Tuesday, November 14, 2017

1 South: Carmel, background information



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CARMEL-BY-THE-SEA

A Little Background
They had take the direct country road across the hills from Monterey, instead of the Seventeen Mile Drive around by the coast so that Carmel Bay came upon them without any fore-glimmering of its beauty.  Dropping down throgent pines, they passed woods-embowered cottages, quaint and rustic, of artists and writers, and went on across wind-blown rolling sand hills held to place by sturdy lupines and nodding with pale California poppies.  Saxon screamed in sudden wonder of delight, then caught her breath and gazed at the amazing peacock-blue of a breaker, shot through with golden sunlight, over-falling in a mile-long sweep and thundering into white ruin of foam on a crescent beach of scarcely less white.   
    --Jack London, from Valley of the Moon, 1913

A well-established getaway destination, Carmel is best known for its specialty shops, cozy lodgings, and picturesque white sand beach.  Located adjacent, exclusive Pebble Beach, is famous for its spectacularly scenic golf courses.  And Carmel is super dog-friendly, perhaps the most dog-friendly place I’ve ever been.  Water bowls for dogs are found outside many shops, and canine lovelies are seen everywhere with their doting owners.  However, they are not permitted in Deavendorf Park--the town’s main park.  

crazed doggie with tongue exposed in Carmel, California
crazed doggie with tongue exposed in Carmel, California

Carmel is also known for the things it doesn't have.  No street signs, streetlights, electric or neon signs, jukeboxes, parking meters, chain businesses, or buildings over 2 stories high are allowed in town.  No sidewalks, curbs, or house numbers are found in the residential sections.  And buildings have no screens on windows (because the town has no flying, biting bugs) and no air conditioning (because it is not needed).  These absent items help Carmel keep its village ambiance.
 

Do be careful.  Eccentric laws in the town make it illegal to wear high heels on the sidewalks (but you can get a permit at City Hall).    
exterior of City Hall in Carmel, California
exterior of City Hall in Carmel, California

It seems that almost every weekend some special event is scheduled in the area, making available lodging perpetually scarce.  Book accommodations far in advance, especially for the quainter venues, and consider taking advantage of the special rates often available for midweek stays.   


Guided Tour
Carmel Walks  (831) 642-2700.  u-F at 10 am, Sat at 10 & 2.  $30.  This 2-hour walking tour of the village visits secret pathways, hidden courtyards and gardens, fairy-tale cottages, and even spots that have connections with famous artists, writers, and movie stars.  The enthusiastic and knowledgeable guide for my walk was a local artist, Kelly Steele.  
Carmel Walks guide Kelly Steele in front of rustic newstand in Carmel, California
Carmel Walks guide Kelly Steele in front of rustic newstand in Carmel, California


Getting There

Located 120 miles south of San Francisco, and 70 miles south of San Jose.

More Information




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images ©2017 Carole Terwilliger Meyers

Thursday, November 9, 2017

101 South: San Luis Obispo, History Center Museum of San Luis Obispo County Museum


History Center Museum of San Luis Obispo County Museum  696 Monterey St., (805) 543-0638.  Daily 10-4.  Free.  This former Carnegie Library building located across the street from the mission    features exhibits that highlight the history and culture of this county.  A group of panels describes the growth of the area as it became more accessible with the automobile, and a small theatre presents a 15-minute history of San Luis Obispo and the surrounding area.  The downstairs has been converted into offices and research areas and is not accessible.  

exterior of History Center Museum of San Luis Obispo County Museum in San Luis Obispo, California
exterior of History Center Museum of San Luis Obispo County Museum in San Luis Obispo, California


display at History Center Museum of San Luis Obispo County Museum in San Luis Obispo, California
display at History Center Museum of San Luis Obispo County Museum in San Luis Obispo, California


display at History Center Museum of San Luis Obispo County Museum in San Luis Obispo, California
display at History Center Museum of San Luis Obispo County Museum in San Luis Obispo, California


More things to do in San Luis Obispo.

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images ©2017 Carole Terwilliger Meyers

Friday, October 20, 2017

80 North: Berkeley, La Marcha


La Marcha  2026 San Pablo Ave./University Ave.  D Tu-Sun; two Happy Hours, 4-6pm & 10pm-12am, free tapas with purchased drinks.  This vibrant restaurant seems to be the busiest spot on the block, usually with a line waiting to get in.  A relatively small space, its two sweetest tables are tucked into the front bay windows and extra seating is found at the bar.  Overall, it evokes an authentic cozy atmosphere that I remember from tapas bars in Spain.  A TV above the bar adds to the ambiance.

interior of La Marcha in Berkeley, California
interior of La Marcha in Berkeley, California


sweet window seating at La Marcha in Berkeley, California
sweet window seating at La Marcha in Berkeley, California


bar at La Marcha in Berkeley, California
bar at La Marcha in Berkeley, California

There are more than 20 kinds of tapas.  Salads are also an option, and the restaurant is known as well for its large variety of paellas (there are six).  I was attracted to La Marcha by a special event sherry-pairing dinner that I was unable to attend.  So at a later date my dining companion and I had our own private tasting with the assistance of knowledgeable Jason (indeed, the entire staff is friendly and helpful), who explained the finer points of each of the dry sherries in my flight covering the five main styles--from a light fino to a robust oloroso.  I came away knowing that I favor a robust sherry.

Jason delivers sherry flights at La Marcha in Berkeley, California
Jason delivers sherry flights at La Marcha in Berkeley, California


tapas and sherry flights at La Marcha in Berkeley, California
tapas and sherry flights at La Marcha in Berkeley, California

Our tapas selection included patatas bravas, a trio of croquetas (mushroom, salt cod, chicken), albondigas (wild boar meatballs), gambas (prawns with heads on), goat cheese-stuffed piquillo peppers, and cumin lamb sliders.  I regret that I missed the bruselas (grape-sweetened fried Brussels sprouts).  Next time.

wild boar albondigas at La Marcha in Berkeley, California
wild boar albondigas at La Marcha in Berkeley, California

Our perfect ending to this repast was traditional churros con chocolate.

churros con chocolate at La Marcha in Berkeley, California
churros con chocolate at La Marcha in Berkeley, California

The extensive drink menu includes eight sherry flights, plus wines, ciders, Spanish beers, and an extensive collection of fortified wines, sweet wines, and sherries.   “La Marcha” is a reference to the typical late-night Spanish bar crawl, where patrons stroll from place to place and enjoy small plates and drinks throughout the evening.  Here you can stay put and do it all in one spot.  In addition to special event dinners (including sherry-pairing and cider-pairing as well as winemaker dinners), the restaurant offers two daily happy hours and half-off sangria every Sunday (the popular sangria here is made with Tempranillo wine, oloroso sherry, fruit juice, chopped fruit, and a splash of Pedro Ximénez).  And, every Tuesday is Flamenco Night.  Ole! 

In honor of International Sherry Week, November 6-12, 2017, La Marcha is hosting an array of events--including a three-course sherry pairing dinner and educational sherry flights, plus the inaugural “Night in Jerez,” the ultimate sherry-tasting party featuring tapas, paella, and a live flamenco show on November 10.  Check the website for more details. 

La Marcha Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato


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Wednesday, October 18, 2017

1 South: Capitola, Gayle’s Bakery & Rosticceria


Gayle’s Bakery & Rosticceria  504 Bay Ave./Capitola Ave., (831) 462-1200.  Daily 6:30am-8:30pm; $.  No reservations.  The talent behind it all here is Gayle, who once worked at Berkeley’s Chez Panisse, and her husband Joe, who once was a house painter and musician.  Their story is of the little bakery that grew and grew, expanding from a tiny storefront operation to occupying the entire building.  It is an unpretentious bakery extraordinaire, featuring cases laden with a plethora of soul-satisfying, made-from-scratch choices that sometimes make a person dissolve into an abyss of indecision.  It’s self-service here, so pick a number and then decide what to put on your lunch tray.  The red-potato salad?  Yes.  Christie’s coleslaw made with fresh ginger, cilantro, and peanuts?  But of course.  The albacore sandwich prepared with housemade mayo and on an herb-cheese roll?  Most definitely.  But leave room for a dessert--perhaps the moist German chocolate cake, or maybe an éclair, a pecan crocodile bar, or some other decadent delight.  Sidle up to the coffee bar for a drink, and then settle down either indoors at one of the French mosaic “earthquake tables” made from crockery broken in that infamous 1980s quake, or out on the cheery enclosed brick patio.  A take-home order can be prepared for pick-up after dining; don’t forget to include a loaf or two of European-style bread, a bag of the melt-in-your mouth crostini, and maybe one of the dome-shaped lavender marzipan-frosted princess cakes, too.  Oh, and don’t forget the soups, or the spit-roasted meats prepared in a brick roasting oven imported from Italy, or . . .

counter at Gayle’s Bakery in Capitola, California
counter at Gayle’s Bakery in Capitola, California


cookies and cupcakes at Gayle’s Bakery in Capitola, California
cookies and cupcakes at Gayle’s Bakery in Capitola, California


covered patio dining at Gayle’s Bakery in Capitola, California
covered patio dining at Gayle’s Bakery in Capitola, California


"earthquake table" at Gayle’s Bakery in Capitola, California
"earthquake table" at Gayle’s Bakery in Capitola, California


spectacular cakes at Gayle’s Bakery in Capitola, California
spectacular cakes at Gayle’s Bakery in Capitola, California


lavender Princess Cake at Gayle’s Bakery in Capitola, California
lavender Princess Cake at Gayle’s Bakery in Capitola, California
 Gayle's Bakery Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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images ©2017 Carole Terwilliger Meyers

Friday, October 13, 2017

80 North: Berkeley, Nico's 1508


Nico's 1508  1508 Walnut St. Suite B/Vine St., in Walnut Square, Gourmet Ghetto, (510) 280-5920.  L M-F, D daily, Sat-SunBr.  Located around the corner from Chez Panisse and next door to original Peet’s, this newer kid on the block welcomes you with a friendly neighborhood bar and is both family-friendly and a good choice for a special occasion celebration.  When I arrived for dinner, the bar was packed with happy people and we were seated in a very private small booth just across from a family in a bigger open booth.  The small booth was separated off with lovely curtains and had the option of drawing a heavier curtain across the opening to the restaurant.  Frank Sinatra and friends added a soothing, romantic air to the ambiance.  Very nice.  Sidewalk café seating is also available, and a rooftop patio with a view of the Golden Gate Bridge--the perfect spot to watch the sunset--is coming.  We started with delicious roasted Brussels sprouts mixed with goat cheese, a balsamic reduction, and pine nuts.  Note that bread is served only by request.  It would have gone nicely with the sprouts, but we decided to skip asking for it so that we could more fully enjoy our mains.  Other tempting starters included burrata with oven-dried tomatoes, steamed mussels, and a house pate with fig jam.  For mains, he had a firm and flavorful Hawaiian white walu with fingerling potatoes, and I had a substantial and tasty pappardelle pasta with a braised lamb sauce atop an herbed ricotta foundation (enough was left over for dinner the next day).  He had a Malbec from La Costa in Argentina, and I had a Zin from Cline in Sonoma.  Other mains that interested me were the huge Nico’s Burgermonger, a braised short rib of beef, and brick-roasted boneless half chicken with root vegetables and housemade mole sauce.  Housemade desserts include a popular crème brulee and more, but I think the best must be the one we luckily selected--a mascarpone layer cake with white chocolate frosting.  I’ve heard the sandwiches and side salads at lunch are very good, and a weekend brunch offers both traditional and creative choices along with bottomless mimosas.  A nightly Happy Hour from 3 to 6 p.m. offers all appetizers, bottles of wine, and signature cocktails at half-off.  It is interesting to know that Chef Munther Massarweh was the youngest Executive Chef in the history of Chicago’s world famous Pump Room. 


exterior of Nico's 1508 in Berkeley, California
exterior of Nico's 1508 in Berkeley, California


bar at Nico's 1508 in Berkeley, California
bar at Nico's 1508 in Berkeley, California


interior of Nico's 1508 in Berkeley, California
interior of Nico's 1508 in Berkeley, Californian

delicious Brussels sprouts at Nico's 1508 in Berkeley, California
delicious Brussels sprouts at Nico's 1508 in Berkeley, California


waylu fish at Nico's 1508 in Berkeley, California
waylu fish at Nico's 1508 in Berkeley, California


pappardelle pasta with a braised lamb sauce at Nico's 1508 in Berkeley, California
pappardelle pasta with a braised lamb sauce at Nico's 1508 in Berkeley, California


marscapone layer cake at Nico's 1508 in Berkeley, California
marscapone layer cake at Nico's 1508 in Berkeley, California

 Nico's Hideaway Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato


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images ©2017 Carole Terwilliger Meyers