Friday, January 31, 2014

101 South: Paso Robles, Firefly + Brown Butter Cookie Company

Firefly shop, Paso Robles
Firefly  839 12th St., (805) 237-9265.  Especially nice contemporary crafts are purveyed here in an aesthetically interesting vintage building.  You’ll find everything from fragrant soaps to eye-popping aprons.

Brown Butter Cookie Company  801 12th St., downtown, (805) 239-5894.  In an expansive shop just a few doors down, you can watch cookies being prepared for shipping while you taste the Original Brown Butter Sea Salt Cookie.  Yum. 

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image © 2014 Carole Terwilliger Meyers

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

101 South: Paso Robles, Panolivo French Bistro + Jaffa Cafe

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Panolivo French Bistro  1344 Park St./14th St., downtown, (805) 239-3366.  B-L daily, D F-Sat; $.  Though the bakery here seems to be the focus--the exquisite chocolate croissant is to die for--full meals are also served in a spacious dining area.  Breakfast is particularly popular and is served all day.  At lunch, housemade sandwiches, quiches, soups, salads, and french fries join the menu. 

If you want fast service and/or delicious Mediterranean fare, step into the area now known as Jaffa Cafe.  You order at the counter, and service is super quick.  My favorite is the falafel plate composed of crispy orbs, tasty hummus, and the best pita bread (imported from San Luis Obsipo).  A pastry here is a must, and a tiny pear-almond tart did not disappoint.

Jaffa Cafe on Urbanspoon

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image © 2014 Carole Terwilliger Meyers

Monday, January 27, 2014

880 South: Oakland, Centouno

Centouno  101 Broadway/Embarcadero, Jack London Square neighborhood, (510) 433-5030.  L-D daily; $$.  Reservations recommended.  This vibrant corner spot is situated within a 1909 building retaining its original brickwork.  It is right across from Jack London Square and a short hop from Yoshi’s, with big windows overlooking the square and the active train tracks in between.  Originally known as the Overland House, because it was where travelers wound up for a rest after an overland journey before setting sail on the Pacific, it was also a favorite haunt of author Jack London.  Now famed restaurant waiter slang.  The international wine selections are all offered by the glass, making it easy to do some experimental pairing (I especially liked the sparkling Italian Donelli Lambrusco and the earthy New Zealand Old Coach Road Pinot Noir).  Several beers are also on tap.
designer Pat Kuleto has added his touch with an exhibition kitchen and a rustic Old World Italian d├ęcor with reclaimed barn-wood accents and earth tone hues.  Diners are treated to an eclectic, upbeat music mix and a wall of comfy booths, and a small counter also offers inviting seating to solos.  The brief menu offers Italian comfort foods designed to be shared.  My favorite item is the torta fritta, which is airy little pillow puffs of dough used to wrap around the accompanying house-cured salumi.  Risotto al vino rosso is not too hard, not too soft, but just right, however I would have like a sprinkling of something green for color relief.  I thought the breaded chicken breast was way too simple and boring, and next time will try one of the housemade pastas—perhaps the tagliatelle with Bolognese sauce or the Arrabbiata penne pasta with spicy tomato sauce.  Sliced, coated, and deep-fried Granny Smith apple rounds are an off-menu item worth ordering for dessert, but it would be hard to go wrong with lemon sorbet served in a lemon shell.  I enjoyed my petite cup of decaf espresso, or “Why bother?” as it is often referred to in

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Way more things to do in Oakland.

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images © 2014 Carole Terwilliger Meyers

Friday, January 24, 2014

880 South: Oakland, Cathedral of Christ the Light

Cathedral of Christ the Light  2121 Harrison St.  Tours M-F at 1pm; meet at front doors; tour begins with organ music on 2nd & 4th Tu.  Free.  Overlooking beautiful Lake Merritt, this spectacular cathedral was built in 2008 on 2 ½ acres.  It seats 1,250 people and is the world's newest Catholic cathedral.  Designed by architect Craig W. Hartman (who also designed the San Francisco Airport’s International Terminal) in the shape of the ancient Christian symbol for a fish, it is entered by visitors through the tail.  Made of wood, concrete, and glass, it is meant to have a humble aura.  Some people think the interior
resembles a basket or a Noah’s Ark.  The largest of the organ’s 5,298 pipes is 34 feet long, while the smallest is the size of a pencil.  The fourteen Stations of the Cross are depicted on Romanesque-style cast bronze reliefs spaced around the interior perimeter, and the altar is made of Italian grey-streaked white Carrara marble from the same quarry Michelangelo used.  Visitors are welcome.  The tour includes in-depth description of the magnificent cathedral interior as well as visiting some of the smaller side chapels, including the Chapel of the Suffering Christ, which has a sculpture of Jesus on the cross that comes from Mexico City.  A cafe and gift shop are adjacent, and many special events are regularly scheduled.  I always like to stop in to see the magnificent cathedrals in Mexico and Europe and other countries when I travel, but I have rarely seen a spectacular new version such as this.

More things to do in Oakland.

Way more things to do in Oakland.

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images © 2014 Carole Terwilliger Meyers

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Miscellaneous Adventures: the 21 California missions

The 21 California Missions

California’s “crown jewels” run the length of the state.  They feature a distinct architecture of thick adobe bricks, terra-cotta tile roofs, and enclosed patios and gardens. Many of the mission gardens and fountains still provide visitors with a tranquil retreat, just as they did two centuries ago when the Franciscan padres presided over them.  Some of the missions have been almost completely restored, while others are in ruins.  A few no longer retain any physical evidence of the graceful church and quadrangle that once existed, replaced now by dusty spaces or even modern buildings.  Still, each site provides a sense of what life was like during the mission era.  Read more . . .

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images © 2014 Carole Terwilliger Meyers
 

Monday, January 20, 2014

San Francisco: Fog City

Fog City  1300 Battery St./The Embarcadero.  Reservations advised.  Glitzy with chrome and glowing with neon on the outside, this inviting diner offers a sleek Pat Kuleto-designed interior with an open kitchen and plenty of roomy booths hugging the window-lined perimeter.  Because of its design and lonely location, it reminds me of that bleak painting Nighthawks by Edward Hopper (which the painter said was inspired by "a restaurant on New York's Greenwich Avenue where two streets meet"—is it coincidence that the F-car stop for this restaurant is Greenwich?), but it shakes that image with a happy roar once
you’re inside.  A long V-shaped bar with seating and a communal table fill the center.  Menu items are designed to be shared.  We started with tasty deviled eggs topped with crunchy quinoa and a sprinkling of tiny chopped chives, satisfying flash-fried blackened Brussels sprouts in citrusy ponzu sauce with chunks of crispy Asian pear, and oven roasted-yet-crunchy baby carrots in a bed of black garlic mole.  Then we shared a delicate pink-fleshed trout filet served with flavorful Arbequina olives, fingerling potatoes, and the fish’s head!—all  served attractively on an Alder-wood plank.  Among the plentiful other main dishes are the kitchen’s signature whole chicken roasted in the wood oven and a good old American hamburger made special with a housemade bun and smoked tomato aioli.  Bread, which is toasted in the oven and served with Straus butter, costs additional.  Order up a cocktail—perhaps the margarita-like Paloma--and you’re ready to rock ‘n roll (however, there’s no jukebox in this former diner).   Do save room for some Straus frozen custard—I had it with (OMG!) my own little pitcher of superb egg yolk caramel sauce, but plum sauce and dark chocolate sauce are also options—or perhaps a circular portion of apple pie flavored with chilis.

Fog City on Urbanspoon

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images © 2014 Carole Terwilliger Meyers
 

Friday, January 17, 2014

80 North: Berkeley, Lawrence Hall of Science

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Lawrence Hall of Science  1 Centennial Dr., below Grizzly Peak Blvd.  Parking $1/hr.  Located high in the hills behind the campus, this hands-on museum was established by the university in 1968 as a memorial to Ernest Orlando Lawrence, who developed the cyclotron and was the university’s first Nobel laureate.  The 65-ton electromagnet that was used to provide a large magnetic field for the 27-inch cyclotron in the early 1930s is displayed outside in front of the hall, and the original 5-inch, hand-held cyclotron is displayed inside the hall.  Special events are scheduled regularly.  Though exhibits are of special interest to grade-school children, pre-schoolers especially enjoy the water area of the outdoor Forces that Shape the Bay exhibit (picnic tables are provided here) and the Design Quest activity room with crafts materials galore.  Teens often respond to the astronomy shows in the small Holt Planetarium and also like the Ingenuity Lab.  The hall’s permanent exhibits include a seismic recorder and the Nano area, where you will discover a world that is normally too small to see.  Couches and chairs are found throughout for resting.  On weekends, the Animal Discover Room permits finding out more about small animals such as chinchillas and turtles.  Outside on the vast entry plaza overlooking the San Francisco Bay, kids can climb on a life-size adolescent fin whale and a DNA molecule play structure. 
    The short-order The View Cafe dispenses well-priced fare—including several choices for vegetarians and vegans—and provides a magnificent panoramic view of the bay and San Francisco.

See the spectacular view of the San Francisco Bay via webcam, located at the Lawrence Hall of Science.

More things to do in Berkeley.

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images © 2014 Carole Terwilliger Meyers


Wednesday, January 15, 2014

880 South: Oakland, Farley’s East

Farley’s East  33 Grand Ave./Broadway), Uptown, (510) 835-7898.  B-L-D daily; $$.  No reservations.  My favorite spot in this tiny venue is the upstairs balcony, which has a row of seats overlooking the action downstairs.  Sidewalk seating is prime in good weather.  The breakfast menu is small--scrambled egg sandwich, frittata of the day, bagel, housemade granola, steel-cut oatmeal, assorted muffins—and the lunch menu features hot panini (I plan to try the prosciutto-fig-arugula-balsamic described as “heavenly” along with a crunchy peanut butter cookie for dessert) and cold sandwiches, including a vegan lentil-cashew hummus with avocado and cucumber.  Several magazine stands provide reading material, and local art entertains the eye.

Farley's East on Urbanspoon

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image © 2014 Carole Terwilliger Meyers 

Monday, January 13, 2014

880 South: Oakland, Off the Grid

Off the Grid  At Oakland Museum.  A changing collection of food trucks gather along 10th Street beside the museum each Friday evening.  This family-friendly event includes a variety of cuisines and beverages (I had fried chicken from The Architect’s Kitchen, a red velvet cupcake from Cupcakes, and beer from the informal bar.  Free live music, dance lessons, and art workshops are part of the fun.  Admission to the museum is half-price for adults; under 18 are free.

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images © 2014 Carole Terwilliger Meyers 

Friday, January 10, 2014

San Francisco: Capannina

Capannina  1809 Union St./Laguna St., Cow Hollow, (415) 409-8001.  D daily; $$$.  Reservations advised.  Specializing in the food of Capri, this cozy Italian restaurant’s name means “little hut on the beach.”  It is a small venue with personable servers and excellent service.  Meals begin with excellent sourdough bread and a tasty pesto sauce dip.  Among the dishes that get raved about are black-ink rissotto with scallops, calamari stuffed with crab and cheese, crab cakes, scampi with linguine (served with heads on), braised short ribs, buffalo mozzarella and prosciutto ravioli, and pappardelle with a rich and chewy mushrooms and wild boar ragu (my favorite).  Pastas are all housemade, and portions are generous.  An early bird prix fixe three-course dinner is available between 5 and 6 p.m. and a very good deal.  This spot is known for its tiramisu, but all of the desserts are noteworthy—most especially the espresso cannolis, chocolate cake with hazelnut ice cream, and (my personal fave) custard-
filled profiteroles with a scrumptious caramel sauce.  The wines are mostly Italian and easy to drink.

Capannina on Urbanspoon

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images © 2014 Carole Terwilliger Meyers


Wednesday, January 8, 2014

High Sierra: Yosemite, bus tours

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bus tours  depart from Yosemite Lodge at the Falls, (209) 372-4FUN.  Valley floor $25, 62+ $23, 5-12 $13.  Grand Tour:  $82, 62+ $69, 5-12 $46; June-Oct only.  On the 2-hour Valley Floor Tour, you’ll see some of the most famous sights and learn about the area’s history, geology, and plant and animal life.  Open-air trams operate from late spring through early fall; enclosed and heated motor coaches with large windows are used from late October through April.  The all-day Grand Tour includes Glacier Point, from which you’ll enjoy a 270-degree view of the high country and a bird's-eye view of the valley 3,214 feet below.  Lunch is available at additional charge.

More things to do in Yosemite.

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Monday, January 6, 2014

High Sierra: Yosemite, The Ahwahnee


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The Ahwahnee  (559) 253-5636 123 rooms; $$$+.  Some fireplaces.  Heated pool; 2 tennis courts.  Afternoon tea; restaurant; room service.  Free valet parking.  Built in 1927 of granite blocks and concrete beams, this sedate luxury hotel is a National Historic Landmark.  Its decor includes priceless Native American baskets and oriental rugs, and interesting historic photos and artwork hang on the walls.  The grand Great Lounge, with a walk-in fireplace at either end, is a delightful to relax inunder a soaring ceiling.  Some cottages are available.

The Ahwahnee Dining Room  (209) 372-1489.  B-L M-Sat, D daily, SunBr; $-$$$.  Reservations essential for D.  The best time to dine in the rustic splendor of this magnificent trestle-beamed-ceiling dining room is during daylight hours, when the spectacular views of the valley afforded by the 34-foot-tall leaded-glass windows can be fully enjoyed.  Sunday brunch, when the buffet tables groan with their bountiful offerings, is prime.  Dinner is expensive, and men are requested to wear a collared shirt and slacks, and women to dress accordingly.  Guests of the hotel get first choice at reservations, so non-guests often must settle for either an early or late seating.  Children fit in best at breakfast, brunch, or lunch.

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images ©2014 Carole Terwilliger Meyers

Friday, January 3, 2014

High Sierra: Yosemite, The Ansel Adams Gallery


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The Ansel Adams Gallery In Yosemite Village, (209) 372-4413; .  Daily 9-5.  Special-edition gelatin silver prints from original negatives by this well-known photographer are for sale here, along with Adams greeting cards and artworks by many other contemporary photographers and fine artists.
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images c2014 Carole Terwilliger Meyers