our Rocca’s routine

I haven’t written about our local Rocca’s Market for some months, but Rocca’s has become part of our weekly routine. Each member of the senior staff, Tom, who runs the meat department, Dan Rocca, who manages groceries and wine, Dan K, the sausage guy who often works the meat department, and Mike “Poppy,” our long-time seafood guy, knows who we are. Dan K and Tom call me by name.

Terry and I both enjoy going there. I won’t say we fight over who gets to go, but it’s much more of an “I can go,” and almost never a “Why don’t you go,” unless there is a specific reason. For example, last week Terry was coming back from an appointment up in Mountain View,  meaning it was on her way, and she needed to select a steak for herself for our surf ‘n turf  Saturday dinner. That means Terry has a steak and I have halibut. When she got back, I asked her as I always do who was working the meat counter. She told me it was Mike, but I really didn’t need to ask. Simply looking at the meat wrappers gave me the answer. Tom and both Dans do a  good job of being descriptive when they mark the wrappers. Mike not so much. For example, if we buy both country breakfast sausage and a pair of hot Italian sausages for spaghetti, he will mark both packages “SAUS.” Right. Thanks. But we love Mike anyway.

We rarely buy our meats and seafood anyplace other than Rocca’s now, and after that nasty Foster Farm’s salmonella scare, we are even happier to be buying the free-range chicken that Rocca’s sells. We ordered our organic Thanksgiving turkey in late October and will pick it up on Tuesday. Last time I went in to Rocca’s I asked Mike for some of that aforementioned country sausage. He said, “I think we’re out. No, wait, I guess he [Tom, probably] made some while I was out to lunch.” At what supermarket would you hear that?

Those are my Rocca’s thoughts. That and $3.40 will get you a personal grande decaf cappuccino, dry.


Alice and gluten-free pizza

OliveStsmallWhen I was living on Olive Street during my post-Pitzer College Claremont cockroach days from 1975-77, I had this sign on my front door. For the first part of that era my roommate was George. Actually it was his apartment, and the sign seemed appropriate to both of us. Certainly our friends thought so. I was working at B. Dalton Bookseller, reading books, listening to soft rock on KNX-FM, and Aliceattempting, not terribly successfully, to be the next George Orwell. Not George Orwell the novelist, but George Orwell the essayist. George my roommate engaged himself in various endeavors, but spent much of his time at the computer. This was long before the days of the personal computer. We’re talking mainframes and dumb terminals here. So he sat at a terminal in a small room on the Pitzer campus or on one of the other Claremont campuses. Or he hung out in the actual computer room, a privilege granted a very few. He had the habit of doing things like inviting people over for dinner, and then getting engrossed in a computer program he was writing and leaving the preparation of dinner and the entertaining of guests to me and Alison, his sometime significant other.

It so happens that this same picture hangs on the wall at our new gluten-free bakery, Patti’s Perfect Pantry. In the several months that Patti’s has been open I’ve enjoyed the Alice in Wonderland theme of the shop. I had never noticed, however, this particular picture. I saw it for the first time on Friday as we were waiting for our gluten-free pizza, something new on the menu. I went over to take a look, and noted that the text associated with the picture was actually an excerpt from an earlier part of Alice’s conversation with the Cheshire Cat. A picture frame directly underneath, however, displayed the text in question.

Terry and I have loved Patti’s from the first day we walked in the door. For us, unlike for many other people, the fact that the shop is gluten-free is incidental. We love it because the food tastes marvelous, because we get to sit in a pleasant environment, and because Patti and her staff interact with us in a most friendly and attentive manner.

And now a tie to memories of some of my favorite days from the past. I’m delighted we have Patti’s.

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the right decision

Last month I wrote about having made the decision to switch doctors so I was seeing a physician at a clinic in my medical group that was closer and easier to get to. Of course when one makes such a decision one often second-guesses oneself, which I did a certain amount of. It turns out though, that I made the right decision.

stethescopeThe new clinic is much smaller than the old, and hence the lab is much smaller. But that also means fewer patients waiting. Rather than having to wait an hour and end up getting an extern (as they call them) who has difficulty with my hard-to-find veins and ends up having to go to an experienced technician for help, I waited just a few minutes and got an experienced technician who had me in and out of there before I knew it.

As for my new primary care physician, he was thorough and straightforward. He asked a lot of questions, listened to my answers, and made suggestions. He commended me on my exercise routine. There was no lecturing and no bragging about his stellar healthy vegetarian lifestyle and gym regimen as I got from my previous doctor. He understood my work situation, the company I work for, and the high-tech industry, something my previous doctor never seemed to be in touch with.

I guess I did indeed make the right decision.


making changes

I’ve been thinking  about this for a while, and last week I decided to make the change.

I’ve been seeing the same doctor at the Palo Alto Medical Foundation’s Los Altos clinic since about 1999. He was new then, and has matured along the way. Still, some qualities have remained unchanged. He does not have the most cordial exam room manner, but when it comes to stethescopeusing diet and exercise to manage cholesterol and blood pressure, there is no mistaking his viewpoint. That’s been good for me, and I have made lifestyle changes because of that. Still, he can be annoying when he brags about his own diet and exercise routine. While my company had its Silicon Valley campus that was fine, and it was easy to get over there from my office. But with that campus closed and my working from home in Gilroy exclusively, getting from home to the Los Altos campus becomes something of a major expedition. And we’re talking two trips — one for the blood work and one for the physical.

So last week I called up the clinic that was the easiest drive from home and set up a new primary care physician, who I will see for my physical the last week of August. I appreciate the discipline that my previous doctor helped to instill in me, but I won’t miss his telling me about what a pure and healthy life he lives.


supporting the new folks

There is a small building on First Street here in Gilroy that has housed a number of different eateries in the sixteen years we’ve been here. It’s been Mexican in a number of different iterations and it has been Filipino. Most famously for Terry and me, and most missed, it was for a short while El Rincon, which served marvelous, though not inexpensive, gourmet Mexican food. Most recently it was Mexican food catering to a Spanish-speaking clientele. That closed not too lond ago, and signs went up saying it would be a burger place.

We noticed it was open the other day, so Terry and I had lunch there on Friday. The signage has a red and white checkerboard motif, suspiciously reminiscent of Five Guys, though their menu in nothing like that of that chain. It’s run by a man and woman, whom I took to be husband and wife. The woman took care of the cash register and the man was in the back cooking. As far as we know, they just opened their doors with no real crinklefriesadvertising, but there was a line when we got there and people kept coming in while we were there.

They did manage to mess up Terry’s order. She ordered the chicken fried steak burger with no veggies, and it arrived with all of the produce. But they quickly corrected that error, and Terry loved the seasoning in the breading. I had an Ortega burger that was excellent, and we both loved the crinkle fries, which neither of us had seen for a while.

We’ll be back. Which is not to say that we’re going to abandon Cafe 152 Burger Co. It has a different taste and ambience, and we love how the owner wanders the floor and chats with customers to make sure everything is OK. We also appreciate the fact that he creates jobs and gives disadvantaged young people the opportunity to learn skills in the working world.

It’s good to have the variety.


Farmers Market

We’ve been going to the Gilroy Farmers’ Market for the past couple of years. For the past two years it was on Sunday, so it worked out nicely to come home from church, get changed, and head over there. I enjoyed getting a Silva sausage for lunch, which, even if high in cholesterol and not terribly healthy, was awfully tasty.

GilroyFramersMarketThis year the Farmers’ Market has had something of a makeover. It’s under new management, in a new location, and is now on Saturday. That works out well because we can drop by there as we head out on our Saturday shopping errands. The energy level seems higher, and there’s perhaps a slight change in the mix of vendors. No Silva this year, but then we’ve just had breakfast when we get there anyway.

This past Saturday we got some marvelous fresh strawberries, sweet peaches, an unusual variety of red spinach (yes, red), and some tasty Italian Caponata hummus.

It’s a nice addition to our Saturday routine.


sourdough (and a slightly sad local note)

I’ve been making sourdough bread for a number of years now. Terry got some vintage starter several years ago from a long-time professional colleague.

I don’t make sourdough bread often, but do from time-to-time. I’ve always known that one needs to let the starter you are going to put into the bread sit out for a while in order to “punch it up.” Due to poor planning (or laziness) on my part I’ve never let it sit for more than an hour. I’ve thought my sourdough bread was good but not great.

Before Terry and I left for the Wildflower 5K a few weeks ago I had the foresight to take out the starter I needed. This meant that the starter sat out for a few hours before I started to work on the bread. The result was the sourdoughiest sourdough I’ve ever made.

So now I know.

On another note, Terry and I noticed last week that our local Chinese fast food place seems to have closed. Their change from hot table food with specials to only bowls and plates was obviously not successful. The fact that they removed the specials for a while after the change likely didn’t help. Unfortunate.


appreciating our family-owned market

The publication of my most recent blog entry about Rocca’s Market coincided, in a surprising synchronistic manner, with my business card being pulled out of the jar as the winner of their weekly drawing, which they announce on their Facebook page. Since I had posted that blog entry to their Facebook page they were concerned that my winning might make the drawing look rigged. Dan the sausage guy and Dan Rocca, co-owner, conferred and agreed that they would let my selection stand, but also select another winner.

Terry and I appreciated that decision. We ended up with some Bavarian Cheese sausage, hot links, and a lovely bottle of Chardonnay. The Chardonnay complimented our Saturday dinner, the sausages were grilled and put on sourdough bread on Sunday, and the hot links were added to our spaghetti on Monday. Marvelous, and thank you!

We loved being the winner of the drawing and got a kick out of our picture showing up on their Facebook page. First and foremost, though, we simply enjoy shopping at a local, family owned market with a full-service meat counter. On Friday Terry made a Rocca’s run and got us marinated tri tip (which we grilled on the barbecue — excellent!) and baked beans. She also picked up fresh halibut for Saturday, to which I added polenta.

How we managed to be in Gilroy for sixteen years without knowing what was really inside that modest building I have no clue. But we’re regular customers now. Why mess with pre-packaged meats in the supermarket when there’s a full-service meat (and seafood!) counter just up the road?

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why we love Rocca’s #425

I’ve written about why Terry and I so much appreciate Rocca’s Market, our locally owned, family owned grocery store. There is, of course, our favorite fish monger, Mike (otherwise known as Poppy) and his fresh fish. There is the full service meat counter. Then there’s simply the friendly way that they treat you there.

Here’s another reason. They really do care about quality and their customers there. Last Saturday I went shopping there for Easter dinner. Terry wanted green beans along with our roast. I kept looking, and couldn’t find any. Dan, co-owner with his brother Tom, was right there. (Not to be confused with Dan the guy who works in the meat department and makes those marvelous sausages.) I asked him and he said that he didn’t buy any because of the price and quality. He said he probably should have for Easter, but they just weren’t that good. I appreciated that.

I went down the road to our local Hispanic produce place to see if I could find green beans. I found them, and guess what? They were expensive and didn’t look all that good. I bought a few because Terry had requested them, but really, Dan was right.

You really have to value a store that works so hard to do the Right Thing for their customers.


hello again

I’ve written about the loss of both our Fresh Choice salad bar and Juicy Burger. As of last week both are back, sort of.

Juicy Burger is back as Café 152 Burger Company. I suspect this must be owned by the fellow who owned the short-lived but very enjoyable Café 152. He’s an experienced businessman and also owns a fast-food franchise in town. Given that, I think he has a good chance of making it work. I certainly enjoyed my hamburger and garlic fries on my initial visit.

Fresh Choice is another matter. The chain pretty much shut down last year. Since then some locations have re-opened as California Fresh. My initial understanding was that the all-you-can-eat model was gone and salads would be sold by weight with à la carte items available for sale as well. Based on the reviews I’ve read, that’s not the case. It appears that the business model is unchanged, but that the selections are fewer, slightly different, and not as good. Check out Yelp and this Sacramento Blogger. I think we’ll stay away for a while.

On another restaurant front, our local Chinese fast food place has restored its made-to-order specials. Happy to see that.