Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Pretty in Pink

I know that Sacramento is known more as the camellia capital of California but San Jose's camellias aren't too shabby either. You will see quite a magnificent display of camellias if you walk or drive through San Jose's Northside (which is approximately the area between Julian and Hedding and N. 6th and N. 17th). Do it now, in January and February, for the best show.

Monday, January 26, 2009

This One is for the Meat Eaters

The attraction of this place is so powerful that even though I don't eat meat, I still love to go here. I have been buying their garlic sausage for family barbeques for years, starting in 1969. Chiaramonte Delicatessen is 100 years old this year and the proprietor assures me they are still using the original family recipes for their sausage. The store is a little more chic than it was in the sixties but the important parts of the enterprise are unchanged. This is a one-stop shopping place for a delicious Italian dinner.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Tofu Again

I promise this will be my last post about tofu. But really, San Jose Tofu is a San Jose treasure. Located at 175 Jackson Street, this family owned business has been making tofu since 1948. The company does one thing and they do it extremely well. When they had a small fire and had to be shut down for several months, MANY people were left in a tofu lurch. There are no packages of tofu sitting around the tiny store. When you walk in they will simply ask "How many?" meaning how many pounds do you want. Always get at least two. Eat one pound right away with soy sauce, a little sesame oil and green onions and use the other in a stir-fry dish. It has a spongy texture and a slightly fermented taste. To avoid having to take home styrofoam and plastic, bring your own container.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Riding in the Rain and Loving Light Rail

When I first began riding to work I figured I'd be a fair-weather rider. I planned to take the car during rainy or any other weather extreme. But then one day on the way home from work I got caught in the rain and I didn't mind it at all. The key to being comfortable the rest of the day is to wear pants that dry quickly, not jeans. As for cold, the coldest we have in San Jose would be considered balmy in parts of the country where they have real winters. I protect my ears with a windproof, wool lined headband and I'm perfectly comfortable. And now for a plug for Light Rail. If you live anywhere near a light rail station and/or work near one, you should give it a try. Sixty-one dollars a month buys you a pass that allows you to ride any part of the transportation system as much as you want. The light rail trains are clean and punctual and provide special cars and indoor racks for bikes. The bike ride part of my commute is 10 miles a day and the train ride part is 32 minutes a day. I love it.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Oh Happy Day!

This is not a political blog but I just have to say that when I woke up this morning, inauguration day 2009, it felt like Christmas.  The feeling continued throughout the day. As I was walking my dog I encountered this fabulous Obama display in a neighbor's yard. People honked and hollered when they saw my "Yes we can" messenger bag on my back as I rode to work. People smiled when they saw my inauguration T-shirt and my students sat captivated by the swearing in of their new president.  All day long I saw hope and joy on faces.  The part of Obama's inaugural speech that spoke to me was "the God-given promise that we all are equal, all are free and all deserve to pursue their full measure of happiness."  I interpreted that to mean he intends this to be a government and a people of inclusiveness.  Obama has challenged us to be engaged and involved in  making our community better. Hallelujah, let's do it!

Monday, January 19, 2009

Green Waffles!

Look weird, taste great!  As far as I know, Century Bakery at Story and McLaughlin is the only place to get hot-off-the-waffle-iron green waffles in San Jose.  Two is about the right serving size so at $1.25 each you can have yourself a fabulous breakfast (of dubious nutritional value) for $2.50.  Aren't you glad I did the math for  you?  These waffles are made fresh to order, they are super moist, sweet and chewy on the inside and a little crisp on the outside.  There is no need for syrup or butter. For a real indulgence, you can get them with ice cream.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Curb Appeal

In most neighborhoods religious icons only come out at Christmas.  Not so in my neighborhood. Here they are year round fixtures.  Most of the shrines have been here the whole time I've lived downtown but every now and then a new one will appear, much to my delight.  Most have Our Lady of Guadelupe as the central figure but there are plenty with Jesus and Mary  figures and even an occasional Buddha.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Living in the southbay epicenter of Mexican Restaurants

The area I live in has a very high Mexican Restaurant to resident ratio and yet for a person who doesn't eat meat (and especially lard) there are few options.  Casa Vicky is the exception.  They have many vegetarian dishes and pastries and beans made without lard.  I've read the reviews of Casa Vicky's and I know its shortcomings (food not highly seasoned is the biggest complaint) but Casa Vicky is more than a sum of its parts.  The food is simple, fresh and homey, sort of Mexican comfort food, the beautiful old house-turned restaurant is cozy, and the people are friendly and welcoming.  Sometimes I'll just get a "craving" for the whole warm experience of sitting in and eating at Casa Vicky.  Their homemade tortillas (both flour and corn) are delicious and can be purchased (still steaming warm) to take home.  My favorite meal at Casa Vicky's is breakfast. I love their breakfast burrito made with eggs and homemade fried potatoes, wrapped in one of their warm chewy tortillas and served with fresh salsa.  Their chilaquiles with eggs are unbeatable.  They make very good cappuccinos with spectacular foam and a hint of cinnamon. Open seven days a week, 7 a.m. to 10 p.m.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Roosevelt Skate Park

I never thought I needed a skate park in my neighborhood until my first visit to our brand new skate park and now I love it.  The first thing that struck me was how the skate park had just soaked up skaters from all over. Where were all these people before the park was built? There were people from the immediate neighborhood and people from as far away as San Diego.  There were famous sponsored skaters and little skaters just getting started.  Even the youngest, most hesitant skater was accorded a genuine respect by the others.  I was struck by the harmony amongst the skaters.  If there was an unwritten rule or a statement of protocol I think it would go like this:  "Do what you want, when you're ready to do it and stay cool."  The skaters are a very unexcitable group, very mellow. In the numerous times I've visited the park there have been no arguments, no raised voices, no discord, no lines or sign-ups.  Just people doing what they love to do and watching others do the same.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Walking to the San Jose Airport

When it came time for my son's girlfriend to fly back to Boston after her holiday visit here, she asked if we could walk to the airport.  I couldn't think of any reason one wouldn't walk to the airport, it's just that as far as I know, no one ever does. I love the Guadelupe River Parkway and my dog and I have walked hundreds of miles along the trails but never to get to the airport for a flight.  Well it turns out you can do it, it is really no big deal. Although judging from the makeshift, iffy looking pathway that leads you from the river trail to the terminal, it is clearly not encouraged.  If you begin at the HP Pavilion and walk north, it is about 3 1/2 miles to the airport.  You will almost certainly spot an elegant white egret while you are walking.  In addition to the picture of me and my son walking the trail, I'm posting a picture of the beautiful and moving Veteran's Memorial at Guadelupe River Parkway and Park Ave.  The striking white flags represent military personnel in formation.  If you visit the memorial, make sure you take time to read the etched glass panels which have figures of veterans and excerpts from their letters home telling of their experiences in various wars.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Tofoo Com Chay

An account of my life in San Jose has to begin with the restaurant Tofoo Com Chay.  I can't recall why my daughter and I found it so difficult to prepare all our meals at home when we first moved downtown but I do remember thinking we might have starved if it had not been for this little vegetarian restaurant and it's wonderful owner Ben.  Not only did Ben feed us, he made us feel welcome.  The friendly atmosphere in his restaurant engendered a feeling of belonging, not just to the neighborhood but to a larger community of people who know Ben and love him and depend on him to meet their needs. Once you've been there, Ben will remember you always and greet you when you walk through his door as if you are just who he wanted to see.  Over the years I have taken many of my family members and friends to Ben's restaurant and he often asks about them too.  He keeps track!  I hope you'll stop by Tofoo Com Chay (388 E. Santa Clara St.) for one of his wonderful soups, rice plates or sandwiches.  He is open every day except Sunday.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

First Frosty Morning of the Year

The temperature was 45 degrees in my house this morning. Outside everything was covered in frost. Finally, my irridescent purple gazing ball looked cool and the English daisies looked determined.