Friday, July 31, 2015

101 North: Larkspur, Picco and Pizzeria Picco


Picco  320 Magnolia Ave., (415) 924-0300.  D daily; $$$+.  Reservations advised.  Inside, this attractive restaurant offers a warren of dining spaces
dining room at Picco in Larkspur, California

as well as a bar;
bar at Picco in Larkspur, California

outside, a row of sidewalk-side  tables come with lap robes in case there is a chill.
outdoor dining at Picco in Larkspur, California


The menu includes a risotto that is made fresh every half hour, burrata with heirloom tomatoes, kennebec fries, wok-roasted broccoli di ciccio, bucatini with prawns, house-made radiatore with beef & pork bolognese, and gnocchi with house-made fennel sausage.
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Pizzeria Picco  316 Magnolia Ave./King St., (415) 945-8900.  L Sat-Sun, D daily; $$.  No reservations.  This tiny sister restaurant to Picco is located adjacent.  Seating inside is at a counter overlooking a partial kitchen where you can watch pizzas enter and exit a hot wood-burning oven and see the final touches put on take-out orders aplenty.
dining counter at Pizzeria Picco in Larkspur, California

wood-burning pizza oven at Pizzeria Picco in Larkspur, California

take-out prep in kitchen at Pizzeria Picco in Larkspur, California

A bank of sheltered outdoor tables is also available.
outdoor tables at Pizzeria Picco in Larkspur, California

Though the menu does change seasonally, it is limited to salads—organic mixed green,
organic green salad at Pizzeria Picco in Larkspur, California

rocket man (made with arugula), baby lettuce with strawberries and feta, caesar—and exceptional thin-crust Neopolitan pizzas.  In spite of the fact that his own NYC restaurants make a very good pizza, celebrity chef Mario Batali has declared it the best pizza in the U.S.  I prefer red pizzas so am most fond of the margharita and pepperoni versions.  The white yeti mushroom pizza is simple and good, but next time I will add on proscuitto.
white yeti mushroom pizza at Pizzeria Picco in Larkspur, California

Do save room for a dessert of Straus Dairy soft-serve ice cream in vanilla, chocolate, or swirl.  You can select from toppings, but I think it would be hard to beat the caramel with a pinch of sea salt atop vanilla.  Oh my!
soft-serve ice cream sundae at Pizzeria Picco in Larkspur, California
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More things to do in Larkspur.

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images ©2015 Carole Terwilliger Meyers  

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

880 South: Berkeley, Bartavelle Coffee & Wine Bar


Bartavelle Coffee & Wine Bar  1603 San Pablo Ave./Cedar St., (510) 524-2473.  B-L daily; $$.  No reservations.  The menu at this simple spot is short, but what it does offer is very tasty.  
order counter at Bartavelle Coffee & Wine Bar in Berkeley, California

Start your morning with a perfect boiled fresh farm egg topped with olive oil, sea salt, and marash pepper; or add on a garnish of aïoli and anchovy.
perfect boiled egg at Bartavelle Coffee & Wine Bar in Berkeley, California

Or maybe you’d like some slow-cooked porridge with assorted garnishes, or a complete Persian breakfast with Acme pizza bianca.  I am a fan of the avocado toast, which is really a hefty portion of mashed avocado on chewy lightly toasted Acme pain au levain bread topped with a garnish of lemon juice and salt.
avocado toast at Bartavelle Coffee & Wine Bar in Berkeley, California

Lunch is a selection of sandwiches, toasts, and salads.  Bread comes fresh from next-door-neighbor Acme, but most pastries are made in house or come from another bakery.  Wine comes from another next-door-neighbor--Kermit Lynch.  Counter service takes place inside, where a few seats are available, but most of the limited seating is available outside beside the small parking lot and includes a view of the line waiting to get into to the bakery, but no one seems to mind.
outdoor seating at Bartavelle Coffee & Wine Bar in Berkeley, California

The background of this spot is interesting to know.  It was named for the daughter of Alice Waters and was originally owned by Alice and her sister and brother-in-law, Laura and Jim Maser of Picante.  So I wasn’t too surprised to see Alice herself walk in the morning I was here and step up to the counter to order!  I have met Alice before at a media event and book signing, and though we made eye contact and I nodded, I was feeling too shy to strike up a conversation.  After all, she is the foodie equivalent of a major rock star.  This tiny spot is also where Cafe Fanny Granola originated, my favorite, which, thank goodness, is still available in supermarkets.
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    Before departing, stop in next door at the famous Acme Bread Company for a take-away baguette fresh from the oven.  My favorite is the rustic sweet, and my favorite bread is the Upstairs—which refers to the bread served upstairs at Chez Panisse.  The line is long, but it is usually also cheery and moves fast.
line at Acme Bread Company in Berkeley, California

At the door it is reminiscent of the Seinfeld soup nazi episode—only two people inside the small space at a time, and you’d better think fast about what you want to order from their vast selection!  It is cash and debit cards only here.
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order counter at Acme Bread Company in Berkeley, California

On the other side, Kermit Lynch Wine Merchant, which specializes in wine made from small French and Italian wineries, opens at 11a,m, and is closed Sunday and Monday.
exterior of Kermit Lynch Wine Merchant in Berkeley, California


More things to do in Berkeley.

Way more thing to do in Berkeley. 

Here are some travel articles to inspire and help you plan some spectacular getaways.  

images ©2015 Carole Terwilliger Meyers 

Friday, July 24, 2015

880 South: Oakland, Wood Tavern


Wood Tavern  6317 College Ave./63rd St., Rockridge, (510) 654-660.  L M-Sat, D daily; $$-$$$.  Operating in one room with tall ceilings and large windows that slide open to the sidewalk on warm days, this neighborhood brasserie has an ever-changing menu.  
interior of Wood Tavern in Oakland, California

At lunch, I love the creative soups--delicious braised pork-red lentil, chilled watercress-fennel--and sandwiches--hot pastrami with Emmentaler cheese and Dijon-horseradish dressing, fried green tomato, BLT with heirloom tomatoes and thick-cut bacon.
BLT at Wood Tavern in Oakland, California

The Niman Ranch burger on a La Farine Baguette with fries is always a good choice, and don’t miss burrata with peaches when it is available.
burrata with at Wood Tavern in Oakland, California

The house bread--Acme wheat levain and walnut levain--is complimentary, but you must request it. The restaurant is surrounded by a foodie neighborhood.  Allow time to shop.
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More things to do in Oakland.

Way more things to do in Oakland. 

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images ©2015 Carole Terwilliger Meyers

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

101 North: Corte Madera, Book Passage

update/p.224

Book Passage  51 Tamal Vista Blvd., (800) 999-7909, (415) 927-0960.  Daily 9-9.  This bookstore has the best collection of travel books and mysteries around and is a joy to browse.  A cafe serves coffees and simple foods, and author events are scheduled regularly.  
interior of Book Passage in Corte Madera, California

interior of Book Passage in Corte Madera, California

I attended one last Saturday that featured author Chris Baker—an authority on Cuba and author of the Moon Cuba guidebook--talking about . . . Cuba.  His educational presentation included interesting history and personal insights collected over the more than three decades he has traveled there.  Everything you need to know to travel to Cuba you’ll find in his book.  Chris also leads group tours for National Geographic as well as motorcycle tours
author Chris Baker speaks about Cuba at Book Passage in Corte Madera, California

Note:  Americans have been allowed to travel to Cuba for a while now, and it should continue to get easier.  On Monday, the United States and Cuba restored full diplomatic relations.  More . . .

Travel articles to inspire and help you plan some spectacular getaways.  

images ©2015 Carole Terwilliger Meyers

 

Monday, July 20, 2015

San Francisco: Chinatown Kite Shop and The Wok Shop


These two shops are across the street from each other.  An item from either would make a great souvenir. 

Chinatown Kite Shop  717 Grant St./Sacramento St., Chinatown, (415) 989-5182.  Daily 10am-8pm.  Family-owned since 1969, this tiny shop stocks all kinds of  kites--Asian fighting kites, dragon kites, traditional Chinese handmade silk-butterfly kites, cartoon-character diamond kites, and even dual-control stunt kites.  Not interested in flying a kite?  Consider using them as a room decoration.  Chinese costumes and a lion dance costume are also available.
exterior of Chinatown Kite Shop in San Francisco

interior of Chinatown Kite Shop in San Francisco

bug kite at Chinatown Kite Shop in San Francisco

The Wok Shop  718 Grant Ave./Sacramento St., Chinatown, (415) 989-3797.  Daily 10am-6pm.  Owner Tane Chan calls the wok the “original nonstick pan” and provides directions on how to season one.  She promotes Chinese culinary arts, has written a book about stir-frying, and has many demonstration videos on YouTube.  The shop also is stocked with interesting cooking equipment and, of course, Chinese tea sets.
exterior of The Wok Shop in Chinatown San Francisco

interior of The Wok Shop in Chinatown San Francisco

interior of The Wok Shop in Chinatown San Francisco

More Chinatown.
 
More things to do in San Francisco

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images ©2015 Carole Terwilliger Meyers