A Bay Area Jaunt – Hyatt House San Jose/Silicon Valley

A few weeks ago I had the opportunity to visit the  San Jose area for work. Spotting a conveniently located Hyatt property, I jumped at the opportunity to diversify my points (having spent most of the last few years between Marriott and Starwood properties).

The Hotel

Located in a convenient cluster of restaurants and  stores, the Hyatt House provides a great deal of convenience to travelers. Though the parking is complimentary – there is a sizeable parking structure behind the hotel – there is shuttle service offered to and from the airport as well as other locations nearby. There are quite a few restaurants within a mile or so, as well, which makes for a nice walk when it comes to dinner!

The rooms are just what you would expect from an extended-stay property – a comfortable bed, sitting area, and kitchenette. Nothing that really stands out, but not a disappointment by any means. The fitness center, located behind the in-house restaurant, offers cardio equipment, free-weights, and a cable cross machine.

The in-house restaurant also offers a breakfast buffet as well as an omelette bar. Though you can build your own omelette each morning, they do have a daily special as well.

The Rok

Next door to the hotel was what grew to be one of our favorite dining spots: Rok Steakhouse and Grill. Local to San Jose, Rok is known for offering a grill-your-own experience at your dining table… on a rock. Though a little pricey, I can’t recommend it enough. My coworkers and I wound up going back twice. It certainly didn’t hurt that they had WhistlePig Old World.

A nice touch with their drinks menu is that they list the notes you can expect with their liquors, making it easier to get a feel for what you might like to sip on with your meal! They also offer whiskey flights (which I regret I wasn’t able to sample during this visit).

Sendo Sushi

A short (2/3rds of a mile) walk from the hotel is Sendo Sushi, which we discovered purely by chance. Very reasonably priced having excellent food, I’m very confused why the ratings are averaging to 4.2/5 on Google. Don’t let that number dissuade you! The portions are adequate and the presentation will blow you away.

The Club at SJC

After a very long week, I was finally flying home. Unfortunately the TSA Pre-Check line was closed when I got to the airport, so we had to use regular security at the time.

The San Jose airport has only one lounge, but it is easily accessible between Priority Pass and a variety of other partnerships. As with other “The Club” locations, everything is complimentary. This is a nice change from some lounges that insist on up-selling you for everything.

Though the number of outlets was severely lacking and the WiFi wasn’t the greatest, the lounge itself had a nice atmosphere and the attendants were very friendly. I can definitely see myself returning here on future trips to the area.

Recent LAX Visit and @Delta First Class Meal – Antipasto Salad

The Theme Building

While in LA for work recently, I caught a glimpse of a KLM Queen flying overhead as I returned my rental car. It’s been quite some time since I’ve seen one of those!

Long Live the Queen!

I was pleasantly surprised with an upgrade on the way back to Raleigh. Initially rather worried with the weather hitting the South-East, I was notified of a potential delay and a quick call confirmed that a late flight in the morning had cascaded throughout the day. Thankfully, a very helpful representative got me rebooked on a flight routing through MSP (instead of ATL).

While waiting for boarding, I noticed that not only did I get my preference for a window-seat, I got upgraded! Score! Though not a particularly long flight, the crew was stellar (as always — you spoil me, Delta!). When it came to meal choices, I opted for the antipasto salad as I wasn’t too hungry. Not only was the salad excellent (with lightly oiled crostini), it came with tiramisu!

Antipasto Salad
Antipasto Salad
Tiramisu

Knocked it out of the park again, Delta!

San Diego Restaurant: 94th Aero Squadron

Though I have only visited once, it is safe to say that this hidden gem has made quite the impression!

Location

Tucked away on Balboa Avenue, directly adjacent to Montgomery-Gibbs Executive Airport, is the 94th Aero Squadron [menu].

Ambiance

The building façade is reminiscent of a WW2-era farmhouse, complete with exposed brick, vintage airplanes, and carefully maintained interior decor.

More pictures are available at their website.

Food

Let’s face it… this is the important bit. While a buffet is offered, you are always able to order à la carte. Though the buffet looked amazing, I opted for a Reuben. Though there was quite a lot of corned beef, it was still easy to eat (easier than those from some restaurants that get seriously carried away with sandwich construction).

My coworkers opted for the prime-rib French Dip, and they couldn’t stop raving about it. The creamed horseradish was particularly tasty, apparently!

If you are even in the area, you should make it a point to give it a shot – I know I’ll be coming back!

@Delta First Class Meal – Tandoori Chicken with Quinoa Salad

Delta has really been stepping up their catering game of late, and my recent flight from San Diego to Detroit is proof that they are taking it seriously. Since I was on an odd numbered flight (DL 833), meal orders were taken from the back to the front, so I didn’t have a choice in options. While I was a little worried when I heard what was available, I was completely (and very pleasantly) surprised!

The lunch entree on the flight that day was described as “tandoori chicken with quinoa salad”, so I didn’t quite know what to expect. Tandoori chicken is dry by definition, and meats on flights tend to be drier still given the combination of cooking method, pressurization, and air. I was pretty worried… and not just because I was getting Indian food on an American airline! 😉

Surprise Number One

Once the meal was served, I was impressed by how Delta opted for a chilled presentation of tandoori chicken. This allowed the chicken to remain more moist than it would have been after re-heating in a convection oven. The addition of almond slices was a nice touch, and between the almonds and the quinoa there was a nice balance of texture.

Tandoori chicken with quinoa

Surprise Number Two

Raita.

Raita!

It’s hard to explain how important raita is to Indian cuisine… much like Greek cuisine’s relationship with tzatziki. It is found with most preparations of dry meats (or particularly spicy food) to reintroduce some moisture and also tame spicier foods. The texture of the thin cuts of cucumber also helps with the dining experience. Delta did their homework on how to properly serve Indian food!

Surprise Number Three

Accompanying the chicken and quinoa was a chilled salad composed of orange, onion, and feta cheese. The acidity was just what the meal needed.

Cubed orange salad with onions and feta

Finally, dessert. A nice selection of fruit accompanied by a mini apple pie!

Mini apple pie and fruit

Closing Thoughts

I can’t say enough positive things about how far Delta has come with their domestic First Class meal offerings. They are putting a great deal of thought into meal composition and my stomach definitely appreciates it! Kudos, Delta!

@Delta’s Narrow Wide-Body, the Domestic 767-300

Ship 1402 from SAN to ATL

Recently I had the opportunity to fly on what I like to refer to (affectionately, of course) as a narrow wide-body. Delta has a handful of Boeing 767-300 (not ER or LR, mind you) that have their first class in a 2x2x2 configuration. These seats are standard recline only, not angled or lie-flat as other 767s you might encounter, so don’t get too excited when you see what you’ll be flying!

If you get there early enough, you can see the walk-about

As it is a 767, it is configured with two aisles going down the length of the plane, so it is by definition a wide-body. The “narrow” part comes down to the seats in first class. Let’s look at a few different planes, shall we? Pay attention to the seat width and pitch between first class in all of them.

We’ll start with a few smaller planes… the CRJ-900, ERJ-175, and MD-88.

CRJ-900: 19.6” width, 37” pitch
ERJ-175: 20” width, 37” pitch
MD-88: 19.6” width, 37” pitch

As you can see, all three feature a 37 inch pitch (how far you can recline), with nearly 20 inch wide seats in first class.

Next, we’ll look at a couple of larger planes: B737-900ER and the B757-300. Both of these can be used for transcontinental routes, so it isn’t any surprise that they have wider seats.

B737-900ER: 21” width, 37” pitch
B757-300: 21” width, 37-38” pitch

Finally, we come to the 767-300 that Delta uses for domestic non-DeltaOne routes.

B767-300: 18.5” width, 37-38” pitch

That’s right – it has narrower seats than the CRJ-900. The pitch is certainly appreciated, but don’t expect as roomy of a seat as any of the planes mentioned above.

The Cabin

First class in a 2x2x2 configuration

When you step onto the plane, your first thought might be “is this from the 80s?” And personally, I don’t think you’d be far off. From the seats…

Tiiiiiiiiiiiiny.

To the in-flight entertainment…

At least it tilts?

To the over-head controls…

To the storage bins.

Don’t expect to fit larger bags up here.

The storage bins on the outsides of the aisles could only fit a standard roll-aboard bag rotated length-wise. Travel light if you find yourself on one of these birds!

Now, I don’t want to make it sound like I didn’t enjoy myself on this flight, because in all honesty I did. That is a testament to the attitude and attentiveness of the Delta flight crew, no two ways about it. The crew is 80% of why I fly Delta, and this flight was no exception in that regard.

We were greeted with smiles and the crew made sure everyone was able to get settled in with minimal issues. Once in the air, the captain let us know that thanks to a nice tailwind, we would be arriving early (the other part of why I love flying Delta – I’m always at least on time, and often early) in Atlanta.

Lunch

We were given options between a salmon salad and mushroom lasagna for our lunches, and I opted for the salmon salad.

The entrée

The salmon was served on a bed of baby spinach and accompanied by purple potatoes (which happen to be my favorite) and cabbage “pasta” with small peppers. The balance between acidity and spice was perfect for eating in a pressurized cabin in the sky, and it would have gone perfectly with a nice Chardonnay.

Dessert!

Dessert was a delicious fruit/cheese medley. I opted not for the sweeter dessert that was offered, though, so I can’t comment on that.

The remainder of the flight proved to be uneventful. There was a little turbulence through the northern part of Texas, but we landed early as promised by the pilot! Overall, it was quite an enjoyable trip.

Cheers!

Complimentary Meals, Courtesy of @Delta

On a recent trip from JFK to San Diego, I had a chance to see Delta’s new menu for their complimentary meals. What I found interesting was that the offerings were different from their Flight Fuel menu. Additionally, in addition to splitting it up into “Eastbound” and “Westbound”, it is further divided into three distinct meals.

I thought it was a nice touch to also have the routes that the menu applied to. Certainly makes it easier to find out exactly what your offerings will be!

I opted for the cheese plate (I can never say no to cheese!), and was pleasantly surprised by the quality of the cheese, even if it was a little broken. 😉

Raleigh Restaurant: Margaux’s

Though I’ve lived in Raleigh a fair amount of time, I haven’t explored nearly as many of the restaurants as I would have liked to. Thankfully, my girlfriend is more than happy to help me do that!

Margaux’s has an interesting offering with heavy French influences, and it goes well beyond its name. The menu is divided into appetizers, salads & soups, permanent entrees, rotational entrees, village dining, and a prix fixe menu. Because of the sheer number of options, it can be a little overwhelming to make a decision!

My girlfriend can’t resist an authentic French onion soup, and Margaux’s did not disappoint! The Gruyere was perfectly crusted onto the bowl, and the onion was delicious in the broth. I went with the Choucroute Garnie, which was both very well presented as well as delicious.

Housemade Tasso, Chorizo, Andouille Sausage

For entrees, my girlfriend opted for lamb, while I went with triggerfish. I had actually never heard of triggerfish before, so I wasn’t too sure what to expect going in, but found it to be quite light.

Rosemary grilled lamb loin with gratin potatoes, apple-mint jelly & red wine reduction
Grilled triggerfish on a bed of braised green lentils, artichokes & cipollini onions

The lamb was spectacular. If you have the opportunity – give it a shot before it is rotated out of season! I am definitely going to be coming back!