Monday, December 20, 2010

Wine Country: Napa, Churchill Manor

Churchill Manor 485 Brown St./Oak St., 2 blks. from downtown, (800) 799-7733, (707) 253-7733. 10 rooms. Unsuitable for children under 12. Some fireplaces; no TVs. Afternoon & evening snack, full breakfast. No pets. A National Historic Landmark, this 1889 grand mansion has a massive front porch with white columns, large verandas, and original redwood moldings. It is situated on an acre of quiet, park-like manicured grounds. Guests are pampered with freshly-baked cookies upon arrival, wine and cheese in the evening, and breakfast the next morning in a stunning sunroom with mosaic-tiled floor. Guest rooms are large and furnished with antiques, and many are equipped with a clawfoot bathtub right in the bedroom or a shower for two in a lovely tiled bathroom. Two tandem bicycles and croquet are provided for complimentary use. Guests can also relax in the posh, spacious public rooms featuring beveled leaded-glass adornments, and perhaps play some tunes on a grand piano in the music room or enjoy a board game or movie in the game room.

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 image c2010 Carole Terwilliger Meyers

Friday, December 17, 2010

San Francisco: Safeway Holiday Ice Rink in Union Square

It isn't too late to have some skating fun!

Safeway Holiday Ice Rink in Union Square  through January 17, 2011. Sun-Thur 10am-10pm, F-Sat 10am-11:30pm (on Friday, December 31, 2010 the rink will close at 9:30pm). Adults $9-$9.50, under age 9 $4.50-$5; rentals $4. A portion of ticket proceeds benefit Boys and Girls Clubs of San Francisco and the San Francisco Recreation and Parks Department.

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image courtesy of venue

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Wine Country: Napa, AVIA Napa--CLOSED

CLOSED
AVIA Napa 1450 1st St., downtown, (866) 644-2842, (707) 224-3900. 141 rooms; 5 stories. Some fireplaces. Fitness center next door. Afternoon snack; restaurant; room service. No pets. Self-parking free, valet parking $15. Featuring a style of architecture that blends with the brand-new construction all around it, this sleek and stylish hotel has a comfortable, pleasantly decorated lobby in the lime green-chocolate-merlot color scheme used throughout. Among 16 different types of rooms are Double Kings for families (kids stay free) and Master Tub Suites with a two-sided fireplace and soaking tubs for two. Bathrooms are lined with eastern white marble, and each has a walk-in shower. An expansive guests-only second-floor wood deck terrace features a fire pit, porch swings for two, and comfy canopied lounges, and it twinkles with tiny lights in the evening. Guests get complimentary access to a large fitness center next door that has a pool, hot tub, and sauna.

Guests gather in the spacious, open AVIA Kitchen and Wine Bar (B&D daily; $$.) from 5 to 6 p.m. for complimentary “bites and flights,” which pairs light snacks with a sampling of wines poured by a local winery rep. The restaurant’s evening menu features small plates and a wine list that includes small vineyard exclusives. Also, an inviting bar operates in a corner of the lobby.

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image courtesy of hotel

Saturday, December 11, 2010

San Francisco: Lafitte--CLOSED

Lafitte Pier 5/near Jackson St., The Embarcadero, (415) 839-2134. L M-F, Sat-SunBr, D daily; $$-$$$. Featuring a delightful open space with high, high ceilings plus an open kitchen, this venue has a variety of seating options that includes a covered patio with a bay view and a chef’s counter that permits chatting with the owner-chef who is the creator of the inviting seasonal fare. The adventuresome menu changes daily and might offer perfectly prepared lamb with a side of black chickpeas, or turkey with butternut squash puree. Appetizers and desserts are a strong point—deep-fried olives, crab-stuffed squash blossoms, little pear and quince tartlets in buttery crusts. Creative cocktails, beers, and non-alcoholic libations join the menu along with a globetrotting wine list.

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photo depicts owner-chef Russell Jackson; image courtesy of venue

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

101 North: Geyserville, Isis Oasis Sanctuary


Isis Oasis Sanctuary  20889 Geyserville Ave., (800) 679-7387, (707) 857-4747. Tours by appt. Named for and dedicated to the Egyptian goddess of nature and fertility, this unusual nonprofit retreat center hosts theatre, poetry, and spiritual events “aimed at bridging the gap between the modern world and ancient Egypt.” The 10-acre property is on what was once a Pomo Indian ceremonial grounds and is home to waterfalls, a 500-year-old designated heritage fir tree, and a pond that is holds both black and white swans. Visitors can tour an aviary of exotic birds and a vivarium of insects and small reptiles. Owner Loreon Vigné moved here after San Francisco outlawed the breeding of wild cats within city limits. Here she breeds exotic felines, including ocelots (she is the only breeder known to reach a 7th generation) and bobcats, and her menagerie currently includes ocelots, bobcats and serval cats. A Sacred Sunday Salon program begins at 2 p.m.

 image c2010 Carole Terwilliger Meyers  

Unusual lodgings (Some shared baths; $50-$100 donation. Pool, sauna, hot tub. Full breakfast.) include three canvas yurts, one converted wine barrel, a tepee, and a 2-story obelisk, as well as cabins and 12 lodge rooms--each of which is named and decorated for a different Egyptian goddess.

Mummy’s Kitchen serves Egyptian Asian fusion cuisine ((707) 921-8423. D F-Sat, L Sun; $-$$.). Menu items include Egyptian Mummy Wraps, Pad Thai with tofu or chicken, and Egyptian stew with cous cous.

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Friday, December 3, 2010

101 North: Healdsburg, Strolling Dine Around

Strolling Dine Around  December 8 & 9, 15 & 16; (707) 479-7488. $85, gratuity included; wine additional. Reservations advised. This 3-hour dining experience takes place at some of the town’s finest restaurants. The progressive feast includes 4 courses at a selection of 16 restaurants, each conveniently located either near or on the historic plaza and within easy walking distance of one another. You might start with a cocktail and appetizer at classy Cyrus (try a complex Pomiranian made with Hangar One Buddha’s Hand Citron vodka, pomegranate juice, lime juice, cardamom-black pepper syrup, mint, pomegranate seeds, and seltzer), perhaps followed by a healthy organic first course composed of an “I Am Satisfied” salad and an “I Am Thankful” cold coconut curry soup at counter-culture Cafe Gratitude. For the main course, Zin is a winner with its divine roasted chicken, and consider dessert in the sweet little romantic cottage that is the Ravenous Cafe and Lounge—maybe a round, single-portion of white chocolate-coconut banana cream pie topped high with whipped cream and ensconced in caramel sauce. A portion of the proceeds benefit charity.
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Monday, November 29, 2010

80 North: Sacramento, Leland Stanford Mansion State Historic Park

Leland Stanford Mansion State Historic Park   800 N. St., 2 blks. from the Capitol, (916) 324-0575. Tu-Sun; tours on hr., 10am-4pm; due to official uses of the mansion, tours may be cancelled or restricted at any time. $5, 6-17 $3. This restored 4-story, 44-room, Mansard-roofed mansion was originally built for California governor, senator, and railroad baron Leland Stanford and his family. In addition to tours, it is used by the State of California as an official reception center. An introductory video is screened in the back of the well-edited gift shop about 15 minutes prior to tour time. It reenacts life for the Stanfords in the grand house—they were here only from 1862 to 1863--and then its later 87-year stint as a refuge for children in need. The tour begins in the Ballroom, then moves on to the Billiards Room, the Greater Parlor,the huge Dining Room where formal dinners lasted three hours, the Family Library which doubled as the after-dinner Smoking Room, and the Sitting Room with an unusual whistle intercom. A narrow Bathroom holds a rare tin tub, and Toy Room displays some of Leland Junior’s toys. (Leland Stanford, Jr., after whom Stanford University was named and who was the Stanfords’ only child, was born here in 1868. He died of typhoid fever in 1884, when he was just 15.) The tour ends on the Sun Porch.

 image c2010 Carole Terwilliger Meyers 

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

101 North: Healdsburg, Calderwood Inn

Calderwood Inn  25 W. Grant St., 3 blks. from plaza, (800) 600-5444, (707) 431-1110. 6 rooms. Some fireplaces. Unsuitable for children under 12. Afternoon snack, full breakfast. No smoking. Horticulturist Luther Burbank was a good friend of the original owner of this 1902 Queen Anne Victorian, and he assisted in the design and development of the home’s original front yard landscape. Among that which remains today are large cedar, cypress, and redwood heritage trees. The house is set back from the street amid a private little forest and is surrounded by informal areas to relax and perhaps contemplate colorful koi. Delightful features of the house include exquisite hand silk-screened wallpaper by Bradbury & Bradbury of Benicia—even on the ceilings—and a large front porch complete with wicker couch swing. Each room features interesting antiques and a unique decor, and some have clawfoot tubs. This was the first house in town with two indoor bathrooms, and now it has eight. The owners also own four wineries, including Wilson Winery and Mazzocco Winery, and guests get to do some tasting each afternoon.

 
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Monday, November 22, 2010

880 South: Oakland, Le Cheval--CLOSED

update/p.320

Berkeley and Walnut Creek branches remain open.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

San Francisco: Royal Exchange

Royal Exchange 301 Sacramento St./Front St., Financial district, (415) 956-1710. L-D M-F; $-$$. In the simpler times when this corner pub bar opened (it was in 1972, not so long ago--when Alcatraz became a national park and the first episode of “The Streets of San Francisco” aired) only two beers were on tap and only hot dogs and cold sandwiches were on the menu. Now there are 32 different beers on tap—including a clean, crisp Amstel Pilsner lager from Amsterdam and a full-bodied, smooth Trumer Pils from Berkeley--and the dog has been joined by hamburgers both big (1/3 pound) and bigger (1/2 pound) as well as veggie (portobello mushroom). Less pub-style grub includes a tasty Genoa-style lazy-man’s cioppino and a grilled salmon salad with mango salsa. All this and cocktails, too! One of my favorite things is the many enclosed wood booths that surround the two center wood bars. Why, after half a beer, you might actually think you’re in the jolly U.K. A take-away window outside makes a quick bite possible.

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image courtesy of venue

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

San Francisco: The Contemporary Jewish Museum

update/page 28
www.thecjm.org

Reclaimed: Paintings from the Collection of Jacques Goudstikker This show tells the story of how one Jewish family fought for the return of an extraordinary artwork collection looted by the Nazis during the WW II. A vast collection of masterpieces owned by Jacques Goudstikker, a preeminent Jewish art dealer in Amsterdam, were almost lost forever to the Nazi practice of looting cultural properties during World War II. But in 2006, after years of working with a team of art historians and legal experts, Goudstikker¹s family successfully reclaimed 200 of his paintings from the Dutch government--one of the largest such claims ever resolved. This show features nearly 45 pieces, including “Winter Landscape with Skaters” by Jan van Goyen and “Still Life with Flowers in a Vase” by Hieronymus Galle, as well as original documents and photographs, and explores the historic restitution of the artworks to the rightful heir. This is the only West Coast venue for the exhibition and will be its final showing. Runs through March 29, 2011.


Curious George Saves the Day: The Art of Margret and H. A. Rey The lives and work of the creators of the famous monkey are explored through almost 80 original drawings and ephemera (journals, hand made cards, photographs, and more). Details of their lives emerge—the years spent in Rio de Janeiro where H. A. Rey had a pair of marmosets as pets and wore a large broad-brimmed hat; as the Nazis arrived, their flight from Paris on bicycles that Rey built of parts; another narrow escape from Europe thanks in large part to their drawings—that show up often in the couple's famous stories. Runs through March 13, 2011.


more about the Contemporary Jewish Museum, including the deli restaurant (scroll down).

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images courtesy of venue

Monday, November 15, 2010

Lake Tahoe: Truckee, Ritz Carlton Highlands

Ritz Carlton Highlands  13031 Ritz-Carlton Highlands Ct., in Truckee, (530) 562-3000.  6 stories; 170 rooms.  All gas fireplaces.  1 adult pool, 1 child pool; 2 hot tubs; full-service spa.  3 restaurants; room service.  Valet parking only, $35/night.  $25 resort fee.  The quiet road off the main highway that leads up to this grand hotel provides a 4-mile drive through spectacular mountain scenery (located at an altitude of 6,941 feet, it is high enough for some people to experience the effects of altitude sickness).  Because builders left as many trees as possible, the hotel appears nestled into a hill, as if it has been here for a long, long time.  Guests walk up steps from the lower entrance into a lobby with large granite-slab floors.  The high ceiling is meant to mimic a tree’s canopy, and the smooth wood-beam supports mimic its branches, while the two-story-tall field stone-and-granite fireplace, with multiple hearths, is reminiscent of its trunk.  Tall windows bring in tree and mountain views.  A “living roof” decked with plants is just outside atop the porte cochere and sports a view stretching for 25 miles.  In winter, guests can ski-in, ski-out from a large patio that leads into a ski rental and storage facility.  Most rooms have good views of the mountains, trees, and ski lifts from their big opening windows, and many have step-out balconies.                  
                Well-appointed Manzanita restaurant (B-L-D daily; $$-$$$+.) serves California cuisine with “a mountain vibe.”  Coffee is Peet’s, and o.j. is fresh-squeezed.  It features an open kitchen with adjacent communal chef’s table and full cocktail service, and outdoor seating is available in good weather.  Mountain Blue Market offers quick counter service and lighter fare as well as take-away, while The Living Room bar let’s guests warm up near the fireplace and order contemporary American light fare and cocktails. 
                Most guests take at least one meal down the mountain about 1,500 feet in the Village at Northstar.  It is reached by a free 9-minute ride in an enclosed six-passenger gondola with a killer view.  The center of the village is a skating rink—ice in the winter, roller in the summer—and restaurants and shops aplenty surround it.  Free live music and outdoor movies are sometimes scheduled. 

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

101 South: San Mateo, Osteria Coppa--CLOSED

Osteria Coppa 139 S. B St., downtown, (650) 579-6021. D Tu-Sun; $$-$$$. Reservations advised. Contemporary Italian fare includes housemade pastas and artisanal pizzas. Diners here sit at tables covered informally with butcher paper and are encouraged to share items. My dining partner and I found a perfect dinner in a shared beet salad atop a thin, flavorful bed of avocado mousse; tagliatelle topped with a traditional unsaucy, meaty Bolognese; exquisitely succulent chicken al Mattone (boned and grilled under a brick) with Brussels sprouts and butternut squash puree; and chocolate lava cake with Bi-Rite roasted banana ice cream. My only disappointment was that I didn’t have room to taste a few of the other unusual pastas-- wild nettle puree-flavored pappardelle noodles tossed with lobster mushrooms, and bigoli tube pasta with red wine-braised duck and pumpkin. Cocktails and a list of pleasant wines by the glass are available. Note that service is slow and the noise level high, so don’t be in a hurry and bring the kids!

Osteria Coppa on Urbanspoon

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image courtesy of venue


Monday, November 8, 2010

5 North: Dunsmuir, Burger Barn

Burger Barn 5942 Dunsmuir Ave., (530) 235-2902. No credit cards. Think decent burgers, good-but-overpriced veggie burgers, sandwiches, hot dogs, root beer floats, soft serve ice cream, and shakes. Those who are really hungry can order up the Barn Buster special: two half-pound burgers, a giant order of fries, and two drinks. Sit in the cozy inside or outside on the patio overlooking the town’s quiet main street.

 image c2010 Carole Terwilliger Meyers 

Friday, November 5, 2010

101 North: Geyserville, Bosworth & Son General Merchandise


Bosworth & Son General Merchandise  21060 Geyserville Ave., (707) 857-3471. Daily from 10am. Obed Bosworth established this general store in 1911, and now his son, Harry Bosworth, carries on the family tradition with his dog, Willie, who plops on the old wood floors wherever he pleases. The store sells everything from cowboy wear to heritage seeds to food and wine to burial plots (in addition to being president of the town’s historical society, Harry takes care of nearby Olive Hill Cemetery).

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image c2010 Carole Terwilliger Meyers

Monday, November 1, 2010

Friday, October 29, 2010

101 North: Geyserville, Meeker Winery


The Meeker Vineyard 21035 Geyserville Ave., (707) 431-2148. Tasting daily 10:30-6. Charlie Meeker used to be in The Biz in L.A. (as an attorney, then as a film producer, and later as a studio executive and president of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer), so his winemaking career then was confined to many, many weekend and holiday trips. Finally, in 1999, he and his actress wife, moved here to make wine full time. The tasting room is inside the town’s 1903 former bank building, and the sampling occurs at a wine bar made from a single slab from a fallen oak. The signature wine is “Handprint Merlot,” called that because the bottle has an actual handprint from one of the winemakers. They say they spend 50 days each year dipping their hands in paint and imprinting them on a total of 16,000 bottles of wine (and spend $40,000 for the paint!). No two of the trippy bottles are exactly alike, and yellow and orange indicates Charlie did it. Oh yeah, and the wine is darn good, too.

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image c2010 Carole Terwilliger Meyers

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

San Francisco: Roam Artisan Burgers

Roam Artisan Burgers 1785 Union St./Octavia St., in Cow Hollow, (415) 440-7626. L-D M-Sat; $. No reservations. The young and the restless Union Street singles have definitely roamed on over to this eco-conscious (grass-fed beef, organic free-range eggs, etc.) burger emporium. And they can be LOUD. Still, it is fun to part of the happy scene, whether sitting inside at the communal table, on a high stool at the bar, or outside at a petite table sidewalk-side. Ordering is simple. Pick your filling—beef, turkey, bison, veggie—and style—perhaps the classic, with butter lettuce, tomato, onions, housemade pickles, and housemade sauce; or maybe the sunny side, with an egg, white cheddar, caramelized onions, and sweet chili sauce. Fries are a choice of regular, sweet potato, or a thin and crispy zucchini-onion haystack, and come with optional custom seasonings—lemon-chive is fresh and tangy, while chipotle-maple is sweet and a little hot. Among the drinks are sodas (including housemade versions), limited beers and wines, fermented kombucha tea, and Straus Family Creamery shakes (think Blue Bottle coffee, Tahitian vanilla bean). Prices are low because you order at the counter.

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image c2010 Carole Terwilliger Meyers

Monday, October 25, 2010

101 North: Geyserville, Route 128 Winery

Route 128 Winery 21079 Geyserville Ave., (707) 696-0004. Tasting Thur-Sun 11-6. Today, in what was once the parts department for one Ford Motor Company’s first distributorships, this family-operated estate winery pours a pleasant Viognier, an intense Syrah, and a delicious PeLu Rouge blend. Because it is a small production winery, most of the bottles are sold here at the tasting room. “Keep it small. Keep it simple.” is the motto.

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 image c2010 Carole Terwilliger Meyers

Friday, October 22, 2010

101 North: Geyserville, Geyserville Inn + Hoffman House Restaurant


Geyserville Inn  21714 Geyserville Ave., 1 mi. N of town, (877) 857-4343, (707) 857-4343. 40 rooms + 1 cottage. Some gas fireplaces. Solar-heated pool; hot tub. A step up from the standard motel, this spot has spacious grounds abutting vineyards. Most rooms have a terrace or balcony.








Next door, the Hoffman House Restaurant ((707) 857-3264. B-L daily, D (seasonal) F-Sat; $$.) operates within a 19th-century house. It offers inviting patio dining and is a convenient choice for breakfast.

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 images c2010 Carole Terwilliger Meyers

Thursday, October 21, 2010

101 North: Geyserville, Francis Ford Coppola Winery + RUSTIC restaurant

update/p.249


Francis Ford Coppola Winer300 Via Archimedes, at Independence Lane exit off Hwy. 101, (877) 590-3329, (707) 857-1400; . Tasting daily 11-6; tour daily at 11, 1, 3. Tucked into a vineyard-covered hill and featuring distinctive towers reminiscent of the area’s once-common hop kilns, this winery is currently undergoing renovation  Tasting consists of a flight of three of the same varietal served with complementary food bites. A favorite to look for is the flagship Archimedes Cabernet Sauvignon made with some of the estate grapes seen growing out front.  Director Coppola’s five Oscars and one of two Tucker automobiles he owns are on display. The tour is given along a skywalk overlooking the production facility.  Newly-opened RUSTIC restaurant (Daily 11-9.) here is all about Coppola remembering what he ate as a child. His personal favorites are on the mneu, including a flavorful Florentine steak made in the dining room’s Argentianian parrilla oven (one of only a few in the U.S.) and a succulent Mrs. Scorsese’s Lemon Chicken (yes, that Scorsese). Crispy thin-crust pizza that rivals NYC’s best and charming and tasty bumblebee pasta (bumbola con broccoli e salsiccia) are also winners. The emphasis is on family-style cooking that features fresh, seasonal ingredients sourced from the property’s organic herb and produce garden. An extensive collection of olive oil tins bring charm to the large open dining room; patio dining overlooking vineyards is also available.

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video c2010 Carole Terwilliger Meyers

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

101 North: Tiburon, Sweden House Bakery & Cafe--CLOSED

update/p.223
This restaurant space is now bistrot 35.

Monday, October 18, 2010

80 North: Sacramento, Ettore's European Bakery & Restaurant

Ettore’s European Bakery & Restaurant  2376 Fair Oaks Blvd., (916) 482-0708. Sun 7am-2pm, M-Thur 6am-9pm, F-Sat 6am-10pm; $. No reservations. Considering this popular spot has an Austrian pastry chef, it isn’t too surprising to find out Governor Schwarzenegger has been spotted here. But the whole town seems to enjoy the tasty soups (fresh corn bisque is divine), salads, and sandwiches (a veggie burger and pizza are also available), and most everyone saves room for dessert: Fresh Fruit Tart cake, a red velvet cupcake, or a slice of very refined white Princess cake layered with whipped cream and featuring a curved dome top frosted with green marzipan. Coming here regularly is positively dangerous to your waistline.

image c2010 Carole Terwilliger Meyers 

Friday, October 1, 2010

5 North: Fall River Mills, Clearwater Lodge at the Pit River

Clearwater Lodge at the Pit River 24500 Pit One Powerhouse Rd., in Fall River Mills, (800) 600-5451, (530) 336-5005. 11 rooms, 5 cottages. No TVs. Cookies 24/7; 3 meals/day. Originally built in 1921 as a retreat for PG&E executives during the building of the still-adjacent Pit One Powerhouse hydro electric power plant, this remote Craftsman-style lodge is situated on 44 acres of forested land. A full-service fly fishing destination, the lodge offers guides and instruction on northeastern California's five great wild-trout rivers and spring-fed stillwaters. Multi-day fly fishing schools for all ability levels and guided fly fishing trips with knowledgeable guides are a specialty. Three meals are provided each day. It’s sort of like summer camp, except cold beer and the lodge’s own private-label wines are available at reasonable additional charge. Vintage furniture, antiques, and oriental rugs are found throughout. Modern amenities including wireless internet access and air conditioning. In the common room, a floor-to-ceiling stone fireplace with cozy seating invites relaxing and lingering to spin fish tales and share stories of the day's adventures. A well-traveled guest from Madrid told me over dinner here at one of the two long tables in the paneled dining room that successful fly fishing is all about, “The right time, the right fly, and the presentation you make to the fish.” Dinner was seared halibut with caramelized onion jus, penne with roasted butternut squash, asparagus with roasted lemon vinaigrette, mixed greens with hazel nuts and dried cranberries, and a ginger cheese tart with caramel pears for dessert. Guests can also relax in ample Adirondack chairs on the grounds and on the wide front porch, which is shaded by magnificent old sycamores. Fishing excursions include use of most required equipment. Instead of tipping, a service charge is added at the end of your stay, and you are sent off with a bag lunch.

image c2010 Carole Terwilliger Meyers 

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

80 North: Berkeley, Slow--CLOSED

Slow 1966 University Ave./Milvia St., downtown, (510) 647-FOOD (3663). L-D M-Sat; $. No reservations. Slow is what the cooking is at this counter-service restaurant (you can see the chefs at work while you place your order). Fast is what the service and in-out time are. Of course, if the weather is nice enough to permit sitting out at one of the picnic tables on the enchanting hidden back patio surrounded by a mature rose garden, you’ll want to slow down . . . and smell the roses. Seating in the narrow yellow interior is on stools at two long bars (made with wood reclaimed from an 1822 railroad tunnel) on either side wall. The menu is small, but the tastes are big, and local organic ingredients are used when possible. The moderately priced menu changes periodically but currently offers braised boneless short ribs with creamy polenta and delicious cooked carrots, a pulled pork sandwich, linguini with arugula-walnut pesto, a portobello mushroom stuffed with mashed eggplant, and for dessert--a fruit cobbler or oversize cookie. A good drink choice is lemonade with tiny diced fruit bits for flavor. Curbside pickup for takeout is available, as well as grab-and-go lunchtime selections. All serveware is compostable.

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image c2010 Carole Terwilliger Meyers 

Monday, September 27, 2010

101 North: Geyserville, Catelli's


Catelli’s 21047 Geyserville Ave. /Hwy. 128, (707) 857-3471. L-D M-Sat; $$-$$$. Opened originally in this 1902 building by the present owners’ grandparents, then moved to Santa Rosa, and now repurchased and brought back again to its original site, this long-time Italian restaurant serves updated traditional fare. Granddaughter Domenica is the chef (she once worked for Oprah! and is the author of the Mom-a-licious cookbook) and grandson Nicholas does the other stuff. Don’t miss the signature thin-rolled ravioli, either with a garlicky butter sauce or a tangy red meat sauce. Nonnie’s minestrone, a meatball sandwich, and a portabello burger are also options.

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image c2010 Carole Terwilliger Meyers

Friday, September 24, 2010

Wine Country: Napa, Silverado Trail, Darioush

Darioush  4240 Silverado Trail, in Napa, (707) 257-2345. Tasting daily 10:30-5; tours by appt. This ultra-premium estate winery features dramatic Persian architecture evocative of Persepolis, the capital of ancient Persia, but also reminiscent of the grandeur of Egyptian monuments. Design features include 16 freestanding 18-foot columns at the entrance, and yellow travertine stone quarried near Persepolis surrounds the building. A small and charming amphitheatre is available for performances and events. The spectacular tasting room is in the center of a high-ceilinged temple-like room and features a “wall of water”; a gift shop displays dearly-priced exquistite and exotic wares along with inexpensive glasses made from wine bottles. Noted for its Bordeaux-style estate wines, the winery is one of the few that makes a 100% Cabernet Franc wine (it is available only at the winery).
Participants in the “Fine Wines, Artisan Cheeses Tour” gather in a posh VIP lounge where tasting begins with a tropical Rhine-style 2009 Viognier--described as a “white wine for red wine drinkers” and excellent with shellfish, sushi, and spicy food. Pours are generous throughout. Then it is out to the vineyards where we learn that they “drop 60% of the grapes. We’re talking rabbit food.” No machines are involved in caring for the grapes. Then it is into the cellar barrel room, where one wine is described as like “chocolate espresso, its huge color is like blood.” Guide Diana Lasso says, “Wine is meant to be savored over conversation. It is not beer.” And by the end of the tasting, we’re all sharing some details of our lives and reaping the enjoyment of sharing wine with others.

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image c2010 Carole Terwilliger Meyers

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

80 North: Berkeley, Zut! on Fourth

Zut! on Fourth  1820 Fourth St./Hearst St., (510) 644-0444. L-D daily; $$-$$$. Reservations advised. Sporting a name that is a play on the French expression “Zut alors!,” which refers to a surprise, this well-located restaurant is the perfect after-shopping rest-and-refresh stop. Regional Mediterranean dishes change regularly on the short menu and are prepared with fresh, locally sourced ingredients—perhaps crispy smelts or braised white beans with roasted peppers and goat cheese to start. A surprisingly tasty seasonal salad of arugula, pluots, and fennel goes well with one of the pizzas. A semi-exhibition kitchen with wood-fired grill and rotisserie produces entrees that might include a pasta, a generous portion of rotisserie chicken with a warm fingerling potato salad, a hefty hamburger topped with an heirloom tomato slice and served with crispy frites, and a New York steak with chimichurri sauce. Cocktails are unusual—the Maltese is an especially tasty mix of vodka, grapefruit, lemon, mint, and ouzo—and desserts are both familiar (a hot fudge sundae) and obscure (a divine muscovado pot de crème plus whole wheat-hazelnut sable cookies). Some tables and the bar have a zinc surface, and seating is available outside as well as inside in front of windows that slide open to fresh air and a passing parade of envious pedestrians.

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image courtesy of venue
 

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

101 North: Sausalito, Floating Homes Tour

update/p.217

Curious about what it is like to live on the water in one of the most uniquecommunities in the Bay Area? Nineteen of Sausalito’s colorful floating homes will open their doors to you on Saturday, September 25th from 11am to 4pm. The annual tour is self-guided, though docents will be on-board to describe the waterfront lifestyle and answer questions.  Many of the homes on this year's tour have never been open to the public before.  One of the featured homes, “The Red Star,” is exquisitely detailed by the owner--a versatile artist and master builder.  The tour begins at the Kappas Marina Green, located off Bridgeway at the north end of Sausalito.  Festivities include free entertainment all day featuring local musicians and an Art Show and Sale featuring the paintings, sculpture, photographs, and drawings of 11 artists from floating home community.  Food and drink will be available for purchase.   Traditionally this tour sells out.  Purchase tickets online at www.floatinghomes.org; $35 in advance/$40 at gate.  Ticket sales benefit the Floating Home Association, The Marin City Library, and other local non-profit organizations.

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image courtesy of venue 

Monday, September 13, 2010

80 North: Berkeley, Everest Cafe--CLOSED

Everest Cafe 1645 Solano Ave./Tulare Ave., (510) 526-4915. L M-Sat, D daily; $-$$. Named for the tallest peak in Nepal and the world and yet located on an unassuming stretch near the Albany border, this small spot sporting cheery lace curtains features eastern Nepalese and Indian cuisine. Lunch specials include sides of raita (yogurt), atar (tomato chutney), and nan on trays with main dishes prepared to requested spiciness—including a delicious eggplant, garbanzo bean-spinach, or goat curry. Among the many vegan and vegetarian options are vegetable momo (steamed dumplings), vegetable chow mein, and vegetable thukpa (the special Nepali sherpa dish).

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Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Wine Country: Napa, Silverado Trail, Kenzo Estate

Kenzo Estate 3200 Monticello Rd., Napa, (877) 977-7704, (707) 259-5408. Tasting tour by appt. Set on 4,000 stunning acres on the slopes of Mt. George, this winery is the vision of Japanese video game pioneer Kenzo Tsujimoto. Visitors with an appointment are given a code to enter the serene gated property, then enjoy a pleasant ride through the bucolic estate to the tasting room. Several tours are available that include tasting four of the upscale wines, including the $75 signature Rindo--a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, and Petit Verdot. The $30 tasting is a 1-ounce pour with a few palate-clearing tidbits, the $50 tasting includes a 2-ounce pour and a small charcuterie/cheese plate, and the $60 tasting includes a lunch pairing from chef Thomas Keller’s Bouchon. Visitors are welcome to relax and enjoy the property after their tour and tasting.

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image c2010 Carole Terwilliger Meyers

Monday, August 30, 2010

80 North: Berkeley, Pasta Bene

Pasta Bene 2565 Telegraph Ave./Blake St., S of the campus, (510) 845-2363. L-D daily; $. No reservations. Simple Italian favorites are on the menu in this casual venue featuring wood ceiling beams, big windows for sidewalk views and natural light, a polished concrete floor, and an open kitchen with a wood-fired pizza oven. A banquette runs along one wall, and outdoor sidewalk seating is available. A cheery bustle rises as the sun sets. The forte is generous portions, fresh ingredients, fast and pleasant service, and reasonable prices. The menu includes starters, salads, focaccia sandwiches, pizzas, entrees, and desserts, and the bread, pizza dough, and most of the pastas are housemade. Choice items include the signature Pasta Bene (linguini with tomato, basil, garlic, capers, and seasonal vegetables in marinara sauce) and Penne Bolognese (penne with ground beef, garlic, mushrooms, and red bell pepper in a marinara sauce), but Tortellini Primavera, Chicken Picatta, and Gnocchi with Sausage are also tasty options. Two particularly delicious dishes are made with eggplant—Melanzane (with fettuccini) and Rustica (with penne and fennel sausage). Garlic bread and bruschetta topped with chopped tomatoes are both good choices, too. Surprisingly, crab cakes are also available and popular. For dessert, a light tiramisu garnished with berries is a no brainer. Simple beers and wines are available, and happy hour runs daily from 3 to 6 p.m.

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image c2010 Carole Terwilliger Meyers 

Friday, August 27, 2010

80 North: Sacramento, Zocalo

Zocalo 1801 Capitol Ave., midtown, (916) 441-0303. L-D daily, Sat-SunBr; $$. Bearing the Spanish name for “central square,” this Mexican restaurant is situated within a repurposed 1930s car showroom and features a dynamite decor. Huge pots hold tall palms that reach up to the high ceiling, and giant windows provide an airy feeling. Patio dining is an option in nice weather. A margarita is a must—especially the gorgeous blackberry version—though many swear the corazon version is the best. Meals begin with a trio of dips with chips, and many dishes come with a side of black beans and cilantro rice. Choices include salads, burritos, tacos, enchiladas, and more--no one leaves hungry. The filling for the unusual tacos de cazuela--chorizo, onions, mushrooms and queso Menonita--is served in a casserole with housemade corn tortillas.

image c2010 Carole Terwilliger Meyers 

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Wine Country: Napa, Ubuntu--CLOSED


Ubuntu 1140 Main St./Pearl St., downtown, (707) 251-5656. L Sat-Sun, D daily; $$. Reservations advised. Situated inside a vintage 19th-century building, this striking restaurant features a large open room with a high trussed cathedral ceiling and stone walls. Items on the upscale, all-vegetarian menu have long names, and descriptions can be mind-boggling—marinated “ruby queen” BEETS with whipped sheep, SHUNGIKU*-s- carmelized “honey crisp” peach, LAVENDER conji, noyaux (this plate of delicious, colorful red and gold beets, accented with this and that, turned out to be my favorite dish). Other winners included a tasty bean stew—a signature dish--and a wonderful savory chocolate “financier” with goat cheese and green tomatoes. From his open kitchen, the talented chef sends out tasty items in lovely presentations. Organic vegetables come from local purveyors and also from the restaurant’s own biodynamic garden, and the menu changes daily. I suggest exploring the menu, sharing dishes, and letting your taste buds enjoy the fun. Do save room for dessert—perhaps nasturtium ice cream or white chocolate-and-lavender cookies. A large communal table usually has space for walk-ins. (“Ubuntu” means “practice humanity toward others” in Zulu.)

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image courtesy of restaurant

Sunday, August 22, 2010

80 North: Sacramento, The Firehouse

The Firehouse 1112 2nd St./K St., in Old Sac, (916) 442-4772. L M-F, D daily; $$$+. Reservations advised. Valet parking. High ceilings, chandelier lighting, elegant vintage oil paintings, half-moon booths, and white tablecloths all combine in this restored 1853 landmark firehouse to make for an old-time fine dining experience. And it seems that just about everything has a history--from the Cervantes bust in the courtyard flowerbed (it comes from a Market Street theater in San Francisco) to the main dining room fireplace (it comes from the Lathrope home at 7th and S streets)--and Ronald Reagan held both of his inaugural dinners here. The continental menu includes steaks and seafood but also more contemporary items. Because the restaurant is celebrating it 50th year, you can enjoy a three-course menu for two--it includes chateaubriand--at the special price of $50 per person. A five-course tasting menu is $68 ($98 with wine pairings) and includes a Peach Trio dessert with peach tarte tatin and peach fool among the delights. Bread is housebaked, butter is shaped like a rose, amuses and palate-cleansing intermezzo sorbets are inserted here and there, and chocolate truffles come with the check--making for a very special night out.

image c2010 Carole Terwilliger Meyers

Monday, August 16, 2010

80 North: Sacramento, Amber House Bed & Breakfast

Amber House Bed & Breakfast 1315 22nd St./N St., midtown, (800) 755-6526, (916) 444-8085. 10 rooms. Some gas fireplaces. Full breakfast. No pets. Located midtown in a quiet leafy residential area, this lodging consists of two elegant vintage mansions. Five rooms named for poets are in the main 1905 Craftsman bungalow, and five more named for musicians are across the street in an 1895 Colonial Revival. Guests have choice of a gourmet two-course breakfast or a lighter option, and also a choice of having it served in the guest room, in the dining room, on the front porch, or in the garden. Non-alcoholic beverages and freshly baked chocolate chip cookies arrive with turn-down, and an early morning beverage is left outside guestroom doors before breakfast. Strawberries, rose petals, and a candlelight bath can be arranged at additional fee. I liked that the inn uses the European tipping style of leaving one tip in an envelope at the end for the entire staff to share.

image c2010 Carole Terwilliger Meyers

Saturday, August 14, 2010

101 North: Sausalito--Marin Headlands, The Marine Mammal Center

published Aug. 14, 2010
updated Sept. 6, 2016

The Marine Mammal Center  1065 Fort Cronkhite, (415) 289-SEAL.  Daily 10-4.  Free; audio tour $10; guided tours $7, seniors & 4+ $5.  Staffed by volunteers, this is one of the largest wild animal hospitals in the world.  Injured, sick, and orphaned marine mammals are brought here to be nursed back to health.  Seals and sea lions are the most common “patients,” though sometimes a dolphin or porpoise is in need; whales are usually treated off site, on location.  When ready, patients are released back into their natural habitat.  Visitors see seals laying prone, some bleating like lambs, other swimming and barking.  The animals are fed and most active from 7:30 a.m. to 9 a.m. and 12:30 p.m. to 1:30 p.m.  Do visit the fish kitchen, where you might see fish milkshakes being prepared in blenders for the babies.  Docent-led tours are available on weekends, self-guided tours during the week.   


elephant seal statue at The Marine Mammal Center in Sausalito, California
elephant seal statue at The Marine Mammal Center in Sausalito, California

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images ©2010 Carole Terwilliger Meyers

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Wine Country: Sonoma, Estate--CLOSED

update/p.413

CLOSED
Estate  400 W. Spain St., 3 blks. from plaza, (707) 933-3663; . D daily, SunBr; $$-$$$. Reservations advised. General Vallejo’s third daughter, Natalia, built this Victorian in 1864 with her husband, Attilla Haraszthy, whose family grew grapes in the valley. The house is beautifully renovated and adapted--with high ceilings, cabernet-colored walls, and large window cutouts in interior walls permitting seeing into adjoining rooms--and diners can choose from several seating spaces, including a porch and large patio area in good weather. The regional Italian menu offers several rustic-style pizzas, a delicious roasted chicken, and a popular four-course “La Cena di Famiglia" dinner. One recent evening this well-priced family-style extravaganza included wood-fired-oven-baked bread and a tasty spread; an assortment of four antipasti that included circles of polenta and a few thin slices of housemade salumi; a fresh corn, tomato, and arugula salad with fragrant truffle vinaigrette; wood oven-baked penne with pork shoulder-tomato sugo topped with delicious, very stringy mozzarella and a side of lemony kale; and an ending of roasted fresh peach halves with pistachio gelato. Cocktails, beer, and local wines by the glass are available, and a visit to the separate grappa bar can be fun before or after dining.

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image c2010 Carole Terwilliger Meyers

Monday, August 9, 2010

San Francisco: Ramblas--CLOSED

update/p.81

Monday, August 2, 2010

Wine Country: Yountville, Bouchon Bakery

Bouchon Bakery 6528 Washington St., (707) 944-2253. Daily 7-7. This yummy spot bakes baguettes twice daily. Pastries include croissants, sticky buns, and a signature broiche twist drizzled with chocolate. Cookies are exceptional, especially the oatmeal-pecan. In fact, you can pick up the makings for a supreme picnic—heavenly sandwiches, a gooey-centered Valrhona chocolate cake, and cold drinks from the cooler.

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Saturday, July 31, 2010

101 North: Sausalito--Marin Headlands, Bay Area Discovery Museum

update/p.216
updated Sept. 6, 2016

Bay Area Discovery Museum 557 McReynolds Rd., in East Fort Baker, (415) 339-3900. Tu-F 9-4, Sat-Sun 10-5. $10, 62+ & 1-17 $8.  Free on 1st W of month 9-4. 
This activity-oriented, hands-on museum designed especially for children 6 months to 8 years old is especially nice as a rainy day outing. Themed areas include a Tot Spot for toddlers, where they can splash in an outdoor flume and crawl through several padded indoor rooms; an Art Studio with sections for both older kids and younger ones; Lookout Cove outdoor play area featuring Bay Area icons; a Wave Workshop where kids can explore waves in an experimental setting; San Francisco Bay Hall with an “underwater” tunnel and play fishing boats. The excitement is contagious, and parents find themselves being pulled along from one activity to another by their eager children. Visitors can also explore the outdoor area immediately surrounding the museum. Good advice: Arrive early, bring a lunch, stay late. “Shall we move on?” was always met with a firm, “No,” from our 18-month-old.  Note: the cafe is currently closed; changing tables are found in the men’s room here, too.

image c2010 Carole Terwilliger Meyers

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Wine Country: Sonoma, Baksheesh Fair Trade


Baksheesh Fair Trade 423 First St. West, (707) 939-2847. M-Sat 10-6, Sun 12-6. This unusual shop strives to trade “fairly with artisans in the developing world and the U.S.” The goods are reminiscent of what you see in souvenir shops as you travel the globe. I saw familiar neck scarves like some I bought recently in Thailand and Egypt, but also saw some lovely print tablecloths from India and elephant dung greeting cards from Sri Lanka, where I’ve never traveled.

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Friday, July 23, 2010

80 North: Berkeley, House of Curries

House of Curries 2984 College Ave./Ashby Ave., (510) 841-1688. L-D daily; $. Service at this Pakistani-Indian spot is bare bones. Patrons pay in advance and secure their own utensils, water, and complimentary hot chai. Among the tastiest items on the expansive menu are spicy vindaloos, tandoori lamb chops, and rice biryanis. Daily specials and a large selection of vegetable curries--including a delicious eggplant--are also available.

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Monday, July 19, 2010

Friday, July 16, 2010

San Francisco: Scoma's Restaurant

Scoma's Restaurant Pier 47, on Al Scoma Way at Jones St./Jefferson St., Fisherman’s Wharf, (800) 644-5852, (415) 771-4383. L-D daily; $$$. Reservations not accepted. Free valet parking. Hidden away from the touristy bustle and featuring a prime waterfront location, this old timer is reached via a back alley leading out over the area’s actual wharfs. Built from a modest coffee shop and using the owner’s family recipes, it boasts a pleasant old S.F. ambiance, big windows with views of weathered boardwalks and fishing boats, and a professional waitstaff. And since it is the only restaurant in San Francisco with a commercial license to buy right off the boats, it's hard to beat the fresh seafood selection. Meals begin with exceptional sourdough bread made by Boudin especially for the restaurant (they use 175 loaves on an average day). When at capacity, two separate kitchens keep the wait short. Menu items are organic when possible, and an active effort is made to recycle. The menu includes everyone’s favorites, many of which are house specialties--Lazy Man’s cioppino, fried calamari, clam chowder, crab cakes. The chef also prepares perfect scallops and a delicious crab risotto studded with fresh peas, and house-aged Angus beef is available.

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image c2010 Carole Terwilliger Meyers 

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Greater East Bay: Orinda, Baan Thai Restaurant

 updated December 31, 2014

Baan Thai Restaurant  99 Orinda Way/near Camino Pablo, (925) 253-0989.  L-D daily; $.  Set along a quiet leafy street and featuring a simple, pleasant decor, this spacious two-room Thai spot has multi-paned windows looking out to the sidewalk and wood banquettes lining the walls.  Delicious pumpkin, mango-chicken, and panang curries are available; the Thai crunch salad and oriental chicken salad are also good choices.  Smokey eggplant with chicken, tofu, and Thai basil is another personal favorite, and a “veggie lover menu” offers many selections.  Heat is light, so request that dishes be made more spicy if that is the way you like them.  Brown rice is in actuality a plump, chewy red variety with a nutty flavor. 


shrimp donuts at Baan Thai restaurant in Orinda, California
shrimp donuts



massaman curry at Baan Thai restaurant in Orinda, California
massaman curry



Sticky rice with mango is the dessert of choice, but when that isn’t available coconut ice cream with fried bananas is a good second.  Lunch specials include a salad. 

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first two images ©2014 Carole Terwilliger Meyers, third image courtesy of restaurant

Saturday, July 10, 2010

101 North: San Rafael, Sol Food

Sol Food 732 4th St./Lincoln Ave., (415) 451-4765. B-L-D daily; $$. No reservations. Though this teeny, tiny Puerto Rican spot features a festive atmosphere, it has only several short counters of seating. Less appetizing seating spills into the parking lot. Check out the super cool website and plan your meal ahead. Signature dishes include: pollo al horno (boneless, skinless, flattened chicken thighs served with pink or black beans and sweet (soft and juicy) or garlicky (crispy and flat) fried plantains); camarones criollos (large prawns sauteed in a delicious tomato-garlic-onion sauce and served with rice, avocado, and plantains); and pressed sandwiches—the jibaro features steak, garlic mayo, and crunchy garlic plantains, and the Cubano has roast pork, ham, mustard pickles, and Swiss cheese. Vinegary hot sauce on the table adds to the flavor, and a heavy plantain keeps napkins from blowing away. Fresh limeade and orange-mango iced tea are served up in mason jar glasses. If the crowdedness of this small take-out place sounds unappealing (the kitchen here is stuffed with almost as many cooks as the counters are with diners), or if it is overflowing when you arrive, opt for their branch at 901 Lincoln Ave./3rd St., (415) 256-8900. It is just a block away and has much more seating, but it doesn’t serve breakfast and can also get very crowded with happy diners.
interior of Sol Food at 901 Lincoln Ave. in San Rafael, California
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image ©2012 Carole Terwilliger Meyers
 

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

San Francisco: Asia de Cuba--CLOSED

update/p.61

Is now the Velvet Room.

Monday, July 5, 2010

1 South: Montara, La Costanera

La Costanera 8150 Cabrillo Hwy. (Hwy.1), (650) 728-1600. D Tu-Sun; $$$. Perched on a bluff above the ocean, this restaurant has three levels, with high ceilings and tall windows that provide a spectacular ocean view for everyone. Wood chairs with metal frames and a swivel back are particularly comfortable. So it is a surprise to have the added pleasure of a menu featuring deliciously prepared contemporary Peruvian cuisine. The way to go with the extensive menu is tapas and pisco sours. Ceviche/cebiche (seafood marinated in, and cooked by, citrus juice) is the national dish of Peru, and here it is prepared with a variety of fish and shellfish and served with enhancing sauces. The halibut version is embellished with crunchy fried dried corn kernels, that alone is good enough reason to order the dish. A tasting of three causas (mashed potatoes) is served in a row of colorful scoops (our waitress informed us that 236 kinds of potato are grown in Peru!). A highlight is choclo Peruano (Peruvian corn with huge kernels, flown in from the mother country, grilled on cob, and topped with a tasty cheese-red pepper sauce). Choose a fried chicarrones--delicious chicken, fish, calamari, or portabello mushrooms--and crispy yucca balls stuffed with chorizo are a must. The entrée menu includes some larger portion delights: adobo de chancho (pork shoulder slow braised in dark beer); lomo saltado, also referred to as the Peruvian national dish (a stir-fry of beef tenderloin, onions, tomatoes, cilantro, and soy sauce; seafood paella. Octopus and mussels appear in several dishes. Dessert brings on a refreshing passion fruit panna cotta as well as alfajores and flan, and brewed coffee—not Nescafe, as is the disappointing standard through South America. The downstairs bar opens onto a sheltered outdoor patio with comfortable seating, heat lamps, and several fire pits. Allow time before or after to walk down the adjacent steps to the spectacular beach in front for a refreshing stroll, and don’t be surprised if you see a long line of pelicans fly by while you’re dining.

Friday, July 2, 2010

San Francisco: Palio d'Asti

Palio d'Asti  640 Sacramento St./Montgomery St., Financial District near Chinatown, (415) 395-9800. L M-F, D M-Sat; $$-$$$; happy hour M-F 4-7pm. Artwork in the light-filled front room here evokes the piazza in Asti where the restaurant’s namesake horse race, Il Palio, is run. A more cozy, cave-like back room features comfortable booths and a full bar (during happy hour, martinis are $1 and pizza is complimentary with drinks). The Italian menu offers a risotto, a wood-baked gnocchi, and a selection of pastas--which might include housemade square spaghetti alla Chitarra with veal meatballs, or a hearty and tasty ravioli stuffed with porcini mushrooms and ricotta and topped with wild boar sugo. A superb summer salad features stone fruits—peaches, plums, and cherries—with butter lettuce, red onions, almonds, and pecorino cheese. Pizzas and an assortment of secondi courses are also available. The lunch menu is a la carte, while the dinner menu consists of three prix fixe menus: $29 (two courses), $37 (three courses), and $45 (four courses).

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image courtesy of venue