[Best of the Santa Clara Valley 1997]

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Best of North San Jose

Best Place Not to Feed the Ducks
Nestled between Penitencia Creek and the Berryessa Community Center is Penitencia Pond, a man-made body of water that houses various wildlife, including a few dozen ducks fattened on the frequent bread feedings of park visitors. And even though tossing chunks of bread to the quaint quackers has become an American tradition, park rangers say the practice has gotten way out of hand. Feeding wild ducks bread is "akin to feeding your kids Twinkies all day," says park ranger John Goldsworthy, because bread is completely devoid of any nutrients that the ducks need to stay healthy and reproduce correctly. Feeding the ducks can also pollute the water and encourage the birds to break their migration pattern, Goldsworthy says. Though Vasona Lake Park in Los Gatos has started an education program to prevent bread-feeding, according to senior park ranger Reece Current, the north San Jose parks (Penitencia Creek, Ed Levin and Alviso parks) currently lack the resources to prevent the practice. So it's up to the citizens to curb the crumb-tossing. Park rangers suggest cracked corn and grain as healthy alternatives.
3050 Berryessa Road, San Jose

Best Alternative to Watching
Bill Nye the Science Guy
With Berryessa Community Center's unique class offerings, kids interested in science are no longer relegated to passively watching TV programs about the subject. One of over 150 classes offered this summer at the community center was Science Explorers, a class taught by preschool teacher Cari Barcellos. Under the watchful eye of Barcellos, kids 6 to 11 years old dissected a shark, made edible atoms, created volcanoes and were just generally encouraged to learn about science by being creative. "It's not 'do it my way,' it's 'do it your own way and learn from experience,' " Barcellos says. Future science classes include "Amazing Energy," which explores media such as light, sound and electricity, and "Little Scientists," a class for preschoolers. But besides botany and biology, the community center teaches classes in art, sewing, karate and computers. "The community expects an enormous amount from us," says Berryessa Community Center staffer Tony Marquez. "We do our best to fulfill those needs."
3050 Berryessa Road, San Jose (408/251-6392)

Best Whackable Party Decorations
Dulceria Mi Carnaval transforms newspaper, cardboard and tissue paper into elaborate piñata creatures: Batman, Barney, cowboys, mermaids and even Tecate bottles. In addition to selling made-to-order piñatas, Dulceria Mi Carnaval, which translates into "candy store carnival," is also a purveyor of party-throwing necessities like candy and party favors. But the piñatas, which are shipped in from Mexico and Los Angeles, or handmade in the two San Jose shops, are the big sellers, says Cynthia Velazquez, who co-owns the stores with her husband, José. The piñata's popularity has risen because is isn't used just to celebrate birthdays anymore, she says. People purchase piñatas for baby showers and baptisms nowadays, though traditionally they were used during posadas, or the Mexican Christmas celebration. With Dulceria's uncanny ability to piñata-ize almost anything, what's the most bizarre thing they've ever been asked to create? "Body parts," Velazquez says. "Sometimes people throw adult-themed parties."
1161 E. Santa Clara, San Jose (408/295-3633)
1524 San Carlos, San Jose (408/995-6434)

Best Answer to Corporate
Coffee and Video Chains
Frappuccinos and video membership cards may be all the rage, but Berryessa business owner Steve Bossio doesn't buy it. Bossio, the eight-year owner of Steve's Goodtime Video and Coffee.com in San Jose, has always championed independent retailers. Bossio acknowledges that corporations can offer consistent quality, but they also tend to be "vanilla and middle-of-the-road." Steve's Goodtime Video and the adjoining Coffee.com, however, are anything but bland. According to Bossio, the video store focuses on the high-end market, renting laser discs and foreign and classic videos. Steve's Goodtime Video, which circulates about 9,000 titles, also has a tendency to pick up the drama over the action flick, and the director's cut instead of the final edit. And no, the community and family-oriented business doesn't carry anything X-rated.
1204 N. Capitol Ave., San Jose (video: 408/272-1381; cafe: 408/923-4662)

Best Sun-Tanned Fruit
Sliced apricots sun themselves atop wooden slats on four acres of blacktop at Zoria Farms in north San Jose. The business, which specializes in high-quality dried fruits, was founded by Nick Zoria in 1921, when San Jose was considered the "dried-fruit capital of the world." Nick's grandson John took over the farm in 1969 and has carried on his grandfather's tradition of quality. The Zorias also pride themselves on the family atmosphere of the business. "The Zorias are concerned about the employees' welfare, and not just about work-related things," says quality assurance manager Dannie Cantos. "Even the top management is easy to approach here." And probably nothing demonstrates the Zorias' sense of family better than the farm's mess hall, where 40 crockpots line the back wall. The pots were provided by the Zorias to keep the employees' food warm until break time. The pots are shared by a group of four to five employees known as "families."
234 N. Capitol Ave., San Jose (408/258-2900)


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From the Sept. 18-24, 1997 issue of Metro.

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