Friday, September 30, 2011

Greater East Bay: Danville, Esin Restaurant and Bar

Esin Restaurant and Bar  750 Camino Ramon, in The Rose Garden shopping center, (925) 314-0974. L-D daily; $$-$$$. A favorite with local critics and foodies, this sophisticated restaurant features high ceilings, large windows, and comfortable seating--including banquettes and booths--in its large, airy open space. The menu offers housemade soups and creative salads as well as pastas, fish, and meats. Desserts are exceptional and not to be trifled with; don’t miss the black-bottom banana cream pie--oh my!—or the fave peanut butter cheesecake.

Esin Restaurant & Bar on Urbanspoon

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image c2011 Carole Terwilliger Meyers




Wednesday, September 28, 2011

80 North: Berkeley, Trattoria La Siciliana

Trattoria La Siciliana  2993 College Ave./Ashby Ave., in Elmwood, (510) 704-1474. D daily; $$. Cash only. Reservations advised (taken for 3+). Tables here are tucked into a narrow space with an upstairs area to help handle overflow. The menu is extensive, and all pastas are made from scratch on site. Meals are meant to be shared and begin with a tasty olive oil dip made with plenty of garlic and herbs and a hint of heat. Though it does seem difficult to order wrong, tried-and-true dishes include portobello mushroom ravioli, rollatini di Melenzane (eggplant rolls), pappardelle pasta with either a light mixture of sausage and kale or with a long-simmered pork ragu sauce, and sometimes lobster linguine.

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image c2011 Carole Terwilliger Meyers

Trattoria la Siciliana on Urbanspoon

Monday, September 26, 2011

101 North: Ukiah, Ukiah Brewing Company & Restaurant


Ukiah Brewing Company & Restaurant  102 S. State St., downtown, (707) 468-5898. L-D daily; $$. Takes reservations. Do your body a healthy favor and have a brew and a meal at the first certified organic brewpub and the second certified organic brewery in the U.S. Beers are not filtered and available only on site. Everything on the eclectic menu here is made in the kitchen except the bread and buns, which come from Schat’s Bakery next door. The Orr Springs IPA is the most popular brew, but many also favor the Sunhouse Amber, Doppel Dunkel Weizen, and dark Coops Stout. Menu favorites include a burger, fresh fish & chips, a Sloppy Joe with caramelized onions and side of mild red cabbage slaw, a beet-walnut salad, and garlic fries. Housemade cucumber pickles are available in summer, and daikon radish pickles the rest of the year. The funky warehouse-style space offers seating in several areas and also outside, and live music is scheduled most evenings.

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image c2011 Carole Terwilliger Meyers
 

Friday, September 23, 2011

80 North: Berkeley, Vegi Food--CLOSED

Vegi Food  2085 Vine St./Shattuck Ave., (510) 548-5244. L Tu-F, D daily; $. Reservations taken. No cards. This very simple cafe serves an all-vegan menu of Chinese food prepared in the Buddhist style--with no onions, garlic, eggs, fake meats, or MSG, but with plenty of vegetables and ginger and some tofu and gluten. Popular dishes include crispy fried pot stickers, spicy “shark fin” soup with plenty of tasty mushrooms but no sharks, soybean sheets with greens, crispy thin chow mein noodles with veggies, spicy eggplant, and asparagus or green beans in black bean sauce. Fried wontons and soup come with the bargain lunch special; brown rice is available at additional charge.

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image c2011 Carole Terwilliger Meyers

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Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Highway 49--Gold Rush Country: Plymouth, Deaver Vineyards & Winery and Amador Harvest Inn

Deaver Vineyards & Winery 12455 Steiner Rd., (209) 245-4099. Daily 11-5. Though this Shenandoah Valley tasting room is simple and unfussy, the wines are delicious and the tranquil grounds boast picnic tables overlooking two manmade lakes dating from the 1930s. Deaver has been making wines here for four generations and have some of the area’s oldest “mission vines” (planted by missionaries in the 1850s). The roots of old vines go 20 feet into the ground and source their own water, so they don’t need to be watered further and produce grapes with an earthy taste. Wines include a Zinfandel made from the fruit of 140-year-old vines, a Primitivo from the same grandfather grape hailing from Croatia, and a very nice Zinfandel Port. The winery’s ten ports are fortified with brandy and delightfully sealed with wax, making a lovely gift.

Amador Harvest Inn 12455 Steiner Rd., (800) 217-2304, (209) 245-5512. 4 rooms. Unsuitable for children under 12. Full breakfast. No pets. Located adjacent to the winery, this Cape Cod-style house overlooks vineyards, mature oaks, and rolling hills.

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image c2011 Carole Terwilliger Meyers

Monday, September 19, 2011

101 North: Ukiah, Patrona

Patrona 130 W. Standley St., downtown, (707) 462-9181. L-D Tu-Sat; $$$. Reservations advised. Locally sourced California cuisine is served here in a serene atmosphere featuring rustic brick walls nicely accenting a chic decor of black leather hi-back chairs and tables of polished pepperwood repurposed from a nearby ranch. A creative cocktail is the perfect start—perhaps a pisco mojito with cucumber, lime, and mint--but the large Mendocino County wine list is also worth a look. The menu changes regularly, so there is no guarantee it will offer a tangy, finely chopped gazpacho soup, or a crunchy flash-fried cod with a sweet chili sauce, but fish here is generally very good.

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image c2011 Carole Terwilliger Meyers 

Friday, September 16, 2011

101 North: Novato, Rustic Bakery

Rustic Bakery 1407 Grant Ave., (415) 878-4952. Daily 7am-5pm; $. Diners at this bakery cafe pass by a mouth-watering selection of baked goods—specialty breads, flaky croissants, fruit pastries, huge cookies, bread pudding—then place their order at the counter for sandwiches, salads, and soups. A large window looks into the bakery kitchen. Seating is at a bank of tables across from the counter, and outside on the sidewalk in good weather.

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image c2011 Carole Terwilliger Meyers

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Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Greater East Bay: Moraga, town of Canyon

Canyon  Along Pinehurst Rd., 3 mi. from Moraga. A narrow winding road leads through redwoods into no man’s land—-the rustic unincorporated community of Canyon. Stop at the post office to absorb the quiet, woodsy atmosphere.

image c2011 Carole Terwilliger Meyers

Monday, September 12, 2011

880 South: Livermore, La Rochelle & The Steven Kent Winery

Steven Mirassou, who owns both of these wineries, says, "The wine business is like the fashion business, but it doesn’t move as quickly. People are always looking for new things."

La Rochelle
5443 Tesla Rd., (925) 243-6442. Tasting daily 12-4:30; no tour.
This winery focuses on Pinot Noir. In addition to a regular tasting, a flight tasting paired with a food platter is offered in its relaxing tasting room; reservations are not necessary.


The Steven Kent Winery  5443 Tesla Rd., (925) 243-6440. Tasting daily 12-4:30; no tour.  This winery operates on the same property. Incredibly enthusiastic owner-winemaker Steven Mirassou focuses on Cabernet but also makes a delicious “Merrillie” Chardonnay and Vincere, and he is not above naming a vinatage for his grandma (Merrillie) or his cat (Lola). Picnic tables are shaded by several olive trees.

image c2011 Carole Terwilliger Meyers

Friday, September 9, 2011

80 North: Berkeley, Joshu-ya Brasserie

Joshu-ya Brasserie 2441 Dwight Way/Telegraph Ave., (510) 848-5260. L M-Sat, D daily; $$. Though it retains part of the space’s former name, this is an all-new enterprise with an enthusiastic young chef from NYC. Surrounded as it is by a red wood fence, the remodeled restaurant is especially reminiscent of a Japanese country inn in the evening when warm lights glow in welcome. Though traditional Japanese favorites are on the menu and extremely well executed (crisp-battered shrimp and vegetable tempura, delicate vegetable gyoza potstickers), the izakaya (Japanese tapas) craze is apparent with choices such as cold but spicy jalapeno pork belly soba noodles or hanger steak sukiyaki with shitake mushrooms. And there is, of course, plenty of sushi (Lion King with baked salmon, crab, and avocado; Cinderella with vegetable tempura, avocado, and wakame seaweed). A bowl of miso soup and bottomless cup of roasted rice green tea are complimentary with every meal. Dining spaces include a large outside courtyard complete with soothing fountain, a formal front dining room with white tablecloths, a tucked-away back room reminiscent of a German beer pub, and a traditional sushi bar. For drinks, choose from Japanese craft beers, shochu (a Japanese distilled clear spirit similar to vodka), and fruity sake cocktails. Dessert choices include a baseball-size hunk of green tea ice cream wrapped in pound cake and deep fried.

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image c2011 Carole Terwilliger Meyers

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Highway 49--Gold Rush Country: Plymouth, Jeff Runquist Wines

Jeff Runquist Wines 10776 Shenandoah Rd., (209) 245-6282. F-Sun 11-5. Look for the “R” to find this understated winery, then look for the "Z" for their ultra premium Zinfandel (the grapes used for this label come from a local vineyard planted at the turn of the 19th century). It is interesting that the winemaker owns no vineyards yet makes a nice Barbera using grapes from nearby Cooper Vineyards, and a very good Pinot Noir with grapes from Napa. All wines made here are red. Taste them in a clean-lined modern tasting room with windows into the cask room.

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image c2011 Carole Terwilliger Meyers

Monday, September 5, 2011

101 South: Palo Alto, Sprout Cafe

Sprout Cafe 168 University Ave., (650) 323-7688. L daily, D M-Sat; $. This very busy spot can be loaded with little sprouts and their strollers, so it is a good idea to try to avoid rush hours. Stop by the table in front to peruse the menu and decide whether you will order a premade salad (the Davy made with poached Scottish salmon, avocado, sesame ginger dressing, and more is a winner) or a build-your-own salad, then order in back at the counter. Housemade soups and sandwiches are also available.

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image ©2011 Carole Terwilliger Meyers


Friday, September 2, 2011

Highway 49--Gold Rush Country: Plymouth, C.G. Di Arie Vineyard and Winery

C.G. Di Arie Vineyard and Winery 19919 Shenandoah School Rd., 209. 245. 4700; . Tasting Thur-M 10-4:30. Owned by a native Israeli and his wife, a former dancer with the Oakland Ballet, this tiny 209-acre winery makes big wine. “Wine is the thing around which we dance today,” comments the charming Elisheva Gur-Arieh. She says they came to attend a bat mitzvah in the valley here and heard it calling to them. Her husband Chaim is described by others as a character and also the maker of incredible wines. Do sample their smooth and delicious flagship Southern Exposure™ Zinfandel, which has won more than 30 gold medals and is made from grapes from the original Grandpere vineyard. (It is claimed this vineyard holds the oldest living Zinfandel vines in the U.S. (the first recorded harvest came from this vineyard in 1868, 1 year before the Civil War.

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image c2011 Carole Terwilliger Meyers