December 31, 2014

Berkeley: Dream Fluff Donuts; restaurant review

80 North

Dream Fluff Donuts  2637 Ashby Ave., Elmwood, (510) 649-0471.  M-Sat 4am-6pm, Sun 6:30am-2pm.

This has been my go-to donut store for many years.  I am especially fond of the maple-glazed long john, but they also make a mean glazed raised, French cruller, and jelly donut.  I usually do a grab-and-go here, but recently I decided to sit down at the counter and have a cup of coffee—French vanilla—with my long john.  I could have changed my choice to a croissant, scone, breakfast sandwich, pancakes, or even bacon and eggs.  The menu on the wall is full of options, as well as bags of potato chips for purchase.  Lunch choices include sandwiches, burgers, and fries, plus there is a case full of round tubs filled with ice cream waiting to be scooped.

Just a tad bigger than a hole-in-the-wall, this casual spot has seating at two tables and at a very small counter with short floor stools.  Definitely on the other side of trendy, it has no Wi-Fi and no website.  But the TV was tuned to “The View” during my visit, and the vintage screen door made a satisfying squeak when anyone entered or exited.

Dream Fluff Donuts 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.

images ©2014 Carole Terwilliger Meyers

December 29, 2014

Burlingame: Fattoria e Mare; restaurant review

101 South

Fattoria e Mare  1095 Rollins Rd./near Cadillac Way, (650) 342-4923.  L M-F, D daily, Sat-SunBr; $$-$$$.  Free parking lot adjacent. 

Located out by the car dealers near Broadway and the 101 freeway, this reworking of a former club-style restaurant provides spacious and comfortable seating, plenty of booths (many are the old-fashioned Hollywood half-moon style), and white tablecloths.  The Italian menu is locally sourced and mostly organic.  Specialties include house-made charcuterie, salumi, and pasta.  My dining partner and I shared everything, and at the end of each course the plates looked like we had licked them clean—each item was that good.

beet salad at Fattoria e Mare in Burlingame, California

We started with a delicious and lovely beet salad accented with crispy quinoa and carrots and a yogurt dressing.

burrata salad at Fattoria e Mare in Burlingame, California

We followed that with a pretty burrata made seasonal with pumpkin puree and pomegranate kernels.  Grilled octopus and seafood fritto misto with aioli also sounded enticing.

Stracchino cheese pizza at Fattoria e Mare in Burlingame, California

After hearing that the light Italian Stracchino cheese used in the stuffed foacaccia al recca pizza was made with cheese from the milk of “tired Italian cows,” we ordered this unusual dish.  Made fragrant with white truffle oil, it is chewy and satisfying and I recommend adding on the optional prosciutto.  Another of these light, thin-crust pizzas that sounds particularly tasty is the calabrese sausage with padron peppers and fennel.

futuristic pizza oven at Fattoria e Mare in Burlingame, California

The pizzas are cooked in a silver-painted, futuristic-looking masonry oven with a brick floor that it is seen when entering the restaurant.

wild mushroom pappardelle at Fattoria e Mare in Burlingame, California

I am a fan of pappardelle, so we ordered that with wild mushrooms.  Fusilli a la limone with whole shrimp and a baked veal bolognese were also enticing, and though we had no room left for an entrée I plan to try the grilled whole Branzino fish next time.  Our dinner was enhanced with a glass of white 2012 Vermentino and a traditional red 2011 Barbera D’Alba from Italy.  The wine list also has many California selections.

persimmon bread pudding at Fattoria e Mare in Burlingame, California

egg nog panna cotta at Fattoria e Mare in Burlingame, California

For dessert, we enjoyed a warm, homey persimmon bread pudding and a rich, dense egg nog panna cotta.  Gelatos, sorbets, and cheeses are additional options.  I look forward to returning when stone fruits are in season and when freshly prepared zabaglione is added to the menu.  Throughout our meal, music from the 50s entertained—“Mambo Italiano,” “Volare”—along with a few more unexpected tunes.  If you time your visit for Wednesday through Saturday from 6 to 9 p.m., you’ll be treated to a live jazz performance.  A full bar serves up specialty cocktails, including Il Colosseo, which serves three and is made with brandy, dark rum, orange juice, pineapple juice, lemongrass, sweet & sour, and almond syrup. 

Fattoria E'Mare Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

More things to do in Burlingame.

More ideas for exploring Northern California.

images ©2014 Carole Terwilliger Meyers

December 19, 2014

San Francisco: "Walt's Trains" exhibit at The Walt Disney Family Museum

San Francisco

The Walt Disney Family Museum

Walt Disney with Santa

"Tootle" book cover
You can purchase this in the gift shop.
A special exhibition, “Walt’s Trains,” is currently running at The Walt Disney Family Museum.  Using, vintage photographs, video, and artifacts, it explores the maestro’s interest in trains.  Several model trains chug through the exhibit as well.  The show is located in a separate building behind the main museum, which is a bit closer to the spectacular view here of the Golden Gate Bridge.

view of Golden Gate Bridge from restroom at The Walt Disney Museum in San Francisco

In fact, I was surprised and pleased to be able to enjoy a loo with a view—I could see the two orange towers from the women's restroom!  The train show runs through February 9, 2015. Admission is included with museum ticket.

More things to do in San Francisco

Way more things to do in San Francisco.

More ideas for exploring Northern California.  

two top images courtesy of venue; third image ©2014 Carole Terwilliger Meyers 

December 17, 2014

Danville: Blackhawk Plaza + Blackhawk Automotive Museum; things to do; restaurant review

Greater East Bay

Blackhawk Plaza  3380 Blackhawk Plaza Circle.  M-Sat 10-8, Sun 11-6. 

Landscaped with manmade rivers and waterfalls, this exclusive shopping center provides a soothing atmosphere in which to shop.

Santa and Christmas display at Blackhawk Plaza in Danville, California

fresh berry cheesecake in Draeger's Market at Blackhawk Plaza in Danville, California

Though the exclusive market that once serenaded its customers with shopping music played live on a grand piano is gone (posh Draeger’s Market has replaced it), exclusive shops here provide a glimpse into the lifestyle of the area's wealthy residents. 

●Blackhawk Grille  (925) 736-HAWK.  L-D daily, Sat-Sun Br.  Reservations suggested. 
At this elegant spot a pianist sometimes entertains.  Refined salads and trendy pizzas share the menu with fresh fish entrees and a hamburger.

The Little Pear  (925) 736-4800.  B-L-D daily.  No reservations. 
Expect informal dining and big portions of well-priced polished comfort food--the Rodzilla burger, deep-fried artichoke hearts with aioli, plus salads and sandwiches.  Both sweet and savory crepes are also available. 

exterior of Blackhawk Automotive Museum at Blackhawk Plaza in Danville, California

Blackhawk Automotive Museum  3700 Blackhawk Plaza Circle, at one end of Blackhawk Plaza, (925) 736-2277.  W-Sun 10-6.  $8, students & 65+ $5, under 6 free. 

Now an official venue for the Smithsonian Institution, this stunning museum building is constructed with plenty of gleaming glass and polished granite.  Really two museums combined into one,  this automotive museum provides a complete history of automotive design along with a display of approximately 90 classic and rare automobiles dating from the late 1890s into the 1980s.  Especially impressive are the huge, shining Bugattis and Duesenbergs.  An Automotive Art exhibit displays 110 years of automotive fine art dating back to the mid-1800s. 

More things to do in Danville.

More ideas for exploring Northern California.

images ©2014 Carole Terwilliger Meyers

December 15, 2014

Best Christmas Lights and Sights in San Francisco Area

Best Christmas Lights and Sights in San Francisco Area

I’ve always enjoyed all the wonderful Christmas sights and events in the Bay Area and have written about them since my very first book, which was actually a booklet, titled “Getting in the Spirit:  A Guide to Bay Area Christmas Events.”  I've added a page at my website that is inspired by this interest and by my appearance on John Hamilton’s On-The-Go talk show on KGO on December 14, 2014.  Here are some of the best San Francisco Bay Area Christmas lights, sights, and events.  Get on out there and enjoy them!

2-story gingerbread house at the Fairmont Hotel in San Francisco

image ©2014 Carole Terwilliger Meyers

December 12, 2014

San Francisco: Alcatraz Island, @LARGE, Ai Weiwei on Alcatraz; things to do

San Francisco 

@LARGE, Ai Weiwei on Alcatraz 
Artist Ai Weiwei is a political prisoner under house arrest in Beijing.  Because he is not permitted to travel outside China, he helped install this extraordinary exhibit from there.  He says, “When you constrain freedom, freedom will take flight and land on a windowsill.”   In this case it landed on our windowsill at Alcatraz.  The exhibit is installed in parts of the former prison that have never before been open to visitors.  By demand of the artist, there is no additional charge to see this show.  However, a guided tour is an additional $20 fee and is available only on the first trip of the day at 8:45 a.m.  These reserved tickets are not available through Alcatraz Cruises; reservation information.  The show runs through April 26, 2015. 

These are the exhibit sites:

Building 64, at the landing. 
View an introductory video about the exhibition and also some video works by Ai Weiwei. 

1.  New Industries Building
Inmates who had earned the privilege were permitted to work here for money or to earn time off of their sentence.  

dragon at Ai Weiwei exhibit at Alacatraz in San Francisco

With Wind:  This airy exhibit centers on a traditional Chinese dragon kite made from kites.  The dragon’s face has Twitter-bird eyes and @aiww eyebrows.

overview of Trace Lego work at Ai Weiwei exhibit at Alacatraz in San Francisco

closeup of Edward Snowden portrait in Trace Lego work at Ai Weiwei exhibit at Alacatraz in San Francisco

Trace:  Constructed by volunteers from more than one million LEGO bricks and resembling needlepoint, these portraits depict more than 175 political prisoners from around the world.

closeup of Tan Zuoren portrait in Tace Lego work at Ai Weiwei exhibit at Alacatraz in San Francisco

While here, select one person.  Then look him up in the book provided, read his story, and remember his name for later.  My person was Tan Zuoren.  His biography reads, “Convicted of subversion of state power, Tan is a writer and activist who had published articles online about the repression of the 1987 Tiananmen Square pro-democracy protest, and investigated the deaths of thousands of children when their schools collapsed in the 2008 Sichuan earthquake.  In 2009 he was sentenced to five years in prison.  He was released in March 2014.”

fuzzy view from Gun Gallery of Tace Lego work at Ai Weiwei exhibit at Alacatraz in San Francisco

Refraction:  A separate entrance leads into the narrow Gun Gallery section, where a large sculpture depicts a bird’s wing in which the feathers represent Tibetan solar cookers.

2.  Cellhouse—A Block
This is the only remaining section of the original military prison constructed in the early 1900s.  The Birdman of Alcatraz, Robert Stroud, was moved permanently to a cell here because of his disruptive behavior.

Stay Tuned cell at Ai Weiwei exhibit at Alacatraz in San Francisco

Stay Tuned:  This audio installation occurs inside twelve cells.  It uses sound in the form of music, poetry, and spoken words—all from people who have been detained as political prisoners because of their creative expression of their beliefs.

Arya Aramnejad:  This Iranian singer performs “Ali Barkhiz” (“Ali, Rise”).

Pussy Riot:  The Russian feminist punk rock group performs "Virgin Mary, Put Putin Away (Punk Prayer)."

3.  Cellhouse—Hospital
Illumination:  In two psychiatric observation rooms you’ll hear the sound of Tibetan and Native American chanting, drawing connections between China and the U.S.

Blossom at Ai Weiwei exhibit at Alacatraz in San Francisco

Blossom at Ai Weiwei exhibit at Alacatraz in San Francisco

Blossom at Ai Weiwei exhibit at Alacatraz in San Francisco

Blossom:  Porcelain toilets, sinks, and bathtubs hold fragile, beautiful porcelain castings of flowers. 

4.  Cellhouse—Dining Hall

writing table in Yours Truly at Ai Weiwei exhibit at Alacatraz in San Francisco

Yours Truly:  Here you can write a postcard to your selected prisoner.  Look him up in the books to determine which postcard picture you will find his mailing information on, secure a postcard, and write a message with words of hope.

mail bin in Yours Truly at Ai Weiwei exhibit at Alacatraz in San Francisco

When you are done, place it in the mail bin and it will be mailed.  Free WiFi is also available here--a first on Alcatraz--so that you can post your experience to social media.  Use #AiWeiWeiAlcatraz. 

●The free exhibit brochure provides many insights, as does this webpage

●“Ai Weiwei:  Never Sorry” is an informative documentary about the artist and is worth seeing before your visit.

Every wonder why they call it the slammer?

More about Alcatraz.

More things to do in San Francisco

Way more things to do in San Francisco.

More ideas for exploring Northern California. 

images and videos © 2014 Carole Terwilliger Meyers 

December 10, 2014

San Francisco: Cafe Dolci; restaurant review

San Francisco

Cafe Dolci  740 Market St./3rd St., Financial District, (415) 392-9222.  M-F 7-4; $.  Cash only.

line at entrance to Cafe Dolci in San Francisco

This literal hole-in-the wall has no seating, either indoors or out.  It is grab-and-go.  However, the made-to-order banh mi sandwiches are delicious, inexpensive, and fast.  A trio of fresh shrimp spring rolls stuffed into a soft wrapper with mint, lettuce, and noodles include a peanut dipping sauce.  Combo #8 with ham and pate is made with crunchy bread and packed with pickled veggies.  Pate, soy sauce, and cilantro are optional.

counter at Cafe Dolci in San Francisco

Shumai dumplings and barbecue buns dim sum are also available. 

Cafe Dolci Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

More things to do in San Francisco. 

Way more things to do in San Francisco. 

More ideas for exploring Northern California.
images ©2014 Carole Terwilliger Meyers

December 5, 2014

San Francisco: SFO news about Emirates

San Francisco

Emirates flight attendants
a slew of spiffy stews
Emirates is now flying a daily non-stop from San Francisco SFO to Dubai using the huge double-decker Airbus A380, which is the world's largest passenger aircraft.  

economy section on Emirates A380

The entire lower deck is devoted to 399 seats in economy service, and the entire upper deck is divided between 76 business-class seats with lie-flat beds and 14 first-class suites with private cubicles.  

shower cubicle on Emirates A380

If you are able to snag one of those top-level seats, you will also have access to two lounges and--are you ready for this?--a shower cubicle!  Someone asked me if I would take a shower there.  I replied a resounding YES!, absolutely!, simply because I could not pass up the opportunity to say I had done so.  Techies are going to like features such as the 1,800 world-wide entertainment channels available on demand as well as Wi-Fi and satellite telephone service.  

irst class seat on Emirates A380

Having flown Emirates Business Class a few years ago on its Boeing 777, I can attest to the luxury, comfort, and food.  I would love to fly this airline again if only for the memorable Indian black pepper chicken entree that still causes me to salivate when I think about it.  

customer John Briggs in Business Class on Emirates A380 aircraft
customer John Briggs enjoys Business Class on an A380 flying from Bangkok to Hong Kong

Things to do in San Francisco.

Way more things to do in San Francisco. 

Things to do in Dubai. 

More ideas for exploring Northern California. 

top 4 images ©2014 Carole Terwilliger Meyers

bottom image ©2014 Jeff Feiffer

December 3, 2014

San Francisco: Le P’tit Laurent; restaurant review + things to do

San Francisco

Le P’tit Laurent  699 Chenery St./Diamond St., in Glen Park (Monterey exit off Hwy. 280), (415) 334-3235.  D daily, SunBr; $$.

It’s hard to beat Sunday brunch here in this often-sunny neighborhood business enclave.

interior of Le P’tit Laurent in San Francisco

Cozy bistro decor in this cheery French restaurant includes Venetian plaster walls, a pressed-tin ceiling, a 1940s art deco-style wood bar with seating, and classic French advertising posters adorning the walls.  Some banquette seating is available, but I fell in love with our small table positioned next to a half-open Dutch door that let in revitalizing air.

Eggs Benedict at Le P’tit Laurent in San Francisco

My selection from the brunch menu was a no brainer—eggs Benedict--here served with French fries and a refreshing small salad.  My husband opted for a vegetarian omelette.  And, but of course, French toast, mussels, and escargots are also options.  We shared a basket of three pastries and finished that as well as most of the complimentary bread basket filled with warm baguette slices—especially delicious topped with butter and cherry jam.  The bottomless Mimosa added some lovely color to the table and cheer to the conversation.  When I expressed disappointment that my cafe au lait was served in a regular cappucino cup, I was informed that this is a bow to disinterest on the part of most customers for the larger handless bowl that is classic in France.  It was too late for me, but if you would like one just request it when you order.  It was obvious everyone was enjoying themselves because festive chatter alsmost drowned out the atmospheric French background music.  Dinner brings on a country-style French menu that might include sautéed sweetbreads with walnut crust and mushroom coulis, steamed mussels with white wine and garlic, lapin façon Normande (rabbit Normandy with fingerling potatoes), le cassoulet Toulousain maison (housemade cassoulet of duck leg confit, pork, and Toulouse sausage with beans), and fall-off-the-bone-tender lamb shank braised for 6 hours and served with French green beans and lamb jus.  Desserts might include tarte tatin et glace vanille (warm apple tart with vanilla ice cream) or pain perdu et glace caramel (caramelized French toast with caramel ice cream).  A special $27 three-course Neighborhood Menu is available Sunday through Thursday and includes soup or salad, entrée, and dessert.

Le P'tit Laurent Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Bird & Beckett bookstore in San Francisco

After, we browsed the Bird & Beckett bookstore a few doors down, then headed up Diamond Street to wind our way up and over Twin Peaks and on down to Market Street, which is quite a scenic drive during daylight hours.  Alternatively, the free Alemany Flea Market that operates on Sundays from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. is just a few freeway exits away. 

More things to do in San Francisco. 

Way more things to do in San Francisco. 

More ideas for exploring Northern California.

images ©2014 Carole Terwilliger Meyers