August 30, 2018

Berkeley: Homemade Cafe


80 North

Homemade Cafe  2454 Sacramento St./Dwight Way, (510) 845-1940.  B-L daily.

exterior of Homemade Cafe in Berkeley, California
exterior of Homemade Cafe in Berkeley, California


exterior of Homemade Cafe in Berkeley, California
exterior of Homemade Cafe in Berkeley, California


Located on busy corner, this small, cozy, usually crowded neighborhood cafe has been around since 1979.  Seating includes a bank of wood booths that gets the cheery morning sun straight on, a small sea of tables and chairs, and a counter with swivel stools in the back where you can watch the kitchen action.  The work of local artists decorates the walls, and all are for sale should you grow attached.

interior of Homemade Cafe in Berkeley, California
interior of Homemade Cafe in Berkeley, California


interior of Homemade Cafe in Berkeley, California
interior of Homemade Cafe in Berkeley, California


counter seating at Homemade Cafe in Berkeley, California
counter seating at Homemade Cafe in Berkeley, California


The specialty is breakfast, which is available all day.  You know things are serious here when you glimpse the tattoos on owner Collin’s arms--“eggs” on one arm and “bacon,” added more recently, on the other.  Uncle Eddie’s cage free eggs and dairy products from Berkeley Farms keep things politically correct.  Choose from a large selection of egg items--including omelettes and scrambles (the LEO made with lox, eggs, and onion and served with a Baron’s organic bagel and cream cheese is a personal favorite)--and from a large selection of specialties—a whole-wheat waffle, blueberry pancakes, cinnamon-swirl French toast, housemade granola, and cheese blintzes with a seasonal fruit sauce.  For a pittance, toast can be upgraded to coffee cake or a muffin.  All the la-de-da coffeehouse-style drinks are available, too, including one I particularly like and got by special request--a dirty hot chocolate (hot chocolate is made here with milk and made ”dirty” with a shot of espresso).  The unimpressed can opt for a sandwich after noon.

dirty hot chocolate at Homemade Cafe in Berkeley, California
dirty hot chocolate at Homemade Cafe in Berkeley, California


LEO at Homemade Cafe in Berkeley, California
LEO at Homemade Cafe in Berkeley, California


sausage and eggs at Homemade Cafe in Berkeley, California
sausage and eggs at Homemade Cafe in Berkeley, California


cheese blintz with pluot sauce at Homemade Cafe in Berkeley, California
cheese blintz with pluot sauce at Homemade Cafe in Berkeley, California


Recently, a monthly pop-up dinner series was added to your options.  A special four-course, prix fixe menu is offered once each month and runs $85 (tax and gratuity are included; vegetarian option available by advance request) and an optional wine pairing runs $24 more.  At the end of August, I attended the night’s first seating at 6 p.m. for a dinner dubbed “A Late-Summer Night’s Dream.”

menu for monthly dinner at Homemade Cafe in Berkeley, California
menu for monthly dinner at Homemade Cafe in Berkeley, California


this table is having the wine pairing for monthly dinner at Homemade Cafe in Berkeley, California
this table is having the wine pairing for monthly dinner at Homemade Cafe in Berkeley, California


Several late couples straggled in through the first course, which was “Titania’s Tidbit”--a delicate pureed sweet corn soup topped with a fried basil leaf and served with heirloom tomato jam on crostini.  It was paired with a light French white wine from Vouvray winery.  The atmosphere slowly grew more festive.  Some people knew each other from the neighborhood, and others, like us, slowly got pulled in.

sweet corn soup for monthly dinner at Homemade Cafe in Berkeley, California
sweet corn soup for monthly dinner at Homemade Cafe in Berkeley, California


Next came “Puck’s Plate”--a stack of fresh mozzarella, heirloom tomatoes, and basil dressed with avocado vinaigrette and topped with a very big coconut-horseradish shrimp.  This was paired with a dry red Grenache blend from a Corsica winery--Domaine Petroni.

heirloom tomatoes and coconut shrimp for monthly dinner at Homemade Cafe in Berkeley, California
heirloom tomatoes and coconut shrimp for monthly dinner at Homemade Cafe in Berkeley, California


The main course was “Hippolyta’s Hungry”--a generous portion of flavorful butcher’s steak with salsa verde and sides of bacon-corn-cheddar mashed potatoes and fried green tomatoes.  We had enough left over for lunch the next day.  The tasty wine paired with this was a full-bodied Zinfandel from Seghesio Family Vineyards in Healdsburg.

butcher's steak for monthly dinner at Homemade Cafe in Berkeley, California
butcher's steak for monthly dinner at Homemade Cafe in Berkeley, California


Finally, as things became looser, “Bottom’s Up” arrived--a semolina-olive oil cake topped with sweet mascarpone cheese, flavorful and bright-red strawberries, and a fig-balsamic reduction.  A dry Chenin Blanc dessert wine from the French Jasnieres winery was the perfect pairing.

strawberries with olive-oil cake for monthly dinner at Homemade Cafe in Berkeley, California
strawberries with olive-oil cake for monthly dinner at Homemade Cafe in Berkeley, California


Congenial chef Collin Doran visited the dining room throughout the meal, checking on diners and preparing us for the next course with interesting comments.  And it seemed obvious he was having a great time himself, spreading his wings from the restrictions of a breakfast and lunch menu.  In fact, the entire staff was in large part his own family, including his young son whose job it was to keep the water glasses filled and which he took quite seriously.  I wonder what this talented chef will think up next?

chef Collin Doran describes next course at monthly dinner at Homemade Cafe in Berkeley, California
chef Collin Doran describes next course at monthly dinner at Homemade Cafe in Berkeley, California
Homemade Cafe Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato 



August 28, 2018

San Francisco Bay Area: best Labor Day weekend events


San Francisco Bay Area

What are your plans for this Labor Day weekend?  Need some ideas?  I'll be chatting with John Hamilton on Sunday, September 2, 2018, on KGO radio.  Tune in at 9:20 to "On the Go," when we will discuss some of the best San Francisco Bay Area Labor Day weekend events.

horse-pulled train car at Ardenwood Historic Farm in Fremont
horse-pulled train car at Ardenwood Historic Farm in Fremont

annual Kings Mountain Art Fair  In Woodside, California
annual Kings Mountain Art Fair  In Woodside

More annual events in Northern California.

More ideas for exploring Northern California. 

images courtesy of venues


August 24, 2018

Tiburon: Blackie’s Pasture


101 North

Blackie’s Pasture  On Greenwood Beach Rd., off Tiburon Blvd.

Blackie's Pasture in Tiburon, California
Blackie's Pasture in Tiburon, California


Blackie was a legendary local horse that grazed here from 1938 to 1966.  Swayback and all, he was beloved by children in the area, who fed him goodies from their lunch bags on the way to school.  His former pasture is paved over now and is a parking lot.  His charming gravesite surrounded by a white picket fence is also gone, but a metal statue of his likeness made in 1995 now stands here waiting for children to climb aboard.

child astride statue in Blackie's Pasture in Tiburon, California
child astride statue in Blackie's Pasture in Tiburon, California


West of the statue, Harvey's Garden is filled with more than 2,500 native plants, many with labels.  It is tended by volunteers.

Harvey's Garden adjacent to  Blackie's Pasture in Tiburon, California
Harvey's Garden adjacent to  Blackie's Pasture in Tiburon, California


penstemon "garnet" in Harvey's Garden adjacent to Blackie's Pasture in Tiburon, California
penstemon "garnet" in Harvey's Garden adjacent to Blackie's Pasture in Tiburon, California


East of the statue and a short walk away is McKegney Green, an expanse of grass overlooking the bay that is perfect for picnicking and kite-flying.  The paved 2-mile Old Rail Trail, formerly a railroad grade, starts at Strawberry Point and continues into town.



images ©2018 Carole Terwilliger Meyers

August 21, 2018

Oakland: Belotti Ristorante e Bottega


880 South

Belotti Ristorante e Bottega
Ristorante  5403 College Ave./Hudson St., Rockridge, (510) 788-7890.  L-D M-Sat; $$$.  Reservations advised.
Bottega  4001B Piedmont Ave., Rockridge, (510) 350-7619.  M-Sat 11am-8pm.

interior of Belotti Ristorante in Oakland, California
interior of Belotti Ristorante in Oakland, California


Situated in a small, contemporary space, this simple spot’s big draw is the housemade pasta.  It is yolk-heavy and served with a choice of six sauces and fillings.  Kitchen action can be observed through a glass wall behind the bar in back.  Though overall very Italian in feel, some of the ristorante also has a kind of cranky, stereotypical French demeanor that I experienced when I was greeted.  In addition to bruschetta and a mixed antipasto platter, several salads make nice starters.  The living butter lettuce is particularly lovely, served dramatically in the center of an oversize plate that is sprinkled with flowers.

living butter lettuce at Belotti Ristorante in Oakland, California
living butter lettuce at Belotti Ristorante in Oakland, California


In fact, all the serving plates are oversized, to the point that my casoncelli--a family recipe from Lombardy featuring small oval pasta pillows stuffed with a beef-prosciutto-pork shoulder mix--were barely visible as they arrived, waiting until they were right in front of me to be seen.  Though it initially looked small, this delicious dish (with a sauce of sage and brown butter plus small cubes of salty pancetta) was just the right amount for me to leave an empty bowl.  Agnolotti di Lidia is another stuffed pasta, this a rectangular one from Piedmont and filled with a meat mix escarole and spinach.  The dish I plan to try next time is simple spaghetti tossed with a San Marzano tomato sauce topped with burrata and basil.  Usually one of my favorite pastas, the tagliatelle with a wild boar sugo disappointed me (I only tried a sample from the plate of my dining companion).

tagliatelle with wild boar sugo at Belotti Ristorante in Oakland, California
tagliatelle with wild boar sugo at Belotti Ristorante in Oakland, California


Several larger plates are also available--duck breast, snapper, and sometimes slow-cooked suckling pig.  Complimentary bread with delicious Seka Hills olive oil is served by request. 

bread with olive oil at Belotti Ristorante in Oakland, California
bread with olive oil at Belotti Ristorante in Oakland, California


The wine list is mostly Italian, and the dessert list is a simple choice of panna cotta or tiramisu.

Belotti Ristorante e Bottega Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato 



August 16, 2018

San Francisco: The David Ireland House


San Francisco

The David Ireland House  500 Capp St./20th St., 1 blk. E of Mission St., Mission District, (415) 986-1571.  Guided tour:  W-F at 11am, 2pm, & 4pm, also on last Thur at 7pm (features live art activation; $20, seniors+students $15; reservations advised.  Self-tour:  Sat 12-5pm; $12.50/$10.  Free admission to The Garage on Sat.

exterior of The David Ireland House in San Francisco, California
exterior of The David Ireland House in San Francisco, California


American conceptual artist David Ireland lived in this two-story, grey 1886 Italianate-style Victorian from 1975 to 2005.  (The original gas lamps from 1886 still work.)  As he worked at maintaining the house, he became interested in its history and began treating the structure as an art project.  He removed layers of old wallpaper and paint, left junctions visible, then polyurethaned much of it to a multi-layered, shiny finish that is seen on the walls and floors throughout.

living room at The David Ireland House in San Francisco, California
living room at The David Ireland House in San Francisco, California


hallway at The David Ireland House in San Francisco, California
hallway at The David Ireland House in San Francisco, California


naked light bulb at The David Ireland House in San Francisco, California
naked light bulb at The David Ireland House in San Francisco, California


Untitled (Accordion) by Los Jaichackers at The David Ireland House in San Francisco, California
Untitled (Accordion) by Los Jaichackers at The David Ireland House in San Francisco, California


He bottled some of the resultant dirt, wallpaper remnants, and wire into small collections.  Ireland is famous for saying (regarding marketable art), “You can’t make art by making art.”  In exploring the complex questions of the role of the artist and the meaning of art, he centered in on his home.  He began putting on small exhibitions here.  He embedded art, turned everyday things into art, and he also created more traditional pieces of art.

ceramic geisha in cement at The David Ireland House in San Francisco, California
ceramic geisha in cement at The David Ireland House in San Francisco, California


bowl of potatoes or turds at The David Ireland House in San Francisco, California
bowl of potatoes or turds at The David Ireland House in San Francisco, California


Ireland died in 2009, and his house opened as a private museum in 2016.  His art pieces number in the thousands and are rotated in and out of the house for viewing.  A favorite part of this tour for me was sitting down in the unchanged dining room--it is left as it was--at the narrow dining table Ireland made from recycled wide floor boards and imagining what it might have been like to enjoy a dinner party here.  The dining room is decorated with artifacts left from the 1960s, when Ireland owned the Hunter Africa shop in the Marina.

dining room at The David Ireland House in San Francisco, California
dining room at The David Ireland House in San Francisco, California


still life with photo of David Ireland in dining room at The David Ireland House in San Francisco, California
still life with photo of David Ireland in dining room at The David Ireland House in San Francisco, California


The entrance for this unusual museum is through an obscure door in the side of the house on 20th Street.  There is no signage, but if you look down you’ll see a tiny plaque in the sidewalk there that quotes Ireland:  “Art lets us make observations of things that were always there.”  Tours of this non-profit private museum begin in what was formerly Ireland’s studio, where splashes of paint remain on the concrete floor.  The studio is also where a former owner of the home made accordions.  Tours are led by artists and last 90 minutes.  Special programs are sometimes scheduled.  For more background on David Ireland, view this interview with him that appeared on KQED.

A new show opens June 22.  “I hope all is well…” features the work of artist Tony Matelli and runs through October 13, 2018.

exterior of garage gallery at The David Ireland House in San Francisco, California
exterior of garage gallery at The David Ireland House in San Francisco, California


Just across the street in sweet Alioto Mini Park you’ll find  blooming flowers and a fenced off vegetable garden.  This small corner park attracts passers-by to pause for a few minutes of respite.

Alioto Mini Park as seen from The David Ireland House in San Francisco, California
Alioto Mini Park as seen from The David Ireland House in San Francisco, California


The David Ireland House as seen from Alioto Mini Park in San Francisco, California
The David Ireland House as seen from Alioto Mini Park in San Francisco, California


When I visited on a weekday afternoon, most of the benches were in use.  My husband commented that what he needed to have the perfect experience here was a sombrero to protect him from the sunshine while he took a siesta.  However, the park also manages to be city gritty with sounds of the area’s drills and hammers busy in construction.  Facilities include a small playground and grassy area.

entrance gate to Alioto Mini Park in San Francisco, California
entrance gate to Alioto Mini Park in San Francisco, California


playground at Alioto Mini Park in San Francisco, California
playground at Alioto Mini Park in San Francisco, California


Continue east down 20th Street to visit these additional art venues:
Kadist  3295 20th St./Folsom St., 3 blks. E, (415) 738-8668.  This gallery with a branch in Paris exhibits works by international contemporary artists and hosts residencies.

Southern Exposure  3030 20th St,, 6 blks. E, (415) 863-2141.  This not-for-profit arts organization and alternative art space was founded in 1974.

The nearby San Jalisco restaurant makes a good lunch stop.




August 14, 2018

San Francisco: San Jalisco


San Francisco

San Jalisco  901 S. Van Ness Ave./20th St., 2 blks. E of Mission St., in Mission District, (415) 648-8383.  B-L-D daily; $.

exterior of San Jalisco in San Francisco's Mission District
exterior of San Jalisco in San Francisco's Mission District


This cheerfully decorated Mexican restaurant features lacy cutout papers hanging from the ceiling, miscellaneous decorative items on the walls, and colorful tables and chairs hand-painted with animals.

interior of San Jalisco in San Francisco's Mission District
interior of San Jalisco in San Francisco's Mission District


interior of San Jalisco in San Francisco's Mission District
interior of San Jalisco in San Francisco's Mission District


skeleton lady decor at San Jalisco in San Francisco's Mission District
skeleton lady decor at San Jalisco in San Francisco's Mission District


Service begins with housemade chips and salsa.  Breakfast is popular here and available through lunch.  Favorite items include four kinds of chilaquiles (the Veronica with chorizo and nopales (prickly pear cactus) is very good), nopales con huevos, and huevos rancheros.  Lunch specials weigh in at $10.95 and come with rice and beans.

chips and salsa at San Jalisco in San Francisco's Mission District
chips and salsa at San Jalisco in San Francisco's Mission District


lunch specials menu at San Jalisco in San Francisco's Mission District
lunch specials menu at San Jalisco in San Francisco's Mission District


I ordered the crispy flautas topped with guacamole and sour cream, while my dining partner chose the enchiladas.  We were both pleased.  More items that sound particularly interesting include rolled tacos, enchiladas mole, sopes, shrimp items, and burritos in various sizes--poquito, grande, mucho.  Pozole--a hearty soup of pork and hominy for which the restaurant is well known--is available on Fridays and Saturdays.  Birria en caldo--a goat stew with a tangy tomato base for which they are also well known--is available on the weekends.  Micheladas (spiced Mexican beer) served in large frozen glass mugs are yet another item patrons rave about, and sangria is also an option.  In general, this place is usually full to the brim because the prices are low, the chips are plentiful, and the drinks are strong.  Solo diners will welcome the congenial bar seating.

flautas at San Jalisco in San Francisco's Mission District
flautas at San Jalisco in San Francisco's Mission District


enchiladas at San Jalisco in San Francisco's Mission District
enchiladas at San Jalisco in San Francisco's Mission District

San Jalisco Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato


More places to visit in the Mission District.

More things to do in San Francisco 

Way more things to do in San Francisco. 

More ideas for exploring Northern California. 

images ©2018 Carole Terwilliger Meyers