Thursday, October 23

The Great Meltdown by Tasting Table and Lexus

On a sunny beautiful California October day (can you believe those words describe October), we attended the all you can eat grilled cheese festival in Woodside. It's also known as The Great Meltdown hosted by Tasting Table and Lexus. Woodside is only a short 30ish minute drive from San Jose. The venue was the beautiful Mountain Terrace which I've seen that people book for their weddings. It's set against tall redwoods through which you see a sliver of the Silicon Valley.

The cost was $20 + $1.75 tax + Eventbrite fee of a few bucks. It's all you can eat grilled cheese from 6 local Bay Area restaurants and all you can drink beer (4 different types). Psycho Donuts served donut holes for dessert. There was also a photobooth. The event lasted 3 hours and there were no lines for anything - not for food, drinks, or porta-potties. These were the classiest portable bathrooms I've ever seen. They had a sink with counter top, flower vase, and decorative rug in each stall.

I was immediately impressed by the venue set up. There was also a live jazz band playing in the corner. 

They also displayed a 2015 Lexus GS 350 for anyone interested in sitting in the lap of luxury. Luxury grilled cheese sandwiches are more my thing.

This sandwich contained 3 different kinds of cheeses and a side of pickled golden beets. The cheese was melty goodness but the ratio of cheese to bread was just too much. It oozed out in large gobs on each side and cheese is actually very salty so too much cheese made the sandwich too salty. The pickles were great. I don't think I've ever had pickled beets before.

This one looked the fanciest but I wasn't a fan. There's all different sorts of cheeses inside that were just too strong.

These were one of the best of the whole event. Sandwiches with melted cheddar and a thick slice of short rib with a dab of sriracha. So simple, so good.

I came too late and the American Grilled Cheese Kitchen ran out of their popular items like a jalapeno popper grilled cheese. They only had these plain cheddar and bacon sandwiches left.

Precita Park Cafe made the second best sandwich of the whole place. It was just plain cheddar with a fried green tomato in the middle and dipped in a creamy yogurty herb sauce. Like!

I ended the meal with two different sandwiches from the Grilled Cheese Guys. The top had bacon I think and the bottom one which was better, had roasted bell peppers.

Great festival. I hope they have it again next year. The venue was perfect! If anyone is thinking of having a wedding at Mountain Terrace, I am now sold on the ambiance!

Here's the link to the Eventbrite listing:

Saturday, October 4

Ramen Yokocho Fest - San Jose

Here's a quick drive by post with some information, photos, and ramen from this weekend's Ramen Yokocho Festival in San Jose. The festival is open until 9PM today and again from 11AM - 9PM tomorrow. Then next week it runs from Friday evening through Sunday. Click this link for more information:

Admission is $5 and ramen is $8/bowl
Express lane pass $20
VIP ticket $60 gets you early admission on Friday, express lane, 2 ramen, and a T-shirt

I went with a friend and we both used a media pass which got us free admission, express lane access, and enough tickets to try all 10 ramen stalls. Therefore, I can give you a truly comprehensive post about each ramen offered. They also had takoyaki and okonomiyaki but after 10 ramen bowls, we got tired. 
NOTE: none of the vendors served egg with their ramen because the health inspector said it's too difficult to regulate the cooking temperature in that kind of environment. Boo!

My tips are: go with friends, many of them. It'll be more fun this way and you can all taste different flavors. Generally stick to the longest lines because those people know what's up. Unless you want something specifically from what I describe. Have fun!

First of all, everyone gets a free packet of Pocky at the door. If you get in early enough, there are Pocky displays inside which is a free for all and you can get as many packets as you want.
There's also a booth sampling Snapea Crisps.

Here are the ramen.
Tastunoya - when you walk in, it's the farthest left stall
thin noodles, creamy broth, pork has 80% fat
This has the best overall balance of everything, though I don't think it has the best in any category of meat, broth, or noodles. Probably my vote for second best broth.

Shin-Sen Gumi - from the popular LA based chain
Best broth.
Creamy broth with almost egg noodle-like noodles, thinly sliced pork, and pickled ginger. This also had a decent balance in terms of the 3 major items but is only a winner to me because of the broth. I'm not a fan of these noodles.

Kohmen - from Tokyo - farthest right stall
This one had the best soy marinated chashu, hands down. They give you two different types of meat. One which is a piece of lean pork that looks white in the photo. Another, which is buried under my broth, is a flavorful, thick cut of soy soaked chashu that is all lean, no fat. The noodles are the thicker, wavier kind you get from most ramen shops. There's also menma (bamboo shoots) in this too. If it wasn't for the broth, this one would have been my favorite because chashu is so important too.

Jinya Ramen Bar - From Tokyo and Los Angeles
Best spicy broth. Only 2 vendors were really serving spicy broths.
There's a gingery taste in the broth. Noodles come with cooked sprouts and woodear mushrooms. Meat is thinly sliced and so tender it's almost shredded.

After the top 4, I don't have any favorites so the rest are just random.
Chanpontei - From Shiga, Japan
This was really interesting to me. It's not the usual miso, shoyu, or tonkotsu broth. Chanpon broth is a hodge podge of pork and seafood. It often comes with this variety of veggies pictured. The noodles are also different. They are just the right amount of chewy. This is a good ramen for those who don't like the heavier broth and noodles.

Tsujita - From Tokyo and LA
This was the other spicy miso vendor. I did not like the spicy miso flavoring they used. It's that red paste. Maybe you can ask them to omit it if you want this ramen. There was something about it not to my liking. The cubed chashu was very good though. Probably the second best chashu.

Hiromaru - from Toyama, Japan and Las Vegas
This is the vendor known for fusion ramen. The broth here looked like milk. It tasted like lots of mushroom and umami though. Not bad. Very interesting. The noodles were just eh. Chashu was decent.

Men Oh - Tokushima and San Francisco
I thought this bowl was average in all categories of meat, broth, and noodles. Just average.

Keizo Shimamoto - New York
This vendor was supposed to do the ramen burger and they provided this bowl, which can only constitute a deconstructed ramen burger with tiny patty topped with a small slice of cheese. You're basically getting a broth-less, pan fried noodle with bacon bits. The bacon was great, the noodles were seasoned and cooked decently, the patty was just a patty, and you do get a handful of greens to balance. It's all the makings of a ramen burger, just in a different form. Not too shabby.

 Shoki Ramen House - From Sacramento
This vendor was supposed to do organic tomato ramen but today he brought a ramen burrito. It comes with ramen, lettuce, sprouts, menma, and your choice of vegetarian, vegan, or pastrami inside. Topped with a sesame dressing and tomatoes on top. I'm never a fan of fusion things like this. I don't enjoy cold dry noodles and pastrami in a cold and dry wrap. But, I ate this after 8 bowls of salty ramen and was really relieved for the tomatoes and lettuce. Kudos for the heirloom tomatoes though. They're great.

Thursday, October 2

Plant Based Pizza - San Jose

There are times when a clever name makes a restaurant stand out and then other times when the name tells you exactly like it is. Plant Based Pizza tells it like it is. "We are an eatery that sells pizzas made from plants." Located on the corner of a very suburban neighborhood next to what else but a Togo's sandwich shop, Plant Based Pizza with it's eclectic, recycled and repurposed decor hides innocuously on an innocuous block. One would never know anything good or unique was here at all.

One peek inside and it's a different story. Plant Based Pizza's decor is like the inside of an authentic Mexican restaurant in the Mission and full of inspiring artwork to make you do good and feel good. You can feel pretentious and sometimes still hungry after you eat vegan food, but you will never feel guilty. The decor here reminds you of that.

If realizing that animals did not die for your lunch today didn't inspire feelings of good environmental citizenship, maybe this repurposed coke bottle as a pepper flake dispenser, or these old spoons bent into a napkin holder would do the job.

They offer slices of already made pizzas in the food warmer for those not willing to commit to an entire pie. Olivia bought two slices of this pizza of the day. I'm not sure what flavor it was. She seemed to thoroughly enjoy it.

($7.95) The Amunrud sisters, Kate and Gillian, ordered gluten free garlic chip appetizers which were divine! There's vegan cheese and a garlicky taste on each chip baked to crispy perfection paired with marinara dip. A definite must purchase item.

They also ordered a pie with tomato sauce, basil, vegan cheese, mushrooms, tomatoes, and broccoli. Very healthy stuff. I think this is the 10" gluten-free Five Level Veggies for $15.95.

(forgot the price) Kale smoothie - I wasn't a fan because this was clumpy and milky. Maybe kale should be reserved for juicing. It was also a little bland. 

($9.95) Jamaican Jerk Chicken Burger - comes with a side salad as big as the burger itself.
Leave it to me, a true carnivore, to order the meatiest tasting thing at a vegan restaurant. This burger was excellent. It doesn't taste at all like meat so don't prepare yourself for that. The consistency was way better than a boca burger. It's not really seasoned like jerk seasoning but a little spicy and savory nonetheless. The fresh toasted sesame bun is soft on the inside. Everything was piping hot off the grill. And of course you can't deny the great value of the side salad that's as large as the burger. The burger is a bit dry, missing a sort of aioli kind of sauce that would make it even better. I still think it was a great burger to dive into the plant based food experience!

Plant Based Pizza is an order at the counter establishment. Service is pretty standard as there need not be much attention to the customer this way. After going to Kate and Gillian's vegan dinner party, I learned that plant based flours are delicious, especially cauliflower. I felt the same about everything I ate and sampled at Plant Based Pizza. Those garlic chips were a huge hit with me. The Jamaiacan Jerk Chicken Burger just hit it out of the ball park. I'm never giving up meat but I'm now picking up vegan food as well. I thought the burger was priced right but the pizza's were priced high compared to a regular pizza. I'm not familiar with the cost of vegan ingredients and I assume it's pricey given it's niche. $16 for a 10" is a bit much. Does anyone else have a good idea of the pricing for vegan food?

Plant Based Pizza on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, September 30

Palm Springs 2014 Recap

Now back to my personal eating adventures, not sponsored or promoted by anyone. Phil and I had a chance to return to our favorite domestic vacation spot of all times, Palm Springs, which has been covered on the blog thoroughly last time. I like it for short relaxing getaways because Palm Springs is littered with beautiful resorts. We can keep ourselves entertained with resort activities.
But first, let's fly into Long Beach because it's cheaper than flying into Palm Springs. When we're here, we must always stop by Roscoe's Chicken and Waffles for their fluffy waffles and crispy chicken with a side of collared greens. Always a good time at Roscoe's!

We got a free upgrade to a rental Jeep and it was off towards the desert we go.

Our first meal was at Catalan Restaurant, a tapas bar that Phil picked out.

I thought this might come with more than 2 tentacles and a buttload of spicy peppers. I was wrong. The octopus was tasty albeit sparse. In the background is a huge portion of roasted bone marrow and not picture in that same order is a container of chicken liver pate and jam.

Phil liked this burger enough. Not one to rave about but it does the job.

The scallops themselves were good and the shaved endive too. I was not crazy about the butternut squash puree.

The next day, in 100 degree weather under no shade, we did what we came to Palm Springs to do. Golf! $25 gets you a day pass to the driving range. You can come back again anytime and as many times that day as you want. We went once in the morning, took a break for lunch and to rest from the sun by going swimming. Then came back again in the afternoon. Capped off the day with a night time swim.

Forearms glistening with sweat.

Dinner that night was delicious seafood a restaurant, Fisherman's Landing, within the beautiful JW Marriott resort we almost stayed at. We chose not to stay here because they didn't have a water slide in their pool. Priorities.
Jumbo shrimp cocktail hit the spot for my seafood craving.

Clams in a delicious tomato sauce paired with extra cheesy garlic bread for dipping.

Phil wasn't so much a fan of the Hawaiin plate which seemed anything but Hawaiin. Salmon and some other fish, cooked pretty dryly. Shrimp on top with a very generic teriyaki sauce. Side of veggies and potato wedges.

At night we went for a swim to digest our food and had the pool all to ourselves.

This is a 30 year old husband, home owner, and working professional.

It rained heavily the next day as we ventured out to try this thing I found on Yelp at Elmer's Restaurant. It's a Dutch pancake which is the size of a large frying pan. iPhone shown for comparison. It turned out to be very bland and not worth the hype. 

On Monday we headed back to Long Beach for our flight but not before stopping by a few recommended eats in Anaheim. This is the Anaheim Packing House. It's much like our San Pedro Square Market with two floors and many more eateries. Some of the food is still generic though.

This chicken karaage from Orange Tei tastes really good. Way better than it looks. I don't know why it's white and crusty and looks like an STD, but it's tasty with the aioli sauce on the side.

I ordered and paid for a half portion of grilled cheese from Black Sheep GCB. Looks like a whole to me and I don't mind. The sandwich was hot and fresh and every bit as comforting as comfort food should be. The juice on the top left though, no good. Too sour.

We also had to try the garlic fries and the jalapeno slaw at the popular stand, The Kroft. Neither of which are good.

Finally back upstairs so I could buy an espresso shop from Cafecito Organico, and pour it onto a scoop of vanilla ice cream from Han's Homemade Ice Cream to make my fave affogato. Phil got an ice cream sandwich that beats Cream by miles. Everything was good.

Back home we go!

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