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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

Friday, July 3, 2009

Cherry Sushi Now Open......again

I was saddended one evening when I drove by one of my fav sushi restaurants to find it had closed! Cherry Sushi in Santa Clara had been a reliable alternative for great japanese food for quite a while for my dining partner and I. It was always a few bucks more than the 'economy' sushi places we frequently visit, but it was always fantastic. So, when they closed, it was a shock.

Every time I drove by this location since, I would slow down to see if they had re-opened. They were closed down for a good 2 months, when, to my pleasant suprise, they were open again! We were actually headed in the direction of Chocolate Sushi/Tofu House in Sunnyvale (which is their sister restaurant), when I flipped a U and pulled into to the parking lot to see what happened.

We were seated promptly, as usual, and was welcomed back by our very courteous waiter, who recognized us a previous patrons. We came to learn that the kitchen had experienced a fire, and they had to close to clean up. I saw no evidence of fire damage, other than the updated window treatments, new lighting fixures, and new wall paint. If one didn't know better, they could have easliy been closed to just do a remodel! The great oil painting of the bowl of cherries was not damaged and still adorns the entryway. I did not see the giant glass cherry sculpture that previously sat on the front counter.... would be a shame it if broke?
The food was just as fantastic as before. Everything is good, from the rolls, to the bentos, to the fish...its just all good. They even brought us some complimentary edamame this time. You can't go wrong here, but I recommend trying their spicy chicken, it's especially good (like buffalo chicken, only more tasty). Sure, they charge a few more bucks for their plates, but it is SOOO worth it.

Do yourself a favor and eat here, even if it means going out of your way!

-Tom W Tell