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Monthly Archives: February 2015

For the love of… cilantro!

cilantroDuring one of my first visits to California, my dad took 9-year-old me to an authentic Mexican restaurant in Sunnyvale. At that point in my life, I was used to the fast food version of tacos, served with “ground beef” and generic cheese. So I was surprised to see three small tacos on soft corn tortillas, chopped onions and little green leaves on top.

“What’s that green stuff?” I asked my dad with curiosity. “That’s cilantro,” my dad replied as he poured super hot salsa on his tacos. “It’s really good.”

So I took a bite, tasting the delicious herb for the first time, and the rest is history.

Now, more than 20 years later, I eat anything that has cilantro cooked into it or on top of it. It can be a plain, stale piece of toast, but if it has cilantro on it, I’m eating it. Washing and chopping it at home can be a pain because it tends to stick to everything, but it’s worth the prep.

The Taste

The best way I can described the taste of cilantro — also known as coriander, Chinese parsley and dhania — is that it is a cousin of mint with a citrus note. I’ve seen it paired in several different types of cuisine, including Mexican (tacos, salsa, guacamole), Indian (mostly chutneys), and Asian dishes (pho and ramen). Cilantro adds a nice freshness and zest to these savory entrees.

Fun Facts

Most people have a love-or-hate relationship with cilantro. The herb creates an unpleasant, soapy taste in some people’s mouths, which I didn’t understand until recently. According to a New York Times article, “Cilantro Haters, It’s Not Your Fault,” studies show that some people are genetically predisposed to hating the herb. Also, the aroma is created by many substances, and most of these are parts of fat molecules called aldehydes, which can be found in soaps and bugs.

People’s brains perceive tastes and smells based on a pattern of past experiences, according to the article. When I taste and smell cilantro, I think of those delicious tacos I ate as a kid. Cilantro haters, on the other hand, probably think of cleaning supplies and creepy crawlers. Who knew?

Nutritional Value

One cup of cilantro has four calories, so don’t worry about gorging on this herb. To my surprise, that same serving has 7 mg of sodium (I wouldn’t have thought cilantro had salt in it, even a small amount). You can meet 55 percent of your daily intake of Vitamin K with a cup of cilantro, but all the other vitamin intake amounts are pretty low. (Source: The United States Department of Agriculture)

What you think of cilantro? Are you a lover or a hater?

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Posted by on February 27, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

Juicy, homemade-tasting burgers served up at Jeffrey’s Hamburgers in Menlo Park

The Mushroom Burger at Jeffrey's Hamburgers in Menlo Park.

The Mushroom Burger at Jeffrey’s Hamburgers in Menlo Park.

I’ve been very good lately when it comes to eating healthily (translation: lots of salads). But last Thursday, I was in the mood to get my grub on and eat some greasy, good-but-not-good-for-you food. I had driven by Jeffrey’s Hamburgers in Menlo Park once, and it piqued my interest. According to its website, Jeffrey’s hand makes and grounds its certified Angus beef burgers every day. I was game for trying it out.

Dish of Choice

I ordered the mushroom burger, which comes with mushrooms sauteed in fresh garlic and soy sauce. You can order your burger cooked the way you like, so I ordered mine medium rare with a slice of swiss cheese. I also ordered the single size of chili cheese fries and a regular soda. My bill came out to about $15, including tax.

The Taste

The patty itself was thick, and the meat was tender and juicy. It tastes like a burger that your mother would make for you at home. No commercial taste. If you love mushrooms, then you will love this burger because it was smothered in mushrooms, just like the menu said. The soy sauce used to saute the mushrooms add an extra savoriness to the burger.

I like the fact that the chili cheese fries were served with actually chili with beans instead of meat sauce, and real cheese instead of cheese sauce from a can. The chili cheese fries were filling enough to be a meal on their own if upgraded to the basket size.

The Chili Cheese Fries, single size, at Jeffrey's Hamburgers in Menlo Park.

The Chili Cheese Fries, single size, at Jeffrey’s Hamburgers in Menlo Park.

The Ambiance

Jeffrey’s Hamburgers has the theme of a 1950s/1960s dinner and malt shop, with music from that era playing over the speakers and vintage Coca-Cola signs and memorabilia on the walls. There is also a cool mural of a red classic car painted on the right wall of the main dining room. It’s a casual restaurant to go grab a burger or a milkshake with family and friends in a welcoming, nostalgic atmosphere.

Other Details

Jeffrey’s Hamburgers is located at 888 El Camino Real in Menlo Park. It also has a location at 42 South B Street in San Mateo. Hours for both locations are 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily. For more information, call the Menlo Park location at (650) 322-1959 or visit jeffreyshamburgers.com.

 
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Posted by on February 24, 2015 in burgers

 

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Big clam helpings by the spoonful at Sam’s Chowder House in Palo Alto

The New England Clam Chowder at Sam's Chowder House in Palo Alto.

The New England Clam Chowder at Sam’s Chowder House in Palo Alto.

Tuesday was a chilly, drizzly and gloomy kind of day, and days like that always put me in the mood for a thick, creamy soup. I hadn’t had New England clam chowder since my trip in January to Pismo Beach’s Splash Cafe, which had the best clam chowder that I ever tasted. So I knew it was going to be hard to find another chowder that would measure up.

(Related: Fancy fruit tarts, unbelievable clam chowder & more)

I decided to try Sam’s Chowder House in Palo Alto, which has a great reputation for serving up high-quality New England-style seafood.

Dish of Choice

I ordered the New England clam chowder, which was made with little neck clams, Yukon gold potatoes, smoked bacon, onion, celery, thyme and cream. The chowder comes in two servings: a cup is $7.50, and a bowl is $10.95. I decided to go with the bowl, which came with four slices of sourdough bread. I ordered a glass of water, and my bill came out to about $12, including tax.

The Taste

Now, $11 for a bowl of soup may sound expensive, but Sam’s Chowder House is generous with their servings. I finished about 3/4 of my meal, felt full and took the rest home.

I loved how just about every spoonful had a large helping of tender clam meat on it. The vegetables tasted as if they were slow cooked, and the bacon added more flavor and texture to the dish. I wish the broth was just a little thicker, but every place makes their chowder differently.

Splash Cafe set the bar high for me when it comes to chowder, but I think Sam’s Chowder House is a great contender. The restaurant’s recipe is flavorful, savory and chock-full of quality ingredients.

The Ambiance

The aim for Sam’s Chowder House is to give diners a feeling of being at a New England seafood house, and I think the restaurant accomplishes that while creating a casual but classy dining experience. I enjoyed the marina-type decorations on the walls, such as port lights, lifesavers and buoys. They add character to the restaurant without looking cluttered. The restaurant also has a good-sized bar that seats about 12 or so people. I will have to make it back out for its happy hour specials and live music events.

Other Details

Sam’s Chowder House is located at 185 University Ave. in Palo Alto. It also has a location at 4210 N. Cabrillo Highway in Half Moon Bay. For hours and more information on the Palo Alto location, call (650) 614-1177 or visit www.samschowderhousepa.com.

 
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Posted by on February 21, 2015 in seafood

 

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Chipotle sauce spices up bland chicken tacos at Sonoma Chicken Coop in San Jose

The Soft Chicken Tacos at Sonoma Chicken Coop in downtown San Jose's San Pedro Square.

The Soft Chicken Tacos at Sonoma Chicken Coop in downtown San Jose’s San Pedro Square.

To celebrate Valentine’s Day — or Anti-Valentine’s Day depending on your perspective on the holiday — a fellow single friend and I went out on the town. We decided to venture to downtown San Jose’s San Pedro Square, which offers an eclectic array of restaurants, pubs, and live-event venues. We wanted to grab a bite to eat, so we stopped at Sonoma Chicken Coop, a casual dining restaurant known for its rotisserie chicken.

Dish of Choice

Originally, I was going to choose the steak tacos, but the restaurant is known for its chicken. So I chose the soft chicken tacos, which came with a choice of three corn or flour tortillas. I chose the flour tortillas, which came with shredded chicken, cabbage and cheddar cheese. The entrée also came with a side each of chipotle sauce, salsa and guacamole. With a glass of water, my bill was about $12, including tax.

The Taste

The chicken tacos were not as flavorful as I would have liked. In fact, they were pretty bland. Although the chicken was somewhat tender, it was not as juicy as I had hoped, and there was no seasoning. The dish’s saving grace was its chipotle sauce, which was like an aioli, only a bit thinner. It added a great spice and zest to the chicken.

I did enjoy the fact that they used cabbage instead of lettuce. It had a nice crunch and more flavor than iceberg lettuce. The tacos definitely needed a side dish, such as rice or black beans. That would have added more heartiness and presentation.

I don’t want to judge the entire restaurant based on this one dish. My friend ordered the 1/4 chicken entrée, which looked succulent and full of flavor. I think I’ll choose that entrée next time.

The Ambiance

Sonoma Chicken Coop is a casual restaurant with a modern feel, where customers go up to the counter to order and pick up their food. I enjoyed their outdoor seating area at the San Pedro Square location, which was rustic and woodsy. There was a small bar outside for guests to enjoy a cocktail, a nice fireplace and plenty of seating for a special event such as a birthday or anniversary. Sonoma Chicken Coop in San Pedro Square is a nice place to stop for a bite to eat and a cocktail before venturing out for the rest of the night.

Other Details

Sonoma Chicken Coop is located at 31 N. Market St. in San Jose’s San Pedro Square and has three other San Jose locations as well as restaurants in Campbell and Parsippany, New Jersey. For hours and more information, call the San Pedro Square location at (408) 287-4098 or visit www.sonomachicken.com.

 
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Posted by on February 16, 2015 in Cal-Mex, chicken, Mexican, tacos

 

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More prime rib! Adamson’s French Dip in Sunnyvale is generous with the meat

The Prime Rib French Dip sandwich with Au Jus and Onion Rings at Adamson's French Dip in Sunnyvale.

The Prime Rib French Dip sandwich with Au Jus and Onion Rings at Adamson’s French Dip in Sunnyvale.

The reputation at Adamson’s French Dip precedes itself. I have read good things about the Sunnyvale restaurant, which is known for serving slow-roasted beef cooked in a wood-fired oven. The place has a rating of four out of five stars with more than 800 reviews on Yelp.com, so people are obviously talking.

However, I heard it’s hard to get in there during lunch rush hour. After seeing the size of the place, I can see why. It’s small. But what the restaurant lacks in size, it makes up for in the quality of the food.

Dish of Choice

I ordered the Prime Rib French Dip sandwich, which comes with thinly sliced, wood-oven roasted prime rib on a sweet French roll with a side of Au Jus. I added cheese and grilled onions to my sandwich. I also ordered a fountain drink and a side of onion rings, which are made with sweet Vidalia onions and dipped in beer batter. My meal cost about $16, including tax.

The Taste

You can tell the restaurant takes time roasting its prime rib because the meat was juicy, tender and was not lacking in portions. I hate when you order a sandwich and there is more bread than meat. That was not the issue at Adamson’s. The bread was soft and was lightly toasted to give the sandwich a subtle crunch. The onions for the onion rings were cut thick, and the batter was crispy without being greasy.

I wanted to finish my sandwich, but I would have had to be rolled out in a wheelbarrow if I did. So I opted to take half of my sandwich and some onion rings home.

The Ambiance

Like I mentioned before, Adamson’s is a small restaurant, seating about 30 people in total with indoor and outdoor patio seating. However, I like the look of the place. You can see the wood-fired oven and the employees slicing the meat and preparing the sandwiches from the brick order counter. I also like the vintage gas station and Coca-Cola signs on the walls and the traffic light on the side.

Other Details

Adamson’s French Dip is located at 806 W. El Camino Real in Sunnyvale. Hours are 11 a.m. until the food runs out Monday through Saturday. To order online or for more information, call (408) 830-9024 or visit www.adamsonsfrenchdip.com.

 
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Posted by on February 11, 2015 in French, sandwiches

 

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Prime Rib Shepherd’s Pie is upscale comfort food at Angelica’s in Redwood City

The Prime Rib Shepherd's Pie at Angelica's in Redwood City.

The Prime Rib Shepherd’s Pie at Angelica’s in Redwood City.

I have been on a serious seafood kick lately, so I thought I would switch things up and go a little heartier. The last half of this week has been pretty chilly with the rain coming in, so some good, warm comfort food is in order. I was pleasantly surprised when I arrived to Angelica’s in Redwood City and saw the menu included a shepherd’s pie, a meat pie made with a crust of mashed potatoes.

Dish of Choice

I chose the Prime Rib Shepherd’s Pie, which included slices of prime rib, peas, baby carrots, pearl onions and fresh thyme, topped with a layer of mashed potatoes and a blue cheese garnish. Along with two cranberry and vodka cocktails, my bill came out to about $38 with tax.

The Taste

This dish delivered good comfort food with a fine dining twist. The prime rib was succulent, and the vegetables tasted fresh and tender, without being overcooked or mushy. The potatoes were thick and smooth, with a nice toasting on the top and edges. The blue cheese was baked into the potatoes and created a strong flavor and heartiness. The two pieces of crostini placed on top of the shepherd’s pie made for a quirky presentation and added a nice crunch to the meal.

The Ambiance

Angelica’s has a higher-end vibe without feeling stuffy. The main dining room had dark mahogany furniture and trimming, chandeliers and original musical artwork on the walls. The dining area also had a decent-sized stage area for live entertainment. My dad’s band, Papa’s Bag: A James Brown Experience, performed at Angelica’s Thursday evening and had the room rocking. Angelica’s seems like a great place for dinner and dancing at the end of a hard work week. The prices are a bit higher than casual dining, but the restaurant delivers on the quality.

Other Details

Angelica’s is located at 863 Main St. in downtown Redwood City. The restaurant has a brunch and happy hour menu during the week and on weekends. For more information, call (650) 679-8184 or visit angelicasllc.com.

 
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Posted by on February 7, 2015 in brunch, comfort food, happy hour

 

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Delicious seafood stew can be found at Sunnyvale’s Tarragon, which touts “farm-to-table” cuisine

The Cioppino at Tarragon in Sunnyvale.

The Cioppino at Tarragon in Sunnyvale.

I had never heard of the dish cioppino until I was invited to a family friend’s holiday party in December. It is a stew made with an array of seafood and a tomato-based sauce, and it is delicious. So on Saturday, I was pleased to see my new favorite seafood dish on the menu at Tarragon, which prides itself on serving farm-to-table food made from the freshest, seasonal ingredients from local farms and suppliers.

Dish of Choice

Of course, I chose the cioppino, which was made with mussels, clams, shrimp, whitefish and potatoes in a spicy tomato-saffron sauce, served with garlic bread. I also ordered a glass of chardonnay and split a plate of fried calamari with my parents. In total, my cioppino and glass of wine cost about $25.

The Taste

The seafood in the cioppino was succulent, and the sauce was rich, savory and spicy, but not burn-your-mouth spicy. The fresh tomatoes and herbs stood out strongly. The flavor was not lacking at all. I liked the tender potatoes, but I don’t think they were needed. I think the seafood and the sauce were enough on their own to create a hearty stew. The garlic bread was warm and soft on the inside but had a good crunch and charring on the edges. This was a great dish.

The Fried Calamari at Tarragon in Sunnyvale.

The Fried Calamari at Tarragon in Sunnyvale.

The breading on the calamari was light, crispy and seasoned just right, and the meat was tender. The chipotle aioli had a nice spice and a slight horseradish-like taste. It greatly complemented the calamari.

The Ambiance

Tarragon has an upscale feel, but not in a pretentious way. The warm lighting created a welcoming atmosphere. You definitely want to dress up in a nice blouse or buttoned-down shirt, but you don’t have to wear a gown or suit to feel comfortable dining there.

Our service was great. Our waitress was very courteous and checked on us regularly to make sure we were satisfied with our meal. I look forward to coming back.

Other Details

Tarragon is located at 140 S. Murphy Ave. in downtown Sunnyvale. Lunch hours are 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday through Friday, and dinner starts at 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday. The restaurant also offers a daily happy hour menu and early bird special. For more information, call (408) 737-8003 or visit dinetarragon.com.

 
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Posted by on February 3, 2015 in seafood

 

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