San Jose

Gilroy Garlic Festival–Interesting sights

After missing it last year, I was able to attend the Gilroy Garlic Festival this time. And I can safely say that it was a good experience.

Gilroy is known for its garlic farms and garlic flavoured food. If you pass Gilroy on 101, you will see lots of garlic farms and restaurants. This festival, held in July last week every year, brings all food creators together under one roof. On one ground, actually. The festival is held on a huge barren land. There is dry grass and dust as far as the eye can see. More on that in a little while.

This festival has attributes of a typical summer fest – music, food, shopping, kid stuff and fun sights. It can be a family outing or a chill out excursion with friends.

Of course, the highlight is food. All foods have one thing in common – an obvious tinge of garlic. Garlic egg rolls, garlic mussels, garlic pasta pesto, garlic veggie wrap, garlic popcorn, garlic pistachios – garlic is an intrinsic part (and not in a bad way) in everything. If you are allergic to or have a dislike for garlic, there is not much you can eat there.

I delved into some stuffed garlic mushrooms and garlic bread, both of which were heavenly. Must try for everyone. But mind you, the garlic bread was super heavy. I was done with just these.

I tasted samples of garlic pistachios and popcorn. Both were really good. Worth buying and stocking in your house.

Now for the tricky parts.

There is an entry fee of $20. I think that’s a bit too much.

The parking lots and the main festival area are far away. You need to park your car in the parking lot and take shuttle buses to the ticket counter. And if it is as hot and dusty as yesterday, that experience won’t be pleasant.

Some exits from the freeway may be choked up. I took the Monterey exit on 101S and experienced slow moving bumper to bumper traffic. Do not follow your GPS. As the website recommends, many roads will be blocked. Only some main exits are allowed. Cop cars and signs will lead the way to the parking lot. I suggest taking the Masten Ave exit on 101S. It was deserted (I took it on the way back and sailed through).

If it is going to be hot like yesterday, be prepared. Hats, bottles, tissues and if possible, your own mats, chairs and umbrella to put up under shade. There were 2 free water service counters. Keep an eye for them; they will not be easily discernible.

I would love to visit this festival again next year and try more food items.

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I said interesting fun sights, right?

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Garden sticks being sold at a stall. This place was swarming with parents and kids. I did pick 2 for my balcony garden.

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Strawberry+Banana+Peach smoothie from Fruit Fritz. Without this, I would have been dehydrated. This was yummy. $9 for this big glass; $4 for refill. Worth it.

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Sauteed mushrooms, shrimp and garlic bread (uh-uh, that’s not my plate!)

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Flat bottle trays. To be used to serve cheese, sushi, starters, etc. Some interesting labels on these.

Categories: Bay Area, California, Photography, San Jose, Travel, USA | Tags: , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Art Around San Jose

Wikipedia defines Street art as ‘an umbrella term defining forms of visual art created in public locations, usually unsanctioned artwork executed outside of the context of traditional art venues.’ A lot of street art in and around San Jose is hardly unsanctioned, thanks to the Art Box Project SJ driven by Tina Morrill. She identified several utility boxes across SJ (especially in Downtown), collected contribution from the community, recruited artists and got the boring grey metal boxes converted into beautiful art pieces. As of January 2013, 40 boxes were done and more were in progress. Check out their FB page to see more beautiful paintings and know more about the project..

Here are some pictures I could capture. Unfortunately, I do not have artist names.

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downtown san jose art

painted utility boxes

san jose street art

The first three pictures were taken in Downtown SJ. The fourth one is on Bascom. This one is my fav.

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Outside University of Art, Meridian Avenue

See how SJ is so decked up?

When I came to SJ a year ago I was looking for walls filled with graffiti and art. I didn’t find those walls but these paintings made up for it.

Here are some more pictures I took in several cities.

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Wall Art on Museum of Monterey, Monterey.

street art san louis obispo

street art san luis obispo

The above two were taken in San Luis Obispo Downtown

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Categories: Bay Area, California, Photography, San Jose, USA | Tags: , , , , , | 5 Comments

Spring

Spring officially started on March 20th. And with that, we said goodbye to harsh cold, dead trees and fallen dried leaves. By now, trees are full of green leaves. The transition is beautiful. I watched the barren tree in front of my house for days, searching for some sign of life. Then one day, I spot a few green leaves. The next day, there are some more. And after a few days, whoosh! The tree is loaded with bright green leaves!

My dry Bougainvillea and reduced-to-nothing Minuteman have sprung back to life.

Nothing makes me happier than seeing a dead plant come back to life.

Taking walks in the neighborhood has become a pleasure. Birds are chirping away to glory. Fragrant flowers are everywhere. Everything is so cheery.

I spotted these rose plants on one such walk. I never liked roses. But this one looks magical.

When nature is blooming with so many pretty colors every where, who am I to defy??

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Ps: Even though I had just 3 pictures (that too instagram pictures), I could not resist sharing them. I will probably keep adding more.

Categories: Bay Area, California, Photography, San Jose, Travel, USA | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Sushi Boulevard, Sunnyvale – Restaurant Review

I read about sushi first in movie magazines like Filmfare during school. In interviews, celebrities would quote sushi as their favourite food. I was so curious. Then I got the idea from somewhere that sushi meant squids and eels. Eek!

I have become a fan of sushi (and this restaurant) in the last 2 months. I have visited Sushi Boulevard (SB) thrice in 1.5 months. I am that crazy. It has become comfort food, anytime food and an ideal meal after a long tiring day.

This little, basic restaurant is located in Sunnyvale. They often offer Groupon deals. If you miss that, you can always visit them during their Happy Hour (3 pm to 7 pm). They offer 20% discount on the total bill during these 4 hours.

The service is pretty quick unless crowded. It is unpredictable, actually. Sometimes, the place is almost empty and yet food takes a little while to arrive. And given that I always go there from college, starved and deprived of good food, the wait seems a tad longer than usual. Well, sometimes they just have one cook. That could be the reason.

Their menu is elaborate and like most sushi bars, many items are presented with pictures on the menu card. Believe me, that is pretty helpful! Not to mention, the items are listed in alphabetical order. How convenient!

I usually go in for their rolls. Gordon & Spider Roll are my favourites. You cannot miss Gordon. It is marked with a red chilli, indicating that it is the spiciest roll. As per my tolerance level, it is not really spicy but yes, spicier than others and extremely flavourful. This has to be my favourite dish. It is made of up tako, scallop, shrimp, cucumber and jalapeno. Slurp!

The second is Spider Roll. The pieces are large and filling made of crab, avocado, cucumber and tobiko.

I have tried other rolls like Miss Netscreen (Tuna, Salmon, Hirame, Shrimp, Cucumber) which was a little bland, Hamachi Roll & Jackson Roll (Spicy tuna roll with seaweed). There are numerous options to try out and because I am still not bored of sushi or SB, I will be trying out more items of their menu.

Visit their website which has the detailed menu with pictures and descriptions to help you choose better. They also have some vegetarian rolls and a lunch menu.

It is a wrong idea that sushi is raw food. Indeed, the seafood portion is often raw (I am sure it is treated in some way and is not totally raw) but some sushi rolls are steamed or deep fried. There are many rolls that contain vegetables in larger quantities, suppressing the raw taste of seafood. And then you have the very spicy Wasabi sauce and Soy to pique up the flavour. Undeniably, sushi is an acquired taste. It took me 3 attempts to get hooked on to it. But do try it. Like me, you may get addicted and it may soon become your drug (yes, in my case It’s that bad. During my upcoming India visit, I am going to miss sushi like crazy).

And if you are near San Jose, visit Sushi Boulevard so that you get a great first time experience!

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Miso soup served at the beginning. It is yummy.

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Don’t remember the name but it was pretty raw and mild

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Spider Roll. Yummylicious!

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Jackson Roll. It was pretty good.

Categories: Bay Area, California, Restaurant Reviews, San Jose, Travel | Tags: , , , , | 2 Comments

Isabella’s Restaurant, San Jose

Isabella’s is a Peruvian food restaurant at Winchester Boulevard (near Santana Row). I was excited to have a look at the restaurant interiors menu because this was my first experience with South American cuisine. I had no clue what kind of flavour this fare has.

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The interiors are done simply with some wall art and some artefacts, probably depicting SA cultures. The place was full even on a Tuesday evening. We were lucky enough to find a corner table.

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Our server quickly asked us for drinks. They have some speciality regional drinks also on the menu. You can try those if you feel adventurous.

They are more known for their seafood. They had the best dishes to offer in seafood. Chicken dishes did not seem special. So, we went in for 2 seafood dishes – Fresh Fish Cebiche and Arroz con Mariscos (sautéed seafood with fried rice).

We had to impatiently wait for a while before the dishes arrived. And the seafood-rice dish looked amazing! We barely took a few compulsive photos for this post and divulged! And the taste was heavenly. The seafood (shrimp, mussels, clams) was absolutely fresh. The rice was pleasantly sautéed in peas and light spices (pretty similar to Indian preparation). We stared with remorse at the empty dish after 5 minutes.

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Next arrived the Cebiche. This cold dish was served with corn, onions and yam. As many reviews mentioned, it was more lime-y. It was sourer than necessary. If you really like Cebiche and want to order it here, do inform them to make it less sour.

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For dessert, we ordered Peruvian Banana Sundae. They did not have Peruvian ice cream and used ice cream. The ice cream (orange and strawberry) was as such good but I did not like the fried banana much. Some people may really like the taste and maybe this dish would actually be nice.

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Green sauce served to spice up your meal. Mind you, this sauce is very very spicy

My conclusion is that this place is known for its warm seafood dishes. Their flavoured rice, sautéed seafood and speciality sauces are your best bet. I would love to try the other dishes mentioned under ‘Seafood’ in their menu. The photos look so attractive (check out pictures on their Facebook page). I wish we had not ordered the Cebiche and ordered another rice dish instead.

They are a tad expensive (each main dish costing 15 to 17 bucks). Hence, one can make use of the discount coupons they offer on their website.

I would love to visit them again. The memory of soft, juicy and flavoursome shrimps with delicious rice is still fresh on my taste buds.

Categories: Bay Area, Restaurant Reviews, San Jose, Travel, USA | Tags: , , , | 4 Comments

Scrambl’z, San Jose–Restaurant Review

Of all the places we stumbled across using Groupons, Scrambl’z has to be the clear winner. We have been visiting this ‘fun place to eat’ every other month, especially with guests visiting us from out of SJ. It is just our excuse to go there again and again.

Scrambl’z is a breakfast and brunch place. Essentially, breakfast. It is open from 7 am till 2 pm every day (oh yes. Please remember this lest you want to land up there at 7 pm and be disappointed, like us). They have a huge menu with a huge variety of eggs, omelettes, pancakes, waffles, juices, crepes and sandwiches. Many of their main dishes (like omelettes and benedicts) come with one or more sides. And you won’t believe it, the side is as big and heavy as a main dish. Greed will naturally overcome you; you will order a lot of food and struggle to finish it.

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Lot of yummy food along with Hazelnut Coffee. I never give this one a miss

Their menu is overwhelming. First they astonish you with statistics like the number of eggs broken each week (18000), number of oranges squeezed each week (10000) and amount of flour used (1 ton). And then confuse you with the vast array of breakfast dishes.

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Chocolate Crepes

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Bread Pudding French Toast

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Whole Grain Waffle

Rarely have we been disappointed there.

Our personal favourites there are Whole Grain Waffle, San Francisco Omelette, Florentine Eggs Benedict, Bread Pudding French Toast and Biscuits. Of course, we are yet to try many, many other dishes.

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Florentine Eggs Benedict

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San Francisco Omelette

For 3 people, choice of one main dish and 2 side dishes would be perfect (along with some coffee and / or juice). An omelette, for example, comes with 2 sides you can choose. That would be perfect.

Their interior is worth mentioning. They have a very American feel. Lot of B&W photographs of stars, witty signboards and vintage posters crowd all the walls. You can easily spend the wait time gazing across these. Scrambl’z can be crowded in mornings and you can expect a 15 minutes wait.

It’s going to be a while before I get bored of this place. I am already looking forward to my fourth visit there.

Breakfast happens to be my favourite meal of the day. I have a seed of thought growing in my head. Maybe I should try out all Breakfast / Brunch places in SJ???

Categories: Bay Area, Restaurant Reviews, San Jose, Travel, USA | Tags: , , , , | 4 Comments

Go Go Gyro, Los Altos–Restaurant Review

Like Saaghi, Go Go Gyro (GGG) turned out to be such a pleasant surprise. I sure was excited as this was going to be my first rendezvous with Greek cuisine.

The tiny space and a bit worn look of the eatery almost fooled me into disappointment. Luckily, the food made up for it.

We ordered a Chicken Gyro (A gyro is a greek wrap of pita bread, usually, and onions, tomatoes, meat and tzatziki sauce) and Chicken Pesto Panini ($6.95 each). And because we were so starved, we really hoped the food would good. We waited for the food (which took a long time to arrive) in their patio. Simply done in metal tables, flowers and fairy lights, the patio works as a good waiting-cum-eating area. I would recommend eating outside is the weather is suitable. Not that the patio overlooks any pretty scenery; it is just serene.

Go Go Gyro

Go Go Gyro

Go Go Gyro

The food was worth the wait. We gobbled up our wraps in silence, totally approving each bite. The gyros were warm, fresh and wholesome; the meat succulent and sauces flavoursome.

Go Go Gyro

If the quantity of the wrap disappoints you, go in for a Bakhlava ($4). Or one of their dips ($5 each) with a side.

I would love to try the Greek specialities mentioned on their menu (ranging from $4.50 to $5.75).

Go Go Gyro is located on a quiet portion of El Camino Real in Los Altos. Their lazy Facebook page and weary interiors explain that GGG needs some attention and enhancement. They need to get noticed by more people because they are good, believe me. I would like to see them sustain and do well because I enjoyed their food a lot!

Would I visit them again? Definitely!

Categories: Bay Area, California, Restaurant Reviews, San Jose, Travel | Tags: , , , | 4 Comments

La Lune Sucree, San Jose – Review

I love bakeries and coffee shops and if they happen to be European, nothing like it. La Lune Sucree might be the answer to all those wanting to break the monotony of American food chains; wanting variety; wanting something different.

LLS is a quaint bistro located on the cobblestoned pedestrian pathway of Paseo de San Antonio in Downtown San Jose. We happened to be there on an evening, when most office crowd had left and the place was quiet. While sitting on those cute wrought iron chairs, staring at the cute balconies of apartments opposite the cafe, I felt I was sitting in some sidewalk cafe of Prague. Or Austria.

La Lune Sucree

La Lune Sucree

And who can resist those glimmering moist tarts, sugar coated croissants and almond crusted scones. La Lune Sucree offers various types of crepes, sandwiches, breads, coffees and European drinks and fresh jam jars that you can take away. What a delight to find coffees other than Mocha, Latte and Cappucino. Mysterious names like Noisette, Cafe au Lait and Affogato are much more inviting! Even their crepes have interesting names like Moon over Germany, Moon over Austria (which we chose) and Moon over Italy (La Lune Sucrée means The Sweet Moon). Oh, how fascinated I am with everything European! Choosing a small menu was difficult because they had all kinds of fruit tarts, crepes, croissants and breads. Next time, next time, we said to ourselves.

La Lune Sucree

La Lune Sucree

The food was worth the wait. Good food to melt away the day’s tiredness. But the quantity of each item is enough for just one person.

La Lune Sucree

Noisette (Coffee with Nutella)

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Moon over Austria (French crepe with Almonds, Apple, Cinnamon, Vanilla Sugar). Notice the European style crockery

While they did not have the entire variety of cakes and tarts displayed that day, their Facebook page mentions yummy desserts like Lemon Mousse, Apricot Tart, Ollalaberry Cream Cheese Puffs, Baileys Irish Cream Cheesecake and so many other specialities with photos to make you drool. Though, I am not sure if a lot of variety will be available all times.

They are open till 8 pm on weekdays and till 5 pm on Sundays (we went there one Sunday and had to return because they were closed). They open early (at 8 am) and you can grab something delicious before work. You can order in advance online or by using any of the apps mentioned on their site. They accept cake orders too. Their Facebook page has a lot of information that one can use.

Next time you want to have something different, something European, head towards La Lune Sucree. And do take a patio table.

Would I go there again? Definitely!

Categories: Bay Area, California, Restaurant Reviews, San Jose, Travel, USA | Tags: , , , , , , | 14 Comments

Berryessa Flea Market, San Jose

I had a very fascinating motion of flea markets when I came here. I had seen pictures on some blogs before and totally loved the idea of a colourful, lively market where one could find interesting finds. And so I was dying to visit one.

I turned out to be lucky. The biggest flea market in San Jose happens to be 5 minutes away from our house. Last Sunday, weather was beautiful – sunny and warm – perfect for a day outing. Yippie!

This flea market is located in a huge space and even though it was pretty crowded at 2 pm, we had no difficulty moving around.

We meandered through broad and narrow lanes of sellers selling everything under the sun – jewellery, clothes, shoes, soaps, electronics, ear phones, kitchenware, cosmetics, bags, baby clothes, toilet cleaners, hats, country clothing, boots, vintage crockery.. phew! It took us a while to sink into the expanse. I was enthralled at the idea of buying handy stuff (like washing brushes and floor mats) at cheap rates.

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And yeah, haggling is allowed!

A flea market is like a family outing spot. Because there is something for everyone. There is food, there are toys, there are clothes, there is face painting. And some pretty entertaining sights.

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So, everyone is entertained.

This reminded me of the many exhibitions I have seen in Baroda with M. One of the many good things in the flea market is that one can take photographs freely! No one is stopped from taking photographs of the stalls and products, unlike in India.

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The most crowded area is the fruits and vegetables section. Basic fruits and veggies to dried spices to exotic fruits to fresh breads – everything found its way into this colourful aisle. We ended up buying some basic veggies, yummy soft cinnamon bread and the most heavenly honey ever. Most fruits and veggies were of the same price as supermarkets but we did find some different variety of fruits that are not available elsewhere. Things like eggs turned out to be much cheaper.

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If you become a regular at flea markets or farmer’s markets, you would know what to buy there. Also, it becomes convenient if these markets are close to your place of residence.

I know for sure that I am going to be a regular visitor at this flea market. I didn’t get to explore it fully this time. I am sure there are many treasures yet to be discovered by me.

The Berryessa flea market is open on Wed, Fri, Sat and Sun. For more details, visit their website.

Categories: Bay Area, California, Photography, San Jose, Travel, USA | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 22 Comments

Saaghi House of Kabob, San Jose–Restaurant Review

Sometimes, you stumble upon a place, and don’t have much hope on it but when it turns out to be amazing, you just feel so awesome about yourself. At found out this place via a deal. We had a tough time looking for the place. And after taking several rounds of the dimly lit South Bascom Ave, we eyed Saaghi – House of Kabob at the end of a plain ground, next to a supermarket (Mehrooz Supermarket, if I remember correctly).

The place looked a bit rundown and creepy and I was sure we are just wasting our time.

A thick wooden door opened into the dimly lit restaurant. The place was as lively from inside as shabby from outside. There was a small party of Iranian men on one side of the restaurant, gyrating to live Persian music and occasional karaoke. Surprisingly, I did not find this clamour a bit noisy. I actually enjoyed the music!

A very busy hostess took our order and gave us a complimentary Green Salad (which when topped with their special masala (seasoning) is extremely yummy! Our food took a while to arrive which gave me enough time to dwell on the interiors. The place was embellished with Persian lanterns, paintings and show pieces. Even though the place could do with some upgradation, I enjoyed its aura.

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Our appetizer, Kashke Bademjan, arrived with Lavash bread. This mildly flavoured, mashed eggplant was so delightful that I was disappointed when we gulped it down in no time.

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For the main course, we ordered Barreh and Joojeh (Lamb and Chicken Kabobs). We liked the lamb more. The lamb was perfectly to our liking.

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Our dessert was Faloodeh and Baklava (you cannot not have Baklava if you go to an Irani / Mediterranean / Turkish / Mid Eastern restaurant). The Faloodeh had a light rose flavour and icy creamy Persian ice cream. A delightful serving, again.

This was one of the best meals I have had lately. Everything from the Green Salad to Baklava was fresh and touched our taste buds adequately. I would go to this place to treat myself once in a while.

The quaint place has a homely feel. There was only one stewardess, when we visited, who despite being busy is patient and helpful. The place is comfortable to be at and pleasant to look at.

Give it a try!

PS: Their website offers an unusual explanation of the word ‘Saaghi’.

Saaghi refers to a lady with specific meaning. Saaghi is the Wine-Bearer and pourer. She is mentioned in Persian poetry by many poets such as Omar Khayyam, Hafiz, Rumi, Saadi and many more poets Saaghi is every man’s dream woman. She is beautiful, kind, loving, and always by her man’s side.
She is the one men die for.
She is the one poetry is about.
She is the true love

Categories: Bay Area, California, Restaurant Reviews, San Jose, Travel, USA | Tags: , , , | 5 Comments

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