July 30, 2014

Geyserville: Lake Sonoma; things to do

101 North 

Lake Sonoma  3333 Skaggs Springs Rd., (707) 433-9483.  Free.


This scenic spot hosts all manner of water activities--fishing, boating, water-skiing, swimming.  Everything from a canoe to a patio boat or houseboat can be rented from the Lake Sonoma Resort.  Campsites are available. 

The Milt Brandt Visitors Center displays the area's wildlife and provides a self-guided tour through the Congressman Don Clausen Fish Hatchery.  When the steelhead trout and salmon run here, usually from November through April, they can be observed using a man-made fish ladder. 

More things to do in Geyserville.

More things to do in the Wine Country.

More places to explore in Northern California. 

images courtesy of venues

July 28, 2014

Geyserville: Locals Tasting Room; things to do

101 North 

Locals Tasting Room  21023 Geyserville Ave., (707) 857-4900.  Daily 11-6.  Free. 

Taste a flight of delicious wines from ten small-production artisan wineries that are not distributed through retail outlets or restaurants.

More things to do in Geyserville.

More things to do in the Wine Country.

More ideas for exploring Northern California.

image courtesy of venue

July 25, 2014

San Francisco: The Cavalier; restaurant review

San Francisco

The Cavalier  360 Jessie St./5th St., adjacent to Hotel Zetta, SoMa, (415) 321-6000.  B-L-D daily; $$-$$$. 

Situated across from the landmark Old Mint, this clubby spot presents contemporary London.

front bar at The Cavalier restaurant in San Francisco

Game heads decorate the wall of the high-ceilinged front bar, and posh banquettes invite relaxing in the back restaurant.

speakeasy bathroom a la Rolling Stones at The Cavalier restaurant in San Francisco

Even farther back is a hidden speakeasy with its bathroom decorated to look like the cover of the Rolling Stones’ “Exile on Main Street” album, but getting into that room is another story.

Quail Egg Mayonnaise at The Cavalier restaurant in San Francisco

Appetizers include a sweet little Quail Egg Mayonnaise,

Hen Egg Hollandaise at The Cavalier restaurant in San Francisco

a tasty Hen Egg Hollandaise with ham and cheese soldiers,

Duck Duck Scotch Egg at The Cavalier restaurant in San Francisco

the Duck Duck Scotch Egg with a colorful and tasty cherry chutney, and, straying from the egg theme, which I adored, addictive Crispy Brussels Chips, which I also adored.

Spicy Crab and Cucumber Tea Sandwich at The Cavalier restaurant in San Francisco

At lunch the Spicy Crab and Cucumber Tea Sandwiches are a refined treat, but the Wild Mushroom Pie is a tasty option and the fat “Marlowe” Burger with cheddar and bacon is a sure thing.

tea service at The Cavalier restaurant in San Francisco

Tea service brings on a proper cuppa served in a sweet blue individual tea pot, and desserts are the likes of sticky toffee pudding, peach crumble, and steamed pudding.  Teas are Samovar, coffee is Stumptown, and cocktails, wines, and beers, but of course, are available, too.

The Cavalier Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

images ©2014 Carole Terwilliger Meyers

July 23, 2014

San Francisco: Sakana Japanese Sushi Bar & Grill; restaurant review

San Francisco

Sakana Japanese Sushi Bar & Grill  605 Post St., 2 blks. from Union Square, (415) 775-7644.  L M-F, D daily; $$.

interior of Sakana Japanese Sushi Bar & Grill in San Francisco

Diners enter this small Japanese restaurant through split curtains into a one-room interior, where a sushi bar chef whips up delicacies upon request.  Spicy tuna roll with jalapeno and sashimi are both reputedly excellent.  

shrimp tempura at Sakana Japanese Sushi Bar & Grill in San Francisco

On the regular menu you’ll find fried squid legs, fried chicken, beef teriyaki, chcken katsu, shrimp tempura, and udon noodle soups.  Expect fresh ingredients and good value.  

Sakana Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato 

images ©2014 Carole Terwilliger Meyers

July 21, 2014

Berkeley, Talavera Ceramics & Tile; things to do

Talavera Ceramics & Tile shop in Berkeley, California

80 North

Talavera Ceramics & Tile  1801 University Ave., (510) 665-6038.  M-Sat 10-6, Sun 12-6. 

This colorful ceramic art form is manifested here on handmade tiles, tableware, sinks, fountains, and more.  Everything is imported from Mexico.  The designs were originally produced in the 13th century in Talavera de la Reina in Spain.  In the 16th century the style was introduced to Puebla in Mexico, and the tradition continues there today.  This shop has an extensive selection and even some well-priced seconds.

More things to do in Berkeley.

Way more thing to do in Berkeley. 

More ideas for exploring Northern California.

image ©2014 Carole Terwilliger Meyers

July 18, 2014

San Francisco: Union Square Cocktail Tour; things to do

San Francisco

Union Square Cocktail Tour  Departs near Union Square, (415) 355-4044.  Sat 4-6pm & W 7-9pm.  $64. 

We sat in comfy chairs in the lobby of the Hotel Serrano while our guide, Zev, began this tour with a background lesson in everything cocktails.  The 1860s to 1920s was the golden era for cocktails, but they are coming back, complete with fresh-pressed citrus juices, and I wasn’t surprised to learn that San Francisco is the epicenter of a cocktail revival, since I’ve been enjoying them here for quite a while.  But--though it had to start somewhere--it was news to me that it was in S.F. that women first began sitting next to men in a bar.   I also learned that it is cocktail-crazed S.F. along with New York and London that are the top three places in the world to drink a cocktail.  Our tour took us to three bars I’d never before experienced.  In fact, I rarely go to a bar for a cocktail, instead usually opting for one with a meal in a restaurant, so it was special fun to traipse through the Union Square area with a pack of new buddies to bars awaiting us with trays of cocktails and an owner or barkeep to educate us about what we were drinking.

Chartreuse Swizzle in Clock Bar at Westin St. Francis in San Francisco

At the Clock Bar in the Westin St. Francis, where central poles display the time around the world, we had a Chartreuse Swizzle topped with a sprig of mint.  Made with peppery 110-proof Green Chartreuse containing 130 ingredients, this spirit is produced by French monks and is famous as both a cure-all and a hangover-producer. 

Peruvian Pisco Punch at Cantina bar in San Francisco

In the vivacious, independent, dark and deep Cantina, which boasts having the country’s most complete selection of Latin spirits, we downed a pink Peruvian Pisco Punch with an aromatic slice of orange peel in the bottom—the quintessential S.F. cocktail, having been served here since the early 1800s. 

Pequito Picante at Burritt Room bar in San Francisco

And at chef Charlie Palmer’s brick-walled Burritt Room in the Mystic Hotel, by the Stockton Tunnel, we had a spicy Pequito Picante.  It is interesting to know that the space was once a speakeasy as well as an insane asylum, but now, bartender Brian says, “We have fun here.”  And the music is really good. 

This tour takes about two hours.  It is a flat route and covers about ½ mile.  No food is served, so consider eating something before and/or after, and bring a bottle of water so you don’t get too hammered.  Bars and drinks on a particular tour can vary.  You must be age 21 or older to participate, and group size is limited to 12, which seemed perfect.  Tips for the bar servers is included, but do tip your guide 10-15 % if you are happy with him/her. 

images ©2014 Carole Terwilliger Meyers

July 16, 2014

Healdsburg: Shops; things to do

101 North

Lulo  303 Center St., on plaza, (707) 433-7533.

Contemporary art and jewelry are sparsely displayed in this shop so that they really pop out at you.

Lulo shop in Healdsburg, California

One World Fair Trade  104 Matheson St., on plaza, (707) 473-0880.  

Everything stocked in this gift shop is purchased through fair trade organizations that provide reasonable wages and living conditions to workers and artisans.  You’ll feel good about your choices. 

One World Fair Trade shop in Healdsburg, California

Antique Harvest  225 Healdsburg Ave., near plaza, (707) 433-0223.

More than 20 dealers display their wares in a warren of spaces.  I like this shop in particular because the selection is vast and the prices are good.

Antique Harvest shop in Healdsburg, California

More things to do in Healdsburg. 

images ©2014 Carole Terwilliger Meyers

July 14, 2014

Berkeley: Love at First Bite Cupcakery; restaurant review

80 North

red velvet cupcake at Love at First Bite Cupcakery in Berkeley, California
Love at First Bite Cupcakery  1510 Walnut St., (510) 848-5727.  Tu-Sat 10-6, Sun 11-5. 

The cupcakes, cakes, and cookies are made here from scratch using premium ingredients,  including Madagascar bourbon and Mexican vanillas; Saigon cinnamon; Guittard, Callebaut, and Schokinag chocolates and cocoa; and real butter, milk, and eggs from local dairies.  So that’s why I came here for my birthday red velvet cupcake.  One-bite mini cupcakes are also available, and the perfect indulgence on a normal day, but hey it was my birthday!  Also, I think that any of the cupcakes taste even better sitting outside at one of the colorful gingham-covered tables with a cup of Peet’s coffee brought from just around the corner.

Love at First Bite Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

More things to do in Berkeley.

Way more thing to do in Berkeley. 

More ideas for exploring Northern California.

image ©2014 Carole Terwilliger Meyers

July 11, 2014

Healdsburg: h2Hotel + Spoonbar; hotel review + restaurant review

101 North

h2Hotel  219 Healdsburg Ave./Mill St., (707) 431-2202.  36 rooms.  Full breakfast.  Free parking, valet $15.  Pool.  Breakfast; restaurant; room service.  Pets ok. 

This new LEED Gold-certified “eco chic” hotel, built in 2010, is located just a half block from the plaza.  A lobby fireplace made from salvaged Steinway piano cords sets the tone along with a staircase made with sustainably grown urban forest stewardship wood.  Each room has a deck or patio, naturally-striped bamboo floors, funky Peace Industry rugs, local art,  a Serta mattresses with luxurious Coyuchi brand white organic cotton linens and robes, a built-in desk with an ergonomic chair, a seating area, and a 27-inch flat-screen TV.  Guests fill provided water canisters at a central water source on each floor known as the Water Tap Bar and can choose sparkling or flat, cold or room temperature.  Suites have a convertible sofa bed, which makes it easy to accommodate children, and also a deep Japanese-style soaking tubs for two.  A solar-heated saltwater pool is positioned just off the lobby beside Foss Creek.  Loaner bikes are available, and a complimentary Ashtanga yoga class is scheduled on weekend mornings.  Also, complete spa services are available a block away at sister hotel Hotel Healdsburg.

Thai beet boudins at Spoonbar in Healdsburg, California

Spoonbar—the hotel’s restaurant and bar—has a wall of large glass doors that are opened to the sidewalk in good weather (L Sat-Sun, D daily; bar nightly.)  Reclaimed elm planks serve as dining tables.  The complimentary full breakfast is served here and includes juices, fresh fruit, house-made baked goods, cereal, egg dishes, and local Flying Goat coffee and tea.  The bar is well known for its trendy and unique cocktail concoctions, and for tasty appetizers such as crispy Thai beet boudins and also chicken wings glazed with aleppo pepper and green papaya ribbons.

blood orange margarita at Spoonbar in Healdsburg, California

A blood orange margarita made with Frida Kahlo Blanco tequila and topped with petals from a yellow, daisy-like calendula flower is primo, and the bartenders are as cool as their drinks.

Spoonbar Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

More things to do in Healdsburg.

More ideas for exploring Northern California.

images ©2014 Carole Terwilliger Meyers