Friday, October 13, 2017

80 North: Berkeley, Nico's 1508


Nico's 1508  1508 Walnut St. Suite B/Vine St., in Walnut Square, Gourmet Ghetto, (510) 280-5920.  L M-F, D daily, Sat-SunBr.  Located around the corner from Chez Panisse and next door to original Peet’s, this newer kid on the block welcomes you with a friendly neighborhood bar and is both family-friendly and a good choice for a special occasion celebration.  When I arrived for dinner, the bar was packed with happy people and we were seated in a very private small booth just across from a family in a bigger open booth.  The small booth was separated off with lovely curtains and had the option of drawing a heavier curtain across the opening to the restaurant.  Frank Sinatra and friends added a soothing, romantic air to the ambiance.  Very nice.  Sidewalk café seating is also available, and a rooftop patio with a view of the Golden Gate Bridge--the perfect spot to watch the sunset--is coming.  We started with delicious roasted Brussels sprouts mixed with goat cheese, a balsamic reduction, and pine nuts.  Note that bread is served only by request.  It would have gone nicely with the sprouts, but we decided to skip asking for it so that we could more fully enjoy our mains.  Other tempting starters included burrata with oven-dried tomatoes, steamed mussels, and a house pate with fig jam.  For mains, he had a firm and flavorful Hawaiian white walu with fingerling potatoes, and I had a substantial and tasty pappardelle pasta with a braised lamb sauce atop an herbed ricotta foundation (enough was left over for dinner the next day).  He had a Malbec from La Costa in Argentina, and I had a Zin from Cline in Sonoma.  Other mains that interested me were the huge Nico’s Burgermonger, a braised short rib of beef, and brick-roasted boneless half chicken with root vegetables and housemade mole sauce.  Housemade desserts include a popular crème brulee and more, but I think the best must be the one we luckily selected--a mascarpone layer cake with white chocolate frosting.  I’ve heard the sandwiches and side salads at lunch are very good, and a weekend brunch offers both traditional and creative choices along with bottomless mimosas.  A nightly Happy Hour from 3 to 6 p.m. offers all appetizers, bottles of wine, and signature cocktails at half-off.  It is interesting to know that Chef Munther Massarweh was the youngest Executive Chef in the history of Chicago’s world famous Pump Room. 


exterior of Nico's 1508 in Berkeley, California
exterior of Nico's 1508 in Berkeley, California


bar at Nico's 1508 in Berkeley, California
bar at Nico's 1508 in Berkeley, California


interior of Nico's 1508 in Berkeley, California
interior of Nico's 1508 in Berkeley, Californian

delicious Brussels sprouts at Nico's 1508 in Berkeley, California
delicious Brussels sprouts at Nico's 1508 in Berkeley, California


waylu fish at Nico's 1508 in Berkeley, California
waylu fish at Nico's 1508 in Berkeley, California


pappardelle pasta with a braised lamb sauce at Nico's 1508 in Berkeley, California
pappardelle pasta with a braised lamb sauce at Nico's 1508 in Berkeley, California


marscapone layer cake at Nico's 1508 in Berkeley, California
marscapone layer cake at Nico's 1508 in Berkeley, California

 Nico's Hideaway Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato


More things to do in Berkeley.

Way more thing to do in Berkeley.

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images ©2017 Carole Terwilliger Meyers

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

80 North: Fairfield, Suisun Valley Scenic Loop


SUISUN VALLEY SCENIC LOOP
 
This valley has been growing grapes for as long as Napa, and indeed farmers in this valley once sold grapes to wineries in that valley.  Once known mostly for its pears and plums and walnuts, the valley’s orchards have mostly been pulled out and the area is becoming known for growing grapes and for especially great Petite Syrah grapes.  

Suisun Valley Road sign in Fairfield, California
Suisun Valley Road sign in Fairfield, California
You can start this loop by exiting Highway I-80 North at Suisun Valley Road and following it north to Larry's Produce.  If you are planning a picnic, you might want to stop there first for supplies.  Otherwise, continue on in the order below, returning to Larry's Produce at the end of the loop.  


Larry’s Produce  4606 Suisun Valley Rd., (707) 864-8068.  Daily 9am-5pm (mid-June-Dec. only).  This fresh-from-the-farm produce stand offers everything in season.  Fall activities include a pumpkin field, corn bath, hay pyramid, and corn maze, and in December--Christmas trees.  


Il Fiorello Olive Oil Company  2625 Mankas Corner Rd., (707) 864-1529.  Tasting daily 1-5pm, $5; tour at 11am, by appt., $25.  Roosters crow and chickens cluck at this olive oil mill that makes international quality oil and whose name means “little flower” in Italian.  The facility makes 13 different kinds of extra virgin oil here, including a delicate, smooth Moraiolo that is great on a salad or omelette, and a gentle-but-spicy Jalapeno-Lime that is divine on fish and tacos (did you know there are thousands of varieties of olive oil?).  My tasting included those two as well as a bigger, more pungent Green Valley Estate and their Signature balsamic vinegar reduction--each with a tiny seasonal tidbit that enhanced the flavors.  We were taught to swirl the oil to release aromas.  All of the olive groves and everything else used here is organic.  In addition to milling their own oil, this facility mills for others.  The minimum is 1,000 pounds, less in a communal oil.  Cooking classes are scheduled regularly (August featured Everything Tomato).  
exterior of Il Fiorello Olive Oil Company in Fairfield, California
exterior of Il Fiorello Olive Oil Company in Fairfield, California

tasting set up at Il Fiorello Olive Oil Company in Fairfield, California
tasting set up at Il Fiorello Olive Oil Company in Fairfield, California

Suisun Valley Antiques & Collectibles  2525 Mankas Corner Rd., (707) 422-HAUL.  M-F 8am-4:30pm, Sat-Sun 10-3:30pm.  The motto here is “When you want it gone . . . call John.”  After sorting through it all and sending about 1 per cent to the dump, he keeps the rest on his very big spread and he wants you to come and take it away.  “Bring something to trade.  I love trading!,” John invites.  Allow at least an hour to browse the goods.  
front yard of Suisun Valley Antiques & Collectibles in Fairfield, California
front yard of Suisun Valley Antiques & Collectibles in Fairfield, California


John at Suisun Valley Antiques & Collectibles in Fairfield, California
John at Suisun Valley Antiques & Collectibles in Fairfield, California

back yard at Suisun Valley Antiques & Collectibles in Fairfield, California
back yard at Suisun Valley Antiques & Collectibles in Fairfield, California


wine corks for sale at Suisun Valley Antiques & Collectibles in Fairfield, California
wine corks for sale at Suisun Valley Antiques & Collectibles in Fairfield, California


 Vezer Family Vineyard  2522 Mankas Corner Rd., Suisun Valley, (888) 823-VINE.  M-Thur 11am-5pm, Fri-Sat 10am-6pm, Sun 10am-5pm.  Tasting $20/10 wines+includes tasting more at Blue Victorian; fee waived with wine purchase.  The premium wines I tasted here include a vibrant 2013 Estate Zinfandel that is tasty even without food, a very good 2013 Cassie-Estate Petite Sirah, and an exquisite 2012 estate La Salette Blend (65% Petite Sirah, 35% Zinfandel) that was my hands-down favorite.  A lovely tree-sheltered picnic area is available.  Special events are held regularly, including many tribute band concerts, and a cottage rental is available above a premium tasting room in back used for private tastings. 
    A sister winery, Blue Victorian Winery, is nearby (5071 Suisun Valley Rd, (707) 422-8025.)

exterior of Vezer Family Vineyard in Fairfield, California
exterior of Vezer Family Vineyard in Fairfield, California


tasting line up at Vezer Family Vineyard in Fairfield, California
tasting line up at Vezer Family Vineyard in Fairfield, California


Wooden Valley Winery & Vineyards  4756 Suisun Valley Rd., Suisun Valley, (707) 864-0730.  Daily 11am-5pm.  Tasting/$10; fee refundable with wine purchase.  Begun at the end of prohibition in 1933, this family-run winery is the area’s oldest.  Wines in general are well priced and include the light Rosetta made with white Gamay grapes that is named after the owner’s great grandma and which is a lovely sipping wine, especially on a hot day. 
sign at Wooden Valley Winery & Vineyards in Fairfield, California
sign at Wooden Valley Winery & Vineyards in Fairfield, California



lovely rusted family truck at Wooden Valley Winery & Vineyards in Fairfield, California
lovely rusted family truck at Wooden Valley Winery & Vineyards in Fairfield, California


tasting room at Wooden Valley Winery & Vineyards in Fairfield, California
tasting room at Wooden Valley Winery & Vineyards in Fairfield, California


More information on Fairfield.  

More things to do along Highway 80. 

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

images c2017 Carole Terwilliger Meyers