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Category Archives: comfort food

Cheddar & bacon waffles with fried chicken, organic maple syrup and cranberry butter

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Fried Chicken & Breakfast Waffles at NOLA in Palo Alto.

Baking cheddar and bacon inside the waffles set NOLA’s Fried Chicken and Breakfast Waffles apart from the usual brunch fare.

The waffles were fluffy on the inside but crispy on the outside, and dipping the waffles in the organic maple syrup created a delicious sweet and savory combination. The chicken breasts were huge, thick and tender, and the breading was crisp and peppery.

If you love thyme, you’ll want to try this. It is accompanied with a side of thick chicken-thyme gravy, as well as a side of creamy cranberry butter.

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Closeup of fried chicken at NOLA in Palo Alto.

NOLA did not skimp on the portions, either. On a recent Sunday, I only made it 1/3 of the way through my meal, and I took the rest home for an additional two meals. However, I’m one of those people who likes to spread their food out in small meals throughout the day.

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Close up of cheddar and bacon waffles at NOLA in Palo Alto.

It is by far the best chicken and waffles I’ve had so far. These menu items at the Palo Alto restaurant are on my to-do list for my next visit:

Bananas Foster French Toast: Baguette french toast, cream cheese, candied pecans, bananas, rum & brown sugar foster sauce

Shrimp & Crab Salad Po Boy: Wild gulf shrimp & lump crab salad, with lemon herb aioli and avocado, on a toasted bun

Lemon-Ricotta Pancakes: Paired with housemade raspberry compote and whipped cream cheese

NOLA is located at 535 Ramona St. in Palo Alto. For hours and more information, visit www.nolas.com or call (650) 328-2722.

 

 

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Fresh seafood, beautiful waterfront and downtown nightlife highlight first visit to Seattle

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View of the Seattle skyline from Kerry Park.

Somewhere between a huge, thick pancake and a fluffy biscuit is the savory Dutch Baby. Bacon and broccoli are cooked throughout the warm and moist baked dough, the top is covered in sharp white cheddar, and the croissant-like outer crust puffs out along the edges of the small skillet. This brunch dish at Tilikum Place Cafe is one of the best I have ever had on the West Coast and a great kickoff to my first visit to Seattle.

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The savory Dutch Baby at Tilikum Place Cafe in Seattle.

The fresh seafood, the waterfront, the parks and the downtown nightlife are enough to convince me to move to Seattle in the next five years. Seattle has that big city atmosphere without feeling overcrowded with people and traffic. Being the awestruck tourist, I loved the sight of the Space Needle outside my friends’ apartment window and the snow-capped Mt. Rainier from afar at Myrtle Edwards Park.

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Fresh seafood on display at the Pike Place Market in Seattle.

There’s no shame in doing all the touristy stuff: shopping at the Pike Place Market, visiting the famous Market Theater Gum Wall, walking along the waterfront near Pier 70, and viewing the beautifully lit skyline from Kerry Park. The send-off was sampling from the extensive list of ciders at Capitol Cider and performing Japanese-style karaoke at Rock Box, where patrons get to reserve private rooms to drink and sing silly songs with their friends.

These places make for a great Seattle to-do list, but there’s so much more to explore. Check out the photo gallery of my trip to this great city.

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Posted by on January 24, 2016 in brunch, comfort food, seafood, travel

 

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Sunday Brunch: Rich Canadian rock crab and Swiss quiche with fresh fruit

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The Canadian rock crab quiche at Country Gourmet American Bistro in Sunnyvale.

Whenever I go to a restaurant for Sunday brunch, the first item I look for on the menu is quiche. This rich egg pie is just one of those dishes that I strictly associate with brunch. If a restaurant wins me over with its quiche, I’m likely to become a regular.

The Canadian rock crab quiche at Sunnyvale’s Country Gourmet American Bistro convinced me to put the restaurant in my Sunday brunch rotation. The egg filling was packed with rich flavor and a generous amount of crab, Swiss cheese and onions baked through. The dish had a nice toasting on the top, and you could tell the crust was made from scratch.

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Close-up of the Canadian rock crab quiche at Country Gourmet American Bistro in Sunnyvale.

It was great comfort food. I even enjoyed the juicy fresh fruit, and I’m not really a big fruit fan. It was a great meal for only $10 (not including the $7 mimosa I had to accompany the meal).

Country Gourmet American Bistro is a family-owned business that seems to take pride in the quality and healthiness of its food. The food is never made from mixes, and the restaurant buys local, organic and free-range products when they are available, according to its website. It also offers a gluten-free menu that includes a housemade gluten-free cornbread.

Country Gourmet American Bistro is located at 1314 S. Mary Ave. For more information, call (408) 733-9446 or visit www.country-gourmet.com.

 

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Chimichanga with chorizo, creamy sauce and fresh guacamole brings back childhood memories

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Close-up of the Chimichanga special with chorizo at Speedy’s Tacos in Sunnyvale.

Chimichanga is one of those dishes that brings back childhood memories of my family regularly visiting a local Mexican restaurant less than a mile from our Metro Detroit home.

I remember the anticipation of cutting into that crispy fried tortilla and getting to the meaty, cheesy center. I savored every bite but could barely ever get through the whole dish, which was about the size of my head. It was all the deliciousness of a burrito, only deep-fried.

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The Chimichanga special with chorizo at Speedy’s Tacos in Sunnyvale.

Those fond memories came to mind when I arrived at Speedy’s Tacos, a family-owned restaurant that opened its doors this year at the corner of E. Duane Ave. and San Rafael St. in Sunnyvale.

With Chimichanga as one of the daily specials, I decided on a chimichanga with chorizo, a spicy sausage. The dish came with a side of rice and guacamole and cost about $10. These days, you spend almost that much on a fast-food combo.

The Taste

The chimichanga special was a satisfying dish that I could only get through halfway. The tortilla was thick and had that nice crunch on the outside, but it wasn’t greasy.

I like the creamy, pumpkin-colored sauce that surrounded the chimichanga. The texture and taste reminded me of enjococado sauce, a yogurt- or sour cream-based sauce that I tried for the first time this year at another local Mexican restaurant. (Related: Shrimp enchiladas smothered in creamy enjococado sauce)

The chorizo was crumbly and tender, with a mild, smoky spiciness. The guacamole was thick, fresh and a great complement to the savory chorizo. It was a good-sized meal for what I paid.

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The Chimichanga special with chorizo at Speedy’s Tacos in Sunnyvale.

Other Details

Speedy’s Tacos is a casual restaurant where customers order at the counter, and the waitstaff brings the food to your table. The restaurant has a patio area to enjoy your meal on those warmer days.

Speedy’s Tacos offers an array of meats for its tacos, including fish, shrimp, al pastor and carne asada. Vegetable tacos are also available. The menu also boasts taquitos, tortas, burritos, tamales and several a la carte items.

Speedy’s Tacos is located at 929 E. Duane Ave. Hours are 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 2 to 8 p.m. Sunday. For more information, call (408) 685-2791 or visit www.speedystacos.com.

 
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Posted by on November 20, 2015 in comfort food, Mexican

 

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Juicy Umami Burger with parmesan frico and shiitake mushroom

The Umami Burger at Umami Burger in Palo Alto.

The Umami Burger at Umami Burger in Palo Alto.

The juices were dripping onto the plate from the burger as I grabbed it to take my first bite. Knowing how often I end up wearing my food in public, I set the burger back down and started eating it with a knife and fork.

I probably looked ridiculous, but the Umami Burger was the juiciest, melt-in-your-mouth beef sandwich I’ve had in recent memory. I could tell the beef was of top-choice quality, and the medium rare patty was not salty, like some burgers can be. The soft bun was like a sponge for the juices, but it didn’t get soggy or fall apart.

My favorite part about the burger, besides the patty, was the parmesan frico. I had to Google what that was: it’s basically cheese, baked or fried until it turns into a crispy wafer of deliciousness. So, a cheese chip. I loved it, and it just added more savoriness to the burger.

I also enjoyed the Umami house ketchup, which had a sweet and tangy flavor, and I picked up a slight marinara taste as well.

The only recommendation that my friend had was that the restaurant needs some wet wipes at the table, just in case you get beef juices down your hands. Other than that, Umami Burger will be in my South Bay dining rotation and a place I’ll take out-of-town visitors.

Umami Burger in Palo Alto is decorated with tall shelves of books, like a library or study.

Umami Burger in Palo Alto is decorated with tall shelves of books, like a library or study.

Other Details

I try to stay away from reviewing restaurants that have a footprint outside of the West Coast. I’ve done a few in the past, but I quickly realized I wanted to focus on locally-owned establishments.

Umami Burger has three locations in New York, one in Illinois and one in Nevada. However, the restaurant was born in Southern California, and 80 percent of its locations are in this state.

With it being so close to Stanford University, I like that the Palo Alto location looks like a library or study with its tall shelves of books, wooden furniture and artwork. I felt like I could just order a cup of coffee and read a good book for hours.

Umami Burger’s Palo Alto location is situated at 452 University Ave. For more information, call 650-321-8626 or visit www.umamiburger.com.

 
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Posted by on October 11, 2015 in burgers, comfort food

 

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Sunday Brunch: Brioche french toast with huckleberry compote and Grand Marnier creme

The Brioche French Toast at Sam's Chowder House in Palo Alto.

The Brioche French Toast at Sam’s Chowder House in Palo Alto.

The huckleberry compote and the Grand Marnier creme were what drew me in to the brioche french toast at Sam’s Chowder House. I typically stay away from french toast (having too much egg makes me nauseated), but the Sunday brunch entrée at the Palo Alto restaurant was too tempting to pass up.

The Home Fries at Sam's Chowder House in Palo Alto.

The Home Fries at Sam’s Chowder House in Palo Alto.

Luckily, the egg did not dominate the taste of the french toast, which was thick, pillowy soft on the inside, and nicely toasted on the outside. The compote was sweet with a little tartness, and this berry sauce soaked into the toast, making it that much more moist. The Grand Marnier added a subtle citrusy taste to the light and smooth cream. If you’re a fan of french toast, make sure this entrée is on your list.

The Sunday brunch menu at Sam’s Chowder House is not extensive, but there are some intriguing items, including the Dungeness Crab Deviled Eggs and the Smoked Salmon Soft Scramble with tarragon and home fries. The brunch menu also offers bottomless mimosas and a “Build Your Own Bloody Mary” bar with more than 20 ingredients to choose from.

The Nueske's Bacon at Sam's Chowder House in Palo Alto.

The Nueske’s Bacon at Sam’s Chowder House in Palo Alto.

The restaurant also serves lunchtime items, such as sandwiches, appetizers and seafood house specialties, if you’re not in the mood for brunch. Hours for brunch are 10:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Sundays.

Sam’s Chowder House in Palo Alto is located at 185 University Ave. For more information, call (650) 614-1177 or visit samschowderhousepa.com.

(Related: Big clam helpings by the spoonful at Sam’s Chowder House in Palo Alto)

 
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Posted by on October 6, 2015 in breakfast, brunch, comfort food, food

 

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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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