Get Ready for San Jose’s Dine Downtown Restaurant Week, Plus A Food Gal Giveaway

DineDowntownSJ2017

Get ready to do some serious eating, July 7-16, when Dine Downtown San Jose Restaurant Week gets underway.

Nineteen downtown restaurants will be offering special prix fixe or chef’s menus for the San Jose Downtown Association promotion that’s sponsored by Sysco.

Among them are: 71 Saint Peter Modern European Kitchen, the Farmer’s Union, La Pastaia, Loft Bar & Bistro, Poor House Bistro, and Nomikai Social Food + Drinkery.

For the full list of participating restaurants and a look at what they are offering, click here.

Girls' night out at Loft Bar & Bistro. (Photo courtesy of the San Jose Downtown Association)

Girls’ night out at Loft Bar & Bistro. (Photo courtesy of the San Jose Downtown Association)

CONTEST: One lucky Food Gal reader will win a $50 gift card to San Jose’s Olla Cocina. The gift card is good for use during Dine Downtown week or at any later date within a year.

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Escape to Esc

Escape to esc for this incredible dessert.

Escape to esc for this incredible dessert.

 

Normally when we think of the esc button on our computers, it’s not with fondness or pleasure. It’s usually characterized by banging on the button out of frustration because our screen has frozen.

But there’s another esc in town now, one that’s sure to leave you mellow and chill.

It’s the name of the new lobby lounge wine bar/cafe at the Four Seasons Silicon Valley in East Palo Alto.

If you’re used to hotel lobbies being places you only hang out in to kill time before check-in or check-out, esc will surprise you with its comfortable mix of plush couches, upholstered easy chairs, and bar stools.

I had a chance to check it out last week, when I was invited in as a guest of the hotel to see the newly completed space.

Illuminated on the wall.

Illuminated on the wall.

Take a load off in the newly revamped lobby lounge.

Take a load off in the newly revamped lobby lounge.

On a laid-back weeknight, people were working on laptops, and relaxing with glasses of wine, a few of which conveniently come in your choice of 2-, 4- or 6-ounce pours. You can even try Blend 122, the hotel’s new signature red wine by Byington Vineyards of Santa Cruz, a rich, robust sip that opens up as it sits in the glass.

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The Joys of Cherry Snow Cones in Summer

When the weather gets hot, reach for a cherry snow cone with a dash of kirsch.

When the weather gets hot, reach for a cherry snow cone with a dash of kirsch.

 

On Christmas long ago when I was a kid, my aunt gave me a snow cone maker.

It was one of those plastic, hand-cranked ones in the likeness of Frosty the Snowman. You’d plop ice cubes into the top of his “head,” turn the lever like mad, until fluffy shaved ice started filling his “stomach.” I’d scoop it out and fill a paper cone or cup, then drizzle on the syrup that came in the kit, which no doubt back then was made with all manner of artificial flavors and colorings.

No matter, it did the trick — offering up an icy, slushy, syrupy sweet treat that I couldn’t get enough of.

Decades later as an adult, I was gifted another snow cone maker much like my childhood one.This one, however, was in the likeness of Snoopy, and a cross between a real and a gag Christmas gift from a best friend who knew only too well my adoration of Peanuts characters. I’m not above saying I used it, too.

After all, no matter what age you are, there’s just something magical about snow cones, how mundane ice can be transformed into something so incredibly delightful.

Food52IceCream

That’s why when I saw this recipe for “Cherry Snow Cone” in the new “Food52 Ice Cream & Friends” (Ten Speed Press) by the editors of Food52, of which I received a review copy, I knew I had to make it.

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Adagio Teas for the Gourmet Tea Lover

Genmai Cha from Adagio Teas.

Genmai Cha from Adagio Teas.

 

Born in Moscow, Michael Cramer (he Anglicized his original surname of Kreymerman after immigrating to the United States) grew up with tea as a staple.

So it may not be surprising that the former investment banker decided to establish a tea company in New Jersey in 1999 with his brother and mother.

What is remarkable is that Adagio Teas was profitable in its first year.

But when you taste the teas, you can see why.

There is a real vitality and vibrancy to them, as I found out when I was sent samples to try recently.

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Izakaya Rintaro — Spot-On From Start to Finish

Ribeye (back) and King Trumpet mushroom (foreground) yakitori at Izakaya Rintaro.

Ribeye (back) and King Trumpet mushroom (foreground) yakitori at Izakaya Rintaro.

 

Rare is the restaurant where you sit down to an entire meal and never experience one mundane bite.

Izakaya Rintaro in San Francisco’s Mission District is such a place.

That was my experience a week ago, when I tried the Japanese small plates restaurant with my husband, where we paid our full tab at the end of a delightful dinner.

Izakaya Rintaro was opened two years ago by Chef-Owner Sylvan Mishima Brackett, who was born in Kyoto. Early on in his career, he was Alice Waters assistant at Chez Panisse. When I was a food writer on staff at the San Jose Mercury News, I would call him incessantly, in need of quotes regularly from Waters, which he remembered.

The front of the restaurant.

The front of the restaurant.

Chef Sylvan Mishima Brackett manning the grill.

Chef Sylvan Mishima Brackett manning the grill.

At his izakaya, you’ll find the usual staple dishes and more. What truly sets them apart are the top-notch ingredients, detailed techniques, and flat-out care with which they are executed.

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