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Bike Date Friday: Vive Sol

It’s amazing what you can do with a remodel of a 1950s motel! I had seen Vive Sol before, tucked behind the florist and the vacuum shop on busy El Camino. It didn’t seem like much, but when Katie recommended it we had to try it.

A quick glance at the menu and I realized it was owned by the same family as Palo Alto Sol on California Avenue, which I’ve heard are relatives of the two La Fiesta del Mar restaurants in Mountain View. Like the others, the food is consistently good, and the decor boldly Mexican. A solid local spot with a loyal following.

Have you ever overlooked a place near home, until someone who lives in another town recommended it?

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About Bike Date Friday: Since September 2010, my husband and I have had a standing date every Friday night. We eat at a different place every week and arrive by bike. There’s no better way to end the work week.

 
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Posted by on August 26, 2011 in Bike Date

 

Bike Date Friday: Picnic in the Garden

One dark, chilly, damp night commuting home last winter, I dreamed of a warm evening where Dick and I would pedal off to a park for a picnic for a bike date. But with distractions like vacationing with family in Florida, mountain bike racing with my girlfriends, and even waiting for the UPS man, it was August and alas, no picnic.

With sunset getting earlier each week, it was now or never. First task: find a location. Most park picnic areas are designed for kids’ birthday parties and loud family gatherings. I wanted something romantic. I considered going back to the Rodin Garden at Stanford, but was worried it wouldn’t be private enough.

After a bit of searching, I found a promising spot: the Gamble Garden in Palo Alto. With a historic home, carriage and tea houses, plus formal gardens it was romantic. After scouting it on my bike one evening, I found wooden picnic tables under a heritage oak tree and even a bike rack.

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So I went shopping, prepared a picnic meal and packed it in Juliett’s ample single pannier and front basket and headed for work, telling Dick to pick me up that evening for a bike date picnic at a surprise location.

When we arrived we took a slow stroll around the gardens first, along with a dozen or so visitors: a young mother showing her toddler insects on a flower, two women friends in a deep discussion, a man pushing his elderly father in his wheelchair. You can see from the gallery of photos below why people are drawn to this beautiful public space. But by the time we poured a glass of white wine and unpacked Juliett’s baskets for our meal, we had the garden to ourselves.

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What is still on your “to do” list for this summer? What summer fun do you still have planned?

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About Bike Date Friday: Since September 2010, my husband and I have had a standing date every Friday night. We eat at a different place every week and arrive by bike. There’s no better way to end the work week.

 
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Posted by on August 20, 2011 in Bike Date

 

Bike Date Friday: Déjà Vu at La Strada

It’s been almost a year since we started going out for Bike Date Friday and it still feels fresh, probably in part that we have a rule that we don’t visit the same restaurant twice. But sometimes, like last night, you get that feeling of déjà vu. When I made the reservation for La Strada, I had forgotten we’d eaten there two years ago, the night I bought my first iPhone. As soon as I saw the sidewalk seating, I remembered how I had tormented Dick by testing out the iPhone’s video capability right there in the restaurant.

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This time we didn’t sit directly on the sidewalk, but still had a great view of the parade of interesting characters on University Avenue. Unfortunately, there was no way for me to be quick enough to snap the guy riding his bike with a terrier perched on his shoulder. That dog had talent.

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My Oven-Roasted Branzino Livornese Style was tasty. Yes, that’s a whole fish, head and all. The waiter offered to remove the bones, but being Cajun means I’m more than comfortable doing it myself.

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Dick enjoyed his Farro-Curry Fettuccine with Lamb Cheeks. I was so focused on my fish I forgot to get a taste.

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As we left, the full moon was rising, just like it was on our first Bike Date Friday on University Avenue last year. Some things never get old.

Do you go out of your way to try new restaurants, or do you prefer to be a “regular” at your favorite spot?

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About Bike Date Friday: Since September 2010, my husband and I have had a standing date every Friday night. We eat at a different place every week and arrive by bike. There’s no better way to end the work week.

 
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Posted by on August 13, 2011 in Bike Date

 

Bike Date Friday: Dinner and a Movie, the Sequel

Tonight, we cruised down the trails in the Baylands, headed for our local theater to see Rise of the Planet of the Apes. After zipping past some heavy concert traffic in the empty bike lane, we got to the theater with time to grab an appetizer course: popcorn and Diet Coke.

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Rise of the Planet of the Apes was a first rate B movie, and an outstanding sequel. Or was it a prequel? It was sad and it was scary, but you couldn’t help but cheer for the apes. Hail, Caesar, our heroic chimp!

After the movie we pedaled downtown via the Steven’s Creek Trail to a chorus of cicadas and frogs. So peaceful in the full dark, except for the short stretch adjacent to the freeway. The harsh change from quiet to loud really emphasizes the noise pollution our freeways generate.

Our destination: the Tied House, a popular microbrewery frequented by Silicon Valley geeks. We were surprised–and annoyed–to find there were no bike racks out front, and that every post within a block had bikes attached. Something to bring up to our local BPAC.

At the Tied House we had our main course: fish & chips and Cascade Amber for Dick, and housemade sausages and Ironwood Dark for me.

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After dinner it was a short ride home where we completed our last course of our three course meal: apple blossoms a la mode with a delightful Zaya Gran Reserva sipping rum. Yum!

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When you go out for dinner and a movie, do you prefer eating before or after the show?

 
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Posted by on August 5, 2011 in Bike Date

 

Bike Date Friday: Locally Grown and Fabulous

It was all locally grown, farmed or fished, and absolutely delicious. I had read the rave reviews about Flea Street Cafe way back in the rainy season and put it on my Bike Date Friday futures list for a summer date, when there would be more daylight to stop at Stanford University’s Rodin Garden on the way home. When we pedaled up, I was surprised by the restaurant’s humble exterior, which we soon discovered belies the fine dining within.

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Look closely and you’ll see that they’re growing beets in the planter box out front, not flowers. Did you know that some towns, like Oak Park, Michigan prohibit front yard gardens? Somehow, what’s good enough for a rather expensive town in California is not OK for the average Joe in middle America.

Front yard garden

Our drinks were summer herbal refreshers: rosemary cucumber gin & tonics, served with beets and radishes from their kitchen garden.

Gin & Tonic

Crispy sardines from nearby Half Moon Bay were prepared perfectly. They were nothing like sardines from a can.

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Dick went for the duck breast with arugula while I had the short ribs. Both exceptional. We could see why people raved about this restaurant.

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It’s apricot season, so we had to go for the pound cake with apricots a la mode.

On the way home we stopped at Stanford University’s Rodin Garden, and savored the sculptures in the fading light.

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What are your favorite locally grown, raised or fished items in your area? Do they come from your own backyard? Or front yard even?

 
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Posted by on July 8, 2011 in Bike Date

 

Bike Date Friday: Time for Takeout

When a night out needs to become a night in, it’s good to have great options in takeout food nearby. We had planned to go out for our Bike Date Friday, but Dick was waiting for a signature-required delivery from UPS–a new guitar. So instead of Dick meeting me at work, I rode home instead, hoping the guitar would beat me home. It didn’t. When I saw how much Dick wanted to wait for the guitar, but didn’t want to cancel our date, I offered Plan B: takeout.

I hopped on Juliett because she has a big front basket and pedaled to downtown Mountain View. Being a Friday night, there were cars everywhere, searching for parking. On a bike, all I had to do was roll up and lock up.

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There are so many choices on Castro Street: burritos, Chinese noodles, sushi, pizza and more. I decided on Vietnamese rice plates from Pho Hoa, a chain with restaurants throughout the US and Canada, plus Korea, the Philippines, and Singapore. I’d call it the McDonald’s of Vietnamese food, but it tastes a lot better and it’s healthier too.

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Sometimes all it takes to make a takeout meal special is presentation and location. Since it was warm out, we dined on the deck and enjoyed the quiet of the night. Even though the UPS man never came.

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What are your “go to” places for takeout? Have you tried any new ones lately?

 
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Posted by on July 1, 2011 in Bike Date

 
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Bike Date Friday: Florida Family Dinner

Visiting family in Florida didn’t mean we’d have to miss our bike date. We just took them along for the ride. The plan: dining alfresco Florida style, which translates to dining on a screened-in porch at a restaurant down the beach. This is a far cry from the Florida of my youth, where the better restaurants boldly announced “Air Conditioned Dining Room” on signs visible from the highway.

As we rolled out of my sister’s neighborhood, a pedicab driver tried to sell us on a ride. Given that pretty much everyone in their seaside resort town rides bikes, it was a tough sell.

Besides, my sister Patty would rather pedal than sit. Doesn’t she look great in her Donald Pliner gold lame mules? It was her first time riding in heels, but it was no problem.

The parking lot at Borago wasn’t set up for a party of seven on bikes, but we made do, chaining our bikes together with cable locks. Not that the typical oversized Grayton Beach pickup truck couldn’t have held all of them.

Everyone enjoyed their dinner. My chicken piccata and Dick’s eggplant were particularly tasty.  The Pinot Grigio wasn’t bad either, but it was hardly at the optimal 45-50 degree serving temperature.

Air conditioned dining room or screened-in porch?  In a car or on a bike?

Where would you rather be on a warm and humid summer night?

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Posted by on June 10, 2011 in Bike Date, Travel

 

Bike Date Friday: The Original at Café Renzo

My husband and I have decided to make every Friday night a standing date night. We rarely go out, and realize it needs to be pre-scheduled. Dick’s day off from work is Friday, so that was an easy decision. I want the romance of him picking me up like a real date, so we decided he would come to my workplace and get me. The twist: since I ride my bike to work, he would ride his bike too.

Here’s my date rolling up to my office to pick me up for our date night. I’m tickled that he wore a nice sweater and put flat pedals on his single speed so he could wear going-out shoes.

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There’s a seemingly limitless assortment of restaurants within a 30 minute ride of my office. This week’s destination: Café Renzo in downtown Palo Alto. We passed on the sidewalk seating in favor of a cozy window table. There were heaters, but I didn’t want to risk getting cold. The dinner was particularly good, but you’ll have to take our word on it since I didn’t pull out the camera.

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After dinner, we strolled down University Avenue just for fun. We stopped in at a Halloween store and bought some decorations, and then caught a free pedicab ride back to our bikes. We told the driver that we had our bikes on the next block, but he convinced us to hop in for a spin. So much fun! It put a smile on everyone’s face.

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The whole night was very romantic, especially cruising home by the light of a full moon. The neighborhood streets are so peaceful after rush hour ends. All you need is a good set of lights and you’re set.

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Have you ever gone out on a date on a bike? If so, where did you go? If not, where would you go?

 
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Posted by on October 22, 2010 in Bike Date

 
 
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