Amazon Links

Sunday, January 3, 2010

The Lovely Dinner

Happy New year, loyal readers! Tom has been busy eating, comparing, and getting really backed up on restaurant reviews since last October. But fear not, all new reviews and recommendations will be coming your way in the one-zero! Here is something to tide you over.

So, Peter Jackson has directed a new not another in the Lord of the Rings, um, trilogy....wait, how many films were there?!? I swear I sat through 12 hours of movie and the only thing I remember is Golum. Oh, yeah, the new movie is called 'The Lovely Bones', and from the looks of the previews, it looks to be a cross between the Robin Williams flick What Dreams May Come, and the Nicole Kidman thiller, The Others. Its about a girl who is murdered and the families mourning process. But wait! The girl is actually in limbo and trying to help them catch the murderer! Sounds interesting, but you are probably wondering what this has to do with my little food blog.
Before I watch any edge-of-your-seat type of movie, which this will undoubtedly be, I like to eat something light, something that wont set heavy in my stomach and churn while I am gasping. If you will be in the AMC Mercado 20 area, try a Piadine from Tomatina! I like the Ceaser salad variety. If heading to the Milpitas Great Mall Century 20, head over to Sen Dai Sushi before hand for some rolls or a seafood bento box. If you will be in the Winchester/Santana Row area, you can do the old Krung Thai, but stay away from the heavy curry dishes and stick to the lighter pad thai noodles.

Dinner and movies have always gone together, especially for scary movie dates! But remember, allowing the proper time for food to be digested is important, and indegestion noises during a tense on-screen moment can be just wrong. So keep the pre-movie dinner light, but by no means be chincy on the meal.

-Tom W Tell

Monday, October 19, 2009

Cadillac Crossovers at Santana Row

.....with a cooking demonstration?!? This is a funky marketing idea, having a cooking demonstration to get people to test drive the new Cadillac SUV/Non-SUV. Anyway, check it out:

On Saturday , October 24 and Sunday, October 25 at Santana Row in San Jose, Cadillac and our partners at Bon Appetit and Gourmet magazine are teaming up to let people experience the all-new Cadillac SRX in a more relaxed, personal environment and we'd like to invite you to join us.

The event is open from 10-7 on Saturday and 10-6 on Sunday and includes test drives of the new SRX along with its competition (Lexus RX350, Mercedes GLK and BMW X5) as well as cooking demonstrations from celebrity Chef Emily Luchetti of Farallon and Waterbar. Chef demonstrations will take place at 11:00AM, 1:30PM and 4:00PM.

You (and your readers) can find more information, including images and video, and register in advance (although it is not mandatory) at: (warning: site is very slow)

If you are interested, we will have a senior representative from Cadillac on hand to answer your questions.

This will no doubt be a very crowded, pretentious, and showy event, as most Santana Rows events are. Weather permitting, I may just see some of my readers there!

-Tom W Tell

Jasmine Thai, the one next to the liquor store!

Always up for finding and interesting alternatives for Thai food in San Jose, I am never one to judge a restaurant by its location. Take Jasmine Thai at 1710 Berryessa Rd, for example. Yes, it is in a cheesy neighborhood strip mall, they dont have a website, but the flavor and service you get in just so worth it. I have visited and commented about many-a-decent Thai place, and always comparing them to Krung Thai (the best in the world). Jasmine Thai comes in second for several reasons.

When I first visit a Thai resaturant, I tend to order items similar to those I normally get at Krung, to make an even comparison. Some may say that this rules out an establishments feature dish, but, with my analytical background, it is really the only way to really compare food. The food at Jasmine Thai is great, both in freshness and quality. It was a Sunday night, and it was not that busy. Perhaps 3 other couples (locals, no doubt) visited during our time there. From what I could see, there was a cook in the back, and one waitress, and she did a fantastic job attending to our every need.

The only reason it places second to Krung, was the atmosphere, and furnishings. Krung has a lot of cool Thai decor, and comfortable surroundings. Jasmine Thai was in a strip mall, and did have the appearance of a lunchtime favorite (take out booth, thin napkins, easy in/out layout).

The prices were great, and they even held a birthday cake for us (oh, yeah, we were there for a birthday!), and provided paper plates and plastic eating utensils. Overall, it was a great experience, and if even if you are not in the mood for Thai, do yourself a favor and visit JasmineThai!

-Tom W. Tell

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Chaat Cafe - Just Do it!

My dining partners were just in the mood for Indian food this weekend, ya know!? It doesn't happen that often, but when it does, I am so glad I live in the south bay were the options for middle eastern food abound! We stopped by Chaat Cafe on Blossom Hill Road, among all the chain restaurants and tax prep offices, on a recommendation from a member of our party. It has an ordinary strip-mall type storefront, and decent, but not mind=blown interior decor. We grabbed a laminated menu, found a table, and picked a few items that sounded good.

All of us in our party (about 5 total) enjoy spicy food, so we got a sampling of a few different plates: tandoori chicken, and some other stuff, I forgot to note what we got, terrible for a foosiast, I know, maybe next time. All you need to know is that everything was great. I tried a little of each plate, and I can not say any of it was bad. I had 2 plate fulls myself with probably 3 whole Naan bread pieces for the delicious sauces.

The service was fine, the prices unbeatable, and food fantastic. Not everyone can take this kind of food, hardcore american food eaters should slowly work there way over from chinese to japanese, then to thai, then to Chaat Cafe! It is kind of far for me to eat there on a regular basis, but I think I would if closer. I will defintiely go back when the craving arises again!

-Tom W Tell

Grill 'Em (if you know how and/or feel like it)

Recently visited Grill 'Em on south Bascom Ave in San Jose for a birthday event. After hearing a few open-ended stories about how neat and cool it was, I was anxious to try it out for myself. As you may be able to guess from the title and picture, it is a pay-us-for-the-food-but-cook-it-yourself kind of place. You can get the same kind of experience and some Korean BBQ Buffet houses on El Camino Real, Juicy Burger, Fuddruckers, and buffets that allow you to create your own flavor.

My dining partner, who normally prefers seafood or vegetarian style cuisine but makes exceptions for me, arrived a little early, so we got a chance to hang out and soak the place in. It really has a bar/pub atmosphere about it, with a small outdoor seating areas for smokers (and there are quite a few here, I guess not suprisingly), and very few windows, if any, to let in natural light. The decor is cool, with art works of local landmarks on the walls flancking the dining area. The is a large, prominant bar with plenty of neon, and the service is down-home. The main focus, obviously is the large open grill and hood assembly on which the steaks are cooked. All the spices and toppings are on a small table behind the grill, along with easy to read instructions on how to cook meat. Even with the large, clear print sign, I found it funny to see how many other people dining there that night did not follow them!

I was suprised to learn that only a small portion of the menu actually features food that you can cook yourself. All the burgers, chicken, and the like are prepared by the pros in the kitchen. This confused me a bit at first, since the draw of the place is getting to grill your own stuff, but when I saw how many people ignored the instructions, it's probably a good idea they hand the more complicated stuff.

All of us a the party sampled each others steaks, and found that the easist thing to screw up is the seasoning, too much or too little really affects the outcome of the meat. I think the best thing that came off the grill from our group was the garlic bread, which they allow you to throw on with everything else. I like my g-bread nice and crispy, and that is exactly how we made it. I believe this place take some practice to get right, and I will go back to try it again.

We had a party of about 10, and there were a few mix-ups with the orders, but managment were kind enough to adjust the bill and provide some freebies to offset them. The prices were reasonable and the service adequate. I recommend anyone who eats meat in the south bay to try it, and let me know if there are other places that do this also!

-Tom W Tell

Friday, July 31, 2009

Gilroy Garlic Festival 2009

For those of you have never been to the World Famous Gilroy Garlic Festival, I can sum it up in three words: Hot, stinky, and HOT!

I have a few times before, each time with about the same experience. It is held during late July in Gilroy, which means its about 15 degress hotter than the south bay. This year was no exception, and now I associate all things garlic with sweating profusely. Last year my car got scratched in the dirtly-as-all-hell parking lot, so this year we cruised the nearby residential area for a shady spot on the street. We lucked out a bit, and it was only about a half mile from the entrance, hallelujah. Entrance fee was $12, not bad for such a popular event. They had all the same stuff, garlic this-and-that (fries, bread, sausage, chicken, corn, ice cream, shaved ice, and about a dozen other items), some local arts/crafts vendors (I just skip those areas now, all the same crap, sorry local artists!), and live country music (yee-hah).

I was going to skip it this year, but was talked into going with some family/friends, and had an okay time. I went, had my dripping garlic bread, some coke, and a lot of perspiration. Fun for a few hours. Some advice: take Monterey Rd for a long as you can to avoid 101 at all costs; take your own water and an umbrella for shade. Next year, who knows, I hear they are already planning an emphasis on green and sustainable living, should be fun for a few more hours.

-Tom W Tell

Tao Tao, eeehh, s'okay

Murhpy Ave in Sunnyvale is a great spot to visit when you live on the north side of the south bay, its kind of like the original Santana Row. The City does have plans to give the place a makeover (and it does need it), but with their other downtown redevelopment budgetary problems, I don't think its going to be anytime soon. In the mean time, there still many cool places to visit along this stretch of narrow, walkable street. A few weeks ago, I visited Dish-Dash, and it renewed my interest in Murphy Ave. After all, I did have my wedding reception at the Historic Del Monte Building, but never really went back, not sure why. Anyhow, my dining partner and I were in the mood for Chinese food, and there are several places on Murphy that would have sufficed, so we picked the first one we saw. Tao Tao looks new, and was very busy, so we went in a got a table immediately.

We were seated quickly, that is a plus for me, since I HATE waiting for food ever since that day. The interior is sparsely decorated, but clean. There were still hooks on the walls, as if the decorations were either just taken down or not put up yet, not sure which. The stylish interior architecture made up for lack of decor. Since the place was teeming with activity, it took me a while to notice that it was about 20 minutes before someone actually took our order. The manager actually came by to see to us, "Okay, are you ready?," was how we were greeted. It was in a hurried, rude tone, that I thought was strange coming from a manager who should be all about customer service? Since we had already thoroughly studied the menus, I quickly rattled off our order, and he snatched the menus out of my hands without hestitation and rushed off without even a "Thank You" or "Very good sir..." nothing.

The food came out one plate a a time (we got 4 total) and was not the best I have ever had. Since the place was new to us, we decided to play it safe with veggie fried rice, honey-walunt prawns, lemon chicken, and some eggrolls to start. They were all satisfactory, good but not great. The water was refilled several times very promptly, another plus.

Overall, the pluses (quick seating, ample water, neat interior) came out even with the minuses (rude staff, spread out food, so-so flavor) to make this place hard to recommend. I like to refer my readers to places I would enjoy eating at, and this place is not one of them. Our bill came to around $40, and we took some home for lunch the next day, which was just as average after a microwave blast. Not sure what Tao Tao means, but it certainly does not have any resemblance to Tao in Vegas!

-Tom W Tell