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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/

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/

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/

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

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

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/

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

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/

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

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

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/

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

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