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Monthly Archives: May 2015

Walnut Creek brewery delivers delicious food, but waitstaff needs education on food sensitivities

The Crab Cakes at Pyramid Alehouse in Walnut Creek.

The Crab Cakes at Pyramid Alehouse in Walnut Creek.

I got a chance to see one of my good friends in Walnut Creek this Memorial Day weekend, and we were in the mood to enjoy some great food and drinks in the city’s quaint downtown area.

We decided on Pyramid Alehouse, known for its extensive list of craft beers and great pairings of higher-end pub food. Unfortunately, I feel that our waitress — and potentially other staff — needed an education in accommodating guests who have food sensitivities.

The Dish of Choice

I ordered the crab cakes, which were coated in panko crumbs and dressed with a sherry-cayenne aioli. I also chose the mozzarella sticks, which were handmade and egg-roll wrapped, coated in panko crumbs and paired with a spicy marinara sauce for dipping.

For a drink, I ordered the Pyramid IPA, which is described on the menu as a lighter take on the IPA, infused with tropical fruit flavors and a “crisp and zesty finish.”

Altogether, my bill totaled $30 without tax.

The Taste

The crab cakes were delicious and succulent. The crab was tender, and the breading was crispy and not overly heavy. The spice from the aioli caught me off guard at first bite, but after the first few coughs, I really enjoyed the heat.

The mozzarella sticks were filled with a generous amount of cheese, and the egg roll wrapping with the panko crust brought heartiness to the appetizer and set it apart from other mozzarella sticks I’ve tried.

The IPA had a heavy taste (I think IPAs are supposed to be that way) but went down lightly and had refreshing fruity notes.

Altogether, I was pleased with my meal. I only needed to order the crab cakes, which were filling enough on their own. I ate one of the mozzarella sticks and had the rest boxed up to snack on later.

The Mozzarella Sticks at Pyramid Alehouse in Walnut Creek.

The Mozzarella Sticks at Pyramid Alehouse in Walnut Creek.

The Service

Unfortunately, the service left a lot to be desired. My friend has Celiac disease, which means she can not have any gluten products or she will become seriously ill. She explained this to our waitress, who looked at my friend as if she was speaking a foreign language.

When my friend asked what menu items she would recommend for someone who cannot have gluten, the waitress suggested she have a salad. It would have been better if the waitress said, “I am not sure, but let me speak with the chef and come back with some suggestions for you.” The waitress’ body language made it appear as if she was not interested in accommodating my friend.

My friend decided to go with a burger without the bun. The waitress said she could have the burger in a lettuce wrap, which was a good suggestion. My friend couldn’t have the fries because they were cooked in the same oil as foods with gluten. So my friend asked if she could swap it out for another item. The waitress said she could get a side salad but it would be a $2 up-charge.

My friend wasn’t being a picky eater. She would have gotten sick if she had the fries, so being charged an extra $2 for something she cannot help was a bit insulting. My friend decided to give the fries to me.

So when her dish came out, the fries were on the same plate as her burger. Wouldn’t common sense tell you to put the fries on a separate plate?

I try not to be too harsh when it comes to waitstaff because I know they don’t make a lot of money, and dealing with the public is a hard job. The waitress could have been having a bad day or honestly may not have encountered customers with food allergies and sensitivities. But I feel like common sense and compassion on her part could have went a long way.

 
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Posted by on May 29, 2015 in brewpub, craft beers, seafood

 

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Pulled pork waffle & Indian-style tacos highlight trip to Moveable Feast’s SJ Taco Festival

Paneer Crazy Tacos at San Jose/Bay Area's Got Curry?

Paneer Crazy Tacos at San Jose/Bay Area’s Got Curry?

There are three types of food that I will never get tired of: Seafood, Indian food and tacos. So when I found out that Moveable Feast was hosting a festival dedicated to the latter, I knew I had to go.

The company hosted the 4th annual San Jose Taco Festival of Innovation at the city’s History Park, Saturday, May 23 through Sunday, May 24. The festival brought a fleet of food trucks from around the greater Bay area that introduced their own twist on the traditional Mexican dish. The great thing about the festival: All the plates were $6 or less, so you could get full for a reasonable price.

Waffle Amore, San Jose

My first stop at the taco festival was Waffle Amore, which is focused on bringing “the taste of authentic Liege and Brussels waffles” to its customers, according to the food truck’s website. Its toppings include Belgian chocolate hot fudge, maple bacon butter and Speculoos, a type of shortcrust biscuit.

I went for the savory side of the menu and ordered The Porkwich, a crisp waffle sandwich with pulled pork, braised with spices and topped with BBQ sauce and Waffle Amore’s own crunchy Granny Smith Apple fennel cabbage slaw.

The Porkwich at San Jose's Waffle Amore.

The Porkwich at San Jose’s Waffle Amore.

The food truck was generous with the pulled pork, which was tender and moist. The BBQ sauce was sweet and tangy and was a great complement to the slaw, which had a nice crunch and subtle apple flavor. Best of all, the waffle was soft in the middle but crispy on the outside. I didn’t necessarily think “taco” as I ate the dish, but I was not disappointed.

For more information about Waffle Amore, call (408) 645-5351 or visit waffleamore.com and www.facebook.com/WaffleAmore.

Got Curry?, Bay Area/San Jose

After Waffle Amore, I headed over to Got Curry?, a Bay Area food truck that specializes in Indian-Mexican fusion, according to its Facebook page. I was happy to see two of my favorite cuisines coming together. My eyes automatically went to the Paneer Crazy Tacos, soft tortillas topped with cheese cubes, topped with tikka masala sauce, rice, onions, bell peppers and Indian spices.

My tacos did not come with bell peppers, but they were dressed with cilantro, which I think was better anyway. The tikka masala sauce was creamy, and the aioli brought extra spice and tang to the dish. The paneer tasted fresh and had a soft texture, while the cilantro and onions added the taste of a traditional taco.

Despite their small size, these tacos were filling, and I was debating on if I could make a trip to another food truck. It was a great value for $6. For more information about Got Curry?, call (510) 501-5022 or visit www.facebook.com/gotcurry.

Treatbot, San Jose

I wanted to grab a fish taco, but I knew I would be too full for dessert. And I really wanted an ice cream taco.

The Ice Cream Taco at San Jose's Treatbot.

The Ice Cream Taco at San Jose’s Treatbot.

My third and final stop was Treatbot, which specializes in ice cream and karaoke. I ordered the ice cream taco, a waffle cone in the shape of a taco and filled with two scoops of ice cream. Customers could choose from Mexican Chocolate, Pineapple Mojito Sorbet, and Eastside Horchata, a rice milk-flavored ice cream infused with cinnamon. I went with a scoop of Mexican Chocolate and Eastside Horchata.

The ice cream was rich and creamy without being overly sweet. I loved the strong cinnamon flavor in the Eastside Horchata. The Mexican Chocolate was also tasty, but I didn’t see what made it different from regular chocolate. I was expecting the flavor of Mexican hot chocolate, which is flavored with cinnamon and the spicy kick of chili pepper.

I really enjoyed the waffle part of the taco, which was subtly sweet and crisp. I’ve been on a waffle kick lately.

I would like to try some of the other flavors on Treatbot’s regular menu, including The 408 (caramel ice cream with fudge and Oreo cookies) and Macapuno (coconut ice cream with coconut chunks).

For more information about Treatbot, call (408) 548-7328 or visit Treatbot.com or www.facebook.com/Treatbot.

 
 

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Chicken and waffles taken to the next level at Santa Clara’s Butter and Zeus

The Chicken Fried Waffle at Butter and Zeus in Santa Clara.

The Chicken Fried Waffle at Butter and Zeus in Santa Clara.

Chicken and waffles is a dish that has been around for a long time, but it seems like it has become the new trendy brunch item in the last few years. Just about every brunch spot you go to has this delicious, savory/sweet entree on the menu.

Despite this, I was excited to try Butter and Zeus in Santa Clara. The eatery specializes in waffle sandwiches with unique combinations of ingredients, such as brie and prosciutto, pulled pork and cilantro-lime dressing, and smoked salmon and dill sauce.

The Dish of Choice

I chose the Chicken Fried Waffle, which takes a buttermilk-battered and seasoned chicken breast or thigh – your choice – and puts it on top of the restaurant’s Churro Churro Waffle. The Churro Churro Waffle is deep-fried and covered in cinnamon sugar. The sandwich came with a small cup of coleslaw. My order came out to about $8.

The Taste

Prepare to get sweet, cinnamony goodness all over your hands, especially if you are a messy eater like me (I rarely walk away from a meal without getting crumbs down my shirt). The waffle tastes just like a churro – fresh and hot with a nice crunch.

The chicken breast was thick, tender and succulent. I wish the buttermilk breading was a little more seasoned, but it was probably better for my sodium intake. I like that the breading didn’t take over the meat and wasn’t too thick.

I restrained myself, only eating half of the sandwich and boxing the rest for the next day. I think in general, waffles do not taste that great when reheated, so I suggest eating the whole thing in one sitting or sharing it with a friend.

Other Details

The owners of Butter and Zeus named the restaurant after their beloved cat and dog, according to the restaurant’s website. To them, everything tastes better inside of a waffle. I kind of have to agree. I rarely come across anyone who doesn’t enjoy a good waffle every once in a while.

Butter and Zeus is located at 2213 Tasman Drive in Santa Clara, inside a strip mall less than a half-mile away from Levi’s Stadium. Hours are 10:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Friday and 9:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. For more information, call (408) 727-1800 or visit www.butterandzeus.com.

 
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Posted by on May 19, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

Surf and turf, made-from-scratch ice cream highlight nostalgic Santa Cruz trip

A beautiful, sunny and warm day at Santa Cruz Beach.

A beautiful, sunny and warm day at Santa Cruz Beach.

I have nothing but good memories when I think of Santa Cruz.

The view of the boardwalk and its festive carnival rides, shops and restaurants remind me of my childhood summer trips to California and leave me feeling jubilant and nostalgic. After a couple of mentally exhausting weeks, I was ready to make the hour trip down to Santa Cruz’s sandy beaches.

A group of sea lions sunbathing near the Santa Cruz Wharf.

A group of sea lions sunbathing near the Santa Cruz Wharf.

Saturday’s trip was perfect, from the 70-degree, slightly breezy weather to the shiny blue-green waters to the sounds of sea lions sunbathing and swimming near the wharf. During our day of sun and relaxation, we also got a chance to try some local cuisine at Olitas Cantina & Grille on the wharf and The Penny Ice Creamery in downtown Santa Cruz.

Olitas Cantina & Grille

The first thing that popped out to me about the Mexican restaurant is the awesome panoramic view of the Monterey Bay. I always enjoy having a meal with a beautiful view. I also liked the interior of the restaurant,which features a custom-made Hawaiian Koa wood bar and Honduran mahogany furniture and accents, according to its website.

I also enjoyed the unique offerings on the menu, which included free range duck “carnitas” tacos, Maine lobster quesadilla and ahi tuna tostada stack, which looked like a sculpture and too pretty to eat.

The Surf & Turf Quesadilla at Olitas Cantina & Grille in Santa Cruz.

The Surf & Turf Quesadilla at Olitas Cantina & Grille in Santa Cruz.

I ordered the Surf & Turf Quesadilla, which was made with shredded cheese, carne asada and Maine lobster and served with a lobster dipping sauce. Although Surf & Turf is a very common entree, putting the steak and seafood together into a quesadilla is a unique twist that I wanted to try. The dish cost $22.

The carne asada and lobster were tender and worked in sync. The chef did not skimp on the helpings of meat, and I enjoyed a good helping of steak and seafood in each bite. The quesadilla was made with plenty of cheese, which I enjoyed because I am a cheese fiend.

The peppers brought freshness to the savory dish. The dipping sauce was very buttery, but it worked well with the lobster. Do not eat this dish if you’re worried about calorie intake.

The Surf & Turf Quesadilla at Olitas Cantina & Grille in Santa Cruz.

The Surf & Turf Quesadilla at Olitas Cantina & Grille in Santa Cruz.

Olitas Cantina & Grille is located at 49B Municipal Wharf. The restaurant and bar offers different specials and events during the week, including a happy hour Monday through Friday and Live Jazz Wednesdays. Olitas opens every day at noon. For more information, call (831) 458-9393 or visit www.olitassantacruz.com.

The Penny Ice Creamery

This quaint ice cream shop is situated in downtown Santa Cruz, inside a 90-year-old Spanish Colonial Revival building, according to its website.

Open for business since 2010, The Penny Ice Creamery is focused on serving made-from-scratch, in-house ice cream, featuring locally farmed and organic ingredients with no artificial flavors or preservatives.

A single waffle cone of Burnt Cinnamon ice cream at The Penny Ice Creamery in Santa Cruz.

A single waffle cone of Burnt Cinnamon ice cream at The Penny Ice Creamery in Santa Cruz.

Some of the creamery’s unique flavors include Lime Shortbread, Tahitian Vanilla Bean and Dark Chocolate Sorbet. Some of the ladies ordered an ice cream cone with toasted marshmallow on top. I’m not a big marshmallow fan, but those cones looked delicious.

The shop had a steady stream of customers coming through, and I got the impression that it has become a popular staple in the Santa Cruz community.

I ordered a single waffle cone of the Burnt Cinnamon ice cream, which cost about $4. The flavor reminded me of creme brulee and Cinnamon Toast Crunch cereal combined. It was a great, fresh flavor, and I liked that the ice cream wasn’t overly sweet or rich. When I’m back in Santa Cruz, I will be stopping at The Penny Ice Creamery again.

The shop is located at 913 Cedar St. and is open daily from noon to 11 p.m. For more information, call (831) 204-2523 or visit thepennyicecreamery.com.

 
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Posted by on May 3, 2015 in ice cream, Mexican, seafood

 

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