Friday, October 17, 2014

101 North: Mill Valley, Old Mill Park and Mill Valley Market


Old Mill Park  On Throckmorton Ave./Old Mill Rd., (415) 383-1370.  Free.  Holding the town’s namesake 1834 sawmill, this pretty park is sheltered by an old-growth redwood grove and offers idyllic streamside picnicking.  A rustic sun-speckled playground area has picnic tables, some of which are inside a circle of giant redwoods.  The park is famous as the beginning point of the 7.5-mile Dipsea Trail leading to Stinson Beach. 


Picnic Pick-Up
Mill Valley Market  12 Corte Madera Ave./Throckmorton Ave., (415) 388-3222.  M-Sat 7-7:30, Sun 9-7.  Family-owned since 1929, this small but well-stocked grocery sells everything required for a fabulous picnic.  It specializes in locally made products and even grows some of its own produce.  An extensive selection of honeys, mustards, green olives, vinegars, salad dressings, and jams are on the shelves, and a deli/bakery tucked in the back dispenses prepared salads and baked goods.  

More things to do in Mill Valley.

Even more things to do in Mill Valley. 

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An overnight escape to Mt. Tam.

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image ©2014 Carole Terwilliger Meyers
 

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

101 North: Sausalito, Background Information


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SAUSALITO:  A Little Background


view of San Francisco from Sausalito, California
People come from all over the world to stroll Bridgeway, the main street in this warm and sunny town.  A former fishing village, Sausalito is often referred to as California’s Riviera and is now a magnet for both artists and tourists and remains a pleasure for both.  Restaurants and boutiques abound, and the view across the bay to Tiburon and San Francisco is stellar.


hillside stairway in Sausalito, California
Take time to climb some of the intriguing hillside stairways found throughout town.  Once shortcuts to brothels and speakeasies, they now lead to beautiful bay views.  Excelsior Lane is the longest.  A warning—the largest source of income for the city is parking fines.  It is interesting to note that Jack London wrote the opening chapters of The Sea Wolf here.



Vina del Mar Park in Sausalito, California

Viña del Mar Park  Bridgeway/El Portal, downtown.  Named for Viña del Mar, Chile, which is a Sausalito sister city, this sweet little triangle-shaped park is known for two features left over from the Court of the Universe (which was designed by Sausalito architect William Faville) at the 1915 Panama Pacific Fair and Exposition in San Francisco:  its fountain and twin 14-foot elephant statues (known as Jumbo and Pee Wee).  They were moved here by ferry when the fair closed, and are not the originals but instead concrete versions made from a plaster cast.


More Information:
Sausalito Chamber of Commerce  1913 Bridgeway, (415) 331-7262. 

Visitor Center and Historical Exhibit  780 Bridgeway, across from Poggio Restaurant, (415) 332-0505.  Free.  The Sausalito Historical Society operates a small museum inside this former icehouse originally located on Caledonia Street.  Exhibits include photos of the building of World War II’s Liberty ships. 

More things to do in Sausalito.

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images ©2014 Carole Terwilliger Meyers

Monday, October 13, 2014

101 North: Sausalito, Casa Madrona Hotel

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Casa Madrona Hotel  801 Bridgeway.  63 rooms.  Some kitchens & fireplaces.  Full-service spa.  Pets ok.  Valet parking $24.  Nestled against a picturesque hill above Bridgeway, this hotel offers lodging in either a converted 1885 Victorian house in back--the oldest structure in Sausalito, it is now dubbed The Mansion--or in newer, tastefully decorated contemporary rooms sprinkled down the hillside amid fragrant, blooming gardens and featuring water views.


The Alexandrite Suite at Casa Madrona Hotel in Sausalito, California
The Mansion features tall doors, lovely original wood and tile work, and an ultra-luxurious Alexandrite Suite that is popular with celebs and which has its own exercise room and a secret passage.  Think Rolling Stones and Pink Floyd from the past; lips are more tightly sealed about the present due to non-disclosure clauses. 


Poggio Trattoria The Alexandrite in Sausalito, California
Under separate ownership, elegant Poggio Trattoria specializes in classic northern Italian fare.  Diners feast on delectable items such as crostini topped with Tuscan chicken liver, twice-cooked Tuscan vegetable-and-bread soup, and delicate wood-roasted whole fish with fennel.  Rustic pastas and grilled chicken are also very good, and don’t miss the killer Caesar salad.  Reservations advised.  Valet parking $24.
Poggio on Urbanspoon

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images ©2014 Carole Terwilliger Meyers

Monday, October 6, 2014

101 North: Mill Valley, Piazza D’Angelo


Piazza D’Angelo  22 Miller Ave., (415) 388-2000.


 interior of Piazza D'Angelo in Mill Valley, California
Designed to resemble an Italian town square, this large and comfortable restaurant has a retractable skylight over its main dining room and an Italian villa-style garden area for al fresco dining.  Terra cotta floors, original modern art, and contemporary Italian music combine to set the mood.


tagliatelle Bolognese at Piazza D'Angelo in Mill Valley, California
Rotisserie-grilled meats are excellent, as are the antipasti, risotti, and pastas, which are available in both full and half sizes (my favorite is the housemade tagliatelle pasta with Bolognese sauce).  Tasty pizzas baked in a wood-burning oven are also an option.  A rich tiramisu dessert, served in an oversize stemmed glass, is ample for two.
Piazza D'Angelo on Urbanspoon

More things to do in Mill Valley.

Even more things to do in Mill Valley. 

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images ©2014 Carole Terwilliger Meyers

Friday, October 3, 2014

San Francisco: Schroeder’s

Schroeder’s  240 Front St., Financial District, (415) 421-4778.  No reservations for front.  L M-F, D M-Sat; $$-$$$.  Dating back to 1893, this is the oldest and largest German restaurant on the West Coast.  It was closed for a while, but recently reopened with new owners.  


beer hall at Schroeder's restaurant in San Francisco
The open, updated interior includes a beer hall with communal picnic-style tables in the front, which is separated from a more formal restaurant in the back by floor-to-ceiling, see-through black mesh curtains.  Decor highlights include massive circular chandeliers that mimic those I’ve seen in German Oktoberfest tents, a large display of vintage steins through which you can view the open kitchen, and cleaned-up original dark wainscoting and Herman Richter murals from the 1930s.  On the Friday evening I visited, the front was packed and hopping with an after-work crowd.  Many people crowded around the vintage rosewood bar and others sat at tables drinking enormous boots of beer (they come in 2 and 3 liters).  The back dining room where I sat was more subdued.  Though the food is clearly described as modern Cal-German, it seems that many diners complain that it is not traditional German.  I loved the seasonal pickled vegetables that included carrots, cauliflower, little cocktail onions, and shredded fermented turnips.  And though I liked the spaetzle, it was actually more like a corn salad, with teeny tiny little spatzels the size of corn kernels mixed with actual roasted corn kernels and some ricotta.  


bratwurst at Schroeder's restaurant in San Francisco
Bratwurst comes with sauerkraut, sour pickles, and hot mustrd, plus a soft roll that is perfect to sop up the sauce; but I noticed too late that my particular brat was undercooked (be sure to always check any sausage anywhere before you eat it).  


wiener schnitzel at Schroeder's restaurant in San Francisco
Wiener schnitzel was crispy but could use more flavor.  


Black Forest dessert at Schroeder's restaurant in San Francisco
The Black Forest dessert, which I desperately wanted to be the traditional Black Forest Cake of my dreams, was in reality a few delicious cherries and carmel corn mixed with a kirsch reduction atop a slab of dark chocolate.  Next time I’d like to sit in the front with the smallest boot and try the potato pancakes, which I hear are a must, and the sauerbraten, which I hear is coming soon.  
 
images ©2014 Carole Terwilliger Meyers

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

101 North: Guerneville, Guerneville 5 & 10


Guerneville 5 & 10  16252 Main St., (707) 869-3404.  Daily 10-6.  Since 1949, this classic dime store

exterior of Guerneville 5 & 10 in Guerneville, California

interior of Guerneville 5 & 10 in Guerneville, California
has dispensed low-cost goods such as salt-water taffy, fake cigarettes, and Red Heart yarn.  Everything you need, but didn’t know you needed, is here.

More things to do in Guerneville.

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image ©2014 Carole Terwilliger Meyers

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

1 North: Fort Bragg, North Main Street shops


A walk along North Main Street allows a look at some of the town's most interesting shops. 

 
Carol Hall's Hot Pepper Jelly Company shop in Fort Bragg, California
Carol Hall's Hot Pepper Jelly Company  330 N. Main St.  Daily 10-5:30.  Pick up a souvenir jar of delicious pepper jelly here.  Poured atop cream cheese and served with crackers, it makes  an instant hor'dourve.  I prefer the colorful red pepper jelly, but there are many other flavors, including mango pepper and jalapeno pepper.  More house products include jams and mustards and dessert toppings, and many other local food products are also available.

Mendocino Chocolate Company  232 N. Main St.  Daily 10-5:30.  Stop in for hand-dipped chocolates and truffles.


Northcoast Artists Gallery in Fort Bragg, California
Northcoast Artists Gallery  362 N. Main St.  Daily 10-6.  This cooperative gallery displays and sells the works of local artists.  Member artists take turns operating the shop. 

Roundman's Smoke House  412 N. Main St., (800) 545-2935, (707) 964-5954.  M-F 9-5:30, Sat 10-5:30, Sun 10-3.  Stop in for smoked meat, fish, cheese, and an assortment of jerkies—including salmon or turkey—and flavors.  Summer sausage is also very good.  Items can be vacuum-sealed so they stay fresh.  Bread from a local bakery is available, and so it is easy to put together a simple picnic. 

More things to do in Fort Bragg. 

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images ©2014 Carole Terwilliger Meyers

Friday, September 26, 2014

101 North: Philo, Phillips Hill Winery


Phillips Hill Winery  5101 Hwy. 128, in Philo, (707) 895-2209.  Tasting daily 10:30-5.  Tasting $5.


tasting room at Phillips Hill Winery in Philo, California
Situated in a rustic old building that was once used for drying apples, this open-air tasting room under which a stream cheerily meanders is delightful in warm weather.  I enjoyed tasting a creamy, smooth, un-oaky 2013 Ridley Vineyard Chardonnay; an aromatic, dry 2013 Gewurztraminer from the adjacent Valley Foothills Vineyard; and a soft 2012 Valenti Vineyard Pinot Noir.  Attractive label art, designed by owner Toby Hill, makes this luscious wine even more special.  Plan ahead and bring a lunch to enjoy in a picnic area under a gigantic weeping willow.  Optionally, a plate of French cheeses and charcuterie is usually available for purchase in summer, and if you are here at the right time you can pick a pear or apple for dessert right off one of the trees.  In winter, tasting moves indoors and upstairs.


Aroma Shed at Phillips Hill Winery in Philo, California
Be sure to visit the Aroma Shed to sniff wine descriptors and the former fruit stand to purchase wine jams imported from France.  The actual wine-making facility is located on Mendocino Ridge.


vintage apple dryer at Phillips Hill Winery in Philo, California
vintage apple dryer

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images ©2014 Carole Terwilliger Meyers

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

80 North: Berkeley, Caffe Strada

Caffe Strada  2300 College Ave./Bancroft Way, (510) 843-5282.  Daily 6am-11pm; $.  Cash only.  I am particularly fond of this coffeehouse located directly across from campus because of its expansive outdoor seating sheltered by mature trees.


outdoor courtyard at Caffe Strada in Berkeley, California
Outdoor heaters make it pleasant even in our cold evenings.  Because it is continuously busy, finding a table can be difficult.  Students are attracted by the free WiFi and sometimes set up shop for the day.  But I always find somewhere to perch.


order counter at Caffe Strada in Berkeley, California
The usual coffees are on the menu, of course, but I favor the Strada Bianca (white chocolate milk) on ice.  Pastries, cookies, cakes, brownies, scones, and more are also available.  Out of cash?--there's an ATM inside.

Caffe Strada on Urbanspoon

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images ©2014 Carole Terwilliger Meyers

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

80 North: Berkeley, Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive

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Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive  2626 Bancroft Way/College Ave.  Free 1st Thursday of month.  Many visitors think that this museum building itself is as interesting and unusual as its contents.


interior of Berkeley Art Museum in Berkeley, California
Built in a Modernist style of architecture, it is strikingly reminiscent of New York’s Guggenheim--except that it is angular instead of circular.  The Berkeley Art Museum’s permanent collection stresses modern and Asian art and includes a large collection of paintings by Abstract Expressionist Hans Hofmann.


"Hofmann by Hofmann" show at Berkeley Art Museum in Berkeley, California
A current show—“Hofmann by Hofmann”--displays some of the colorful paintings Hofmann himself gave as a gift to U.C. Berkeley.  It runs through December 21.  Another show, “Forrest Bess:  Seeing Things Invisible,” displays small paintings by this Texas artist through September 14.  Bess depicts his gender identity issues—he was born a male but identified as a hermaphrodite--in his work.


elephant god in show at Berkeley Art Museum in Berkeley, California
“Deities, Demons, and Teachers of Tibet, Nepal, and India” displays a glorious grouping through September 14.


gallery 2 prepping for show at Berkeley Art Museum in Berkeley, California
Gallery 2 prepping for folk art show
Beginning October 1, “American Wonder:  Folk Art from the Collection” will show portraits, weather vanes, and decorative sculptures from the BAM/PFA collection. 

The Pacific Film Archive has one of five world-class public archival film collections in the U.S.  It has the largest collection of Japanese titles outside of Japan and one of the world’s largest collections of silent and early films from the former Soviet Union and pre-1960 Eastern Europe, plus hundreds of experimental movies by West Coast filmmakers.  Film programs span world cinema from the silent era to the present.  Screenings take place at the PFA Theater at 2575 Bancroft Way.  The theater is clean, the sound system excellent, and the audience well mannered.  No snacks are available.
   

Babette cafe at Berkeley Art Museum in Berkeley, California
On the basement level, Babette opens to a courtyard and grassy expanse where children, especially, enjoy a good frolic.


quiche at Babette cafe at Berkeley Art Museum in Berkeley, California
It offers a very limited and weekly-changing breakfast and lunch menu based on locally sourced seasonal ingredients, and scrumptious house-made pastries are always available.  At brunch, my dining partner enjoyed the quiche of the day, while I ordered the entire a la carte menu:  two eggs over easy, perfectly roasted potatoes, tasty apple-smoked bacon, and housemade bread toasted and served with yummy plum jam.  Quirky policies include no salt and pepper shakers on the table, but if you request them you get the cafe’s single communal pepper grinder and a tiny open bowl of salt (this is Berkeley).  Also, no catsup is available, nor is a paper receipt—you must print out your receipt at home (I find this ridiculous in the name of saving trees, because if one was printed out at the counter it would be on a tiny piece of paper but at home it is on a full-size 8½” by 11” sheet).  Adding to the pleasant atmosphere, mellow background music sometimes radiates from vintage vinyl records played on an old-time turntable, and at other times it comes from a plugged-in iPod.  Though pricey for a counter-service cafe, the food is extra good. 


t-shirts at Cal Student Store in Berkeley, California
After my museum visit, we strolled down Bancroft Way towards Telegraph Avenue, passing the Cal Student Store, that is temporarily here selling Cal t-shirts and caps, and the San Francisco Soup Company, which is a great place for take-out or take-home.  We turned the corner onto Telegraph Avenue, and checked out two new fast-food spots.


interior of Sheng Kee Bakery in Berkeley, California
Sheng Kee Bakery  2307 Telegraph Ave./Bancroft Way, (510) 848-8200.  Daily 7am-11pm; $.  This bright, spacious bakery is part of a Bay Area chain.  It will suck you in when you see the mouth-watering array of pastries both sweet and savory.


chocolate cream buns at Sheng Kee Bakery in Berkeley, California
I chose several to take home for dinner, among them a ham-and-cheese croissant (yummy) and a chocolate-frosted cream-stuffed bun (not as tasty as it was beautiful).  Next time I’ll try the Purple Romance, consisting of soft taro bread stuffed with creamy taro.  The system is self-serve, so pick up a tray and tongs and select what you like.  Baked goods are kept in heated compartments behind glass.  Sandwiches, refined pastries, and boba milk tea are also available.  No seating is provided.


cookies at Pacific Cookie Company in Berkeley, California
In case you want even more sweets, a branch of Santa Cruz’s Pacific Cookie Company is next door.  You can’t go wrong with the white chocolate-macademia nut or the oatmeal-raisin. 

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images ©2014 Carole Terwilliger Meyers