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Los Gatos Gourmet Food Truck Festival


In order to get folks in this neck of the woods to eat food off a truck the organizers had to step up their game. Unlike Moveable Feast here you will find real tables and chairs to sit at, a rockin’ band with a dance floor and a beer/wine tent (few truck events have alcohol). It’s a real classy affair held at the defunct La Hacienda Inn on Friday evenings. The crowd on our night consisted of thirty something year old parents with a minimum of 3 kids and 65 year old couples that like to shake a tail feather. Mike and I didn’t fit into either category but still had a good time.

The set-up only has room for 6 trucks but I was happy to see a few new options. We started off with a fried chicken sandwich from Pollo Fritto. Very reminiscent of the sando from BakeSale Betty. Nice crispy chicken, fresh slaw with a hint of heat on a toasty roll. Along with a Shocktop brew it was a great start.


Then we grabbed a Greek taco from Arabian Bites. It was basically a gyro but with the meat chopped up. Very flavorful. It came with a side of fries and a small tomato/cucumber salad…big bang for your buck.


For dessert we hit up the ice cream truck – Twisted Chill.


Note: As with all of these new truck events the food averages $8-10 for a sandwich/burger or couple of tacos…the days of cheap truck eats is over! Be sure to hit up the ATM and prepare to spend a couple Jacksons for 2 people.

Website: https://www.facebook.com/LGFoodFest

Food Trucks @ Moveable Feast


Food trucks are increasing in popularity more and more each day. Moveable Feast is a company that organizes events that feature groups of food trucks at locations all over the South Bay similar to Off the Grid in San Francisco. It seems like every couple weeks a new city is added to their list. It took me a while to try because I wasn’t interested in the trucks they had lined up until I saw that the Nom Nom truck (yes, the runner-up on the 1st season of the Food Network’s “The Great Food Truck race”) was coming from SF to Willow Glen.

Moveable Feast: Willow Glen happens every Friday night and has the largest number of trucks of all the feast locations – usually 10+. We arrived just as it opened because I had read about the super large crowds that gather.

Like restaurants, all food trucks are not created equal. Here are the things we ate that are worth trying:

1. Nom Nom: pork banh mi sandwich – at $5 a pop this not only tasted good but was the best deal of the night. Great fresh crusty bread and sweet pork with tart veggies.

2. Eat on Monday: Fried chicken club sandwich – maple syrup glazed bacon …. nuff.said.

3. le bon: garlic noodles w/ bacon and grilled shrimp – very flavorful

4. Fairy cakes – looked and tasted like your mom’s homemade cupcakes. Just a little pricey ($3) for the size.

Peanut butter cup, salty caramel, pb&j, pineapple upsidown cake

If you see the red buckets you know you are in the right place. No fancy seating or tables here. Grab a couple buckets and get eating!

Tips for a successful food truck excursion….arrive early (within 1st hour) so they don’t run out of food, the lines are not long and the wait for your food is short. Also, hit the ATM.

Note: best way to find out when/where and who is showing up each week is to check out their facebook page.

Website: http://www.mvbl.org/

Blue Line Pizza


You’ve heard the rave reviews about Little Star Pizza in San Francisco, well, it’s now available in the South Bay (Campbell) but under a new name — Blue Line. Mike and I have been twice since the February opening and I have to say it’s my favorite deep dish in the Bay Area.

Here’s how it compares to other popular Chicago style pizza joints in the area…

signature deep dish “blue line” pie

Not too thick (like Patxi’s) which means it’s not overly filling and a shorter time to wait for your pizza to arrive.

Not too saucy (like Zachary’s) which means you can taste the toppings which also happen to be really fresh. You can tell they don’t skimp on the ingredients.

We tried a couple salads but our favorite was the bacon & blue cheese which was huge, super fresh and the blue cheese was tangy good.

Note: no reservations. Get in early (b4 6:30pm) or be prepared to wait.

Rating: 

Website:http://www.bluelinepizza.com/

Blue Line Pizza on Urbanspoon

The Cats Restaurant & Tavern


Drum roll…..The Cats is back! To the dismay of many the Cats, a BBQ roadhouse in the hills of Los Gatos, closed without much warning about 4 years ago. The building has been around since the 20’s and has housed many different businesses but the most famous was the restaurant/tavern which opened in 1967. Whenever we went we knew we would see an interesting mix of folks and eat a nice piece of meat. Finally someone has got the BBQ pit burning again.

We arrived just before 5pm because we knew if it was anything like the old Cats if you arrived late you were gonna wait and wait and wait to get a table. When we walked in we were pleased to see the upgrades made but glad they didn’t go overboard and lose the charm that existed prior. If you are going for your first visit you will think nothing has been remodeled but the TVs, bar tables, floor, ceiling, fans, any decor whatsoever is all new. We sat in the bar with our friends and sipped on some micro brews for about 30 minutes until our table was ready. When we were seated we asked our waiter if we could order some appetizers and were told that they are only served in the bar. Weird…yes… especially since they don’t tell you that while you are in the bar…so we went straight to the entrees. Prior to coming I had looked over the menu online and was disappointed to find I couldn’t get a steak for under $32 but thankfully we were given a different more reasonably priced menu. Our table ordered the following…. filet mignon, bbq chicken, pulled pork, cheesecake & chocolate cake.



Everyone was happy with the food and the restaurant maintained its predecessors no fuss presentation style. My steak was a tad overcooked but I let that go since they’d only been open for 6 weeks. The only bummer was that the live music didn’t start until 9pm and we were long gone by then. When we left it was obvious that The Cats was as popular as ever as it was standing room only out in the bar.

Welcome back, Cats!

Tiny kitchen

Note: if you have never been it’s hard to find (especially in the dark)…so get your gps ready. Also, there is limited parking. If you want to avoid the drive The Cats is offering a courtesy shuttle from 5pm-10:30pm on the weekends near the Toll House Hotel (runs every 15 minutes). Check their facebook page for more details.

Rating:

Website: http://thecatsrestaurantandtavern.com/

Cats on Urbanspoon

Belated 4 year Blogaversary


Yesterday marked the 4 year anniversary of Bay Area Foodie. I meant to do something special like go get a Jumbaco (j/k) then completely forgot. So on my way home from work today I stopped by a new cupcake shop in Campbell called Frost Cupcake Factory.

Luckily it was Mini Monday so I could get a bunch of flavors to try. I chose the following…

Mocha Java – stay away from anything with meringue butter cream frosting…has an unpleasant greasy/waxy consistency.

Salt ‘n sweet – should be called super salty! Probably better in the large size.

Frostfetti – frosting was overly sweet.

Maui coconut dream – good flavors but it has the dreaded meringue frosting.

Rose velvet – supposed to taste like red velvet but didn’t.

Snowball – THIS WAS THE BEST! Chocolate cake with marshmallow frosting and covered in coconut. WINNER!

The snowball will have me coming back for more.

Website: http://www.frostcupcakefactory.com/

Palacio Restaurant – Los Gatos


The huge house on North Santa Cruz Ave. in Los Gatos is open for business again. The old site of  Trevese is now Palacio featuring high-end Latin American fare. Walking in we were surprised to see the amount of renovations the new owners had made since the last tenants had already made major upgrades. They went as far as moving the kitchen from the 1st floor to the basement. Not sure I like it any better  – it was loud, crowded and dark inside. But the added outdoor seating is terrific…that is what brought me back in.

We can’t frequent a Mexican restaurant without trying the margaritas. I had the pineapple and Mike the prickly pear. Mine was grrrreat, Mikes didn’t really taste like anything. Then we snacked on the trio of tacos appetizer which was the same price as the main entree of the same name which didn’t make sense. The steak was good, the rest not so much.

For the main course I chose the chicken enchiladas which were not as I expected. It ended up being a pile of dry, plain chicken on top of 2 sauced tortillas. First bite included half a wish bone… No Bueno!

Mike chose the chicken mole which he liked. Tasted like pumpkin.

Portion size was not large so we were open for dessert. I love coconut so we went with the coconut cheesecake, which was unnecessarily decomposed.

For the price I prefer Casa de Cobre in Saratoga. The quality of food is ten times better. I would not return for dinner but probably happy hour or apps & drinks so we can sit outside.

Rating: 

Website: http://www.palaciorestaurant.com/

Palacio Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Billy’s Boston Chowder House

Billy I wanted to fall madly in love with you but I think we are going to just remain friends. I was uber excited to find out that a New England style restaurant had opened less than 10 minutes from my house in Los Gatos. It’s located near Nick’s on Main where the Smoky BBQ joint and 29 Pizza used to be. Yes, this is the 3rd establishment to set up shop in the last 5 years. I hate to say it but I think this spot may be cursed…

Anyways, we came in early last Friday to check out the eats. They’ve only been open for a month so it can get busy with locals wanting to try the new eatery. We started with the fried clams appetizer which was not on the main menu but on a “specials” handout so I’m not sure if they have them all the time. I was very pleased with them although they were served with a tarter sauce and I prefer cocktail so we had to waive someone down to get some.


Mike went with the chowder in a sourdough bowl for his main course which he seemed to enjoy. I only had a spoonful and it was rich, creamy and buttery. Can’t go wrong with that!

For my main I decided to get the lobster roll (surprise) and against my better judgement I had it dressed instead of with just butter. When it arrived it looked great but as I took a bite the lobster had an unpleasant herby flavor and was dry. Also there was lettuce buried underneath the meat which I’m not a fan of, and I did find 3-4 pieces of shell – never a good thing. A plus was that the bun was nice and buttery but I could only finish half.

So overall we will return to try the other offerings (steamed clams, lobster chowder, fish & chips) but I won’t be having a lobster roll. If I’m craving that I’ll head to The Old Port Lobster Shack.

Note: this is not a cheap place to eat but they do have $4.25 pints of Blue Moon which made me happy.

Rating: 

Website: http://www.bostonchowderhouse.com/

Bitter + Sweet Coffee and Dessert Bar


Cool little spot that serves humphry slocombe ice cream and you don’t have to drive to San Fran to get it!!! Nuff said…

You’re Welcome.

2 scoops: Blue Bottle Vietnamese Coffee & Red Bean Dr. Pepper

Note: they don’t have all flavors just like 4-6. Good coffee too.

Website: http://www.bitter-sweet.com/

Hay Market Willow Glen


We rarely venture to Willow Glen but a new restaurant caught my attention. Picture a space filled with old black and white framed photos (plus one random with Patrick Swayze and some dude with long hair), crates with bottles of wine, stacks of cookbooks and other antique looking stuff cluttered around. Johnny Cash is piped through the sound system as a flick of a guy building a log cabin silently plays on three big HDTVs. Take a seat at one of the long communal tables (be ready to talk to your neighbors) and check out the concise organic menu written on a giant chalk board overhead. Then choose from a few salads, a cheese plate, duck, beef, fowl, pork or fish (1 of each), a burger and a couple sides (menu changes daily/weekly!).

We started with the house salad which was micro greens with a vinaigrette. Very basic and nothing special. I did find it odd that it was served in a big pyrex baking dish. When we walked in and the guy next to us was eating out of one I honestly thought he had brought a salad from home due to the latest lettuce recall. Guess not… Throughout our meal we had 3 glasses of wine (limited choices but good) which were unfortunately served in tumbler glasses. I did see if you order a bottle then you get a real wine glass – I’m sure there is a rational reason for this but I like to swirl.

For our main course I went with the prime rib and Mike had the pork.  Both were delicious. Whoever is in the kitchen knows how to cook some meat. Mine was cooked perfectly pink and didn’t have a lot of fat. Mike’s was fork tender with a bit of a kick – he only wished he had more. The portion size was a lot smaller than my dish so we had to get dessert :).

looks sizable but the porky outside skin was not meant to be eaten

For dessert we went with the plum clafoutis with marscapone whip and the chocolate³ which I think was dark & light chocolate crumbled cookies with chocolate milk poured over it. Coupled with decaf french press it was To Die For.

tastes better than it looks!

my tattoo...i feel so badass

I have no idea what the concept of the restaurant is … Quirky European Country? but I left wanting more. I took my temporary tattoo and fresh baked cookies (which came with the bill) and vowed to return.

Notes: Open seating, no reservations, full by 6pm on a Friday night. Look for the hay bales out front cause the sign is pretty hard to see. Serves lunch too.

Rating:
Website: http://haymarketwillowglen.com/

Lillie Mae’s House of Soul Food


Is there Soul Food in Santa Clara? You know the shabby looking wood building down the street from the San Jose Airport… well, they have a new tenant. Lillie Mae has moved in and is cookin’ up all your soul food favorites like BBQ ribs, brisket, catfish, collard greens, mac & cheese and of course fried chicken.

We arrived early on a Saturday night and as we got out of our car we were blown away by the intense aroma of BBQ. We knew we were in the right place. We headed to the counter ordered our meals then sat and waited for our # to be called. I knew things were going to go well when I saw a variety of hot sauces on the table. The food arrived after about a 15 minute wait. I had the fried chicken with mac & cheese, boomin’ baked beans and cornbread along with sweet tea. Mike chose the beef brisket/bbq chicken combo with collard greens, sweet potato fries and cornbread along with grape kool-aid. Yes…we went all in, taking no prisoners.

Let me start with a blow-by blow of my dinner. The fried chicken was just how I make it. Nothing fancy just downright good. Salty crispy skin and tender chicken. My mac was peppery and super cheesy and the baked beans were some of the best I’ve ever had — very unique rendition that tasted like sweet chili with big chunks of hamburger. They should change the name to Bangin’ baked beans! I had enough leftovers to take home for lunch the next day.

Mike on the other hand cleaned his plate. The smokey brisket & chicken was demolished along with the vinegary collard greens that he adored. The fries were standard fare and the only downer for Mike and I was the cornbread. It had a weird yeasty flavor. Everyone seems to rave over it so maybe we just got a bad batch.

We were really surprised to find tasty soul food in such an unexpected location (if you’ve been to Santa Clara you know what I’m talking about… let’s just say it’s not very soulful). Next time I’m leaving room for dessert…love me some peach cobbler!

Note: If you are into chicken & waffles they have them on the weekends. To avoid lines come early (b4 7pm).

Rating: 

Website: http://www.houseofsoulfood.net/

Lillie Mae's House of soul food on Urbanspoon

Dishcrawl San Jose


Dishcrawl is a new company that hosts walking food tours in select cities across the Bay Area. I love a good food tour where you get to sample new and unique eats. Mike and I decided to go on the San Jose crawl on Tuesday June 28, 2011 at 7pm. Each crawl features 4 destinations.

Our night started off at Billy Berk’s large outdoor seating area where we checked in and got our dishcrawl team assignment (we began as one large group then split into 2 smaller 30+ person groups). We stayed here 1 hour and were able to have cocktails (not included in price) and sampled Billy’s American fare which included very good flatbreads and so-so fried zucchini.

Next we walked to House of Siam a Thai restaurant maybe 2 blocks away. After we took off our shoes (thank goodness I wore socks!) we were seated and ate a plate of fried sweet potatoes, a pickled salad and a spicy chicken curry (I think….we were not given any formal description of what we were eating). We were here for 45 minutes which left plenty of time (maybe too much) to chit chat with our fellow crawlers.

Then we were off to the Eat On Monday food truck which was parked a few blocks away to nosh on fried pork sandwiches with wasabi slaw, beef tacos and churros with strawberry sauce. This was our favorite spot of the night.

Last stop was the Dishcrawl San Jose office to nibble on Li’l Puffs Artisan marshmallows (they don’t have a storefront). They served up mini smore’s cupcakes as well as marshmallows.

The evening lasted about 2.5 hours and was co-hosted with LikeList who gave us some cool parting gifts (tshirts/flashlights). The Dishcrawl organizers are young, energetic and ready to have a good time. The majority of the people on our tour were in their 20’s to early 30’s but there were a handful of older folks like us. Although outnumbered we didn’t feel out of place. Overall it was a fun time.

The only drawback I see is that they don’t let you know where you are going until the last minute – if at all. In the first few months they were good about telling you what restaurants you were visiting but now they don’t say anything until maybe 4 days before. If you watch their twitter feed you might find a couple hints. I don’t know about you but I’m not interested in crawling to a bunch of places I’ve already been so I didn’t order our tickets until 2 days before the event.

They seems to add new cities and states every month so there is bound to be a Dishcrawl you would like to check out. I look forward to seeing what they have planned for Saratoga, Mike’s old stomping grounds.

Website: http://www.dishcrawl.com/

Our night in pics:

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Top Chef Tour in San Jose

The Top Chef demo tent

Last week I went to check out the Top Chef Tour since it was in San Jose just a couple blocks from where I work. I gotta say Bravo did a pretty poor job promoting it. I only found out because I happened to catch a tweet a week before. It was held in the back of a strip mall and if you didn’t look for it you wouldn’t know it was there. There was no visible signage from the street. The event showcased cooking demos throughout the day and the one I attended was only half full. Maybe since it was the last leg of a 28 day tour they were too pooped to put much effort into it.

The 45 minute demo consisted of a quickfire challenge between Fabio Viviani from season 5 and Ryan Scott from Season 4 (on the left). Although the crowds were lacking the Italian stallion Fabio still put on a great performance. He was just like he appeared on TV, very outgoing and the life of the party. The ingredient they both had to use was wild Salmon. While they cooked they chatted about life on Top Chef as well as what they are doing now. At the end we got to eat and their dishes were judged by Chef Jim Stump of LG brewery, food blogger Carolyn Jung plus one person from the audience. Ryan won easily. All 3 judges chose him as the winner but I think being a local SF chef gave him an edge. I thought both guys had a little something going for them… I liked Ryan’s fish and Fabio’s topping.

They tasted better than they look...

All in all it was a fun way to spend my lunch hour and I’m glad there wasn’t a bunch of Fabio groupies to deal with!

Check out Ryan in the city at his food truck 3-SUM EATS and his new brunch spot Brunch Drunk Love.

http://www.ryanscott2go.com/

Enoteca La Storia Wine Bar


Did you know there was a new wine bar in Los Gatos? Me neither… okay, well it’s almost a year old but still fairly new. A couple people had asked me if I had been but I didn’t know where it was. Then I finally figured out it was not in the main downtown area that I walk every week but in a shopping center on the “other side” of Highway 9. Enoteca La Storia is operated by two ex- Santana Row Vintage Wine Merchant managers. Mike and I love that shop so we expected to love this establishment too. We stopped in one night late last year and had a leisurely dinner. They had a diverse group of customers… before 7pm the over 50 crowd, after 7pm the 30-somethings arrived. The menu included a variety of wines by the glass/bottle, cured meats, cheeses, salads and sandwiches.

We ate (good prices & portions)…

– Pesto crostini – average
– Porchetta panini – great
– Alba panini  – good
– Gorgonzola salad – fresh and huge. Feeds 2 easily.
– Carrot cake – just ok (but I’ve never been a big fan)

and we drank (small pours are very generous)…


– Sparkling Rose – awesome!
– 09′ lambrusco – a sparkling red from Italy, very interesting and refreshing, like drinking an dark fruity Italian soda
– St clair 09 – stinky nose, slightly sweet, a bit light for Mike
– Stoller Pinot 07 – very musty and earthy nose, sweet cherry taste, silky finish- a bit light for Mike
– Cain concept 06 – favorite of the night- big and bold, velvety finish, cedar nose, dark plum taste
– 08 menhir salento nzero – full bodied, sweet fruit of plum and berry, very nice

Note: the menu doesn’t say it but the sandos come with a little salad so it wasn’t necessary for us to order one…

We really enjoyed our first visit so much that we came back a few weeks later for a evening drink. We arrived around 9pm on a Friday and all the seats at the bar and tables were taken. We stood at the bar for a bit but no one would help us. People behind the bar would make eye contact, smile but then keep on with whatever they were doing. I was hoping for an — I’ll be with you in a minute or some kind of acknowledgment but we received nothing and ended up leaving.

I guess if you are not seated you get no service. Reading other reviews now on Yelp it looks like someone is supposed to work the front door to regulate patrons but that didn’t occur on the 2 nights we went…it left a bad taste in my mouth but we will try again in the future now that we know the procedure.

Rating:

Website: http://www.enotecalastoria.com/

Note 4/2/11: We went again and had a great visit … see the comments section for the updates.

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Naglee Park Garage


I saw this local joint on Diners, Drive-ins & Dives so of course I had to stop by. I’m not a big fan of Guy Fieri but it cracks me up to see him stuff himself in a kitchen. I don’t know why…

Anyways, Naglee Park is a bistro set in an old garage and is small so we showed up early (like 5 minutes after opening) to make sure we could get in and out since I read that the wait could be long on a Saturday night. I now know why… they only had one person working the register and although she was nice it seemed to take at least 20 minutes to place our order (and we knew exactly what we wanted).

We then headed to the outdoor patio (95% of the seating is outside so beware if it’s raining or cold) to find a seat and wait for our food. Mike and I split the bacon burger, the mussels & the chocolate bread pudding. The mussels were my favorite. Plump and tender in a lovely broth with salty greens and garlic bread to slop up the juices. The burger was good but nothing special and the bread pudding was devoured. Everything was seasonal and fresh and not what you’d expect from a garage. I look forward to returning for breakfast. I hear it’s good.

Website: http://www.nagleeparkgarage.com/

Rating:

Naglee Park Garage on Urbanspoon

Five Guys Burgers and Fries


I didn’t know anything about Five Guys until I saw President Obama on CNN leaving the White House to grab a bite. Really, are they that good I thought to myself? Well, the east coast chain has come to San Jose so Mike and I went to try it out.

In the Bay when you think burgers most think In-N-Out so here is a comparison of the two burger giants:

5G = Five Guys           INO = In-N-Out

The beef: 5G meat was tender, juicy and fresh – best part of the burger. I’d give them the edge over INO.

The bun: 5G bread was cold and tasteless. INO has a far superior bun that is baked-in house and toasted.

The condiments: 5G does have more toppings to choose from including BACON plus free mushrooms & jalapeno peppers but they had no flavor. I didn’t even taste my shrooms. INO has less options but better taste.

The fries: 5G fries tasted like ore-ida straight from freezer. I couldn’t eat them. INO has its own fry issues…after 1 minute they go cold and I don’t know why they are so stingy with the salt.

The ambiance: 5G line moved fast, the employees were nice and it doesn’t have that weird INO smell that gets embedded in your clothes and car. INO is always slow no matter if you go inside or drive-thru but the employees are nice.

The decor: Both have very minimalist approaches using only red & white but at least INO jazzes it up with palm trees. 5G is straight kinko’s.

So, overall I don’t think Five Guys Burgers are worthy of leaving the oval office for. The meat would bring me back if I was in the general area but I wouldn’t go out of my way to find it.

Note: Five Guys in San Jose has a good amount of outdoor seating and when we went on a Friday night the international buffet next door was jammin’ the reggae music which was great.

Website: http://www.fiveguys.com/

Five Guys on Urbanspoon

Psycho Donuts


It’s been months since Psycho donuts opened in Campbell and all the drama surrounding it’s unusual theme seems to have calmed down. When the doors first opened there were numerous claims that the shop was insensitive to the mental health community because they named donuts “bipolar” among other things. We arrived for our first taste of the crazy donuts on it’s one year anniversary and it looks like they tamed their ways by going for a more horror vibe and less medical. As we stepped inside there was a line so we checked out the Tim Burton-like art on the walls and listened to lady gaga blaring on the sound system. We then placed our order with a woman dressed in a 1940’s white nurses uniform. It’s definitely not your typical donut shop.

We ordered:

Nutella the Hun – Chocolate Nutella cake donut covered in sprinkles
Headbanger’s Evil Twin – Cherry jelly filled donut
Cereal Killer – Donut covered in Cap’n Crunchberries (a bit stale)
Banarama – Custard filled donut with chocolate glaze and dried bananas

My favorite was the Banarama but I always get custard filled so that was not a surprise. The donuts were decent but not good enough to warrant the drive when I have a great little donut shop within walking distance from my home. If you’re in the area and are hankerin’ for a “Moodswing” (peanuts & coconut) stop by.

Website: http://www.psycho-donuts.com/

Psycho Donuts on Urbanspoon

Chocolate Dream Box Boutique

Mike’s “V” day gift to me this year was from a little local chocolate shop. The chocolate dream box is hidden in a shopping center in Los Gatos –you may have passed by on your way into Lunardi’s grocery. It’s kind of a hidden treasure.

Mike chose the following treats:

(Listed from bottom to top)

tahiti – milk chocolate with vanilla
créme brulée- burnt vanilla cream custard
coffee cup – caramel espresso in dark choc cup
cream coconut – coconut ganache with milk chocolate
caramel truffle – milk chocolate with soft caramel
milk truffle – milk chocolate with cream

He also picked up a pack of salted caramels.

(obviously I’m a Milk chocolate kinda gal)

They were all wonderful — super creamy and flavorful. My favorite was the créme brulée. They are pricey but worth it. Next time you are craving hand made chocolate go local and stop by the dream box.

Website link

Purple Onion Los Gatos

About a month ago we were at a party that was catered by Purple Onion. There were salads, little sandwiches and desserts. Everything was super tasty. Mike and I decided we had to try the place out. We arrived on a Friday just after noon and it was fairly full. We actually bumped into Mike’s mom who was finishing her lunch. I immediately knew we were going to like the food because his mom has a discerning pallet so if she is a regular it’s gotta be good. I ordered the turkey sandwich and Mike had the tuna melt. Each came with a side salad. When it arrived it looked like a work of art. The salad was so colorful. I took a bite of my sandwich and it was amazingly fresh. The bread was warm and a bit toasted like it had been taken straight from the oven. Delicious. Mike enjoyed his tuna too. We will be back to try out the rest of the menu.

tunaturkey

Website: http://www.purpleonion-catering.com/

Purple Onion on Urbanspoon

Manresa Los Gatos

Instead of going on a trip for our 3rd wedding anniversary we chose to have dinner at Manresa, a well established (2 Michelin star) restaurant in Los Gatos. It has had a resurgence of popularity because the owner/chef David Kinch destroyed Bobby Flay in a recent Iron Chef “cabbage” battle. This was our first visit to Manresa. We had heard rave reviews from friends for years but the expensive price tag had always kept us away. We finally decided to bite the bullet and go.

As you enter the restaurant there is a little window into the kitchen. We peeked in and there was Chef Kinch working away. It was cool to see him. We then approached the Maître d’ and requested outside seating because it was a beautiful evening. He informed us that their butane delivery had not come for the heat lamps so they were only seating inside, which was fine with us. He then stepped away for a moment and returned to tell us that he would seat us outside if we wanted so we had a private dining experience on their outdoor patio. Our reservation was at 6:30pm and the restaurant was already half full. As we walked through the room we could see some jealous glares.

There were only two options on the menu:  a 4 course meal of your choice for $95/per person or the chefs tasting menu for $160/per person. We went all out and had the tasting menu so we didn’t have to make any decisions. You are not told what will be included only that you’ll start at the sea (usually raw), proceed to the garden, return to the sea, move to proteins and end with dessert.

Our 14 course dinner included the following (each dish had a super fancy description but after 3+ glasses of wine each we couldn’t remember the details):

Amuse bouche

  • roasted red pepper jellies (like a candy gum drop) & mini olive madeleines
  • mint & lavender lemon granita
  • fried herb balls (we totally missed what this was but it tasted wonderful)
  • egg w/ maple syrup and chives

To the Sea

  • calamari (raw) with a wasabi sauce

To the Garden

  • mix of potatoes and mushrooms with a butter foam
  • vegetable garden salad <potatoes,carrot,squash,cucumber,greens,edible flowers,edible dirt> with vegy stock foam (the edible dirt tasted like dirt)

Back to the Sea

  • flounder with chanterelle mushrooms and beef bone marrow consomme (our favorite dish!!!)

Proteins

  • chicken confit with a seaweed broth (a little salty)
  • squab with beets and Foie Gras foam
  • lamb with peas, fig sauce and indian curry mustard

Dessert

  • strawberries with vanilla yogurt and strawberry consomme
  • chocolate mouse cake with olive oil ice cream
  • strawberry jellies & mini chocolate madeleines
Manresa’s biodynamic vegetables are grown exclusively for Manresa at Cynthia Sandberg’s Love Apple Farm in the nearby Santa Cruz Mountains and harvested in the morning for the evening menu.

It may sound like  a lot of food but each course was only 2-3 bites. When we were done we were full not stuffed. Check out the slide show — by dessert it was too dark for my cell phone to take pics (sorry)

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With our meal we started off with glasses of a sparkling Riesling then polished off a 2002 bottle of Joseph Phelps Insignia (magical). We brought this from home and the somellier was very nice to decant and serve it to us throughout the night. All the servers we had (about 6) were top notch. One thing we noticed that was unusual was for each course they gave us a new fork, knife and spoon whether we used them or not. After two courses we said that it was not necessary to clear them but we were told with a smile “oh, yes it absolutely is.” so we just went with it. I feel sorry for the dishwashers!

Manresa has now overtaken Picasso as our most expensive meal but well worth the expense. We l-o-v-e-d the food and ambiance. Mike said he would return annually for our anniversary. We will see…

Rating:
Website: http://www.manresarestaurant.com/

Opa!

opagyro

gyro pita sandwich

Just a quick review of the new Opa! restaurant that opened in Los Gatos. Opa! is a small chain of Greek restaurants in the South Bay. We had never been to one before so we went without any expectations. Finally a place I can get a gyro that doesn’t look seedy. On our first visit Mike ordered the Greek burger which came with Opa! fries (hand cut fries with feta cheese). I l-o-v-e a good gyro so that’s what I ordered on the two occasions we’ve been. If you are not feeling the fries ask for a salad (they will charge you more). I received a wonderful plate of cucumbers,tomatoes,onion and feta with a Greek dressing. Everything was super fresh. One time we ordered the baklava for dessert. It was good but drowning in honey. A bit too sweet for me…if you can believe it!

opaburger

greek burger

Although the location is not large both times we have gone we were seated immediately, the service was good, the portions large and the prices very reasonable. A nice casual spot in the heart of LG. I’m a fan!

Website: http://www.opalosgatos.com/

Opa! on Urbanspoon

Casa De Cobre

casa-de-cobre

casadecobresignFinally a Mexican restaurant in the Saratoga Village. The town is slowly getting revitalized. The owner of “The Basin” recently opened Casa de Cobre in the old Gervais location. The interior has gotten a Latin makeover with copper/turquoise painted walls and handmade tables and chairs (Cute — but I give these things 6 months before they need to be replaced). You won’t find the usual burritos and fajitas here but much lighter unique and flavorful dishes similar to Consuelo’s at Santana Row. Mike and I decided to try a bunch of appetizers. We started off with the guacamole and chips. Everything was made to order and tasted ultra fresh. Next up taquitos. They have 7 varieties. We went with braised bacon!, Chivo (goat), Al pastor (pork with pineapple) and Camarones (shrimp). All were delicious but my favorite was hands down the shrimp (I know….better than bacon). Mike enjoyed the goat best. Then came the black bean flautas and Quesa de hongos (mushroom quesadilla). I’m giving you all the Spanish terminology because that is the way the menu reads. Be prepared to need translation unless you know Spanish. By this point we were pushing maximum capacity but of course had to try dessert. Jiricaya, a cinnamon flan/creme brulee creation arrived and was quickly devoured.

Mike and I decided this is now our favorite Mexican restaurant in the area. The prices are reasonable and you can leave without breaking the bank as long as you stay away from the tasty $9 margaritas.  Next visit we are actually gonna try a main course. Welcome Casa de Cobre!

taquitos

Taquitos

Tasty Tip: you may want to avoid coming on the weekends until all the kinks are worked out and the novelty of a new establishment has worn off –our server said the Saturday before was super busy and the kitchen was slammed.

Rating: drumstick ratingdrumstick ratingdrumstick ratinghalfdrumstick

Website: http://www.casadecobre.com/

Alexander’s Steakhouse

alexanders
For Mike’s birthday we decided to try Alexander’s Steakhouse. I had read numerous positive reviews despite it’s obscure location next to the dilapidated Vallco mall. Alexander’s is all about the meat so if you’re a vegetarian don’t bother. When you enter you are greeted by beef in large glass display cases. As we took our seats in the dining area we saw that the recession has not effected Cupertino. The place was packed. It was dimly lit, loud and kind of chaotic with servers running around. I was really surprised to see a restaurant where you can order a $200 piece of steak so busy.

While looking over the menu we were given complimentary glasses of bubbly (nice touch) as well as an amuse-bouche: celery root custard with shallot marmalade. Mike enjoyed it, I was glad it was free. For our first course I chose the tomato soup with basil oil and Mike had the caesar salad. The soup was the standout dish. Before the main courses came out we received a pallet cleanser: a small square of passion fruit gelee along side a raspberry and blueberry. A delightful bite.

Finally it was time for the beef — you will find a diverse selection of US, Australian and Japanese. Mike ordered the “Beef three ways” (filet, shortribs, kobe patty melt) and I chose the 6 oz. filet mignon. We shared two side dishes — beets & greens and creamed spinach. I was not impressed with the beets, they lacked seasoning. The spinach on the other hand was downright delish. After taking a taste of my steak I knew why the joint was jumpin’. The filet was seasoned and cooked to perfection and the accompanying sauce was on point. Mike started off with his kobe sando as instructed by the server. He enjoyed the filet the best, but the rest were just so-so. One gripe about the menu was that the majority of the meat entrees ranged from 14 oz.- 2 pounds! Who can eat that much? We wanted to try the featured dry aged cuts but they started at 24 oz. Now that I think about it we should have just shared one.

On to dessert… Continue reading

Kara’s vs. Sprinkles — Cupcake Throwdown

sprinkvskara

Sprinkles (left) vs. Kara's (right)

sprinkvskara2

View from the Top

sprinkvskara31

Check out that cake to frosting ratio

The biggest cupcake rivalry that exists in Silicon Valley is Kara’s vs. Sprinkles!

As mentioned in the past I work in walking distance to Santana row. Kara’s cupcakes opened in October. I was actually kinda excited because I currently have to travel 25 minutes to get my cupcake fix from Sprinkles. When I arrived I was surprised to find a shop the size of a bread box. There is a counter and the door. You can fit maybe two people inside comfortably. I was all jazzed to try their java and banana cakes but the employee working told me that since the store is minuscule they can only make 1/2 of the flavors you will find at other locations. I guess they don’t get the concept of making different flavors each day. I had to settle for lemon, vanilla (pictured above), coconut, fleur de sel and peanut butter.

So how did they measure up to my beloved Sprinkles? There really was no comparison between the two. Sprinkles trounced Kara’s in flavor, variety and size. Kara’s cupcakes tasted like they were straight out of a grocery store bakery (and that’s not a good thing). The cake was dry, almost flavorless and the frosting tasted like a GIANT glob of shortening. The best of the bunch was the coconut.

I really wanted the tiny cakes to be good so I could fulfill my cravings on a more regular basis but I just can’t stomach them. So sad…

Note: An in-depth Sprinkles review can be found here

Nothing Bundt Cakes

bundt-sign
What will be the next food fad after cupcakes? Bundt Cakes! There is a relatively new store in Los Gatos that only sells bundt cakes. They have 10 different flavors and each is topped with their signature cream cheese frosting. After much deliberation, we chose to take home 3 single serving bundtlets: lemon, carrot and marble. I was flabbergasted at the price. A bundtlet is only $3.99 which is cheaper than what most upscale bakeries charge for a cupcake and this is a tad larger.

bundtlet

Bundtlets are cute, but the larger version is a bit scary looking (when you see them you will know what I mean)

So how did they taste? The bundts were moist and flavorful. My favorite was the marble. I’ve admired marble cake since I was a child. My mom would make one every year for my birthday. Mike liked the carrot best. I was very happy to find out their carrot doesn’t contain nuts or raisins (those are the two reasons I never buy carrot anything). The lemon came in a tasty third. I’m not sure if bundt is better than regular cake but I’ll go back to try some more. I’m a bundt-liever!

Address: 421 N. Santa Cruz

Website: http://www.nothingbundtcakes.com/

Nick’s on Main

nicks-on-main

A visit to Nick’s on Main in downtown Los Gatos was waaaay overdue. Mike and I had heard rave reviews about Nick’s American bistro for months. To celebrate a year of blogging and pigging out we decided to make a reservation. Nick’s has a very cozy atmosphere. Be prepared to get to know your neighbors as the tables are positioned within inches of each other. We lucked out and snagged an end table away from the front door (which can be freezing in the winter).

We started the evening out with my favorite appetizer — Mussels! Nick’s mussels come swimming in a spicy Thai broth with a side of crispy fries. There was a lot of bread and fry dippin’ going on. It was a nice alternative to the usual garlic and wine variety. For a main course I chose the sea bass with white beans, chard and butter sauce. Mike had the salmon with purple potatoes and an artichoke broth. Both dishes were cooked perfectly and the flavors fantastic. Nick makes a point to personally visit all tables to make sure his patrons are happy which makes you feel like part of the family. When he came by to see us he asked if Mike needed a spoon to slurp up all his brothy goodness.

The meal did not end here. As usual we had to get two desserts and coffee — banana bread pudding and a lemon tart. To me dessert is just as important as the main course. It’s very disappointing to end a meal on a bad note. Fortunately the desserts were grand and the coffee french pressed. Nick’s hit a home run and is a great addition to LG.

Tasty tip: Make a reservation. I lost count of the number of people who attempted to walk-in and get a table on a Saturday night. It’s just not happening!

Rating: drumstick ratingdrumstick ratingdrumstick ratingdrumstick rating

Website: http://nicksonmainst.com/

Nick's on Main on Urbanspoon

Pinkberry

pinkberry11 pinkberry2

Pinkberry has arrived in the Bay. All the hoopla in LA about this chilly treat had me intrigued. I went thinking I was for sure going to get the green tea because I love green tea ice cream, but after I tried a sample I changed my mind. It didn’t taste very good so I chose the original flavor. It was the first time that I had frozen yogurt that actually tasted like frozen plain yoplait yogurt. It was good but not earth shattering. I will give them props for giving large servings of froyo for a low price. The toppings… are another story. That’s where they get ya. I got a small with one scoop of fruity pebbles cereal which equated to about a tablespoon which didn’t come close to being enough to satisfy. Mike chose 2 scoops of raspberries and bananas (he is so healthy) and it was still not enough. I’ll probably be back once the weather turns warm to try again.

Verdict:  Walk….don’t run…

Tasty Tip: Each and every day there are only 3 flavors of yogurt (original, green tea and pomegranate) so don’t go hoping for anything else.

Website: http://www.pinkberry.com/

Sent Sovi

sentsovi
For my birthday this year I decided to return to the place Mike asked me to marry him…Sent Soví, a small, romantic French-California restaurant located in downtown Saratoga. We hadn’t been in for a meal since the summer of 2006 and I was surprised to find many changes had occurred over the last 2 years to the menu. The regular à la cart items no longer exist. You now only have the option to get the Chef’s tasting menu ($85) or a 3 or 4 course Prix-fixe menu ($65/$72). The wine menu was also overhauled. They now have wine flights as well as glasses by the 1,3 or 5 ounce pour for reasonable prices. This was a welcomed modification. I assume in response to the down economy last month they introduced a nightly special. Each day of the week they feature one signature dish complete with choice of soup or salad and dessert for $45. Mike and I chose to try it out since it was pork night and we are fans of the piggie.

Our dinner began with a complementary Amuse bouche of cold lemongrass soup which had a yogurt consistency but custard taste. It was a interesting start. I chose the Spinach salad with toasted almonds and a harissa vinaigrette for my starter. The spinach was crisp and fresh but the dressing was a bit too spicy. Mike ordered the Squash curry soup which he thoroughly enjoyed. It was Tuesday so our main course was Pecan Crusted Pork Loin With Celery Root Puree, Brussels Sprouts in Brown Butter and Shallot Jus. The pork was cooked perfectly and the puree was light and smooth. I’d never had brussel sprouts before mostly because I only hear negative commentary about them. I think they get a bad rap because these were incredible. I ate ever last one but I’m sure this is not how most prepare the veg at home. There was a bit of a wait in-between our main course and dessert but to hold us over we were offered (large) glasses of a delicious port. I have to say that we have always had stellar service at Sent Soví. The staff is knowledgeable about food & wine and extremely polite. For dessert I picked the trio of sorbets (coconut, dark chocolate and strawberry) and homemade cookies. My dessert was presented on a plate with “Happy Birthday” written in chocolate. I was instantly transported to July 2, 2005 when my dessert had “Will you marry me?” scrolled in chocolate across the plate. I like how they go the extra mile to make events special. Mike had the Rosemary creme brulee which was more savory than sweet. It had a unique taste but I think Mike prefers the classic version. Overall, the nightly dinner was tasty and economical but it didn’t really wow us like meals of the past. I guess we are gonna have to shell out the big bucks in order to experience the flavors we grew to love, and you know what, I really don’t mind because Sent Soví is worth every penny.

amuse soup pork cremebrulee

Rating: drumstick ratingdrumstick ratingdrumstick ratingdrumstick rating
Website: http://www.sentsovi.com/ Continue reading

The Happy Hound

I’ve drove past The Happy Hound countless number of times and never had the urge to stop but the reviews on Yelp changed my mind. I love a good hot dog. This place is a dive but is always packed. Mike and I both tried the cheese hound (seen below). The dogs are big and stuffed to the max with toppings. When you bite into them they snap in your mouth — so fresh. Whoever works the fry station deserves a raise. The fries are perfection…crisp, hot and super salty. I’ve also tried the chili cheese hound which is also good but not photogenic. It’s a mess. You have to eat it with a fork and knife. In the future I think I’ll stick to the plain happy hound dog. There is such a thing as too much of a good thing.

Address: 15899 Los Gatos Blvd.

Happy Hound on Urbanspoon

Roux Louisiana Kitchen

Roux is a Louisiana style restaurant on the row. I’ve never had the pleasure of traveling to “The Big Easy” to try out the delicacies (possibly next year!) so I can’t tell you if it’s authentic, but I can tell you it’s enjoyable.

The lunch combo is the way to go if you want to sample a bunch of the restaurant’s cuisine for an affordable price. I ordered 1/2 the pulled pork Po’Boy with a side of mac & cheese as well as the etouffe. The mac & cheese is not your standard fare. It has breadcrumbs and tastes more like parmesan cheese noodles. They were good but don’t expect your mama’s mac & cheese. The etouffe with crawfish was tasty but the highlight of the meal was the Po’Boy. The sandwich was really delicious. Tender pork covered in bbq sauce AND a yummy rémoulade on a toasted french roll with lettuce, tomato and red onion. My taste buds were happy. The portions are large so be prepared to overeat or get a doggie bag.

After reading the not-so-positive reviews on Yelp, I wasn’t expecting much. I left pleasantly surprised and eager to come back to try some more.

BTW – Whoever invented the fried pickle is a genius!

Tasty Tip: M-F from 4-7pm they have a happy hour at the bar where they have a bunch of cheap eats.

Website: www.rouxkitchen.com

UPDATE – 2nd visit: I sampled the sweet potato fries and the fried catfish both were great. I tried the gumbo and was not impressed. Maybe I’m not a gumbo girl but I found the gravy/sauce to be overly fishy tasting. Also, the fried oysters were as big as my fist. Just not appetizing…

Roux Louisiana Kitchen on Urbanspoon

Cafe Artemis

Lamb Souvlaki

Mike wanted to go “somewhere new.” So I did a Yelp search and decided on a highly rated Mediterranean restaurant called Cafe Artemis located in the Campbell Pruneyard. I didn’t recall seeing this place before. It’s situated next to Trudys and is only a couple years old.

It was a sultry night so we, of course decided to eat outside on their large patio. We started things off with the Saganaki. It’s pan fried cheese. Nuff said! I ordered the Lamb Souvlaki which was marinated lamb grilled with peppers & tomatoes over rice pilaf. Mike had the Lamb Kofte – traditional ground lamb patties with toasted cumin, grilled and served with rice pilaf. Both dishes were very nice with classic Greek flavors. My only complaint was that I would have liked a real steak knife. The butter knife I had was not cuttin’ it.

The portions were large so that left no room for dessert. I hear the chocolate torte is awesome. The service was good even though we did end up with 3 different waiters throughout the night… but it didn’t bother me. I rather be served than made to wait. It was a tasty affordable meal. I will return.

FYI – Wednesday nights they have a belly dancer if you’re into that sort of thing…

Rating:

Website: http://www.cafeartemis.com/

Cafe Artemis on Urbanspoon

Tapestry

Tapestry holds a special place in my heart as this was the location of our rehearsal dinner. Tapestry is a California bistro situated in a 100-yr-old remodeled bungalow in Los Gatos. We rented the entire house for that one special night. Mike and I dine here twice a year and each time the memories come rushing back. My favorite time to go is in the late summer because they have a large patio with an awesome outdoor fireplace. I usually order the same thing –the award winning filet but this evening I was adventurous and decided to try something different. After Mike and I split the Honeymoon Salad, which features blue cheese and candied walnuts (note: this name has no relation to our wedding — that is the official name, don’t know why…) I selected the Coconut Poached Halibut w/ Tandori Spices. This was lovely, but I love any kind of fish with a coconut finish. The halibut had a thick crispy crust, sat on a bed of mushrooms and was topped with a sweet relish that blew me away. Too bad this is a seasonal menu item or this would be my new go-to dish. Mike chose the Seared Rare Ahi w/ Coconut Risotto, Black Bean Sauce & Dried Pineapple. Another dish in which he wiped the plate clean…literally.

We never leave without dessert even if we are stuffed. I went with my usual, the Chocolate Lava Cake w/ Caramel Mascarpone Cream and Mike ordered Zack’s Favorite Peach Pie w/ Vanilla Ice Cream. Truly decadent. We always enjoy our time spent at Tapestry.

Rating:

Website: http://www.tapestrybistro.com/

Sino


My office is walking distance to Santana Row so I have lunch there often. In the last 2.5 years I have never had the urge to go to Sino, the row’s version of a Chinese restaurant. I thought no way could this hip joint serve up some authentic eats.

Mike and I finally decided to give it a try. I was unsure about our decision as our leggy blond modelesque waitress took our drink order and Bobby Brown blared over the sound system. Along with the menu we were given a piece of paper with a list of dim sum items and one of those mini-golf pencils. We filled out the form and waited to see what would happen. One dish after the next was placed in front of us and to my surprise they were good. I have worked for Asian run companies for the past 8 years so I have had my share of dim sum and this really stood up. They didn’t try to do anything fancy to the dishes. They were prepared, portioned and presented just like any other Chinese establishment would. The one thing I missed was the rolling carts but getting my food served at well-timed intervals and pipin’ hot was a trade I’ll happily accept. You would think this place was insanely expensive but for 6 dishes we were only out $25 and we were stuffed. What a pleasant discovery…

Website: http://www.sinorestaurant.com/

Sino Restaurant and Lounge on Urbanspoon

Village Bistro and Wine Bar

If you want to grab a cheap bite after a movie or work stop by the Village Wine Bar at Santana Row. They have a slammin’ happy hour every night from 3-6pm (weekends too!). Almost all small plates and cocktails are $6! The only downer is you have to sit in the bar area which is small and can get crowded. But the wonderful selection of wines by the glass and appetizers are worth the pushin’ and shovin’.

Recommended eats: crispy Calamari, Heirloom Tomato flatbread, cheese stuffed figs and the crab cakes.

Website: http://thevillagebistro.net/

Tanglewood

Tanglewood serves up modern American cuisine. Located at the very end of Santana Row (across from the Crate and Barrel) the restaurant can be easily overlooked which is unfortunate. After a lovely dinner here a few weeks ago it is now my favorite dining establishment on the row. Their seasonal menu can be eaten on their nicely decorated, fully covered outdoor patio. No worries of getting a sun burn!

The grub for the night:

blt salad: baby iceberg, applewood smoked bacon, cherry tomatoes, point reyes blue cheese dressing

corn chowder

maine diver scallops, fennel puree, lentil salad, pernod poultry jus

maine diver scallops, fennel puree, lentil salad

maine lobster slider with homemade chips

maine lobster slider with homemade chips

I’m gonna keep the comments to a minimum. The pics say enough.
salad … mmm bacon
soup … silky sweet
scallops … perfectly seared
slider … if you’re hungry order 3!

We tried a couple desserts but the standout was the Lemon tart with honey gelato (sorry no photo). Give Tanglewood a try, you won’t be disappointed.

Rating:

Website: http://www.tanglewood.com/

Campbell Farmers market

My favorite farmers market in the area is in Campbell. There are 2-3 blocks full of art, fruits, veggies, flowers, baked goods, jams, food carts, herbs, pasta, fish, cheese and more. Last Sunday Mike and I strolled through while eating a homemade raspberry cheesecake poppy-seed muffin. Yum! Then we shared a deliciously fresh gigantic savory crepe with spinach, tomato, cheese and lemon. Warning: eat before you go or you will spend all your money on pre-made foods… Finally we purchased some goodies to take home. When it comes to produce I usually buy from the farms that specialize in one or two items instead of 10. First stop, the heirloom tomato booth (you will see what we created with these here soon). Mike and I went crazy at Tomatero, the organic tomato stand and then grabbed some potatoes from Zuckerman’s Farms. If you are in the mood for strawberries check out Rodriguez farms (they’re delicious and organic!). You’ll find plenty of samples so take a walk through before you buy.

this is just 1/2!

1/2 of the crepe!

heirlooms

Address: Campbell Ave at Central Ave Campbell, CA 95008

Hours: Sundays, 9:00am to 1:00pm year ’round

Gilley’s Coffee Shoppe

The hunt for the best benedict of the Bay continues… Next stop, Gilley’s, another small diner located in the heart of downtown Los Gatos. Mike and I popped in one Tuesday morning to get some grub. I, of course, ordered the Eggs Benedict. Mike had the French scramble which was scrambled eggs mixed with a herb cheese spread and bacon bits. When the dishes arrived they looked unappetizing. The portion size for the scramble was very small. Mike was lucky if he got two eggs. His toast was stale and his coffee burnt. An all around bad breakfast. Surprisingly my benedict tasted better than it looked. The ham and muffin were cooked nicely but the eggs were a tad overcooked, and the hollandaise tasted like light foamy butter. Interesting take on my favorite morning entree. Then came the hashbrowns which were hard, dry and tasteless. As Mike paid he watched the cook slice open a COSTCO size bag of hashbrowns and dump them on the griddle. If you’re looking for fresh ingredients — look elsewhere. We went in with high hopes for a great meal and left disappointed.

The current standings of the benedicts of the Bay:

1. Lou’s Coffee Shop (Los Gatos)
2. The Diner of Los Gatos (Los Gatos)
3. The Southern Kitchen (Los Gatos)
4. The Los Gatos Cafe (Los Gatos)
5. Bill’s Cafe (Willow Glen)
6. Gilley’s Coffee Shoppe (Los Gatos)
7. Sweet Pea’s (Los Gatos)

Address: 47 N. Santa Cruz Avenue

Le Papillon

For our 2 year wedding anniversary Mike and I dined at Le Papillon. Mike’s parents had given us a gift certificate for Xmas and we decided this would be the perfect occasion to use it. Le Papillon opened in 1977 and was one of the first fine dining French restaurants in Silicon Valley. As we were seated at our table the first thing I noticed was that the restaurant was unusually quiet. Although the room was half full you could hear a pin drop. I guess everyone was deeply enjoying their food. I whispered to Mike “Are we allowed to talk?” This would soon change…

The moment we ordered a well organized food parade began. Starting off with THREE Amuse bouches: first cheese and duck, second shrimp in a citrus vinaigrette and third a tomato gazpacho. Three blissful bites. Next came our starters. We chose to share the Pan Seared Maine Day Boat Scallops with Hazelnut Polenta and Preserved Lemon. It was simply fantastic. I then moved on to my Lobster Bisque with Sweet Corn Timbale and Mike dug into his Baby Lettuce Salad. When I have ordered this bisque at other establishments it’s always a light shade of pink this time it was a deep brown. It was super rich and flavorful. Hands down the best bisque I have ever had.

For our main courses we both chose fish. We attempted to keep things light because we knew we were having dessert. I chose the Braised Sturgeon and Mike the Grilled Turbot. Again, both dishes were magnifique. Cooked and presented perfectly. Then came our two beautiful desserts. The Soufflé Grand Marnier with Fresh Berries and the Banana and Chocolate Torte (pass up a banana dessert–no way!) We r-e-a-l-l-y over ate.

The food and service was superb. The only negative for the evening came at 7:30pm when a large family arrived with two kids under age 4. This was a recipe for disaster. The tykes were tired and restless. They spent the night running around the table, clanging dishes and whining. I don’t hold the restaurant responsible for the unruly children but instead of a sign at the front door that says “No cell Phones” maybe it should say “No children under 8”. I like kids but when you are paying $140 per person you don’t expect to view an episode of romper room.

That aside, Le Papillon was an extraordinary eating experience and a grand way to celebrate two years of marriage. I’m sure we will be back for future anniversaries.

Note: Sorry for the lack of pictures but I took the night off…

Rating :

Website: http://www.lepapillon.com/

Le Papillon on Urbanspoon

Crimson

Crimson is hidden in the corner of a strip mall on Los Gatos Blvd. It’s really not a great location but worth the time to find. As soon as you walk in you will know why the restaurant is named Crimson. Inside it is covered head to toe in red decor. My favorite being the beautiful fresh red rose at each table. Crimson is a Green Certified restaurant serving ingredients direct from local farmers. We arrived on Tuesday July 8 for their weekly $30, 3-course prix fixe menu. We had heard about it over a year ago and we finally decided to go. After looking at the menu Mike and I ordered one of everything so we could try it all.

Prix Fixe Menu – July 8, 2008

The Starters
– Black Mission Fig and Charentais Melon Salad with Gorgonzola, Candied Walnuts, and Aged Balsamic Vinegar
– Heirloom Tomato Caprese Salad, with Fresh Buffalo Mozzarella, Garden Basil and Lemon Oil
These both were wonderful. I especially liked the warm sweet figs. I’ve never had figs prepared like this before.
The Main Courses
– Herb and Dijon Mustard Marinated Prime Rib with Cabernet Au Jus and Garlic Mash
– Pan Seared Atlantic Salmon with Delta Asparagus, Jasmine Rice, and Organic Lemon Butter
Again, two delightful and hearty dishes. Just because this is a Prix fixe doesn’t mean small portions. We both had to get doggie bags. We never have to do that…

The Desserts
– Mixed Summer Berry Bread Pudding
– Chocolate Mousse with Fresh Berry Sauce
The mousse was silky and rich. The bread pudding was a little doughy — the only miss for the night. 5 out of 6 dishes were on point.

With the economy as it is it’s getting harder to justify all our lavish dinners out. This $30 Tuesday is one of the best deals in town!

Tasty Tip: don’t forget to fill out the form that comes with your bill to get on the weekly email list.

Crimson on Urbanspoon
Continue reading

Mr. Pickles

How could I not know about Mr. Pickles? I am in downtown Los Gatos at least once a week and I have never seen this little sandwich shop. I read a review on Yelp and decided to seek it out. It is located on a small side street across from the Wells Fargo bank. When we arrived on the 4th of July around 1pm there was a line out the door. I guess I’m the only one in LG not familiar with this place. They feature over 20 specialty sandwiches that are huge, fresh and tasty. Mike and I shared “The Abbott” which has turkey,avocado and bacon with a bag of dirty chips and were full for hours. If you are in need of a great sando, go see Mr. Pickles.

FYI- If you’re in Los Gatos and you see a man in a pickle suit don’t be scared it’s just Mr. Pickles.

Address:151 N Santa Cruz Ave

Mr. Pickles Sandwich Shop on Urbanspoon

Cocola Bakery

You may have passed by the Cocola Bakery in Santana Row and drooled over the delectable pastries, tarts and cakes on display. Many don’t know this, but they also sell a handful of specialty sandwiches. My favorite being the turkey breast with cranberry sauce and brie cheese on a fresh baked baguette. It reminds me of Thanksgiving. It’s a bit on the pricey side at $9.90 but a nice treat every once in a while. For a more affordable bite try the ham and cheese croissants. They also have great beverages…on cold mornings I will sometimes pick up a banana hot chocolate. Really good stuff!

Cocola Bakery on Urbanspoon

Cin-Cin Restaurant and Winebar

On a whim Mike and I decided to check out Cin-Cin, the replacement restaurant for Cafe Marcella in Los Gatos. We were big fans of Cafe Marcella. When Mike and I started dating it was the site of our first night out at a restaurant that didn’t have paper napkins. Cin-Cin has only been open about a month and seems to be doing well. The evening we went they were relatively full. I really like the new look and feel. It has a very eco friendly vibe from the wicker-like chairs to the bamboo walls and floors. They also tout an organic menu. It took some time for us to go through the menu as it is pretty extensive. It’s filled with wine by the glass, wine flights, beer, specialty cocktails, appetizers, small plates, large plates and sides. Our server did a good job of explaining the majority of the menu items; I guess a new restaurant feels the need to do that. The thing that stood out to Mike and I were the wine flight options. See those three large glasses above… those were $9 TOTAL! Even if only two out of the three were any good the price was unbelievable. Mike was further impressed that the flight glasses came labeled. Usually glasses are dropped in front of you and you have to try to remember what is what. We started our meal with the mushroom empanadas with truffle oil. I found them to be lacking in flavor. For the main course I chose the braised lamb shoulder with mint fava bean puree and fingerling potatoes (is it me or is everyone serving fava beans these days?). Mike had the pan seared salmon with fingerling potatoes and fennel confit. We both enjoyed these dishes, the lamb was melt-in-your-mouth tender. To finish things off we had the cheesecake beignets AND the coconut sorbet. The beignets came with a honey/hazelnut dip and a milk chocolate dip. Both desserts were fantastic, my only complaint was that there were 3 beignets. I have a pet peeve about receiving servings in uneven numbers. The chef should recognize that most likely there is going to be an even number of people at a table so give 2 or 4 not 3. I dislike having to cut things in half to share (by the way this was also the case with our empanadas).

Overall the food was good but nothing spectacular. I can definitely see myself dropping in for wine and dessert or to share some small plates with a group of friends. There are a number of large tables as well as a lounge like area with low couches. Cin-Cin seems like a prime location for a gathering.

Rating:
Website: http://www.cincinwinebar.com/


Thea Mediterranean

Mike and I stopped at Thea Mediterranean in Santana Row for a bite to eat after we went to see the Iron Man movie. It was a lovely night and they have a great comfortable outdoor seating area. Thea serves Mediterranean food with Greek influences. We started off with the fried calamari plate. It was very nice. The batter was just like I like…light. For my main course I had the moussaka which is a casserole of eggplant, lamb and beef smothered in a thick bechamel sauce. This was enjoyable but very filling. I took more than half home with me. It was even better the next day for lunch. Mike chose the Garides, prawns pressed in Greek spices over a zucchini cake and topped with an arugula salad. The presentation was fantastic. It was a light and flavorful dish.
On a previous visit I had the pita with regional spreads, the chicken souvlaki and the baclava. All were delicious. The food at Thea is fresh and tasty. I always leave satisfied. If you like Greek food, give it a try.

Rating:

Website: http://www.thearestaurant.com/

Lou’s Coffee Shop

Last weekend it was again time to get my benedict on so Mike and I ventured out at 8:30am to Lou’s coffee shop in Los Gatos. When we arrived to the old school diner it was surprisingly empty. Usually in LG you have to be up at the crack of dawn to get seated in any bfast joint. By 9:15am the place was fairly full.

You know what I ordered and Mike chose one of the specials: coconut and banana waffle with macadamia nuts and raspberry syrup. He must of enjoyed it because thinking back he didn’t even offer me a bite. He devoured the whole thing. My eggs benedict was perfection. Ladies and gents, Lou’s has just bounced to the top of my benedict list. The best part was the sauce. It didn’t taste like a hollandaise but a bearnaise!! I freaking love bearnaise!! Although you can’t see it, the ham was also delicious. The cook had thrown it on the griddle so it had some crusty carmelization. Hands down #1.

The current standings of the benedicts of the Bay:
1. Lou’s Coffee Shop (Los Gatos)
2. The Diner of Los Gatos (Los Gatos)
3. The Southern Kitchen (Los Gatos)
4. The Los Gatos Cafe (Los Gatos)
5. Bill’s Cafe (Willow Glen)
6. Sweet Pea’s (Los Gatos)

FYI- I read a newspaper article from 1998 that said Lou’s and the Diner were owned by the same family. I don’t know if that is still true but they both have mastered the benedict!

Address: 15691 Los Gatos Blvd

Southern Kitchen in Los Gatos

Have you ever seen the mob of people on a Saturday or Sunday morning on the corner of Main & Maple in LG?

Well, they are waiting for a table at the Southern Kitchen, another small diner in Los Gatos. I had to venture in to see what all the fuss was about.

I of course had the eggs benedict. Only seemed right. I also got a side of grits since I rarely see grits on a menu. The grits were nothing like grandma used to make. They were thick and creamy with a mashed potato like consistency. All in all good food, friendly staff and great coffee. I’ll be back.

Address: 27 E Main St

Current ranking of the benedicts of the Bay:

1. The Diner of Los Gatos (Los Gatos)
2. The Southern Kitchen (Los Gatos)
3. The Los Gatos Cafe (Los Gatos)
4. Bill’s Cafe (Willow Glen)
5. Sweet Pea’s (Los Gatos)

Other places I plan to visit to get my benedict on…

  • Gilley’s Coffee Shoppe (Los Gatos)
  • Lou’s (Los Gatos)
  • Little Amsterdam (Saratoga)

Any other recommendations? Leave a comment!

The Counter

the counterIf you’re at Santana Row in San Jose and you want a slammin’ burger, stop by the Counter. The beef/chicken is tender and always tastes extremely fresh. Be warned a little goes a long way. I always leave feeling stuffed. This is the only burger I usually end up eating with a fork and knife. It’s a tasty mess.

How it works: it’s a build your own burger or chicken sandwich shop. After you are seated you are given a clip board and a pencil and you choose your meat and toppings. I went with a burger with grilled onions, lettuce, tomato and gruyere cheese. I kept things classic but they have more interesting options like herb goat cheese, grilled pineapple, roasted corn and black bean salsa or a fried egg.

  

Sorry about the blurry photos. First attempt at using images from my cellphone.

Don’t forget to try the onion strings and sweet potato fries. One order can feed 4 people. They come with 3 dipping sauces…good stuff. The shakes are yum too.

Website: http://www.thecounterburger.com/

Counter Santana Row on Urbanspoon

Plumed Horse Restaurant

plumed horse

For Mike’s birthday we went to the Plumed Horse in Saratoga. It recently re-opened after a lengthy remodel. The lodge like decor has disapeared and has become ultra modern. The dining area is fairly small. There are ~17 tables packed into a single room. It looks like there will be more areas to dine but they are not ready yet. Pretty unbelievable, but Mike and I were probably the youngest couple in the place. Those that were younger where having dinner with family members. The restaurants clientele is probably older because of the hefty price tags on the menu. Come to think of it, I think I even saw a couple coats and ties on some of the men. Who wears a suit to dinner in California anymore?

Let’s move on to the food…the evening started off with a complimentary Amuse-bouche from the head chef. We received a tiny mug that contained an artichoke and prawn soup. A single roll and butter was then served to each of us by one of the many assistant servers. (I’ll go into more detail about that later). Mike ordered our wine from the extensive wine list. You will see the new 1,800 bottle wine cellar as it is a prominent design element. plumed horse wine cellarThen we sat and waited for our first course to arrive. I don’t know if they were really busy or if they don’t like to rush things but there was a slight time lapse between courses. It also could of been that we were REALLY hungry. We had a 8pm reservation, which we never do, but because of things planned during the day this time fit our schedule. For the first course I chose the crab and asparagus bisque and Mike had the butter lettuce with radish and pine nut vinaigrette. My crab and asparagus bisques came in separate pouring vessels and were presented table-side. When poured into my bowl it looked like a yin/yang sign…very artistic display. The soup was good, nothing spectacular.

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The Los Gatos Cafe

I had heard that the Los Gatos Cafe was one of the best breakfast joints in the area. We finally made it over last weekend. It is located on the end of the main drag in LG near highway 9. You probably would never notice it unless you were looking for it. It is a diner with very modest decor. Could use a bit of a makeover. When we arrived at 8:30am we were promptly seated and the place was almost filled to capacity. The Los Gatos CafeI ordered the eggs benedict and a slice of the Kahlua pound cake. About 6 months ago I strayed away from my typical bfast order of a denver omelet and began seeking out benedicts. Why?? I have no idea. This one was good… not the best. Better than Bill’s Cafe and Sweet Pea’s but not better than THE Diner down the street. They are still the reigning champs (yummy hollandaise). My eggs came with a side of potatoes. They were a blazing yellow color so I’m guessing they were saffron. They had a nice crispy top. Not bad but I prefer home fries. Mike had the french apple pancakes which ended up being mounds of apples wrapped in thin crepes. He said he enjoyed them. The best part of the meal was the pound cake! WOW! It was fantastic. Unlike typical pound cake which can be heavy and dry this was light and super moist. I love my baked goods. Anyways, the menu has a huge selection of omelets, benedicts as well as pancakes, waffles and french toast. We will be back to sample a few more of their dishes.

Tips: Cash only. Open from 6-3pm daily. Get there before 9am and be seated quickly, arrive later and plan to wait.

Address: 340 N. Santa Cruz Ave

Los Gatos Cafe on Urbanspoon

Sweet Pea’s Cafe

Here is another shout out to a local hot-spot. Sweet Pea’s is a small cafe in Los Gatos. We go all the time for lunch especially on a nice day because most of the seating <if you can get one> is outside. The sandwiches are delicious. They use a lot of fresh ingredients. My favorite is the chicken salad. It has all kinds of goodies in it including nuts, red grapes and cranberries. They are also known for their savory & sweet crepes. One Sunday morning we stopped by for breakfast and were introduced to the homemade nutella muffins. They had just come out of the oven and were still warm. The muffin melted in my mouth. It was down right delectable. What is nutella? It’s the original creamy,chocolaty hazelnut spread. Sweet Pea’s also makes a nutella & banana crepe that is the bomb!

Feast your eye’s on the nutella muffin…Sooooo good.

nutella muffin

Address: 453 N Santa Cruz Ave
Nutella Spread

Fleur de Cocoa …uber-licious hot chocolate?

Fleur de Cocoa

As I flipped through the Feb. issue of Sunset Magazine I saw an article entitled “What to do in Northern California in February”. They list Fleur de Cocoa in Los Gatos as having a uber-licious hot chocolate. How could I not want to try that?! So I did and it was screaming hot, super thick, incredibly chocolaty and not at all sweet. I could only get through 1/4 of the itsy bitsy cup it was served in. I guess French hot chocolate is too sophisticated for my pallet. What I will be back for is some of the pastries. The display of croissants looked magnificent.

My favorite hot chocolate:Godiva Chocolatier Hot Cocoa

Restaurant James Randall

James Randall is another treasure in Los Gatos. Mike and I went for our first time last weekend. When you walk in you will feel as though you stepped into your parent’s living room. It’s a very small restaurant, dimly lit with candles and a fireplace. This evening the place was filled to capacity (30 people max). james randall thumbWe took our seats and were handed the concise menu. Don’t expect more than 6 main entrees to choose from per night. We began with a 5 spice Ahi tuna stack which consisted of fresh spicy tuna, sliced avocado and mixed greens sandwiched in-between circular won ton crisps. When dipped in the accompanying wasabi mayo dressing it was a little party in your mouth. It was simply delectable. Things started off with a bang and only got better. For the main course I chose the double pork chop with red cabbage and maple jus. It came with a side of crisp, buttery spatzle like pasta. Everything was cooked perfectly and had really great flavors. Mike picked the flank steak that came with green beans, mashed potatoes and a chipolte bbq sauce. He practically licked his plate clean. Now onto dessert…you didn’t think we would skip this did you? We chose the cheesecake with blueberries. It was pleasing but nothing special. What impressed us more is that they served french-press coffee. Each of us were given our own individual press…so good! French pressed coffee is sublime. As the evening came to an end Mike said, and I quote “This is my new favorite place in Los Gatos!” Now that’s a huge achievement. I don’t know if I would rank it at the very top of my list but it came close. We will definitely come back.

Tip: Mon-Thurs they have a 3 course prix fixe menu for $40 per person! For all you wine lovers james randall offers 5 or 8oz pours per glass. We went with the 8oz which comes in a personal carafe and gives you about a glass and a half. Nice option that saves you money.

james randall logo
Rating: drumstick ratingdrumstick ratingdrumstick rating
Website: http://www.restaurantjamesrandall.com/

Restaurant James Randall on Urbanspoon

Ristorante Da Mario – the best Bolognese around

My favorite cuisine is Italian. All my life I have been searching for the perfect bowl of ragu. I have found it (well at least the best so far). If you stroll the streets of downtown Saratoga you will find a handful of quirky stores and upscale/expensive restaurants. To our surprise last year a quaint little Italian restaurant opened up. We’ve dropped in three times and have never been disappointed. Last week we took a friend to dinner. We started things off with an Antipasto platter that included mozzarella, San Daniele prosciutto and two types of bruschetta (tomato and mushroom). Everything was fresh and flavorful. We also had a new addition to the menu a thinly sliced stuffed eggplant with a marinara sauce. It resembled a cannelloni and was wonderful. For the main course I had my usual — the Spaghetti Bolognese. I just can’t say enough about this little bowl of heaven.

The sauce is light with lots of tiny bits of meat and mushrooms. I could eat it every day. By the way the Spaghetti with meatballs is just as good. Mike had the veal piccata and our guest had the homemade gnocchi with pesto and Gorgonzola cheese sauce. I’ve never been a fan of gnocchi but Mike and our friend both said they were fantastic. To finish things off we ordered the tiramisu and chocolate macaroons. Be sure to leave room for dessert because the tiramisu is some of the best I’ve ever had. During our meal Mike attempted to get the ragu recipe out of the hostess but she wasn’t leaking any family secrets. I guess we’ll just have to continue to visit Da Mario for all my future ragu cravings…

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Website: http://www.ristorantedamario.com/

Ristorante Da Mario Italian Restaurant on Urbanspoon

The Green Papaya

This is not a review but more of a shout out to the Green Papaya. If you are ever in Los Gatos at dinner time and are looking for a low key spot to grab a bite and don’t need a reservation drop by the Green Papaya. Mike and I like to eat here every once in a while. It’s a cozy Vietnamese restaurant with good food and a nice wait staff. I highly recommend the Los Gatos beef and the spring rolls. I would pass on the fried banana dessert unless you close your eyes as you eat it. Think big fried banana –no frills or fus. I wish I had a picture of it 😆

Address: 137 North Santa Cruz

La Fondue

lafondue.jpg

La Fondue in Saratoga recently re-opened down the street from the old location. The restaurant is much bigger and the dark medieval theme is gone 🙂 . When you walk in you will not recognize the place. I think the only thing they kept from the old spot were the fondue pots. The new decor is modern with a touch of crazy. The owner knows Mike so we got a tour after our meal. There are at least four different rooms all with their own style. Mitch (the owner) had the materials (wallcoverings,lighting..) flown in from all over the world. It was clear that a lot of time and energy had been put forth in coming up with the design choices. The food was as good as usual and filling. You won’t leave this place hungry. We ordered the Fondue Feast. We started off with the Stinking Rose cheese fondue, which is scrumptious. Then moved on to the main course which included the following: chicken, calamari steak, buffalo, scallops, shrimp and filet mignon. We chose to cook our feast on the grill. They no longer give you the garlic butter to saute but opt for a healthier oil. I must say I prefer the old fattening garlic butter! It was tastier. If you’re coming to La Fondue you’re not watching your weight! Keep in mind if you are more adventurous you can choose alligator, crocodile or ostrich for your meat. For dessert (my favorite part of the meal), we chose the milk chocolate fondue with a shot of irish cream. They give you all kinds of goodies to dip including the healthy: strawberries, bananas, apples and the sinful: cinnamon covered cream cheese balls, rice krispie treats and snicker bars. Coming to La Fondue is always a fun and entertaining way to spend an evening. Although your body can really only handle visiting once a year. If you haven’t been in a while, it’s worth going just to see the renovations.

Tip: Remember you can just go for the chocolate Sunday-Thurs at 10pm.
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La Fondue website: http://www.lafondue.com/

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