Friday, January 2, 2009

During this past month, I had the chance to sample some new restaurants. The first, Casa Teresa, is located at 6039 Snell, near the corner of Snell and Santa Teresa in San Jose. I sampled their vegetable burrito, which included beans, lettuce, rice, etc. I found the burrito to be pleasantly filling, but it lacked the spiciness that I had expected. My husband chose the chicken enchiladas in red sauce, and the bite I stole was very good. I also loved their fresh salsa and chips.

Earlier in December, I visited Cucina Poblana in Emeryville for my company's Christmas party. (They're located at the corner of 65th and Hollis Streets). I had my pick of a number of salsas: a fresh green; a red with yellow corn; a roasted, creamier pale red; and the like, all paired with bowls of fresh chips. After snagging a perfectly rendered margarita, I dug in to the salsas. Afterwards, out came hors d'oeuvres: white cheese quesadillas with peppers and onions; shrimp, crab, or chicken-topped pieces with cabbage, cilantro, and lime; salads of veggies and raw tuna seasoned up and drizzled with more lime....It was absolutely fantastic. I'll definitely return if I'm in the Emeryville area...

Thursday, October 2, 2008

The 95136

Since my husband and I will most likely be moving in the next 6-10 months, I can't help but meditate on our little corner of the 96136 in San Jose. If you're willing to walk a bit, you can snag an affordable meal, get your nails done, visit a park, join a gym, or even find a new pair of shoes. Let's start with the nails, shall we?

This place is a God-send for those of us with the bushy brows. Not only will they wax your brows gladly without an appointment, but they only charge $10. Throw a decent $2 tip on top of that, because the ladies there do excellent work, and you'll have perfectly shaped brows. Perfect Nails and Tan is at the corner of Vistapark and Capitol Expressway, in the shopping center with the Lucky's.

Ah, Parkview Park I--not to be confused with the neighboring Parkview Park II, or Parkview Park III. You can access the park from Vistapark Drive--enter on one of the Viewpark Circle entrances, and you'll hit it. I love how the ground around the play area is sprung, as well as the abundance of shade under the many tall trees. You can standard swing, tire swing, climb a jungle gym, or stroll down one of the paved paths. The only thing that could make it better would be a few BBQ stations.
As for an affordable meal, I would recommend Taqueria El Coral, if only because they have the most amazingly creamy blended white beans in their food. It's ridiculous how delicious the beans are. Order their quesadilla platter for $3.25 and receive the heavenly beans, rice, and a oaxacan? cheese filled wonder. I'm also partial to their vegetarian burrito with rice, lettuce, beans, tomato, etc. Mmmmm! Pair that sucker with a cola in a glass bottle, and zone out as you fall into a food coma. Taqueria El Coral is at the corner of Vistapark and Capitol, between the Togo's and Baskin Robbins. You can also go to Togo's, Subway, Taco Bell/Pizza Hut, etc.
And if you'd like to join a gym, there's a Snap Fitness just doors down from Taqueria El Coral. It's a one room wonder filled with various types of athletic equipment, and parking isn't too shabby either.
As for shoes, there's a Payless Shoe source across the way from Perfect Nail and Tan. Nothing like getting your nails done and then finding some adorable shoes to show them off, eh?
I'd also have to give a shout out to Java-N-Juice, who makes the most tasty fruit smoothies, and Cha Cha Sushi, who really upped the class factor.
I'm going to miss my neighborhood.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

The Make-Up Deal of the Week

Since Ulta installed itself at the nearby Plant Shopping Center on Curtner Avenue in SJ, I've been an intermittent visitor. Let's face it: Where else can you get your basic drugstore makeup varieties along with Bare Minerals refills, all under one roof? In any case, for this week, Ulta is running a special on their BareMinerals. They're offering a four piece set with a modestly-sized Buki brush, two little pots of foundation, and an added mini container of mineral veil--all for $15 if you buy the kit in stores. It's basically designed as a welcome package for new users, or a filler package for current users. What a steal, considering regularly sized and priced pots are $25 each, and we get a lil buki brush to boot. Thanks, Ulta!

Sunday, September 21, 2008

"Soft Opening" at the California Academy of Sciences

A view of a prehistoric predator in a yet unfinished portion of the Cal Academy of Sciences

Last Sunday, September 14th, my husband and I attended the soft opening of the newly rennovated California Academy of Sciences. I'd always gone to the museum as a child and relished its diversity of subject matter: gemology, insects, prehistoric humans, aqueous life, dinosaurs, planetary bodies, etc. My husband took my continuous praise of the place during its rennovation and surprised me with a year's membership. So via BART and the zippy N-Judah/La Playa/Ocean line, off we were to Golden Gate Park. (On a side note, can I just add that the SF rail system makes SJ Light Rail look like a lumbering dinosaur? The efficiency difference is just ridiculous, although I imagine that some of it has to do with Muni's sometime subterranean, sometimes ground level trackwork). In any case, thank you SF transit for getting us there on time (oh, for the Muni being free on Sunday mornings. Much appreciated!).

So we strolled into Golden Gate Park, watching the deadlocked line of cars heading down to the parking structure as we passed (it was so full, you had wait until a car came out to get in), and joined the line for the museum. We had a 12:00 reservation and were let inside promptly. Our first destination: the African Collection. As a kid, I adored this room. The piece de resistance was the gathering of African desert wildlife at the opposite end of the hall: zebras, lions, other fauna, all under expert lighting. You could sit on a bench and hear the growling of lions, the chirping of insects, etc. The lights would slowly come up, signifying morning, then transform into the blazing heat of midday. In a few minutes, the lights would fade, leaving the creatures in the darkness of night. I would sit there for ages, watching the lights come up and down, because it somehow became magical. It was as if the animals were going to come to life and spring out of their area. I also enjoyed the dioramas on the sides of the room, because I could read about different creatures throughout Africa.

A partial view of the desert African animals--the original scene is now off to the right, and the lights remained fixed.

Now, the room retained much of its original inhabitants and charm, but the former centerpiece was now moved to the right to make way for the hall's new inhabitants: South African Penguins! And while I might have appreciated another reflection on the night/day scene, the penguins certainly gave the room a new sense of dynamism.

As for the other exhibits, we found that some were simply not ready for viewing. The multilevel rainforest area, for example, was closed off, and the Planetarium was not providing shows that day. In addition, I noticed that the alligator area near the main entrance only contained one single white alligator, and none of the previously green inhabitants. In further exhibit halls, many of the more theatrically lit or staged exhibits had been replaced by stark, functionalistic metal frameworks with flat informational blurbs and photographs affixed. The information seemed far more static than previously. In addition, I found there to be a great many areas of information missing. For example:

  • The exhibit on prehistoric humans

  • The main science area, which previously housed a 1906 earthquake simulator, the giant pendulum (which thankfully is still there!), and a giant microscope with an eye looking down at you

  • The gemstone collection

  • The insect collection

  • The dinosaur area--aside from one skeleton, we only saw a roped off area with some stands and a large mess of rubbish on the floor. It seemed very odd.

  • The sea lions were gone, and the hands on tide pool had been emptied, although it looked as if the tide pool would be restored.

  • The area with the elephant seal replicas and calls was gone.

On a happier note, the aquarium area was certainly more visually stimulating--the walls had been redesigned to simulate waves, and media played across the walls as audio was piped in overhead. It certainly made the scene a flurry of activity. Also, I really enjoyed the concept and education of the new "living roof," which offered gorgeous views of the surrounding areas while allowing the museum to vent off heat from the inside. The array of plants and the surrounding hillsides made for a pleasant experience.

Part of the new Living Roof

I think that the question resounding in my mind as I took in the new Academy and all of its exhibits, was why the need for paring down? Did the old one simply seem dated? Was it not completely earthquake retrofitted, or was it just not "green" enough? Wasn't there something to be said for looking down at multiple alligators in the swamp area and feeling the heat rise up? Didn't the subdued lighting of the prehistoric areas, and the red of the volcanoes make it more interesting? What has been lost here? Can it really be articulated?

I gladly filled out a survey after visiting the museum. I do hope that they plan to reincorporate more of the previous material, because it seemed as if a great deal was missing.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Cha Cha Sushi

You can imagine my surprise when I saw signs for a sushi restaurant in our neighborhood. A delicious meal ensued...

A sushi restaurant in the Vistapark/West Capitol neighborhood, and within walking distance of my apartment? A sushi place which might even elevate a strip mall whose main claim to fame is a generously sized Lucky's? I kept watching, waiting--and once I heard that today was the day, I was ready to dig in! My husband and I arrived for dinner around 7:20, and the modestly sized restaurant was a flurry of activity--waiters and waitresses clearing tables, guests moving in and out, and sushi chefs working steadily behind the counter. We had our choice of counter or table sitting, and we opted for the table. Unfortunately, we were shown to a table which wobbled back and forth throughout the meal. It was also right beside the door (to your left as you enter), so whenever new diners entered the restaurant, the servers couldn't see us, and we had to flag one down when we were ready to order. I chose the Rainbow Roll with a seaweed salad on the side. My husband chose the teryaki dish which came with a side salad, rice, and tuna sashimi. My roll was exquisite--moist, fresh, and delightful to the palate. I especially enjoyed the savoury pinkish red fish with the smoky flavor. (The salmon and tuna were fantastic as well). And the seaweed salad? Pickled, sweet, and with the right consistency of crispy slipperiness that I've come to expect from seaweed. From the bite I snagged of my husband's chicken, it seemed up to snuff. The presentation of his dish was pretty impressive--a carrot flower, neatly sliced chicken and sauce, the deep pinkish red sashimi served against the white noodle-like rooty vegetable strands--points given, Cha Cha, points given.And the decor--subdued lighting, uniquely painted square wall pieces, the very welcome air conditioning in the Las Vegas-like heat--all helped induce an air of calm and a sense of relaxation despite the harried atmosphere. I would say that the only downside was the lack of help. I overheard one of the sushi chefs (and possibly the owner) mention that he had hired more servers, but they had failed to show. Sad times! We also were served the wrong food twice, and we had to politely explain that we had not received the right items. I think that more service would have made all the difference. While I enjoyed the overall ambience, I wasn't necessarily planning on an hour and twenty minute dinner. My husband actually got somewhat impatient. I just really enjoyed the experience due to the food, which was truly excellent. I'm amazed that this place made its way to our neighborhood. Thanks, Cha Cha! And here's to a successful run:)

Cha Cha Sushi is located at the corner of Vistapark in Capitol, in the shopping center with Lucky's, Longs, and Bona Pizza.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

The Red Tree and other oddities

The red tree in St. James Park--photo courtesy of Sal Pizarro and his blog Around Town

So I realize that I've somewhat fallen off the edge of the blogging world, here, but this is my chance to jump back on. On that note, the latest in Bay Area events, venues, and random oddities:
  • The red tree in St. James Park. Maybe some of you have noticed it--it's the one with the shorn branches and shiny red-pained exterior. When I knelt down to read the plaque below, the artist had written that the tree had been adorned with red to represent the perseverance of those without voices in society, and how the intersecting branches represented the way all of our lives are interconnected. Fair enough, and beautiful sentiments to be sure, but did we need to desecrate (deflower?) a tree to accomplish this? Wouldn't a painting or mural have sufficed? Other writers have since hinted that the Brooke Hart kidnapping and subsequent lynching of the kidnappers in St. James Park lent something to this art, but that doesn't seem to be the intention in the plaque's text. What do you all think?
  • A taqueria in North Beach. I certainly wasn't expecting this. I was thinking I'd see loads of intimate little Italian cafes, coffee places, the like. And while they were there, in abundance, Taqueria Zorro proved me wrong. They have affordable tacos, burritos, and all around Mexican fare at their Columbus Ave location, where they're roughly across from the Stinking Rose. I tried a grilled vegetarian burrito. It was delicious yet very filling--I couldn't even finish it. Burritos will set you back between $5 and $6.20, or so--nothing too crazy. I loved the yellow decor, the whole in the wall feel, and thankfully--the quiet. The tourists don't flock here, so you'll have your pick of seats.

  • San Jose Chalk Festival. Artists from near and far will be gathering at the National Hispanic University at 14271 Story Road on Aug. 30th to catch the final event of this year's festival. You can also enjoy the festivities: food, music, spoken word poetry, and face painting for the kids. You may even get inspired to grab some chalk and do it yourself! The event starts at 10 a.m.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Tip A Cop fundraiser

So the Chili's locations in SJ have been participating in the Tip A Cop fundraiser which benefits the Special Olympics. My husband, bro-in-law, and I hit the Almaden Chili's the other night and had the privilege of meeting some of the SO athletes. (From their experience and stellar scores, they could definitely outbowl and outsport any of us at any time. It was truly inspiring to meet them). In any case, there were cops aplenty on hand--all handing out envelopes, filling in patrons, serving drinks, and even bringing post-meal boxes for those leftovers. So drop in at Chili's, but definitely hit the Santana Row one (the Almaden one seems to leave something to be desired).