Wednesday, July 23, 2014

San Francisco: Sakana Japanese Sushi Bar & Grill

Sakana Japanese Sushi Bar & Grill  605 Post St., 2 blks. from Union Square, (415) 775-7644.  L M-F, D daily; $$.

interior of Sakana Japanese Sushi Bar & Grill in San Francisco
Diners enter this small Japanese restaurant through split curtains into a one-room interior, where a sushi bar chef whips up delicacies upon request.  Spicy tuna roll with jalapeno and sashimi are both reputedly excellent.  

shrimp tempura at Sakana Japanese Sushi Bar & Grill in San Francisco
On the regular menu you’ll find fried squid legs, fried chicken, beef teriyaki, chcken katsu, shrimp tempura, and udon noodle soups.  Expect fresh ingredients and good value.  

Sakana on Urbanspoon

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images ©2014 Carole Terwilliger Meyers


Monday, July 21, 2014

80 North: Berkeley, Talavera Ceramics & Tile

Talavera Ceramics & Tile shop in Berkeley, California
Talavera Ceramics & Tile  1801 University Ave., (510) 665-6038.  M-Sat 10-6, Sun 12-6.  This colorful ceramic art form is manifested here on handmade tiles, tableware, sinks, fountains, and more.  Everything is imported from Mexico.  The designs were originally produced in the 13th century in Talavera de la Reina in Spain.  In the 16th century the style was introduced to Puebla in Mexico, and the tradition continues there today.  This shop has an extensive selection and even some well-priced seconds. 

More things to do in Berkeley.

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image ©2014 Carole Terwilliger Meyers


Friday, July 18, 2014

San Francisco: Union Square Cocktail Tour


Union Square Cocktail Tour  Departs near Union Square, (415) 355-4044.  Sat 4-6pm & W 7-9pm.  $64.  We sat in comfy chairs in the lobby of the Hotel Serrano while our guide, Zev, began this tour with a background lesson in everything cocktails.  The 1860s to 1920s was the golden era for cocktails, but they are coming back, complete with fresh-pressed citrus juices, and I wasn’t surprised to learn that San Francisco is the epicenter of a cocktail revival, since I’ve been enjoying them here for quite a while.  But--though it had to start somewhere--it was news to me that it was in S.F. that women first began sitting next to men in a bar.   I also learned that it is cocktail-crazed S.F. along with New York and London that are the top three places in the world to drink a cocktail.  Our tour took us to three bars I’d never before experienced.  In fact, I rarely go to a bar for a cocktail, instead usually opting for one with a meal in a restaurant, so it was special fun to traipse through the Union Square area with a pack of new buddies to bars awaiting us with trays of cocktails and an owner or barkeep to educate us about what we were drinking.


Chartreuse Swizzle in Clock Bar at Westin St. Francis in San Francisco
At the Clock Bar in the Westin St. Francis, where central poles display the time around the world, we had a Chartreuse Swizzle topped with a sprig of mint.  Made with peppery 110-proof Green Chartreuse containing 130 ingredients, this spirit is produced by French monks and is famous as both a cure-all and a hangover-producer. 


Peruvian Pisco Punch at Cantina bar in San Francisco
In the vivacious, independent, dark and deep Cantina, which boasts having the country’s most complete selection of Latin spirits, we downed a pink Peruvian Pisco Punch with an aromatic slice of orange peel in the bottom—the quintessential S.F. cocktail, having been served here since the early 1800s. 


Pequito Picante at Burritt Room bar in San Francisco
And at chef Charlie Palmer’s brick-walled Burritt Room in the Mystic Hotel, by the Stockton Tunnel, we had a spicy Pequito Picante.  It is interesting to know that the space was once a speakeasy as well as an insane asylum, but now, bartender Brian says, “We have fun here.”  And the music is really good. 

This tour takes about two hours.  It is a flat route and covers about ½ mile.  No food is served, so consider eating something before and/or after, and bring a bottle of water so you don’t get too hammered.  Bars and drinks on a particular tour can vary.  You must be age 21 or older to participate, and group size is limited to 12, which seemed perfect.  Tips for the bar servers is included, but do tip your guide 10-15 % if you are happy with him/her. 


More things to do in San Francisco.  
  
Way more things to do in San Francisco.

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images ©2014 Carole Terwilliger Meyers

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

101 North: Healdsburg, shops

Lulo shop in Healdsburg, California
Lulo  303 Center St., on plaza, (707) 433-7533.  Contemporary art and jewelry are sparsely displayed in this shop so that they really pop out at you.
 
One World Fair Trade shop in Healdsburg, California
One World Fair Trade  104 Matheson St., on plaza, (707) 473-0880.  Everything stocked in this gift shop is purchased through fair trade organizations that provide reasonable wages and living conditions to workers and artisans.  You’ll feel good about your choices. 

Antique Harvest shop in Healdsburg, California
Antique Harvest  225 Healdsburg Ave., near plaza, (707) 433-0223.  More than 20 dealers display their wares in a warren of spaces.  I like this shop in particular because the selection is vast and the prices are good.


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images © 2014 Carole Terwilliger Meyers

Monday, July 14, 2014

80 North: Berkeley, Love at First Bite Cupcakery


red velvet cupcake at Love at First Bite Cupcakery in Berkeley, California
Love at First Bite Cupcakery  1510 Walnut St., (510) 848-5727.  Tu-Sat 10-6, Sun 11-5.  The cupcakes, cakes, and cookies are made here from scratch using premium ingredients,  including Madagascar bourbon and Mexican vanillas; Saigon cinnamon; Guittard, Callebaut, and Schokinag chocolates and cocoa; and real butter, milk, and eggs from local dairies.  So that’s why I came here for my birthday red velvet cupcake.  One-bite mini cupcakes are also available, and the perfect indulgence on a normal day, but hey it was my birthday!  Also, I think that any of the cupcakes taste even better sitting outside at one of the colorful gingham-covered tables with a cup of Peet’s coffee brought from just around the corner.

Love at First Bite on Urbanspoon


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Way more thing to do in Berkeley. 

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image ©2014 Carole Terwilliger Meyers


Friday, July 11, 2014

101 North: Healdsburg, h2Hotel and Spoonbar

h2Hotel  219 Healdsburg Ave./Mill St., (707) 431-2202.  36 rooms.  Full breakfast.  Free parking, valet $15.  Pool.  Breakfast; restaurant; room service.  Pets ok.  This new LEED Gold-certified “eco chic” hotel, built in 2010, is located just a half block from the plaza.  A lobby fireplace made from salvaged Steinway piano cords sets the tone along with a staircase made with sustainably grown urban forest stewardship wood.  Each room has a deck or patio, naturally-striped bamboo floors, funky Peace Industry rugs, local art,  a Serta mattresses with luxurious Coyuchi brand white organic cotton linens and robes, a built-in desk with an ergonomic chair, a seating area, and a 27-inch flat-screen TV.  Guests fill provided water canisters at a central water source on each floor known as the Water Tap Bar and can choose sparkling or flat, cold or room temperature.  Suites have a convertible sofa bed, which makes it easy to accommodate children, and also a deep Japanese-style soaking tubs for two.  A solar-heated saltwater pool is positioned just off the lobby beside Foss Creek.  Loaner bikes are available, and a complimentary Ashtanga yoga class is scheduled on weekend mornings.  Also, complete spa services are available a block away at sister hotel Hotel Healdsburg.

Thai beet boudins at Spoonbar in Healdsburg, California

     Spoonbar—the hotel’s restaurant and bar—has a wall of large glass doors that are opened to the sidewalk in good weather (L Sat-Sun, D daily; bar nightly.)  Reclaimed elm planks serve as dining tables.  The complimentary full breakfast is served here and includes juices, fresh fruit, house-made baked goods, cereal, egg dishes, and local Flying Goat coffee and tea.  The bar is well known for its trendy and unique cocktail concoctions, and for tasty appetizers such as crispy Thai beet boudins and also chicken wings glazed with aleppo pepper and green papaya ribbons.
blood orange margarita at Spoonbar in Healdsburg, California
A blood orange margarita made with Frida Kahlo Blanco tequila and topped with petals from a yellow, daisy-like calendula flower is primo, and the bartenders are as cool as their drinks.

Spoonbar on Urbanspoon

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images © 2014 Carole Terwilliger Meyers

Monday, June 30, 2014

Greater East Bay: Orinda, Village Inn Cafe


Village Inn Cafe  204 Village Square/Orinda Way, (925) 254-6080.  B-L daily; $.  No reservations.

interior at Village Inn Cafe in Orinda, California
Popular with locals, this simple old-time coffee shop is a box of a room with a counter, Formica and chrome tables, and a wall filled with historic town photos.  It makes no effort to be cute, but it is usually cheery with animated chatter and is famous for breakfast, which is served until 11:25 a.m (on Sunday, it is all that is served all day).  Fresh-squeezed orange juice is always available.

hamburger at Village Inn Cafe in Orinda, California
The menu is classic American fare, which at lunch includes BLTs and ALTs, The Bird specialty sandwich (grilled turkey, bacon, and Swiss cheese on sourdough), and one of the fattest, messiest, and yummiest burgers I have eaten in a long time (the owner grinds the meat and makes the buns from scratch).  When the waitress handed me my burger, she warned, “Good luck with that!”  For my side, I picked the really crispy and greaseless house-made potato chips, but cottage cheese and peaches, macaroni salad, and potato salad are also options.  I indulged in a satisfying root beer float that came with additional A&W in a can, but you can also get an old-fashioned milkshake served in the mixer can or fresh-squeezed lemonade.

Village Inn Cafe on Urbanspoon

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images ©2014 Carole Terwilliger Meyers

Friday, June 27, 2014

101 South: Burlingame, New England Lobster Market & Eatery

New England Lobster Market & Eatery  824 Cowan Rd./Old Bayshore Hwy., E of 101, (650)  443-1559.  L-D daily; $$.  No reservations.  This operation started as a fish wholesaler in South San Francisco, morphed into a food truck business, then opened here as a fish market and restaurant and began bringing in lobsters galore.  The area is an industrial park, so there isn’t much else of interest around.  Step up to the counter and place your order, then select a seat at one of the picnic tables either indoors where the decor is industrial warehouse-style unfinished with high ceilings and chalkboard menus, or outdoors where umbrellas provide shelter from the sun.  
interior of New England Lobster Market & Eatery in Burlingame, California

The most popular item is the lobster roll sandwich ($17.50), which I prefer undressed with butter dip on the side.  I eat it with a fork, dipping the delicious lobster and pieces of the bread into melted butter.  This dish comes with housemade Kennebec potato chips and coleslaw.  
lobster roll at New England Lobster Market & Eatery in Burlingame, California

The lobster corn chowder and crab nachos are also very popular, and people like to wash it all down with blueberry lemonade.  You can also order a full lobster ($17.95) and do the picking yourself.  As you can see, prices are very good.  More seafood includes Dungeness crab, scallops, prawns, oysters, clams, and mussels.  Consider an It’s It ice cream sandwich for dessert (It’s It is made with oatmeal cookies, vanilla ice cream, and a coating of  chocolate; it was developed in 1928 at long-gone Playland-at-the-Beach in San Francisco.)

New England Lobster Market and Eatery on Urbanspoon

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images ©2014 Carole Terwilliger Meyers

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

101 South: Burlingame, Copenhagen Bakery & Cafe

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Copenhagen Bakery & Cafe  1216 Burlingame Ave./Lorton Ave., (650) 342-1357; B-L daily, D W-Sun; $.  This combination Danish bakery and restaurant produces a sweet little six-grain loaf and a great sweet French bread as well as exquisite European-style pastries.

counter at Copenhagen Bakery & Cafe in Burlingame, California
The extensive breakfast menu includes omelettes and pancakes as well as bacon and eggs and is served until 2:30 on weekends.  For lunch try a delicious German bologna on sweet French bread with a side of tasty potato salad and, of course, a dessert pastry.  Or get the Royal Lunch, a collection of far-from-dainty open-face sandwiches--each is an ice cream scoop of salad atop a tiny piece of pumpernickel.  Specialty coffee drinks and ice cream treats are also available.

sidewalk seating at Copenhagen Bakery & Cafe in Burlingame, California
Order at the counter, then find a seat in the cheery open dining rooms with sidewalk views—or out on the sidewalk itself. 
          After, spend some time shopping the stores lining this avenue. 


Copenhagen Bakery & Cafe on Urbanspoon

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images ©2014 Carole Terwilliger Meyers

Monday, June 23, 2014

Wine Country: Sonoma, Sebastiani Theatre

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Sebastianai Theatre in Sonoma, California
Sebastiani Theatre  476 First St. East, on the plaza, (707) 996-2020.  $9.50/3-D $12, 62+ & under 13 $7/$9, matinees everyone $7/$9.  Built in 1933 by August Sebastiani, this restored Italian Renaissance-style movie palace shows first-run films and also schedules live events.

More things to do in Sonoma.

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image ©2014 Carole Terwilliger Meyers