Thursday, September 22

Tava Kitchen Grand Opening in Alameda - Chance to Win Free Food for One Year

Earlier this year, I wrote about the awesome new menu selection from Tava Kitchen. They changed their focus from Indian food to a mix of Indian and South East Asian inspired items. The food is still healthy and delicious as always. Now the brand is opening its third store in Alameda. At the grand opening events, you will have a chance to win free Tava Kitchen for one year!

I recently visited Tava Kitchen in Palo Alto at the Town and Country Plaza again to have lunch. The side dishes were flavorful and fresh and the whole meal was very satisfying. I especially like their carrots and the bottled mango lassi.

To sign up, all you have to do is register to the Tava 100 event page, then check in to the grand opening in Alameda on October 8. One hundred guests will be chosen from the registered entrants who checked in and they will receive free Tava Kitchen for a year. The prize can be redeemed at any Tava location. Good luck to all entrants!

Monday, September 19

Sprouts Farmers Market Opens New Location on Brokaw Rd - San Jose

One of our favorite grocery stores in the South Bay just opened a new location in San Jose on Brokaw Road. This is the third store in San Jose. The location is in a brand new plaza still under construction. In fact, Sprouts is the only store open while none of the others even have signage yet. Recently, we were given a gift card from Sprouts to shop at this new store and write a post. 

Here are things that are different than other Sprouts stores I've seen.

There is a salad bar. Great side salads like quinoa, tabouleh, and fixings for a DIY salad are available with 8 dressing options. Of course, the usual olive bar is there as well.

Stop by for a sandwich at the sandwich line for lunch while you do your grocery shopping. Our other usual Sprouts locations don't have this option. It's a great addition.

While all Sprouts carry ready-to-heat meals, the selection at this store is much better. Any of these can be heated for a quick healthy dinner at home.

You can eat your lunch or relax after shopping in this Recharge and Relax area.

We usually go to Sprouts because I like the prices for their fresh seasonal fruits and produce. This store has an interesting offering of exotic fruits like passion fruit (above) and kiwano melons.

A typical weekly haul for our family looks like this. We buy our meat from Costco twice a month so I only need to get produce and fruits weekly. This is about $40+ worth.
- 2 bunches of lacinato kale
- 2 packs of strawberries
- 2 packs of blueberries
- mini watermelon
- zucchini for zoodles
- fresh mozzarella
- 2 packs of grape tomatoes
- 3 half gallon bottles of Straus Family Organic Whole Milk for our son
- as much dried chile mango slices as my heart desires

This is one of the best Sprouts locations I have been to. If you are in the area, make this one your default.

  • 1028 E. Brokaw Rd.
  • San JoseCA 95131

Tuesday, September 13

GIVEAWAY - Tickets to Cavalia Odysseo in San Jose - Sept 17 at 2PM

Hi friends, a very cool giveaway has come across my desk. The Odysseo is coming to San Jose and I have tickets to giveaway. It's an equestrian show, think Cirque du Soleil but with horses!

Cavalia has given me a package of 8 tickets to do a flash giveaway. One winner's name will be put at will-call to pick up 8 tickets. The tickets are only good for this Saturday's show, Sept 17 at 2PM. 
Here's the website for more details.

To enter the raffle, all you have to do is follow me on Instagram @sanjosefoodblog and leave a comment on the Odysseo picture telling me you're entering I will draw one random winner on Thursday, Sept 15 at 5PM. I will contact the winner for their full name and email. If you don't respond by Friday at 9AM, I will draw a different winner.

Tuesday, August 30

Genji Ramen at Whole Foods Market - Santa Clara

Ramen's popularity will never die. People just love this stuff. It was a very smart choice for Whole Foods at Santa Clara Square to carry Genji Ramen at their hot food bar. Genji usually offers sushi made from natural ingredients, sustainably raised and caught fish, and has vegan options too exclusively for Whole Foods Market. Other locations may also offer teriyaki bowls and baos. They apply this same standard to their ramen. Two weeks ago, Genji Ramen and Sushi invited me to a tasting of their menu. The tasting was complimentary but the opinions on the food below are my own.

($11.99) Genji's Original tonkotsu broth
The noodles were springy and chewy. Genji does not have a brick and mortar store so they cook their broth at a food preparation center, freeze it, and distribute to their store locations such as this Whole Foods one. Same with the chashu. I couldn't tell this was once frozen. It reheats well. The soft boiled marinated egg was cooked in the store. I tasted a bit too much Mirin in my egg but the texture was nice. I liked that it had plenty of woodear mushroom.

($11.99) spicy miso tonkotsu
Phil preferred this one over the original tonkotsu broth. He thought the spice added more flavor. I thought there wasn't much spice but I do agree that it adds another element of flavor. The fixins are the same plus shredded dried pepper strands on top.

($3.99) tempura bao slider - This was tasty and a different take on the usual baos. Inside there is tempura battered and fried shrimp with a sweet hoisin-like sauce and shaved spring onions. 

($3.99) Chashu pork bao slider - This version had similar condiments to the tempura slider except with tender chashu pork instead. The pork is lean and not the fatty belly cut we're used to when it comes to chashu. It's a bit bland except for the sauce. I recommend the tempura shrimp one instead.

Since Whole Foods opened last month, I've been here many times for shopping and for lunch. It is by far the best local Whole Foods because of its layout and offerings, especially for hot food. It's nice to have a quick ramen option. Though this one costs the same as restaurants and has slightly less in the bowl, it does its job of fulfilling a ramen craving quickly. Slightly less sodium than restaurants. The noodles were impressive for a food stall. I wouldn't get these particular drinks (hibiscus tea and matcha tea) again because they were too sweet. The coffee stand at Whole Foods has better options. I've enjoyed all my lunches at Whole Foods for a mixture of the atmosphere and tasty healthy options. Everything here is worth a try at least once if you're in the area.

Friday, August 26

JPOP SUMMIT 2016 - Interview with Chef Tasuo Saito and Yu Hayami of Dining with the Chef

During the JPop Summit 2016, I had the pleasure of interviewing Chef Tasuo Saito of Japanese NHK Broadcasting's popular show, Dining with the ChefThe program is in its 5th year. Chef Saito's beautiful cohost, Yu Hayami, is a singer/actress and started participating in the show 3 years ago. The goal of the show is to convey Japanese cuisine and culture outside of Japan. Chef Saito teaches authentic cooking using ingredients and methods that are professional but he makes it look easy.

At 27, Chef Saito worked at the Japanese Embassy in France. This experience triggered him to show appreciation through his cuisine. Dining with the Chef is an opportunity for him to show that appreciation and spread the food through the world. In Japan, people go to restaurants to eat good food and enjoy the environment. You may also drink sake when you go out which pairs better with saltier food so restaurants make food saltier. Whereas, When you cook food at home, you have to think of economy, cost of ingredients, etc. But home food can be healthy and balanced. Some of the dishes Chef Saito wants to introduce to the world is Japanese comfort food (mama's food), for example, nikujaga (potatoes, onions, and meat stewed in sweetened soy sauce). Earlier in the summit, he had done an easy version of pork with ginger soy sauce marinade, a dish that typically has a variety of different ingredients in the marinade. Chef used ginger ale for a quick and easy version which tasted just as delicious as the original. 

Presentation, technique, or flavor are equally important in Japanese cuisine. For example, Japan is the only country where you put the chopstick horizontally across the top of your place setting, and bring the bowls up to your mouth. There are 5 ways of cooking: fried, stir fried, boiled, steamed, raw. Traditional dishes have 5 colors: red, green, blue, white, black. Examples of common black colored food are shiitake mushrooms, nori, black mushrooms, black beans, and black rice. There are 7 different tastes, sweet, salty, spicy, savory, sour, bitter, and umami can be combined together for a complex dish.

Presentation is probably the biggest change in Japanese cuisine over the last decade. Young chefs are getting inspired by Asian fusion and bringing it back to Japan in the form of creative presentations. Fifteen years ago, it was more popular to have family style meals, and now the family size is smaller so individual portions have become more popular. Chef Saito believes that what we see as Japanese fusion is closer to the traditional way presentations. Japanese cuisine used to have 7 or 9 courses with a variety of small dishes as we often see now with contemporary Japanese dining. Chef Saito vividly remembers a fish teriyaki dish he had in Washinton DC 2 years ago. The presentation was different with edible flowers and was a little bit spicy. He thought it was very impressive because the base of the traditional dish was the same but the condiments were different. The organic movement is also coming up in Japan. Farm-to-table has been alive in Japan but is picking up more steam now as it reaches global popularity.

His advice to aspiring chefs who want to specialize in Japanese cuisine is to watch their show on NHK World. Just kidding. Instead, chefs should really emphasize basic skills. If you can do the basics, you can use your inspiration to do anything else. Mastering basics takes at least 3 years. Be able to explain what you made with your own words. Think about the person eating, be able to explain why you want to serve something a certain way to that specific person. The word kanji character for the word eat in Japanese, taberu, has "good" inside the "house" so eating means "good inside the house" or "people with good" meaning meeting with people is a good thing. Chefs should keep these things in mind as they hone their craft.

During my interview with Chef Saito and Yu Hayami, I noted that the landscape of Japanese food in Japan seems very similar to that in America. People seem to eat out for the same reasons and to enjoy comfort foods for the same reasons as we do here. As Food Network and cooking shows like Master Chef occupy a regular time slot in household televisions, does Japan see its chefs rising to the same celebrity status? His co-host proudly proclaims that Chef Saito is among the most popular with his energetic character. Although in general, Japanese chefs are very serious as they present a traditionally serious cuisine.

Gender roles in the culinary world seem to have the same challenges as in America for female chefs. Japan is still fairly traditional in their view of gender roles for women as home cooks so on TV there are more female chefs but fewer internationally award winning chefs (Michelin, James Beard) female chefs. We often see more women excel as pastry chefs than executive chefs. Chef Saito believes different inspirations between men and women and hopes to see more female chefs on the horizon.

If the clip below of Dining with the Chef where he makes chicken wing karaage entices you to travel to Japan, Chef Saito's tip is to go to specialty stores not general restaurants. Also, tempura in Japan is light and fresh and very different from tempura in America. A definite must have in Japan.

*The preceding article was based on an interview with Chef Saito and Yu Hayami with help of a translator. Both co-hosts' answers through the translator were interwoven into this article and is not verbatim.*

Wednesday, August 17

J Pop Summit 2016 - San Francisco

Every year, fans of Japanese culture are delighted by the JPOP Summit, which is a festival of all things Japanese. Events can last all week (film screenings) but the bulk of activities is on one weekend. Last month, I attended one day of the event to sample the foods offered there. 

The tasting started with an introduction of the 5 ramen vendors.

Iza Ramen: Started as a pop-up in Lower Haight. They specialize in tsukemen (dipping ramen).
Naruto Ramen: This brand from NY sticks to the classic tonkotsu broth cooked for 24 hours.
Hinodeya Ramen Bar: Specializes in the bonito broth which is popular in Japan.
Orenchi Beyond - This restaurant is located in San Francisco and is from the same owners at Orenchi in Santa Clara.
Ramen Taka: This brand from Santa Clara has a menu that covers various regions of Japan.

My tsukemen ramen from Iza Ramen came in this very convenient tray. The broth was rich and thicker than the noodle soup form. It coated the chewy noodles well and I got a mouthful of flavor with each bite.

Our next step was to Shige Sushi for their triangular shaped sushi-wich. Shige has a brick and mortar store but they also sell at events like this. There were four flavors: Alaskan, spicy tuna, California, and natto with kimchi. 

The flavor of the natto wasn't so bad but the texture is slimy. I couldn't finish it. Natto is definitely an acquired taste. 

The California tastes just like a California roll.

Here's the spicy tuna wich that I didn't get to try. Looks yummy.

Next up was takoyaki from Hirotako, a catering company specializing in Japanese cuisine. Their fried takoyaki balls were crispy and flavorful with some pieces having pickled red ginger inside.

Sapporo samples were also being handed out. I helped myself to some. ;)

Inside the pavilion, we did a quick tasting of Iichiko shochu in ume (plum) and yuzu citrus flavors. It was very light and fruity and doesn't need mixing although you can mix it with other fruit juices. Shochu is different than Korean soju. It can be distilled only once while soju is distilled multiple times. Korean soju is also lower in alcohol content. The Iichiko was much easier to sip than Korean soju though.

Coming up next, a recap of my interview with Chef Tsuo Saito of popular Japanese NHK broadcasting network cooking show, Dining with the Chef. His beautiful cohost was Japanese celebrity Yu Hayami.

Thursday, August 4

Gordon Biersch Debuts New Beer and Food Pairing Guide


- Guide designed to teach craft beer lovers the essentials of coupling beer and food flavors -

Gordon Biersch, the brewery restaurant specializing in handcrafted lagers and ales brewed in-house, recently unveiled an easy-to-follow beer and food pairings guide designed to help guests learn more about the brand’s five different beer styles and the flavors that perfectly complement each. Available now through August 28 at restaurants nationwide, craft beer fanatics can turn up the heat on their summer fun and enhance their dining experience by creating the ideal beer and food match with the help of this informational menu tool. The guide includes a descriptive infographic with beer and food icons to make the pairing process interactive, educational and simple.

“At Gordon Biersch, we pride ourselves on being a leader among beer-centric restaurants in the industry today, and have set ourselves apart by brewing on-site exceptionally unique lagers and ales that keep our guests coming back for more,” said Tom Dargen, Senior Director of Brewery Operations at Gordon Biersch. “We’re excited to debut our new beer and food pairings guide, which will enhance the dining experience for our guests and offer them insight into the Gordon Biersch brewing process and our signature flavor-packed brews. We look forward to welcoming craft beer lovers to try out this new resource, as well as showcasing the diverse intricacies of our local head brewers’ beer creations at restaurants nationwide.”

As part of the beer and food pairings guide roll out, Gordon Biersch restaurants throughout the country will feature a selection of craft beers brewed on-site by local head brewers. All of the restaurant’s head brewers develop a unique beer in each of the featured beer styles on-site for guests to enjoy. At the start of each meal, guests are encouraged to preview the pairings menu to enhance their experience with styles including:

Hoppy – A beer style that balances out spicy foods and helps emphasize specific flavors in dishes, which creates an ideal combination with spicy meals, pork, poultry and burgers. This flavor can be paired well with Gordon Biersch favorites including Southwest Egg Rolls, Marzen BBQ Chicken Sandwich and Spicy Chicken Fritters.

Fruity & Spicy – This style of beer complements and balances flavors similar to notes in the beer, such as those found in poultry, salads, seafood and flatbreads. Guests can pair their Fruity & Spicy brews with selections such as the Blue Crab & Artichoke Dip, Cali Beach Taco and California Cobb Flatbread.

Light & Refreshing – Select this type of beer style when looking for a refreshing craft beer that will cleanse the palate and will also complement lighter dishes. The chef recommends matching this style of beer with Gordon Biersch menu items such as the Cajun Pasta and the Gorgonzola Pear Salad.

Malty – Fans of roasted, grilled and smoked foods should sample this style of beer, which will give another layer of flavor to the dish. Ideal menu items to be paired with Malty beers include the Gordon Biersch Beer & Mushroom Chicken and the Gastro Burger.

Dark – This style of beer best complements chocolate and other sweet flavors, as well as meat dishes such as Gordon Biersch’s 10 oz. USDA Top Sirloin and the fan-favorite Brownie Sundae.

For additional details about Gordon Biersch or to find a location near you, please visit

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