Friday, July 31, 2015

101 North: Larkspur, Picco and Pizzeria Picco


Picco  320 Magnolia Ave., (415) 924-0300.  D daily; $$$+.  Reservations advised.  Inside, this attractive restaurant offers a warren of dining spaces
dining room at Picco in Larkspur, California

as well as a bar;
bar at Picco in Larkspur, California

outside, a row of sidewalk-side  tables come with lap robes in case there is a chill.
outdoor dining at Picco in Larkspur, California


The menu includes a risotto that is made fresh every half hour, burrata with heirloom tomatoes, kennebec fries, wok-roasted broccoli di ciccio, bucatini with prawns, house-made radiatore with beef & pork bolognese, and gnocchi with house-made fennel sausage.
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Pizzeria Picco  316 Magnolia Ave./King St., (415) 945-8900.  L Sat-Sun, D daily; $$.  No reservations.  This tiny sister restaurant to Picco is located adjacent.  Seating inside is at a counter overlooking a partial kitchen where you can watch pizzas enter and exit a hot wood-burning oven and see the final touches put on take-out orders aplenty.
dining counter at Pizzeria Picco in Larkspur, California

wood-burning pizza oven at Pizzeria Picco in Larkspur, California

take-out prep in kitchen at Pizzeria Picco in Larkspur, California

A bank of sheltered outdoor tables is also available.
outdoor tables at Pizzeria Picco in Larkspur, California

Though the menu does change seasonally, it is limited to salads—organic mixed green,
organic green salad at Pizzeria Picco in Larkspur, California

rocket man (made with arugula), baby lettuce with strawberries and feta, caesar—and exceptional thin-crust Neopolitan pizzas.  In spite of the fact that his own NYC restaurants make a very good pizza, celebrity chef Mario Batali has declared it the best pizza in the U.S.  I prefer red pizzas so am most fond of the margharita and pepperoni versions.  The white yeti mushroom pizza is simple and good, but next time I will add on proscuitto.
white yeti mushroom pizza at Pizzeria Picco in Larkspur, California

Do save room for a dessert of Straus Dairy soft-serve ice cream in vanilla, chocolate, or swirl.  You can select from toppings, but I think it would be hard to beat the caramel with a pinch of sea salt atop vanilla.  Oh my!
soft-serve ice cream sundae at Pizzeria Picco in Larkspur, California
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More things to do in Larkspur.

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images ©2015 Carole Terwilliger Meyers  

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

880 South: Berkeley, Bartavelle Coffee & Wine Bar


Bartavelle Coffee & Wine Bar  1603 San Pablo Ave./Cedar St., (510) 524-2473.  B-L daily; $$.  No reservations.  The menu at this simple spot is short, but what it does offer is very tasty.  
order counter at Bartavelle Coffee & Wine Bar in Berkeley, California

Start your morning with a perfect boiled fresh farm egg topped with olive oil, sea salt, and marash pepper; or add on a garnish of aïoli and anchovy.
perfect boiled egg at Bartavelle Coffee & Wine Bar in Berkeley, California

Or maybe you’d like some slow-cooked porridge with assorted garnishes, or a complete Persian breakfast with Acme pizza bianca.  I am a fan of the avocado toast, which is really a hefty portion of mashed avocado on chewy lightly toasted Acme pain au levain bread topped with a garnish of lemon juice and salt.
avocado toast at Bartavelle Coffee & Wine Bar in Berkeley, California

Lunch is a selection of sandwiches, toasts, and salads.  Bread comes fresh from next-door-neighbor Acme, but most pastries are made in house or come from another bakery.  Wine comes from another next-door-neighbor--Kermit Lynch.  Counter service takes place inside, where a few seats are available, but most of the limited seating is available outside beside the small parking lot and includes a view of the line waiting to get into to the bakery, but no one seems to mind.
outdoor seating at Bartavelle Coffee & Wine Bar in Berkeley, California

The background of this spot is interesting to know.  It was named for the daughter of Alice Waters and was originally owned by Alice and her sister and brother-in-law, Laura and Jim Maser of Picante.  So I wasn’t too surprised to see Alice herself walk in the morning I was here and step up to the counter to order!  I have met Alice before at a media event and book signing, and though we made eye contact and I nodded, I was feeling too shy to strike up a conversation.  After all, she is the foodie equivalent of a major rock star.  This tiny spot is also where Cafe Fanny Granola originated, my favorite, which, thank goodness, is still available in supermarkets.
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    Before departing, stop in next door at the famous Acme Bread Company for a take-away baguette fresh from the oven.  My favorite is the rustic sweet, and my favorite bread is the Upstairs—which refers to the bread served upstairs at Chez Panisse.  The line is long, but it is usually also cheery and moves fast.
line at Acme Bread Company in Berkeley, California

At the door it is reminiscent of the Seinfeld soup nazi episode—only two people inside the small space at a time, and you’d better think fast about what you want to order from their vast selection!  It is cash and debit cards only here.
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order counter at Acme Bread Company in Berkeley, California

On the other side, Kermit Lynch Wine Merchant, which specializes in wine made from small French and Italian wineries, opens at 11a,m, and is closed Sunday and Monday.
exterior of Kermit Lynch Wine Merchant in Berkeley, California


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.  

images ©2015 Carole Terwilliger Meyers 

Friday, July 24, 2015

880 South: Oakland, Wood Tavern


Wood Tavern  6317 College Ave./63rd St., Rockridge, (510) 654-660.  L M-Sat, D daily; $$-$$$.  Operating in one room with tall ceilings and large windows that slide open to the sidewalk on warm days, this neighborhood brasserie has an ever-changing menu.  
interior of Wood Tavern in Oakland, California

At lunch, I love the creative soups--delicious braised pork-red lentil, chilled watercress-fennel--and sandwiches--hot pastrami with Emmentaler cheese and Dijon-horseradish dressing, fried green tomato, BLT with heirloom tomatoes and thick-cut bacon.
BLT at Wood Tavern in Oakland, California

The Niman Ranch burger on a La Farine Baguette with fries is always a good choice, and don’t miss burrata with peaches when it is available.
burrata with at Wood Tavern in Oakland, California

The house bread--Acme wheat levain and walnut levain--is complimentary, but you must request it. The restaurant is surrounded by a foodie neighborhood.  Allow time to shop.
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More things to do in Oakland.

Way more things to do in Oakland. 

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

images ©2015 Carole Terwilliger Meyers

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

101 North: Corte Madera, Book Passage

update/p.224

Book Passage  51 Tamal Vista Blvd., (800) 999-7909, (415) 927-0960.  Daily 9-9.  This bookstore has the best collection of travel books and mysteries around and is a joy to browse.  A cafe serves coffees and simple foods, and author events are scheduled regularly.  
interior of Book Passage in Corte Madera, California

interior of Book Passage in Corte Madera, California

I attended one last Saturday that featured author Chris Baker—an authority on Cuba and author of the Moon Cuba guidebook--talking about . . . Cuba.  His educational presentation included interesting history and personal insights collected over the more than three decades he has traveled there.  Everything you need to know to travel to Cuba you’ll find in his book.  Chris also leads group tours for National Geographic as well as motorcycle tours
author Chris Baker speaks about Cuba at Book Passage in Corte Madera, California

Note:  Americans have been allowed to travel to Cuba for a while now, and it should continue to get easier.  On Monday, the United States and Cuba restored full diplomatic relations.  More . . .

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

images ©2015 Carole Terwilliger Meyers

 

Monday, July 20, 2015

San Francisco: Chinatown Kite Shop and The Wok Shop


These two shops are across the street from each other.  An item from either would make a great souvenir. 

Chinatown Kite Shop  717 Grant St./Sacramento St., Chinatown, (415) 989-5182.  Daily 10am-8pm.  Family-owned since 1969, this tiny shop stocks all kinds of  kites--Asian fighting kites, dragon kites, traditional Chinese handmade silk-butterfly kites, cartoon-character diamond kites, and even dual-control stunt kites.  Not interested in flying a kite?  Consider using them as a room decoration.  Chinese costumes and a lion dance costume are also available.
exterior of Chinatown Kite Shop in San Francisco

interior of Chinatown Kite Shop in San Francisco

bug kite at Chinatown Kite Shop in San Francisco

The Wok Shop  718 Grant Ave./Sacramento St., Chinatown, (415) 989-3797.  Daily 10am-6pm.  Owner Tane Chan calls the wok the “original nonstick pan” and provides directions on how to season one.  She promotes Chinese culinary arts, has written a book about stir-frying, and has many demonstration videos on YouTube.  The shop also is stocked with interesting cooking equipment and, of course, Chinese tea sets.
exterior of The Wok Shop in Chinatown San Francisco

interior of The Wok Shop in Chinatown San Francisco

interior of The Wok Shop in Chinatown San Francisco

More Chinatown.
 
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.  

images ©2015 Carole Terwilliger Meyers


Friday, July 17, 2015

San Francisco: The Barrel Room


The Barrel Room  415 Sansome St./Sacramento St., Financial District, (415) 956-6900.  L M-F, D M-Sat; $$$; Happy Hour M-F 4-5:30pm.  The food menu, wine list, and cocktail menu here has a regional focus and changes quarterly.  Currently it features Latin America.  The wine list features an extensive selection of educational flights arranged by region, varietal, or flavor profile, and all pair well with the current menu.  Flight wines are also available by the glass, and an extensive bottle list affords a choice of more than 200 international wines, including many that are hard to find.  The cocktail menu highlights 10 to 12 cocktails that are also matched to the current regional focus.  And if that isn’t enough, an array of international beers and local craft brews are also poured.  The sleek and polished dining room has an open kitchen with bar seating as well as booths and tables.  Some “living wall hangings” composed of moss and bromeliads plus a “wall of wine” add to the decor.
interior of The Barrel Room in San Francisco

Our meal began with three small plates:  an artisan cheese board with three cheeses (including a truffled one), baguette toasts, and a fig chutney; warm medjool dates stuffed with goat cheese, smoked almonds, and bacon (they merged into a bite of deliciousness);
artisan cheese board at The Barrel Room in San Francisco

stuffed dates at The Barrel Room in San Francisco

and warm citrussed olives.
warm citrussed olives at The Barrel Room in San Francisco

We moved on to a large plate of tender tri-tip steak with smashed red potatoes, green beans, panela cheese, and gingered chimichurri sauce (this was delicious when we used the potatoes to mop up the mixture of juices and sauce).
tri-tip steak at The Barrel Room in San Francisco

More menu options include ostiones al pil-pil (seared sea scallops), pork belly with pine nut butter and padron peppers, and both housemade merguez sausage and a housemade charcuterie plate.  With our dinner we drank a red flight of Chilean pinot noirs—each quite distinct and unusual.  It was delightful and definitely part of the fun to discover the differences between the wines with my dining partner.
Chilean pinot noirs wine flight at The Barrel Room in San Francisco

More red flights include patagonia reds, malbecs, Argentine bordeaux blends, and even California reds.  The choices can be overwhelming, but educated servers help guide you, and basically the wine list is set up so you can’t make a mistake.  We concluded by sharing a slightly spicy Mexican chocolate cake, accompanied by a 20-year- tawny port for him and a late harvest malbec for me.
Mexican chocolate cake at The Barrel Room in San Francisco

We were happy campers when we left.  A wine bar/tasting room and retail shop are adjacent.
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Another Barrel Room is located in Oakland.  

More things to do in San Francisco .

Way more things to do in San Francisco.

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images © 2015 Carole Terwilliger Meyers

 

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

San Francisco: North Beach Baking Co. of San Francisco


North Beach Baking Co. of San Francisco  1501 Grant Ave./Union St., North Beach, (415) 421-3796.  Cash only.  Daily 6am-6pm, F-Sat also 7:30pm-2:30am.  A great sour dough that has a crunchy crust and is soft inside, French bread, and rolls are baked here in very old brick-lined ovens.  Pastries include buttery croissants, pain au chocolat, and cheese Danish as well as scones and cookies, and a large selection of biscotti—think anise, almond, chocolate and more--is sold by the pound.  All this and lovely wall murals, too.

pastry case at North Beach Baking Co. of San Francisco

bread rack at North Beach Baking Co. of San Francisco

More things to do in North Beach.

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images © 2015 Carole Terwilliger Meyers

Monday, July 13, 2015

80 North: Berkeley, Saturn Cafe


Saturn Cafe  2175 Allston Way/Oxford St., downtown.  L-D daily, SatSunBr; $$.  Located across the street from the U.C. campus, this outer space-themed spot with a bright-pink interior is a good place for a simple and quick lunch or dinner.
interior of Saturn Cafe in Berkeley, California

There are plenty of comfy booths, and tables have whimsical, conversation-inducing, food-themed still-life collages under their glass tops.
still-life under glass table at Saturn Cafe in Berkeley, California

still life at Saturn Cafe in Berkeley, California

The menu features vegetarian-style traditional American diner fare, with vegan and gluten-free options.  The no-brainer meal to order is a burger--they come on a healthy whole-wheat bun--with a side of either the crispy regular fries or the really good sweet potato fries or a cup of thick tomato soup.
veggie burger and tomato soup at Saturn Cafe in Berkeley, California

And, of course, a milkshake—perhaps the seasonal special or the vegan version peanut butter-chocolate topped with coconut whipped cream.  On the other hand, I really enjoyed my traditional root beer float with vanilla ice cream.  More items that sound worth a try are a chicken-avocado sandwich, taquitos stuffed with black beans and tacos filled with potato, the porter float with vanilla bean soy ice cream, and vegan gluten-free cupcakes.  Service is quick and attentive, portions are big, and breakfast is served all day.  Don’t expect romantic—this place is ear-piercingly noisy and perfect for families.
veggie omelette at Saturn Cafe in Berkeley, California
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More vegan-vegetarian restaurants in Berkeley.

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.  

images ©2015 Carole Terwilliger Meyers