Thursday, June 8, 2017

San Francisco: The Pied Piper Bar and Lounge


The Pied Piper Bar and Lounge in the Palace Hotel is famous for the Maxfield Parrish “Pied Piper of Hamelin” painting, which was commissioned in 1909 and hangs behind the bar--dominating the room.  
Pied Piper Bar in San Francisco, California
Pied Piper Bar in San Francisco, California

Additionally, two Antonio Sotomayor murals--one depicting Mark Twain and the other madam Sally Stanford, hang in a new lounge entered at the back of the bar.  Seating includes at the bar as well as at tables and in booths--a few of which are partial booths with the banquette side featuring an aristocratic high back.  The music is just right, and this place is in full-blast party mode at 5 p.m.  Carpeting keeps the din in the darkened den manageable.  The spacious newer lounge in back features informal seating in comfy chairs and couches.  
Pied Piper Bar Lounge in San Francisco, California
Pied Piper Bar Lounge in San Francisco, California

Signature cocktails include the hands-down favorite--The Last Cocktail (made with Bombay Sapphire Gin, lemon juice, organic pear juice, rosemary syrup, and Prosecco)--and runners-up The Charlie Chaplin and The Spiced Knob.  
cocktails at Pied Piper Bar in San Francisco, California
cocktails at Pied Piper Bar in San Francisco, California

The bar has also sold a lot of martinis.  A bowl of nuts is complimentary, and a small bar menu offers up such scrumptious goodies as burrata on nutty country bread
burrata bread at Pied Piper Bar in San Francisco, California
burrata bread at Pied Piper Bar in San Francisco, California

and succulent chicken wings with sweet Asian dipping sauce
chicken wings at Pied Piper Bar in San Francisco, California
chicken wings at Pied Piper Bar in San Francisco, California

as well as lobster mac ‘n cheese and a steak.  I saw several TVs and even a few kids in the bar.  

Pied Piper Bar Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato


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images ©2017 Carole Terwilliger Meyers

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

San Francisco: Top of the Mark


The tower of the InterContinental Mark Hopkins San Francisco was crowned on the 19th floor in 1939 by the legendary Top of the Mark lounge and restaurant.  It has an extraordinary 360-degree view of the city and features live entertainment several nights each week.  It is said that proposing marriage by presenting an engagement ring in the bottom of a drink glass is played out more frequently here than anywhere else in the world.  A plaque on the wall by the bar commemorates it as being a favorite spot for World War II Marines to have a last drink before sailing off to battle in the Pacific, believing that this was good luck and would bring them home.  Wives and sweethearts gathered here in the northwest corner, dubbed the “Weepers’ Corner,” to gaze out the windows as their men sailed away.  Service men also had a tradition of buying a bottle and leaving it with the bartender so the next soldier from their squadron could enjoy a free drink.  You can see examples in a cabinet by the bar check-in stand.  This venue is a prime setting for a sunset cocktail or a night cap, and becomes even more romantic if you arrive by cable car.  The perfect drink choice seems to be a martini.  When martinis were first introduced, they were served in a Champagne coupe glass.  And tasting like a doctor’s office smells--which doesn’t mean they aren’t good--a retro coupe glass is what they are served in here.  I think of this spot as more formal and had insisted that my husband put on black slacks for our recent visit, and of course two girls at the table next to us were wearing shorts, spaghetti-strap tops, and sandals--not that my husband minded.  Another man sat down at a prime view table and opened up his computer and started working.  So times have changed.  Cocktails and light bites (the housemade potato chips and Crab Louis bruchetta are superb)
are available daily, and brunch is served on Sunday. 

couple enjoying cocktails at the Top of the Mark in San Francisco, California
couple enjoying cocktails at the Top of the Mark in San Francisco, California

bar at the Top of the Mark in San Francisco, California
bar at the Top of the Mark in San Francisco, California

historic bottle at the Top of the Mark in San Francisco, California
historic bottle at the Top of the Mark in San Francisco, California

housemade potato chips at the Top of the Mark in San Francisco, California
housemade potato chips at the Top of the Mark in San Francisco, California

Crab Louis bruchetta at the Top of the Mark in San Francisco, California
Crab Louis bruchetta at the Top of the Mark in San Francisco, California
Top of the Mark Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

 
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images ©2017 Carole Terwilliger Meyers

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

101 South: Palo Alto, Coupa Cafe


Coupa Cafe  538 Ramona St./University Ave., (650) 322-6872.  B-L-D daily; $.  Located within a historical 1930s Spanish Colonial building with a tile floor, wood-beamed ceiling, and fireplace in a red-walled, skylighted back room, this casual spot is a branch of the original cafĂ© in Caracas, Venezuela.  Order at the counter, then select seating in the cozy interior or on the outside front patio.  When seating is tight, as it often is, sit anywhere and then move when a better spot opens up.

entrance to Coupa Cafe in Palo Alto, California
entrance to Coupa Cafe in Palo Alto, California

atmospheric back room at Coupa Cafe in Palo Alto, California
atmospheric back room at Coupa Cafe in Palo Alto, California

The kitchen serves up hot breakfasts, salads, soups, wraps, pastas, crepes, Caribbean-style empanadas (my favorite is the pabellon made with carne mechada shredded beef, black beans, sweet fried plantains, loleta cheese, and tasty Venezuelan sauces),

pabellon empanada at Coupa Cafe in Palo Alto, California
pabellon empanada at Coupa Cafe in Palo Alto, California

and arepas—traditional Venezuelan white-cornmeal griddle cakes with a variety of fillings (my favorite is the cami made with fresh white cheese, sweet fried plantains, and avocado).

cami arepa at Coupa Cafe in Palo Alto, California
cami arepa at Coupa Cafe in Palo Alto, California

Picture-perfect pastries and hand-made Venezuelan chocolate bonbons perch invitingly in glass cases,

chocolates display case at Coupa Cafe in Palo Alto, California
chocolates display case at Coupa Cafe in Palo Alto, California

and drinks include coffees made with patio-dried fair-trade Venezuelan beans and a velvety, spicy Maya hot chocolate--all available either hot or iced.  Branches are located all around the town.  

Coupa Cafe Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato


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images ©2017 Carole Terwilliger Meyers

Friday, May 12, 2017

San Francisco: Perbacco


Perbacco  230 California St./Battery St., Financial District, (415) 955-0663.  L M-F, D M-Sat; $$$.  Located next door to Tadich’s, this expansive restaurant is a less-touted surprise.  The action in the open-kitchen in back is worth checking out.  The Italian menu is loaded with good things, including fritto misto, mozzerella di bufala, a brown-buttered pork chop with charred cabbage and lingonberry juice, quail with black chanterelle and sunchoke ragout, seared sea scallops with brown-buttered cauliflower and black truffle salsa verde.  My choices were a salad of roasted pears, greens, and hazelnuts; a filet mignon with truffled potato puree; and the most scrumptious hazelnut-brown butter cookie/cake stuffed with fudge.  From the vast wine selection, I zeroed in on a delicious Amarone from the Veneto wine region of Italy, and if you like reds I suggest you do that, too.  


exterior of Perbacco in San Francisco, California
exterior of Perbacco in San Francisco, California


interior of Perbacco in San Francisco, California
interior of Perbacco in San Francisco, California


kitchen at Perbacco in San Francisco, California
kitchen at Perbacco in San Francisco, California


pear salad at Perbacco in San Francisco, California
pear salad at Perbacco in San Francisco, California


filet mignon at Perbacco in San Francisco, California
filet mignon at Perbacco in San Francisco, California


hazelnut-fudge cookie cake at Perbacco in San Francisco, California
hazelnut-fudge cookie cake at Perbacco in San Francisco, California
Perbacco Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

 
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images ©2017 Carole Terwilliger Meyers

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

1 South: Pacifica, Mori Point


Mori Point  Free parking lot on the west side of Hwy. 1, across from Sun Valley Market; trailhead at Beach/Clarendon; part of Golden Gate National Park system.  Map. 

Mori Point trail in Pacifica, California
Mori Point trail in Pacifica, California

The easy hike leading to this exposed, and sometimes very windy, promontory features stunning ocean views.  Whale watching is good from mid-December through April, when you will see the California gray whale.  And in recent summers some humpback and blue whales have been spotted.

Mori Point trail in Pacifica, California
Mori Point trail in Pacifica, California

Mori Point trail in Pacifica, California
Mori Point trail in Pacifica, California

Mori Point on Mori Point trail in Pacifica, California
Mori Point on Mori Point trail in Pacifica, California

A cove off a short trail to the south from the point was the setting for the final scene of the 1970s cult film “Harold and Maude,” in which Harold drives his car over a cliff here.

trail to cove on Mori Point trail in Pacifica, California
trail to cove on Mori Point trail in Pacifica, California

On the way to the cove, you’ll see bunkers decorated with colorful murals, and in spring and summer wildflowers--including the Indian paintbrush--add color to the fields.

bunker on trail to cove on Mori Point trail in Pacifica, California
bunker on trail to cove on Mori Point trail in Pacifica, California

An effort is in progress to restore the area to its original landscape, as it was when the Mori dairy farm was here back in time.  (The dairy is credited with originating Monterey Jack cheese, which they referred to back then as a white Italian farm cheese.  The recipe for it was stolen from the farm by a relative named Jack, who went to . . . Monterey, and the rest is history.)  Endangered wildlife here includes the red-legged frog as well as the rare San Francisco garter snake (also dubbed the Grateful Dead snake because of its colorful skin).  The snakes like to eat the frogs and so sometimes violate the Endangered Species Act of 1973.  When returning from the Point, you can optionally take the Coastal Trail down to the pond and back to the parking lot or you can continue on into the Sharp Park area, where the town pier is.  


view of Sharp Park and pier from Mori Point trail in Pacifica, California
view of Sharp Park and pier from Mori Point trail in Pacifica, California



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images c2017 Carole Terwilliger Meyers

Thursday, May 4, 2017

San Francisco: The Tonga Room Restaurant & Hurricane Bar


In the Tiki-hut atmosphere of The Tonga Room Restaurant & Hurricane Bar,


a 3-minute simulated tropical rainstorm occurs every 30 minutes.



It is the place to hop off the cable car and stop in the evening for an exotic drink--the Mai Tai


and Planter’s Punch are favorites, but don’t overlook the A Monk Walks Into A Luau (made for two to four people, and served with really long straws)--


and is a bargain during the happy hour buffet served Wednesday through Friday.


A live dance band floating aboard a boat in the room’s indoor lagoon--a converted swimming pool dating from 1929--entertains beginning at 8 p.m., when a cover is charged.  A dinner menu is served in the dining room surrounding the lagoon.  You can’t go wrong with the Royal Pu Pu Platter, a side of Sichuan Long Beans,


and dessert--think Passion Fruit Mousse Bomb--


but mains include Kalua Pork and Kung Pao Chicken.

The Tonga Room is located in the Fairmont San Francisco hotel atop Nob Hill.  Reservations are advised for dinner.
History of Tonga Room
Tonga Room & Hurricane Bar Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato


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images and video ©2017 Carole Terwilliger Meyers

Monday, May 1, 2017

1 South: Pacifica, Rockaway Beach section


ROCKAWAY BEACH:

Rockaway Beach in Pacifica, California
Rockaway Beach in Pacifica, California
This self-contained section of Pacifica provides a village-like, walkable getaway.  Visitors can check in to a lodging or park their cars, and then walk everywhere from their room or parking space--to browse unique shops, dine at an assortment of restaurants (think fresh Dungeness crab and other local seafood), ride a Segway, take a hike along the Coastal Trail, watch surfers, or just relax on the sand at the small, scenic beach featuring plenty of waves and surfers and sometimes even sharks and whales. 

     Where To Stay and Eat
Best Western Lighthouse Hotel  105 Rockaway Beach Ave., (800) 832-4777, (650) 355-6300.  97 rooms; $$-$$$.  Heated pool (open year round); hot tub; sauna; fitness room.  Room service; restaurant.  Eight rooms here have a full-on ocean view, while the rest have a range of partial views.  Beach-front junior suites have a sliding door that opens to the sight and sound of the roaring ocean—no wimpy waves here.  It’s a thrill watching surfers while relaxing to nature’s stereo performance.  Time a visit well and luck might permit viewing passing whales, or maybe dolphins riding the waves like surfers, or even the great white shark that passes through twice a year.  Several trails lead by the hotel:  The Coastal Trail goes a mile north into the foothills, and the Linda Mar State Beach trail leads south to a popular surfing spot.

exterior of Best Western Lighthouse Hotel at Rockaway Beach in Pacifica, California
exterior of Best Western Lighthouse Hotel at Rockaway Beach in Pacifica, California
     Operating on the hotel’s second floor, the elegant and romantic Moonraker (650) 557-7025.  B-D daily, L Tu-Sat, SunBr.) is back with a surf-and-turf menu.  Stressing fresh seafood, menu highlights include oysters, cracked Dungeness crab, and a delicate filet of Petrale sole, but you might also find a delicious butternut squash soup, roasted Brussels sprouts from Half Moon Bay, and steak-frites.  Most tables have impressive oceanfront views, and sometimes you can even hear the surf.  Many comfortable half-moon booths are available.
Moonraker Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato 

bar at Moonraker in Rockaway Beach in Pacifica, California
bar at Moonraker in Rockaway Beach in Pacifica, California

cracked Dungeness crab at Moonraker in Rockaway Beach in Pacifica, California
cracked Dungeness crab at Moonraker in Rockaway Beach in Pacifica, California

Petrale sole at Moonraker at Rockaway Beach in Pacifica, California
Petrale sole at Moonraker at Rockaway Beach in Pacifica, California

Brussels sprouts and butternut squash soup at Moonraker at Rockaway Beach in Pacifica, California
Brussels sprouts and butternut squash soup at Moonraker at Rockaway Beach in Pacifica, California

steak frites at Moonraker at Rockaway Beach in Pacifica, California
steak frites at Moonraker at Rockaway Beach in Pacifica, California

blood orange sorbet at Moonraker at Rockaway Beach in Pacifica, California
blood orange sorbet at Moonraker at Rockaway Beach in Pacifica, California

Holiday Inn  519 Nick Gust Way, (650) 355-5000.  Buffet breakfast; afternoon cookies.  Some rooms have an ocean view, but others, like the one I stayed in, have a view of the busy highway or parking lot.  The best rooms here are ocean-views on an upper floor.  Guest rooms are comfortable, contemporary, and quiet.  Each has a Kuireg coffeemaker.  The complimentary buffet breakfast served in a room with an ocean view is expansive, with pancakes, muffins, eggs, toast, cereal, yogurt, and really good biscuits.  Hot drinks and juices are always available to guests.  A few big fish are kept in a small salt-water tank in the lobby. 

view from breakfast room at Holiday Inn Express at Rockaway Beach in Pacifica, California
view from breakfast room at Holiday Inn Express at Rockaway Beach in Pacifica, California

Seabreeze Motel  100 Rockaway Beach Ave., (650) 359-3903.  20 rooms; $.  Continental breakfast; restaurant.  No pets.  This is the place for a quick, inexpensive escape.  Rooms are simple, but the beach and roaring sea are just a few steps away.

exterior of Seabreeze Motel at Rockaway Beach in Pacifica, California
exterior of Seabreeze Motel at Rockaway Beach in Pacifica, California

    Nicks Sea Shore Dining ((650) 359-3900.  B-L-D daily; $$-$$$.  Reservations advised.) offers ’50s retro style with comfy booths and an ocean view.  Under the same ownership as the motel, this merry steak and seafood house began as a burger stand selling bait to fishermen.  Don’t miss the garlic bread or crab cakes.  Additional popular items include Oysters Rockefeller, marinated cracked crab made from grandma’s recipe, and Nick’s Famous Crab Sandwich on grilled sourdough.  For dessert, the sorbet bomb is da bomb--a delicious ball of passion fruit, mango, and raspberry sorbets encased in white chocolate.  An adjacent bar with dance floor books live music on weekends and serves up tasty cocktails at its immense horseshoe bar.
Nick's Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

dining room at Nicks Sea Shore Dining at Rockaway Beach in Pacifica, California
dining room at Nicks Sea Shore Dining at Rockaway Beach in Pacifica, California

Oysters Rockefeller at Nicks Sea Shore Dining at Rockaway Beach in Pacifica, California
Oysters Rockefeller at Nicks Sea Shore Dining at Rockaway Beach in Pacifica, California

cracked crab at Nicks Sea Shore Dining at Rockaway Beach in Pacifica, California
cracked crab at Nicks Sea Shore Dining at Rockaway Beach in Pacifica, California

sorbet bomb at Nicks Sea Shore Dining at Rockaway Beach in Pacifica, California
sorbet bomb at Nicks Sea Shore Dining at Rockaway Beach in Pacifica, California

A Grape in the Fog  400 Old County Rd., (650) 735-5854.  Age 21+.  M-Thur 4-10, F 4-11, Sat 2-11.  Located at the quiet end of an already quiet back road, this small wine bar offers an impressive selection plus some tasty small bites--cheeses and charcuterie, hummus, and stuffed empanadas.  Seating is at high tables and a bar, and live music is scheduled on a small stage on Fridays and Saturdays from 7 to 10 p.m.  My group tried four tasty vintages:  an oaky, buttery, approachable Corkscrew Chardonnay; a fruity, smoky Stubbs Vineyard Pinot Noir; another good Kastania Pinot Noir with a sweet owl on the label; and the bold Mr. Beast Zin from Barber Cellar.  Several featured wine flights remove the decision making and let you relax. 
A Grape in the Fog Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato 

exterior of A Grape in the Fog at Rockaway Beach in Pacifica, California
exterior of A Grape in the Fog at Rockaway Beach in Pacifica, California

bar at A Grape in the Fog at Rockaway Beach in Pacifica, California
bar at A Grape in the Fog at Rockaway Beach in Pacifica, California

small bites at A Grape in the Fog at Rockaway Beach in Pacifica, California
small bites at A Grape in the Fog at Rockaway Beach in Pacifica, California

Uoyakutei Japanese Restaurant  4408 Coast Hwy., (650) 898-8183.  L-D daily.  This road house is an easy pull-off on Highway 1.  An extensive Japanese menu includes crispy tempura, all types of sushi and sashimi, and more.  


sushi bar at Uoyakutei Japanese Restaurant at Rockaway Beach in Pacifica, California
sushi bar at Uoyakutei Japanese Restaurant at Rockaway Beach in Pacifica, California


tempura at Uoyakutei Japanese Restaurant at Rockaway Beach in Pacifica, California
tempura at Uoyakutei Japanese Restaurant at Rockaway Beach in Pacifica, California

    And
Resurrected Boutique  450 Dondee Way #2, in Rockaway Beach Plaza, (650) 735-5503.  This cozy little spot purveys the work of local artisans as well as repurposed antiques, collectibles, and vintage items.  


merchandise at Resurrected Boutique at Rockaway Beach in Pacifica, California
merchandise at Resurrected Boutique at Rockaway Beach in Pacifica, California


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images c2017 Carole Terwilliger Meyers