last weekend, b surprised me with an afternoon date at hakone garden. hakone garden is the oldest japanese garden in the western hemisphere. the original construction of the gardens began in 1917. isabel stine had just returned from a year long voyage in japan and had all the inspiration she needed to make a breathtaking and authentic japanese garden. hakone garden is 18 acres and can be seen within a hour.
i loved the peace and tranquility i felt immediately upon entering the garden. there were less than 15 people there when we arrived and all that could be heard was the crashing of the waterfall and birds chirping.
one of my favorite spots, besides the lake, was the bamboo garden. the bamboo garden at hakone garden is said to represent the close friendship with saratoga’s sister city, muko-shi, japan (a suburb southwest of kyoto). i love how much thought is put into the symbolism of each aspect of a japanese garden. every plant, stone, bridge is placed in a certain spot for a specific reason and not just to “look pretty”.
there was a wedding reception being set up as we were leaving the garden. the bride wore a beautiful traditional japanese kimono. all her family and bridesmaids were also in kimonos. it was stunning. makes me want to head to kyoto!
don’t forget to pick up some fish food at the hakone gift shop (also where you purchase entry tickets) so you are able to feed the koi and turtles! this was b’s favorite part.
There are a plethora of food trucks in the Bay Area. So many that there are two different companies that gather the food trucks together in one area for all to enjoy through lunch and dinner. I think this is such a great concept — I mean what is better than 5+ food trucks to choose from (especially if you are in a group and all your taste buds are wanting something different).
Off the Grid and Moveable Feast bring the most popular food trucks together for lunch and dinner in a different city everyday. Their schedule can be featured online so you are able to plan when a gathering near you is taking place. I have been multiple times to both events — they really are one in the same. The slight difference is seating. Most of the events are taking place in parking lots as to have enough space for the trucks. Off the Grid offers fold up chairs to sit on while Moveable Feast throws out some buckets and calls it a day. Many food trucks participate in both events so you do see overlap when meandering through the trucks.
I usually walk through the whole lot and then decide from there. I have had my fair share of ups and downs while exploring these food trucks and wanted to share my finds:
KoJa Kitchen- My friend and I both tried the KoJa Korean BBQ Beef. The portion is on the smaller side for the price but, it was delicious. A KoJa is meat sandwiched between two crispy rice buns. The flavor of the korean bbq beef left me wanting more and the rice buns were unlike anything I have ever tried. I would definitely come back here again and try the Kamikaze fries, which everyone in line could not stop raving about!
Treatbot- I, of course, have to have something sweet to finish off any given meal so I couldn’t wait to try this cute Treatbot truck. There are about 5 flavors that are rotated daily. I opted for the classic “milk and cookies”. Although the cart is insta worthy (see pic below), I would have to say the ice cream was very ordinary. It tasted very store bought and for $5 was not worth it. I will not be returning unless anyone tells me that I had the worst flavor and there is so much more to love about Treatbot.
The Chairman- I had the steamed pork bun at The Chairman. Again, a little small for the price but, still very delicious. I probably could have eaten three. The sweet flavoring was perfect with the steamed bun. The sandwich is also topped with pickled Daikon to balance the sweet taste. I will be back!
El Sur- El Sur serves authentic empanadas. This was my first time trying an empanada and sadly it may be my last. Many people raved about this calzone style entree, but I don’t think it was my cup of tea. It was very mediocre in my mind. Maybe I am missing something?
Blendid - This was the first food truck I saw when arriving at Off the Grid in Menlo Park and so I knew it would be my dessert. Blendid serves dessert inspired organic shakes. As of now, there are 4 flavors to choose from ( Mango Sticky Rice, Banana Creme Pie, Strawberry Shortcake and S’mores). I was deciding between Mango Sticky Rice and S’mores but decided in the end on S’mores. I am a sucker for anything s’mores inspired. However, in this instance I wish I would have gone with the Mango Sticky Rice. S’mores was not as rich and flavorful as I was hoping for. It was okay though and it does make me want to come back once more to try another. The owner told me that Mango Sticky Rice is probably the most popular and Strawberry Short Cake is her favorite.
Special thanks to Matthew Leng for taking all the pretty photos while I explored Off the Grid!
I am so excited to share with you a collaboration I have been working on
with a dear friend and fellow blogger.
Emily, of Twenty – Somethings , and I were in a couple classes together while attending the University of Utah. We instantly hit it off and have kept in touch ever since. We both enjoy discovering new things in our respective cities and thought it would be fun to work together on city guides.
We hope each week to bring you top 5 eateries, things to do, must sees, where to shop and more of Silicon Valley and Washington DC. This way we have you covered from coast to coast!
And what better way to start this series off than with the top 5 must eat brunch spots? Brunch is something Emily and I (yes, we even have the same name — so in sync) are very passionate about so we searched high and low for the best of the best. Trust us, you will not want to miss any of these great restaurants in either city!
Silicon Valley stretches from San Francisco to San Jose.
I guess I could have technically picked one city but, when you live in the South Bay you tend to not stick to just one since everything is so close together and you want to see it all. For my picks, I searched the whole valley to bring you the best brunch spots. I tried to spread them out across the peninsula so anywhere you are living or visiting has a brunch spot near you.
Let’s begin. Shall we?
1. Zazie(Cole Valley, SF) : My sister, N, actually recommended Zazie to me about a year ago. She was coming into town (currently resides in Texas) with her husband to celebrate their anniversary in Napa and was scheduled to stay a day in the city. N is the biggest foodie of my whole family so when she recommends something I know it will blow my mind. We met up at Zazie for brunch and even though it was a little while ago I still remember the taste of every dish we had. I have never had such a perfectly poached egg in my life. All their dishes are not only creatively planned but executed to perfection. The menu offers many different variations of poached eggs, which was refreshing because most places just stick to eggs benedict. We each chose a different type of poached egg and were convinced ours was the very best. You must also try their gingerbread pancakes. I am usually not a big fan of gingerbread but these pancakes were heavenly. Pancakes are topped with lemon curd to get the perfect balance of both flavors. This is by far my favorite brunch spot out of anywhere in the world! N would totally agree so you know you need to check it out ASAP! Do come early … We arrived a half hour before it opened to put our name on the list and we still had to wait a little bit once the restaurant opened. The wait time can be lengthy.
2. The Table(Willow Glen, San Jose) : The Table is a newer restaurant located in the quaint city of Willow Glen. The ambiance and service are top notch and the menu diverse (all 3 factors make for a great restaurant in my book). I would recommend the sugar dusted ricotta beignets, pork belly sandwich and fried chicken with cheddar cheese biscuit. The Table only purchases from local farmers and ranchers, which they believe makes their food more flavorful. I would have to agree with this philosophy!
3. Pastis (Palo Alto) : Pastis is a French bistro located a couple miles south of downtown Palo Alto. This charming bistro is the perfect way to start your morning and transport you back to the streets of Paris. The menu is authentic and offers many different options which, sometimes makes it hard to choose just one thing! I would recommend le parisien (nutella topped french toast), croque monsieur, bread pudding and any omelette. Bon appetit!
4. Toosties at the Stanford Barn(Stanford, Palo Alto) : This endearing Italian style brick building may make your heart skip a beat. Sometimes it is all about location, location , location with brunch but good thing Toosties is just as appetizing to the eyes as it is to the stomach! I seriously could have stayed here gazing at the fields for hours and would have loved to try everything on the menu. I would recommend the housemade ricotta pancakes (very different than any pancake I have ever had at brunch), breakfast panino and the grilled nutella sandwich. The menu could be considered limited, but sometimes the basics is all I need. Do try to sit outside because it the best way to experience Toosties!
5. Town (San Carlos) : My old boss kept on telling me that I had to try this place. He often went for dinner, but when I saw that they had a brunch menu it solidified my need to check it out. I have never had brunch at a steak restaurant. Have you? It is something you must try. Perfectly seasoned steak and a side of eggs to start off my day? Don’t mind if I do. Do try the farmhouse chicken and waffles, steakhouse benedict and banana hazelnut chocolate stuffed french toast. The service is efficient and courteous. Mmmmm I am getting hungry just thinking about being back here.
I can’t forget to mention the cute artist that allowed us to use her work on our header. Isn’t it darling? Her name is Sara Selby and she creates the most adorable city prints. I had been lusting after every city print in her shop so I was so glad when she happily agreed to provide her prints for our use.
How cute would a collage of these prints on one wall of a nursery be? You would sure give your child wanderlust early on!
Be sure to check out Emily’s blog Twenty – Somethings for details on all her brunch picks! And don’t forget to check back next week for another edition of #cityweekly
Ready for another lunch hot spot in Palo Alto? Pluto’s
Pluto’s offers fresh sandwiches, salads, dessert bars all within budget (I am talking a fresh entree size salad with toppings for $7.50)! I either like to build my own salad or sandwich but they do have signature dishes that everyone raves about. Plutos even cooks a turkey every day to slice meat for sandwiches. How do I know this? Because they slice it right in front of you! Talk about fresh!
The service is quick even though there always seems to be some what of a line (which may be a good sign). There is a bar area that faces the street and I love sitting there on my lunch break to people watch. Not to mention, the bright colored furniture always makes the space feel so happy and inviting. Pluto’s is a staple when eating lunch in Palo Alto!
Don’t forget to indulge yourself with their Saturn’s Garlic Potato Rings or Orbital Onion Rings with Pluto’s BBQ dipping sauce!
Although technically we celebrated our wedding anniversary earlier this month with B Spears, something special still had to be done on the 28th because I think everything in life should be celebrated to the fullest. And what better way to do so than with beautiful french food at Le Papillon?
If I had to pick, I would eat french food for every meal. It is my favorite cuisine (Japanese is a close second). I love the rich flavors of perfectly prepared French food. I love how the French make the meal an experience in and of itself. I love how dessert is pondered over as thoroughly as the main dish.
…and I think I could live off of baguettes and cheese for weeks.
It was my first time at Le Papillon and it was unforgettable. I was actually introduced to this restaurant by my parents who were in San Jose for a Radiohead concert (yes, random) and decided to take a chance on Le Papillon. They couldn’t stop raving about it and even gave me a gift card for my birthday so there was no excuse not to partake. The menu is structured by courses and you choose the price of your meal by how many courses you would like to eat. We picked four over the standard three because we wanted to honor the French and make this an event!
To start off the chef prepares several “amuse-bouche” (a bite size hors d’oeuvre) to prepare (and amuse) our pallets for the larger courses that are to come. My favorite amuse-bouche was a goat cheese and beet bite.
I won’t bore you with all the details of everything we ate but I will say my favorite course was dessert. It was a chocolate fudge bar with crystallized caramel on top accompanied with chilled coconut cream. I would rate the dessert alone a 8.7.
B’s favorite dish was the sword fish with fried potatoes and crisp kale.
Overall, I would rate Le Papillon 4 stars. The service and atmosphere was top notch and the food tasted as good as it was beautiful. I hope to return someday.