Monday, December 21, 2015

101 South: San Jose, Japantown

update/p.190

Japantown  N. 5th St./Jackson St., (408) 298-4303.  Dating back to the late 1800s, when bachelors from Japan migrated to the area, this historic neighborhood features streets lined with cherry trees that bloom spectacularly in the spring.  One of only three remaining historical Japantowns in the U.S. (the others are in San Francisco and Los Angeles), it is just south of downtown and can be reached via the Light Rail line.  Standing here at 10:55 a.m. on a Sunday morning, we viewed the huge Dreamliner fly in from Tokyo to land at the city airport here as it does once each day.

street banners in Japantown in San Jose, California

These historical sites of interest are situated on residential side streets:
San Jose Buddhist Church Betsuin  640 N. 5th St., (408) 293-9292.  Featuring a Japanese garden and a tile roof, this still-active church dates from 1937.
San Jose Buddhist Church Betsuin in Japantown in San Jose, California

Wesley United Methodist Church  566 N. 5th St., (408) 295-0367.  Established in 1895 as the Japanese Methodist Episcopal Church and at this site since 1913, this church has been remodeled several times. 
Japanese American Museum of San Jose  535 N. 5th St., (408) 294-3138.  Thur-Sun noon-4pm.  $5, $65+ $3, under 12 free.  This newish museum’s permanent exhibits include vintage farming artifacts used by early settlers as well as a furnished replica of the Tule Lake Relocation Center barracks room.  The World War II internment exhibits are well done and thought-provoking (for a good background read on this subject, visit here).  A free neighborhood map is available here.

exterior of Japanese American Museum of San Jose in Japantown in San Jose, California


guided tour of Japanese American Museum of San Jose in Japantown in San Jose, California

reproduction of Tule Lake Relocation Center cabin at Japanese American Museum of San Jose in Japantown in San Jose, California

Shops, galleries, and Japanese restaurants abound in the neighborhood, and on Sunday mornings from 8:30 a.m. to noon the bustling Japantown Certified Farmers Market  unfolds.  Happi House (695 N. 5th St./Taylor St., (408) 295-5554.  L-D daily; $.) serves Japanese-style fast food.  Diners order at the counter--noodle soups, tempura, teriyaki items--and then food is delivered to the table lickety-split. 

Annual festivals celebrating the changing seasons include Nikkei Matsuri in May, the Obon Festival in July, and Aki Matsuri in September.  

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images ©2015 Carole Terwilliger Meyers

Friday, December 18, 2015

101 North: San Anselmo, Comforts


Comforts  335 San Anselmo Ave., (415) 454-9840.  M-F 6:30-6:30, Sat 7:30-5:30, Sun 8-3.  This casual, family-friendly cafe is broken into two sections—a self-seating deli room marketplace and a full-service alcove cafe.
main dining room at Comforts in San Anselmo, California


The huge main room holds the deli counter that dispenses a large selection of salads, plus housemade pastries that include exceptional coconut cupcakes with cream cheese frosting.
salads in deli case at Comforts in San Anselmo, California

 main courses in deli case at Comforts in San Anselmo, California


The kitchen is most famous for its Chinese chicken salad (a tofu version is available), which is prepacked cutely in Chinese take-out boxes and stored in a self-service refrigerator.  The salad is made with a lot of shredded iceberg and romaine lettuce, a generous portion of very good chicken strips, crispy toasted almonds, a scattering of sesame seeds and chopped green onions, a few rice noodles, and a perfect tangy vinaigrette.  It comes in big (serves 1) and bigger (serves 2).  My dining partner and I shared a “bigger,” and it left just enough room for us to also share a pecan bar for dessert.
packaged Chinese chicken salad in refrigerator at Comforts in San Anselmo, California


Chinese chicken salad at Comforts in San Anselmo, California


Though this place is super-busy, it seems that everyone can find a seat either indoors or out on the sheltered front patio (that is where all the gorgeous dogs hang out).  The cafe menu has breakfast selections that include pecan-crusted stuffed French toast made with challah and sweetened cream cheese, thick and fluffy lemon-blueberry pancakes (lemon curd topping is an option), and a mimosa made with fresh orange juice, plus at lunch you can get a good Prather Ranch chuck-burger with secret sauce and housemade pickles, a BLT that includes a fried tomato, or that famous Chinese chicken salad.  Thinking ahead, when we paid I included a container of their housemade granola made with cashews and dried cherries.  As I suspected, it is almost as good as my own homemade granola recipe.  
homemade granola at Comforts in San Anselmo, California


Comforts Café Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato 


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images ©2015 Carole Terwilliger Meyers
 

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

101 North: San Anselmo, Imagination Park--A "Star Wars" Connection


Imagination Park  535 San Anselmo Ave., (415) 454-2510.  Filmmaker George Lucas donated the land for this small park to the town.  A fountain features both an Indian Jones and a Yoda sculpture, and benches, trees, roses, and grassy areas make it very inviting.  And what better time to go see it than RIGHT NOW?!

Imagination Park in San Anselmo, California

Yoda and Indiana Jones statues in Imagination Park in San Anselmo, California


Yoda statue in Imagination Park in San Anselmo, California





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images ©2015 Carole Terwilliger Meyers

Monday, December 14, 2015

101 South: San Jose, San Pedro Square


San Pedro Square  Between Santa Clara & Saint John streets, downtown.  The name of this historic strip is misleading because it's not really a square, but rather a one-block stretch, and it extends even beyond this center to restaurants, shops, and other businesses surrounding it.  A farmers market operates on Friday from 10 am to 2 pm.

The San Pedro Square Market takes up a big chunk of space here.  A variety of informal restaurant spaces operate inside this food court offering everything from sushi tacos to dragon rolls to hand-thrown pizza.  Seating is scattered throughout, both indoors and out (one area is beside the adjacent Peralta Adobe, which is available to tour by appointment).  Live music is presented on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday evenings beginning at 7 p.m., and on Sundays from 1 p.m.


exterior of San Pedro Square Market in San Jose, California


pizza prep at San Pedro Square Market in San Jose, California

pizza at San Pedro Square Market in San Jose, California

dragon roll at San Pedro Square Market in San Jose, California

sliders at San Pedro Square Market in San Jose, California

musicians at San Pedro Square Market in San Jose, California

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images ©2015 Carole Terwilliger Meyers

Friday, December 11, 2015

101 South: San Jose, Psycho Donuts


Psycho Donuts  288 S. 2nd St./San Carlos, downtown.  Hours vary.  A visit might leave you speechless.  Here is how the shop self-describes, “Psycho Donuts is the world's first and only asylum for wayward donuts.  Psycho Donuts has "donutized" everything from pizzas, tacos, and even sushi!  You'll find crazy-fresh, original donuts topped with everything from Oreo cookies and Captain Crunch, to Rice Krispie Treats and Nutella.  Check out our crazy gourmet donuts like The Dead Elvis, filled with custard and topped with bananas, peanut butter & jelly, and bacon; and The Strawberry Margarita, filled with tequila pastry cream, topped with real strawberry and margarita salt.  A trip to Psycho Donuts is a sensory experience, designed to bring out the crazy in all of us.  Psycho nurses are on hand to provide bubblewrap therapy to minimize your selection anxiety.  Psycho Donuts doubles as a quirky, offbeat art gallery, offering inexpensive original artwork from local artists.”  I couldn’t have said it better myself!  More donuts worth trying are the Boston Scream Pie—a skull face topped with powdered sugar—and the Cereal Killer with marshmallow frosting.  While you’re here, you might want to pick up a souvenir logo pen that looks like a syringe.  





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images ©2015 Carole Terwilliger Meyers
 

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

101 South: San Jose, Original Joe's


Original Joe's  301 S. First St./San Carlos St., (888) 841-7030, (408) 292-7030.  L-D daily; $$.  No reservations.  OJ's--as the locals call it—is one of the town’s most popular restaurants, and diners are willing to wait to be seated in one of the comfy leather booths.  In business since the 1950s, the restaurant retains a vintage flair and offers an extensive menu of venerable Italian specialties as well as really good steaks—all delivered by tuxedoed waiters.  Most everything gets raves, but I can vouch for the ravioli Bolognese, eggplant Parmigiana, and New York steak grilled over mesquite charcoal.  When I ordered the New York with a baked potato, the waiter asked me why I would come to an Italian restaurant to order steak and potato.  I was nonplussed then, but after I ate my steak I would have replied “because it is sooo goood!”  The traditional spaghetti with meat sauce and giant meat balls is also very popular.  

Original Joe's Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato 

neon sign outside Original Joe's in San Jose, California



New York steak at Original Joe's in San Jose, California


spaghetti and giant meatball side Original Joe's in San Jose, California

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images ©2015 Carole Terwilliger Meyers

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

101 South: San Jose, San Jose Museum of Art

update/p.193
previous review

San Jose Museum of Art  110 S. Market St./San Fernando St., downtown, (408) 271-6840.  Tu-Sun 11-5.  $8, seniors $5, under 6 free.  Baby strollers loaned at no charge.  Displaying a collection of primarily contemporary American art, much of it from California, this unusual part-1892 Romanesque sandstone/part-1991 stark modern building serves as a metaphor for contemporary art's ties to tradition.  Colorful Chihuly glass pieces hang high in the lobby, but the museum has no permanent galleries and art is shown only in the new wing.  Currently “Covert Operations: Investigating the Known Unknowns” operates on the first floor (through January 10, 2016).  On the second floor you’ll see both a William Wegman show that introduces his personal side mixed in with the amusing Weimaraner dog photographs he is famous for, and a collection of whimsical ceramic sculptures of the human figure (both through February 7, 2016). 
    Located in the original wing, Cafe Too! serves salads, sandwiches, and afternoon “edible art” confections.  And don’t miss a browse of the creatively stocked gift shop. 


exterior of San Jose Museum of Art in San Jose, California


lobby at San Jose Museum of Art in San Jose, California


"Colonel Hyena" by Robert Arneson at San Jose Museum of Art in San Jose, California
"Colonel Hyena" by Robert Arneson

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images ©2015 Carole Terwilliger Meyers

Friday, December 4, 2015

880 South: Berkeley, Farm Burger


Farm Burger  1313 9 St./Gilman St., West Berkeley, (510) 705-1485.  L-D daily; $$.  This casual Georgia-based chain has gone local with this outlet and features Niman grass-fed beef burgers.  Chicken, pork, and vegan patties are also options, and you can choose from 11 free add-ons and 35 more toppings—among them are deep-fried onion rings and oxtail marmalade—each at $1 to $2 additional.  For my beef burger, I stuck to free and added roasted garlic, fresh jalapenos, red onion, tomato, and special mayo plus pickled jalapenos and housemade pickles on the side. My dining partner ordered similarly, and we shared a combo side of sweet potato fries and beer-battered onion rings.  I loved my juicy burger, which was big enough to make me feel, a few hours later, like python still digesting its meal.  The onion rings, not so much--the coating was way too crispy and crunchy.  Strange-to-these-parts Southern appetizers like boiled peanuts and fried chicken livers, not to mention chicken-pot-pie fritters, are also available, as are salads and chili.  A root beer float made with organic Three Twins Ice Cream was spectacular.  Craft beers--some on tap--and wine are also available.  We arrived before 6 p.m., when the line to the order counter wasn’t too long, though I hear it can become quite lengthy later.  There is a kiddie play area and plenty of seating indoors at tables covered with butcher paper (napkins are a roll of paper towels).  Outdoor seating is available on a front patio with picnic-style tables.  Mid-day diners can take advantage of a lunch special that includes burger, fries, and drink.   
Farm Burger Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

For dessert or coffee after, head next door to Doughnut Dolly (scroll down) or Philz.

exterior of Farm Burger in Berkeley, California
 
interior of Farm Burger in Berkeley, California

burger at Farm Burger in Berkeley, California

onion rings and sweet potato fries at Farm Burger in Berkeley, California

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Wednesday, December 2, 2015

101 North: Philo, Balo Vineyards


Balo Vineyards  9001 Hwy 128, in Philo, (707) 895-3655.  Daily 11-5.  Free tasting.  Dogs ok.  This dog-friendly tasting room provides an enclosed, shaded, outdoor recreation area for your pooch.  With a nod to the fact the biodynamic-farmed winery is on a former sheep farm, the owners named it after the Latin word for the bleating sound a sheep makes.  I tasted a 2013 Riesling with no residual sugar and a 2012 Pinot Noir that was bright mid-palate.  After tasting and selecting your favorite, you can purchase a bottle and enjoy right on the spot in a picnic area with shaded tables.  Two competition grade Bocce courts are also available.

Balo Vineyards in Philo, California

bocce court at Balo Vineyards in Philo, California

tasting room at Balo Vineyards in Philo, California

wine bottle at Balo Vineyards in Philo, California

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images ©2015 Carole Terwilliger Meyers