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Monthly Archives: September 2015

Lasagna roll at Pismo Beach eatery is healthy, guilt-free comfort food

The Hand-Rolled Lasagna with Chicken Sausage at Pismo Beach's Graze Kitchen.

The Hand-Rolled Lasagna with Chicken Sausage at Pismo Beach’s Graze Kitchen.

I was not standing in that long line again.

It was about 1 p.m. on a Sunday afternoon in Pismo Beach, and the number of customers waiting to taste Splash Cafe’s award-winning clam chowder was quickly increasing. I already did the 40-minute wait for the popular restaurant’s creamy, rich chowder nestled in a warm sourdough bread bowl the night before.

(Related: Fancy fruit tarts, unbelievable clam chowder and more, Everywhere, California)

The traffic on the sidewalks and streets was getting heavier as more beach-goers were coming into the popular coastal town, so I decided to head back to Silicon Valley sooner than I wanted in order to make good time.

As I was walking to my car, I came across Graze Kitchen, a “farm and sea to table” restaurant that has a menu boasting several vegetarian and vegan entrees. Since I pigged out on delicious, high-calorie chowder the night before, I figured my belly deserved something a little healthier. And it was already grumbling.

The Hand-Rolled Lasagna with Chicken Sausage at Pismo Beach's Graze Kitchen.

The Hand-Rolled Lasagna with Chicken Sausage at Pismo Beach’s Graze Kitchen.

Dish of Choice

The gentleman who took my order, who I assumed was the owner, was very descriptive about the food and was clearly passionate about the craft of cooking.

I was convinced to try one of the day’s specials, a hand-rolled lasagna made with chicken sausage. It was filled with mozzarella, tomato sauce, spinach and onion. The lasagna roll was accompanied with a side salad dressed in vinaigrette. My bill came out to about $12, including tax.

The Taste

This dish was enjoyable because it felt like nothing but good, wholesome ingredients were going into my body. It was comfort food without the guilt.

The chicken sausage had a smoky, spicy kick, and the noodle was tender. There was a good portion of fresh spinach and onions, which were not mushy or overcooked, and the tomatoes were hearty and fresh.

It was just enough food without leaving me feeling stuffed, which I appreciated with the three-hour drive ahead of me.

Side salad with parmesan, arugula and vinaigrette at Pismo Beach's Graze Kitchen.

Side salad with parmesan, arugula and vinaigrette at Pismo Beach’s Graze Kitchen.

Other Details

The restaurant seemed to have a good sense of humor about itself, as evidenced by some of the signs on the walls: “I love tourist, taste like chicken!” and “No working during drinking hours.”

It was a relaxing, comforting atmosphere, and there was an open kitchen in front so customers could see the staff preparing their food. That kind of transparency was welcoming.

Graze Kitchen is located at 841 Dolliver St. in Pismo Beach. The restaurant prides itself on using local, organic and sustainable ingredients and offers tastings of California-made wines and beers.

Hours are 11:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. Wednesday through Sunday, and the restaurant is available for private parties on Mondays and Tuesdays. For more information, call (805) 773-4024 or visit www.grazekitchen.com.

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Posted by on September 29, 2015 in comfort food, food, Italian, Pismo Beach

 

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Delicious chocolate mess: flourless Ghirardelli peanut butter cookies

Flourless peanut butter cookie with Ghirardelli chocolate.

Flourless peanut butter cookie with Ghirardelli chocolate.

That Ghirardelli chocolate square looks like a messy blob on top of that cookie, but you can’t go wrong when you combine the flavors of peanut butter and chocolate.

I came up with this random recipe when I saw all the chocolate I had left from the Ghirardelli Chocolate Festival. Baking it with what was already in the kitchen appealed to the lazy baker in me.

(Related: Ghirardelli Chocolate Festival in San Francisco leads to sugar overload for good cause)

Flourless peanut butter cookies work because they only require a few ingredients, they’re easy to make and they turn out deliciously. They taste like genuine, flour-included cookies, and breaking off the edges of the cookie and dipping them in the melty chocolate center made the treat even more scrumptious.

It’s my own sloppy twist on the peanut butter blossom cookie (I’ll bake the chocolate inside the cookie next time!)

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Click here for the original flourless peanut butter cookie recipe, courtesy of Food Network/Claire Robinson. The following is my edited version, including personalized notes and suggestions:

All the ingredients you need for the recipe (I omitted the salt).

All the ingredients you need for the recipe (I omitted the salt).

Ingredients: 1 cup peanut butter; 1 cup sugar; 1 teaspoon vanilla extract;1 large egg

Directions: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. In a medium-sized bowl, mix the peanut butter, sugar, vanilla and egg until it is well combined. The mixture may look a little grainy due to the sugar, but no worries: the cookies will not tasty grainy.

Spoon a hearty tablespoon of the mixture and ball it up in your hands. Set each mound of mixture about 1 inch apart from each other on an ungreased baking sheet. Flatten the mounds by using the tines of a fork, making a crosshatch pattern on the cookies. Place a Ghirardelli mini in the center of each cookie.

Bake until golden around the edges, about 12 minutes, turning the position of the sheet halfway through baking. Take the cookies out of the oven and let them rest for about 5 minutes. Enjoy!

 
 

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Mountain View Art & Wine Festival offers hodge podge of artwork, food and live entertainment

A collection of lockets and necklaces by local jewelry maker Melissa Huntsman.

A collection of lockets and necklaces by local jewelry maker Melissa Huntsman.

The Mountain View Art & Wine Festival was such a random cluster of so many things that it was hard to just focus on the art and wine.

The event attracted hundreds, if not thousands, of people to downtown Mountain View and was a hodge podge of vendors selling just about everything: trinkets and knick-knacks, clothing, jewelry, food, commercial business services, political campaigns, etc.

There was a big mix of things to browse and buy at the event, which was contained between Evelyn Avenue and El Camino Real on Saturday, Sept. 12 and Sunday, Sept. 13.

There was also a live concert stage for local bands, big screen television for guests to enjoy live football games, and a kids’ park with face painting, balloons and bouncy houses. It was a “come one, come all” kind of event.

My focus was mostly people-watching and checking out some of the unique artwork and creations. Check out the gallery of some of those finds from the festival.

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Posted by on September 17, 2015 in art, live music, wine

 

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Ghirardelli Chocolate Festival in San Francisco leads to sugar overload for good cause

So. Much. Chocolate. A sample of brownies from Arizona-based Fairytale Brownies.

So. Much. Chocolate. A sample of brownies from Phoenix, Ariz.-based Fairytale Brownies.

I never thought I would say this, but here it goes: There is such a thing as too much chocolate.

I discovered this after my visit to the 20th Annual Ghirardelli Chocolate Festival, which easily brought out thousands of chocolate lovers to Ghirardelli Square in San Francisco. For my $40 ticket, I received 15 chocolate samples, as well as 12 additional samples from the event’s chocolate and wine pavilion. I definitely got my money’s worth.

My stomach was not happy with me afterwards, but I couldn’t pass up the chance to try sample upon sample of rich, sweet chocolate creations from more than 50 vendors along the San Francisco Bay.

The Ghirardelli Chocolate Festival, which also featured a chocolate school and ice cream eating contest, benefited Project Open Hand. The San Francisco-based nonprofit provides healthy, nourishing meals to thousands of Bay Area residents battling serious, life-threatening diseases. For more information, call (415) 447-2300 or visit www.openhand.org.

Check out the gallery of some of the treats I saw and tasted on Sunday, Sept. 13.

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Posted by on September 15, 2015 in baked goods, chocolate, dessert, food

 

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Great $5 happy hour deals at posh Vietnamese restaurant in San Jose area

The Kobe Roll at Xanh Vietnamese restaurant in Mountain View.

The Kobe Roll at Xanh Vietnamese restaurant in Mountain View.

Xanh Vietnamese restauant in Mountain View reputedly has one of the best happy hours in the South Bay area. I can see why.

The restaurant, which has a modern, upscale feel, has an extensive menu of signature cocktails and appetizers that range from $5 to $7. Whenever you can walk away from a Silicon Valley restaurant satisfied and only spend $20, that’s a great deal.

Xanh’s happy hour runs from 4:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. throughout the week, giving you plenty of time to get a drink and appetizer if you get out of work at 5 o’clock.

Close-up of the Kobe Roll of Xanh Vietnamese restaurant in Mountain View.

Close-up of the Kobe Roll of Xanh Vietnamese restaurant in Mountain View.

Dish of Choice

I ordered the Steamed Potstickers, which were filled with a mixture of chicken and vegetables, served with yellow curry sauce. I also ordered the Kobe Roll, made with marinated beef, rice noodles, fresh lettuce, cilantro and cucumber, wrapped in soft rice paper. The roll was served with roasted peanuts, crispy shallots and a side of nuoc cham vinaigrette.

For sipping, I chose the Pretty in Pink, made with sparkling pink champagne, Ciroc Red Berry and fresh strawberries. Each item I ordered was $5 each.

The Taste

Out of the two small plates, I liked the Kobe Roll the best. The beef was tender, the lettuce was crisp and the cilantro added zest to the roll. I also like the crunch of the peanuts and shallots on top. It was a light appetizer that left me satisfied.

The Steamed Potstickers at Xanh Vietnamese restaurant in Mountain View.

The Steamed Potstickers at Xanh Vietnamese restaurant in Mountain View.

The dough of the potstickers was soft, and the filling had a mild taste. I liked the green onions sprinkled on top, which added a little extra zip.

The Pretty in Pink was the perfect girly drink: bubbly and not overly sweet or strong. The cocktail went down easy and was even more refreshing when I dropped in the fresh strawberry.

Other Details

Xanh is located at 110 Castro Street. Separate from its dining rooms, the restaurant also has a lounge and bar, as well as an outdoor patio with heaters. Its menu includes an array of noodle dishes, rolls, salads and signature entrees such as Shaking Beef and New Zealand Rack of Lamb.

For more information, call (650) 964-1888 or visit www.xanhrestaurant.com.

 
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Posted by on September 13, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

San Francisco Bay creates beautiful backdrop for Treasure Island day trip

A view of the San Francisco Bay from Treasure Island.

A view of the San Francisco Bay from Treasure Island.

When an acquaintance of mine invited me to spend the day on San Francisco’s Treasure Island for her birthday, I was very apprehensive about making the one-hour drive.

The last time I drove into the city, I was almost side-swiped and rear-ended, and I almost hit a skateboarder who jumped out in front of my car. Plus, the traffic and drivers on Highway 101 tend to be insane.

Despite my anxiety, I wanted to explore Treasure Island, which is surrounded by the San Francisco Bay and is connected to both San Francisco and Oakland by the Bay Bridge. It ended up being a beautiful 80-degree day along the water with some great people.

The Crabcake Sandwich at the Treasure Island Bar and Grill.

The Crabcake Sandwich at the Treasure Island Bar and Grill.

Treasure Island Bar and Grill, 60 Clipper Cove Way

A couple ladies and I first stopped at a deli, which ended up being a very small convenience store that looked like it should be connected to a gas station. We decided to leave and look for another location that offered a place to sit.

Our second stop brought us to Treasure Island Bar and Grill, a casual-dining restaurant with a great view of the bay from its patio area. Customers order at the counter, and the waitstaff brings your order to the table.

I ordered the Crabcake Sandwich, served on a brioche bun and dressed with lettuce, tomato, onion, tartar sauce and chipotle pepper sauce. All sandwiches are served with a side of potato chips, potato salad and a pickle. Guests can take off the chips and add a side salad for $1 more. My order came out to about $10, including tax.

The crabcake was thick and filled with fresh crab meat and spiciness throughout the patty. Even with the tartar and chipotle pepper sauce, the sandwich wasn’t soggy or overloaded. The brioche was soft and had a nice toasting on the edges. The potato salad was chunky and had a rich, creamy flavor and texture. I wish the crabcake was a bit bigger, but overall it was an enjoyable lunch.

In addition to its lunch and dinner menu, Treasure Island Bar & Grill offers several happy hour specials from 4 to 6 p.m. throughout the week, including $1.50 tacos, $2 domestic beers and $3 well drinks, according to its website.

The restaurant also serves bottomless mimosas and $5 Bloody Marys on Sundays from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. For more information, call (415) 627-9060 or visit treasureislandbar.com.

The inside of Vie Winery upon opening for the day.

The inside of Vie Winery upon opening for the day.

Vie Winery, 400 California Avenue

Vie Winery’s tasting room has a rustic and quaint setting. It’s located inside a large shed-like structure, with sheet metal walls, wooden pillars string lights draped along the rafters. Our hostess was very nice, accommodating and made sure we had great service.

The wine tasting flight cost $15 per person and featured five wines: a Rose, Zinfandel, two Syrahs and a GSM blend (Grenache, Syrah and Mourvedre).

My favorites were the 2009 Beatty Ranch Zinfandel and the 2009 Les Amours Syrah. Infused with blackberry and black cherry, as well as a hint of flowers, the Zinfandel had a beautiful aroma, full flavor and a medium heaviness on the tongue. I also enjoyed the fruity aroma of the Syrah, which I thought had a slightly heavier feel than the Zinfandel, according to the menu.

A view of the bocce ball courts upon guests' arrival.

A view of the bocce ball courts upon guests’ arrival.

Vie prides itself on producing high-quality wines from Zinfandel and Rhone varietals from many fine vineyards in California, including Napa Valley, Sonoma County and Santa Barbara County.

Vie Winery offers daily wine tasting from 12 noon to 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, and by appointment Monday through Friday, according to its website. The bocce ball courts are open from 12 to 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, and for private events Monday through Friday. For more information, call (415) 756-1791 or visit www.viewinery.com.

Sol Rouge Vineyard & Winery, 400 California Avenue

Right next door to Vie Winery is the Sol Rouge Winery’s tasting room, also located in a shed-like structure with red clay-colored walls, decorated with various artwork. Our host was a funny guy, and we had a great time exploring new wines with him.

A few of Sol Rouge's wines at its Treasure Island tasting room.

A few of Sol Rouge’s wines at its Treasure Island tasting room.

Sol Rouge offers a wine tasting flight for $15, but we used a complimentary wine-tasting pass to try the six wines. The 2010 Gypsy Rouge and 2010 Syrah. The Gypsy Rouge had a great fruity aroma (I obviously gravitate to that), floral notes and was light on the tongue. The Syrah was smooth and rich in flavor and lighter than what I expected. I’d like to have it with a dish of steak and potatoes.

The Sol Rouge vineyard is a family estate located in Kelseyville, north of Napa Valley in the Red Hills Appellation. The 70-acre estate is planted with Syrah, Zinfandel, Cabernet Sauvignon and several other grape varieties, according to its website.

The Sol Rouge tasting room on Treasure Island offers wine tasting from 12 noon to 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. The winery share bocce ball courts with neighbor Vie Winery during wine tasting hours. For more information, call (415) 756-2254 or visit www.solrouge.com.

 
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Posted by on September 10, 2015 in San Francisco, seafood, wine, winery

 

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Maple bacon sundae with bread pudding makes San Jose Bacon Festival worth the trip

The Maple Bacon Bread Pudding Sundae from FK Frozen Custard.

The Maple Bacon Bread Pudding Sundae from FK Frozen Custard.

The San Jose Bacon Festival of America was an event I was looking forward to all week.

Moveable Feast hosted the event, which highlighted “bacon on everything” treats (typically $6 or less) from more than 20 local food trucks and expected a crowd of 15,000 bacon lovers at downtown San Jose’s Plaza de Cesar Chavez this past Labor Day weekend. Moveable Feast also hosted the San Jose Taco Festival of Innovation in May.

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

Unfortunately, I made a few rookie mistakes that led to me not staying at the bacon festival too long:

1. Not bringing water;

2. Not wearing sunscreen or a big hat; and

3. Not having the patience to stand in lines of 40-plus people to get food.

However, I did visit three vendors, and I plan to at least double that number next year.

FK Frozen Custard, Bay Area

I tend to stay away from custard because it’s usually too rich and sweet for my taste. But I ran into two bacon fans who raved about the Maple Bacon Bread Pudding Sundae at FK Frozen Custard (the food truck company goes by Frozen Kuhsterd on Facebook).

One of the shorter lines at the San Jose Bacon Festival of America.

Some of the shorter lines at the San Jose Bacon Festival of America.

The sundae was absolutely delicious and a great way to indulge. The bread pudding was made out of donut and drizzled in bacon burnt caramel and a generous amount of maple bacon pieces. It was a great sweet-and-savory combination.

I chose the vanilla bean custard, which was a couple steps richer and creamier than vanilla ice cream without going over the top. The bread pudding had a rich and thick texture, and part of the custard melting underneath made the pudding that much more moist. It was one of those dishes that you didn’t want to stop eating.

FK has more than 30 flavors to choose from, including cinnamon toast crunch, avocado and port wine strawberry. The food truck travels to different locations throughout the San Francisco & San Jose Bay Area. For more information, visit www.frozenkuhsterd.com.

Close-up of the Honey Jack Bacon almond brittle from Sweetdragon Baking Company.

Close-up of the Honey Jack Bacon almond brittle from Sweetdragon Baking Company.

Sweetdragon Baking Company, San Jose

I’ve always enjoyed peanut brittle, so I was looking forward to having the salty-sweet treat with bacon.

The Sweetdragon Baking Company was giving out free samples of different flavors, including Maple Bacon Peanut and Honey Jack Bacon, which was made with almonds.

I bought a packet of the Honey Jack Bacon almond brittle. It had a sweet and buttery taste, with bits of bacon throughout the bar. I expected the brittle to be hard and crunchy, but it was rather chewy. Be prepared to get some stuck between your teeth but savor the flavor.

The Sweetdragon Baking Company sells its brittle online and in more than a dozen stores, cafes, farmers markets and other venues in the Bay Area. The company offers peanut, almond, cashew, pistachio and black sesame brittle.

For more information, call (408) 205-7319 or visit sweetdragonbaking.com.

Thai Thai Food Truck, San Jose

My last stop was the Thai Thai Food Truck, which offers Thai cuisine such as Pad Thai, Roti and Red & Yellow Curry.

The Bacon Golden Roll at Thai Thai Food Truck.

The Bacon Golden Roll at Thai Thai Food Truck.

I ordered the Bacon Golden Roll, described as a Thai-style egg roll filled with vegetables and topped with bacon and green onion.

The rolls themselves tasted fine. I liked the crispy wrapping, and the cabbage and sprouts inside were cooked well. However, this dish was a bit uninspired.

I wish the food truck had been more creative than just topping the rolls with small bits of bacon and onion. I was hoping there would be pieces of bacon inside the roll, making the filling more savory.

There was no cohesion between the rolls and the bacon, making the bacon seem out of place. It would have been better if the food truck made a bacon and onion relish or sauce for dipping and drizzling over the rolls.

Thai Thai Food Truck travels to locations throughout the San Jose area. For more information, visit www.thaithaifoodtruck.com.

 
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Posted by on September 8, 2015 in bacon, baked goods, dessert

 

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