Sunday, May 31, 2009

Sushi 85

Thursday nights are a general "out" night for us, as I've apparently only just figured out, but maybe you guys have seen this pattern for a while now. Jim and Viv joined us for all-you-can-eat sushi at Sushi 85. For $25, you don't get a buffet, you get a laminated list of rolls and nigiri, and just mark off what you want! Each person can order three items at a time, so you get a great variety pretty fast.

I wasn't in the mood for a lot of nigiri (same with the rest of the table), so I ordered a couple pieces of ebi (cooked, split shrimp) and a couple unagi (eel) and called it a day. Ebi was average and unagi was a little dry, which doesn't jive well, since it's already served with sauce. JB got two orders of sake (raw salmon), as he really likes their salmon. I wasn't as big a fan, but it could be my pieces (toppers to rolls, will mention soon) were more stringy than his.

There were several rolls on the table I didn't try, since they had crab in them (like the California. the Green Dragon. the Rainbow). But they were generally gobbled up, so I'm guessing there were no complaints!

The worst roll goes to the New York Roll, which was (cooked) shrimp and cucumber. Cucumber was too overwhelming when there weren't a lot of flavors present. Of course we ordered a Philly Roll (salmon and cream cheese), and it was good, although a lil heavy on the cream cheese. JB insisted on a Lion King Roll, which was immense. Easily the largest I've ever seen (even bigger than the Beauty & the Beast at Siam Orchid, which previously held this record in my eyes). It was a crab and avocado roll with baked salmon and a special sauce on top. I ate a few pieces of the top salmon, and it was really different (in a good way). [the photo to the right is a stock photo I found online, but in the left corner you can see the craziness that is the Lion King Roll] Then there was the Tai Ji Roll, which was eel and cucumber with white tuna on top. That was a slight letdown, probably because I treasure a tasty eel, and theirs isn't top-notch. We had an overpowering choice... the Ocean Roll... it had too much in it... tuna, salmon, albacore, spicy tuna, and cucumber. The final roll of the night was the Popcorn Shrimp, and it was great!! It wasn't the crumbly popcorn shrimp like you'd get at KFC, it was more like a sweet-and-sour-type fried shrimp. It and a yummy sauce topped a roll that had shrimp and cucumber in it.

Comparing it to our other all-you-can-eat sushi experience out here (at Todai), it was good. The variety was a lot greater, but there were no sashimi options and the nigiri wasn't too impressive.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Bangkok Spoon

On a Sunday afternoon, we went downtown and tried Bangkok Spoon. It was an interesting place.

The decor was really neat. The server was the most American Asian guy we've had in California. He spoke like a New York Pizzeria owner, and was pretty friendly.

Jonathan had the Panang Curry, with chicken and rice. He enjoyed it quite a bit. I had the Bangkok Spoon Clay Pot, a house specialty. I didn't care for it, though Jonathan liked it quite a bit when he tried it. The glass noodles were really sticky and sweet, and the bits of bacon were strange. Prawns and cilantro rounded out the dish, which I just couldn't get into. I took home leftovers, but they didn't get eaten and had to be thrown out in the end.

Overall, I enjoyed the place for its decor and staff, but didn't care too much for my dish. I don't really think I'd go back, mainly since the pad thai (the safety Thai dish, let's not lie) has tofu in it, and that's just not gonna fly with me. It was also a bit pricey for lunch, but not disturbingly expensive.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Fast Food Chinese

One night, after the gym, we wanted to try this Chinese place around the corner. Well, actually we've tried to eat there at least two other times, but they close early. REALLY early. Like 8pm, even on weekends. Which is rather ridiculous, considering this is not a small town by any means. But anyway...

We went to Express 7 Chinese Fast Food, and picked up some takeout. Everyone online recommends you get takeout, but eat it there or take it home, since they give you more that way. I find this interesting, but our boxes were HEAPING full, so I guess it's true! Mine made for three meals! Anyway, it's set-up like any Chinese place in a mall... you pick rice or chow mein, then 1-3 entrees. You have the option to add a soup or an eggroll (or a fortune cookie for a dime, which is ridiculous, since they're free EVERYWHERE ELSE). We were there about 7:15-7:30, so it was nearing the end of their day, and as you can imagine several of the items were completely gone. I can't comment on the full menu because of this, especially since I might have ordered different items if they had been available.

Jonathan chose the fried rice (which had peas in it, so it was a no-go for me), and I got the chow mein. He said the rice was average. The chow mein was probably the worst I've ever had... it had LARGE chunks of celery, too much cabbage, and the onions were almost raw. The noodles were also very plain, so I'm glad I could add some soy sauce. Jonathan chose the beef-and-broccoli and the dai chin chicken. The beef-and-broccoli was very standard, but the dai chin chicken was fabulous. Easily the best thing that either of us ordered. I tried the honey chicken and the five-flavor chicken. The honey chicken was strange. As in, it tasted more like honey-barbecue than honey. Think: KFC honey-barbecue chicken. Yikes. The five-flavor, on the other hand, was rather bland for being labeled 'spicy' at the place... AND I even asked the server how spicy it was, and she emphasized "spicy."

It is also worth mentioning that I've pretty much given up forks when it comes to Asian food. It's just so much more efficient to use chopsticks. Really. Because of this, I need restaurants to provide me with quality chopsticks. Unfortunately, the chopsticks here were the absolute worst I have ever been issued. They were very thin, and very splintery. I actually put them down after a piece of wood got into my mouth, and switched over to a fork. Another thing worth mentioning... they only take cash. But the only place you can see that this is the case is above the cash register... so it doesn't help you after you've already ordered and had your food boxed up. Luckily, they have an ATM in the corner of the restaurant, otherwise Jonathan would have had to drive home and get more cash than we had on us (clearly I don't bring my purse to the gym). So between the mall-level food and the need for cash, it's not that great of a place. Especially when Hangen is not even a mile away from the apartment, and so much better.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

San Jose Improv & Smoke Eaters

Eilbroun managed to get realllllly discounted tickets to one of the local comedy clubs, so he and Carmen, JB and myself went to see Sebastian Manascalco last Friday night. He had two openers, Chris Guilla (sp?) and Rob Martinez, both of whom were pretty funny as well.

The show started at 8pm, and we got there just after 7pm, which worked out well. The San Jose Improv club is down near San Jose State University and Downtown. We paid $5 to park across the street, which wasn't bad since otherwise we'd have to find a garage and all that jazz. No photos were allowed, so I am just going to include some stock pics I found online.

We picked up two more hurricane glasses there, as there's a 2-item minimum per person, and ordering a special take-home glass satisfies that requirement. The drinks were pretty weak, but at least they were original.

We shared some appetizers at the table, none of which I'd brag about, recommend, or order again. We got the nachos (beans on the side) which were disappointing. The cheese was really runny and there were more jalapenos on there than tomatoes and onions combined. We got the chicken tenders, which were more like chicken fingers (short, thin, little coating), and horribly overpriced when you receive 5 of them for $9. Then there was the calamari. Not that much, and it was really rubbery. Plus the cocktail sauce wasn't that good and there was no tartar option. At least there was plenty of lemon. Lesson learned: eat before you go.

We had fabulous seats, the table at the far right of this image, on it's own little ledge. Sebastian's jokes spanned the gamut, so that was good. He had a good bit on the Japanese (his Thai bit was a little frustrating), and their quiet and proper demeanor. There was a Michael Phelps bit (calling him a dolphin, hehe), followed by an Italian bit. My two favorites were the one about having company over and the one about dogs. The first started out describing how a "knock at the door" was once greeted with a whole family and a cake and excitement, and now it's more of a "get down! who invited someone over?" thing. The latter had multiple segments, and they're too long to really describe, but funny all the same. He did have a joke about Ross's department stores, but I had seen that one online (previewing his work ahead of time) so I didn't laugh as hard as I did the first time. As we were leaving the place, we were given free tickets for a show next month: Mitch Fatel.

After the show we were hungry, so Eilbroun took us to a place he likes (he went to SJSU for undergrad, so he knows the area a bit), Smoke Eaters Hot Wings. I was pretty impressed with the place for its sandwich... not so much for its wings. But, that's just me. They only have the "hot" flavors, and I really prefer the more creative flavors, like honey bbq, mustard chipotle, cherriyaki, etc. They have seven levels of heat, and the three of them got level 4: Nuclear. Yeah, I thought that sounded fierce too, but the scale goes: mild, traditional, atomic, nuclear, traditional death, 4 alarm, inferno... so go figure. They were also like 80 cents per wing, which is ridiculous. I had the Gilroy Garlic chicken sandwich, which was a steal at $5. It's a chicken breast in a very original coating, fried golden brown, then covered in a monterrey-jack-type-cheese and a garlic spread. On a soft bun. Excellent. We also got some fries and a coke, but I wouldn't get the fries again, they were very bland and boring, even with ketchup. I might do the cheese curly fries though, they sound much better.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Denver, 2nd Anniversary: Friday, Saturday, Sunday

**This post is possibly the longest one ever, mostly since Friday was a busy day**

Friday morning was more splitting. JB, Kathy, Eilbroun, Colleen, and I went to the Hammond’s Candy Factory for a tour. It was really pretty impressive. Every single thing they make is done by hand, and 90% of the machines they use (for adding air to candy and heating it and stuff) are from the 1920s and 30s! They spend 11 months doing Christmas candy, and 1 month doing Valentine’s and Easter. They mostly do hard candy, but do chocolates as needed (they don’t keep nearly as long). I took a ton of photos of the candy-making process, which was just so fascinating. They make 2,000 pounds of candy 6 days a week (closed on Sundays), and operate at ½ staff on Saturdays and Mondays, since employees get two sequential days off each week (and they work in 85-100 degree conditions! Yikes!). You could try a bunch of things, and I wasn’t really sold on any in particular. The ribbon candies, lollipops, and filled candy canes were the neatest, in my opinion. I bought a piece of fudge (which was more like a giant truffle!), and JB had a peanut butter finger (which he likened to a "giant peanut butter ball") and an orange-cream barber pole.

this is how they make ribbon candy!

he's making barber poles

this lightens the color, all you do is add air!

this is the chocolate line


Colleen went to the Celestial Tea Tour, and the rest of us went to meet the other groups for lunch at Mr. Sushi in Littleton. Emmanuel swears that it’s the best sushi ever. While the pieces of fish are quite large, it’s not the best place ever in Jonathan’s or my opinions. There were probably 12 or so of us at lunch, and I was the only one not to order miso soup or sunomono salad, so my entrée came first. I got the shrimp yakisoba, which was a semi-spicy stir-fried dish with noodles and veggies. It was pretty good. JB got the chicken teriyaki, and we split a Philly Roll (cream cheese and salmon). The teriyaki sauce was great, and I added some to my rice (which somehow came as a side to my noodle dish, LoL). I tried some of Kathy’s Ace roll but it had tempura in it so I wasn’t a huge fan. Andy had some great-looking eel, and Vanessa got a SkyDiver roll… with tuna, salmon, crab, and a ton of stuff.

Emmanuel and the boat

my shrimp yakisoba

JB's chicken teriyaki and sunomono salad

Kathy and I split from the group, as they were headed to the Coors Brewery for a tour; she had been before and since I don’t drink beer I didn’t really care for a brewery tour (plus I’ve toured a microbrewery before). Kathy and I were planning to drive up to Boulder for the Celestial Tea Tour that Colleen did, but as I called to confirm they weren’t booked, they informed me they were closing at 3pm instead of 4pm… which meant we wouldn’t make the final tour. So we figured that we’d hit some botanical gardens, as there’s one in Littleton and one in Denver, both with special exhibits going on. Well, we tried the one in Littleton first, and since it was a complete bust, we opted not to go to the one in Denver. There were no flowers, no clear pathways, and when we finally found the administration building to get a map, we found out that several “exhibits” were off-season, including the corn maze and pumpkin patch (although we should’ve guessed).

We asked about other area attractions, & were directed to the local US Corp of Army Engineers building. So we trekked over there to find a friendly park ranger. Since the station was on a big lake, we asked about renting canoes or something, which he said was pretty much prohibitively expensive. He recommended Bear Creek Lake, about fifteen miles away, so we took off for that. We get there and ask the attendant about options. She gives us a pamphlet, we decide we’ll rent kayaks or paddleboats, and go to pay the entrance fee. The attendant then says the only thing open right now is waterskiing… everything else is closed until Memorial Day. So we leave that place. We get out to the main road and see a sign for Red Rocks.

at the Army place, they had a mammoth skull!

So we spent the next couple hours seeing the amphitheater and hiking one of the trails. We were both in shorts and sandals, so we couldn't do anything too rough. We were able to see some great sites, and I'm glad that we ended up there in the end. It was really hot, so we stopped for ice cream on the way out of that area at Blue Cow Eatery, a very local place with friendly servers. I had a vanilla milkshake and Kathy has a chocolate malt. Both were prety good, and the menu looked pretty neat too, if anyone is every up in Morrison, CO, hehe.

we ran into a wedding taking place!

this is the Sinking Titanic rock

This is 9 Rocks rock

The amphitheater and the view!

A view of the city from the top of Red Rocks Amphitheater

We met up with all but one of the other groups for dinner at the Hard Rock Café. JB and I split a The Big Cheese (burger) and fries. Delicious. From there we went to the Denver Museum of Art, since it’s open until 10pm on Friday nights. There are two buildings, and one was already closed (at 5pm), but we were able to complete the other building (4 floors), so that was cool. I was pretty bummed that the Sculpture Deck was closed, since I enjoy their uniqueness.

this is a hygrothermagraph, it measures the humidity in the museum

Jim Dine's "Wheat Fields"

I forgot to mark down what this work is

this was a creepy face that screamed weird things

Sandy Skoglund's "Fox Games" - a large installation piece

there was a video running in one room, the voices didn't match the characters

Rachel Lachowicz's "One Month Late" is made of lipstick and wax, and shows the obstacles women must overcome

This piece fascinates me. "Four Purple Velvet Bathrobes" by Beverly Semmes illustrates the concept that :a woman can never be too thin, too tall, or too rich." At the same time, it shows flowing and puddled water.

another fascinating idea. Mona Hatoum's "Untitled (Wheelchair II)" marks the idea of one trapped person forced to depend upon yet injure another.

My jaw dropped at this one. Fred Wilsons's "Untitled (Atlas)" has the weight of the classics (European and American only...) on his shoulders, while he stands on top of an African volume.

Who knew Andy Warhol did Native American works?

um, wow. Daniel Sprick's "Release Your Plans"

Karen E. Kitchel's "American Grasslands: Crop, Lawn, Pasture, and Prairie"

William Acheff's "Pueblo Trilogy"

Vanessa and Emmanuel just bought a house, so they had a housewarming party on Saturday. The house itself is fairly big, a 3/2.5 that’s two stories with a basement. They also have a ton of closets and a decent-sized fenced backyard. The theme of the party was Olympics, and each of eight teams had four players for six different events. I was one of two or three referees, and JB played for a team with Jim, Vivian, and Eilbroun. I had a great time, as I got to explain how to play Battleship eight times and make sure that nobody was cheating. I was amazed at how many people had never played the game, since I think of it as a staple along with Monopoly, Life, and CandyLand. Overall, Olympics took like five hours and was a great time. We went for Chick-Fil-A after that and then just hung out.

Eilbroun learning ladder golf, Vivian learning washers

JB practicing washers (it's like tossing a beanbag in a hole but harder)

Eilbroun and Vivian playing Battleship

Kathy and Steve playing Battleship

Andy and Tony playing Battleship

We had a 1:40pm flight back to San Jose, and I was really hoping we’d get to Clement Park that morning to see the Columbine Memorial. It didn’t happen, as we ended up needing to get a lot done before meeting up at 11:15 to carpool to the airport. We did get to have Qdoba for lunch again, which I was really happy about. The plane left on-time and I was able to upload another 450+ pictures to my computer, and begin the organizing and editing process. After we landed, it was a whopping 94 degrees out, and the apartment was sweltering. It was just the end of a heatwave though, as today it was back to the mid-70s.

more Denver pics:

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Denver, 2nd Anniversary: Thursday

Thursday morning we drove to Littleton where the group had Lockheed campus tours to go on, and I worked from a Corner Bakery Café and enjoyed a Mocha (yep, I have finally turned the corner and started drinking coffee).

Thursday afternoon the group was free from all other activities, so we re-commenced being tourists. We ate lunch at Noodles & Company, which was pretty average. I had the Pesto Cavatappi, which was spiral noodles and pesto sauce with parmesan-crusted chicken, tomatoes, and garlic (hold the mushrooms). Jonathan had the macaroni and cheese with chicken, also average.

There was some group-splitting after lunch, and JB and I headed to play miniature golf with Jim, Andrew, Jeremy, Eilbroun, and Kathy. The first course we got to was tiny and overrun with a field trip of small children, so we went on to Grand Golf Park, which was at a real golf place and driving range. It had a few tough holes, but was overall a pretty boring course. The theme was wildlife, but the course was poorly kept and there were pinecones and needles everywhere. JB and I were the only ones to get a hole-in-one (different holes), which was neat just because it was my very first hole-in-one ever, LoL.

Then there was another split, where some of the guys went to use the driving range, others to get settled at Vanessa & Emmanuel’s, and JB and I went to check-in at our next hotel. We took a nap, then met up with everyone to head to Casa Bonita for dinner and entertainment.

While it’s a pretty cool place, we timed it poorly. We didn’t arrive until after 8pm, and apparently nobody called to find out that they closed at 9pm that night. This meant that by the time we finished eating, the shows were all over and we didn’t have much time to walk through the attractions. The place is gigantic, and seats like 1100 people. There are cliff divers, mariachis, and gunmen (all of which we saw) among the events taking place. We missed out on the puppet shows, fire jugglers, a gorilla (which we briefly saw but not really), magicians, and dancers. There are also mines and caves to tour, plus various other things to explore. It’s really designed for kids, but is pretty fun.

Advice: you have to purchase a dinner, but the food is pretty bad. So get the cheapest thing, since you won’t eat it anyway. Save the room for the sopapillas, which are free and all-you-can-eat, and DELICIOUS. We went with the fajitas, since they have the best reviews… but they weren’t worth even half the price (and they were about $18!). Cheap-tasting and salty. Bleh. And the tortillas were in a Ziploc.

From there, we headed out to a karaoke bar, called The Gorilla Room. Drinks were cheap and they had more songs available than any other karaoke place I’ve ever been to. The DJ was very particular, and if he didn’t like the song you put in, he wouldn’t play it (Eilbroun and I were going to do Aretha’s “RESPECT” and Kathy and I were to do Vitamin C’s “Graduation,” and neither were played). He also played them in whatever order he wanted (JB and Jim did Third Eye Blind’s “Jumper” long after two other songs they did that they turned in after “Jumper”). Kathy and I did do Beach Boys’ “Kokomo” and Offspring’s “Pretty Fly for a White Guy,” which were fun. All four of the guys did *NSync's"Bye, Bye, Bye" which was a riot. We all got up at the end to do B-52’s “Love Shack,” which was hilarious.

More Denver pics: