Wednesday, February 26, 2014

880 South: Oakland, Oakland Zoo

sun bear in hammock at the Oakland Zoo in CA
update/p 316

Have you ever wondered what superlatives reside at the superlative Oakland Zoo

When you visit the zoo with children, you have an excellent opportunity to teach them more about language.  Challenge them to see how many more superlatives they can find—the sleepiest, the quietest, the cutest, etc.  I visited with my three grandchildren, two of whom afterwards stuck to their guns about pre-visit animal favorites—the 4-year-old loves the giraffes and the teen adores the big cats.  I’m not sure about the 2-year-old, though he did stare for a long time at the meerkats.  This time I personally settled on the zebras--which we saw chasing each other--and the vividly colored frogs in the children’s area. 

A cafe at the main entrance offers hot lunch items—including a vegan burger and some vegetarian selections--but the food is ordinary and on the expensive side.  I suggest taking a picnic and supplementing it with the soda, ice cream, and other sweet treats that are dispensed from stands around the zoo.  A scattering of benches and grassy expanses invite a relaxing break. 

You’ll know it is time to start for the exit when you hear something like, “I’m done with the zoo,” as I did from my 4-year-old granddaughter, or, “But I don’t want to see the rabbits,” as I overheard another pre-schooler whine.  But before we left, we exited the zoo and boarded the Outback Express Adventure Train ride around Wild Australia, a part of the zoo you don’t otherwise see.

Check out the sun bears via webcam.

More things to do in Oakland.

Way more things to do in Oakland.

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image ©2014 Carole Terwilliger Meyers
 

Monday, February 24, 2014

880 South: Oakland, The Barrel Room

potato cake at The Barrel Room restaurant in Oakland, CA
The Barrel Room  5330 College Ave./Bryant Ave., (510) 655-1700.  L-D Tu-Sun.  Reservations advised.  What a treat it is to experience a small but interesting menu combined with wine pairings selected from small-production wines by a knowledgeable staff of sommeliers.  On my recent visit, France was the featured wine (the country changes periodically).  You can choose one of the many pre-selected flights and have your waiter suggest menu items to pair them with, or opt to have your waiter choose a special wine for each course you select (more than 50 wines are available by the glass).  A selection of beers and ciders is also poured.  We shared selections from the eclectic menu of rustic wine-friendly cuisine, and started with a glass of Italian Prosecco to open up out palates.  Our small plate was creamy pancetta-wrapped dates stuffed with blue cheese and walnuts—enhanced by a mineral-heavy Chenin Blanc--but you might consider Brie in puff pastry with roasted grapes or spiced duck confit with spicy glaze a l’orange.  We followed this with a bowl of delicate cauliflower and leek soup made a bit crunchy with toasted walnuts, and paired it with a big wine from the southwest of France—an intense, smoky white with a creamy finish.  About now, I realized I was losing track of the exact wines and just gave in to enjoying the experience.  While large plate temptations included porc aux pruneaux and boeuf bourguignon, we opted for a homey cassoulet with duck confit and Toulouse sausage—something we rarely see on local menus—and a burgundy-style red wine with raspberry notes.  We loved our side of Basque pureed potato cakes with smoked paprika aioli paired with a Cabernet Franc with a green vegetable note.  Dessert was a soft pistacio torte with apple sabayon made delightful with a Moscadello with apricot and caramel notes.  Our extremely knowledgeable waiter’s delicious descriptions greatly enhanced my enjoyment.  Decor is spare and sleek--a pressed tin ceiling, a polished concrete floor--and the varied seating is in front of large windows with a sidewalk view, at the bar, and on a banquette with small tables facing a wall of wines.  Diners can also purchase wines by the bottle to take home and/or join the wine club.
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Another Barrel Room is located in San Francisco. 

More things to do in Oakland.

Way more things to do in Oakland.

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image © 2014 Carole Terwilliger Meyers
 

Friday, February 21, 2014

Greater East Bay: Pleasanton, Joy China Cuisine--CLOSED; and Berry Patch

Joy China Cuisine restaurant in Pleasanton, CA

Joy China Cuisine  CLOSED 30 W. Angela, St., (925) 484-4880.  L M-F, D daily.  This spacious venue serves up a large menu of tasty dishes without MSG.  Among my favorites are the potstickers, eggplant in garlic sauce, walnut prawns, Szechuan beef, kung pao chicken, and Szechuan fish filet.  A large free parking lot is adjacent.

Berry Patch  350 Main St., (925) 846-0155.  Looking for a special gift?  This nearby shop appears at first to be the usual, but that perception changes upon a browse.  I loved the
knitted baby items at Berry Patch gift shop in Pleasanton, CA
inexpensive hand-painted wood signs outside the door, and I wound up purchasing one of the colorful pop-up greeting cards displayed inside.  I’ll be back to root through the curated children’s items for my grandkids’ birthdays.  I especially liked the selection of handmade items that included a doll’s armoire, a sweet little baby’s knit hat, and a precious terry-cloth bib.



Travel articles to inspire and help you plan some spectacular getaways.  

images © 2014 Carole Terwilliger Meyers

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

880 South: Oakland, Forge

patio at Forge restaurant in Oakland, CA
Forge  66 Franklin St., in Jack London Square.  In good weather it’s hard to beat soaking up some rays here on the front deck overlooking the estuary—several fire pits are available--but the inside area is also quite pleasant.  Definitely order the thin-crust pizza made with unleavened dough and cooked at 800 degrees in an Italian Valoriani oven.  More don’t misses:  Brussels sprouts, flash-fried cheese curds, and housemade ginger beer.

Forge Pizza on Urbanspoon

Brussels sprouts at Forge restaurant in Oakland, CA
More things to do in Oakland.

Way more things to do in Oakland.

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images © 2014 Carole Terwilliger Meyers

Monday, February 17, 2014

80 North: Berkeley, Manpuku

salmon roll at Manpuku sushi restaurant in Berkeley, CA
Manpuku  2977 College Ave./Ashby Ave., Elmwood, (510) 848-2536.  L-D daily; $.  Though I’ve never been to Japan, this small, deep venue strikes me as what you might find there when in search of a quick meal.  Order in front for both take-away or dining in, and then seat yourself at the sushi counter or at one of the tables.  From the large assortment of sushi, I selected a deep-fried spicy salmon roll special and found it delicious.  Ramen and udon noodle dishes and bento boxes are also good choices.

Manpuku on Urbanspoon

More things to do in Berkeley.

Way more thing to do in Berkeley. 

Here are some travel articles to inspire and help you plan some spectacular getaways.

image © 2014 Carole Terwilliger Meyers

Friday, February 14, 2014

San Francisco: F-Line "Valentine" plaque

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"Valentine Mints Poem" by Peter Y. Chou; F-Car Line in SF
Market Street Railway F-Line  Runs for 5 mi. along Market St., from Castro St. to The Embarcadero, and along the waterfront to Jones St. at Fisherman’s Wharf.  Fee.  Streetcars running on this line include colorful vintage electric trolley cars from around the world.  Among them are some from San Francisco’s own historic streetcar fleet and even New Orleans’ famous streetcar named Desire. 
     A special stop for lovers is found at the Ferry Building station on the side going towards Fisherman’s Wharf.  There you will find on the ground a bronze plaque inscribed with an excerpt from “Valentine Mints Poem” by Peter Y. Chou—perfect to read to your love while you wait.     

More things to do in San Francisco

Way more things to do in San Francisco.

Travel articles to inspire and help you plan some spectacular getaways. 

image © 2014 Carole Terwilliger Meyers

Monday, February 10, 2014

San Francisco: Trattoria Pinocchio

bruchetta at Trattoria Pinocchio in San Francisco
Trattoria Pinocchio  401 Columbus Ave./Vallejo St., North Beach, (415) 392-1472.  Br-D daily; $$.  This corner spot set in the heart of North Beach offers both indoor tables with a great sidewalk view through large windows as well as outdoor sidewalk seating with heat lamps that brings you even closer to the street action.  Our waiter was Italian and charming and took care of things.  The kitchen makes fresh pastas (ravioli, gnocchi, lasagna, and fettucine) and desserts daily; don’t miss them.  We started with a plate of four exquisitely tasty bruchetta topped with chopped tomato.  I thought both my own blissful ravioli stuffed with housemade sausage and topped with a mushroom white sauce and my companion’s meat lasagna were equally delicious.  The menu also offers thin-crust pizza, calzone, saltimboca, piccata, osso buco, scampi, and cioppino.  Servings are generous.  Though we each chose a glass of a different Italian wine, there is a full bar and a selection of cocktails, and instead of one of the enticing desserts, we shared a refreshing housemade limoncello digestif.  Free jazz is scheduled on Monday nights from 7 to 10 p.m.

Trattoria Pinocchio on Urbanspoon

More things to do in San Francisco

Way more things to do in San Francisco.

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image © 2014 Carole Terwilliger Meyers


Friday, February 7, 2014

880 South: Oakland, Lakeshore Cafe

coffee at Lakeshore Cafe in Oakland, CA
coffee at Lakeshore Cafe in Oakland, CA
breakfast at Lakeshore Cafe in Oakland, CA
breakfast at Lakeshore Cafe in Oakland, CA
Lakeshore Cafe  3257 Lakeshore Ave./Lake Park Ave., Lakeshore, (510) 832-4374.  No reservations.  Daily 8am-4pm; $.  Extremely popular for breakfast and weekend brunch, this bustling cafe features high ceilings and lots of light coming in through tall windows.  In nice weather, you might want to hide away on the back patio.  Eggs Benedict (and sometimes a crab cake Benedict), French toast, or an omelette is the way to go, and don’t forget a super-inexpensive mimosa to wash it down with. 

More things to do in Oakland.

Way more things to do in Oakland.

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images © 2014 Carole Terwilliger Meyers

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

San Francisco: Alcatraz Island

update/p.16

Every wonder why they call it the slammer? 

More about Alcatraz.

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video © 2014 Carole Terwilliger Meyers
 


Monday, February 3, 2014

880 South: Oakland, gondola ride, Lake Chalet Seaffod Bar & Grill, and Yoshi's

Blue Lake cocktail at Lake Chalet restaurant in Oakland
Blue Lake cocktail at Lake Chalet
If you like to go out on Valentine's Day, it is never too early to make plans and reservations. In Oakland, you might want to think about these heart-thumpers:

A gondola ride on Lake Merritt, complete with a live serenade, followed by a lovely dinner at Lake Chalet Seafood Bar & Grill.  More . . .

or

Dinner and a performance at Yoshi's jazz club.  More . . .

More things to do in Oakland.

Way more things to do in Oakland.

Travel articles to inspire and help you plan some spectacular getaways. 

image © 2014 Carole Terwilliger Meyers