6 Movies in 10 Hours! Why would one do that?



Clearly – I was stuck on an airplane with individual TV’s! So I indulged: Stardust, Star Trek Into Darkness, Parental Guidance, the Big Wedding, Legend of Sarila, and finally The Internship.

The only seriously good movie on the list was Stardust – and that’s based on the awesome performance by Michelle Pfeiffer as the wicked witch. I can’t help but feel sympathy when she tries to ‘magic’ away an age spot – and ends up with sagging breasts! I also must admit to a fondness for Robert de Niro’s “poffy” captain of the airship. Charmont to say the least.

“The internship”, my second favorite on the list, is a fairly predictable but still amusing outing by Owen Wilson – typecast as the hopeless endearing shaggy mop-man, but still a glimpse into what it must be like to do an internship at Google with a job as the high-stake prize. Having super smart kids who are struggling with the shrinking job market – their predicament is all too real. If only it was as easy as winning a soccer match, or selling a pizza place on advertising with Google.

The worst of the bunch – and that’s saying a lot because it’s hard to find something good to say about Parental Guidance, is the Star Trek mishap. Fancy visual effects aside – and managing to take down a good portion of San Francisco without ‘killing’ anyone is a pretty weird bit of story telling – the fake romance between Uhura and Spock is so decidedly off-putting and off-story that it makes the rest of the movie ignor-able. How can I believe Kirk is real when there’s this strange back-story? I’m amazed to see that Rotten Tomatoes managed to get past that bit of insanity, but I just couldn’t.

Middle of the road – and really the saving grace is the believable scenery – is the ‘cartoon’ feature – Legend of Sarila. I’ve actually traveled into Northern Quebec, Nunavik, and Greenland. And I can tell you first hand – it actually looks like that. Even the oil lamp/bowl looks exactly like items we saw the Inuit using. Yes it’s a legend – but the story it tells – and the people it portrays are real. Problems? Well – it’s too clean, it’s too simple, and Sedna – a major goddess to the Inuit – is too easy to please. But as a kid friendly introduction to a life that most of us can’t imagine trying to live – this movie does work.

As for Parental Guidance and the Big Wedding. Skip’m!

Le Papillon in San Jose – Expensive, Great Service, B rated food!



We wanted something a bit old-school – and in theory Le Papillion should have been perfect. Like so many other restaurants in San Jose – it’s location is not the best – there’s nothing within walking distance but a furniture store and a 7-11. But the older home that has been renovated into this charming restaurant is glorious inside. The dinning ‘room’ is all muted gold, brown, and white – with cali lilys on each table and a huge floral arrangement taking up the center area of one of the rooms.

There’s a bar area that doubles as a semi-private dining room, and an outdoor area that I imagine must be for people needing a smoke, and wanting a location that’s more elegant than the driveway.

Waiters wearing tuxes, including our pleasant young waitress who was proudly 7 months pregant, made the elegant atmosphere even more refined. And I must say I totally appreciated the no cell phone policy – which didn’t distract from picture taking given the ‘special night’ atmosphere. The clever use of a single lit candle to take a dessert offering from elegant to Congradulations was totally in tune with the atmosphere.

I just wish the food had been of similar quality.

My duck entre was tough – I badly needed a sharper knife, and there was none on offer. My quail appetizer featured a farro base – too much farro, not enough Quail. The result was like having oatmeal served with a marsalla reduction. Weird. But most truly disappointing were the desserts. The ‘souffle’ was mostly egg white, although given the number we saw served, not a problem for most diners. I guess people just have forgotten what a real souffle should be. My berry Coulis looked lovely, and the berries were lovely – but the commerically produced pastry cup was stale tasting. At this price range – not acceptable.

On the other hand – my husband thought his beef tenderloin was quite good.

We also tried the ‘gourmet’ cheese course. With all the wonderful artisan California cheese producers around – how could they just give us commercial cheese of relatively common quality. At least one surprise would have been appreciated.

So – beautiful restaurant, very energetic service, so-so food at a fairly high price. I give them a B – and that’s generous.

Oh well.

Le Papillon on Urbanspoon

20130922-130246.jpg

Moroccan with Attitude – the Aziza in San Francisco



My kids have been trying for years to get us to go to the Aziza, and the stars finally aligned this weekend. What a treat!

Lots larger than it looks at first – but still relatively small – the Aziza is located on Geary Blvd, close to the Presidio park with its miles and miles of walking trails. Geary Blvd, at least in the area near the Aziza is a motley collection of Russian shops, low-end grocery stores, and intriguing shops. From the outside, the Aziza appears to be just another darkened doorway among many others, but inside it sparkles with subdued elegance and quiet elegance. Even full, the noise level was acceptable, the feeling a low-level comfortable sophistication completely in tune with the emphasis on fancy bar drinks (like a muddled Fig option) and contemporary cuisine.

I had to take a picture of the menu – it’s that distinctive. Rather than giving the name of the dish – the options just listed the ingredients – eggplant, caper, tomato, gypsy pepper – for example. No indication on how the food would be prepared – for that you must trust the chef.

Under the kids guidance, we opted for the 13 course tasting menu. It made for a long meal – we arrived at 5:30 and left at 8:30 – but it was well worth both the price and the patience. Stunning pretty much sums it up.

Presentation is clearly their strong suit – and I was so consistently amazed – I forgot to take pictures! For example – our 1st course – described as rice cracker, yogurt, corn, coffee – was served on a rock glass that had a piece of plastic stretched over the top to create a ‘plate’. The cracker was then perched on top – appearing to float in the air. Delicious – and amazing. Great combination.

My personal favorite courses were the Scallops (I ate mine – and my son’s), the sous-vide egg, and the deserts. Oh man, the deserts. We ordered one off the a la carte menu – a blackberry creation that was delicious, and then enjoyed the 2 desserts that came with the tasting menu.

I can’t guarantee that anything we had will show up on the menu when you arrive – but I can assure you that the presentation will be worth the wait for a reservation. Go. Enjoy. Go Again!

Aziza on Urbanspoon

Foodio54 Note – the address is right – the name is different! (and it’s been the Aziza for years..)

Kasbah on Foodio54

20130922-130316.jpg

20130922-130327.jpg

A restaurant worth Blogging about – Zeni in San Jose, CA



Ever eaten ‘Ethiopian’? Me neither. So when my son and brand new daughter-in-law suggested we try their favorite restaurant on our trip to visit them this week – we were delighted to accept. And what a meal it was!

First a bit about the restaurant. It’s located in a mall (not totally surprising around here – there are lots of restaurants in malls) in a rather laid back and lower-income section of San Jose. As my son joked – it’s the ‘wrong’ side of the tracks. But once thru the front door – the restaurant exudes love, warmth, and welcome. From the smiling staff in their very attractive bright blue blouses to the gentleman playing jazz on 3 – count’m 3 – keyboards in the corner, this is a delightful space.

There are 2 sections to the restaurant – and we were fortunate to score a table in the more traditional section with its wicker tables and low stools. These are perfectly suited to the very traditional way the meal is served – on a single large platter with a pancake like flat bread serving as the base on which the food is lovingly placed. Along with that pancake (intended to be used to mop up the remains of the meal) they gave us a basket of rolled flat breads. The basic idea – use the bread to grab the food – and good luck getting it from the platter to your mouth!

Cautioned by our kids to be careful about ordering too much food – we opted for just 3 main courses for the 4 of us – a vegetable combo, a lamb dish (stewed lamb in a curry like sauce), and a spicy beef dish that came with home-made cheese. We also ordered one appetizer to share – a filo dough pastry stuffed with meat. Everything – and I mean everything was totally yummy. I particularly liked some of the vegetable options – colorful and tasty, they were a delight to the palette. But I’m ready to eat Eggplant under just about any condition.

What was most surprising – beside the extremely reasonable price of just $70 for everything – including 2 drinks – was how incredibly filling the meal was. Despite our cautious ordering – we simply could not finish everything.

According to my kids – who apparently eat here regularly – coming early is critical. If you arrive around 7:15 – you can expect to wait in line – a truth that was obvious as we left, pushing our way thru waiting customers!

Another note – during the day they offer a ‘coffee’ ceremony that must be ordered at least 24 hours in advance – costs $40 for up to 10 people – and includes a server who roasts the beans right in front of you. My husband was keen to come back to try that – and I must agree – it would be cool to watch.

Definitely an A restaurant – do check it out!

Zeni Ethiopian Restaurant on Urbanspoon