Friday, January 30, 2009

More Food: Jack in the Box

Now, Jonathan and I have been to a Jack in the Box before, but it's been a couple years. When we were in Seattle (the week we got engaged), we had Jack in the Box, and had a good experience. We have a few near us in Mountain View, so we gave it a try a week ago. I'm sure glad we did, because they really are good!

Jonathan got the Ultimate Cheeseburger, which has both American and Swiss cheese and a onion-mayo sauce. I had the Chipotle Chicken Ciabatta, that had a delicious sauce, bacon, and cheddar cheese (I got it sans lettuce, of course). We both really enjoyed our choices, and that of the other. I had the "seasoned" curly fries, but they weren't that good and I wouldn't waste money on them again. Jonathan got the Sampler Trio, which included two chicken eggrolls, a few mozzarella sticks, and a few jalapeno poppers. The eggrolls were okay, about what you'd expect from a fast food place. I didn't try the other items, but Jonathan said that the mozzarella sticks were dried out and not very gooey, as mozzarella should be. He'll have to tell you about the poppers at some point, because I don't remember what his reaction was. Oh, and I had rootbeer since they had Barq's and I was in the mood. The funny thing was, on the way home (we got it to-go), Jonathan went to have a sip of it and had the strangest look on his face, as he was expecting it to be Coke, haha. I can completely relate though, I absolutely hate it when I'm expecting one beverage and it's something else... the psychological affect on the taste is gross.

With the menu being so expansive (and some great looking breakfast options as well), I'm sure we'll be back.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Amarin Thai & Sushi Tomi

For my birthday, Jonathan arranged for a few work friends to join us for lunch at Amarin Thai Cuisine in downtown Mountain View. I was excited, as it was our first Thai in California, and that's one of my favorites. We arrived about ten minutes early, and while I was hoping for one of their tables that's on the floor with cushions, it seems those are only available during dinner. We did get a large table though, and it was nice that Andrew & Kit and Vanessa & Emmanuel were able to join us. Jonathan had some chicken pa-nang curry (a reddish-brown kind), with basil and I had the grilled scallop with garlic, cilantro, onion,two kinds of peppers, and corn. It was in a tasty marinade sauce, and we both enjoyed the white rice that it came with. Everyone else at the table also got various kinds of curry, except Emmanuel, who had the mango chicken special. My scallops were delicious, but the vegetables were a little odd (too heavy on the corn). Jonathan enjoyed his curry, and is looking forward to trying other varieties while we were there. Overall, though, I don't think we'll be heading back to this Thai place, when you consider the many other possibilities there are here! Vanessa and Emmanuel had been there before and weren't impressed with their pad thai. And if you don't have good pad thai, you can't be a good Thai place, in my opinion.

For dinner, Jonathan and I went to a sushi place downtown (off Dana), called Sushi Tomi (make sure you click on English so you can read the site, LoL). The place was packed, even though it was Sunday night at 7:30. We waited about ten minutes for a table, but it was well worth the wait. We both had the combination special, I chose sashimi and gyoza, Jonathan had the sashimi and the spicy tuna roll. We were first served salads, with the most delicious dressing. We couldn't quite pinpoint the taste, although it was very creamy and had sesame seeds. I thought it tasted a little like bacon and parmesan, but clearly that wasn't it. After that was the miso soup, which was not as salty as som miso, so I enjoyed it quite well. We hardly had time to finish it before our entrees arrived. My gyoza (deep-fried pork postickers) were delicious, although I liked them better with soy sauce than with the wine-vinegary sauce with which they are served. There were six pieces, which matched Jonathan's six pieces of spicy tuna roll. And boy, were they spicy! Neither of us had previously had anything similar. This tuna was sort of ground up and made very spicy. The sashimi was eight pieces, three each of tuna and salmon, and two of another fish which greatly resembled tuna, but was a little darker and a little tougher (and also a little fattier). It was all very good, and I was definitely stuffed by the time I had my orange section as a finisher. We both agreed that it was a good deal, and might be returning before long.

For more pics, try http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=2577196&l=45499&id=5201298

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

The California Academy of Sciences

For my birthday I wanted to go to the Exploratorium, but there were no tickets left for the Tactile Dome, so we went to the California Academy of Sciences instead. It was an interesting museum, although I was a little disappointed overall. By "sciences," it basically means "a little bit of everything," LoL. Nothing really science-y in the traditional sense. More of a nature-and-animals thing. Lots of taxidermy animal exhibits. There was quite a large aquarium, but it was sadly un-educational. Most of the tiny plaques which usually show a picture of a fish, its genus and species, and some facts about it were crappy. Well, kind of. A lot of them were actually tiny LCD screens, but a vast majority of them did not provide accurate pictures of the creatures. For us, who both enjoy a good museum and an afternoon learning, it was pretty pathetic. At a few exhibits we were completely dumbfounded at which fish was which, or even where a few frogs were (since we didn't know what color or size they were supposed to be).

Still, it had some interesting things. They have one of the world's best "living roofs," meaning they have like a hectacre of plants growing up there. Not in like a greenhouse, but with soil and stuff on top of the roof of a four-story building. Nothing with lovely blooms or anything, but the novelty of the concept was neat. They also have a planetarium and a 3D theatre (which was featuring a Bug special), but passes for both were completely gone by the time we tried to get them. I don't think we missed anything too great... I mean, I've seen the A Bug's Life special at Disney's Animal Kingdom, and we've both been to the planetarium at IRSC in Fort Pierce. We did wait in line for about twenty minutes to see the Rainforest, which was a giant ball taking up a good deal of atrium space. It was four floors, and a complete representation of a tropical rainforest biome. Butterflies, birds, and plants are everywhere, and there are multiple air-lock doors to make sure there are no butterflies getting out. Additionally, on each level they have more animals in cages/displays to represent the natural life in different rainforests - they featured the Amazon, Costa Rica, Borneo, and Madagascar.

There were additional exhibits, but nothing really exciting, basically some advertisements for global warming and carbon emissions. And an Africa that included penguins.

For more pictures, check out http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=2577196&l=45499&id=5201298. (let me know if that link won't work for you)

Monday, January 26, 2009

Mongolian Hot Pot

Jonathan's friend Andy had his girlfriend in town this week (she lives in NJ), so the four of us went to Union City to have Mongolian food at Little Sheep Hot Pot. While Jonathan and I have been wanting to try 'hot pot' since we went to New China Delight, and this was definitely a place we probably wouldn't have wanted to try alone. We didn't really know how to order, so it was a good thing we had Andy and Kristine.

For anyone who might not know, Mongolian Hot Pot is kinda like an Asian Melting Pot. There's a burner in the middle of the table, and the server puts a big bowl of soup there. You can get original, spicy, or a divided bowl with both (which we went with). You also check off a front-and-back sheet with tons of different meats and vegetables. We got a beef and lamb platter, tiger prawn shrimp, cabbage leaves, pork dumplings, king oyster mushrooms, cuttlefish meatballs, udon noodles (really thick) and an assortment of pork/beef/shrimp meatballs. The way it works is where the 'Melting Pot' part comes in... all of this stuff is raw. You use tongs to grab the items and toss them into the broths to cook them, either just in there or on little ladles (mostly for the smaller items and to fish everything out again).

The beef and lamb were both good (especially in the spicier soup). The tiger prawns were only okay... it was a little plain since there were not herbs or anything on the shrimp. Jonathan ate the bulk of the cuttlefish balls... I found them a bit rubbery. I really enjoyed the shrimp meatballs, and the others were a hit with the group as well (although I should note that they took much longer to cook than most of the other items). Make sure not to keep the mushrooms in there too long or they get rubbery. The pork dumplings were my favorite, although they did take a while to cool after pulling them out of the pot. I didn't care much for the cabbage leaves, but everyone else liked them quite well. While I am a fan of pretty much any type of pasta, the udon noodles were definitely delicious, and I am glad that we added them on at the last minute.

It's definitely something neat to try, and I think that it would be a hit with a lot of our friends... specifically the Melbourne crew comes to mind...

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Jonathan's First Blog - Missing Items from California - Part 1

Hello all.
This is my first post on our new blog. Despite my wife's persistent reminders and well-kept blogging habits, I've managed to avoid posting for nearly an entire month after the move from Florida. It turns out to be good timing though since I can give Amy the gift of my first post on her birthday. Disclaimer: My writing style is starkly different from Amy's. She, being a researcher, fills her posts with collected facts and useful information about her chosen topic presented to you sprinkled with her opinion. I, being an engineer, aim to write posts about useful topics and fill them with my opinions and observations since that is the most useful information in my eyes. Also, I like commas slightly more than she does... so much so that I'm sure I will get a few night-time lectures about their use and my abuse of them in the near future.

So after living in the Land of Fruits and Nuts for nearly a month, several things appear noticeably absent from this side of the country. I'm a native Floridian, born and raised, so my opinion is definitely biased. I think Florida is a great place to live because of its environment, weather, and culture. Not to say I dislike California so far, but it's definitely a different way of life. I've compiled a short list of several differences I've noticed. Amy and I have discussed a few. Some we miss; some we don't; some I see that few others would. Here's a few of them.

  • Mosquitoes: There are no flying insects of any kind out here so far from what I've seen. I'm sure this will change as winter ends, but still. I can honestly say I've never gone this long in my life without killing a mosquito. Even in Melbourne, our outdoor adventures would let us experience mosquitoes at least once a week, no matter what time of year. I'm afraid I might forget how to kill mosquitoes and they will sense this when I return home. Insects in general are rare out here. So far, we've only been invaded by a single spider. Even in parks and along trails, birds are more prevalent than everything swat-able combined. This is one difference I can't say I miss... yet...

  • Courtesy: Southern Hospitality does not exist on the west coast, at least not here. I'm told it only gets worse as you head south in California, so I'm making a blanket statement. Simple things like opening doors, waiting on others to pull out of a parking space, letting other people go first is not practiced. I'm proud to say Amy and I are starting a revolution to change this, at least towards the elderly and mothers carrying children. It really is quite odd to watch. The strange part is that the victims don't seem to notice or care, so our very limited, courteous acts are received with a reaction like a minister receiving a $50,000 check in the offering plate.

  • Speed Limit Signs: Most of the area paints the speed limits on the road itself. The few signs dealing with speed are radar signs that tell you you're speeding. It's slightly nerve-racking at first, not knowing how fast you're supposed to be driving for miles and miles at a time. After a while, I realized most non-freeway speed limits in the area are 30 mph or less. So basically, whether you know the speed limit or not, you're probably supposed to be driving slower than you are...

  • Stock Updates: Back east, you would hear stock market updates at least once an hour on the radio during news briefs to keep people informed. Out here, I'm not sure people know that the stock market crashed. There are those who do keep up with business and what store is going out of business this week, but they are few and far between. I think this is a result of the time difference... and the population consisting of mostly engineers and strange tech types. People just aren't up that early here. Also, people have a tendency to come into work later than normal, sometimes as late as 10 am. At this point, the entire east coast has eaten lunch and stock prices have hopefully already begun rebounding for the day. Maybe this is a clue as to why California is never in sync with the rest of the country...

  • Sunrises and Sunsets: This one is specific to the valley. We're currently surrounded by mountains on all sides. While only about 30 minutes from the beach, there's still a mountain in between we have to cross first. This makes for interesting lighting conditions. It gets light about 30 minutes before you can see the sun and it gets dark about 45 minutes after the sun disappears. This is a big difference from watching the sun rise over the water everyday on the drive to work and enjoying pink and orange sunsets at night in Florida. While not a big difference, it's one that has made me glad Dennis and Genie discovered all the best places to show me sunsets on our past adventures over the years.
That's all the differences I'm covering in this post. There definitely isn't a shortage, but I normally get depressed when I see a blog post that I think might be too long and end up skimming it. Have you noticed these or other differences between these two places? Make sure to leave comments and let me know. I'll confirm whether your opinions are as correct as mine. ;)

Friday, January 23, 2009

A few more Food places: TOGO'S and In-N-Out Burger

TOGO'S is a sandwich place, very similar to Subway. They're a chain, so perhaps you've been to one before. We hadn't and were in the mood for subs, so we gave it a try. I felt like a soup-and-sandwich combo, but the soups of the day were not appealing, so I went with a regular Turkey Club on "dutch crunch" bread. Jonathan tried the Hot Pastrami on white. He enjoyed the pastrami, noting that we see it often so it must be popular in this area. Mine was pretty good, although the bacon could have been crisper. Dutch Crunch bread is a white bread with little "crunchy" pieces in the crust. However (maybe because it was late in the day), my crust wasn't crunchy, so it was very similar to plain white bread. Interestingly, neither sandwich had cheese on it. There were a lot of things on the menu, so I imagine we'll try it again sometime.

In-N-Out Burger is also a chain, and is pretty big out here. I had been to one before, last time I was in the Bay Area (May/June 2006), but I didn't really remember it, and Jonathan had never been. We just beat the lunch rush (arriving at 11:45am), and we are sure glad we did! The menu is very simple (as you can see, there's not much "public" variation to the options), and we ordered a #1 and a #2. We both found the burgers to be great (I had the cheeseburger, JB had the double), the sauce/spread gets two thumbs up, and the buns were nicely toasted. They were heavy on the onion, but we both like onion so no problems there. I didn't really care for the fries (felt they had no flavor), but now I know. Oh, I bet you're wondering why I used the term "public" menu before... they have a secret menu, just for insiders. Because their motto is simplicity, you have to be "in the know" that you can get a few different things, such as an "animal burger" or "fries well-done." We wanted to try their original menu first, but next time we'll definitely study the secret menu and order from that.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Getting our Exercise on!

For our friends who've asked about the 'health nuts' out here, I figured I'd do a feature on gymming.

We checked out four fitness centers before figuring out where we wanted to go. Fitness is big out here, and prices are competitive. There were pros and cons to our different choices, but in the end, The Club of Mountain View won our membership. They have three racquetball courts, which Jonathan is happy about. They have my preferred stair machine, which I've missed since I left the Leach at FSU. The magazine selection isn't the greatest, but they haven't really been busy since we've been going there, and that's a plus that the past few gyms can't boast about. While they have a somewhat-extensive class schedule (and classes are free, which is nice), the times aren't all that great, so I haven't tried any out yet. Zumba sure has my eye, though! They're also only a half-mile down the road we live on, so it's a short walk away.

Who were the other contenders?
Well, the free choice would be to use the complex's fitness center. And while it's not too bad, it lacks most of the machines that I would use, and only has one elliptical, so it would be easy for a line to form quickly. They also have no racquetball (although there are tennis and basketball courts), so that was a major downer. They were also lacking most of the weight machines I like.

24 Hour Fitness was the other place we checked out. We saw both a Sport and a SuperSport (their classification system). The Sport was older, designed like a maze, and offered only a few amenities (but it did have a pool). Across the plaza was the SuperSport, which was my favorite, since there were rows and rows of cardio machines (half of which had their own television screens with headphone plug-ins), two nice studio areas for classes/personal training/individual routines, and a unique machine setup. Imagine a three rows of perfectly aligned machines, stretching the length of the room. Each column matches up with respect to the muscle group being targeted. Row 1 has the basic machines, row 2 features more advanced machines, and the row 3 machines are designed for the most targeted workout possible, not allowing any non-targeted muscles to help indirectly. Sounds so great, what were the drawbacks? Well, no racquetball courts, and it's four miles away. Not a large distance, but there's no easy public transit to there, and we only have one car.

So, the Club will likely have our business for the duration of our stay in Mountain View. The one thing that was very different as we toured the gyms out here that I wish they did in Florida: EVERY SINGLE PLACE offers month-to-month, and thought it was strange that I even asked. In Florida, all of the gyms want you to sign a long-term contract, and it's hard to find one that will allow a month-to-month without a large start-up and unreasonable rates.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Happy Hour at Faultline Brewing Company

Two weeks after we moved to California, the ELDPs (the program that Jonathan is in which allowed us to move out here) had a get-together at Faultline Brewing Company. Ten people came - 6 ELDPs and 4 significant others. It was nice to meet some new people, and try a new place. I had pear cider, which was delicious. It's kind of exactly what you'd expect, but a bit crisper in taste. Jonathan tried Indian Pale Ale, which tasted like any other beer to me. We had the pork-and-shrimp potstickers with chili-mint rice as an appetizer, and it was quite good. If you like a crisp potsticker, you might be a little disappointed, but the insides are very flavorful. As an entree, we both ordered the Smoked Chicken Penne, but I ordered it without mushrooms. I found it to be overly-smoky, and the garlic in the brie sauce was undetectable. Jonathan found it just right, and devoured the sauce. We combined leftovers and I had them for dinner the next night (while Jonathan had our leftovers from La Costena).

The group of people was an interesting mix, only a few who were born-and-raised in California. Others came from Colorado, New Jersey, and Texas. The non-Lockheed people worked in IT somewhere and at Paypal, so everyone was interested to hear about my experience working for Google. Topics of conversation spanned the gamut, and afterwards most of us went to watch a movie at one of their homes.

Since this all took place in Sunnyvale, we were able to see a little more of the area which we had not driven by yet. I anxiously wait to eat at P.F. Chang's, as I've never been and there's one not far away. We also found the local Toys R Us and a few other stores that we hadn't realized that we had yet to see.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Mexican for Lunch: La Costena

After we visited La Bamba, we knew we'd have to try the burrito place next door for comparison. So, we tried out La Costena for lunch today. They hold the Guinness World Record for largest burrito. Unfortunately, I was not all that impressed. I got the marinated & grilled chicken, Mexican rice, cheese, sour cream, guacamole, and tomatoes in my 'regular burrito.' Jonathan got the same, only with carnitas (fried pork) instead of chicken, and he added salsa verde. We brought them home to eat, which was a good idea. I didn't care for the heaviness of the tortilla, so I opened mine up and ate it with a fork. The chicken was nothing special, and the burrito as a whole could have used more cilantro. The rice was pretty good. Jonathan loved the carnitas (I had a bite, they were indeed tasty), but agreed that the tortilla was a bit thick.

My main gripe about the place would be the confusion on ordering. It is not clear which toppings are free and which cost extra, and the various prices of the toppings are not obvious on the menu. I also didn't even see the "Super Values" at all. While our burritos started out at $4.99 each, the total was $15.05 after tax. I don't really plan on going back, and continue to be a bit disappointed with the Mexican food out here as a whole so far. If someone has a place to recommend, I'm all ears!

Friday, January 16, 2009

How's the Weather?

While we've been out here, a few people back in Florida have asked us how the weather is, particularly because we are adjacent to a city called 'Sunnyvale.' So, I figured I'd give a small update on the weather.

It still has only rained the first day we arrived, so Sunny would definitely be an appropriate term to describe the general weather. We should have a little rain the middle of next week, but we'll see. As for temperatures, The high has reached 70 a couple days this week, and will continue through the weekend. The low is still in the 40s, but it no longer seems to be as sharp as it was our first week here. I guess I should have expected it to be sunny all the time, but it still surprises me when I go outside.

Additionally, I found it an appropriate topic because I received an email yesterday morning from FSU, warning students and faculty of the low temperatures and which buildings may not be able to heat adequately. So I popped on over to weather.com to find out what was going on in good ol' Tallahassee. Apparently today's high there is only 49 (low 16), and the low won't even reach the 40s for another week. Yep, makes sense, it is January, after all.

In my first January in Tallahassee (2003), there were 18 days where the low was below freezing, and on the day before my birthday the low was just 18 degrees (43 was the high). There were flurries two or three times, but it was a very dry month (about 5 inches below normal for the month), otherwise we could have had some real snow (we did have a few hard freezes).

How's the weather where you are? Those in Tallahassee, how's the FAB doing with the heating??

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Gelato: soft, rich, smooth, delicious

We haven't had any dessert since we've been in California, so last night Jonathan suggested we find some frozen custard. After an internet search, it seems the nearest frozen custard is about twenty minutes away, in San Jose. So, we headed into downtown to get some gelato at Gelato Classico. The last few times we've gone by the shop, the line has been pretty long, so we were surprised when we walked right in. I got the tiramisu in an italian cone (nothing special about it, tastes just like a normal sugar cone), and Jonathan got the peanut butter cup in a dish. The tiramisu was good, with pieces of cake and everything. Jonathan enjoyed his as well, but I can't speak to how it tasted since I don't eat peanut butter. They had a lot of flavors that I want to try in the future, so I'm sure we'll be back there before long.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Our Stuff Has Arrived!!

At long last (and exactly two weeks after we shipped it off!) our boxes have finally gotten here! The movers arrived about two hours ago, and within an hour had everything upstairs, in the correct rooms, and most of the boxes unpacked. I was completely surprised when they offered to unpack, but I guess I should have expected it.

In the past hour, I've re-done the kitchen organization and gotten almost all of that stuff put away, done the living room, and most of the "hobby stuff." Knick-knacks are next, then the bathroom, then the ultimate challenge of the clothes. I hope to have a great deal of putting-away finished before Jonathan gets home. We're looking forward to having our kitchen equipment and cooking regular meals again!

This also means that I'll be posting photos of the apartment in the next few days, since it'll be complete!

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Our First Trip into San Francisco

We got up, had breakfast, and took the Caltrain into San Francisco today. On the weekends the trip is about 70 minutes, although the morning commute during the week makes it only 44 minutes. It didn't seem long at all, and we saw some great scenery on the way in. (I've been to San Francisco before, but have only done a few touristy things, and Jonathan had never been)

We got off at 4th & King, and proceeded to take 4th all the way to Market, then Market to Embarcadero. We walked through the Financial District (seriously, bank after bank down both side of the road), and spent some time at Pier 2/Ferry Station. There was an arts & crafts fair and a Farmer's Market going on, lots of different things for sale. Inside the station were meat markets, restaurants, bakeries, two creameries, even a caviar shop. We walked through it all, and onto the pier, where we got a great view of the Bay Bridge. From there we took Mission (parallel to Market) back to 4th, watching a dog get loose from a jogger and nearly get hit twice. She finally caught him a few blocks later.

We stopped in Metreon (a center with several restaurants, a couple stores, an AMC 15 movie theater, and an arcade) for lunch. Jonathan saw that Sanraku had wonderful reviews (and I saw it mentioned in Frommer's as well), so we stopped there. We were seated quickly (not very busy for noon on a Saturday), and were served nice, cool water while we read the menu. Jonathan chose the Sushi Special, and I went with the Sashimi and Chicken Teriyaki Combo. We had piping hot miso soup brought out, and it was pretty good. We hardly had time to finish the coup when our entrees had arrived. My sashimi (raw fish without the rice) was 5 pieces of chef's choice, and I was glad to see three big pieces of tuna and two slabs of salmon. The tuna was very good, among the best I've had. The salmon was a bit much on its own (I should mention I struggled to pick up a piece with my chopsticks, it was so large!), but still good. The wasabi was good, but the ginger was a little off. My chicken teriyaki was in a delectable sauce, and the rice it came with was good and sticky. The salad was a bit much, mostly since it had a strange dressing (not ginger, not soy, something I had never before encountered with Japanese cuisine). Jonathan's special came with 6 pieces of nigiri and 6 pieces of California Roll. However, a California roll out here is not what it is in Florida. Here it has crab, avocado, and cucumber, rice on the outside, and sprinkled with roe. His nigiri ranged from tuna to salmon to tamago (like a sweet egg omelet with a custardy taste) to shrimp to whitefish to a roll of just roe and rice. The tamago was different, but overall he enjoyed the selection.

After lunch and wandering Metreon, we spent a good deal of time in the Sony store. If you can call it a store... there were tons of games you could play (PS2, PS3, and PSP), and many other products on display (televisions, cameras, MP3 players, all kinds of stuff). I played Little Big Planet and a Twisted Metal-esque game, while Jonathan tried Sonic and Star Wars. Wandering through the store, we saw the Sony Rolly, a dancing MP3 player. You put your ipod inside and it synchronizes its moves to match the rhythm of lyrics of the music. They had it set to Avril Lavigne's "Girlfriend," and I found a video online that makes it seem all the more impressive since they have three going simultaneously!


After the Sony store we headed out and back to the Caltrain. We were both tired on the ride home, but it was a great first experience!

Friday, January 9, 2009

Mexican & Vietnamese

...not at the same time, of course. Jonathan was working on a project at home today, so we were able to have both lunch and dinner together.

For lunch, we decided to have Mexican, and after both researching a bit, we landed on the same choice: Taqueria La Bamba. There are two in Mountain View, an original and a second one downtown. We chose to try out the original, and enjoyed it. Although parking was a bit rough (1:30pm on a Friday), service was very fast. I ordered a chicken burrito, Jonathan had the quesadilla suiza. The burrito included rice, shredded chicken, sour cream, cilantro, guacamole, and cheese (I opted for no beans). The tortilla itself was rather thick, but other than that it was pretty good. Jonathan's quesadilla was cheesy with plenty of steak, he said he'd definitely get it again. There were also a few other things on the menu we're dying to try (carnitas and pupusas).

We'd been talking about getting pho on and off since we've been in California, and tonight was the night. We were able to stroll downtown and chose the second pho place we saw, Pho Hoa. It is part of a very large chain, and has had numerous awards for its healthy menu. I went with the chicken (like I always do) and Jonathan ordered the steak and meatball. We also had two summer rolls, a personal favorite. For those who may be unfamiliar with Vietnamese cuisine, I'll explain a little. Pho is a soup, and while the ingredients vary slightly from one restaurant to another, most serve it very similarly. The broth is either chicken-based or beef-based (from what we've experienced), and includes noodles and green onions, along with the meat of your choice. It is served in a very large bowl, accompanied by a selection of sauces and a platter of add-ins. Mint, cilantro, jalepeno, lime, and bean sprouts are usually on the platter, although at this particular restaurant the cilantro had been simmered in with the broth. I don't know much about explaining the sauces, but there's a thick brown and a hot red, and soy sauce. The soup is eaten with chopsticks and an Asian spoon (see photo). Summer rolls are wrapped in thin rice paper, and include shrimp and pork, vermicelli, and some salad ingredients. They're served with a thick peanut sauce, although I like them with soy sauce. Personally, I'd like to try a different pho place, as I prefer to add the cilantro myself (I like a lot), but I'd still recommend this place. If you're into "bubble tea" (sometimes called "pearl smoothies"), they have a nice selection. Since I can't stand tapioca, I'm not a fan, but I've had several friends who quite enjoy them.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Football kicking off at 5pm...

So it weirded me out that the BCS Championship game began (and ended) so early. It's only 9:15 here. We watched the first half of the game at home, then headed to the "party room" of our complex. Thursday nights from 6-7pm they have a complimentary happy hour, so we tried a few snacks and had a drink. If I'm going to live in California, I'm going to need to learn to like more kinds of wine, that's for sure!

From there we headed into downtown to check out St. Stephens Green Pub, which was pretty decent. The build-your-own-burger is a little overpriced, but it was cooked just as I requested, and it was good. The fries were very good, in fact, the only thing really lacking in my meal was a pickle. Jonathan had the Chicken-Mushroom pot pie. He was a big fan of the gravy, and said the vegetables were steamed to perfection. I thought his mashed potatoes were a little buttery, but he enjoyed them.

The other sports bar in town (which isn't as walking-distance as this one) seemed very strange to us when we read about it online. The reason... because its biggest fanbase isn't a California team at all. No lie, Sports Page has a huge FLORIDA GATOR group. And not just because they're in the Championship, they've had a big fanbase for years. We haven't figured out quite why yet, but I'm sure there's a fun explanation.

Given the predictions for the game, we were both really surprised that the score was so low for so long. There were some peculiar calls by the refs, some strange cramps (or something) in the players, and a couple breath-taking plays. It's one of the few times a year when we openly root for the Gators, since at this point we want Florida as a state to beat Oklahoma as a state. Hope you all enjoyed the game, although you're probably asleep. We, on the other hand, are just getting ready to watch ER in another ten minutes, LoL.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Our First Californian Chinese Food

We went out to Costco last night and bought a few more things, mostly because we now know the prices to expect for food, and needed to stock up a bit. Afterward, we decided to just grab a bite, and headed downtown for Chinese.

We first attempted to go to a restaurant called Trend first, but chickened out. As we were walking up, we looked in the window. The specials menu was completely in Chinese characters, and there were pictures of the food on the wall (but not in that tacky way that some take-out places post. this was in a real way, as it was a real restaurant with tablecloths, china, and silver). All of the customers appeared to be Asian, and we were slightly afraid we wouldn't be able to order (we have heard that there are places out here where you have to know how to order to be able to eat).

Only a block or two from uWink, we stumbled upon a place called New China Delight. As you may know, this is a semi-common name for a Chinese restaurant (or at least it is in FL), but this particular one actually owns newchinadelight.com, not some random domain. The menu was a bit different from what we're used to, but was quite extensive. The portions were generous, and the prices were fair. The food is served family-style, which we weren't expecting when we placed our order. I asked for the 'minced chicken breast with spicy garlic sauce' and white rice. JB had the 'General Tso's Chicken' (which I don't see on their online menu) and white rice. We both loved his meal, it had a great flavor and a perfect crispness. Mine wasn't garlic-y enough for its name, and had a very hot aftertaste. We took home leftovers of both types of chicken, and plan to return to this restaurant to try their hot pots.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

where we are & what's around us

Day two was an adventure day. We started out by finding the local Costco (2.5 miles away), signing up, and perusing the store. We were quite shocked with how fair the prices were. Many people had warned us about the cost of groceries in California, and we were afraid that we'd be paying double what we are accustomed to. This was not the case. Almost everything we purchased was cheaper than we could have gotten in Florida. Maybe Costco just beats out Sam's Club, who knows...

We went to Safeway on the way home, and were semi-impressed. They seemed decent enough for those who do not want to buy in bulk, but we found pasta and macaroni and cheese to be cheaper at Walmart. My main gripe is that they only issue one card per person, so if we both wanted a savings card, we have to apply separately. What's worse: there's not keychain-card option, only the full-size card is available. Eggs were overpriced at $3/dozen (we'll be getting them from Costco from now on for $2.47/18 eggs), and butter was 2 sticks for almost $4!! I'd never even seen a place that didn't sell butter in a 4-stick package! Later in the afternoon we took a trip to the local Walmart, and were taken aback by how many people were there! It is located in a major shopping plaza, with a Trader Joe's, Sears, Jo-Ann's Fabrics, and several other stores. But walking around inside was like shopping on Christmas Eve! Lines for the check-outs extended at least five carts long in every aisle! We picked up some basic cleaning supplies and were out of there! We plan on trying Target next time, hopefully that will work out much better!!

It will of interest to our techy friends that we've already found the HQ buildings for AOL, Yahoo, VeriSign, HP, Symantec, and Motorola. I have no doubt there are more (and I especially plan to seek out the Googleplex!), but these are a few we've driven by and just casually seen.

We did a drive-close of Lockheed. I say "drive-close" instead of "drive-by" because you can't get near the place. Well, I can't, anyway. Just like at the Cape, you have to have a security clearance badge and such. Jonathan will get right through on Monday morning. Lockheed is 4.4 miles away (in Florida it was 44.7 miles), so the commute is very short, and there are bike paths the entire way as well. There's also a stop on the light rail in front of it, but since it's a 15-minute walk for us to get to a stop, the time and price are not worth the transit commute. Speaking of the stop near us, because downtown is so close, we'll be using the Downtown Mountain View stops on both the VTA Light Rail (which Jonathan could take to work) and the Caltrain (which will take us into San Francisco). To give you an idea of where these places are in relation to other cities you may know in the area, I included a couple of maps. While I'm on locations, feel free to go to kayak.com and check out the flight rates from your area to San Jose (SJC). We're a whopping eleven miles from the airport, so that would be the place to come into (although I imagine San Francisco and Oakland are not that big of a deal). We know there's a bus system around too, but we haven't even gotten to looking at that yet!

I guess that covers the basics. We've also seen a fire station and know where the local hospital is, and are currently intrigued with the Santa Cruz mountains... how far away are they, how high are they, what could we do there, etc. The interest factor? The mountains pretty much surround us (we are in the Silicon Valley after all), and prevent the sun from reaching us until almost 9am, and begin blocking the sun about 4:30pm. So very strange for it to be getting dark before dinner!

The Trip & Arrival

So there's kind of a lot of things to talk about, so we're going to break it down into different sections. Here we go for the first round.

We left the house in Melbourne at 5:15am, and arrived at the Orlando airport just before 6:30. DJ lit up the second we exited 528, so in our sleepy states we knew we were there. Check-in was a little slow, but security is really what slowed us down. By the time we got through and grabbed a quick bite, we only sat about 20 minutes before our plane began boarding.

The flight was just over four hours to Denver, but we are definitely not fans of Frontier. The seats are not that comfortable, no complimentary snacks were offered, the beverage cart only came through once, and there was not a single in-flight video or game option that was free. Once in Denver, we stopped for a casual lunch (great italiano panini at Jimmy's if you're in that airport sometime). The plane to San Jose was booked solid, and we were hard-pressed to find space for our carry-ons in the overhead bins. Before we knew it, we were in San Jose, and were greeted by rain.

Picking up the rental car was extremely easy, as Lockheed had submitted all the paperwork already, and we were heading out in our pewter 2009 Ford Escape in less than ten minutes. It took a few tries to exit the airport (the signage isn't that great), but we were headed to Mountain View and at the apartment before long. Check-in was pretty easy, since none of the rental forms had to be done, just the incidentals and cable and stuff like that. We re-parked in front of our building and headed up to the third floor. Our building is in a very convenient location within the complex... there's a laundry room on the first floor, the lodge is next to us, there's a dumpster behind our mailbox, and the pool/jacuzzi/tennis courts/bbq are nearby as well. I've included a floorplan, pics of the apartment to come with its description later. I will mention a few more amenities to our complex... there's a free continental breakfast 6 days/week, a free wine/beer happy hour on Thursdays, an on-site dry cleaner, three tennis courts and a pro shop, a basketball court, a massage therapist, and a fitness center. We would both prefer a little more in a gym, so we will be looking around to see what prices are (Lockheed did pay part of our membership in FL, so they might here as well).

We unpacked our carry-ons and rearranged some furniture before heading into downtown (about four blocks away). We walked Castro Street, and passed at least thirty restaurants before reaching the end of the area. We decided on uWink, a "social entertainment restaurant." It sure was different, allowing us to order from the screens in front of us, without a waitress needing to come by. There were some great drink specials, and we tried to Appetizer Sampler (don't get the onion strings). I had the garlic chicken pasta (decent), and Jonathan tried the macaroni and cheese (plentiful!). What made the restaurant a good time were the giant projection screens showing the games and hit television shows, and the fact that there were more games on the machines than we could play in the (nearly) two hours we were there. Cool place, would recommend (and will probably take a few friends there when they come to visit...).

We were tired and passed out at 9:30 (although that is after midnight Eastern time).

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Goodbye, Florida!

So Jonathan and I have been trying to get a blog started for a few months now. We just thought that it would be a good way to keep our friends and family updated on what we're doing. I created it when I first started my current position (with a sub-company of Google), but now that we're embarking on an entirely new phase of life, it makes sense to definitely get this going.

In less than twelve hours, we will be on a Frontier Airbus headed for San Jose, CA. Why is this special? Because we do not have round-trip tickets. We are moving to Mountain View, California tomorrow. Jonathan is taking a six-month position in Sunnyvale as part of his rotation sequence for the Leadership program at Lockheed Martin. It will work out well for me too, since I can do my job from anywhere in the country.

Our friends Bryan and DJ will be taking us to the airport, and we'll fly Orlando-Denver-San Jose. We don't know what our apartment looks like yet, but we have an address and a reservation, so we'll find out soon enough. Look for photos and descriptions to come, I'm sure there will be a lot to say. The only current downside: it's supposed to rain tomorrow, with a high of 54. But, the weekend should be bright and sunny!