Alicia’s Review: Paul Martin’s American Grill Debuts in Mountain View

Last week I received an invitation to the VIP Preview of the new Paul Martin’s American Grill in Mountain View this past weekend (which opens officially today at 3pm). I decided to check it out with a two of my friends.  I chose to preview dinner on Saturday evening, even though lunch was also an option.

Braised Short Ribs

Braised Short Ribs

We arrived a bit early for our 7pm reservation.  Walking up, we noticed there was a valet parking station (only $5) as well as a patio dining area.  The patio looked inviting and I made a mental note to check it out when it’s open and a bit warmer out.  Walking inside, the restaurant is dimly lit, which I found to be inviting.  While waiting for our table to become available, I floated around the dining area to briefly chat with a few people I recognized.  On the left side of the restaurant, circular booths lined the exterior of with wooden tables in the middle and the kitchen area straight ahead. It was very easy to navigate through the roomy seating area.

PMDrop

Meyer Lemon Drop

When our time came, we were seated at one of those booths on the left side, which was very roomy (I mention roomy because, as a non-skinny woman, this is important).  We were greeted by our server as well as several members of the staff, all making sure we felt welcomed.  After we ordered drinks and appetizers, I decided to check out the right side of the restaurant, where the full bar was located.  This side was less formal and designed for drinks and mingling.  The bar runs about a third of the width of the restaurant with seating.  There is also a long bar-type table with ample seating, a few more booths and table seating.

PMArtichoke

Castroville Artichoke

Heading back to my booth, I saw a colorful drink sitting on the bar.  I asked the bartender, Steve, what it was: a Meyer Lemon Drop.  I requested one but couldn’t remember the name of my server when asked.  Kenny, the bar staff trainer, then handed it to me and said “enjoy!”  Brownie points earned.

Back at the booth, our appetizers arrived: Butternut squash soup, Castroville Artichoke, Town Dock Calamari and Salt & Pepper Wild Prawns.  Everything was delicious and plentiful.  The calamari and prawns were warm and crispy. One appetizer can easily be shared with one or two others. We barely finished them among the three of us.

PMLinguini

Linguini with Prawns

Soon after, our entrees arrived: I had the Braised Short Ribs while my guests had the Cedar Plank Salmon and the Linguini with prawns (though I can’t find it listed on the online menu).  We also ordered a side of the Mac & Cheese with crispy prosciutto.  Again, we ordered not realizing how generous the portions would be.  There were no complaints at our table.  The braised short ribs were the best I’ve had, next to Vaso Azzurro in downtown Mountain View.  The mashed potatoes that came with it were airy, which we all loved.  The linguini dish came with twelve prawns, which we thought was unheard of (but welcomed!).  The cedar plank salmon was nicely seasoned and well cooked.

We were so full that we opted to skip dessert, but saw others around us enjoying a crumble that simply looked amazing.  We made a note to come back and try it.

Overall, the atmosphere, food and service and Paul Martin’s were amazing.  I should also note that everything is prepared onsite, including the butchering of meat.

I recommend trying out Paul Martin’s when you have a chance.  My friends and I will drop by again this week to check out their Happy Hour.

Website: Paul Martin’s American Grill in Mountain View

By aliciainmtnview Posted in General

Recalibration

I have a love/hate relationship with downtime. I love it, because I’m usually overdue for said downtime. I hate it because it forced me to stop and think about things that I’ve tucked away because I was too busy working on tasks.

This weekend has been true downtime. I’ve had some forced time down due to medical reasons, but even then I was preoccupied about my future and issues that I needed to be prepared for. Now, with those issues taken care of for the time being, and breathing a little easier, I have no choice but to take stock and re-evaluate how I’ve been doing.

The overall conclusion I’ve reached is that I’ve been second and third-guessing myself way too much, leading me not to trust my instincts. My instincts have been pretty solid overall, so my mistrust of it has been a bit mind-boggling. I’d forgotten how to balance gathering input from others vs trusting and owning my decisions, for better or for worse.

A leader must be willing to change gears when something isn’t working. However, I’ve found myself changing gears just because someone didn’t agree. All of the second and third-guessing ultimately led back to my initial decisions, resulting in a waste of time, energy and resources in the name of being fair.

Now comes recalibration: getting back to trusting my instincts, track records and investment in what I’m doing. It brings me back to a quote from General Colin Powell on leadership that I forgot to embrace..

“Being responsible sometimes means pissing people off.”

By aliciainmtnview Posted in General

Did you REALLY just say that?

starbucksFor the past couple of days, I’ve been at home nursing a cold that’s been going around.  I’m not thrilled that it’s happening over a holiday weekend, but what can I do?

Having run out of my favorite tea, I decided to venture out to Starbucks for a refill.  Plus, I was craving some fresh air.  It was a quiet enough afternoon on the patio at Starbucks on Pear and Shoreline, so I decided to take in a dose of sunshine there.  There were a couple of ladies sitting at one table, clearly sharing some “catch up” time.  The other occupied table sat an older couple planning which festivals they would visit over the course of the weekend.

As I sat down at my table, I briefly saw a shiny black BMW convertible parking on the street.  Inside were a couple of teenagers, someone I presumed to be their dad, and a beautiful German Shepard. Good day for a convertible, I thought.

Settled in, I sipped my tea, opened the newspaper and began reading…

“YOU FORGOT THE (BLEEP) LEASH?!  ARE YOU (BLEEP)ING KIDDING ME?!  HOW STUPID ARE YOU?”

I looked up startled, as did the people at the other two tables.  It took us a few seconds to realize who was screaming.  It was the dad from the convertible, yelling at the kids. While the dad was yelling and flailing his arms a bit, looking around the car, the kids just kept walking without skipping a beat. I could hear the two ladies express their disbelief that he would yell so loudly at the kids.  The older couple just shook their heads.  We all looked at each other, silently asking each other “What was THAT really about?”

Yet, I thought less about the dad’s yelling and more about the kids reaction…or lack thereof.  They literally did not skip a beat from the curbside to their destination: Quiznos. Were they so used to his yelling and the colorful words he used that it no longer phased them?  I decided that I should shut my brain off from this line of questioning, but also hoped it wouldn’t escalate.

A few minutes later, the chatter on the patio suddenly stopped.  I looked up from the paper, only to see the dad and kids seated at a table.  The kids were talking in whispers, and the dad spoke very little, but looked around each time he did speak.  Guilty conscience?  Probably not.  I went back to reading the paper when a few minutes I heard…

“Poor George Zimmerman.  Do you think he’ll ever be able to find another job? He could work in security.”

Again, I looked up to see another small group had occupied the patio. This group was made up of an older woman, two more teenagers and a woman I presumed to be their mother.  The older couple from before simply looked at each other, stood up and left the patio.  The two friends that were chatting earlier also decided to vacate.

I stayed a bit longer, for purely selfish reasons.  You see, the older woman that made the statement was Caucasian.  The two teenagers and their mother were of mixed race.  The look on their faces when she asked the question was a bit priceless.  I interpreted the mother’s expression was a mixture of “Are you kidding me?” and “OMG, you’re actually serious!”  The kids expression was more of “Can we leave now?”

At this point, I knew it was time for me to leave.

By aliciainmtnview Posted in General

Munchery

I like to try new services, especially those that can make my life easier.  I am a person that actually enjoys going out and picking up what I want, but an invitation to try something for free enticed me to “go for it”.

Shrimp-swordfish

My friend, Laurie, forwarded an invitation for me to try Munchery:  a service where you can order a nice dinner and have it delivered in a one hour window later in the day.  Since the invite allowed me to try this for free, I had to try it. I like that there is a Daily Menu as well as profiles of the chefs that will prepare it.  Home delivered food from local chefs.  I can dig it.  So, at 9:42am, I placed an order for tonight.

There is a nice variety of dishes listed, and was happy to see nothing along the lines of “burgers and fries”.  Even though this first meal would be free, I did like seeing that the prices are reasonable.  So is the delivery fee (again, in this instance, waived).  When you place your order, you can add an amount for a tip then and there (no money handling at the door…I really like that!).  I admit that I didn’t add on the tip because (1) I was moving too fast to notice that was the way to do it and (2) wanted to see if the service would be “different” if the delivery person sees that there isn’t one.

munchery1

I also noticed that you can “pick up” your meal as well.  But what’s the point!  Get it delivered!

I ordered Chef Steven Levine’s Prawn & Swordfish Kabob, Chorizo Cornbread, Jalapeno Pesto.  It looked and sounded too good to pass up.

Once your order is made, you receive a confirmation email…and you can track your order!

So I’m anxiously awaiting my 6pm-7pm delivery window.  Laurie, who had an earlier delivery, texted me to say that the delivery guy is cute.  Hopefully it’ll be the same guy (won’t reveal his name…yet). She ordered a few days worth of food: beef stroganoff, a chowder and pineapple fried rice.  Now I’m thinking I should have thought beyond just tonight. Oops.

Update1: I refreshed my delivery window and now know the name of my delivery person.  Not the same as Laurie’s (her’s was Kyle) .  Upon a second glance, I see the map is interactive…as in it shows the immediate area and a little car on said map with the driver’s approximate location. uriel

Update 2: My driver, Uriel, just sent me a text message saying he’s 10 minutes away.  Based on what I just saw on the map, it’s pretty accurate!

Side note: why can’t FedEx or UPS be this accurate with delivery?

It’s now 5:54pm, still a few minutes before my delivery window even opens.  Maybe I’ll pour a glass of wine while I wait…

6:02pm: My delivery arrives, and my delivery person is in good spirit (note to self: double tip next time). Uriel graciously allows me to take a photo of him.  I open the bag to see my meal along with a  hand-written “welcome” card and cookies.  COOKIES!!!!!

Now I’m heating up my dinner in the oven (no microwaving today), confident that it will be tasty, since the service so far has seasoned this experience to near perfection.

Check it out for yourself…for free: http://munchery.com/free-meal/2GD4E9K2

 

 

 

By aliciainmtnview Posted in General

One Cannot Encompass All

soapboxFor the past few months, I’ve noticed that things that may have bothered me but was kept below the surface have decided to rise to the surface.  I admit that I’ve tried pushing some of these things back down, but I grew weary and decided “What the heck!  Let’s go with it.”

I was going to ramble out a list, then realized there is a common theme: representation.

One thing happened today that also falls into this theme.  So, let’s go with it since its freshest in my memory… and nowadays, my short-term memory is sketch!

  • A young lady that I know was featured in a local newspaper article about education, mentorship and how she was able to succeed from a local program that helps low-income families.  She shared a great story, her story.  A member of the public, having read the story online, chastised her for some of the things she expressed.  The woman then backed up her chastising by saying that “As a Latina herself…”

My beef:  No one person can embody an entire race or culture. This is not to be confused with having a sense of pride seeing someone of said race/culture making strides in an area that wasn’t very open to them previously.  When then-Senator Barack Obama ran for and *gasp* became a viable African-American candidate for President of the United States, my heart swelled along with many others of my race.  He is a representative of us, but not the embodiment.

We all have our own experiences, our own ways of living life.  My experience as an African-American woman isn’t the same as others.  There will be things we can relate to, and others we’ll have no clue about…because it is our own experience.  Your collective experience may even change based on where you are in life: physically, mentally and financially.  “Detroit” Alicia experienced life differently than “Mountain View” Alicia.  Different, yet together craft the person I am at this moment.  This is the same for all of us.

My *not* having been pulled over for “driving while black” doesn’t negate the fact that others have been.  On the other side of the coin, just because I have a good/positive relationship with local law enforcement doesn’t make me “less black”, though some have accused me of it.

My hope is that one day, those who feel the need to trump someone’s experiences with their own will take a few breaths before speaking and judging. Allow people to live and share their experiences without telling them that they’re wrong about it because it doesn’t match yours.

By aliciainmtnview Posted in General

Why Villainize A Hero?

I believe, inherently, we all have the ability to be a good Samaritan.    Nowadays, it can seem more of a personal hazard.  I think about stories I’ve read in the paper where someone stops to perform CPR on someone, only to have that person turn around and sue them in return.

Don’t believe me?  Read this: http://articles.latimes.com/2008/dec/19/local/me-good-samaritan19

Sometimes, the deed of being a good Samaritan comes out of nowhere.  Take the story of the Charles Ramsey and the three kidnapped women he helped to free after ten years.  The women were being held captive in his next door neighbor’s house.  A home he’d lived next to for about a year.  One of the women literally ran into his arms asking for help, and thankfully he obliged.  He’s now being deemed a good Samaritan…a real American hero.

Charles is an everyday guy, minding his own business, who made the right choice in helping.  In return, amid all of the good (and sometimes humorous) press, there are media outlets determined to pry into this man’s personal life to expose anything they can get their hands on…especially if it’s negative.  While most of us are enjoying hearing the good news of this story and hoping justice is served against the men who committed the crimes of kidnap and rape, The Smoking Gun and The Atlantic Wire are publishing reports about Mr. Ramsey’s “rap sheet”.  http://www.theatlanticwire.com/national/2013/05/charles-ramsey-has-rap-sheet/65025/

As fast as these types of stories are spreading on social media, there are thankfully those who retweet or respond with the notion of “Who cares!” I agree with that sentiment and can only hope that this particular news cycle will pass quickly to focus on what the true news stories around this situation really are: three women presumed dead are alive and returning to their families, an everyday person helped a woman in need and that heroes don’t always wear capes.

By aliciainmtnview Posted in General

Long Overdue: Food Trucks in Mountain View

When we live in a time where variety is basic and expected, the food truck revolution has exploded in popularity.  The concept of family, friends and coworkers going to one central place that has something for everyone is both novel and necessary.  Not having to worry about a large gratuity implemented for parties of 6 or 8 is a bonus.  Yes, we love food trucks.

SF, San Jose, Oakland and other cities have worked on embracing this new way of dining.  Mountain View (or should I saw North Santa Clara County) has yet to find a good starting point.  I would love to go to Moveable Feasts in San Jose, but as anyone who lives in this area will tell you, the thought of voluntarily driving in commute traffic to participate isn’t attractive.  So I live vicariously through friends posts on Facebook and Twitter until I can go experience it myself.  So, I was happy to partake in Edgewood Eats.

Edgewood Eats is a great alternative to Moveable Feasts for this area.  For a while, they were able to set up shop in Edgewood Plaza in Palo Alto while the development at the plaza was at a standstill.  Now that is no longer the case, the team has been looking for a new location.  Last week, they convened in the parking lot of First Congregational Church on Louis Road.  Noting that parking was extremely limited, they encouraged people to walk/bike/scooter on over.

Alas, a note came from our friends at Edgewood Eats on their Facebook page this morning that city restraints and neighbor complaints have halted the next gathering indefinitely.  As much as you may want to be upset, you can’t blame the neighbors…much.  A gathering like this needs to be in a space that isn’t inconvenient for both the neighbors and the participants.  That being said, Edgewood Eats should be welcomed in Mountain View.

Why?  I think we have a great area for Edgewood Eats to happen, but would need the participation of the businesses in that area: North Bayshore.  North Bayshore is predominately large to medium sized businesses, and has a significant percentage of the people they’re looking to attract.   It would also be easier, traffic-wise, since you wouldn’t have to worry about being in a largely residential area and there would be opposite traffic flow.  Most people are heading home from North Bayshore, so if the event was held somewhere off of Shoreline Boulevard heading towards Shoreline Amphitheatre, there shouldn’t be a problem driving, biking or walking in.

There is also an opportunity for partnership with some of the North Bayshore eateries, which have vocally complained about the decreasing amount of foot traffic into their restaurants (for various reasons).  Imagine if the food truck night was at a lot in/near some of those restaurants, and a group of folks coming decided to check the place out since someone in their party really wants to sit down somewhere and eat (or want to check out the place because they hadn’t seen it before)?

Another idea:  what about it happening in the expansive parking lot of Shoreline Amphitheatre or somewhere in Shoreline Park?  It could create cross interested in purchasing tickets for shows advertised at the Amphitheatre or having people check out the restaurants, golf and aquatics at the Park? Don’t underestimate the power of community partnership.

I know the Mountain View City Council has ordered a study on having food trucks here, and our code enforcement guy (my buddy Chris Constanzo) has been working hard to create some policy for it.  Businesses in North Bayshore: I implore you to help make Edgewood Eats happen here.

By aliciainmtnview Posted in General

A Lesson Learned

The most significant life lesson I’ve learned over the past year is this: tomorrow is not promised to anyone.  Neither to the best of us or to the worst.  Live each day as it’s the most important.

Live each moment to its fullest enjoyment, as you may not remember it later.

Make each decision as it will be the best one you could ever make, because you may not be able to change your mind tomorrow.

Fully understand and appreciate each conversation and interaction, because you may not have an opportunity to revisit it.

Be genuine in what you say and do, so no one ever has to question or doubt your intent…and not be able to ask you later.

Try not to make every discussion about “self”. What’s the purpose of having another person involved in a conversation if they don’t get to contribute anything about themselves.

Say what you want and need to say..with the level of appropriateness the situation lends itself to.

End each day, hopefully, with the belief that you’re done and said everything you needed to…without regret.  Rest, knowing that you did.

If the gift of another day is given, do it all over again.

By aliciainmtnview Posted in General

That awkward “N” word.

woman_saying-noI don’t like the “N” word: No.

I find it hard to say no, even then its in my best interest to do so.  There is something about saying the word that makes me feel like I’m being mean.  I admit that I internalize these feelings when I really shouldn’t.

Since the beginning of this year, I’ve made a practice of saying no on a fairly regular basis.  Not just for the sake of doing so, but more to learn how to put myself first.  After over-scheduling and over-committing myself to events, activities and responsibilities, I became burnt out.  Even with the intention of doing good, I ended up being tired, having bad attitudes and not doing my best work on certain tasks.

I think we’re taught that putting yourself first is a selfish thing.  I’m learning now that its not necessarily true.  You have to learn to do it in moderation.  If you run yourself into the ground trying to everything, what is the value in that?  You can make yourself sick by always being ready and available.  I learned that lesson the hard way last year.

Sometimes, saying no is better than saying yes, if your motivation is good and that it’s followed by an opportunity.  For example, I recently said no to sitting on a nonprofit board, but I followed it with a suggestion for someone that should be considered, based on the skill set the board is in need of. My saying yes to joining the board would not have filled an actual need of theirs other than having a warm body occupying space.

Don’t get me wrong: there are times a firm, hard no is necessary and doesn’t need further conversation.  If you only hear from certain people when they need something from you, just say no (especially if they never follow up to say thank you).  If you’re being asked to do something that is against your moral compass, just say no.  If its just a plain bad idea, just say no! (I’m starting to feel Nancy Regan-ish right now).

I’ve found, so far, that saying no has had a positive effect on my health: my blood pressure is lower, I actually sleep a bit more restful and the amount of time I used to spend stressing and worrying has significantly decreased. Even my eating and exercise habits have changed for the better.

“No” can do a body good.

That being said, don’t stop completely saying yes the things.  Do good in your community. Do good in your workplace.  Do good for your family and friends.  Most importantly, do good and say yes to yourself.

By aliciainmtnview Posted in General

MVCPA: A hidden and underutilized gem

MVCPASometimes you don’t appreciate what you have until you go see someone else’s.

About a year and a half ago, I took an impromptu trip to NYC to see my first Broadway play: The Mountaintop.  I am in no way a theatre geek, though I do love live performances.  I decided to go since the 2-person play starred Samuel L. Jackson and Angela Basset.  How many times would one have an opportunity to see such actors on a stage together?  I had to go for it.

The experience was amazing if not expensive, but I loved it.  The theatres are small but full of character.

When I heard that the play was going on the road (sans the A-List actors) and would be performed locally, I waited and waited until the tickets went on sale…and snatched up four of them so I could bring friends along.  My one slight disappointment was that it would be performed in Palo Alto, not in Mountain View.  No worries, as it’s only a fifteen trip via car to the Lucie Stern Theatre.

Saturday night, my friends and I attended opening night.  It was a great sold-out performance.  The actors portraying Martin Luther King’ Jr. and the motel maid were phenomenal.  I was completely lost in the story…in a good way.

As I left for the evening, I couldn’t help but compare this theatre to the Mountain View Center for the Performing Arts (MVCPA).  We should be grateful and proud to have such a venue in our city.  I didn’t appreciate the expansiveness of it until I went to Lucie Stern.  Because the performance was a sell-out crowd, the hallway and reception area filled up quickly, and some stood outside in the nippy air for a bit of elbow room.  I’ve never had to do that at the MVCPA.

Last year, during a Leadership Mountain View program day, we received a tour of the building, almost to the rafters.  The thought that was put into the design and architecture pays off when you focus on how sound (music and voice) travels through the auditorium.  The MVCPA also has multiple areas for events and performances.

The MVCPA is underappreciated in our community. I was disappointed recently when a local elected official, a long time resident who lives within walking distance of the center said they’d never been to a performance there.  How is that possible?!  I think if you’re going to be someone who can decide on the fate of the MVCPA or any city owned venue, you should at least experience what it is.

*sigh*

I digress.  My point is that we have a great resource on our hands, and encourage everything to utilize it.

www.mvcpa.com

By aliciainmtnview Posted in General