Entrance to Christmas in the Park.

Have a Jolly Time at Christmas in the Park, San Jose

Some of the many Christmas trees at Christmas in the Park, San Jose.

Around this time of the year I miss the German Weihnachtsmärkte. A festive way of celebrating the season. There you can meet some friends, warm up with some Glühwein (mulled wine), or punch, have some candied almonds, and shop for some artisan gifts. Yes, this is an idealization, my mind ignoring the crowds, but these fairs definitely are part of the Holidays. If you are ever in Berlin for December make sure to visit many of these markets because they all feel different. 

Saucer carnival ride at Christmas in the Park.

Christmas in the Park in San Jose’s Plaza de Cesar Chavez Park compares to a Christmas market in Spandau. Here are a lot of carnival rides for little kids. I was greeted by the smell of kettle corn. There are also candy shops, Belgium waffles, and churros to munch on. You can’t buy Glühwein, but there is a hot chocolate booth. The crowds were not bad and the line for food was reasonable. 

Five girls dancing on the Community Stage of Christmas in the Park, San Jose.

Most people enjoyed the community stage, where local groups performed Christmas acts. But the special attraction of this fair is the hundreds of Christmas trees that are decorated by local businesses, high schoolers, and families, and the animated Christmas themed figures that move about. These figures include the stable of Santa’s reindeers, a train with trolls working, and a band of a fox, a skunk and a raccoon.

Sign for the Kristi Yamaguchi ice rink.

There is also a photoshoot opportunity with Santa on an outside stage and some Lego landscapes with a Holiday theme.

At one end, next to the San Jose Museum of Art, is the Kristi Yamaguchi Downtown Ice skating rink. 

A San Jose tradition

Christmas in the Park is a San Jose tradition for over 40 years now. For people preferring a more socially distant experience, they have continued the drive-thru light experience Blinky’s Illuminated Holiday near Raging Waters that was established last year (tickets are required) or you can sign up for a zoom meeting with Santa.

Christmas in the Park is located at Plaza de Cesar Chavez in downtown San Jose. Admission is free. The experience is open every day till January 2nd, from noon to midnight.

Is Christmas in the Park part of your Holiday tradition?
This is a nice place to come at night and see the lights on the many Christmas trees. The last time I was here, in 2017, I stopped by during the day, and seeing these many trees is still special.

A couple enjoying the view at the College of San Mateo.

Enjoy the View at the Farmers’ Market, College of San Mateo

Pumpkins at the farmers' market, College of San Mateo.

The farmers’ market at the College of San Mateo is most likely voted for ‘Best View for a Farmers’ Market’. Every Saturday from 9 am – 1 pm you can shop for local produce, grab some lunch, listen to some music, and sign up for your compost class. A list of vendors can be found on the webpage of the Pacific Coast Farmers Market, but they also do a great job updating their facebook page, https://www.facebook.com/CollegeofSanMateoFarmersMarket/, to highlight seasonal produce.

View of the Dumbarton Bridge from the College of San Mateo.

Nothing says fall like huge pumpkins. Other stands sold apples, one had an amazing variety of succulents, and of course there were lots of stands with everything else in season. The Buds contributed their music and had two little girls dance to it. Our discovery was the ramen stand, where you can buy concentrated broth and fresh noodles.

The Buds are playing while two little girls are dancing.

And, like I said, the view is outstanding. Even on a cloudy day you can see San Francisco and the Dumbarton Bridge. The planetarium has an atrium that is perfect for enjoying your lunch. 

The College of San Mateo is located at 1700 West Hillsdale Boulevard. Parking is available at the Galileo parking lot, next to the planetarium. Don’t worry there are signs.  

People eating lunch on the steps to the planetarium.

What is your favorite farmers’ market?

One of the biggest, if not the biggest, farmers’ market in Silicon Valley is in Mountain View. About every town has their own farmers’ market with their own feel. Try them all!

Paintings by Natasha Kramskaya

Celebrate ‘An American Mosaic’ in San Jose

Different salsas at the Chili Mole Pozole Festival.

The gallery exhibit from Works ‘An American Mosaic’ celebrates many firsts, first live gallery exhibit for this year, first collaboration with Mosaic America and School of Arts & Culture at Mexican Heritage Plaza. For me this was also my first time at the Mexican Heritage Plaza in San Jose. Last Sunday I enjoyed the Chili Mole Pozole Festival with live music, artisan vendors, and, of course, the exhibit of ‘An American Mosaic’. 

RGB by Tulio Flores at the 'An American Mosaic'.

The $10 entry fee was for the festival and it came with a bag of tortilla chips and a choice of salsas. My two salsas were both pretty spicy.  

Fourteen San Jose artists express their creativity and love for the Bay Area. As diverse as the artists are their works, with sculptures, painted bottles, and many different painting styles. It felt good to be experiencing art again and I enjoyed the multitudes of ideas and approaches. My favorite was Tulio Flores RGB.

This exhibit will tie in with the upcoming free Mosaic Festival on October 2. Mosaic America celebrates the diversity of America through art, performance, movement, and food. So, maybe this will be your first festival of the year? 

Artisan vendors at the Chili Mole Pozole Festival, School of Arts & Culture at Mexican Heritage Plaza.

If you are still a bit hesitant about festivals you can view the exhibit the next two weekends (Friday, Saturday, Sunday) from 12 – 4: except October 2nd.

The Silicon Valley Mosaic Festival is Saturday, October 2nd, from 12 – 6pm at the School of Arts & Culture Gallery at Mexican Heritage Plaza, 1700 Alum Rock Ave at King Road, San José

Admission is free.

How do you celebrate diversity?

artists:

Fco1980

'An American Mosaic' exhibit view.

Dan Fenstermacher

Tulio Flores

Force129

Richard Hoffman

Natasha Kramskaya

Jennifer Lay

Johanne Marion

Elizabeth Jiménez Montelongo

Betty Proper

Ally Spray

Kenneth Tan, The Lola x Kenneth Collaboration

Roan Victor

Yxaya

If you need more inspiration from San Jose artists try the San Jose Institute of Contemporary Art (ISA) or the galleries at SJSU.

Castro Valley Marketplace sign

Meet up with some Friends at the Castro Valley Marketplace

Seven Hills Baking Co inside of Castro Valley Marketplace.

We are all ready to go out again to meet friends. I know, the mask mandate for indoor places has been reinstated. Nevertheless you could go to the Castro Valley Marketplace, shop and hang out at the many outside tables. This is a much smaller version of the San Francisco Ferry Building, but they both talk to the foodie in you. Castro Valley Marketplace has olive oils and spices, an artisan bakery, and a butcher, a sushi counter, and a brewery. All of this gets put together with a natural food store. Oh, and the basement has a cellar and lounge. You immediately get why their slogan is: “Only good things, only good food”.

Outside patio of the Castro Valley Marketplace.

We visited on a Sunday with the brunch crowd. There was a band playing outside and people were enjoying themselves. Nobody seemed to mind the 50 minutes wait for their food order. This space is made for gatherings. If you want to grab a quick bite you might choose the prepared foods at Castro Valley Natural Grocery. This, by the way, is Castro Valley’s first locally owned, independently operated, and certified green whole health market. Besides the tables outside there are a few tables upstairs. The upstairs right now hints at the potential for more gatherings with a pop out kitchen. Future plans are to have cooking classes and local makers to share their talent and products.

Formerly the Daughtrey’s department store, the Castro Valley Marketplace had its grand opening on July 9th, 2021.

Castro Valley mural inside of the Castro Valley Marketplace.

You can find the Castro Valley Marketplace at 3295 Castro Valley Boulevard.

I did not receive any compensation to publish this blog post. 

Remember my post from two weeks ago: Treat yourself to something sweet? If you were looking for the alfajores and did not have time to stop by the Wooden Table Cafe in Oakland, you can find them at the Castro Valley Natural Grocery store!

Coffee mug with cocohodo.

Treat Yourself to Something Sweet

Today my mother would’ve been 80. Being German she loved coffee and cake in the afternoon. I’ll definitely have a nice piece of cake and a strong coffee in her honor. In this post I picked five Bay Area bakeries with special treats I love. I am not affiliated with any of the businesses and have not received anything for posting this. (This is not to say I wouldn’t be open to a taste test.)

Pastelaria Adega – San Jose

Pastel de nata at Pastelaria.

One of my favorite sweets is pastel de nata, a Portuguese egg custard tart pastry. Pastelaria Adega in San Jose does it right. You can watch them making the tart and stirring the custard in a large copper pot. Besides the traditional plain they also have fruit versions. If you are not interested in custard, maybe try some of their donuts, or savory items?

Wooden Table Baking Co – Oakland

A display of alfajores at the Wooden Table Cafe.

Alfajores – You had me at dulce de leche; put two shortbread cookies around and you get this Argentinian dessert. For an extra indulgence try them covered in chocolate! They also have many gluten-free options.

Cocohodo – Sunnyvale

Machine making cocohodo at Cocohodo in Sunnyvale.

Cocohodo is a traditional Korean pastry, shaped like a walnut, filled with bean paste and a chunk of walnut. If I still had a small child this would be my go-to place. You can watch the machine that makes the pastry right there, while also enjoying their great coffee.

Mini Taiyaki Cafe – Santa Clara

A taiyaki waffle shaped fish.

Another Korean favorite are taiyaki – fish shaped cakes filled with either custard, hazelnut spread, or red bean paste. They are freshly made and come in four fishes. The cafe is actually a hair salon and due to COVID restriction not a sit-down cafe. The taiyaki are fun when they are warm, but they don’t travel well.

  • Mini Taiyaki Cafe
  • 5075 Stevens Creek Blvd
  • Santa Clara, CA 95051

Rosalind Bakery – Pacifica

Croissants from Rosalind.

The artisan bread at Rosalind is amazing, but their croissants are what I crave. The almond one is filled with almond paste, topped with shaved almond, and the crunch is music to my ears.

Where do you go for sweet treats?

An ice cream taco on parchment paper.

Experience ice cream tacos, Rocko’s in Santa Clara

Ice cream taco with white chocolate and pistachios.

Yes, you read that right, ice cream tacos. This is not your usual decision between cup and cone. If you insist on a cup you can get this here too, but where’s the fun in that?

Jars of sauces for the ice cream tacos and a bunsen burner.

The cones at Rocko’s are shaped like taco shells. You pick your flavor of ice cream. (By the way, they also offer vegan ice cream flavors.) Some liquid nitrogen makes sure this stays in place. Sauce? Sure! Three kinds of chocolate or peanut butter. For me white chocolate, please. For some fun crunch you can have this dipped into some nuts. Et voilà – an ice cream taco!

An ice cream taco gets a dip in the liquid nitrogen at Rocko's, Santa Clara.

Nitrogen, vegan ice cream, a love for real ingredients. It should not surprise that behind Rocko’s is Lori Phillips with a PhD in Immunology. Rocko’s evolved from an idea in 2013 to an ice cream cart that grew into a food truck. The food truck is still around, ready for your next party. The brick and mortar stands in Santa Clara, near the university.

Rocko's food truck.

Rocko’s currently operates with limited hours. Please check their website

Rocko’s Ice Cream Tacos

2905 Park Ave, Santa Clara, CA 95050

All of this is my personal opinion. I did not receive any form of payment for this post. 


And if Ice Cream Tacos are too much for you, you can always search for the classic ice cream experience – Burlington’s It’s It!

Sign for Fresh Local Fish at Pillar Point Harbor, Half Moon Bay.

Buy Fresh Fish Straight from the Boat

Some wise man once said: “When fish smells like fish it is old.“If you want to be sure you buy the freshest fish I highly recommend the Pillar Point Harbor in Half Moon Bay.

Boats at Pillar Point, Half Moon Bay.

As you enter the Pier, you can read signs on what fish have been caught that day, the prices, and which boat is selling. You can also Call the Fish Phone at 650-726-8724 for information about which boats are selling and what is available. 

Fish on ice.

This is a great way of buying local, fresh fish.

What an adventure even if you haven’t caught the beauty yourself!

Where do you buy your fish? 

If you prefer fishing yourself you might want to check out my post about Fishing on a Public Pier.

Fishing gear at the Pacifica pier

Go Fishing on a Public Pier

I have never been fishing or hunting. I think hunting is a bit too much for survival skills, but fishing seems like an interesting capability to know. 

People fishing on the Pacifica pier.

The other day we went to the public fishing pier in Pacifica. It smells like salt-water and fishing bait. I saw people use shrimp, calamari and little fish as live bait. I am not sure, but I think there might be a distinction of what fish you can catch depending on where on the pier you cast your rod.

People with fishing gear walking on the Pacifica pier.

If you prefer to go fishing on a lake you can either apply for a license or take advantage of the two Free Fishing Days. The last one this year was  on July 4th and the next one is on September 5th, 2020. 

While everyone over 16 years of age needs a license to go fishing, in California, the exception is if you fish from a public pier for your non-commercial use. (https://wildlife.ca.gov/fishing/ocean/beach-fishing#320781172-where-and-when-can-i-fish-in-the-ocean-without-a-fishing-license

Fishing rods at Pacifica public pier.

To learn how to fish the California Department of Fish and Wildlife usually offers in person clinics. Well, not right now. But they have videos to teach you fishing.

Have you ever fished on a public pier?

Table outside of Kirin in Mountain View

Dine in Circles – COVID-19 Style

How is your summer going?

I would be on vacation right now. Sigh. 

But honestly I can’t complain too much. We are very privileged going into this pandemic and have a nice place to hang out and wait this out.

I hope everyone is safe and healthy!

Castro St. road closure, for outdoor dining, Mountain View, CA.

It is also very important to support local businesses right now. Since July 22nd Mountain View has closed off most of Castro St. for vehicular traffic and made it a great place for outdoor dining!

The 100 to 400 block on Castro is now a pedestrian zone, with the crossing streets, Evelyn, Villa, Dana, California and Mercy,  still open. The city opened up additional short term parking in City parking lots and garages behind Castro. The Castro Summer StEATS is a pilot program to see if it revives the downtown area. 

All is done with social distancing in mind. Circles on the floor show where the assigned tables should go, signs on the street lead you to the hand wash stations, and all waiting staff are wearing masks.

Castro St. people dining outdoors.

Finally the city is taking advantage of the weather and provides us with a piazza experience! The last time I visited I noticed a lot of children playing in the street. What a lovely accomplishment to enhance city living! Bravo!

What is your opinion about the Castro Summer StrEATS?

Actually the city is asking, please take 7 minutes of your time and fill out the questionnaire:

English

Spanish

Marianne's ice cream, Santa Cruz

Treat Yourself to Some Ice Cream

Surfer Museum at Santa Cruz.

It’s now been over 100 days in shelter-in-place. All of our summer plans have been scratched, or as we like to think of it: postponed. Even though we just sit at home every once in a while it is great to swap out walking around the block for going to the beach. You can’t really sit on the beach here, but walking along it and smelling salty air is worth the drive.

Inside Marianne's ice cream, Santa Cruz.

One of our favorite go-to spots is the path near the surfer museum in Santa Cruz. A long standing tradition after the walk is to stop by Marianne’s ice cream on Ocean St. Right now, you have to order on one side and pick up at the next window, or place on online order. Masks are required. I’m not sure if they give you a taste. With 80+ flavors I know it is hard to decide which to choose. Marianne’s ice cream has been around since 1947 – a true institution.

Sign at Marianne's ice cream, Santa Cruz, Curbside pick up here.

Marianne’s is open everyday from 10 am – 9 pm.

What’s your favorite ice cream place?

Have you ever been to It’s It Ice Cream in Burlingame? I wrote a post about it: Scream for Ice Cream

Let’s hear it for your favorite ice cream parlor in the comment section.