Good Things Come — In Boxes

A peek inside the "Silicon Valley'' Sojourn Box.

A peek inside the “Silicon Valley” Sojourn Box.

 

With graduation fetes, Father’s Day, and summer birthday celebrations to come, everyone’s got gift-giving on their minds. Recently, I had a chance to check out samples of three new artisan gift box deliveries. Here’s the lowdown:

Sojourn Box

The word, “sojourn,” refers to a “temporary stay.”

And Sojourn Box aims to do something similar — to transport you briefly to another place.

The Santa Cruz-based company packs curated artisan products in boxes, each of which has a different Northern California geographic theme, such as “Monterey,” “San Francisco,” and “Santa Cruz.”

The “Silicon Valley” one was sent to me, befittingly since I reside there. I received the “taste-size” box ($38). If you like the products, you can reorder and choose the “full-sized” box ($70) with — you guessed it — full-sized versions of each product.

With the hustle and bustle of Silicon Valley life, this box was definitely made for unplugging and getting away from it all. It’s also a box designed more for a woman than a man, what with its Lavender Herbal Bath Soak salts from Sylvie James, and Lemongrass Tangerine Soy Candle. Hey, just saying.

There’s also a tiny sea urchin shell holding the teeniest air plant; Smoked Sugar from Whiskey Oak Seasonings; a Cantaloupe Mint Green Tea bag from Thao Tea; and Coconut, Cacao + Raisin Granola Bites, which taste much more healthy and austere than most granolas on the market.

Granola bites to enjoy.

Granola bites to enjoy.

Each product is sourced locally. Each box also includes a little printed booklet containing fun facts about each region, including the “Top Five Places to Eat,” and “Top Five Places To Shop.” There’s also a card listing the “Top 10 Songs” in the area. Who knew that Dogcatcher’s “It’s You, It’s Me,” was tops in Silicon Valley.

Good For: A favorite female in your life whom you want to pamper.

Chococurb

For the chocoholics in your life, there is Chococurb.

This Seattle company delivers a box of chocolates monthly — or as a one-time gift. A full-sized box of five to seven chocolate products is $35. A mini box of three chocolate products is $20. Choose a three-month or six-month subscription and the price per box goes down.

It’s also a full e-commerce site, so if you or your recipient is enamored of a particular chocolate, he or she can re-order it easily.

Chococurb's full-sized box.

Chococurb’s full-sized box.

Of the offerings included in my sample full-sized box, I especially enjoyed the Cabruca walnut and fig bar, with its unusual undulating shape and its candied fig pieces decorating the top.

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Itani Ramen — Where Noodling Around Is Fun And Delicious

 

A rice bowl with eggs three ways at Itani Ramen.

A rice bowl with eggs three ways at Itani Ramen.

You have to smile at place where the bathrooms are identified as: “raMEN” and “raWOMEN.”

Itani Ramen takes its food seriously, but everything else with a sense of humor.

The second restaurant by Chef Kyle Itani of Hopscotch in Oakland, Itani Ramen opened a month ago in Oakland’s Uptown neighborhood.

I had a chance to try it two weeks ago when I was invited in as a guest of the restaurant. It happened to be a night when Itani’s good buddy, Chef Daniel Holzman of New York’s The Meatball Shop empire, happened to be helping out, serving dishes and chatting up diners. Holzman also assisted in the kitchen when Hopscotch first opened. And it’s his photographs of colorful street scenes in Japan that grace the walls of Itani Ramen.

Chef Brian Ikenoyama, Chef-Owner Kyle Itani, and visiting-Chef Daniel Holzman.

Chef Brian Ikenoyama, Chef-Owner Kyle Itani, and visiting-Chef Daniel Holzman.

The long restaurant is industrial-zen looking with unfinished wood on the back wall that gives it an almost shoji-screen-like look. Packages of Japanese instant ramen and bottles of sake decorate shelves above the bar and open kitchen.

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A Movie-Star Omelet

The omelet that was part of a pivotal scene in "The Hundred-Foot Journey.''

The omelet that was part of a pivotal scene in “The Hundred-Foot Journey.”

 

The Hundred-Foot Journey” boasts one of the greatest food scenes in a movie.

The film revolves around the clash of cultures that occurs when an Indian family opens up a restaurant in France directly across the road from a Michelin-starred French one.

If you’ve seen this charming film, you know the scene I’m talking about. It’s where the young Indian Chef Hassan (played by Manish Dayal) dares to cook an omelet for the matriarch of the French restaurant, Madam Mallory (played by Helen Mirren).

He pours beaten eggs into a pan, then adds chile, tomatoes and cilantro, as well as Indian spices. When the omelet is done, he carries it over to the skeptical Madame to try. We see only the back of her as she sits broodingly at the table, fork in hand, armed with the lowest of expectations. When she takes a bite, we see her back and head stiffen ram-rod straight, as she’s jolted to attention by the deliriously delicious omelet she’s never had the likes of before.

This is that omelet.

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Get Ready for Dine Downtown San Jose — Plus A Food Gal Giveaway

DineDowntownSJ

A slew of restaurants will be offering special three-course prix fixe dinners, June 10-19, as part of Dine Downtown San Jose.

The prix fixe offerings will be priced from $20 on up. Participating restaurants include Arcadia, Cafe Stritch, The Farmers Union, and Poor House Bistro.

For every prix fixe meal sold, Sysco will donate $1 to Martha’s Kitchen, too. The San Jose organization provides meals to those in need.

Contest: One lucky Food Gal reader will win a $50 gift certificate to Mezcal Restaurant in downtown San Jose. Use it toward the $30 three-course prix fixe the restaurant is serving up for Dine Downtown San Jose, which includes options such as tortilla soup, grilled steak with chipotle sauce, and warm Oaxacan chocolate cake. Or use it another time.

Chef Octavio Gomez of Mezcal. (Photo courtesy of the restaurant)

Chef Octavio Gomez of Mezcal. (Photo courtesy of the restaurant)

Mezcal specializes in moles, as well as chapulines (fried grasshoppers). If you’ve never experienced the latter, this is the place to try them. Seasoned with garlic, salt and lime, they’re as crisp and addicting as potato chips. So, no need to be squeamish.

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Trestle Serves Up An Astounding Prix Fixe — For $35

Huckleberry cake at Trestle in San Francisco.

Huckleberry cake at Trestle in San Francisco.

 

I’ve had many wonderful meals at restaurants, but never have I left at the end of an evening overcome with the emotions that I had at Trestle in San Francisco.

As Co-Owner Tai Ricci bid me adieu, I just wanted to hug her for dear life and implore, “Please, please be profitable and be around for a very, very long time!’

If you’ve found your eyes bulging out of their sockets at the stratospheric prices of some of the Bay Area’s tasting menus lately, you’ll find your peepers popping out at Trestle for another reason:

You’ll wonder how they do it — serving an extraordinary three-course dinner nightly for all of $35 per person.

The cozy, contemporary dining room.

The cozy, contemporary dining room.

We’re not talking a slap-dash affair, either. This is food, where it’s immediately evident that great care is taken. Soup is poured tableside by your server. The skin on a fish fillet is seared till perfectly golden and crisp as a perfect potato chip. Desserts are not just plopped into a bowl, but artfully arranged with whimsy.

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