Friday, June 27, 2008

Hot Pot City

Lunch wtih Becky
June 2008

So we came across Hot Pot City as we walked around the Asian fast food mall (otherwise known as Ranch 99 shopping center). Looked a little bit dark and not so many people, but intrigued and we went in.

We asked for a table and they asked us - spicy or normal soup? We were a little confused. So the way this place works is each table has a grill with a hot pot that you can fill with all normal, all spicy, or half and half soup. Around the pot is a flat surface that you can cook meat on (like Korean BBQ). And best part? Buffet. Sweet.

I was SO excited for this place, and totally psyched that it turns out Becky is a huge foodie too :) We went to the buffet bar - I loaded up a plate with marinated chicken, pork and beef spare ribs, and Becky got stuff for the soup - thin sliced beef, lamb, some veggies, noodles, dumplings, and two squids. Yup whole squid. Awesome. And we went back for more.

We later discovered they also have kimchi (alot of heat) and shaved ice for dessert.

And all for $9.99 per person.

*I am also a huge fan of their $3 charge for wasting food. All buffets should do that. As my water polo coach used to say, "get what you eat, eat what you get"

*Friendly waitress kindly told us that they are open from 11am til like 1am or something like that, and they have late night specials

500 Barber Lane, Milpitas, CA 95035
(409) 428-0988

Tuesday, June 24, 2008


Dinner with eight people
June 2008

Despite the NYT food critic rave, I was a bit skeptical about a vegetarian restaurant/yoga studio. I mean really. But Yell is my best friend and she is both (veg and yoga-y) so I thought it would make her happy to go. We had a group of 8, and they require family style tasting menu for $50 for groups 8+ so we reserved their big table for a post-Napa wine tour dinner.

OMG. Phenomenal. I can't even describe to you how great the meal was. We started with marcona almonds with lavander sugar and sea salt, and carrot top pesto covered olives. Tostones with fennel. Roasted peach salad with burratta (officially my new favorite cheese, a super creamy, tender mozzarella) and homemade croutons. Strawberry margharita thin crust pizza with a strawberry puree that was reduced for hours, super subtle. Creamed cauliflower and couscous in iron skillet with crispy bread. Morels and this lentil-like grain with roasted garlic sauce. The desserts, OMG. Blueberry cheesecake in a jar. Play on breakfast with cereals and ice cream with coconut milk. And not to mention the almond milk shake.

I actually highly recommend taking a large group since alot of the experience was getting to taste to many different dishes, certainly not feasible for a smaller party. And how reasonable is $50 to be stuffed at a really nice restaurant. Love it.

New York Times Review - phenomenal, you should really read this

1140 Main Street, Napa, CA
(707) 251-5656

Cafe Bastille

June 2008

We discovered Belden Lane because it was a block from our hotel and we were famished. Alley is stuffed with tourists at evening time, though I think Plouf and B44 are supposed to be good. Cafe Bastille was the first place that could take a group of five, and we sat downstairs. Not going to lie, we were hungry and cranky, but the service was very slow, food mediocre, and atmosphere downstairs not great. I liked their occassional live music and might be fun (though tight) outdoors.

22 Belden Place, San Francisco, CA 94104
(415) 986-5673


June 2008

I like Peju because it feels like one of the really nice wineries without the pretentious servers and ridiculously expensive bottles. There are fountains and pools amid nice manicured lawn, and the back tasting room has a gorgeous stained glass wall. Always really fun servers.

I think tasting fees are $10 for 4 glasses (chard, provence, merlot, cab), which they waive if you buy. Or if you are like my nice friend, she charmed her way into their reserve collection for about 8 glasses. Their Provence is always a nice rose that I get for summer drinking. We also got the Cab Franc to have with grilled steak the next night, yummy.

8466 Saint Helena Hwy, Napa, CA 94558
(707) 963-3600

V Sattui

June 2008

Great winery to stop with a group for lunch. Big lawns and picnic tables if you can snag one, and they typically have a BBQ going (lunch $8-14 or so I think, ranging from mozzarella sandwich, tri tip hero, and salmon burger). Also a gourmet deli inside for huge selection of cheese and other goodies.

And of course the wine. Tastings are $8 or $15 per glass (they let you share which is nice, though they dont waive the fee even if you buy bottles). I like their off-dry Reisling, fan of their Gamay Rouge in the summer, and love the Madeira, a lovely port, which I get every time I can stop by here.

1111 White Lane, Saint Helena, CA 94574
(707) 963-7774

The Big Four Restaurant

"Big Game Week" dinner with Carolyn
May 2008

Amazing concept. Once a year, the Big Four Restaurant does a "Big Game Week", meaning a week of dinner specials including the finest buffalo, elk, yak, and any other wild large animal that they could put on a plate.

There is a special tasting appetizer course, with four choices I think. Included a wild boar tacos, venison medallons. For main, Carolyn went for buffalo, I went for the yak. Both were pretty much amazing and we were quite content.

Also, we really liked that the chef would periodically come out and sit down for a chat. She's been doing this for a number of years and she was super friendly, stopping at many of the tables. Interesting place, it is SUPER old -- not just decor, I think Carolyn and I brought down the average age by a good few decades

Between the bottle of wine, two courses, and I think dessert, certainly paid in triple digits, but man was it worth it. Going back next year if there are any takers.

The Huntington Hotel, 1075 California Street, San Francisco, CA 94108415) 771-1140

Red Lantern

Dinner with Jon and Tris
May 2008

Right next to the Redwood City train station, this super trendy looking Asian restaurant was surprisingly speedy and reasonably priced ($15 per person, stuffed, without alcohol).

808 Winslow Street, Redwood City, CA 94063
(650) 369-5483

Lahaina Grill

Dinner with mom and Jen
June 2008

I had a lovely dinner at the Lahaina Grill in downtown Lahaina (cute little main street with galleries and little shops) in Maui. My mom and I went all out and had the sumptuous tasting menu - the cake walk, a combo of lobster, shrimp and seared ahi cake; I had the meat, mom the seafood sampler. Duck confit was a little disappointing but the rack of lamb and steak were good. Nice place, though I can't describe the decor well -- old 'inn' meets seaside shack.

127 Lahainaluna Road, Lahaina, HI 96761
(808) 667-5117

ABC Seafood Restaurant

June 2008

Good dim sum place next to the Asian fast food mall by Ranch 99 (in the two story plaza next to it). Absolutely no atmosphere since they were doing construction on the entranceway, but typical yummy dim sum, with carts of goodness and pushy servers. It was mass chaos at peak lunch time but I have seen it more subdued later afternoon. $36 for two for lunch.

768 Barber Lane, Milpitas, CA 95035
(408) 435-8888