Sweet Sounds Downtown and Dinner at Xocolatz

Another Tuesday night with perfect weather for "Sweet Sounds Downtown", Westfield's summer jazz festival.

At the PNC Stage we spent quite some time with the Eric Mintel Quartet, a classic refined jazz combo, playing jazz standards from Dave Brubeck et. al. as well as their own (very interesting and innovative) compositions. Most impressive were the sophisticated solos and improvisation parts. For me, who I'm just starting to learn to play the piano, Eric Mintel's mastery of that instrument is incredible.

Next, on the lawn in front of the train station, the Chuck Lambert Band played high-energy dynamic traditional blues. Not a bad performance, but IMHO, I have seen other bands at this same place that I liked better with a more refined and expressive sound.

At the Bombay store stage we had Westfield's own Full Count Big Band perform smooth, energizing big band sound. The very authentic Tom Jones impersonation by one of the musicians (see image) was quite enjoyable. Similarly moving were the vocals of Aubrey Parasolle who in her early 20ies performs stylistically confident similar to some of the old stars of the genre.

The Roamin' Gabriels in front of the Baptist Church were unfortunately just taking a break when we arrived. As we were both somewhat hungry we didn't want to wait much longer and headed back to restaurant row.

We wanted to find a place where we could get good food, sit outside and enjoy the music. And once again we were lucky at Xocolatz. Not only did the owner come outside to welcome us, ready to put out another table, they also had a very interesting sounding "Mexican burger" on their special jazz festival menu.

As usual we got a bottle of wine at the Liquor Basket. As much as I was impressed about the decent selection of white wines, in particular in the chilled section, the last time I shopped for wine there, as much was I disappointed by the somewhat limited selection of reds. Most of what I saw was pretty mainstream, things we've had before. Only a few curious ones can be found on the shelf. I picked a pinot noir from Australia that turned out to be OK but nothing special.

But then the food more than made up for the only average wine. To start it off, I had the navy beans and chorizo soup. It came in a large bowl and was topped with some fresh herbs. The soup tasted very good, full-bodied and just a little bit spicy, comfortable but not boring. The burger then was a handful, size wise and taste wise. It was not one of these mega-pounder burgers that are en vogue in some chain restaurants but it wasn't one of the smallish ones either. I ordered it medium-well as I'm always a bit careful with ground meat and they got it just right. The meat was just a slight bit pink in the middle, nicely seared on the outside to keep the juices and the taste inside. The texture was slightly firm without being dense and dry as it often happens when overcooked. The burger was loaded with bacon, sauteed mushrooms and cheese. The explicit taste of the beef together with the smoked bacon flavors and the mushroom nuances combined to a splendid, very enjoyable burger experience. It came with side of Cajun spiced fries. I'm typically very critical with fries, but these had a good texture and the Cajun flavors only enhanced the experience.

My wife had the quesadilla salad from the regular menu. Previously they had only offered items from the special menu Tuesdays, probably because of the high demand for the jazz festival. They seemingly did change that policy and you can now order from the regular menu which is replete with interesting, creative sandwiches and salads as well as entrees at reasonable prices. My wife was as impressed by her quesadilla salad as I was by my burger. With the decent portion size we decided to skip dessert and instead got a small pastry on our way home passing by at Bovella's.

On Tuesdays for the jazz festival or for any other occasion, Xocolatz is a very pleasant, often overlooked, choice in Westfield's restaurant scene. In particular, it is typically fairly easy to get a table outside. Check out their web site for their hours as they aren't open for dinner every day.

Signing Off - The Westfield Blogger

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