Tuesday, August 21, 2012

2012 Aug 21 - Alebrijes

2012 Aug 21 - Alebrijes Mexican Bistro  
Lodi, CA

Today there are five (5) of Gobo's Lunch Bunch eating in Lodi, CA.  Miles, Ken and I will share one table while Elsa and Ora will discuss their upcoming 50 Year High School Class Reunion of Lodi High School Class of 1962.
The entrance at 10 W. Oak Street is just a block from the center of downtown Lodi.

This is the Tequila Bar at the front of the kitchen.

Another view of the bar

Ora and Elsa

Reuben, the owner/chef with the ingredients for fresh guacamole

Here he is making it up right at your table.

Miles and me tasting the finished product.

Miles taking a dip.

The girls decided to both order Chimichangas (this is as bad as last time at Brenda's French Soul Food where the girls both ordered the same thing).
Elsa getting ready to cut hers for a photo.

At least they ordered a steak -

And a chicken chimichanga.


The guys were a bit more adventuresome.
Miles has the Gaviotas Yucatecas -
Flour tortilla enchiladas filled with prawns sautéed with garlic, tomatoes and onion, then topped green sauce and jack cheese.

I have the Tapado de pato con Mole Negro Oaxaqueño -
Tender, slightly pink duck served with our Mole Negro Oaxaqueño

Ken has the Costillas de cordero con salsa de tamarindo y pico de Gallo de Manzana -
Lamb chops with Tamarind chipotle glaze and green apple pico de gallo

We are also given a house salad for Ken and me.

This is the aftermath of the guy's table.

All of the food was excellent.  My usual Mexican restaurants I can get the normal stuff for between $8 to $12 for a meal.  At Alebrijes expect to pay twice that since the menu includes selected Regional dishes from Mexico as well as some specialties like the lamb and duck dishes.  But the food is well worth the cost and is a bargain in my opinion.

Here is a link to their menu - the prices have increased a bit since the web site was last updated:
      Alebrijes Menu

There is even a menu section for Vegetarian/Vegan Menu – CHIP® Certified Program.

The last photo.
There is also outdoor seating when the weather cools down a bit more or for the evenings.


The Alebrijes are imaginary creatures that have elements from different animals such as dragon bodies, bat wings, wolf teeth and dog eyes. Colorfully painted, they were originally made with papier mache but can also be found carved in wood.


The Alebrije was created by Pedro Linares Lopez in the 1930's. Pedro was a cartonero (papier mache crafter) from La Merced a popular barrio in Mexico City, he made a living by doing pinatas and judas like his father did before him.
The story says that while very ill Pedro had a feverish dream where he saw mythical creatures and heard them say the name alebrije. After that Pedro began to represent in papier mache the strange creatures he had dreamed of.
A far more reliable version explains that Linares was appointed by painter Jose Antonio Gomez Rosas aka El Hotentote to make some "alebrijes" to decorate the annual masquerade party in the Academia de San Carlos. The painter was in charge of the decoration of that event and many others in the art academy. Linares asked Gomez Rosas how to make such things, to which he replied "just grab a judas and give him a tail and bat wings". In Gomez Rosas paintings there were often zoomorphic and fantastic figures that combine reptile, bird, insect and mammal parts as well as different eras and painting styles.

Pedro Linares' work sold locally for many years counting customers like Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo, until 1975 when a documentary film made by Judith Bronowski made him internationally famous.In 1990 he received the National Prize for Popular Arts and Traditions. Linares passed away in 1992.

Making Process

The alebrije has a reed or wire structure that is covered with several layers of papier mache and then painted with bold colors. Today Linares progeny makes the now iconic alebrije figurines in the same barrio in Mexico City and artists all around the country craft these fierce creatures in different materials.

The Oaxacan Alebrije

Some wood carvers from Oaxaca adopted Linares' creatures and successfully created the wooden alebrije figurines from Oaxaca. Although some people called the whole style alebrijes de Oaxaca this is a misname, Alebrije name should only refer to the mythical creatures created by Linares.


Friday, August 17, 2012

2012 August 08 - Brenda's French Soul Food

2012 August 08 - Brenda's French Soul Food
San Francisco, CA

Today three of us are headed to the City to see the matinee of Les Misérables the musical.
Elsa and Patti are riding with me as I decided to drive my car into the City.  We leave early so that the two of them can get in some shopping before the 2:00 PM start time.
I packed a bento (Japanese lunch box) for both of them so they could eat lunch while en route and have more time to shop.  :-)

It was a gorgeous day as I parked at a meter near the Civic Center.  My handicap tag allows me to ignore the meters and the time limits.  The photo is of San Francisco's impressive City Hall.

Since cameras are not allowed inside the Orpheum Theater I have no photos of the musical.  But we had planned on dinner after to somewhat avoid the commute rush to get onto the Bay Bridge.  The show let out at 5:00 PM.

Since Gobo's Lunch Bunch has 2 and a half Filipinos we had to try Brenda's French Soul Food.  Brenda owner and head chef is half Cajun and half Filipino and grew up in Louisiana.  So the cuisine is Cajun French, hence French Soul Food.
The sandwich board on the sidewalk listing their daily specials

Entering the restaurant

Brenda's is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner on the weekdays except no dinner on Mondays and Tuesdays.  On the weekends they have an extended Brunch menu in place of the breakfast and lunch menu.
Menus in the window

Daily specials are also on the chalk board at the entrance

We arrived early just a bit after 5:00 PM and were only the second table seated.  When we left they were full.

The restaurant has a center divider to split it into two longish sections

Deciding what to have was a bit of a problem.  Too many good choices.

Elsa has a Crawfish Beignets and I have a broiled oyster - Casino (Bacon, scallion, biscuit crumbs, parmesan, gruyère)



Patti had decided to have a dessert Beignets instead of an appetizer.

My main course is Brenda's Fried Chicken with collard greens and a creamy biscuit.

The girls both have the BBQ Spare Ribs with Mac and Cheese.

Here we are eating

The food was wonderful.  Very spicy and very tasty.  The biscuit was so creamy that I did not need any butter.

Their check is a cash register receipt and a clothes pin.

We are too full to have dessert.  The girls even had a doggy bag.

Then I just had to take at least one photo of food from a neighboring table.  Here is Brenda's Oyster Po' Boy with coleslaw.

About the owner from the restaurant's web site:
A native of New Orleans, Chef Brenda Buenviaje was born into a creative Filipino-Creole household that nurtured her love of food and the arts. Upon graduation from Louisiana State University with a BFA in Painting and Drawing, she remained in New Orleans to follow her first love, cooking.

Over the last ten years in the Bay Area, Buenviaje has worked as Head Chef of Sumi in the Castro, Head Chef of Café Claude in downtown San Francisco and Executive Chef of DeLessio Market and Bakery.

Here is a link to the restaurant's web site:  (the link will open in a new window)

Brenda's French Soul Food


Sunday, May 6, 2012

2012 May 6 - Bancheros

2012 May 6 - Bancheros, Hayward, CA 

After 63 years of serving generations of diners affordable Italian fare, Banchero's Italian Dinners has closed its doors for good on June 4, 2012.

The restuarant, which employed 33 staff members including some family, Banchero's closed on Monday, June 4.  John Banchero Jr. said he came to make this difficult decision due to several factors including the down turned economy and working countless seven-day work weeks at the restaurant.

Originally opened by his father, John Banchero Sr., in 1948, John recalls working at the establishment at the young age of 13 — starting from the kitchen and working his way up to become owner.

Note: Underlined items are hot links that will open in a new browser window.

First off Ken O and I headed over to the Shattuck Theater in downtown Berkeley to watch the documentary movie "The Manzanar Fishing Club".

The movie started at 1:50 PM on this beautiful Sunday afternoon.  We headed to Hayward after the movie and arrived at Bancheros around 3:45 PM.
Ken at Bancheros

Checking out their hours

They only open for lunch on Sundays

Bancheros is not a gourmet restaurant.  They just serve old fashion comfort food at a very reasonable price.  At one time there were many, many Italian Family Style restaurants in California, but like the old Basque restaurants they are a dying breed.
Extensive Take Out Menu

More Take Out items
Gobo, Ken and I had eaten here earlier this year but I had forgotten to take photos.  This trip was a last second idea since I had only gotten an email about the movie late Friday night.
Bancheros has been around since 1948
Family Style Dinners include, Soup, Salad with our house Italian dressing, Hors d’Oeurves,  spaghetti and raviolis, your choice of a entrée (which determines the price of the dinner), and
dessert: your choice of orange sherbet, vanilla or spumoni ice cream
The Family Style Dinner is the way to go

They also have Family Style Pasta Dinners.

We had to order a half loaf of Garlic Bread to share.

A very tasty soup

Hors d’Oeurves and the salad

The raviolis and spaghetti

Here's my plate with a piece of Garlic Bread

Ken eating his pasta

We both ordered the Fried Chicken which is a half a chicken.  Since it was still early they even cut the chicken into pieces for us.  We also had a few oven roasted potatoes and veggies.

Both Ken and I did take a lot of the chicken home with us in a "doggy bag".

All this food and drink for $35.29.  Plus we did leave a generous tip.
For dessert a nice dish of Spumoni.

Ken eating his dessert.