Monday, February 29, 2016

880 South: Oakland, Casa Cubana--CLOSED


Casa Cubana  59 Grand Ave./Webster St., (510) 452-CUBA (2822).  L M-F, D M-Sat.  Located two blocks west of Lake Merritt, this expansive yet cozy spot serves Cuban inspired cuisine.
interior of Casa Cubana in Oakland, California

The chef melds traditional Cuban flavors and Caribbean influences with modern techniques to create a delicious seasonal menu.  Signature items include a Habana Cocktail (shrimp cocktail with fresh mango, cucumbers, and avocado in a tomato citrus broth) and Croquettas (crispy traditional dish prepared with applewood-smoked ham and béchamel sauce), but we chose the Cuban guacamole tarted up with fresh pineapple and served with thin housemade plantain and yucca chips.
Cuban guacamole at Casa Cubana in Oakland, California

We followed this with a green salad tossed with jicama, mango, and almonds plus a tasty hemp-herb dressing.
green salad with jicama and mango at Casa Cubana in Oakland, California

The Corazon De Palma (hearts of palm, endive, papaya, and cucumber with a toasted hazelnut vinaigrette) and Kale Avocado Caesar (romaine lettuce and kale with white anchovies, avocado, pepitas, and golden raisins) also sounded promising.  For my main course, I chose Lechon Asado—a slow-roasted pork shoulder marinated with orange, garlic, onion, fennel, and cumin, and served with forbidden black rice and sweet maduros (plantains).  It was a large portion that left me with enough to take home for sandwiches the next day.
Lechon Asado (pork shoulder) at Casa Cubana in Oakland, California

leftover sandwiches of Lechon Asado (pork shoulder) from Casa Cubana in Oakland, California

My dining partner chose pan-seared salmon with cauliflower and more maduros.  It was also a generous portion, but he managed to eat it all.  Additional slow-cooked options include a grilled marinated skirt steak, roasted chicken, guava-glazed ribs, and duck breast.
pan-seared salmon at Casa Cubana in Oakland, California

To cut calories, often my dining partner and I share a dessert.  This menu had me choosing Pavlova (a meringue filled with mango puree and topped with fresh fruits)
Pavlova meringue dessert at Casa Cubana in Oakland, California

and him insisting on banana bread pudding, though the Guava Cheesecake with dragon fruit sauce and Coconut Flan with a sesame cookie tuile and lime zest were also enticing.  We weren’t sorry, but we were quite stuffed.
banana bread pudding at Casa Cubana in Oakland, California

With such a tropical menu, we both wanted a cocktail.  I chose a pina colada because I saw one wander by to another table.  It was not a slushy Hawaiian-fantasy blended version, but it was good—and topped with a square marshmallow and a tiny umbrella.  However, my husband ordered a Mojito, and a taste of it made it clear that this is the drink of choice here.  But do keep in mind a Banana Daiquiri and the Remolacha (a mix of beet juice, cilantro, ginger, citrus, and pistachio).  An international wine list and a selection of craft beers are also options.
pina colada and mojito at Casa Cubana in Oakland, California

A full bar in the front features tropical palms and a high ceiling with slow-turning fans.  It is an inviting spot to sit for a while before your meal, or to just hang at for a lighter meal.  Or stop in for Happy Hour (daily 4 to 7 p.m.) for discounted drinks and bar bites.
bar at Casa Cubana in Oakland, California

Though the dimly-lit restaurant spreads through four large room, it fills quickly and becomes noisy with animated chatter.  While here, do allow time to take in the art.  It is part of Casa Cubana-owner Sam DuVall’s private Cuban art collection--one of the largest in the U.S.  Portraits of beautiful women by Mario Mendez hang in the middle room, while many colorful big-eyed subjects painted by Exposito adorn walls in the back room.  Mixed in throughout are vintage photos and posters.
paintings by Exposito at Casa Cubana in Oakland, California

cigar label collection at Casa Cubana in Oakland, California
Casa Cubana Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

For more information about travel to Cuba, let me introduce you to expert Christopher Baker
View a video interview with Christopher Baker.

More things to do in Oakland.

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images ©2016 Carole Terwilliger Meyers

Friday, February 26, 2016

Wine Country: St. Helena, Napa Valley Olive Oil Manufacturing Co. and Olivier Napa Valley

update/p.428

RUSTIC VERSION:
Napa Valley Olive Oil Manufacturing Co.  835 Charter Oak Ave., (707) 963-4173.  Daily 8-5; in summer to 5:30.  Cash only.  Everything needed for a picnic is available inside this 100-year-old barn:  cheese, sausage, olives, bread sticks, focaccia, biscotti.  And if you’d like to eat on the spot, a tree-shaded picnic area with tables is provided right outside.  This Old World-style Italian deli also offers a variety of pastas, sauces, and dried mushrooms, plus very good housemade cold-pressed olive oil and red wine vinegar--all placed helter-skelter in barrels and on makeshift tables.  Prices are reasonable, tabs are tallied on the shopping bag, and a cigar box holds the change.  It's really quite unusual.  


exterior of Napa Valley Olive Oil Manufacturing Co. in St. Helena, California


picnic area at Napa Valley Olive Oil Manufacturing Co. in St. Helena, California


interior of Napa Valley Olive Oil Manufacturing Co. in St. Helena, California


housemade olive oil at Napa Valley Olive Oil Manufacturing Co. in St. Helena, California


REFINED VERSION:
Olivier Napa Valley  1375 Main St., (707) 967-8777.  Specializing in olive oils, you’ll find a variety here that you can taste and then pour into bottles yourself.  You can also sample many of the olive oil-related food and gift items, and the gorgeous olive-wood cutting boards just might end your souvenir search. 


olive oil dispensers at Olivier Napa Valley in St. Helena, California


olive oil dispenser at Olivier Napa Valley in St. Helena, California


bottled olive oil at Olivier Napa Valley in St. Helena, California



interior of Olivier Napa Valley in St. Helena, California


More things to do in St. Helena.

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

images ©2016 Carole Terwilliger Meyers 

 

Monday, February 22, 2016

Wine Country: St. Helena, Sutter Home Winery

update/p.426

Sutter Home Winery  277 St. Helena Hwy. S., 1 mi. S of town, (800) 967-4663, (707) 963-3104.  Tasting daily 10-5; self-guided garden tour.  When Bob Trinchero--son of Mario, who bought the winery in 1947--introduced the world to a fruity, pink-colored White Zinfandel in 1971, it took the country by storm.  That inexpensive signature version is still available, but the winery now also produces some premium Chardonnays and Cabernets.  Today Sutter Home is the fourth-largest winery in the U.S., as well as the second-largest family-owned winery and second-oldest winery in Napa Valley.  The tasting room is inside a barn that housed the original winery, and the winery’s showcase 1884 Victorian home is used now for private lodging.  Highlights of the surrounding garden--inspired by the renowned Butchart Gardens in Victoria, B.C.--include a rose garden with more than 150 varieties and a garden of dwarf Japanese maples.  Darling 2-ounce bottles of wine make great souvenirs, and who wouldn’t want a t-shirt in a reusable water bottle?  Especially noteworthy nowadays is that this is one of the few wineries that offers free tasting!

sign for Sutter Home Winery in St. Helena, California

Victorian guest house at Sutter Home Winery in St. Helena, California

t-shirt in a water bottle souvenir at Sutter Home Winery in St. Helena, California

miniature wine bottle souvenir at Sutter Home Winery in St. Helena, California


More things to do in St. Helena.

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images ©2016 Carole Terwilliger Meyers


Friday, February 19, 2016

80 North: Berkeley, Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive

update/p.285; also update of these former blog posts

The dramatic new incarnation of the Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive (BAMPFA) is now open downtown at 2155 Center Street/Oxford Street.  Read my detailed blog post about it at Visit Berkeley.  The museum’s permanent collection stresses modern and Asian art and includes a large collection of paintings by Abstract Expressionist Hans Hofmann. 
          Now located at the back of the museum, the Barbro Osher theater has one of five world-class public archival film collections in the U.S.  It has the largest collection of Japanese titles outside of Japan and one of the world’s largest collections of silent and early films from the former Soviet Union and pre-1960 Eastern Europe, plus hundreds of experimental movies by West Coast filmmakers.  Film programs span world cinema from the silent era to the present.  A black womb filled with seats, the theater is clean, the sound system excellent, and the audience well mannered.  No snacks are permitted inside.
          Babette cafe operates on the second floor.

exterior of new Berkeley Art Museum in Berkeley, California

Crane Forum and Art Wall at new Berkeley Art Museum in Berkeley, California

exhibit in Architecture of Life show at new Berkeley Art Museum in Berkeley, California

Babette cafe at new Berkeley Art Museum 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 ©2016 Carole Terwilliger Meyers
 

Friday, February 5, 2016

Wine Country: St. Helena, The Cameo Cinema

update/p.425

The Cameo Cinema  1340 Main St., (707) 963-9779.  This tiny 140-seat first-run movie theater dates from 1915, but it is equipped with posh velvet seats, an exceptional Dolby digital sound system, and a 3-D projector, making it well worth a visit.  Popular with locals, the theater concession sells wine by the glass and offers a free popcorn refill to those who bring their own bowl.  Special performances are sometimes scheduled, and Francis Ford Coppola and Robert Redford have both been sighted here.  All in all, the Cameo is a “Joy” to experience, and that is the very movie I saw here most recently.  When offered, Silverado Squatters, based on the book by Robert Louis Stevenson and performed live by local resident Donald Davis, is a don’t-miss.


exterior of The Cameo Cinema in St. Helena, California


stars on entry floor of The Cameo Cinema in St. Helena, California


snack bar at The Cameo Cinema in St. Helena, California

More things to do in St. Helena.

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images ©2016 Carole Terwilliger Meyers 

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Wine Country: St. Helena, Clif Family Velo Vino Tasting Room


Clif Family Velo Vino Tasting Room  709 Main St., (707) 968-0625.  Tasting daily 10am-6pm; pairings by appt.  
exterior of Clif Family Velo Vino Tasting Room in St. Helena, California

This small tasting room presents casual wine tasting combined with a knowledgeable, friendly, and welcoming tasting-room staff, plus the opportunity to enjoy a tasting paired thoughtfully with tasty nibbles.  The tasting room is part of the Clif Bar empire, whose headquarters is in Emeryville but whose owners are now locals and owner of the Clif Family Winery here (the winery is not open for visits but does sometimes hold special events, and it is where many of the bruschetta ingredients are grown).
interior of Clif Family Velo Vino Tasting Room in St. Helena, California

I was greeted with my name on a star in front of a tasting set-up at a dining table.
wine-tasting set-up at Clif Family Velo Vino Tasting Room in St. Helena, California

My hunny and I had the Bruschetteria Trio pairing ($30/person), which includes samplings of the best from the Bruschetteria food truck that operates outside on the street.
Bruschetteria food truck at Clif Family Velo Vino Tasting Room in St. Helena, California

First up was a blush-colored NV Sonoma Coast Sparkling Brut—described so nicely by Samantha as having “a kiss of sweetness on the finish”--paired with some coconut-cashew snack mix.  Next was a 2014 Oak Knoll Chardonnay with a creamy finish, paired with a Porchetta Bruschetta (pork).  Then came a 2011 Gary’s Improv Napa Valley Zin paired with Funghi Bruschetta (mushrooms).  And finally a 2011 Kit’s Killer Howell Mountain Cab with rice arrancini balls.  (That’s actually four pairings, but who’s counting?)
Bruschetteria Trio pairing at Clif Family Velo Vino Tasting Room in St. Helena, California

This was adequate as a small lunch, but if you are still hungry you can order additional food from the truck.  I recommend the spectacular caramelized Brussels sprouts and the over-the-top delicious cured salmon-avocado-pickled lemon bruschetta described by Executive Chef John Mc Connell as “California on toast.”  Indeed.
California on toast plust carmelized Brussels sprouts at Clif Family Velo Vino Tasting Room in St. Helena, California

You can also add on a sweet ending, which we did with a TCHO chocolate budino topped with Cabernet Sauvignon salt and paired with a big and bold but not sweet Petit Sirah Port.
TCHO chocolat budino at Clif Family Velo Vino Tasting Room in St. Helena, California
Clif Family Bruschetteria Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

All this is available and non-alcoholic drinks, too!  Wines are available for purchase only online or at the tasting room.  Should you want to combine your tasting with a bike trip, check with the Calistoga Bike Shop about tasting-biking packages.  A Valentine’s Day hint—if you can’t make it in for a tasting on February 14, give your sweetie a gift certificate and visit later at your convenience.  

More things to do in St. Helena.

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images ©2016 Carole Terwilliger Meyers 



Monday, February 1, 2016

San Francisco: Comstock Saloon


Comstock Saloon  155 Columbus Ave./Kearny St., North Beach, (415) 617-0071.  Located on a corner, this saloon-bar has been open since 1907.  Walking in the doors is like stepping back in time.  Hanging from the high ceiling, old-time Asian paddle fans cool the air, and comfy oversize booths line the wall.  Live music emanates from the hidden mezzanine, generally beginning around 7:30 p.m. and lasting for hours.  GQ ranked this spot as one of the top cocktail bars in America, and my to-try drink list includes the Blood and Sand (Scotch, sweet vermouth, orange, and cherry liqueur) and the Cherry Bounce (Bourbon, cherry brandy, lemon, Angostura, Champagne).  The menu is short but includes plenty of appetizers plus a burger, roasted chicken, and mushroom pot pie.  
Comstock Saloon Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato 


exterior of Comstock Saloon in San Francisco, California


interior of Comstock Saloon in San Francisco, California

More things to do in San Francisco

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images ©2016 Carole Terwilliger Meyers