Tuesday, June 30, 2009


This past Thursday night, Andy, Kathy, JB, and I all went to Shabuway, a place downtown that we always walk past but have never been in. It labels itself as a Japanese fondue place, and the service is incredibly fast (tho not precisely accurate).

Kathy and JB each ordered a large shabu shabu plate (really thinly sliced raw beef and a platter of like 5 kinds of vegetables). Andy had the large with extra meat, and I got the 10-piece shrimp potstickers. Similar to Mongolian hotpot, you get a pot of boiling liquid (again, we got the divided half-and-half with plain on one side and spicy on the other). I didn't care for most of the vegetables (Kathy might have been the only one who truly enjoyed them - she even ordered an extra platter of them), but otherwise it was good. The pricing is fair. They all enjoyed the kobe beef (they were out of lean meat); I thought it tasted just like all other beef. My shrimp tasted more like pork, but that wasn't really a problem. We had a hard time getting our water glasses refilled, and the server wasn't very happy that Kathy wanted extra spicy broth. Lastly, Jonathan and I ordered a side of udon noodles, but instead received an unagi bowl. It was a great deal and tasty eel, but we had to repeat our order twice (the waitress didn't write it down and she mixed up several things when repeating it back to us), and we still received the wrong item.

In the end: I don't really have much purpose in going back, but if you like beef, I say give it a go!

Monday, June 29, 2009


Jonathan's parents were visiting, so one night we went to eat with them at Pasta? Trattoria, where our server was truly Italian! The bread was good and crusty, but I wasn't too impressed with the Macaroni ai Fromaggi, which was macaroni and cheese with ham. It wasn't really "baked" like the description stated, and the hint of nutmeg in the sauce was strange and uncalled for. Jonathan tried the Gnocci Tartufati, which he liked but I didn't care for due to the truffles in the cream sauce. His dad liked his Fusili con Salsiccia (corkscrew pasta with sausage), and his mom had a spicy penne dish with tomato sauce.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Santa Cruz: Gilbert's Seafood Grill

We drove to Santa Cruz. Jenny, a friend of Jonathan's since the first day of college, was there visiting her parents, so we met up with her at the wharf. We had a late lunch at Gilbert's Seafood Grill, where every table had an oceanview. Jonathan and Jenny both really enjoyed the New England clam chowder.  I really wanted to get the Shrimp Melt, but the mushrooms were cooked with the shrimp, so I went with the Fisherman's Pasta. It was well worth the money, and I'm certain that if you love fish, you'd enjoy it greatly. There were probably four kinds of fish in it, plus GIANT scallops and a few shrimp. The pasta was fettuccine, and the saucy was a white cream sauce with very little cheese. I had half boxed up, and enjoyed the reheated leftovers with extra cheese. Jonathan had the Stuffed Salmon special of the day, which was stuffed with crab and shrimp, covered in hollandaise sauce, and served on top of asparagus and mashed potatoes. He enjoyed it quite a bit, and took the leftovers home. Jonathan's mother had the snapper (very fresh!), served with a vegetable medley and a fantastic rice pilaf. Jenny ordered the same. Between the view, the service, and the ability to watch the sailboats come in and the sea lions play, it was really a fantastic restaurant that we'd all recommend!

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Lunch in Vegas

We went to the Venetian for lunch and to walk around. We ate at Towers Delicatessen, where Jonathan had the corned beef reuben, and I had a grilled chicken-and-ham toasted sub. Wonderful place, but they served coleslaw with the meals, and it was sweet. Jonathan said that it was one of the leanest reubens he had ever had, and I'd recommend getting extra sauce on the sandwich, but otherwise it was a great place.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Buca di Beppo

Dinner was at Buca di Beppo, an Italian family-style restaurant. We went there to celebrate Chris's birthday, and there were about 15 people in all. It's a pretty neat place, since you are allowed to walk through part of the kitchen, there's a window to watch pizzas being made, and there's a special "pope table" with a bust of the Pope himself on it! We kinda split into a 6 and a 9 unintentionally, as they put tables together to accommodate our party. Our six ordered the mozzarella garlic bread and the mozzarella caprese (tomato-mozzarella-basil) as appetizers, and the spicy arrabbiata pizza (sausage, pepperoni, onions, gorgonzola, provolone, mozzarella), quattro al forno (cheese manicotti, chicken cannelloni , baked ravioli, and sausage stuffed shells), and the prosciutto stuffed chicken (in pesto cream sauce) as entrees. The other table had the same pizza, lasagna, baked rigatoni, and a bunch of stuff I couldn't identify.

Everyone enjoyed the bread, and the caprese was pretty standard. The pizza was enjoyed by most everyone, although I wasn't the biggest fan (too much sauce and sausage for me, plus the crust was plain). I tried the stuffed shells (and that's how I found out they had sausage in them), then traded them to Jonathan for his baked ravioli. It was pretty standard... could have had more mozzarella on top to balance the ricotta inside. I wanted to try the cannelloni but it didn't happen. The prosciutto chicken was really very good - it had mozzarella inside too - and I wish I had room for more! A few of us tried the lasagna from the other table, and it was the thickest pasta dish I have ever seen! We made a to-go box (that probably weighed 5 pounds!) but it ended up being sacrificed since we didn't go back to the hotel immediately afterward.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Burger Palace

We needed a snack of sorts, so we explored our hotel some more and found Burger Palace. We shared a chicken tenders platter, which was pretty cheap for the portion. The fries were fresh, hot, and crisp on the outside. The chicken tenders had excellent breading, and a good amount of spice, without being spicy.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Carnegie Deli

Thursday while we were in Vegas, around 4pm, JB and I stopped to grab a bite to eat at Carnegie Deli in the Mirage, a NY-style sandwich shop. We shared a hard salami with cheddar on white, and didn't finish it between the two of us! We also got a side of fries (to avoid the $3 plate-share charge), and they were fantastic (in case you've not noticed, I truly love quality french fries). The cheese wasn't quite enough for the amount of salami (probably 5" tall!!), but it was quite tasty. The downfall: no honey mustard, which would've been perfect. They did have a good stoneground mustard, and I used that instead.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Late Night in Vegas

We were in Vegas for a few days. The night we got in, we walked around the Strip (also known as Las Vegas Blvd.), take photos, and grab some snacks. We waltzed through Paris, and stopped to grab a bite at JJ's Boulangerie, which had fresh and fantastic pizza and gelato. Everyone else had the pizza (Jim and JB each had a slice of the carne, and Vivian had a hawaiian-esque slice), but I wasn't as hungry, so I totally monopolized some fabulous coffee gelato. It was crazy cheap for gelato ($1.79 for a single scoop in a cup, but the single scoop was similar to the size of the "like it" at Cold Stone, so it was BIG), and very good.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

SFO Food

We flew out of San Francisco during dinner time, so we grabbed a bite to eat at the Firewood Grill before leaving. JB had a burger, I had a chicken panini. The fries were good, he finished his burger, I didn't finish my cheese-less chicken.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Pampas in Palo Alto

Vivian celebrated her birthday at Pampas this year. There were 14 of us gathered around a large table in the downstairs (there are three levels) seating area. The place was very dim (we could have easily used twice as many candles at the table), but it was a fun time.

Pampas is a Brazilian Steakhouse, and they call themselves a Rodizio as opposed to a Churrascaria (not sure why). Basically, servers come by with large hunks of different meats, and slice each person what he/she wants. Same fashion as Texas de Brazil, which I would call one of JB and my favorite restaurants.

For those of you who have been to Texas de Brazil (we went to the one in Orlando for Jonathan's 24th birthday, so a bunch of the Melbourne peeps have been there), they are completely different. The Pampas salad bar (which comes with the meal) is probably about half the size of the one at TdB, and only offers cold items. So instead of lobster bisque, the soup choice was a chilled cucumber, which was strangely sour. There were many cheese options (and good salami, too), but the general "salad" toppings were lacking in variety (no carrots, for example). But, let's be serious. You don't come to spend $44/person (before tax/tip) for the salad bar, you come for the meat!

If you like beef, this is a good restaurant for you. For those who prefer pork or chicken (such as myself), you kinda lose out. There was one pork option and one sausage option. There were two chicken options (aside from chicken hearts), and one turkey option. There was also a pineapple choice, which was unique and nice. There were two lamb options and five beef options, so there was a good half the menu I didn't try. (I should add the disclaimer that I do enjoy hamburger/meatloaf/brisket, probably because they're all well-done. but I really don't like steak at all, with the small exception of well-done tri-tip, which is hard to come by anyway.)

The spicy pork was easily my favorite of the evening, and I had three pieces. It's one of the few meats that comes with an accompanying sauce, which I loved with it. Jonathan liked the pork without the sauce. Everyone seemed to enjoy the top sirloin and both lamb options. There were a couple different sirloin fillets that nobody complained about (so they must've been tasty), a skirt steak that I heard a few people label as their favorite, and a rock-salted tri-tip that a few people got seconds of. The chicken options included a sweet thigh and a spicy leg. The spicy was a vinegar-spicy, so it wasn't much to speak of, and rather blase. The sweet was good, and if I had room, I would have tried another piece as well. The sausages were standard breakfast-size, but very juicy (I had two). The turkey could have become a favorite had it been cooked a little longer. It was wrapped in bacon, and both were smoked... however the bacon was still very limp, so it didn't really fit with the smoked turkey (which was nearly ham, as is most prepared in this fashion). The pineapple was extremely juicy, wonderful, and delicious.

Was it worth $44? Not really, no. BUT, I do need to mention that the complimentary starters included FANTASTIC cheese bread (I think I had four pieces all in all), fried plantains (pretty good), and fried polenta (eh). Otherwise, the meats were kinda fatty and not as flavorful as they could have been, and the salad bar was lacking. The tabouleh was overly dry, the whipped potatoes lacked flavor, and the grilled veggies (squash, eggplant, peppers) were oily.

Is TdB worth $50? Heck yeah. Serve me a good soup, a diverse salad bar, and lean, tasty meats and I'm good to go. (and we've been there more than once, so it wasn't just a "lucky occasion" that I'm remembering, LoL).

Saturday, June 13, 2009

St. John's Bar & Grill

A bunch of us went to Happy Hour at St. John's Bar & Grill. I really liked the place. There was a large outdoor area, and a maze of tables utilizing all the interior space as well. We had our own little corner, and all appetizers were half-price from 4-10pm! This made for a great deal on great food. There were a bunch of us there, so the appetizers just kept coming! We didn't finish everything (I don't know that we even came close), but I'd definitely recommend most of the stuff that we tried.

- the bacon and cheese fries were fantastic. Cheddar & jack cheeses, sour cream, green onions, fresh crispy bacon, good deal all around. I loved them.
- deep-fried zucchini was pretty average. you kinda hafta like zucchini. I also don't care for hot cream cheese, which is what accompanied the veggie.
- jalapeno poppers were stuffed with cheddar instead of cream cheese, and they went fast (and there were multiple plates of those!). Jonathan enjoyed them, I didn't give them a try.
- calamari strips were the new item that week, and were really large pieces, instead of the small ones that you usually get. They were served with lemon (which they needed) and cocktail sauce, no tartar (is tartar just an east coast thing, or was I just spoiled when I ate them, LoL?).
- my personal favorite was the chicken quesadillas. Cheese, onions, chilies were inside. Salsa and sour cream were available in large portions, and the guacamole was among the top 5 I've ever had. AND they were only like $4.25 during the special, and you get a HUGE plate of them!!

There were probably a few other things on the table, but these are what stand out in my memory. As we left, I remarked that it was too bad we found the place so late in our stay, I would've liked the chance to go there again.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

In-n-Out, Take Two

Now, we've been to In-n-Out before. But it's been a while for me (although JB had some while I was away), and I've been dying to order by the secret menu.

We went through the drive-thru and took home our meals this time, which was interesting. They actually have a live person with an electronic tablet taking orders instead of a speaker box. This is rain or shine, as we've learned. We each ordered cheeseburgers "animal-style" (JB had a double, I had a single), JB got regular fries, I got fries "well-done," and I ordered a vanilla milkshake.

We both liked the animal-style, it was great. In case you've never seen the secret menu, it's basically mustard-cooked beef, and has extra pickles, secret sauce, and some grilled onions. I liked it a LOT (pickles are probably in my top 20 favorite foods if you didn't know), JB thought it had way more pickles than necessary but enjoyed it. Next time, I'd get "no lettuce" and maaaybe "extra toast" (meaning the buns are crispy). The "fries well" weren't that special... especially since they forgot to give us ketchup. I might give up on their fries altogether, since it's not like they have honey mustard or bbq or anything. The milkshake was soooooo cream-heavy it was ridiculous. Never again with a meal. And only maaaaybe as just a dessert.

Word to the wise: don't take an "animal-style" out of the wrapper, it's a mess if you do!

Monday, June 8, 2009

Roundtable Pizza

Roundtable Pizza is a much bigger place, and is a chain. We had seen many commercials for them before we actually gave them a go. Our local branch is in the same plaza as Safeway (the grocery store), so while it's close, we don't get them often... they're kinda pricey. But, they do make a very good pizza. We first tried the Meatball Marvel. It had a great crust, one of those mid-rise crusts with handrolling pinches along the edge.... yum! They put seven cheeses on it (seriously!), meatballs, tomatoes, garlic, and caramelized onions. I picked off about half of my meatballs (just not as big a fan as Roundtable is, LoL), but Jonathan liked the flavor combination quite a bit. That was the only specialty pizza we've tried from them, and I honestly don't remember what else we've tried... probably just pepperoni, LoL.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Fast Pizza

Fast Pizza is a mom-and-pop place, located in a plaza maybe a quarter mile from our place. They take about fifteen minutes (great, we have enough time to finish what we're doing, then head down there), and are very good. We've had them several times, both pick-up and delivery. They were the first pizza we got while we were out here, and quickly won us over. We've had two or three of their sauces, and many of their toppings. Our favorite combo is pepperoni and green peppers, with a side of garlic cream sauce. It's fantastic. The only thing I wouldn't recommend: the breadsticks. too blah.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

The San Jose Greek Festival

Having been to several different Greek Festivals in the past, Jonathan and I were looking forward to trying out another in a big city (we went to the New Orleans Greek Festival in 2006, and it was fantastic).

We were able to park about four blocks away, which was much better than most, since we saw people walking for quite a while. I had printed out free coupons for the Festival, so we weren't charged the $5 each entrance fee. When we first walked in, the place seemed huge, but it wasn't that big, surprisingly. We went to a booth and bought some tokens (poker chips that had the St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church name and logo on them), since the booths are all cashless. Very good system.

We headed for the food, and while I was originally excited about getting some calamari (the very best I've ever had was at the New Orleans Greek Festival), we decided against it because of the price, and there was no feta or tartar sauce. Instead, I had the Loukaniko and Jonathan had a lamb platter. Loukaniko is a Greek sausage (spicy) that's grilled and sprinkled with lemon juice, then put in a pita with tomatoes, onions, and tzaziki sauce. It was pretty good, and I couldn't finish it. Jonathan really enjoyed the lamb as well. We got a side of Fried Potatoes (but they were little more than plain french fries with no seasoning) and a side of tzaziki (which was the best I've ever had... it had a lot of onions in it), too.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Frozen Yogurt

Driving back through downtown Palo Alto on our way home from dinner, we saw a frozen yogurt place having a grand opening. L'Amour is a non-chain, and really uninteresting. It's your standard California FroYo place, meaning you get a cup and fill it yourself, then they charge you 47 cents per ounce. Yeah, that's high. But the flavor choices were so boring, I didn't even sample any! JB tried the Butter Pecan, and said it was the worst he's ever had. They had 10 flavors... all nonfat except NY Cheesecake. Vanilla, Chocolate, Eurotart, Organic Plain, Peanut Butter, Strawberry, Pomegranate, and a few others. It may be the very first time I've ever walked out on a dessert place. And to add insult to injury, their frequent buyers card cannot be shared, and you have to purchase $4.50 to even get a stamp! booo all around.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Downtown Palo Alto for Pizza

The first time that Jonathan was out in the Silicon Valley area, he had this "great Chicago-style pizza" that he talked about on multiple occasions. Well, after much ado, we figured out what it was called, and headed down there for dinner on a Saturday night.

We got into downtown Palo Alto pretty easily, and traffic wasn't too bad. Parking was a little hard to find, but there were a few spots available within a block or so of our destination: Patxi's Chicago Pizza. It's pronounced "pah-cheese" in case you were wondering... it took me a while to understand it, hehe.

We ordered a pepperoni and red bell peppers pizza (Chicago style, although they also have NY available), and it took about half an hour to make (they tell you in advance to expect it to take 30-40 minutes for Chicago, and 20-30 for NY). In the meantime, we shared a small caesar salad, but it was pretty decent size. Jonathan enjoyed it quite a bit... I thought the croutons were too "airy" if that makes sense, and the dressing was a little light (no anchovies in the dressing, so that changes the flavor).

When the pizza arrived, I was a bit let down. Mostly because all you could see was sauce and crust, and I had my camera ready to take a sweet picture of the crazy-deep pizza. In case you're unfamiliar with Chicago pizza, it's a thick crust, then the cheese and toppings, then a regular-thickness crust, topped with (sometimes cheese and) the sauce. It's not my preferred style of pizza (and as my mother will tell you, I've never been a fan of sauce. when I was a small child, my parents would order pizza without sauce, and this was a good decade before "white pizza" was cool), but Jonathan loves it. He thought this specific pizza was pretty amazing. After I scraped the sauce off of mine (there were a few tablespoons' worth on just one piece!) and added some parmesan, I liked it too.

The place isn't too big, and the seat-yourself atmosphere means that sometimes a couple with a preschooler will choose a large booth instead of a small table, and a wait line soon forms. The tables are also very close together, and we heard every word of the conversation that our neighbors had... they were weird. The service was kinda hit-or-miss... our waitress wasn't the most attentive, but many of the other servers were more than friendly, and recognized repeat customers. Overall, I'd recommend the place.