Visiting San Jose, California

Front side of the Winchester Mystery house (All photos by Lina Shah)

Since many of us are now vaccinated and feeling bit safe, we ventured our family spring vacation for this year to San Jose, California.

Amber India restaurant at Santanna Raw.

For Chicagoans, the sun and overall Mediterranean type climate of this Silicon Valley location is just amazing in the San Jose area. This time we took it easy and tried to visit only a few places where you feel comfortable, keeping safe distancing, etc.

Samosas – Crisp Idaho potatoes green peas dumplings, blistered shi-shito peppers.

One day we went to visit the Winchester Mystery House in San Jose. Beautiful, but bizarre, this Mystery house is an architectural wonder and historic landmark in the city. Once the personal residence of Sarah Winchester, the widow of firearms magnate William Wirt Winchester, the Queen Anne Style Victorian mansion is renowned for its size, architectural curiosities, and lack of any master building plan. This privately owned tourist attraction is a California historical landmark.

Palak Chat – Flash fried organic baby spinach, yoghurt, tamarind fennel dip.

History talks about how after her husband’s death in 1881, Sarah inherited millions and was also getting $1000 a day from her arms company. She had lots of money to spend and started building a mansion in Santa Clara county, where she did not use an architect and added on to the building in a haphazard fashion. This resulted in the home containing numerous oddities, such as doors and stairs that go nowhere, windows overlooking other rooms and stairs with odd-sized risers. Many believe these oddities are atMributed to her belief in ghosts. Environmental psychologists have theorized that the odd layout itself contributes to the feeling of the house being haunted today. We enjoyed learning about the history of this Winchester mansion.

Cauliflower Manchurian – Crispy fried cauliflower, tangy chilli garlic and scallion sauce.

We then headed to Santana Row, a major Silicon Valley thoroughfare, nearby to local landmarks like Westfield Valley Fair. Santana Row derives its name from Frank M. Santana, who served on San Jose’s planning commission in the 1950s, who is also the namesake for the area’s Frank M. Santana Park. The thoroughfare features a vibrant mix of over 50 stores, 30 restaurants, Cine Arts movie theatre and the boutique Hotel Valencia. We enjoyed walking the streets full of small shops and unique restaurants.


Edamame & Potato – Double cooked baby potatoes, edamame, ginger, tamarind saunf chutney.

A wonderful lunch was had by us at Amber India, a modern outpost of a local Indian chain, with a busy lunch buffet & signature entree. We enjoyed vegan and vegetarian items, like Samosa, papdi chaat, bhel and chili-paneer.

Lina Shah is a Freelance Writer, Editor, Teacher, Social Worker and Financial Professional. Inspired by her father, she is a multi-talented suburban Chicagoland wife and a mother of two, who also enjoys cooking, social gathering and event planning.



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