Monday, October 12, 2009

Pro Bono - Palo Alto, CA

Merlot and candlelight - what a lovely ambience.

I have had trouble with Italian restaurants recently. I love pasta, but lately the meals I eat at Italian restaurants have fallen flat. Paying $12.95 for a plate of spaghetti, that I could make at home for a fraction of the cost, seems absurd. However, when my coworker recently raved about Pro Bono in Palo Alto, I decided to give Italian another shot.

Two friends, AJ, and I arrived for a late dinner on a Saturday night. This small, cozy restaurant was packed at 8:00pm. The candlelight tables evoked a warm and homey feeling. We were seated fairly quickly even without a reservation. Unfortunately it took quite a while for the waiter to bring by a basket of bread. Incidentally, the waiter tried to makeup for this inconveniecnce by continuing to bring baskets of bread to our table throughout the night. While I appreciated the gesture, it was a bit of overkill.

Penne with mushrooms, arugula and tomatoes.

We ordered some merlot to start off the evening. Sometimes I love a nice mellow merlot. It goes great with pasta. AJ ordered a penne dish with mushrooms, arugula, and tomatoes. Simply prepared with a little garlic and olive oil, the dish was tasty, but nothing extraordinary.

Susan's Downfall - ravioli in a cheese and toasted almond sauce.

Being a fan of appetizers for dinner (it allows you to sample more of the menu), I order an arugula salad and Susan's downfall. Susan's Downfall is aptly named for its rich gorgonzola and toasted almond sauce. This divinely creamy sauce drowns the cheese and herb raviolis it is paired with. I love how the dish was run under the broiler before presented at the table, giving the sauce a delicious golden top.

Most of the fair is good, but not great. However, a trip to Pro Bono is worth it, if just to sample Susan's downfall.

Stan's Donuts - Santa Clara, CA

I have been craving sweet, fried dough for the past couple weeks and had yet to find a proper outlet to satisfy this particular hunger. There is a Krispy Kreme somewhat close by, but after reading the Gastronomer's blog post on the Doughnut Plant, I yearned for a doughnut shop with a little more local flavor.

Freshly fried doughnuts.

I went to trusty old for some reviews of local doughnut shops. Stan's Donuts popped up with an average 4.5 stars (out of 5) from over 200 reviewers. The reviewers touted Stan's glazed donuts as some of the best they have ever tasted. I decided to check out what all the hype was about. A 15 minute drive down El Camino and we pulled up to a small shopping center. Stan's Donuts is a hole-in-the-wall joint, serving up fresh batches of yeast and cake doughnuts throughout the day. When we arrived, a small line had formed out the door. Stan's keeps the line moving, so you don't have to wait long for some fresh donuts.

Cake donut with vanilla frosting and peanuts.

AJ and I knew we were going to sample the yeast doughnuts, but we also wanted to try some of their cake varieties - we went with chocolate/sprinkles, peanut, and chocolate/coconut. The chocolate/coconut cake doughnut was nice and crisp on the outside, with a nice moist cake on the inside. The chocolate/coconut combination was just lovely.

Glaze yeast doughnut with Red Rock coffee

The real story is the glazed yeast doughnuts. They come out of the fryer warm and fluffy. Watch out Krispy Kreme, Stan's doughnuts will give you a run for your money! And don't forget, doughnuts are best eaten with a hot cup of coffee.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

September was the Month of Birthdays

September is one of the busiest birthday months. I celebrate my mom's birthday, my best friend, Jenny's, AJ's, Natalie's, and Cammy's. And let's not forget important blog birthdays - This Food is My JAM celebrates its 1st birthday, reaching 10,000 hits in under a year! We have had far more readers than I could have imagined, so thank you to everyone who continues to read. I would also like to give a shout out to my friends of Matzo and Rice who recently just celebrated their 1st birthday as well!

Being on the West Coast for the first september meant that I couldn't be there in person for everyone's bday. But luckily I was able to celebrate AJ's birthday during our first year living together! We had some friends over for a dinner party. I served a menu using mostly local and organic produce, per the birthday boy's request.

Mint chocolate chip ice cream Chocolate cupcakes with chocolate ganache.

Caprese salad, paninis, asparagus, watermelon, sweet corn, guacamole, salsa, and chips.

This meal was an amalgamation of fresh ingredients -which was great because it meant I didn't have to do much to make this meal tasty. For starters I made homemade salsa, guacamole, and chips. Chips and salsa are always crowd pleasers. AJ and I also made two great sangria - a risesling/pinot grigio with citrus, peaches and apples, and a cabernet sauvignon with raspberries, blackberries, strawberries, and apples. We added a touch of vodka, and sugar, which made the fruit quite potent (Note: the key to good sangria is to let it sit overnight.)

The remnants of our dinner.

For dinner I served sweet corn on the cob, asparagus with lemon juice, watermelon with mint, and roasted red pepper, portabello, and zucchini paninis with goat cheese and pesto. We took our plates and ate outside. It was a great way to savor the last warm summer nights.

Even the boys love Sangria.

For dessert I made Georgetown cupcakes' chocolate cupcakes. I froze them and then topped them with mint chocolate chip ice cream and chocolate ganache. They were amazingly messy and amazingly delicious. I need to figure out the timing for defrosting the ice cream, these were a little melty. But I don't think I heard any complaints. :)

Friday, October 2, 2009