Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Wine Country: Yountville, Lavender



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.  

More things to do in Yountville.  


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image c2013 Carole Terwilliger Meyers   

Monday, January 28, 2013

Greater East Bay: Livermore, Casa Orozco



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. 

Casa Orozco on Urbanspoon

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image c2013 Carole Terwilliger Meyers 

Friday, January 25, 2013

880 South: Oakland, Uzen Japanese Cuisine

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.

Uzen on Urbanspoon

         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.  

image c2013 Carole Terwilliger Meyers


Wednesday, January 23, 2013

101 South: Palo Alto, Coconuts Caribbean Restaurant & Bar


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.  
Coconuts Caribbean Restaurant and Bar on Urbanspoon

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image ©2013 Carole Terwilliger Meyers

Monday, January 21, 2013

San Francisco: Sauce Belden Place

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.

Sauce on Urbanspoon

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image and video c2013 Carole Terwilliger Meyers

Friday, January 18, 2013

San Francisco: SFJAZZ Center

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.

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videos c2013 Carole Terwilliger Meyers




Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Wine Country: Yountville, Ma(i)sonry Napa Valle



Ma(i)sonry Napa Valle  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.

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image c2013 Carole Terwilliger Meyers  

Monday, January 14, 2013

Wine Country: Yountville, Cosentino Winery

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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. 

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image c2013 Carole Terwilliger Meyers 

Friday, January 11, 2013

1 North: Point Reyes Station, Osteria Stellina

Osteria 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!  Springy, delicious Brick Maiden sourdough bread 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. 

Osteria Stellina on Urbanspoon

More things to do in the Point Reyes area.

image c2013 Carole Terwilliger Meyers

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

1 North: Tomales, Tomales Bakery

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.

 Tomales Bakery on Urbanspoon

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image c2013 Carole Terwilliger Meyers

Monday, January 7, 2013

Wine Country: Yountville, Mustards Grill

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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.

Mustards Grill on Urbanspoon

More things to do in Yountville. 

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image c2013 Carole Terwilliger Meyers