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The Silicon Slammer: Soft French bread topped with pastrami, salami, roast beef and provolone

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The Silicon Slammer at The Sandwich Spot in Sunnyvale.

When I can get lunch for under $10 and be met with a friendly staff, I am a happy camper.

I got both at The Sandwich Spot, a casual deli shop that offers 24 specialty sandwiches and five house specials (including tri-tip Friday through Sunday) at its downtown Sunnyvale location.

The made-to-order sandwich company has 28 of its 29 locations in California – one location in Las Vegas – and was born in midtown Sacramento in 2006. The Sunnyvale location hosted its grand opening in January of this year.

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The “Love All Feed All” signage at The Sandwich Spot in Sunnyvale.

Dish of Choice

I was in the mood for roast beef with a little something extra, so I chose the Silicon Slammer – pastrami, roast beef, salami and choice of cheese and bread. I chose provolone and soft French bread. I also selected “everything” to go on the sandwich: mayo, mustard, secret sauce, lettuce, tomato, pickles, onions and banana peppers.

I ordered the combo meal, which included a bag of chips and a 20-ounce fountain drink. My meal came to just under $10, including tax.

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A close-up of the Silicon Slammer at The Sandwich Spot in Sunnyvale.

The Taste

At first glance, I thought the sandwich needed more meat. But once I bit into it, I realized it was just enough. The meats went well together and were tender, savory and flavorful. Juices came down onto the basket as I picked up the sandwich. The French bread was soft and thick.

I was trying to distinguish the secret sauce from the mustard and mayo. I thought I tasted something similar to pesto or Italian dressing, but my palate could have been confused from all the flavors combined together on the sandwich. Next time, I’ll ask for the secret sauce on the side. Either way, it was a great sandwich.

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Other Details

I was most impressed with the friendliness of the staff at The Sandwich Spot. I was greeted by the cashier, who had an enthusiastic smile and made me feel welcomed. The staff routinely went around to customers’ tables to make sure they enjoyed their meal. When a customer inquired about the soup of the day, the cashier gladly offered him a sample. Little things like that make for good customer service.

I also enjoyed some of the original mural artwork, including the “Love All Feed All” signage painted in graffiti style on the wall behind the order counter and a picture of what I assumed was the San Francisco Bay on the left side wall. The pillar painted like a Redwood tree with a sign that says “Rooted in the Bay!” was also a nice touch.

The Sandwich Spot in Sunnyvale is located at 121 S. Frances St. A breakfast menu is expected to come soon, but the current hours are 10 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. seven days a week, according to its website.

For more information, call the Sunnyvale location at (408)962-0463 or visit thesandwichspot.com.

 
 

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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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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

 

Chicken fried steak, champagne punch create delicious brunch at Mountain View beer garden

The Chicken Fried Steak at Steins Beer Garden & Restaurant in Mountain View.

The Chicken Fried Steak at Steins Beer Garden & Restaurant in Mountain View.

I always thought chicken fried steak sounded like a ridiculously fatty recipe.

I can almost feel the extra fat accumulating around my gut when I think of a slab of beef dipped in batter, fried like a drumstick, then covered in thick, country-style gravy. However, if there is ever a time to indulge in decadence, it’s brunch.

So I went for it at Steins Beer Garden & Restaurant in Mountain View, which has a weekend brunch menu that serves fresh baked pretzels and stuffed donuts filled with fresh fruit and cream (I’m getting the donut next time!).

Dish of Choice

So I went back and forth between the Biscuits & Gravy and the Chicken Fried Steak and Eggs, but I finally decided on the latter. The steak is coated and fried in buttermilk batter and covered in country gravy. It’s also served with eggs any style (I ordered scrambled), biscuits, and country potatoes.

To sip on, I ordered the Champagne Punch, made with champagne (of course), vodka, simple syrup, lemon juice, and seasonal fresh fruits.

Part of the Chicken Fried Steak and Eggs entree at Steins Beer Garden & Restaurant in Mountain View.

Part of the Chicken Fried Steak and Eggs entree at Steins Beer Garden & Restaurant in Mountain View.

My bill came out to about $24, before tax and tip.

The Taste

I was pleased with the Chicken Fried Steak, although it probably set me back a bit on my daily calorie intake. The steak was enormous.There were some grisly parts throughout the meat, but overall it was pretty tender.

The steak was covered in rich and creamy gravy, and the breading was crispy and well-seasoned. I ended up only getting through one-third of it and boxed the rest for later. The biscuits were soft and fluffy, and the potatoes were nicely toasted.

I was impressed with the Champagne Punch, which was loaded with slices of strawberry, blueberries, raspberries and blackberries. It was refreshing, tart and not too sweet or heavy on the alcohol.

The Champagne Punch at Steins Beer Garden & Restaurant in Mountain View.

The Champagne Punch at Steins Beer Garden & Restaurant in Mountain View.

Other Details

Steins Beer Garden and Restaurant is located at 895 Villa Street in downtown Mountain View. The restaurant is known for its modern American take on the German biergarten and features 31 taps of craft and import beer – 16 house staples and 15 rotating taps, according to its website. The menu has four flights of beer to choose from and also has gluten-free beer options.

Steins also offers private dining in its Ale Room, Lager Room and private beer garden, according to its site. The entire restaurant can be reserved for up to 400 guests as well. Those who visit its website can take an interactive virtual tour and download its app to get free drinks.

Hours are 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 11 a.m. to 12 midnight Friday, 10 a.m. to 12 midnight Saturday and 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday. For more information, call (650) 963-9568 or visit steinsbeergarden.com.

 
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Posted by on September 1, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

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

 

Dessert for breakfast: Flames’ Gourmet Strawberry Waffle will make your inner child happy

The Gourmet Strawberry Waffle at Flames Eatery & Bar in downtown San Jose.

The Gourmet Strawberry Waffle at Flames Eatery & Bar in downtown San Jose.

If you are looking for a bustling, lively place to eat brunch on a Sunday afternoon, Flames Eatery & Bar in downtown San Jose is the place for you. If you’re looking for a quiet afternoon brunch, steer clear of here.

The place was crazy busy and buzzing with activity, with no extra seats in the bar area. Music was playing over the speakers, and every few minutes, the upbeat host would announce over the P.A. system when a party’s table was ready.

I was surprised, though, that our party of 15 only had to wait about 15 or so minutes to get a table. The wait staff and bussers were working hard and fast to get tables ready for new customers.

It was loud at Flames, and you definitely had to speak at a high volume to talk to the person across from you. Still, I enjoyed my time there and felt like I was at a party in the middle of the day.

Dish of Choice

Flames has an extensive menu that has something to satisfy anyone’s stomach. If you don’t find anything that you would like from the menu, you’re just too picky. I typically go for the basic meat-and-eggs or breakfast burrito when it comes to brunch, so I wanted to switch it up and go in the sweet direction.

I chose the Gourmet Strawberry Waffle, a Belgian waffle topped with vanilla ice cream, glazed strawberries, whipped cream and powdered sugar. With a cup of coffee and water, my bill came out to about $13, including tax.

The Taste

The Gourmet Strawberry Waffle tasted like a waffle cone sundae. My inner child was happy about this. The waffle was large and soft and topped with a generous scoop of rich vanilla ice cream. The strawberries tasted fresh and sweet, but I wish there were more of them. The whipped cream was a nice touch and tasted like real cream, not that oil-based crap. It was definitely dessert for breakfast.

The Ambiance

Flames Eatery & Bar feels like a contemporary twist on the traditional diner, decorated in granite and dark wood furnishings and modern, dim lighting. It also has a nice bakery area with a display of huge, delicious-looking cakes and desserts and a large bar area that looks like it can seat 20 people, if not more.

The restaurant has events and specials throughout the week, including a daily happy hour, Karaoke Wednesday and Taco Thursday. It also has a bottomless mimosas special on Sundays, so it’s a great place for a Sunday Funday with a group of friends.

Other Details

Flames Eatery & Bar is located at 88 S. Fourth St. in downtown San Jose. Hours are 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. Sunday through Tuesday and 7 a.m. to midnight Wednesday through Saturday. For more information, call (408) 971-1960 or visit www.flameseatery.com.

 
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Posted by on March 2, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

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