Sunday, May 7



I've stopped posting on this blog and have moved to a lifestyle blog called Ngoc Is. Please follow this link.

See you there!

Saturday, January 21

Rubio's Coastal Grill - Grand Opening - San Jose

We are never disappointed when we dine at Rubio's Coastal Grill. I prefer Mexican dishes with seafood in it and Rubio's offers healthy options. We were recently invited to soft opening for the newest San Jose location on Brokaw. We dined on our favorite dishes and tried a new burrito we never had before.

($8.99) The Cilantro Lime Rice Bowl is my favorite because it has no tortillas, cheese, and uses black beans rather than refried beans. These are the ingredients which often feel too heavy for me in Mexican food. The fish this season is Mahi Mahi with the option for blackened or grilled. Mine is blackened. The cilantro lime rice is light with delicate flavor and the fish was done perfectly. 

($10.49) Cabo Plate - this is my husband's favorite and one of the best sellers for Rubio's. What's not to love? It's probably the best value too. There's the original fish taco with delicious fried fish. Then a full sized shrimp burrito, chips, and refried beans. 

There's no better way to spice up a Wednesday night dinner than a Modelo. And for the health nut in me, an antioxidant drink from Bai.

For the baby, we ordered a grilled salmon burrito because he loves salmon. He filled up on the chips and guacamole instead. Toddlers...

The waitress came by with a tray of desserts, which are all available in store regularly, and we got to sample all their cookies. Snickerdoodle and chocolate chips are always a hit.

The new Rubio's is in the same complex as the latest Sprouts Farmers Market. The plaza is really going to be bustling once all the stores open. I think Rubio's picked a great spot and the residents nearby are in for a treat. 

Rubio's Coastal Grill
1078 E. Brokaw Road
San Jose CA, 95131

Friday, December 16

Balsam Hill Treelot 2016 - Burlingame

The Balsam Hill annual Treelot event is one of my favorite holiday events to attend. At their Burlingame show room, rows of trees are displayed and walls are covered in wreaths, garlands, and ornaments. Last year's event was a spectacular evening and this year had much of the same wonderful spirit.

The marvelous wine, cheese, bread, and cold cuts table

Wreaths, garlands, and ornaments adorning the walls.

The part I look forward to the most is the wreath decorating contest. Balsam Hill items were displayed on the tables. After a brief introduction from interior designers on this year's trends and decorating tips, it was a mad dash to gather items for our wreath.

Tran and I are so proud of how our wreath turned out this year. It was really all her aesthetic eye. I only helped with assembly. Our design won second place this year! I'm so excited. We didn't win anything last year and all the other wreaths were amazing this year too. 

Here are some of the other trendy and high quality Christmas decor by Balsam Hill. Their trees are very realistic and the ornaments are really high quality.

Monday, November 7

Real Good Fish - Community Supported Fishery

Our family doesn't eat seafood often mainly because I don't know how to cook fish that well. But calamari, THAT I can do! Thanks to a local business, Real Good Fish, we were able to try sustainable calamari last week. Real Good Fish makes weekly deliveries of seafood from 25 different fisherman who catch from Ft. Bragg to Monterey. The business was started by graduate students on a mission to protect our oceans and local fishermen. Their story can be found here.

I picked up my delivery on a Thursday from the local public library. It felt funny walking into the library with a cooler bag and getting frozen seafood from the periodicals section. But when I chatted with the employee there, she said it was actually a popular program and many people worked or lived close by and picked up their weekly catches at the library. It made me feel good about supporting not just a community business (Real Good Fish) but also a community center like the library. My fish was kept adequately frozen and they offered insulated bags to carry the catch home even though I brought my own.

For more information on how it works, costs, and pick up locations, you can read the Real Good Fish website. I received a one time order free of charge to write this review.

Left: cleaned and gutted squid
Right: Smoked black cod

I started with drying my squid on paper towels. Then I cut half into rings and did a batter. I added cajun spices and other seasonings into a batch of flour and split that into two containers. A third bowl had milk. I battered my rings in this order before frying them: flour, milk, flour, fry.

The fried calamari rings turned out great! The batter was flavorful and crispy. I would cut the rings larger next time so I could taste more squid than batter. If the oil is hot, they cook up super fast. We dipped these in Sir Kensington's Special Sauce with a swirl of Sriracha sauce.

The remaining half of the squid were scored and simply seared on a panini maker in an attempt to get grill marks. I didn't get the grill marks and they were still very tasty. No seasonings, just a spray of Pam on the grill surface. For these, I used Vietnamese nuoc cham (fish sauce) and Japanese ponzu. They tasted best with the nuoc cham.

Here's our whole spread with soba noodles in a soba dipping sauce. Shaved brussel sprout salad in the middle. It was a wonderful dinner and a great way to add variety to our usual rotation of beef and chicken. Deliveries from sustainable fisheries are a great way to support local businesses and ensure we don't overfish from our oceans. You eat what is caught that week and don't create demand for fish from far locations that must be shipped over. For the home cook like me, it helps me practice cooking new recipes that I wouldn't otherwise cook. I hope you check out Real Good Fish and see their offerings.

Monday, October 17

Fisherman's Wharf in Monterey

Last weekend, we spend a day trip in Monterey for a friend's birthday. The weather could not be more perfect for a seaside hang out. The morning started at Water + Leaves, a coffee shop on Fisherman's Wharf. Pretty much the coolest blank-plus-blank name ever, right?

Frankly,  I never expected Monterey to have something so cool. My past visits to Monterey have never been so hip. It's a nice place that I think of older retirees enjoying. But I really dug the vibe of this coffee shop.

You can't beat the ocean view on the patio while enjoying a morning latte and almond croissant. This little guy approves.

Happy Hour oysters all day on a Saturday is also hard to top. These oysters were $99c each at Abalonetti on Fisherman's Wharf. Fresh, sweet, briney. Divine!

We had to pair our oysters with something of more sustenance and the calamari did just the job.

Shortly after, we left Fisherman's Wharf and met up with our friends. It concluded a good relaxing morning on the wharf for our unit. And Little guy look great in his nautical outfit.

Tuesday, October 11

Tender Greens - Palo Alto

In my previous post, I had written about new openings in Palo Alto recently. The city already has a health conscious demographic which made newcomer, Tender Greens, a perfect fit for the Stanford Shopping Center. Tender Greens is a sit down restaurant specializing in salads, although you do order at the counter. Unlike Pluto's or other salad bars where you choose your own ingredients, there are already set salad combinations designed to have complimentary flavors. Tender Greens recently invited me and my husband for a complimentary lunch. 

($2.75) Agua Fresca - you can't go wrong with watermelon juice. It's always refreshing. 

($12.50) Tuna Nicoise - seared albacore tuna with baby greens, tomato, potato, capers, green beans, quail egg, olives, sherry vinaigrette, and a slice of buttered garlic toast.
I was very happy with my selection. There are large pieces of fresh tuna, sweet tomatoes, and the portion size was very filling. That garlic toast is so good. I highly recommend this dish and would get it again.

($12.50) Backyard marinated steak sandwich with butter lettuce
The ingredients in this sandwich were all high quality and wonderful on their own. The steak pieces were large and cooked perfectly and the roasted peppers were a nice addition. It just lacked a flavorful sauce to bind it together well. There is an aioli spread which tasted bland. 

($4) Side of red quinoa salad with radish, cucumbers, pickled radish (?), and a garlic toast.
This is definitely a side I would order again. Quinoa is a healthy grain to fill up on while feeling very light. They seasoned it lightly and enhanced with the other vegetables. Again, the toast is wonderful.

Our whole meal

($2.50 each) salted caramel with white chocolate, and chocolate chip cookies
For dessert, our waiter brought out warm cookies. They are the BEST. Just absolutely, the best. Chewy, soft, perfect. Salted caramel is better than chocolate chip although the choc chips were also one of the best choc chip cookies I've had too.

The food at Tender Greens is really fresh and tasty if you are into healthy salads. Although the price is expensive, it is Stanford Shopping Center and you can easily make a salad worth $12.50 with all the add-ons at Pluto's, which I consider to be in a similar category. The line gets very long at lunch even though it moves quickly. I highly recommend the tuna nicoise salad and also to finish your meal with a cookie. Why not? You deserve it after eating healthy salads.

Thursday, October 6

The Habit Burger Grill Introduces ‘Golden Chicken Sandwich’

Debuting a Fried Chicken Option for the First Time
New Sandwich Available for a Limited Time Only
For the first time ever, Habit Restaurants, Inc. is introducing a Golden Chicken Sandwich nationwide. The Golden Chicken Sandwich is the perfect addition to The Habit menu that is known for its variety, quality and value. This Golden Chicken Sandwich ($6.25) starts with a fresh, filleted chicken breast that is hand-dipped into house-made seasoned flour and buttermilk, not just once but twice, before being fried to perfection and custom made to order. This extra care gives the Golden Chicken a crunchy, flavorful crust while keeping all the juiciness. The Golden Chicken Sandwich is topped with a new spicy red pepper sauce and served with fresh sliced tomato, lettuce and tangy pickles on a soft toasted bun. “Better burgers are truly just the start at The Habit, and this new Golden Chicken Sandwich complements our overall menu of high quality, deliciously custom-crafted food and gives guests another favorite item to enjoy at The Habit,” said Adam Baird, executive chef at The Habit Burger Grill.

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