Wednesday, June 24, 2015

San Francisco: Chinese Historical Society of America


Chinese Historical Society of America  965 Clay St./Stockton St., Chinatown, (415) 391-1188.  Tu-F 12-5, Sat 11-4.  Free.  Well worth the two-block, uphill walk from Grant Avenue, and probably often overlooked because of it, this small museum is located inside a landmark YWCA building designed by architect Julia Morgan.  It concentrates on exhibits related to Chinese culture. 
exterior of Chinese Historical Society of America museum in a Julia Morgan building in Chinatown San Francisco

exterior of Chinese Historical Society of America museum in a Julia Morgan building in Chinatown San Francisco

interior courtyard of Chinese Historical Society of America museum in a Julia Morgan building in Chinatown San Francisco

My favorite exhibit is the Frank Wong dioramas.  Wong grew up in Chinatown and enjoys recreating scenes from the past in miniature.  His little portals to the past depict his grandmother’s kitchen, an herb shop, a laundry, a shoeshine stand (it still exists on the corner of Sacramento Street and Grant Avenue), and a cramped SRO (single-room-occupancy) hotel room.  With great attention to detail, he made tiny wrapped packages for the laundry shop and tiny chopsticks for the kitchen table.  
miniature kitchen at Chinese Historical Society of America museum in a Julia Morgan building in Chinatown San Francisco

miniature kitchen at Chinese Historical Society of America museum in a Julia Morgan building in Chinatown San Francisco

miniature shoeshine stand at Chinese Historical Society of America museum in a Julia Morgan building in Chinatown San Francisco

miniature SRO room at Chinese Historical Society of America museum in a Julia Morgan building in Chinatown San Francisco

More exhibits worth a look include a display of colorful fine Chinese clothing and hair ornaments 
elaborate hair ornaments at Chinese Historical Society of America museum in a Julia Morgan building in Chinatown San Francisco

and the new “Underground Chinatown,” which is set up in a room below ground a la an opium den and takes a look at racial myths and stereotypes.  
dragon leads to Underground Chinatown exhibit at Chinese Historical Society of America museum in a Julia Morgan building in Chinatown San Francisco

opium exhibit in Underground Chinatown exhibit at Chinese Historical Society of America museum in a Julia Morgan building in Chinatown San Francisco

And let’s not forget the “Forgotten Art of Lion Dance Puzzles.”  I especially liked the centipede puzzle but have no idea how to solve it. 
centipede puzzle at Chinese Historical Society of America museum in a Julia Morgan building in Chinatown San Francisco

More Chinatown. 

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images ©2015 Carole Terwilliger Meyers

Monday, June 22, 2015

San Francisco: Smokestack at Magnolia Brewing Co.


Smokestack at Magnolia Brewing Co.  2505 3rd St./22nd St., Dogpatch; (415) 864-7468.  L-D daily; $$.  Hidden in a long row of converted warehouses, this combo brewpub/barbecue restaurant also operates a full bar and serves a list of whiskeys and Tequilas so extensive that bartenders need to move a ladder along the tall wall of shelves to find the bottle they need.  You enter the rustic, high-ceilinged vintage warehouse that it operates in through tall doors, and land in a welcoming atmosphere of old Delta blues music.  You seat yourself at a selection of communal long picnic-style wood tables with benches, at the bar on stools, or in one of the several booths.  An area in the back in the garage brewery has tables improvised from wood planks across wine barrels and strings of lights, and this is where they store stacks of almond and oak wood.  I suggest reading the barbecue menu first, then getting in line at the deli-style counter in front of the unpretentious open kitchen to view the goods and order.  Everything is prepared in-house and nicely smokey from open-fire cooking--no gas lines here--including tender, juicy brisket (my favorite), lean pastrami with housemade sauerkraut, huge and tender Waygu beef ribs, Thai chili-cheddar pork sausage, spicy jerk chicken wings, and lavender-rubbed duck.  Meats are ordered by the half or full pound (at about $15/1/2 pound), but you can order 1/4 pound of each of several different types.  Assorted salads and pickled veggies are among the sides; my favorites were the tasty potato salad (though a few of the potatoes were not cooked enough) and the pickled red onions.  Spicy beef jerky strips are also available.  Large plastic condiment bottles on the table hold spicy kimchee BBQ sauce, spicy vinegar, and mustard sauce; rolls of paper towels stand-in for napkins.  Once you’ve sorted out your meal, head over to the bar and select your drinks.  (Or, of course, you can do this vice-versa, and I would recommend that if there is a long food line so you can imbibe while you wait.)  I suggest ordering half-pints so that you can try several of the Magnolia brews.  We started with a refreshing light Kalifornia Kolsch, served in a small flute glass to keep it cold.  Then followed a biscuity, carmelly, malty Blue Bell Bitter, a grapefruity Jubilee Pale Ale made annually to commemorate the Haight-Ashbury Street Fair and honoring a Grateful Dead lyric “meet me at the Jubilee,” and a desserty coffee-chocolate Cole Porter.  Oh yeah, and they are family-friendly, too!

bar at Smokestack at Magnolia Brewing in San Francisco

kitchen at Smokestack at Magnolia Brewing in San Francisco
 
menu at Smokestack at Magnolia Brewing in San Francisco

meats and sides at Smokestack at Magnolia Brewing in San Francisco
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The original Magnolia Gastropub & Brewery operates at 1398 Haight St./Masonic.  

There’s a lot to do in Dogpatch–more restaurants, a museum, artist studios, wine tasting, two breweries, 2 chocolatiers, a butcher, a cheese shop, bouldering gym and a museum. Allow time to explore.

More things to do in San Francisco

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images ©2015 Carole Terwilliger Meyers


Friday, June 19, 2015

San Francisco: Dogpatch neighborhood


DOGPATCH
3rd St./22nd St.; the Muni T-line runs down Third Street.
          The historic Dogpatch neighborhood has working-class roots and is home to some of the city's oldest structures, including sweet Victorian cottages as well as dockside warehouses and factories.  It feels remote from the rest of the city and is a neighborhood in transition.  There’s a lot to see and do in here–restaurants, breweries, wine tasting, an ice cream shop, two chocolatiers, a butcher, a cheese shop, a museum, artist studios, shops, a bouldering gym, and more. Take time to explore.

Attractions
SF-Museum of Craft and Design
   
Shops
Arch  2349 3rd St.  Currently a pop-up, this shop has been all around the town for going on 35 years.  It is due to move yet again in July of 2015.  Meanwhile, it offers a delicious selection of art and drafting supplies as well as sweet gifts.  Stop in for a browse.
Arch shop in Dogpatch neighborhood of San Francisco

Rickshaw Bagworks  904 22nd St./Minnesota St.  This factory-front shop displays a large selection of bags--messenger, shopping, backpack—and many are made from recycled materials.  The motto here is “Fresh bags made daily.” 
 Richshaw Bagworks shop in Dogpatch neighborhood of San Francisco

More Dogpatch . . .

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images ©2015 Carole Terwilliger Meyers


Wednesday, June 17, 2015

San Francisco: Museum of Craft and Design


Museum of Craft and Design  2569 Third St./22nd St., Dogpatch.  Tu-Sat 11-6, Sun 12-5, closed M.  $8, seniors $6, under 13 free; free Tu.  Free tour, Sun at 1.  Located within the historic American Industrial Center building, which was originally home to the American Can Company, this museum moved a few years ago from its downtown location to the rustic Dogpatch neighborhood, with its galleries, shops, and restaurants.  The museum’s self-stated mission is “to be an environment for experiencing innovative contemporary work in craft and design that engages the community while stimulating the creative potential in peoples’ lives.”  Though small, the gift shop is exceptional, and you can visit it without paying admission to the museum. 

exterior entrance to the Museum of Craft and Design in San Francisco

interior entrance to the Museum of Craft and Design in San Francisco

gift shop at the Museum of Craft and Design in San Francisco

galleries at the Museum of Craft and Design in San Francisco

The current gallery show—Hands Off:  New Dutch Design at the Confluence of Technology & Craft—runs through September 13, 2015.  It features the the work of almost 20 Netherlands’ designers who follow the theme with innovative production materials and the reinterpretation of old techniques.  My favorites among them are “Sleeping Gold” (Grietje Schepers, 2014)--a moving, almost breathing, blob of gold lame fabric that I found reminiscent of ocean waves; and “Wanna Swap Your Ring?” (Ted Noten, 2010), which from a distance represents the outline of a handgun but up close turned me into a pack rat by inviting me to take one of 750 hot-pink miss piggy rings from within the exhibit and leave behind something of mine (I left a pen; wait until you see what other people left!). 




“Wanna Swap Your Ring?” exhibit by Ted Noten at the Museum of Craft and Design in San Francisco

close-up of “Wanna Swap Your Ring?” exhibit by Ted Noten at the Museum of Craft and Design in San Francisco

More things to do in San Francisco

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images and video ©2015 Carole Terwilliger Meyers

Monday, June 15, 2015

Greater East Bay: Danville, Eugene O’Neill National Historic Site


Eugene O’Neill National Historic Site  (925) 838-0249.  15 Tours:  Guided, Wed-F & Sun at 10am & 2pm; reservations required.  Self-Guided at 10:15, 12:15, & 2:15; no reservations required.  Free.  No pets in house.  Performances:  (925) 820-1818; www.eugeneoneill.org.


Reached by a free 15-minute shuttle ride uphill through a gated residentail neighborhood, Tao House is the rural retreat where Eugene O’Neill wrote his last plays--The Iceman Cometh, Long Day’s Journey Into Night, and A Moon for the Misbegotten.  Built in 1937 by O’Neill and his wife Carlotta, the Spanish rancho-style house reflects their eccentricities with dark blue ceilings meant to mimic the sky and built-in bookcases to hold the writer’s massive collection.  Though the house is not fully furnished and holds few original pieces, it is slowly being re-furnished with pieces from the era.


Fruit and nut tree orchards surround the spacious rural property.  Thanks to careful restoration, the house and its garden look almost as they did when the O’Neills left in 1944 after a 6-year stay—O’Neill’s longest stay in one place.  Tours run about 2-1/2 hours.  Because the tour is slow-moving and enhanced generously with lectures, it is not recommended for children under 5.  A tiny gift shop sells books as well as audio and video tapes of O’Neill’s productions.  Twice each year O’Neill’s plays are staged in the old barn, suspected to be the inspiration for the setting of A Moon for the Misbegotten.  


More things to do in Danville.


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historic images courtesy of Eugene O' Neill Foundation, Tao House


Friday, June 12, 2015

San Francisco: Palm House


Palm House  2032 Union St./Webster St., Cow Hollow, (415) 400-4355.  L-D daily.  Reservations advised.  Named for the more-than-150-year-old palmetto palm that the front of the restaurant wraps around—it is Union Street’s oldest tree and thought to be the second-oldest palm in the Bay area—this popular drinking spot has seating in several areas, including a heated sidewalk-side patio and a slightly quieter back room adjacent to the busy open kitchen.
150-year-old palmetto palm at Palm House in San Francisco

In the central area by the long bar, colorful vintage birdcages hang from a 35-foot ceiling, and live plants enhance the tropical feel.
bird cages at Palm House in San Francisco

Suck-‘em-up drinks are primo and include several show-stopping group punch bowls served up with mega-straws and a floating rubber duckie souvenir,
group punch bowl drink at Palm House in San Francisco

a really tasty house Slushy (my fave is the passion fruit version),
passion fruit Slushy at Palm House in San Francisco

plus a Mai Tai,
mai tai at Palm House in San Francisco

Pina Colada, Chipotle Mango Margarita, Aperol Spritz (recipe), Island Bloody Mary, and plenty more, and most are enhanced with an orchid.  When I visited, I witnessed a nearby group of six go through two of the monster punch bowls, and the photo they let me take came out as fuzzy as they must have been feeling.  Flavorful calypso wings with chili sauce and tasty fries with sweet mango ketchup are popular appetizers.  A tall bottle of chili-vinegar sauce is on the table for further flavor fine-tuning.  The California-tropic cuisine pulls from Cuba, Hawaii, Brazil, and the Caribbean such dishes as kalua pork shoulder with curried black beans, blackened or West Indian jerk mahi mahi, and Jamaican jerk roasted half chicken.  A burger is always available.  From the brunch menu, I chose the BLT on a soft topedo roll stuffed with delicious pineapple-sugar cane-glazed bacon and topped with a beautiful and tasty sunny-side-up egg that I slid right off and ate separately.
BLT with egg at Palm House in San Francisco

A Cubano sandwich, kalua pork hash, and huevos rancheros are also available.
huevos rancherso at Palm House in San Francisco

To top things off, we shared an order of light and fluffy jalapeno-cheddar biscuits with kawaihae honey butter and it chased a grey May day right away. 
jalapeno-cheddar biscuits at Palm House in San Francisco
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Allow time before or after to stroll the street and shop the boutiques.  Don’t miss the sweet Le Bouquet flower shop down the street at #2205.
Le Bouquet flower shop in Cow Hollow in San Francisco

If you plan carefully regarding open hours, you can also stop in at the Octagon House located a few blocks the other way at Gough Street;
Octagon House in Cow Hollow in San Francisco

tiny Allyne Park is adjacent and usually open even when the house isn’t.
Allyne Park in Cow Hollow in San Francisco

More things to do in San Francisco

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images ©2015 Carole Terwilliger Meyers


Wednesday, June 10, 2015

880 South: Oakland, TOAST Kitchen + Bar


TOAST Kitchen + Bar  5900 College Ave./Chabot Rd., Rockridge, (510) 658-5900.  L Tu-F, Sat-Sun Br, D daily; $$.  Diners at lunch here have a choice of sitting in the spacious bar—with thick wood-slab tables and concrete floors—or on nice days, outside on a roomy front patio.  
lunch in bar at TOAST Kitchen + Bar in Oakland, California
For dinner, an adjacent room opens its sliding barn door to an additional expansive space filled with comfy booths.  The small menu changes regularly, and features items to share--such as a popular white-bean spread and lamb meatballs—as well as traditional entrée portions.  According to my waiter, far and away the most popular item is the soup and sandwich.  It is more popular even than coffee or bread.  This day it was a bright-green spring pea soup swirled beautifully with a red-beet puree plus a scrumptious grilled-Swiss-and-goat-cheese sandwich enhanced with a strawberry-pepper balsamic jam.  I so want to eat this again.  My dining companions both ordered this as well.
pea soup and grilled cheese at TOAST Kitchen + Bar in Oakland, California

Ironically (because of the restaurant’s name), I’ve heard the kitchen criticized for making lousy toast, but the toast in this sandwich it was the best.  I’ve heard in the past about a sweet potato-plantain soup drizzled with creme fraiche and topped with caramelized diced plantains and wouldn’t mind trying that, too.  The burger and kale salad also look great and are at the top of my to-try list.  How charming that sugary snickerdoodle-like cookies arrived with the check.  
cookies and check at TOAST Kitchen + Bar in Oakland, California
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images ©2015 Carole Terwilliger Meyers


Monday, June 8, 2015

101 South: Palo Alto, Elizabeth F. Gamble Garden

update/p.175

Elizabeth F. Gamble Garden  1431 Waverley St./Embarcadero Rd., (650) 329-1356.  House:  M-F 9-2.  Garden:  Daily dawn to dusk.  Free.  Built in 1902, the Colonial Georgian Revival house here features enormous pieces of interior redwood paneling unmarred by knots.  Today, volunteers maintain both the house and the manicured classic Edwardian gardens, which include small “rooms,” an assortment of soothing fountains, and scattered benches for quiet reflection.  Each month has its pleasures, but April’s promise of a cascade of blossoms along a cherry allée might be the best.  Picnicking is enjoyable at tables sheltered by an old oak, and the lawns next door at Bowling Green Park are also inviting.




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images courtesy of venue


Friday, June 5, 2015

80 North: Berkeley, Eureka!


Eureka!  2068 Center St./Shattuck Ave., downtown, (510) 809-8282.  L-D daily; $$.  No reservations.  This roaringly popular restaurant operates in one big room with an open industrial ceiling and rustic, aged-barn wood walls.  Diners sit at heavy cutting-board tables, and large windows look out to the street (in good weather, the window-wall slides back to the open air).
interior of Eureka! in Berkeley, California

The menu features an array of burgers that all come with the house signature hand-cut fries.  Are you ready for the Bone Marrow burger—with bone marrow porcini butter, charbroiled onion, mustard aioli, oven-roasted tomato—or the very popular Fresno Fig Burger—with housemade fig marmalade, melted goat cheese, bacon, tomato, onion, arugula, and spicy porter mustard?  You can also order a turkey patty “naked” without its bun atop a bed of dressed arugula.  Main courses of salmon, steak, and short rib ragu are among the non-burger options.  I zeroed in on The Original Eureka!, a regular burger with iceberg lettuce, pickles, red onion, tomato, and special sauce, plus I added on avocado as an extra.  This was the juiciest, most delicious burger I’ve enjoyed in quite a while.  Top notch.  I upgraded the fries to giant, un-oily panko-crusted onion rings and added a side house salad with delicious parsley vinaigrette dressing.
The Original Eureka! burger at Eureka! in Berkeley, California

house side salad at Eureka! in Berkeley, California

My dining companion had the Pearl Street Blues Burger--melted blue cheese, herb sautéed wild mushrooms, grilled onions, and chipotle ketchup for the included fries--which he deemed “very good.”
Pearl Street Blues Burger at Eureka! in Berkeley, California

Since a goodly selection of mixed drinks is offered, I selected a grapefruit-rum Hemingway cocktail and thought it went beautifully with my burger.
Hemingway cocktail at Eureka! in Berkeley, California

My companion opted for the more traditional beer, selected from the all-America-made beer list.  And all the while we were entertained by a plethora of silent TVs high on the walls and the happy ambiance.  Dessert was easy to select—creamy butterscotch rum pudding.

butterscotch rum pudding at Eureka! in Berkeley, California

Additional popular menu possibilities include a beer sampler (four small beers), lollipop corn dogs, and honey cinnamon sweet potato fries.
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images ©2015 Carole Terwilliger Meyers