Wednesday, April 27

CharMarron Peony Garden and Nola's Iris Garden - San Jose

With some free time on a Saturday afternoon the other day, my friends and I decided to check out the peonies in bloom at CharMarron Peony Garden in the hills of San Jose. Yes, San Jose has hills. I don't remember the names of every type of flower so here are some photos. Peonies have a short season so be sure to check out the website to see what's in bloom. Entrance is free. The drive up is a windy one way road. You can buy a few stems or potted plants. It's more of a place to buy rather than an elaborate garden for walking but it's still an enjoyable experience, especially for peony lovers.

On the drive back down, we pulled over at a scenic overlook and took in the fresh air and Silicon Valley views.

We had spotted Nola's Iris Garden on the way up and made a point to stop by. Iris names are funny. One was called the Taco Supreme.

Monday, April 25

Eureka + Giveaway - Mountain View

Last month, I wrote an article about the Main Street Cupertino complex's newest restaurant, Eureka! Today, they are opening their second Silicon Valley location in Mountain View on Castro St. I had the pleasure of attending a soft opening where my meal was complimentary. Here's what I tried.

($10) Rosemary Ruby Red - gin, rosemary, grapefruit, lemon
This is a perfectly refreshing drink for mid Spring. It continues to taste better as the crushed ice melts and the sweet grapefruit flavor mixes in.

($6) Hangar 24 
We forgot which type of beer this was. The waiter suggested it as one which tastes closer to a hefeweizen. I thought it was lighter and was less hoppy but still enjoyable.

($9.50) Truffle cheese fries
These are the best fries I've had. They won a non-fry lover like me so bonus points for a conversion. It's all in the melty truffle and havarti cheese sauce.

($11) Smoked Chicken Nachos - chicken, black bean, jalapenos, salsa, guac, sour cream drizzle, and house made chips.
I like how the nachos are layered with toppings so it's not just the to pieces that get soggy while the bottom is plain. You get something with every bite.

($12.50) Jalapeno bacon egg burger
PICKLED JALAPENO. BACON. EGG. Need I say more? Cannot go wrong with those three things on anything, especially a juicy medium rare burger.

($7) Apple Crisp with vanilla ice cream
70% ice cream and 30% hot steaming apple crisp and 100% wonderful.

I really enjoyed both the Eureka locations and highly suggest getting the burgers and truffle fries. In fact, you can enter my giveaway for a $25 gift card so you can try it yourself. Thanks for Eureka for sponsoring this giveaway. There will be two winners. Contest ends April 29. The card can be used at any location and the whole amount must be used in one transaction. Good luck!

Wednesday, April 20

Try Caviar Delivery - Koja Kitchen - San Jose

Short rib koja
The very popular food truck turned restaurant Koja Kitchen is finally available through delivery service Caviar. Once again, Caviar hooked it up with some free credit for me to try Koja for the first time.

($12.75) Ahi Tuna Bowl - this is basically a poke bowl with white rice. There is a brown rice option too. There's seasoned ahi tuna chunks, crab mayo salad, wakame salad, wonton crisps, and salad on the side with its own vinaigrette. I liked this overall and I thought it was priced fairly. Poke bowls usually run around $13-$15 around here anyway.

The Ahi Tuna bowl came packaged like this. It can be eaten straight from the delivery box. I just staged it for a photo in a bowl.

Background: ($4.45) Braised Pork Taco - this was really good. The fattiness of the pork reminds me a little of kahlua pork even though they are very different. Good taco nonetheless.
Foreground: ($10.95) Short Rib Koja - Korean bbq short ribs with sweet katsu aioli in garlic rice buns. The buns are good, crispy, and has interesting texture. I've always been a fan of crispy rice from the bottom of the pot so this is right up my alley. I didn't taste any garlic though. Boo. 
The beef was totally delicious and went really well with the rice and seasoning. Big fan! The sandwich doesn't hold together as well but then you can just eat it with a fork like the deconstructed rice bowl that it is.

For a limited time only,
Enter code KOJASB for $5 off your order (Min $20)

Tuesday, April 19

Munchery - Home Delivery

In my previous reviews of Blue Apron, Caviar, and Dream Dinners, I mentioned that we need help making nutritious family meals on week nights. Yes, I've become one of those busy working moms who tries to do everything but can't. The latest in this home delivery market I'm reviewing is Munchery. Thanks to Munchery for providing me with $50 credit which I used for four meals total on two different days. Munchery has food prepared by their chefs and also home cooking kits. I chose the already made food.

That's the first advantage, you can schedule your deliveries in advance.

Day 1: 
($11.95) Chicken Pad Thai - The top picture was how it was delivered and the bottom was the final appearance after I followed the heating instructions. The taste was very good. No issues with the flavor, texture, and it reheats well. I like the convenience of eating out of these microwaveable and recyclable containers. The noodle portion was slightly less than you would get at a restaurant but usually restaurants serve it with more greens on the side which I really miss in this dish. Although $11.95 sounds steep, my favorite place, Krung Thai, sells their pad thai for the same now too.

($11.95) French Dip Sandwich - This took just a hair more work to heat but still no trouble at all. I felt this was more filling for the price. Everything was tasty, especially the combination of horseradish spread with the beef and au jus dip.

Day 2:
($12.95) Burmese Spiced Chicken Kebat  with coconut rice - This was super tasty and very easy to assemble. In fact I could've eaten it cold if I was really lazy like that. Fantastic flavor but small portion of meat. The rice was a normal amount. I can't tell if portions look smaller when they're packaged up or if it actually is smaller. I was full nonetheless but a male might need more food to supplement.

($13.95) Big Munch Burger with potato salad - This was the most expensive item and as you can tell by the picture, the patties were small. We felt a bit mislead by the photo of this burger vs reality. It was tasty, however still just a burger and it doesn't reheat as well as the other items. Maybe burgers are something that should be eaten fresh from the grill. My husband really enjoyed the potato salad.


Ease of Use (of website): I liked the ability to schedule ahead of time. Inventory was always updated. It was easy to check out my cart and pay. No issues.

Menu Selections: For the prepared food, there was a good variety. It changed every few days. Enough to keep me interested. Again, with the ability to schedule ahead, I can skip the days where the food wasn't interesting and order on the days I liked the offerings. The cooking kits only had some of the same items each day which sometimes ran out quickly.

Price: Expensive for the portion size. Blue Apron is $10 per meal and you get the same amount or more although you'd have to cook it yourself. With a delivery service, you're paying the restaurant's prices so it does help set expectations for price vs value.

Delivery: Punctual and even early. No issues.

Heating Directions: Everything was easy and clearly spelled out. No issues.

Taste: Unlike a delivery service where you order a restaurant meal, these are cooked by Munchery's chefs, some of which are from well known restaurants. Everything tasted great. 

It all comes down to price and perceived value. While the per plate price of Munchery may seem high, they don't require a commitment. Blue Apron requires you to order a minimum of 6 meals and they will ship and charge every week unless you log in and skip the delivery. Dream Dinners also required a commitment of one month.
Munchery has a la carte options so you can order side dishes only, or entrees only if that's all you need that day. With the ability to choose ahead for that week, it allows me to plan just far enough in advance to help me that week but not so much that I am committed for future weeks. To me, this is Munchery's biggest selling point. I do not want to commit. I still cook 2-3 times a week in big enough portions for future meals. But some days are unpredictably busier than others and I need an option to take care of dinner while at work on the same day. 

If you are interested in trying Munchery for yourself, you can use this referral link and get $10 off your order.

Wednesday, April 6

Capriotti's Sandwich Shop + Giveaway - San Jose

A sandwich chain from Wilmington, Delaware has apparently already gained a loyal following in San Jose. This weekend I went to the grand opening of Capriotti's Sandwich Shop on Tasman Rd. in North San Jose. The first 100 customers would receive a gift card for free signature Bobbie's sandwiches for the year (1 per week).
This guy stood in line since 5AM for an 11AM opening. He won the first of the coupons. Apparently he already had Capriotti's at another location and also downloaded their royalty app.

The smallest size sub at Capriotti's is a 9". At $7.99, that's a stellar deal! Medium is 12" and large is 20". Dang, that's big.

I got the Italian Sausage 9" sub ($7.99) with fried onions, hot and sweet peppers, and marinara sauce on the side. It was so good. So legit. The bread was warm and soft. The sausages were flavorful, and I highly suggest adding the hot/sweet peppers to the sandwich. It has a good kick.

Here are a few other sandwich options (prices are for the 9")
Photo by Capriotti's
 The Bobbie ($7.59) - winners of the free sandwiches will redeem this one. Capriotti's started by selling homemade roasted turkey fresh every day. This became their signature and it's in the signature sandwich, the Bobbie, with cranberry sauce, stuffing, and mayo. It's a Thanksgiving-wich

Photo by Capriotti's
Capastrami ($8.49) - grilled pastrami, cole slaw, Russian dressing, Swiss cheese

Photo by Capriotti's
Cheese steak ($8.49) - steak and American cheese with options for onions and hot peppers

Photo by Capriotti's
Meatball Sub ($7.99) - homemade meatball, provolone, grated romano, and marinara sauce

Capriotti's is sponsoring the following prizes for a giveaway. There will be 5 winners. Only open to Bay Area residents. Giveaway ends midnight on 4/13/16.
(5) Coupons for Free Lunch ( Two 9" subs, two bags of chips, two drinks)
Offer good for up to $25 total meal redemption. Any unused portion will be forfeited. Expires Dec 31, 2016.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Monday, March 28

Tava Kitchen Launches New Menu + Giveaway - Palo Alto

Mango Lassi and Cardamon Iced Chai drinks
Tava Kitchen in Palo Alto is rebranding and changing up their menu. Formerly Tava Indian Kitchen, the new name and menu aims to reflect a less Indian-centric cuisune with the introduction of some Southeast Asian influenced items. We were invited to a tasting event and I'm excited to share with you their revamped items. Stay until the end for details on a giveaway!

Garlic Naan is a must have with Indian food. ($2 extra when added to the meal)

One of the changes implemented for the new menu is the steamer trays have been replaced with Le Creuset Balti Dish (*Affiliate link). They are a very colorful and home-style way to serve food. 

Plenty of sides available to go with the entrees

Here's how the menu works:
Choose an entree with rice or in a wrap (different prices for each). Add one side. Or add 2 sides for a higher price.
The first meal we tasted consisted of Chicken Tikka, Crunchy Kale & Quinoa, Chilled Brussel Sprouts & Grapes

Soft B Sprouts with crunchy carrots and sweet grapes in a mint chutney. Very well balanced.

Crunchy Kale with red quinoa in a turmeric dressing was a flavor and texture bomb.

Left: South Asian Mac and Cheese was just a regular mac and cheese with an Asian influence seasoned bread crumb. Can't go wrong with mac and cheese though.
Middle: Braised Beef which was tender served on brown rice
Right: Glazed Sweet Potatoes with a sprinkle of Himalayan Pink Salt

Left: Roasted Heirloom Carrot with cumin and coriander. Is there anything better than an heirloom produce? This is the perfect preparation for a roasted carrot. I highly recommend getting this as a side, plus it's very filling.
Middle: Pineapple Glazed Salmon over brown rice
Right: Asian Noodle Slaw with bean thread, edamame, bell peppers. I was actually a big fan of this. The bean thread was thicker than usual and the ginger dressing was mellow but tasty.

Left: Candied Beet Salad with yellow beets and yogurt dressing with spices. I love yellow beets!
Middle: Lamb Meatballs in a curry-ish sauce on rice. This was good.
Right: Baked New Potatoes. Other than the nice and soft purple one, I thought the potatoes were pretty bland. Maybe halved and roasted would make it crispier? Maybe a sprinkle of salt and pepper would do it?

This is what all the dishes look like when plated. If you ordered from them, your food would come out like this. 

You can also choose your items in a wrap.

Grab a healthy kids meal for the kiddos like the mac and cheese or the quesadilla. Comes with grapes and organic milk.

You must get anything with the candied pistachios. They're made in house and it's fantastic. Tava Kitchen should really package this up and sell it as an add on along with their Tava spice.

The kind folks at Tava Kitchen are so excited to share this new menu with you, they sponsored the giveaway below. Please follow their Instagram account @TavaKitchen and fill in this widget. There will be 3 winners. The coupons are only valid at the Palo Alto location.
Two winners will each receive a pair of $10 coupons
One winner will receive a pair of Free Entree coupons

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