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Monthly Archives: June 2015

Rich, cheesy garlic bread, mesquite grilled snapper round out well-deserved Father’s Day dinner

The Garlic Cheezy Bread at The Fish Market in Santa Clara.

The Garlic Cheezy Bread at The Fish Market in Santa Clara.

By choice, I recently uprooted my life as a newspaper reporter in Michigan to pursue a longtime dream of living on the West Coast. With that move has come a 10-month rollercoaster ride of emotions, both good and bad.

One of those poor, unsuspecting riders of this rollercoaster has been my dad, who has been a rock and strong support when I feel I’m at my most crazy.

I’m living with him and my stepmom until I land a better-paying gig that will allow me to live on my own (or at least get an apartment with five other roommates).

I know living with someone as mega-sensitive and emotional as me is not easy as I go through the highs and lows of figuring out my life’s direction. Keeping up with the highly competitive job market in the Silicon Valley, establishing new friendships and avoiding the dread of online dating are just a few of my concerns.

My Dad and I, hanging out at a local watering hole in the Silicon Valley area.

My Dad and I, hanging out at a local watering hole in the Silicon Valley area.

Despite my ongoing anxieties, my dad always reassures me that I’m not going insane but just experiencing the growing pains of starting over.

So the very least I could do for this man was go in with my stepmom to treat him to a well-deserved, thank-you Father’s Day dinner at one of his favorite restaurants, The Fish Market in Santa Clara.

One of the reasons why we enjoy this restaurant is because the food is consistently delicious. As frugal as I can be, I don’t mind spending more if the food leaves my palate and my belly satisfied after each visit. The Santa Clara restaurant, which has been around since 1979, prides itself on offering the freshest of seafood options and updates its menu daily to reflect changes in season, availability and fishing luck, according to its website.

Dish of Choice

For starters, we ordered the Garlic Cheezy Bread, which takes the restaurant’s signature Romano cheese sauce and bakes it on top of a split sourdough loaf. We also ordered the Salt & Pepper Calamari, cooked in tempura breading and served with a side of sweet chili sauce.

For my entree, I ordered the Mesquite Grilled skewered combination plate with pacific red snapper (or rockfish), white tiger shrimp and sea scallops. The dish came with two sides, so I chose the Au Gratin potatoes and roasted vegetables.

The Salt & Pepper Calamari at The Fish Market in Santa Clara.

The Salt & Pepper Calamari at The Fish Market in Santa Clara.

My father chose the Seafood Salad & Avocado, which was dressed with cucumbers, green beans, hard-boiled egg and king crab salad with basil vinaigrette. My stepmom ordered the Washington Myagi Oysters, coated with Panko breading with Au Gratin potatoes and coleslaw. Along with three iced teas, our bill totaled about $84.

The Taste

The Garlic Cheezy Bread was the highlight of our meal. The bread had a delightful crunch, toasted just right on the edges but still soft on the inside. If you love garlic, you’ll love this appetizer because the garlic flavor is strong. The cheese sauce had a bold, hearty taste, and it created a delicious, bubbly layer on top of the bread.

I liked that the calamari breading was light in texture, but I wish there was a smidge more seasoning. I also enjoyed that the chef incorporated bell peppers and jalapenos, which brought subtle heat to the dish. The sweet and sour tang of the chili dipping sauce was an interesting switch from the aioli and marinara that is typically paired with calamari.

I liked the mild tastes of the snapper – which had the right amount of flakiness – as well as the shrimp and sea scallops. I didn’t get a strong “fishy” taste, which I appreciate. The restaurant takes the seafood in this dish and charbroils it over hot mesquite coals. This brought a smokiness to the edges of the meat without burning it to a crisp.

A closeup of the Mesquite Grilled skewered combination at The Fish Market in Santa Clara.

A closeup of the Mesquite Grilled skewered combination at The Fish Market in Santa Clara.

The seafood paired well with the creamy richness of the Au Gratin potatoes and the roasted vegetables, that were cooked just enough to leave a subtle crunch (there’s nothing worse than mushy vegetable medley).

Other Details

Every time we go to The Fish Market, we have received consistently good customer service along with a delicious meal. Our waitress Charming was very courteous and attentive, talking to us as if we were old friends. She made us feel at home.

The Santa Clara location is just one of six in the state and has become a popular staple among local residents and the business crowd, according to its website. The restaurant also has a retail seafood market that displays fresh fish everyday and an oyster bar that fills up pretty fast with hungry customers.

The Santa Clara location is at 3775 El Camino Real. For more information, including happy hour specials, visit www.thefishmarket.com or www.facebook.com/thefishmarketsantaclara.

 
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Posted by on June 23, 2015 in comfort food, seafood

 

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Oreo pancakes, cinnamon roll French toast highlight guilty pleasures at popular Bill’s Cafe in San Jose

The Cookies & Cream Pancakes at Bill's Cafe in San Jose.

The Cookies & Cream Pancakes at Bill’s Cafe in San Jose.

If there is ever a time to indulge in decadent, high-calorie treats, it’s brunch.

So I got excited to try some of the guilty pleasures from the menu at Bill’s Cafe, a popular brunch spot that has several locations throughout the San Jose area.

Some of the items on my to-do list are the Chilaquiles – eggs scrambled in corn tortillas, with chorizo, jalapenos and jack cheese – and the Cinnamon Roll French Toast – a giant, freshly-made cinnamon roll, dipped in rich batter and grilled to perfection.

Dish of Choice

I chose the Cookies & Cream Pancakes, made with buttermilk batter, mixed with crushed Oreo cookies and topped with whipped cream and powdered sugar. I went with the 2-pancake short stack for $7.50 and added a side of bacon for an extra $2.75.

I also ordered a cranberry mimosa for $6.99. Altogether, my bill came out to about $17, pre-tax and tip.

Close-up of the Cookies & Cream Pancakes at Bill's Cafe in San Jose.

Close-up of the Cookies & Cream Pancakes at Bill’s Cafe in San Jose.

The Taste

Although I love Oreo cookies and I love pancakes, I was apprehensive about putting them together in one dish. I thought their textures and flavors might be too much of a contrast.

The combination worked. The subtle sweetness of the pancake kept the dish from becoming saccharine, and the moisture and warmth of the pancake helped soften the cookie crumbles, creating delicious pockets of chocolatey goodness within the pancake. Adding maple syrup would have been overkill. The whipped cream was light and just enough decadence without tipping the scale.

I could not finish my short stack, and I took the other half home. To be honest, the dish was pretty tasty when I reheated it two days later. Now that’s a good pancake!

Just as a note: Bill’s Cafe offers other interesting griddle entrees, such as the Almond Joy Pancakes (filled with almonds, coconut and chocolate chips) and the Hawaiian Pancakes (filled with bananas, macadamia nuts and coconut).

That being said, my pancakes had a few coconut shavings and a couple nuts inside. This was not an issue for me, but it could be for someone who is allergic to either of those items. If you are, make sure to specify that when you’re ordering.

The Cranberry Mimosa at Bill's Cafe in San Jose.

The Cranberry Mimosa at Bill’s Cafe in San Jose.

Other Details

I could tell Bill’s Cafe at 302 N. Bascom Ave. was a popular spot for Sunday brunch when they offered overflow parking at the market next door. This casual dining establishment was crazy busy when eight ladies and I went on a recent Sunday, so expect a wait, no matter the size of your party.

We arrived around noon, so I was already expecting to wait an hour or more. To my surprise, we only had to wait about 35-40 minutes. Not bad for such a big group.

Bill’s Cafe has four other SJ locations: 1115 Willow St., 2089 The Alameda; 5631 Cottle Road; and 1401 Kooser Road.

For more information, call the Bascom Avenue location at (408) 287-2455 or visit billscafe.com.

 
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Posted by on June 14, 2015 in breakfast, brunch, comfort food

 

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Vibrant combinations of bruschetta please the eyes and palate at San Mateo wine cafe

The bruschetta appetizer at B Street and Vine in San Mateo.

The Bruschetta appetizer at B Street and Vine in San Mateo.

Up until last Saturday, I thought of bruschetta as a relatively plain dish – tomatoes and basil on top of bite-sized pieces of toast.

San Mateo’s B Street and Vine proved me wrong and helped me gain a better appreciation for the classic Italian appetizer.

The quaint wine cafe has more than 15 combinations of bruschetta to choose from, including Gorgonzola cheese & honey and ricotta with dates & pistachios. Bruschetta lovers should be pleased by what B Street & Vine has to offer.

The Autostrada Panini at B Street and Vine in San Mateo.

The Autostrada Panini at B Street and Vine in San Mateo.

Dish of Choice

My friends and I ordered the bruschetta to split. Diners can choose four combinations, so we ordered the following: salami with feta and pesto; olive tapenade, cucumbers, tomato and feta; red pepper remoulade with tomato, feta and basil (I obviously enjoy the strong, salty taste of feta); and mango, tomato, cilantro and avocado. A plate of bruschetta ranges from $12 to $16, depending on if you want some the restaurant’s more premium ingredients or gluten-free bread when available.

For dinner, I ordered the Autostrada Panini, made with four Italian meats: soppresata, prosciutto, salami and mortadella. It was dressed with tomatoes, provolone and pesto and served on grilled ciabatta roll.

Guests can also choose sliced sour bread, or gluten-free bread, when available, for $2 extra, according to the cafe’s website. The panini came with a side salad or kettle chips. Trying to be somewhat healthy, I went with the side salad. My entree cost $8.50. Our table also split a bottle of Riesling Kabinett from Germany for $25.

The Autostrada Panini at B Street and Vine in San Mateo.

The Autostrada Panini at B Street and Vine in San Mateo.

The Taste

The bruschetta was the standout item of the night. The bread was cut into shareable pieces, was perfectly toasted on the edges and soft and hearty on the inside.

My favorite combination was the salami, feta and pesto. I love Italian meats like salami because they typically have a more distinct bite and peppery taste than regular cold cuts. The pungent taste of feta paired well with the pesto, which was smooth and rich in flavor.

I also enjoyed the mango, tomato, cilantro and avocado. I’ve always liked the creamy texture of avocado, and the mango was sweet and juicy without making the bread soggy.

The Riesling Kabinett at B Street and Vine in San Mateo.

The Riesling Kabinett at B Street and Vine in San Mateo.

As for the panini, I thought having four different Italian meats on one sandwich would bog it down, make it messy and be over-the-top in saltiness. But the meats were cut in manageable, thin slices and placed neatly on the sandwich, and there was just enough ingredients without feeling stuffed or dehydrated. Just like the bruschetta, the bread was soft on the inside with just the perfect amount of grilling on the outside.

The Riesling was light and sweet, and the honey and apricot flavors were prominent. It wasn’t quite sugary enough to be a dessert wine, but it was close. If you like your wines more on the sweeter side, this wine is worth a try.

Other Details

For those who enjoy wine but are also looking for a bargain, B Street & Vine has some good specials throughout the week. Any glass of wine is half-off from noon to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday, according to its website. Diners can also get wine by the glass for half-off on Monday nights with a purchase of any entree.

B Street & Vine also has patio dining and live music from 7 to 10 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday and 6 to 9 p.m. Sunday. I will admit that the seating we got was a bit tight, but that might be to create more of an intimate atmosphere. Plus, it was a Saturday, which is a popular dining night. The live music was also at the right volume, so I didn’t have to shout in order to talk to my friends. Overall, it was an enjoyable night.

B Street & Vine is located at 320 S. B Street in San Mateo. For hours, music schedule and more information, call (650) 347-8463 or visit bstreetandvine.com or www.facebook.com/bstreetandvine.

 
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Posted by on June 11, 2015 in Italian, sandwiches, wine

 

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Shrimp enchiladas smothered in creamy enjococado sauce a delight at Mountain View’s Agave Mexican Bistro

Enchiladas de Camaron with enjococado sauce at Agave Mexican Bistro in Mountain View.

Enchiladas de Camaron with enjococado sauce at Agave Mexican Bistro in Mountain View.

In my humble opinion, Mountain View has one of the best downtown districts in the Silicon Valley area when it comes to dining.

Visitors who stroll down Castro Street have more than 50 eateries to choose from to satisfy their appetite, with cuisine ranging from Indian to French, to Italian to Korean, and so much more.

Close-up of the enjococado sauce over the Enchiladas de Camaron at Agave Mexican Bistro in Mountain View.

Close-up of the enjococado sauce over the Enchiladas de Camaron at Agave Mexican Bistro in Mountain View.

My dad wanted to take me and my stepmom out to dinner, and our Saturday night excursion led us to Agave Mexican Bistro. Alexandro Garcia, a Mexico native who brings his family’s favorite recipes to his cooking, owns the restaurant and three others in the Bay Area with Susan Garcia, according to the restaurant’s website. Agave is known for combining traditional Mexican flavors with a health-conscious “California-style of cooking,” according to its website.

Dish of Choice

I love when I can combine two of my favorite foods – seafood and Mexican – in one dish. I chose the Enchiladas de Camaron, tortillas filled with bay shrimp and cheese, and smothered in your choice of enjococado (a yogurt- or sour cream-based sauce), green or red sauce. I chose the enjococado sauce, and the meal came with black beans and rice. With a hibiscus mojito, my portion of the meal came out to $26.

The Calamari at Agave Mexican Bistro in Mountain View.

The Calamari at Agave Mexican Bistro in Mountain View.

With my parents, I split the fried calamari, which came with a side of chipotle aioli. The appetizer cost $10.

The Taste

I’m happy that I went with the enjococado sauce (I had to Google it before I ordered). The sauce was creamy and savory, and there was a generous amount of cheese and shrimp in each bite. The enchiladas were tender, and they didn’t taste like they were made with regular flour tortillas. They taste like a hybrid of a noodle and moist cornmeal in texture. They were delicious. The chopped nuts on top added a toasty flavor and interesting texture to the dish.

The Hibiscus Mojito at Agave Mexican Bistro in Mountain View.

The Hibiscus Mojito at Agave Mexican Bistro in Mountain View.

The hibiscus mojito was refreshing and light, not too strong or overloaded with sugar. I also enjoyed the mint and citrus flavors. This will be my go-to drink on my next visit.

The calamari was solid, but it didn’t wow me. The meat was lightly breaded, but I wish there was a bit more seasoning. The aioli was mild in flavor and light in texture. I was hoping for more heat.

Other Details

We received great service at Agave, which has a modern yet laid-back, homey feel. Our waitress was very nice and courteous, and she came back frequently to make sure we had everything we needed. It’s always a good feeling when you get great service and a great meal. Unfortunately, those things don’t always go together, but Agave covered both fronts.

Agave Mexican Bistro is located at 194 Castro Street in Mountain View. For hours and more information, call (650) 969-6767, or visit agaveca.com or www.facebook.com/AgaveCA.

 
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Posted by on June 2, 2015 in Cal-Mex, Mexican, seafood

 

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