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Friday, May 23, 2014

Bray Butcher Block & Bistro

Let's have lunch. I hadn't seen my friend Armando in a while so we met up for a bite the other day. One of his favorite places to dine is the San Pedro Square Market in downtown San Jose.

The market is two buildings that contain a collective of restaurants and a few shops where one can order their food from a multitude of independent casual dining options. Then you decide where to sit. I've dined at small tables with friends and at the large communal table when I've been there alone.

Armando decided it was time to try BRAY Butcher Block & Bistro. Imagine your neighborhood BBQ joint. Now take the food up at least a handful of notches, not so fancy that it's fru fru, but more thoughtful in not only how the food is prepared and where their ingredients are sourced from, but how the flavors and textures meld and blend together.

It's a meat eaters haven for sure so I wasn't sure I wanted to eat there. I'm still eating small amounts of beef but continue to be very selective about the kind of beef I eat. Prather Ranch is still my preferred brand but I'm open to others that raise their livestock in humane and healthy ways, basically I don't care for factory farmed meat.

This sign and a chat with co-owner Josh Hanoka reassured me that this is meat I would feel comfortable eating. Grass fed, hormone free, and free range are definitely qualities I look for in the way farm animals were raised. They're the same reasons why I pay what some feel is an outlandish price ($8.99 a dozen) for pasture raised eggs.

Caring about where your food comes from, how it was raised, slaughtered, grown, made, and packaged is called conscious consumerism. Yeah, it's a lot to think about but given that a lot of food isn't as healthy as we think it is, for me, it's effort I'm willing to expend and dollars I'm willing to afford when possible.

And this is what I ordered: Bray's French Dip - House made roast beef with ooey gooey melted pepper jack cheese and horseradish cream on a soft black pepper onion bun accompanied alongside au jus and slaw. Best French Dip EVER. There's a little kick in there from that house made horseradish cream, a surprising touch. And the slaw held two more surprises: Bacon and blue cheese crumbles. It was fantastic, and I don't even like blue cheese! If Kitai were still with me I would have saved him the bacon bits. He loved bacon.

Can you tell I didn't like it at all?

This was Armando's dinner: Black & Blue Salad - Grilled iceberg wedge, red onion, roma tomato, twice smoked bacon, and crumbled blue cheese in a buttermilk blue dressing. Armando added a grilled chicken skewer and was shocked at how generous the portions were. Just like the beef in my sandwich, Armando commented the meat was very tender and the flavor was good. He also liked that the lettuce was lightly grilled, adding another layer of flavor to the salad.

BRAY also offers smoked deli meats made in house. If you enjoy deli meat and want low or no nitrate options to make sandwiches at home be sure to visit BRAY and check out their selection.

You'll find them in the Market Hall building to the west of the larger El Dorado Building. Or, if you're facing both on West St. John Street, they'll be in the building to the right.

What did we talk about over lunch? Armando is training to (again) ride with thousands of other cyclists in AIDS/LIFECYCLE, a seven day, 545 mile bike ride from San Francisco to Los Angeles. The ride is done each year to raise both awareness and money. From the AIDS/LIFECYCLE website:

"The costs associated with medical care and treatment for a person with HIV are about $20,000 per year. Access to life-saving drugs, clinical trials and state-of-the-art treatment helps those with the disease live a longer and better quality of life. AIDS/LifeCycle will help those living with HIV/AIDS gain greater independence and get the treatment and care they need. Prevention services geared towards high-risk populations will ensure that future generations will not experience the same level of loss that we have faced in the last two decades."

It's a great cause. To ride he's still seeking sponsors as he must meet a fundraising goal to participate. If you'd like to support his efforts just CLICK HERE and you'll be able to make a sponsorship donation to Armando on the official AIDS/LIFECYCLE website.

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