Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Greater East Bay: Walnut Creek, Vic Stewart’s

Vic Stewart’s  850 S. Broadway, (925) 943-5666. D daily; $$$.  Reservations advised. Free valet parking.  It’s hard to imagine a more romantic setting than dinner in one of the intimate refurbished dining cars at this premier steak house.  You can snuggle with your honey in your own private compartment of the authentic 1901 Pullman dining car, sipping a jumbo martini and anticipating what delicious item might arrive next time the door swings open.  Perhaps it will be an appetizer platter laden with baked brie, sauteed wild mushrooms, and sizzling roasted garlic, followed by a serious steak (the top sirloin infused with Merlot is primo) and satisfying mashed redskin potatoes, and culminating with a decadent Chocolate Lover’s Pate to spread on cinnamon shortbread cookies.  More seating is available on a former platform of this converted 1891 Southern Pacific train station.

More things to do in Walnut Creek.

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image ©venue

Monday, April 28, 2014

Greater East Bay: Walnut Creek, Lindsay Wildlife Museum + Walnut Creek Model Railroad Society + Larkey Park

updated 12-19-14

Lindsay Wildlife Museum  1931 First Ave./Buena Vista Ave., in Larkey Park, (925) 935-1978.  W-F 12-5, Sat & Sun 10-5, in summer daily 10-5.  $8.50, 65+ $7.50, 2-17 $6.50.


live owl at Lindsay Wildlife Museum in Walnut Creek, California
live owl
This hands-on museum displays an indoor mini-zoo featuring more than 50 species of live, native California wild animals.  All have been injured or orphaned in the wild and are non-releasable.


vet examines woodpecker at Lindsay Wildlife Museum in Walnut Creek, California
An adjacent wildlife hospital—which is the olest and one of the largest animal hospitals in the U.S.--rehabilitates injured wildlife brought in by the public and releases them back into the wild when recovered.  You can view a treatment room, and sometimes an animals check-up by a vet is scheduled for everyone to observe.  We got to see a tiny Nuttall’s woodpecker be examined.


child pets bunny at Lindsay Wildlife Museum in Walnut Creek, California
Children can touch some of the wild animals as well as some domestic animals, and animal presentations are scheduled hourly.  Become a museum member and your children can as well check out an abandoned domestic animal from the Pet Library for a week; a small fee is charged, and a cage is included.


Larkey Park playground in Walnut Creek, California

Larkey Park playground in Walnut Creek, California
Outside, inviting Larkey Park offers a public pool, a playground, and picnic tables and barbecue facilities.


Also in Larkey Park, the Walnut Creek Model Railroad Society features a large and elaborate layout of mountains, bridges, and towns that measures 56 by 34 feet and has more than 4,300 feet of track.  It is self-described as “the most mountainous and one of the largest exclusively HO scale lines in the United States.”  Society members demonstrate their trains and answer questions, and every hour on the half-hour the lights dim and then flash to simulate nightfall and a storm.  When the building it is housed in opened in 1974, it was the first in California to be designed specifically to house a model railroad.  Admission fee. 

More things to do in Walnut Creek.

More places to see animals.

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More trains around the world.

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

top 5 images ©2014 Carole Terwilliger Meyers; bottom image courtesy of venue

Friday, April 25, 2014

80 North: Albany, Talavera Cocina Mexicana

Talavera Cocina Mexicana  1561 Solano Ave./Peralta St., (510) 525-7425.  B-L-D daily; $.  No reservations.  Decorated with a riot of colorful tiles and featuring high ceilings, this small counter-service spot dispenses tasty Mexican fare.  Specialties include both big burritos with an array of fillings and also two types of mole—poblano (dark chilies, spices, and chocolate) and guajillo (pumpkin seeds, guajillo chilies, and spices).  You can combine the specialties in the form of a chicken or pork mole burrito.  Choose also from tamales, enchiladas (the chicken with red sauce are excellent), flautas, tacos (made with two layered small soft corn tortillas; I like the tasty al pastor best), an enormous steak torta sandwich, and exceptional tortilla soup.  Among the breakfast items are a burrito, chilaquiles, and a cactus scramble.  Housemade aguas frescas are worthwhile.  Take your bowl of corn chips to the salsa bar stocked with four tasty options, and pick up some iced radishes and pickled veggies while you’re there.  Additional seating is available outside.

Talavera on Urbanspoon

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Way more thing to do in Berkeley. 

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images © 2014 Carole Terwilliger Meyers



Wednesday, April 23, 2014

101 North: Healdsburg, Café Lucia



appetizer tray at Café Lucia in Healdsburg, California
Café Lucia  235 Healdsburg Ave, (707) 431-1113.  L-D daily; $$$.  In a contemporary space set down a long outdoor hall away from the street, this restaurant presents delicious Portuguese Mediterranean cuisine enhanced by local and seasonal California ingredients.  The contemporary decor includes striking large canvas prints of landscapes and scenery from Portugal and the Azores.  Wood tables are made from old wine crates, and banquettes soften the seating.  A large open courtyard is divine in good weather.  Because we weren’t super hungry, my husband and I composed a delicious meal from tasting plates and starters.  Our small plates included boquerones (white anchovies), Tremoco-Lupini beans, and marinated vegetables.  Fig bread and almonds were included gratis, and all was served on an attractive plank.  

dayboat scallops at Café Lucia in Healdsburg, California

We also shared perfect day boat scallops and a dramatic asparagus salad topped with a fried egg.  Main dishes included a fisherman’s stew, a traditional baked casserole of north Atlantic salt cod, and a New York steak.  I liked that we could order wine by the half glass so we could sample more vintages, and the waitress made excellent suggestions.  With our fruit trio dessert (passion fruit mousse, fig bread pudding, and frozen pineapple mousse), we shared a delicious Barros sweet white.  Portions are on the small side, and prices are on the high side, but the entire package is so satisfying that it is money well spent.

Café Lucia on Urbanspoon


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

images © 2014 Carole Terwilliger Meyers


Monday, April 21, 2014

80 North, Saigon Seafood Harbor Restaurant

dining room at Saigon Seafood Harbor Restaurant in Richmond, California
Saigon Seafood Harbor Restaurant  3150 Pierce St./Central Ave., (510) 559-9388.  Dim sum daily 11-3, D daily; $$.  Though the name makes you think this is a Vietnamese restaurant, it is actually named for a lake in China and is a Chinese restaurant.  The dim sum experience here is as I think it should be—it takes place in one gigantic room serviced by carts.  A glass-enclosed chef’s station and tanks of live seafood provide a sort of entertainment at one end.
 



rice balls dim sum at Saigon Seafood Harbor Restaurant in Richmond, California


Quality ingredients and an efficient staff plus fresh seafood and some unusual dessert items—sweet pastry stuffed with taro root, round puffs of hollow donuts sprinkled with plenty of sugar—make it worth the often long wait.  So get your ticket at the check-in stand and chill (I saw adults busy with books and kids with phone games).

Saigon Seafood Harbor on Urbanspoon

More things to do in Richmond. 

Dim sum photo gallery. 

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images © 2014 Carole Terwilliger Meyers

Friday, April 18, 2014

80 North: Kensington, Benchmark Pizzeria

interior of Benchmark Pizzeria in Kensington, California
Benchmark Pizzeria  1568 Oak View Ave./Colusa Ave., in Kensington. (510) 647-9724.  D daily.  Located just off the Kensington Circle, this simple spot features red walls, black wood tables, grey tile floors, and big windows that let in plenty of light.  Popular with families, it is cheery and noisy.  The specialty is crispy-crusted Neapolitan-style pizza pies made with local ingredients and baked in an 800-degree wood-fired oven.  The menu changes daily.  Antipasti choices are especially interesting—perhaps house-pickled vegetables, olives and almonds, or house-pulled mozzarella.

house pizza at Benchmark Pizzeria in Kensington, California
Pizzas measure about 12 inches and include the simple namesake Benchmark as well as one with housemade sausage and also a folded-over calzone.  A few pastas are available, and dessert includes Straus soft-serve ice cream—my favorite is vanilla topped with butterscotch.

Benchmark Pizzeria on Urbanspoon

More things to do in nearby Berkeley.

Way more thing to do in nearby Berkeley. 

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images © 2014 Carole Terwilliger Meyers



Wednesday, April 16, 2014

1 North: Mill Valley, Matt Davis Trail



view of San Francisco from Matt Davis Trail in Mill Valley, CA
I still daydream back about my hike on the popular, mostly shady and flat, Matt Davis Trail.  It is where I fell in love with yellow finches; lizards also abound.  We went all the way to the West Point Inn, which took about 3 hours round-trip.  The inn was built in 1904 by the railroad as a restaurant and stopover for passengers, and it still accepts hike-in overnight guests today.  We didn’t bring along food, but picnic tables and a spectacular panoramic view that includes San Francisco in the distance invite lingering. 

More things to do in Mill Valley.

Even more things to do in Mill Valley. 

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An overnight escape to Mt. Tam.

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images ©2014 Carole Terwilliger Meyers







Monday, April 14, 2014

101 North: Healdsburg, The Wurst

interior of Wurst restaurant in Healdsburg, California

The Wurst  22 Matheson St./Healdsburg Ave., (707) 395-0214.  L-D daily; $$.  Reminiscent of what you find in Germany, communal tables are available here both inside—in an industrial-style open room with a high tin ceiling and exposed pipes--and outside on an exposed front patio.  Local beers dominate the draft spigots, and I like that just a half-pint is an option.  Order at the counter, then select your seat.  Service is friendly and fast.  

 
hot dogs and fries at Wurst restaurant in Healdsburg, California

Dog choices include a popular Southside Detroit Polish topped with onion rings, the mild Italian house Wurst, the Harissa Hottie with apricot and habanero chilies, and my favorite—a plain old beef hot dog from Schwartz in San Francisco.  An eggplant vegetarian version is also on the long list, and all are served on a good sesame seed-topped bun.  A condiment bar includes my favorite whole grain spicy mustard and sweet relish and plenty more.  Burgers (even a falafel burger!), fries, and a few salads round things out, and Double Rainbow ice cream is scooped up for dessert.  

 

the Wurst Sausage Grill & Beer Garden on Urbanspoon


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images © 2014 Carole Terwilliger Meyers