January 30, 2013

Yountville: Lavender



Wine Country

Lavender  2020 Webber Ave., (800) 522-4140, (707) 944-1388.  8 rooms.  All gas fireplaces.  Afternoon snack, full breakfast buffet; room service.  Pets ok.  Set a block back from this tiny town’s main street, in a quiet leafy residential area, this French country-style inn operates within the updated bones of a late 1800s farmhouse.  Its wraparound porch is furnished with wicker chairs and a romantic green-painted swinging wood couch.  Guests drive into the off-street parking area through a reformatted barn that now also holds the inn’s various maintenance rooms, then walk down a brick garden lane to the reception desk just inside the converted house’s side door.  Housemade cookies are always available along with the makings for a hot drink, and a communal seating area with comfy stuffed couches and chairs and an oriental carpet is provided in a tiny parlor with gas fireplace.  The music of Edith Piaf sometimes sets the tone.  An included full buffet breakfast with eggs is served off the lobby and, weather permitting, in the garden, and a complimentary late afternoon tea time with breads, cheeses, and pastries is also scheduled (sometimes local wineries also come to pour).  Complimentary newspapers are available in the lobby, and evening turndown service includes a delectable Le Belge chocolate.  A boules court (French bocce ball) is located on the front lawn, and old-fashioned bicycles can be borrowed to explore the surrounding countryside.  Three rooms have a jetted tub on their patio, and in summer guests can use the pool at Maison Fleurie--a sister inn located just two blocks away.  Books and games are available to borrow from the front desk.  Six rooms are in three duplex one-level units, and two rooms are within the vintage house.  All rooms have similar rustic decor, with buttery walls and colorful striped bed covers, and the duplex units each have a private patio.  

January 28, 2013

Livermore: Casa Orozco



Greater East Bay

Casa Orozco  325 S. L St./3rd St, (925) 449-3045. L-D M-Sat; $$. Located on the outskirts of downtown, this restaurant features a large open dining room plus a cozy bar extension. Margaritas are refreshing and varied and include a jalapeno-cucumber version. Lunch specials include pozole, tortilla soup, and huaraches, plus a veggie-friendly chile relleno or flauta stuffed with mashed potatoes. Shrimp enchiladas and seafood tacos are always good choices, as are dishes featuring shredded chicken, and specialties include a deep-fried chimichanga, enchiladas verdes, and tacos al pastor. Chips and both mild and hot red salsas are complimentary.


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image ©2013 Carole Terwilliger Meyers

January 25, 2013

Oakland: Uzen Japanese Cuisine


880 South

Uzen Japanese Cuisine  5415 College Ave./Hudson St., (510) 654-7753.  L M-F, D M-Sat; $$.  Takes reservations.  Narrow and deep, this small spot manages to squeeze in a full-size sushi bar.  Sushi (vegan sushi, too) and sashimi are the strong points, but udon noodles, salmon free-range Rocky chicken teriyaki, tempura, and katsu don (fried pork cutlet) all share the menu.


Nearby, Bella Vita (5307 College Ave., (510) 653-1639) stocks a browse-worthy collection of locally handmade goods plus children’s items and some new and vintage clothing. 

Rockridge Home (5418 College Ave., (510) 420-1928.  Daily 11-8.) gift and kitchen shop is across the street with a spectacular and colorful selection of goods.  You’ll find items for children, for organizing your home, and for thrilling a giftee.


More things to do in Oakland.

Way more things to do in Oakland.  

More ideas for exploring Northern California.

image ©2013 Carole Terwilliger Meyers

January 23, 2013

Palo Alto: Coconuts Caribbean Restaurant & Bar


101 South

Coconuts Caribbean Restaurant & Bar  642 Ramona St./Forest Ave., 2 blks. S of University Ave., (650) 353-2897.  L-D M-Sat; $.  Though the oversize tables for four make easy conversation difficult, this restaurant is a haven for diners seeking flavorful island cuisine.  Jerk chicken and salmon are tasty choices, but don’t overlook the plentiful and unusual vegetarian dishes:  corn festival (fried corn dough; ask for some mango dipping sauce), fried plantains, spinach ackee triangles (Jamaica’s national fruit), spicy Irie tofu (Jamaica’s national dish; accompanied with seasoned spinach and lentils and a jerk dipping sauce), macaroni and cheese, sweet potato fries.  Rice and beans are paired with many main dishes.  Call for happy hour info and schedule for live steel drum music.  



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image ©2013 Carole Terwilliger Meyers

January 21, 2013

San Francisco: Sauce Belden Place


San Francisco

Sauce Belden Place  56 Belden Pl./Bush St., Financial District, (415) 397-8800.  L M-F, D daily; $$.  Reservations accepted.  Located down-alley, this one-room venue’s decor includes a pressed-tile ceiling and high seating.  Napkins are big—they are repurposed dish towels—and food is mostly tapas-style small “social plates.”  Though comfort foods abound, you’ll see updated appetizer versions— sweet little two-bite mini chicken pot pies, meaty portabello mushroom fries with housemade ranch dipping sauce, bacon-wrapped meatloaf atop mashed potatoes.  Chef Ben Paula suggests sharing a large sampler platter featuring four each of a variety of appetizers assures so diners won’t experience “entrĂ©e envy.”  Brussels sprout salad consists of separate leaves tossed with bacon candy and dried cranberries and makes a delicious change from lettuce.  Unfortunately, many Happy Hour diners probably never make it to the entrees that include a buttery Maine lobster roll--the bun is made in house, and the shells from the fresh lobster are used to make a bisque--and fried organic chicken with whipped potatoes and gravy.  Happy Hour BOOMS--I joked to my dining partner that maybe we should carry on a conversation by texting--daily from 2:30 to 7 p.m., and microwbrews, bubbles by the glass, and creative cocktails are part of the mix (my fave is the tasty American Honey Side Car with Wild Turkey bourbon and triple orange liquor).  Dessert brings on oatmeal cookie dough bon bons and PB&J sponge cake with a vanilla ice cream center.  Vegetarian, vegan, and gluten-free options are available.  Sauce stays open until 1 a.m.


More things to do in San Francisco

Way more things to do in San Francisco.

More ideas for exploring Northern California.

image and video ©2013 Carole Terwilliger Meyers

January 18, 2013

San Francisco: SFJAZZ Center


San Francisco

SFJAZZ Center  201 Franklin St./Fell St., Hayes Valley, (866) 920-5299, (415) 788-7353.  When designing this new jazz venue, careful thought was put into giving it the stature of a concert hall but with the informality of a club.  Sightlines are excellent, sound is tonally balanced, and seats are comfortable (their arms have a drink holder).  Featuring a kind of corrugated aluminum look in greys and blacks, it gives off a cool vibe.  Concerts begin on January 23.


More things to do in San Francisco

Way more things to do in San Francisco.

More ideas for exploring Northern California.

videos ©2013 Carole Terwilliger Meyers




January 16, 2013

Yountville: Ma(i)sonry Napa Valley



Wine Country

Ma(i)sonry Napa Valley  6711 Washington St./Pedroni St., N end of town, (707) 944-0889.  Sun-W 10-7, Thur-Sat 10-10.  Built in 1890 as a brandy distillery, this structure has local fieldstone and river rock features and brick walls that are 22 inches thick.  Its storied past includes stints as a speakeasy, school, bordello, LSD factory, antique shop, and B&B.  Currently it is an art and design gallery and wine-tasting facility as well as a National Historic Site.  Visitors are greeted with a complimentary tasting of one vintage (we heard, “Let me get you a welcome splash.”) and are invited to browse the two-story gallery and lovely outdoor space dotted with century-old olive trees and contemporary sculpture.  Should you want to do more extensive wine tasting, a collection of more than 50 wines from the small wineries represented here is available to choose from—perhaps a bright Blackbird Vineyards Arriveste Rose or an earthy red Casa Piena Our Gang Cabernet Sauvignon from vineyards that are “just over there.”  The staff is knowledgeable and hospitable, and you can purchase wines you like on site.

January 14, 2013

Yountville: Cosentino Winery


Wine Country 

Cosentino Winery  7415 St. Helena Hwy. (Hwy. 29), (707) 944-1220.  Tasting daily 10-5:30; no tour.  Built in 1990, this winery produced the country's first designated Meritage wine.  Referred to as The Poet, it is a marvelous blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, and Merlot.  In a barrel room tasting here (held daily at 10am, 12, 2pm, and 4), I learned about toasting French oak barrels and sampled a pricey 2009 Chardonnay from Bacigalupi Vineyard and a 2005 Cabernet from the Secret Clone Vineyard (it is said the vines for the latter were smuggled in from Parma, Italy).  Bread sticks, cheese, and salami enhanced.


More things to do in Yountville.

More things to do in the Wine Country.

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image ©2013 Carole Terwilliger Meyers

January 11, 2013

Point Reyes Station: Stellina


1 North

Stellina  11285 Hwy. 1, (415) 663-9988.  L-D F-W; $$.  It’s surprising to find such scrumptious offerings so far off the beaten path, but here it is!  Though it is not complimentary, springy, delicious Brick Maiden sourdough bread and housemade focaccia is served with a fine olive oil for dipping (the dreamy bread is made in a yellow house up the street and can be purchased at several local shops).  Splitting a salad and thin-crusted pizza (especially one topped with slow-roasted roma tomatoes) or a grilled cheese on that same wonderful bread is a good way to go for two, saving room for the ice cream sandwich of the day.  Oysters, pasta, and more than 30 wines by the glass are also on the menu, and most ingredients are local. 


More things to do on Highway 1 and in the Point Reyes area.

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image ©2013 Carole Terwilliger Meyers
updated 7-25-18

January 9, 2013

Tomales: Tomales Bakery


1 North

Tomales Bakery  27000 Hwy. 1, (707) 878-2429.  Thur-Sun 7:30am-4:30; $.  There is just barely enough room inside the flower-painted door rim of this tiny spot to select and buy.  The syrupy, nutty sticky buns and “Puff Daddy”—a cinnamon-sugar covered croissant—are popular and tasty.  Sometimes you’ll be able to see pastries in process in the open kitchen.  A few seats are available outside.


More things to do on Highway 1 and in the Point Reyes area.

More ideas for exploring Northern California.

image ©2013 Carole Terwilliger Meyers

January 7, 2013

Yountville: Mustards Grill


Wine Country

Mustards Grill  The best place to be seated at this popular, well-established bar and grill (it’s been here now for a quarter century) is in the front area with its multi-paned windows.  Tables are set with crisp white napery, and the atmosphere is casual and chic and the menu imaginative.  Selections include soups, salads, and sandwiches--the grilled ahi tuna with basil aioli and the burger are particularly tasty--as well as entrees such as barbecued baby back ribs, Mongolian pork chop with sweet & sour red cabbage, and grilled hanger steak.  Fresh fish specials are also available.  Onion rings are thin, light, and superb, and served with housemade ketchup.  Varietal wines are available by the glass, and rich desserts and specialty coffees invite lingering.


More things to do in Yountville.

More things to do in the Wine Country.

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image ©2013 Carole Terwilliger Meyers 

January 4, 2013

Yountville: Goosecross winery


Wine Country

Goosecross  1119 State Lane, (800) 276-9210, (707) 944-1986.  Tasting daily 10-4:30.  Tours by appt.; M-F at 11 & 2.  Located off a valley cross street, back among the vineyards, this friendly tasting room is situated in a cozy barrel cellar.  The winery is very small, has no distribution, and only sells its wines here.  A tasting might include a crisp and fruity Pinot Gris, a smooth Merlot with a toasty oak finish, and perhaps a heavier Syrah with cherry, pepper, and black licorice flavors.  The video below demonstrates an orbital wine decanter. 


More things to do in Yountville.

More things to do in the Wine Country.

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video ©2013 Carole Terwilliger Meyers  


January 2, 2013

Marshall: Nick’s Cove Restaurant, Oyster Bar & Cottages


1 North

Nick’s Cove Restaurant, Oyster Bar & Cottages  23240 Hwy. 1, 3 mi. N of town, (866) 63-NICKS, (415) 663-1033.  12 units.  All fireplaces & wood-burning stoves; all kitchens.  Continental breakfast; restaurant; room service.  Pets ok.  Clustered on either side of Highway 1, this collection of luxury cottage units were built in the 1930s, more than 80 years ago.  Tastefully updated, their unique atmosphere makes this the perfect spot for reflection, decompression, and rejuvenation.  Five waterfront units are individual cottages, while seven more units across the road from the bay are split between three buildings.  Features vary.  As an example, detached Ruthie’s cottage features knotty-pine walls and has a sleeping area, a sitting area, and a small kitchen--all with a view out to the bay.  It also has an unsheltered balcony with plenty of room to sit and relax and soak up the fresh air and sounds of the bay.  The bathroom features noteworthy vintage chrome plumbing fixtures that work well and really pump the water—a pleasant surprise—and a lovely basket-weave marble floor with radiant heating.  Five units have a clawfoot bathtub.  Upon arrival, it is a good thing to order up some of the area’s famous fresh oysters to be barbecued and delivered to the room for an afternoon snack, or you can order them in the bar area and enjoy them by a vintage stone fireplace that is often set with a crackling fire.  The included continental breakfast is brought to the room in the morning.

Featuring knotty-pine walls decorated with stuffed game heads plus an exceptional view over to Hog Island and the Point Reyes Peninsula, Nick’s Cove Restaurant has a comfortable old-time feel.  A marble chef’s table--known as the Hog Table--is equipped with red leather-covered bar stools and features a selection of raw oysters (they also are available cooked), and a glassed-in deck beckons on warmer days.  The mostly locally-sourced menu features fresh local seafood, including oysters, rock cod, and clams (for the chowder) from Tomales Bay.  When Dungeness crab season is on, the crab cakes (made with very little filler and perhaps some smoked paprika aioli for a little kick) are hard to beat, but the restaurant is known for its crab mac ‘n cheese and also prepares a crab Louis.  At lunch, the crab Benedict and burger with housemade brioche bun and pickles are choice.  Dessert includes hand-crafted s’mores for two—perfect for roasting in the restaurant’s fireplace. 
    At some point you’ll want to visit the charming little boat house at the end of a 400-foot pier; snacks and drinks can be delivered or taken out there.



More things to do in the Point Reyes area.
 
More ideas for exploring Northern California.

images ©2013 Carole Terwilliger Meyers