Monday, February 23, 2009

Birthday Cake

When my daughter mentioned she would be bringing me a birthday dessert this weekend, I pictured one of her fabulous cakes that she makes and then reviews on her blog.  So when she showed up with a box of rich and delicious toffee bars, I have to say I felt like I still needed a cake or at least a cupcake.  So off we went to Bijan Bakery.  The store itself is a feast.  The beautiful curved display cabinets are topped with huge sprays of gorgeous flowers and sample cakes.  Because the bakery is long and narrow and plate glass windows run the entire length, everyone gets a nice view of the Fairmont Hotel courtyard.   And now for the desserts.  A member of my book club has made it a tradition to show up at each of our meetings with a box of pastries from Bijan's  and we love them.  I had tasted their tarts and Napoleans and cookies before but I had no idea how huge the selection is here.  You can get anything from a biscotti to a wedding cake and it is all fantastic.  I chose a raspberry mousse layer cake with a raspberry glaze and it was so good I wanted to lick the little paper wrapper that it was served in.  The quality is high and the prices are reasonable. Do not wait for your birthday.  Go now!

Thursday, February 19, 2009


The Japanese confection that is sold at this bright, clean, cheerful shop is called manju.  Some of these treats are little round mounds filled with a sweet bean filling and some are smooth, soft, chewy blocks flavored with things like raspberry, coconut, strawberry and orange.  I chose a raspberry block. The taste was subtle but pleasant and the texture was fantastic, just a little bit of fun for your mouth.  According to their website Shuei-Do manju was served to the Emperor of Japan on his last visit to the U.S.  I plan to go back Shuei-Do when the weather warms up for their highly praised shaved ice.  Shuei-do is located at 217 Jackson St. and they are closed on Mondays.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Shelter from the Storm

I know House of Bagels is a chain, but this particular shop does not look or feel anything like a chain.  The great coffee, fresh warm bagels and friendly people make this place a magnet for local residents, San Jose State students and all manner of folks on their way to work.  They may not know every customer by name but they know us by our orders.  I gave up buying espresso drinks for about six months and when I returned to House of Bagels after the six month hiatus they remembered my "regular" order!  This morning's post was supposed to be about the Tour de California leaving from San Jose but I missed it by a few minutes.  When I decided to stop by House of Bagels and walked in dripping wet, I was handed some towels to dry off with.  Talk about friendly.  You'll love this place.  Located on E. San Carlos between S. 12th and S. 11th St. They open at 6 A.M.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Rear View

I love the rain, we need the rain, the landscape is photogenic in the rain BUT this is my vacation week! Oh well, I guess I'll do a lot of reading and take in as many Academy Award nominated movies as I can.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

A Porch with a Step Ladder with a View

About two years after I had moved into my house, my neighbor commented on what a good view I had of Mt. Hamilton. Honestly, in the two years I'd been here I had never noticed it. In my defense, the view is best seen when standing on a chair or better yet a ladder on my front porch. It's not like I could see it through my front window while sitting comfortably on my couch. But the other reason I never noticed it was that I spent the first two years here preoccupied with making the house habitable. Any time I did sit down I noticed something just crying out to be fixed. Anyway, the view is there and never better than when Mt. Hamilton is covered with snow as it is today.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Joy for Sale

When I first noticed these gift stands that pop up on Easter, mothers' day, Christmas and valentine's day, I found them rather depressing. It made me sad to think people were spending hard-earned money on teddy bears and flowers and other transient gift items. But I've come around and I have a new perspective. Upon closer inspection I saw that the flowers were really quite nice. The proprietors of the holiday stands make the arrangements themselves from fresh flowers. The floral arrangements and teddy bear gifts cost as little as $8 and the most expensive item I saw (a massive teddy bear/flower combination) was $35. It's a pleasure to receive flowers and kind of sad when you don't. So I say "Go for it guys, bring a little bliss into someone's life!"

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Misty, Moisty Morning in Kelly Park

This place is so special to me that I'm reluctant to go public with it. If you go to Kelly Park and walk past the picnic area and the Japanese Friendship Garden and then through a chain link gate, the park opens up into a wild old orchard and a path that follows Coyote Creek. I love the solitude of this place and each season brings its own brand of beauty. Right now the landscape is stark with buds just beginning to swell but the rolling turf is covered with bright, fresh green grasses. This area is teeming with birds all year round. I have seen blue herons as well as Western Bluebirds. In a few weeks this park will be a sea of fruit tree blossoms. Check it out.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Surrounded by Citrus

One of the great things about downtown San Jose is the abundance of citrus trees. They are everywhere and at this time of year they are dripping with fruit. I am lucky to have a view of this gorgeous orange tree out my window. Anywhere you walk you'll see citrus trees of every variety and most people are more than happy to share their crop with you. Just knock on the door and ask (bring your own bag). My oranges make delicious juice. The longer you leave them on the tree the sweeter the juice. Look around, in these difficult economic times let's not let this abundance go to waste!

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Fresh and Friendly Farmer's Market all Year Round

The farmer's market in Japantown on Jackson between 6th and 7th provides a relaxed, cozy kind of open air shopping. If you enter from the 7th Street end you will be greeted by some friendly people who are selling newspapers, fresh hot coffee and offering people a bit of pastry and a chance to win a $15 gift certificate. This one may not be as big as some of the other Sunday farmer's markets but they are serious about vegetables. There are a few non-produce stands like one that sells attractive silver jewelry, a tea stand and a bread stand that sells all varieties of Whole Grain Bread (in my opinion the best bread available in the bay area) but the emphasis here is on seasonal vegetables not the frou frou stuff. This farmers market is open year-round every Sunday rain or shine from 8:30-12.