May 30, 2014

Sonoma: Basque Boulangerie Cafe; restaurant review

Basque Boulangerie Cafe interior in Sonoma, California

Wine Country 

Basque Boulangerie Cafe lunch in Sonoma, CaliforniaBasque Boulangerie Cafe  460 First St. East, on the plaza, (707) 935-SOUR.  B-L daily; $.  No reservations. 

This popular bakery makes breads galore (the rustic round loaf and wheat-walnut are both superb), as well as cookies, cakes, and pastries. 

Seating is inside and out front by the sidewalk.  The menu is extensive, and you can also order up a take-away picnic box tied with a ribbon (24-hour advance notice required).  Everything is so delicious that people are willing to wait in an often long line.  My personal favorites here are the delicious French potato salad, the soft Vienna sesame bread, and the so-good pecan sticky bun.

Basque Boulangerie Cafe Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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images ©2014 Carole Terwilliger Meyers

May 28, 2014

Sonoma: Sojourn Cellars Tasting Salon; things to do

Sojourn Cellars Tasting Salon exterior in Sonoma Wine Country
Sojourn Cellars Tasting Salon set-up in Sonoma Wine Country

Wine Country

Sojourn Cellars Tasting Salon  141 East Napa St., (707) 938-7212.  Tasting daily 10-5; $25 fee; by appt. 

Part of a co-op in Santa Rosa, this small-production boutique winery produces single vineyard and appellation Pinot Noirs, Cabernet Sauvignons, and Chardonnays.  This tasting room is set within a small repurposed house, where you get a guided experience in a relaxed sit-down environment.  Tastings are made elegant with plenty of sparkling Riedel stemware.  My personal favorite this time was a 2012 Rodgers Creek Vineyard Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir.  Wines are sold direct to consumers only, though they can be found in a few restaurants around town. 

More things to do in Sonoma.

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images ©2014 Carole Terwilliger Meyers

May 16, 2014

Sonoma: Buena Vista Winery; things to do

Wine Country

The Count pours for wine tasting at Buena Vista Winery in Sonoma, California
Buena Vista  Winery  18000 Old Winery Rd., (800) 926-1266, (707) 938-1266.  Tasting daily 10-5, $15 fee; tours $20-$35. 

Founded in 1857, this is California's first commercial winery.  Visitors park on the outskirts, and  after a short, pleasant walk in can taste wines in the welcoming old Press House or at an outside bar (don't miss sampling the nutty cream sherry, available only at the winery).  I recommend making reservations for a tour with The Count.  You’ll get a chance to see the newly reopened Champagne Cellars building--so called because the first m├ęthode champenoise in California was made in these deliciously cool caves in 1862 (they are always 57 degrees)--that holds California’s original wine cave.  You’ll also learn the winery’s interesting history from The Count, a talented storyteller.  Other tours include a barrel tasting, and a blending seminar lets you leave with your own unique blend and label.
 outdoorr wine tasting at Buena Vista Winery in Sonoma, California

After tasting, select a favorite bottle to purchase and enjoy with a picnic at one of the tables shaded by maple trees.  You will be serenaded by tiny Arroyo Seco brook, which is Spanish for “dry creek” even though it runs all year.  Currently my favorites are a buttery-smooth 2012 Private Reserve Selection Chardonnay with all the bells and whistle,s and a delicious, earthy 2011Bela’s Selection Pinot Noir.  The winery shop sells a few picnic supplies as well as chilled non-alcoholic grape juice.  With 24 hours advance reservation, you can order up a pre-packed picnic hamper.  It is an interesting tidbit to know that current owner, Jean-Charles Boisset, is married to Gina Gallo; yes, that Gallo. 

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images and video ©2014 Carole Terwilliger Meyers

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May 14, 2014

San Francisco: Hyatt Regency San Francisco; hotel review

San Francisco

pyramid exterior of Hyatt Regency San Francisco Hyatt Regency San Francisco  5 Embarcadero Center/Market St.  17 stories; 805 rooms.  2 restaurants; room service.  Exercise room.  No pets.  Valet- and self-parking. 

This elegant and stunning hotel resembles a pyramid on the outside, and every room has a view of either the city or the bay.  Nifty glass elevators run the 17-story height of what is the world’s largest atrium lobby (they are famous for their role in the “Towering Inferno” movie). 

Guest rooms are spacious and tastefully decorated, and Pulse Point Oil, Face and Pillow Mist, and Foot Cream amenities are available by request--I fell in love with them!  All rooms have a white noise machine, which I also really liked, especially the ocean channel, but my room was so quiet I didn’t need it.  Staying in the Regency Club category includes all-day snacks--light bites and skinny cocktails as well as a buffet breakfast and freshly baked cookies—along with the extraordinary view that comes on the top level of the hotel in what once was a revolving restaurant. 

Conveniently, one end of the California Street cable car line loads just outside the front entrance, and the Ferry Building, Embarcadero shops and movie theater, and Exploratorium are just a short walk away.

atrium interior of Hyatt Regency San Francisco

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images ©2014 Carole Terwilliger Meyers

May 12, 2014

San Francisco: Andrew Goldsworthy art installations at The Presidio; things to do

San Francisco

Andrew Goldsworthy art installations at The Presidio 

English artist Andrew Goldsworthy currently has three permanent installations here.

Spire  Open daily. 
Installed in 2008, this work consists of the trunks of 37 Monterey cypress trees from the Presidio that were selected and felled because they were declining.  The trunks are bound together to form a 95-foot-tall spire with a 15-foot-wide base. 

Wood Line by Andrew Goldsworthy at The Presidio in San Francisco

Wood Line  Open daily. 
A snake of logs slithers along the Presidio’s oldest footpath, originally known as Lover’s Lane.  It was installed in 2011.  My visit inspired me to write a poem:
              Rest secure and calm
                        as the wood trail snakes
              through the forest
                        toward something promising.

Tree Fall by Andrew Goldsworthy at The Presidio in San Francisco

Tree Fall  95 Anza Ave., (415) 561-2767.  Sat-Sun 10-4. 
Located inside the historic Powder Magazine building featuring 4-foot-thick stone walls, this 2013 installation plays with what is beneath the ground.  A tree trunk covered in dried cracked clay is suspended inside without touching the walls and is viewed without any artificial light.

update Feb. 9, 2015:  A fourth Goldsworthy installion is now in place.

More things to do at The Presidio.

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top image courtesy of the artist and website
two bottom images ©2014 Carole Terwilliger Meyers

May 9, 2014

Geyserville: The Hope-Merrill Bed & Breakfast Inn; hotel review

101 North 

The Hope-Merrill Bed & Breakfast Inn  21253 Geyserville Ave., (800) 825-4233, (707) 857-3356.  12 rooms; $$-$$$.  Some TVs; some gas fireplaces.  Heated pool (seasonal).  Full breakfast.  No pets. 

The solid redwood 1870 Eastlake Stick Victorian Hope-Merrill house is restored exquisitely to that period with antique Eastlake furnishings and authentic Bradbury & Bradbury silk-screened wallpapers.  In fact, the original owner's restoration efforts won a first place award from the National Trust for Historic Preservation. 

Should this lovely inn be booked, opt for the charming Queen Anne Victorian Hope-Bosworth house located across the street.  Under the same ownership, these two houses share communal facilities.  When the temperature permits, a dip in the attractively situated pool is sublime, and in the morning a full breakfast is served around one large table in the formal dining room. 

Guests at either house can order a gourmet picnic lunch for two featuring local foods.  A two-part “Pick and Press” package is offered for wannabe winemakers.  Participants check in at harvest time in September for a round of grape picking and pressing, plus, of course, some tasting and dining.  They return in spring for a bottling and labeling session, plus, of course, more tasting and dining, and then depart with two cases of their own wine sporting personalized labels. 

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image courtesy of inn

May 5, 2014

San Francisco: AsiaSF; restaurant review

San Francisco

drink called Blow Job at AsiaSF in San Francisco, California
AsiaSF  201 9th St./Howard St., South of Market.  Reservations advised. 

This place seems to have everything going for it:  good food, great entertainment, central location, easy parking, reasonable prices.  All the waitresses here are actually Asian men who dress as women.  These “gender illusionists” also perform hourly--dancing and lip-synching atop a 40-foot-long runway on the bar.  This means everyone gets to see almost everything.  Any wait to get in can be spent in a dance club downstairs, which offers more diversion at no additional admission charge.  And though the show is the main draw, the East-West fusion food is tasty.  Appetizers include chicken satay, Dungeness crab cakes, and a refreshing Thai shrimp salad, and scallops and filet mignon are among the entrees.  Mixed drinks are colorful and fun—think Trina’s Pussycat made with Malibu Coconut Rum and Chambord or a Blue Margarita--and include some sake cocktails and a few non-alcoholic specials.  For dessert, the tray of yummy miniature ice cream cones is the way to go.  Lights are low, spirits are high, and wardrobe malfunctions and debauchery between shows is part of the experience.  

Asia SF Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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image © 2014 Carole Terwilliger Meyers

May 2, 2014

Berkeley: Saul’s Restaurant & Delicatessen; restaurant review

80 North

Saul’s Restaurant & Delicatessen  1475 Shattuck Ave./Cedar St. 

interior of Saul's Restaurant & Deli in Berkeley, California

Boasting a NYC deli feel and a goodly number of very comfortable booths, this casual spot presents popular traditional Jewish deli dishes:  chicken soup with 2-inch matzo balls or noodles, long-simmered brisket with carrots and onions, crispy latkes, delicious egg creams (basically a chocolate soda with milk, they contain no egg or cream and here are prepared with house-made chocolate syrup), and creamy rice pudding.  Currently my favorite item is a veggie Malawac Yemeni pancake consisting of a delicious stretchy-dough base topped with spinach and chopped eggs and served with house-made labne yogurt cheese plus zhoug and harissa sauces; beef shawarma topping is additional.  A complimentary plate of full sour, half sour, and dill pickles are brought to munch on while perusing the menu (sometimes they don’t come, so do ask for them should that occur).  The deli prepares everything to go. 

Saul's Restaurant Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

deli case at Saul's Restaurant & Deli in Berkeley, California

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images ©2014 Carole Terwilliger Meyers