Visit San Jose Makes Adventurous Food a Star at Convention Center

San Jose’s foodie scene has come a long way since three brothers living there in 1953 invented the Eggo Waffle. On Sept.  13, Team San Jose in California celebrated the first of what it hopes will be many Michelin-starred restaurants, at Adega in the heart of Little Portugal. The team brought in three other Michelin-rated chefs from New York and Portugal to cook with chef-owner Jessica Carreira and chef David Costa for some 50 food writers and dignitaries.

This seven-course journey through the flavors of seafood-infused southern European cuisine made savory stops with locally sourced Monterey abalone, white sturgeon caviar, and pig’s ear salad with garlic and cilantro. Carreira created the memorable dessert course of matcha creme brullee with black sesame cake and soy sauce ice cream—a combination that was both surprising and bright. Her father, Carlos, did the pairings with signature Portuguese wines from what has been described as one of the largest collections of Portuguese wine outside Portugal (the name of the restaurant means “wine cellar”). He also narrated the evening.

The elder Carreira explained that a lot of people were surprised when his daughter decided in 2015 that she wanted to open the high-end restaurant at that location, but he was certain that people would appreciate uniqueness executed well, so he supported her decision. The restaurant’s simple approach to food blends traditional salted cod and meat dishes with fresh seafood and a modern approach to traditional dishes. It worked. Within a year, the accolades—and the star—came knocking on her door.

Karolyn Kirchgesler, CEO of Visit San Jose, was not surprised. She is proud of the diversity of the city and its tastes. More than 40 percent of residents are born outside the United States. She loves sharing the bounty of what at one time was a largely agricultural area with visitors.

This focus on ensuring that groups are well fed is part of Kirchgelser’s job. In addition to marketing the city with its 4,000 guest rooms for groups, Team San Jose also runs the 367,526-square-foot San Jose McEnery Convention Center, and catering and tech services for the venue. “This way we know we can deliver on what we promise,” Kirchgelser says.

More often than ever, those promises involve accommodating special dietary needs or creating an inventive menu for a tech company bringing employees and users from all over the world to Silicon Valley. While traditional offerings of bagels and yogurt are available, groups can also build break stations of ginseng shooters, green tea cookies and soy milk drinks. Receptions could feature beef tenderloin tartar with crispy capers on a baguette, or duck confit quesadilla with cotija cheese and squash blossoms on a tortilla. The choices are limited only by imagination.

Eggo waffles are optional. As chef Carreira said when she introduced her olive oil torte studded with candied olives, olive oil dust and olive oil ice cream paired with a 10-year-old Madeira Malvasia, “When it comes to food, it is always good to keep an open mind.”