Brian and I went to visit Jay at his new workplace at Santana Row, where he's a sous chef. We went during off hours, inbetween lunch and dinner, so the restaurant was pretty empty and Jay got to leave the kitchen and chat with us a little, which was awesome. Brian and I just wanted a bit of a snack, so we decided to order the soup of the day, which was cream of mushroom soup, and share it. This was a really good soup, actually - deep meaty mushroom flavors, rich cream, nice and comforting and savory. Brian and I kept dipping pieces of bread into this, even though he usually has an aversion to carbs. Heh.
Along with our order of soup, I wanted something really bad for me. Since we were eat a seafood-east coast themed restaurant, I decided to order some fried calamari. This was a decent fry up - breading wasn't too heavy, wasn't too oily. Good pieces of calamari, although I would have liked more of the "squiddy" parts. Yey.
Another outing with Brian, we went down the street to House of Falafel, and to get some frozen yogurt at Yogurtland. I think I went to Yogurtland 3 or 4 times while I was at home - I love this place! But I had neglected to take pictures of it each time, as it wasn't horribly photogenic - it's a serve yourself kind of place, and a huge mixture of different kinds of flavors of yogurt isn't...appealing to look at, but it sure was tasty. Okay so back to the things I DID take pictures of...
This is an order of the falafel appetizer at House of Falafel. These are great! The crispy outsides were the best part. I think they could have used more seasoning on the chickpeas but Brian noted that sometimes they taste better, so it depends on the day. But they always have that really good crispy texture.
Here's a shot of one of the insides of the falafel. The chickpeas are mixed with parsley, which gives the insides that greenish hue. Could have used more salt or some sort of delicious seasoning, as I said before, but these would have been so good to have in a pita.
Just to try, I also ordered a chicken shwarma pita. The chicken was a bit dry, but the rest of it was nice. I liked how they also grilled the outside of the pita as well - gave it a nice charred taste.
Here's a close up on the wrap, after a few bites have been taken. They do not hold back on the amount of chicken, but as I was saying before, kinda dry, and all white meat (which is good for some, but I like dark meat better!). A bit of veggies and a bit of white sauce (what is in the white sauce? I don't know?), and there you have it. I think the falafel is definitely better, but this is not horrible.
Later in the week, we went to San Francisco, to meet up with a few friends of Brians' from UC Davis. Brian knew of a great sandwich place, so we met up in the Castro, at Ike's Sandwiches. We luckily snagged a table (there's like, 4 SMALL tables there, and no room to eat inside), and ordered our sandwiches. I was ready for some deliciousness!
This was Brian's sandwich, which, I THINK was named the MILF sandwich. (giggle.) I think it was a chicken mixture, with an amazing sauce, (I don't know what sauce it was), with lettuce, pickles, and tomatoes. The nice part about this sandwich is that if you request, they can scoop out some of the soft part of the bread so there's more room for the filling (as Brian says, so there's "less carbs!") This was so freakin' good! I really wish I had ordered this sandwich, (there are so many choices!) but I got a few bites of his sandwich, so I was pretty happy.
I don't know what the name of this sandwich was, but it's a tuna sandwich of some sort. This looked good, so i'm going to assume it was good.
I ordered a sandwich with turkey and bacon - basically a turkey club, with lettuce, tomatoes and hot peppers, on dutch style french bread. It was a good sandwich, although it was overshadowed by Brian's greater sandwich. The sauce really made his sandwich memorable.
Of course, we could not stop with our food-adventures in this area, so we walked down the street and went to Bi-Rite Creamery, which I was extremely excited about trying. The ice cream slingers were really nice, and let me try 3 flavors (the cooler part was that they gave me the samples with regular spoons - part of their whole "not making waste" thing, I think). I tried their three most popular flavors - snickerdoodle, lavender, and salted caramel. It was hard to choose, but with the line swelling behind me, I had to pick quickly. The salted caramel edged out the others!
I just got a kids cone of the salted caramel, and boy, was it delicious. The salt was an amazing activator of all the flavors of the caramel, making a great mix of savory and sweet. The quality of the cream used to make the ice cream was truly exemplary, some of the best I've had. I really enjoyed this small cone, even though I was quite full by then.
Brian got the snickerdoodle flavor, which was a departure for him because he swore by the lavender flavor every other time he's been here, but he tried the snickerdoodle and fell in love with it! BiRite makes their own snickerdoodle cookies that go into this ice cream, so the cookies were deliciously fresh and of equal quality to the ice cream. I love the whole design package too - the biodegradable cup, the printed-on ice cream tongue depressor. Totally nice.
After this, we took a little stroll down the street, and of course had to pop in to Tartine Bakery. Unfortunately, by this point, we were truly too full to even think about eating anything, but...well, that didn't mean that we couldn't get something for later right?
OMG look at the cakes...look at the tarts...eek....
why, hello quiche...I would love to be friends with you...
More quiches and tarts...but in the end, we ended up getting a gougere to go. I honestly couldn't have told you what a gougere was before that day. It ended up being a sort of savory puff - not filled with anything (like a cream puff), but the nice flavor of the outside puff was great enough itself. They used really good quality gruyere and black pepper, the two things I really remember when snacking on it while walking around. I will totally get another one when I visit again.
Our wanderings led us to Japantown, which I actually had never been to before in San Francisco. I can't believe that, either! We wandered around the indoor malls (so fun!) and bookstores, and ended up at Shabu Sen to eat. I hadn't had Shabu shabu for a long while, and I was excited to experience it at a "real" shabu shabu house (I've been to the one in Hollywood, but, I don't think I can truly call that an authentic experience).
I wanted to get a shot of the cool induction stove. Really neat! The surface of the stovetop wasn't hot at all, and didn't add too much excess heat, which was also a plus. Agh, I kinda want one now! Shabu shabu party, anyone?
The broth heats up instantly...so cool...
First, a delightful plate of mixed veggies. All these veggies were super fresh and of high quality, so everything really shone through with a quick dip in the boiling broth. I think the fresh chinese cabbage, shitake mushrooms, and udon were my favorites.
Dipping sauces! One is ponzu and the other was a sesame sauce. Way refreshing to dip the meats and veggies in here before quickly consuming your freshly boiled bounty. And the sesame dipping sauce was a nice tangy flavor. Awesome.
Now, to the meats! This is a small beef serving, that I ordered, as I was still fairly full from all the foodaventures earlier in the day, but everyone else ordered regular plates of beef, or combos. This was just the perfect amount for me. So the method of attack - carefully take a piece of beef from the plate. Quickly douse in hot broth. Swidge it around a bit, make sure it's nice and cooked. Dunk in dipping sauces, and ENJOY!
The bubbling boiling wok o' broth, doing its' job by cooking the veggies and meat and udon noodles. Pretty awesome. I'd love to go back.
A few days later, I took Vicky out for a late birthday celebration. We decided to go to Tomi Sushi, which came highly recommended by Brian and Owen, when they went there while I was at Judy's rehearsal lunch. The place was bustling with people when we got there, as it was during the busy lunch hour. We navigated the menu but in the end, I was swayed by the daily special. More on that in a few...
Miso soup came out first. Nothing to scream about but nice and savory, a good start.
Green tea came out, branded with the restaurant's logo. That's kinda nice.
Here's a thing of beauty - the lunch special. It comes with a salad, a small chirashi bowl, and various tempura. Just having this set in front of me made me extremely happy. Each section of this set deserves more exploration, in my opinion....so here we go...
The chirashi part of the set was the main focus, and contained, from the front going clockwise: 2 pieces of tamago egg, 2 pieces of overseared/overcooked (but still good) albacore, 2 pieces of salmon, topped with finely chopped seaweed, and rounding out the bowl, ginger and wasabi. I remember everything being very good, and although it was a smaller chirashi than I usually rock, this was perfect, because of the other stuff that came with it...
The other stuff, being the plate of fried stuff. Whoo! A plate of fried stuff, especially if it's Japanese style fried stuff, is especially appealing! A potato croquette, a fried shrimp, and a fried white fish gave me a lot of great things to try. These guys were experts at frying - nothing was oily, everything was perfectly crisp on the outside and moist on the inside. I really enjoyed this, especially with the chirashi - what a great and varied combo!
And just for good measure, there's a salad that came along with it. Iceberg lettuce, shreds of red cabbage and carrot? Looks like Owen's most hated "camp salad" to me (named that because he had this style of gross cheap salad while he was at day camp at the Y, when he was a kid.) Pretty unimpressive, but added a nice counterpoint to the rest of the meal.
Vicky had a nice sushi box set, which came with tuna roll (six of them, nice!), looks like whitefish and octopus sushi are also in that compartment. To the right, more sushi - shrimp, salmon, tuna, squid, another kind of whitefish. Clockwise, more of that "camp salad", an orange slice and a broccoli floret, and grilled saba (makarel) fish. I think she liked most of the sushi but didn't like the saba, but I admit, saba is a hard fish to like if you're not a fan of really fishy tasting stuff. I totally would have eaten it for her if I wasn't so full from my meal...heh.
We had also ordered some agedashi tofu, but it came the same time as everything else, even though I ordered it as an appetizer. It was good, but I wished it had come earlier, so we could have enjoyed it more before all the other food came. It was really delicious though, I could have had this on its' own as a meal, with some rice perhaps.
Another day, another different place - Hubert was home for the holidays from New York, and I really wanted to chat with him, over a meal, so we headed to this place that Brian had looked up - Harvest. It is one of those places where you order up at the front register, bring a number to your table and they bring the food to you. Here's the scoop on what we ordered...
Brian ordered some BBQ Chicken Sliders, which came with a side of beans. It looked okay and he seemed to enjoy it, but I don't know if I would order these myself. Maybe it's because when I think of sliders, they really should only be mini burgers. Ah, well. I think Brian ended up deconstructing these to ingest less carbs. Heh.
Hubert went the whole hog and got steak with green beans, mashed potatoes and mushroom sauce. Not too shabby, and the price point was okay, for a full dinner type meal. I don't know if I would order this myself (I like grilling my own steaks :) but Hubert tore into this so I'm assuming it was a slice of a-okay.
Bread! This bread just came with our meal, for no particular reason. We liked this a lot, actually - the nice zesty cheesy spread that came with it was a pleasant surprise!
I ordered some fondue for the table, which we liked dipping the aforementioned free bread they gave us. The things they actually gave us to dip into the fondue (whicih mostly consisted of gruyere) were kinda weird - a few piece of chopped tomatoes, and chopped bread (which was not as good as the free bread.). Fondue is naturally fun - and cheese plus anything is usually good. I like the setup, with the little ramekin over an open flame, to keep the cheese hot, but I don't think I'd order this again. I'd like a few other things to be able to dip into cheese.
My order was a cheeseburger with avocado, with fries. This was blah. The burger patty wasn't very flavorful or cooked medium as I asked (pretty much well done), the cheese wasn't very eventful or added anything to the burger. The nice part was the bunch of veggies that went with it (the pickle and avocado were especially nice), and the fries were decent. I should have ordered something else, drat.
One of my last days in the Bay area, I went to visit Judy and Kelvin, and our friend Krang came along too (a combo of his full name, no, he's not Krang of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles fame.). We went to Stacks, which was close to their apartment in Campbell. The place was super busy, we got seated way in the back. I guess a lot of breakfast places are pretty bumpin' during holiday times, as people have time off. I liked the fact they gave out a whole carafe of coffee if you ordered coffe, and the coat racks next to the booths. That's always fun.
Even though I went to a breakfast place, I ordered me a club sandwich with a side of hash browns. That's how I roll! Half breakfast, half lunch. Aw yeah. The club was overwhelming, a turkey, ham, bacon, tomato and lettuce explosion. I removed the ham - what the heck is this doing in this sandwich? It added too much saltiness. After the removal, it was much improved. Hash browns were okay but not really crispy or browned enough. The salad AND fruit salad combination that came with it was something nice to chew on when all the savoriness got overwhelming, but really this whole plate was too much food.
Of course, there's more food. Judy got a single waffle for the table, to try. This was a waste of carbs. Not crunchy or crispy on the outside, the whole thing was soggy and uneventful. Never order waffles from this place.
Krang got himself steak and eggs, a protein combination of champions. (ha, insert snide remark HERE.) It came with white toast and hash browns. I didn't try any, but he cleaned off the plate so I'm thinking they were good.
Kelvin got a spanish omelet, I think. I assumed it was "spanish" because of the salsa, I honestly don't know what's in this omelet other than cheese, I wasn't paying attention when he was ordering. It came with sourdough toast (again, I think?) and hash browns (pretty sure of that.) He rocked this plate pretty hard so I think he enjoyed it.
Judy's plate o' breakfast - scrambled eggs, sausage, hash browns, and a whole bagel. This was way too much food for her and she took home half of it. Quite generous with those portions.
My parents drove me to Santa Barbara, where Owen met up with us to drive me the rest of the way back to Los Angeles. We turned it into a sort of mini vacation, and did our best to find fresh fish for my mom (who LOVES getting fresh fish in Santa Barbara...) We went to Opal Restaurant at the beginning of State Street, the main touristy street of Santa Barbara. I had looked this place up on yelp, and it had gotten really high ratings, so I directed us there...the place really seemed like a place for locals, and we got excellent service.
Our bread basket, with white and wheat bread. Nothing spectacular but I was pretty hungry, so it was welcome. Wish they had warmed up the bread but wasn't going to complain.
We asked our server for a suggestion for the appetizers, and he recommended the shredded phyllo wrapped tiger prawns, flash fried, served with a coconut curry dipping sauce, on napa cabbage salad with mandarin oranges, toasted almonds, julienned vegetables and sesame asian vinaigrette. This was a great choice! We each had a tiger prawn, which were excellently fried, and the salad was nice and crunchy and flavorful. It kinda reminded me of having the chinese banquet staple, honey walnut shrimp, but Americanized.
I got the paella dish, as I wanted to enjoy some of Santa Barbara's amazing seafood. It included steamed mussels, manilla clams, tiger shrimp, chicken and chorizo sausage, on saffron rice with a garlic herb broth. (sorry for the blurry pictures, I didn't want to use flash and of course it leads to blurry snaps). All the clams and shrimp were plump, really fresh and flavorful. I was a bit disappointed with the rice, as it was swimming in a tomato based broth, which drowned out any hint of saffron they supposedly used. Plus, where's the use of a crispy pan, to get those crispy edges on that rice? This was more like cioppino, with rice. Disappointing for paella, but a thumbs up for seafood.
Owen got one of their specials of the night, a chicken pesto and bacon pizza. He gave me a slice and I was pretty impressed- the crust wasn't too thick and doughy, the toppings were generous, and the flavors worked really well with each other. He was quite happy with this.
Dad got another shrimp dish, their homemade basil fettucine with sauteed tiger prawns, with homemade pesto, tomatoes, fire roasted red pepper and smoked mozzerella cream sauce. I'm not always a pasta fan but these noodles were pretty good, al dente, and more of those tiger prawns, which are always welcome! The sauce was not overly rich. Yum.
Mom got a pizza as well - a prosciutto, goat cheese and garlic spinach pizza. As with Owen's pizza, the crust was good, the toppings fresh and flavorful. The prosciutto was really hard to eat though, because when you bit into it, you usually had to take the whole piece with you, which made a hassle of eating it. Also, the prosciutto was overly salty, even the goat cheese and spinach couldn't mellow it out. I still think this was a decent pizza, just maybe if they had cut up the prosciutto a bit more, to make it easier to eat.
Dessert! We got some peach sorbet, to clean the palate. The peach flavor in this sorbet was intense, and really tasted, like everything else that night, fresh. I really enjoyed this dessert, also, the chocolate "enjoy" written on my plate was a nice touch.
To appease Owen's chocolate cravings, we got the chocolate pecan tart slice, with vanilla bean drizzle and fresh whipped cream. The crust on this tart was nice, and the chocolate and pecan flavors meshed well together. This was demolished in a second.
One last shot - I made a dinner the next night, of breaded fresh red snapper (that my parents went and bought!), salad and bread. Yes, pretty simple, but sometimes, isn't simple best?
Now, back to our regularly Southern California-y scheduled program.
378 Santana Row # 1100
San Jose, CA 95128
19700 Stevens Creek Blvd
Cupertino CA 95014
House of Falafel
19590 Stevens Creek Blvd
Cupertino, CA 95014
Ike's Place (sandwiches)
3506 16th Street
(between Sanchez St & Prosper St)
San Francisco, CA 94114
3692 18th Street
San Francisco CA 94110
3692 18th Street
San Francisco CA 94110
600 Guerrero St
San Francisco, CA 94110
1726 Buchanan St
San Francisco, CA 94115
4336 Moorpark Ave
San Jose, CA 95129
10630 S. De Anza Blvd., Cupertino CA
139 E Campbell Ave
Campbell, CA 95008
1325 State St
Santa Barbara, CA 93101