December 30, 2013

Oakland: Bourbon & Beef; restaurant review + things to do

880 South

Bourbon & Beef  5634 College Ave./Keith Ave., Rockridge, (510) 788-4821.  L M-F, Sat-SunBr, D daily. 

Featuring a dark, earth-toned clubby atmosphere—updated with comfortable tables and chairs along one wall, and with a long bar and high communal tables along the other—this smallish venue features a Spanish-Mexican tapas menu with other things mixed in.  We started with Sopa de Langosta (lobster bisque with corn flan, lime cream, and caviar), which had no lobster chunks or detectible caviar, but I loved the smoky flat bread triangles served with it.  We shared fish and chips that were over-battered nuggets of salmon with french fries instead of chips, but I loved the jicama slaw that came with it and would have liked extra.  What came next--pork belly and shrimp taquitos—made me want to return for more.  The saucy toppings are stellar, and filling choices include carne asada, salmon, chorizo, Kobe short ribs, chicken, and veggies.  If ordered alone, three will likely do it.  Promising dinner items include Carne de Res con Papas (grilled rib-eye steak with roasted shishito peppers and potatoes topped with chimichurri sauce and a shallot-bourbon demi glaze), Torta de Camarónes (shrimp cakes topped with coconut-mango chutney), and paella with giant Tasmanian prawns and chorizo.  My companion and I went for a sweet ending—she delighted in the kitchen’s signature crème brulee-rice pudding with bourbon and Bing cherries, and I blissed out with a hot fudge sundae with fresh whipped cream.  Weekend brunch brings on huevos rancheros and pan dulce (baked French toast stuffed with jalapeño sweet cream and served with strawberries, caramelized plantains, and rum whipped cream).  Cocktails are a specialty and twenty-plus bourbons are poured, but I sipped happily on a tasty, fruity deep-burgundy sangria, while my companion nursed a virgin mojito so she could get some work done after. 

Bourbon & Beef Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Allow time to browse this delightful shopping street.

Right next door is gift shop extraordinaire—Maison d’Etre, which is filled to the rafters with lovely gifting items as well as many items you will want to purchase for yourself and your own home.

More things to do in Oakland.

Way more things to do in Oakland. 

More ideas for exploring Northern California.

images c2013 Carole Terwilliger Meyers
updated 10-30-14

December 20, 2013

Oakland: Alta Bates Summit Showcase (CLOSED); things to do

880 South

Alta Bates Summit Showcase  CLOSED  5615 College Ave./Ocean View Dr., Rockridge, (510) 653-1527.  Tu-Sat 10-3.  The inventory in this resale shop changes regularly.  You’ll find well-priced sets of fine china and etched crystal as well as books, children’s toys, and seasonal items such as colorful nutcrackers at Christmas.  All proceeds benefit the programs and community services of the Alta Bates Summit Medical Center.  Donations are welcome. 

More things to do in Oakland.

Way more things to do in Oakland. 

More Christmas events.

More ideas for exploring Northern California.

images c2013 Carole Terwilliger Meyers

December 18, 2013

Midpines: Yosemite Bug Rustic Mountain Resort; hotel review

Highway 49--Gold Rush Country

Yosemite Bug Rustic Mountain Resort  On Hwy. 140, 26 mi. west of Yosemite Valley, (866) 826-7108, (209) 966-6666.  22 rooms.  Some shared baths.  No TVs or phones.  Restaurant.  Hot tub; sauna (fee); health spa. 

Operating on the site of a former church camp and youth hostel, this lodging is spread out over a hilly site and offers group dorms, private rooms, cabins, and tent cabins.  My duplex cabin was comfortable and warm and attractively decorated, but unfortunately the mattress was a memory foam that was way past its prime and had forgotten its job.


Plan to arrive in daylight, as the property is quite spread out.  It offers trails and a swimming hole, plus a comfortable communal area with a fireplace and also an outside sitting area—all this as well as board games, ping pong, and darts, too!  A counter-service cafe prepares simple meals, and live music is presented every weekend.  Amtrak and YARTS buses stop here.  Consult the website for how to visit this area without driving, using only public transportation.

YARTS  (877) 989-2787;  Ride the comfortable YARTS (Yosemite Area Regional Transportation System) bus into Yosemite park.  It stops in town at various spots in Mariposa and in Midpines at KOA and Yosemite Bug Resort. 

Things to do in Yosemite.

Things to do in nearby Mariposa. 

More things to do in Gold Rush Country.

More ideas for exploring Northern California.

images c2013 Carole Terwilliger Meyers; bottom image depicts Italian traveler Andrea, from Milan

December 16, 2013

Pleasanton: Where to see Christmas lights; things to do

Greater East Bay

Where to see Christmas lights

Christmas Cane Lane  4000 block of Walnut Dr./Ray St.. 5:30-10pm, through Jan. 1.

 Almost every house on this cul-de-sac goes way overboard with lights and decorations. Cars move slowly around the entire perimeter. A delight.

WidmerWorld 3671 Chelsea Court. 6-9pm, through Dec. 31.

You can walk through this home's back yard holiday toy displays. The display includes an electronic light show, snowy penguin scene, Mrs. Claus' house, Santa's golf land, and a train town. Santa sometimes shows up on the last weekend before Christmas.

More things to do in Pleasanton.

More Christmas events.

More ideas for exploring Northern California.

image c2013 Carole Terwilliger Meyers

December 13, 2013

Mariposa drinking venues; things to do

Highway 49--Gold Rush Country

Mariposa drinking venues

Bett’s Gold Coin Sports Tavern  Hwy. 140/Fifth St., (209) 742-7574.  L-D daily.  

Referred to by locals as “the coin,” this family-friendly watering hole has a large rectangular bar with plenty of seating, a pleasant open-air balcony, and live music on weekends.  The building features a brick exterior with iron shutters, and a plastic-covered reveal of the original 160-plus-year-old adobe bricks can be viewed on the way to the restrooms.  In the days when the town had at least one murder every day, Fremont used this building as headquarters for mining operations.  Nowadays you can get sandwiches, burgers, and full dinners, and even kids are welcome and provided a special menu.   

Castro Oaks Fine Wine and Art  5022 Hwy. 140, (209) 742-2000. 

This tasting room provides a free tasting of their hearty Zin and smooth Cab, but you can also purchase wine by the glass and stay a while.  Art by locals is displayed and for sale.  The Vineyard is located 9 miles away on Highway 49 in Mt Bullion; visits are by appointment.

Prospectors Brewery Co. Tap Room  4996 7th St.  M-F 3-10pm, Sat-Sun 11am-10pm.  

Five families work together here to make this a friendly spot to
down a pint (and it is the only craft brewery found between Fresno and Yosemite).  I favor the German-style Bootjack Blonde.  Note that as is often the case in Ireland pubs, no food is served.

December 11, 2013

Mariposa: Mariposa Museum and History Center; things to do

Highway 49--Gold Rush Country

Mariposa Museum and History Center  5119 Jessie St., (209) 966-2924.  
Daily 10-4.  $4, under 18 free.  

In addition to exhibits curated by topic inside the rustic, woodsy museum--including things like Miwok Indian baskets and an iron so heavy you can barely lift it--you’ll find mining exhibits and a Miwok Indian bark house outside.  A guided tour will make sure you see exhibits you might otherwise miss—a broom-making shop, the Gazette newspaper building displaying the original press and print shop, the blacksmith shop, and the still-working 1874 five-stamp mill.

More things to do in Mariposa.  

More things to do in Yosemite area.

More things to do in Gold Rush Country. 

More ideas for exploring Northern California.

images c2013 Carole Terwilliger Meyers

December 9, 2013

San Francisco: Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, de Young Museum; things to do

San Francisco 

The de Young Museum is currently showcasing "DAVID HOCKNEY:  A Bigger Exhibition," and what a show it is.  Hockney is famous for his paintings on the bottom of L.A. swimming pools, but this show displays his further fascinating talents with synchronized digital videos, iPad painting, and inkjet printers.  Water colors, sketch books, and charcoals--which I found kind of boring amid his other vibrantly colored workx--are also in the mix.  Many depict rural East Yorkshire in England, but a series of vibrant iPad drawings of Yosemite are hung around the walls in one room giving me the feeling of being in that park looking up at the spectacular natural sights.  Tickets are timed.  You can purchase advance tickets online.  Tuesday and Wednesday afternoons are typically the slowest days/times of the week.  For day-of ticket purchasing on week days, you should have no problem. On Saturdays and Sundays, come in the morning as tickets tend to sell out by the afternoon. Show runs through January 20, 2014.

More things to do in Golden Gate Park.

More things to do in San Francisco

Way more things to do in San Francisco. 

More ideas for exploring Northern California.

image courtesy of the museum: 
David Hockney, Yosemite I, October 16th 2011. iPad drawing printed on paper (6 sheets), mounted on Dibond (6 sheets). Each: 71 3/4 x 42 3/4 in. (182.3 x 108.6 cm); overall: 143 1/2 x 128 1/4 in. (364.5 x 325.8 cm). ©David Hockney, 2013

December 4, 2013

Vegan-friendly restaurants in Berkeley; restaurant review

80 North

Vegan-friendly restaurants in Berkeley

This collection of restaurants in Berkeley has a menu that is all vegan, vegetarian + vegan, or traditional with a goodly number of vegetarian and vegan options. 

More ideas for exploring Northern California.