Thursday, May 5, 2016

80 North: Albany, Sam’s Log Cabin


Sam’s Log Cabin  945 San Pablo Ave./Solano Ave., in Albany, (510) 558-0494.  B-L Tu-Sun; $$.  No reservations.  Built in 1930 from a Sears & Roebuck catalog kit, this tiny, cozy log cabin has worn floors, lace curtains, and comfy banquettes along the walls.
exterior of Sam's Log Cabin in Albany, California
exterior of Sam's Log Cabin in Albany, California

I was expecting a counter with swivel stools, but that isn’t happening.  However, seating is comfortable, and overflow tables are available on a back porch that is especially nice in good weather.  The crowd here is notably hipster.
interior of Sam's Log Cabin in Albany, California
interior of Sam's Log Cabin in Albany, California

Quality ingredients include local organic produce, in-house whole-animal butchery, and in-house curing (it’s hard to imagine how they manage this, since this is a very little log cabin).
counter area at Sam's Log Cabin in Albany, California
counter area at Sam's Log Cabin in Albany, California

Breakfast is perhaps the most popular meal here and is served all day.  The menu features pancakes with fruit, a daily scramble special made with organic eggs (I enjoyed a satisfying white cheddar cheese-smoked ham-zucchini version, but had them put the zucchini on the side),
daily scramble at Sam's Log Cabin in Albany, California
daily scramble at Sam's Log Cabin in Albany, California

and mild chilaquiles.  OJ is fresh-squeezed, and scones and biscuits are housemade and a don’t-miss.  Lunch includes soups made from scratch, seasonal salads with local greens, and housemade fish sticks.  Thanksgiving coffee from Mendocino is the drink of choice.  Items remaining on my to-try list include banana walnut pancakes, biscuits with gravy, and the egg salad and turkey sandwiches. 
Sam's Log Cabin Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato
 


More things to do in Albany. 
 
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images ©2015 Carole Terwilliger Meyers

 

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

1 South: Cambria, Robin’s Restaurant

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Robin’s Restaurant  4095 Burton Dr., (805) 927-5007.  L-D daily; $-$$.  Reservations advised.  Operating within a converted house surrounded by a cottage garden, this pleasant spot uses homegrown herbs in full-flavored ethnic and vegetarian dishes (Robin’s claims to have “the largest selection of unique vegetarian dishes on the coast”—they definitely are not the usual).  The salmon bisque is a must, as are tasty curries prepared to order.  Salads, sandwiches, pastas, seafood, and tofu dishes are also on the menu.  Housemade desserts include a bread pudding and hot fudge sundae.  One very special table is in an alcove with arched stained-glass windows and a privacy curtain, and patio seating is available. 








Robin's Restaurant Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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Friday, April 29, 2016

Santa Cruz Mountains: Los Gatos, Hotel Los Gatos + Dio Deka

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Hotel Los Gatos  210 E. Main St., (866) 335-1700, (408) 335-1700.  71 rooms; $$$-$$$+.  Some fireplaces.  Heated pool; hot tub; sauna; full-service spa; fitness room.  Restaurant; room service.  Located just down the street from a Ferrari/Bentley showroom, this luxuriously spacious property has a colorful Tuscan-country style.  Public spaces are decorated with Mexican tiles and pottery, studded leather chairs, and ornate wood-inlayed Moroccan tables.  A sort of Mediterranean hacienda, it melds the two architectural styles with a terracotta-tiled roof and a spacious interior courtyard with palm trees and fountains.  Attractive art is displayed throughout.  Guest rooms are furnished luxuriously with richly colorful silk drapes and comforters, soft Egyptian cotton linens, and tile-and-granite bathrooms.

guest room at Hotel Los Gatos in Los Gatos, California
guest room at Hotel Los Gatos in Los Gatos, California


guest room at Hotel Los Gatos in Los Gatos, California
guest room at Hotel Los Gatos in Los Gatos, California

Dio Deka translates in Greek as the restaurant’s address number (210) and also is the area code for Athens.  This is the only Michelin-star Greek restaurant in the United States.  Delicious upscale ethnic cuisine is served in a tasteful ambiance.  Menu winners include silogi (an assortment of delicious spreads served with housemade pita), dolmathakia (grape leaves stuffed with a tasty mix of braised short ribs, rice, and mushrooms), and lavraki (mesquite-grilled fresh fish).  More entrĂ©e options include a variety of premium steaks as well as more Greek dishes.  For dessert, don’t miss the perfectly prepared traditional Greek beignets dipped in a thyme-honey syrup (they are made with co-owner Yiani’s mom’s recipe), and do wash them down with a Greek Kourtaki Muscat from Samos Island.

Greek beignets at Dio Deka in Los Gatos, California
Greek beignets at Dio Deka in Los Gatos, California

Afternoon tea is served in the hotel lobby on weekends by reservation.

Dio Deka Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato 

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images ©2016 Carole Terwilliger Meyers

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

880 South: Oakland, Bowl'd BBQ Korean Stone Grill


Bowl'd BBQ Korean Stone Grill  4869 Telegraph Ave./48th St., Temescal, (510) 654-2000.  L-D daily.  Based on centuries-old family recipes passed down to two sisters, exotic choices on this menu are so extensive that it isn’t a bad idea to spend some time online studying the options before your visit.  That’s what I did, and it allowed me to zero in on the bibimbop bowl consisting of rice, veggies, and a protein.  I picked a mixed grain base (the other choice is white rice) with spicy pork topping, and asked them to hold the sunnyside-up fried egg that is usually placed on top.  A sizzling version of this is served in hot stoneware.  This was served with miso soup and nine banchan sides of small pickled and spiced vegetables that are refilled of by request.  After I ate my lunch, I had enough food left over for two more meals at home.  The house specialty Korean-style Fried Chicken--referred to as “KFC”--takes 15 to 20 minutes to prepare.  Among the drinks are fruit-infused unfiltered rice wine and fruit slushies.  The way understated interior decor here includes charcoal gray and taupe painted walls, both inside and out, and stone-tile flooring.  

exterior of Bowl'd BBQ Korean Stone Grill in Oakland, California
exterior of Bowl'd BBQ Korean Stone Grill in Oakland, California

interior of Bowl'd BBQ Korean Stone Grill in Oakland, California
interior of Bowl'd BBQ Korean Stone Grill in Oakland, California

bibimbop bowl at Bowl'd BBQ Korean Stone Grill in Oakland, California
bibimbop bowl at Bowl'd BBQ Korean Stone Grill in Oakland, California
Bowl'D BBQ Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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images ©2016 Carole Terwilliger Meyers


Thursday, April 21, 2016

Santa Cruz Mountains: Saratoga, Hakone Gardens

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Hakone Gardens  21000 Big Basin Way (Hwy. 9), (408) 741-4994.  M-F 10-5, Sat-Sun 11-5; Nov-Feb to 4.  $10, 65+ & 5-17 $8.  Tea & cookies:  Sat-Sun in summer; $5.  Tea ceremony:  3rd Sun of month, Apr-Nov; $7.

wisteria in bloom at Hakone Gardens in Saratoga, California
wisteria in bloom at Hakone Gardens in Saratoga, California

Reached via a steep, narrow, paved road off the highway, this is the oldest authentic Japanese-style residential garden in the Western Hemisphere.  Originally a private garden but now a city park, it is typical of a mid-17th-century residential garden and is composed of four separate areas:  a Hill and Pond Garden,
Hill and Pond Garden at Hakone Gardens in Saratoga, California
Hill and Pond Garden at Hakone Gardens in Saratoga, California

a Tea Garden, a Zen Garden (where stones can represent either water or clouds, and sometimes gardens or mountains),
Zen Garden at Hakone Gardens in Saratoga, California
Zen Garden at Hakone Gardens in Saratoga, California

and a Bamboo Garden that boasts the largest collection of Japanese bamboo in a public park in the western world (bamboo from the garden is popular with decorators and available for sale in the gift shop).
Bamboo Garden at Hakone Gardens in Saratoga, California
Bamboo Garden at Hakone Gardens in Saratoga, California

Besides being soothing, a three-level waterfall symbolizes from the top down heaven-man-earth.
three-level waterfall at Hakone Gardens in Saratoga, California
three-level waterfall at Hakone Gardens in Saratoga, California

Special features include a Japanese-style house built without nails or adhesives,
Japanese house at Hakone Gardens in Saratoga, California
Japanese house at Hakone Gardens in Saratoga, California

a pond stocked with eye-catching koi (certain orange-spotted ones are valued at up to $40,000 each!),


and three authentic tea ceremony rooms.  The natural greens in this garden bring calmness and are accented with seasonal bloom.  A claim to Hollywood fame--the final third of "Memoirs of a Geisha: was filmed here.  A picnic area with tables is available.  Cultural classes are scheduled regularly, and an annual Japanese Cultural Festival is held each May.  

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images and video ©2016 Carole Terwilliger Meyers