shown is the Uzbek Plov, featuring beef, rice, carrots and chickpeas. Delicious! It seems you can't go wrong no matter what you order, though. We also got chuchvara (small, meat-filled dumplings) and skewers. The bone-in chicken kebabs are an outright steal for $4. The chicken skin is crisp and the meat falls off the bone. 

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Flower Child--Phoenix, AZ

Jenny and I went to Flower Child in Phoenix, AZ yesterday for lunch. If only we had a Flower Child in the Bay Area! I had the Thai Cashew Bowl, a warm bowl whose main event is the firm red quinoa. Jalapeno peppers gave it just the right amount of kick. There was something in this dish that gave it the flavor of steak. Jenny had Mother Earth (sweet potato, portobello mushroom) and enjoyed her lunch, too. 

Shown here is a jar of kombucha, $6 on tap. Jenny didn't care for the drink, as it had the flavor and bitterness of a weak beer. I enjoyed it for the novelty and the subtle apple flavor.

Friday, November 2, 2018

The pork-duck burger at Verge Restaurant in Los Gatos

It's an interesting idea, but it was a bit dry and flavorless. Also, it was a bit odd to have something fibrous in a burger. The base is a fried mac and cheese slab, which the kids loved. The dining experience was good overall!

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

Pineda Tacos--Minneapolis, MN

I went to this restaurant on the Minnetonka border with my family after a Vikings game--a three-touchdown drubbing by the Bills. Our early dinner here at Pineda Tacos was one of the few things that went right that day. I live in the Bay Area in California and have easy access to quality Mexican food. Yet, the burrito we had at Pineda can stand up against anything I can find at home. Tender meat, a hot shell and a full tummy. What more could I want. There's a full array of salsa choices, too.

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Gold Nugget--Minnetonka, MN

Gold Nugget is a great spot to meet an old friend, which is what I did here Friday. This place has good food, friendly service, ample parking and a noise level on the lower side for a sports bar. Shown here is the Bacon Me Crazy burger, which my buddy tells me was delectable. We got shakes, too, and people were slurping them to the last drop.

Thursday, September 20, 2018

Veggie Grill--Mountain View, CA

I got the Sonoran Bowl for lunch an enjoyed it. The jalapeño peppers were abundant, perhaps too much so, but worked well with the quinoa and avocado. However, I thought it was a bit on the expensive side at $11. Moreover, I needed to eat again soon after. There was plenty of seating available, especially for a Friday.

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Fish's Wild--Cupertino, CA

This restaurant is one of my favorites when it comes to low stress casual dining. It's clean and well lighted. They have sports on two different screens. And, they always seem to have seating. There's also plenty of parking in the lot.

And, you know what? The food ain't bad, either. I got a grilled fish (salmon and Mahi Mahi in mine) wrap that was meaty and the flavor left no doubt they cooked it on the grill.

Pictured is the Tilapia bowl my wife got. It was a bargain at $7.59.

Friday, September 7, 2018

Fuji Sukiyaki--San Mateo, CA

My family ate here earlier this week and had a mixed experience. The miso was so salty my wife wouldn't touch it after the first sip. The saba mackerel was average. I had the Fuji (white tuna) roll and my son the Rainbow roll. Both were delicious, with a fresh flavor and delightfully creamy. The other boy got a chicken teriyaki bento box with a California roll, which he really enjoyed. He ate every morsel. 

Smartro meat thermometer

The Smartro thermometer kills it for speed and accuracy. Just stick the probe into the thickest part of the slab and you'll get a final reading in about seven or eight seconds. I've used the Smartro dozens of times and it's never done me wrong. Never worry again about serving undercooked chicken or pork!

Wednesday, September 5, 2018

Kahn--Sunnyvale, CA

Kahn offers a great variety of meat, seafood and vegetables for hot pot and Korean barbecue. They even have a bingsu station that gives a refreshing conclusion to an otherwise heavy meal. Overall, the ambiance lacks that special polish, but I'll end up going back. Service was mediocre--you'll have to be persistent about asking for help. Lunch on a Friday set us back $17 per head. 

Saturday, September 1, 2018

The Oxford--Sunnyvale, CA

The fish and chips plate ($14) I got at The Oxford was perhaps the best I've had ever. And, I'm a guy who grew up on fish and chips (though a lot of it was Arthur Treacher's). The coating hot and crisp, the fish moist and flakey, it exceeded even my imagination.

We also had chicken pot pie (great crust but a bit soupy at $15) and the chicken shawarma turnover ($12, good on its own, but overshadowed by the fish and chips).

Thursday, August 30, 2018

Halo Top Peanut Butter Cup

It's a rare ice cream that would make my family skip dessert altogether if it were the only option. But, Halo Top's Peanut Butter Cup is such an ice cream. 

It tastes like a combination of peanut butter and ice, with a chalky consistency. I like that Halo Top tried to come up with a low fat alternative, but this didn't work for us. By the way, the peanut butter flavor, for better or worse, is super strong.

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Original Pancake House--Los Altos, CA

It was Father's Day when we last went to Original Pancake House in Los Altos and we go there about once a year. Expect a wait (get there at 9:30 on a Sunday and you'll wait about 20 minutes), but also expect the wait to be worth it. The Dutch Baby might be what OPH is famous for, but you can't lose with any selection. Shown here is the fresh fruit crepe.

Photo: The Dutch Baby!

Photo: Menu at the Original Pancake House in Los Altos, CA

Green Cafe--Los Altos, CA

Green is a cafe that does a lot of things well. Service is with a smile, the boba teas are great (pearls aren't too hard, aren't too squishy) and everyone in my family likes their banh mi. Shown here is the lemongrass beef banh mi for $7.25.

Officially they close at 8:00 pm on weekends, but they were still serving even past 8:30 when I dropped by Saturday. Also, their "lunch sandwiches", including their banh mi, seem to be available anytime. 

Friday, August 24, 2018

Falafel Stop--Sunnyvale, CA

Grilled Angus kebab on Israeli salad

I'll get the negatives out of the way first. Being the grouchy old man that I am, it bugged me that I went in at 6:30 and Falafel Stop was already out of rice. Unapologetically so, in fact. I ended up having the protein--I chose the beef--on Israeli salad, which was too sharp for my taste. My dish is shown in the photo above and it was $11. Think vinaigrette with a strong emphasis on the vinegar. To make matters worse, we got only a tiny amount of meat on our plates.

It wasn't all bad, though. Of all things, one of the best parts of the meal was the pita bread. More than 4 inches in diameter and thick--half an inch at least--it went great with the hummus. And, that was another high point of the meal. Creamy and not too tart, it went down smoothly. I used as a dressing to neutralize the acidity of the salad.

Original Pancake and Sausage on a Stick by Jimmy Dean

The concept seemed attractive to the kids, especially since they like pancakes and sausages. However, this concoction has fallen flat and neither boy will touch this with, well, a stick.

One said the sausage doesn't taste at all like meat. My biggest complaint is the pancake is too sweet. As a result, these have largely been relegated to the bottom of the freezer, falling deeper into obscurity. Since each is individually wrapped, I find them convenient to pack for work.  I'll eat these, but they're far from the best of the good-but-bad-for-you frozen items that Jimmy Dean is known for.

Thursday, August 23, 2018

Pho Nam--Sunnyvale, CA

Our family loves pho and grilled rice plate dishes. And, the restaurant we go to most often to get both is Pho Nam in Sunnyvale. We like it here because they are consistent, have fast service and offer their items at a fair price (though you have to pay cash).

Pictured here is the grilled chicken with fried roll for $9.85. My 13 year old always orders this and it fills him up.

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

KopePot--Sunnyvale, CA

KopePot offers a wide spectrum of food, from savory steaks to vegetarian. However, we never got past their pancakes and we never felt the need to either! Arrive in the mid to late morning and you'll have no problem getting a table.

Monday, August 20, 2018

Nick the Greek--Sunnyvale, CA

On a good day, I think Nick the Greek could do well, but my experience was so-so Saturday. I got the pork gyro (two words that don't go together very often) for $9. You notice in the photo a strip that's burnt to a crisp. Unfortunately, I didn't notice in time and it was an unpleasant surprise. The kids liked their gyros, though, and literally couldn't get enough. They both dived into what I had left as well as Jenny's gyro salad (how's that for desperation for a 13 year old?).

The restaurant was clean (although the one restroom didn't prove to be enough for a place this size) and abundant with light, so I found the experience cheerful. That's why I'll probably give Nick's another chance.

Saturday, August 18, 2018

Stan's Donuts--Santa Clara, CA

There isn't anyone I know who, after trying Stan's glazed donuts, doesn't think they're the best raised donuts on the planet. The donut is super-soft and fluffy and they manage to get the level of sweetness just right, though the maple is a bit too sugary for me. The cake donuts are ordinary--even Krispy Kreme can do as well. Get here by noon on a weekday and you'll be in time to get a glazed nine times out of ten.

Thursday, August 16, 2018

Morning Wood--San Bruno, CA

If there's anyone who doesn't believe in the saying, "Good things come to those who wait", he should drop by Morning Wood for lunch. We waited for an hour on a weekday at 10:00 am yet it was worth every minute. 

From what we ordered and what I saw on the tables around us, each dish was a work of art. And, in the case of the spam musubi shown here, it was a festival in the mouth, too. I loved how the crunchy exterior blended with the spam. Dylan had the "oh so loco moco", an old-school dish featuring a beef patty on rice topped with eggs. Tyler had the taco omurice, ground beef on rice under an omelet dome. Though different on paper, Dylan and Tyler did have dishes that were flavored similarly. Perhaps the crowd favorite was the kohala pancakes I ordered. Made with black sesame mocha and sprinkled with matcha sugar and blueberries, the texture had a little bit of fight to it (as mocha can have) and Jenny especially enjoyed the pleasant aftertaste--I want to say it was almost tea-like. 

There's a reason people are waiting with no place to sit and without complaing for longer than an hour outside of Morning Wood. It's because they serve incredibly good food that's hard to find anywhere else. Try it. I have to say they have the best brunch food in the Bay Area. You won't leave hungry, either. For all the waiting I did, I noticed the majority of customers packed leftovers in to-go boxes.

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Roux Dat--Santa Cruz, CA

What's remarkable about Roux Dat is they're able to churn out quality Cajun food from an unassuming little kiosk on a sidewalk in downtown Santa Cruz. Inside this booth is a man, from New Orleans it turns out, who is the cook, cashier and customer service rep. Your $10.50 buys a meal in a plastic bowl that comes with toasted bread. I had the gumbo on brown rice (shown here) and my wife got the jambalaya. Both dishes were good, but neither spicy, which was fine by us.

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

House of Carribbean Soul Food... served at San Jose Jazz Fest. Shown here is the Catfish Dinner. It comes with collard greens, rice, plantains and cornbread--all of it good. This plate was $14 and was enough for me and my wife. My boys each had a jambalaya, which was $13. They ate every morsel. The chicken was fall-off-the-bone tender. There was one regular sized shrimp, and several baby shrimp in each jambalaya dish.  So, for $40 we got full on quality food at a festival and that's pretty good. This vendor had one of the longest lines but the wait was worth it. By the way, for this vendor there are intentionally two "r"s in "Carribbean".

Monday, August 13, 2018

Teens cooking class at Sur La Table in Santa Clara, CA

Summer vacation is almost over and my 13-year-old has gone to several different activities and camps since June. One of his favorites was taking cooking classes at Sur La Table in Santa Clara. He had two days of classes, two hours each day. So, four hours total for $120. He took the classes with other middle-schoolers.

On Day 1 he made ribs, onion pancakes and Portuguese egg tarts. On Day 2 he served up pork loin sandwiches, corn and vanilla ice cream (yes, he made the ice cream himself and said it was "heavenly") with a pineapple sauce. 

A chef guided the students through it all. In the photo, my son is fishing out some ribs he made in an Instant Pot. 

As a parent, I can report this was easily my favorite of my kids' summer activities. My son learned new skills in the kitchen, the meals are memorable (this was more than a month ago and he can still recite both menus to me) and the environment bright and clean. Lastly, but very important to me, the staff at Sur La Table was enthusiastic and thoughtful. The instructors encouraged the parents to try what the kids made (especially the desserts) and reviewed the techniques the students learned. They sent the kids home with the recipes and the apron they used for class--nice touch!

Sunday, August 12, 2018

Herb Alpert at the San Jose Jazz Fest...

...earlier today. At 83, he still has it after all these years. His Whipped Cream medley had the crowd going wild. He performed with his wife of 44 years, Lani Hall, which was very touching to see.

My very discerning 13-year-old claims...

...the Ultimate Hickory Burger at Armadillo Willy's in Santa Clara is the best burger in the Bay Area. That's quite a statement from this burger aficionado. The patty was thick, perfectly done, and the bun was fluffy. He chose American cheese, but there were six other types he could have gone with. The mac and cheese, a premium side for $1 extra, was above average.

Saturday, August 11, 2018

Rasa Sayang in Cupertino, CA

It was hard saying goodbye to Shanghai Dumpling in Cupertino, but in its place on Bollinger Rd. can be found a very worthy replacement.

Today for lunch I got the Singapore Fried Vermicelli, which was delicious. Tyler got the Pineapple Fried Rice, which had a very similar flavor to the vermicelli dish. Jenny got the Fried Pearl Noodle, which was descried as having "mouse tail" noodles, a description as accurate as it is unappetizing. The point I want to make, though, is all the dishes were loaded with protein. All three above were also $13 each.

Shown here is Dylan's Rendang Chicken, featuring lemongrass in tasty abundance, which he cleaned up. This dish was also $13, but keep in mind it's highly advised you get a bowl of rice with it, which is another $2.

The Roti Prata features a thin, stretchy sheet bread that's presented like a small parachute comes with a can't-get-enough peanut curry sauce. It's hard do imagine a better appetizer value for $4.

Friday, August 10, 2018

Jang Su Jang in Santa Clara, CA

Shown here is the budae-jjidae or "army stew". It comes with cheese, but it's dissolved in the soup. I liked the Korean Army at Fashion Wok (Foster City) more, with a nice big slab of cheddar on top. Still, this wasn't bad as a spoil-yourself-low-stress meal. The kids were happy with their hot pots, too.

The ban chan (eight dishes) was adequate.

Thursday, August 9, 2018

I was able to carry these items from 99Ranch...

...using two panniers on my Trek FX 7.3 hybrid, a bike I highly recommend. I also highly recommend the Umami Gyoza (black bag in the photo), my favorite in a very crowded field of frozen dumplings.

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

The Tech Museum in San Jose, CA

Body Worlds Decoded is a high-profile exhibit at The Tech Museum in San Jose. Though the thought of looking at plasticized dead bodies can make some queasy, the displays do an excellent job of revealing the wonders and even the beauty of the human anatomy. Upon entering this exhibit, tablets are available, one per family, to find up to eight interactive virtual displays. In the photo here, we found, seemingly hovering over the floor and visible only with the device, a model of the heart and nearby veins and arteries. The viewer can walk around the model, using the tablet to zoom in.

There are many sections of the museum, though, to love. My favorite is the Cyber Detectives exhibit on the bottom floor. There, you can play with the inner workings of a lock, use computers to test the strength of your password and use different methods to scramble and decode messages. Real cloak and dagger stuff. They even let you pretend to be a cyber sleuth and go into an escape-room-like setting to track down the cause of a computer hack. You might have to wait in line for this activity , but I found the experience to be worth it.

Vietnamese Pho by Snapdragon

First things first: My 13-year-old loves this product. He loves it to the point of licking the bowl clean. Here's the bad news: One bowl provides a whopping 42% of the recommended daily allowance of sodium. No mean feat for a bowl whose contents have a net weight of 2 1/2 ounces (before adding water, of course).  Moreover, you have to recognize that one of these is a snack at best--it's not going to fill you up.

The prep is simple. Rip open two enclosed packets of seasoning, fill with boiling water and wait three minutes. Then, sit back and let the salty goodness do the rest!

Monday, August 6, 2018

The crab salad at Pacific Catch in San Mateo

I loved it and would get it every time. My wife thought the miso dressing was a bit strong, though. Allow time to find parking, especially on the weekends.

Sunday, August 5, 2018

Vietnom's in San Jose, CA

At SOFA in downtown San Jose last night Jenny got a vermicelli bowl with chicken for $12 plus tax. Although the portion was smaller than vermicelli bowls you can find in most pho restaurants in the area, Jenny nevertheless liked it and would get it again. This entree is essentially a Vietnamese bun bowl.

Fruit tasting at Andy's Orchard in Morgan Hill

Shown here is a small fraction of the nearly 90 varieties of plums, pluots, apricots, peaches and nectarines offered at Andy's fruit tasting today. A crowd favorite was the Arctic Jay nectarine, though mine was the Snow Queen nectarine. Are the flavors of the fruit here better than what you'd find at Costco? Of course, much better, but what's fun is tasting the subtle differences in peaches or nectarines as you move from one to the next. There's a fruit picking tour, too, although Andy's doesn't usually have you-pick available. The fruit you take home is $2.75/lb. The tour today was $15 for adults and $12 for seniors.

Hawaiian Poke Bowl in the SOFA... court in San Jose. Each of my boys got the Shoyu Salmon and both loved it. The only complaint of one of them was that it had "too much salmon", which is a great problem to have. It seemed to me, though, that the bowls were slightly smaller than a typical poke bowl. But, the meat-to-rice ratio was high. Both really liked the flavor. The bowl was $13. The whole family really liked SOFA, by the way. This venue offers a lot of good fast-casual options. I went with Habana Cuba and my wife ordered from Vietnom's, which I'll review soon.

Saturday, August 4, 2018

Lechon at Habana Cuba in San Jose, CA

A very filling, satisfying meal for $14. The pork was slightly more acidic than what I would have liked. But, it was fall-apart tender. The plantains were superb and the rice fluffy and smooth. There's more food here than it seems.

Friday, August 3, 2018

Armadillo Willy's in Santa Clara...

...has burnt ends today! They weren't as pleasantly chewy as I was expecting, but still worth trying. I recommend getting them as a side. If you have your heart set on getting the best burnt ends around, try Smoking Pig.

Dish N Dash--Cupertino, CA

Chicken Shawarma is the protein shown here, but it's the chickpeas and creamy hummus that stole the show for me last night. The atmosphere here is great for families, with plenty of space (at least on a weeknight) and multiple screens showing baseball.