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“The Farmer & The Chef” Documentary


I don’t think I have mentioned this before but Mike, my husband, is a professional documentary filmmaker when he is not baking me cakes. I haven’t brought it up because his previous films were not related to food, but his current project is! He is working on a doc called “The Farmer & the Chef.” The film takes you behind the scenes to see how Chef David Kinch & Farmer Cynthia Sandberg of Love Apple Farms grow and serve the perfect biodynamic meal at two-Michelin Star restaurant Manresa in Los Gatos, CA . The idea came about following our amazing 3-year wedding anniversary dinner at Manresa in 2009.

This summer I have been helping with some of the production and I have set up a website and a facebook page for the film. Check them out and be sure to “LIKE” the facebook page to keep up to date with the progress. The film is scheduled for release in January 2013. It should be tasty!

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

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/

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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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/

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
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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

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/


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!

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

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