Sunday, May 24, 2009

Around the World in San Jose

Well, we did it again. We went to San Jose yesterday with our neighbors and spent the entire day bopping around from place to place and had a great time. We went to the San Jose Flea Market a few weeks ago, which was like a trip to a Mexico street market; this weekend we went to Vietnam, then Mexico again, and wound it all up with a great Mediterranean dinner.

We started off with lunch at the food court in the Grand Century Shopping Center at Story Rd. and McLaughlin Ave. I know, food court fare doesn't sound all that special, but this isn't your typical mall food court. I used to live not far from this area and back then this was a Mexican neighborhood with a lot of gang activity, but now it's a Vietnamese neighborhood, and I have no idea what the gang activity is anymore.

Scoob learned of this place from a co-worker. The shopping center is your basic Asian shopping center, like a Lion Center, and was full of jewelry stores it seemed. But the food court was something else. There are about 8 food vendors all selling Vietnamese food. I ordered a pork sausage thing and it came with rice wraps that you have to soak in water to make pliable, a heap of fresh herbs, and a peanut sauce.

Our neighbors ordered a shrimp and pork crepe that you wrapped in lettuce leaves with another heap of herbs. There was also a tofu and noodle soup with a beautiful red broth and Scoob ordered a fried duck soup. It was all extremely good. Our neighbors and Scoob each ran into someone they knew there. Whoever knew a food court could actually be a destination?

In addition to the jewelry stores and the food court there were also a couple of shops selling dried and pickled things. You name it, they've got it, and it's either dried or pickled. Our neighbors bought some dried fish skins and baby crabs. The crabs were just like munching on little crackers! I bought a piece of deer jerky and some smoked octopus. There was also a bakery at the entrance to the shopping center where we got these green waffles. I've already forgotten what they're called, but they are aromatic and lightly sweet.

Okay, enough of Vietnam. How do you get from Vietnam to Mexico in 5 minutes? Head east on Story Rd., cross Hwy. 101 and you're there. We then headed north on King Rd. to the Mexican Heritage Plaza. There used to be a museum in the plaza but now there's just a gallery, and there was no exhibit running, so it was pretty quiet, though they were clearly planning to host a graduation party later in the day. We walked around the plaza and took pictures of the interesting tile work.

And this cute mariachi sculpture.

From the Mexican Heritage Plaza, we headed to downtown San Jose with every intention of going to the Tech Museum or the San Jose Museum of Art, and although we did step into the Museum of Art (where I got my favorite photo of the day)

the Fanime convention was also downtown this weekend and the people watching trumped staying indoors with the Warhol exhibit (see what I mean? Note: I didn't snap this shot.)

We hung out at a cafe and just watched all the colorful costumes and characters stroll by. Afterwards, we headed to Castro St. in Mountain View. The quirky, new-agey East & West Bookstore is still here as well as the GBI bead store I remember going into years ago. Castro Street has changed a lot over the years. Most of the store fronts have been spruced up and there are a lot more restaurants than I remember.

We wound up our day with a Mediterranean dinner at Cafe Baklava where I ordered the vegetarian dolma, Scoob had lamb shank (the sauce was incredible!), and our neighbors ordered fresh trout (which was super good) and shrimp kebabs.

All in all, aside from the parking ticket, it was a wonderful day with lots of great food and great company!

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