Sunday, December 21, 2008

Good Eats, San Francisco, California, Espetus Churrascaria

Espetus Churrascaria 1686 Market St./Gough St., (415) 552-8792; http://www.espetus.com. L-D daily; $$$. Reservations advised. Operating within a glass-walled corner building, this authentic Brazilian steakhouse provides comfortable seating at well-spaced tables. Fine paintings by renowned Brazilian artist Edgar Cliquet depict Brazilian scenes. Meals are a set price ($18.95-$29.95 for lunch, $39.95 for dinner) and include as much as you can eat. Skewers of meats cooked over an open fire are brought around to each table by skilled carvers and sliced onto diners’ plates. Meats include filet mignon and other cuts of beef as well as pork, lamb, chicken, housemade sausage, and shrimp. The salad bar is a cornucopia of delights. It offers tangy Brazilian potato salad and coleslaw and also some typical Brazilian side dishes. Two kinds of sangria, signature cocktails, and Brazilian beers are available in addition to wine, and desserts include a tasty passion fruit mousse and a classic tres leches pudding cake.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Travel Products, Dash roll-aboard from Brookstone


It's not too late to give a great gift to your favorite traveler--or to yourself! Brookstone's "Dash" comes in great colors, including taxi-cab yellow, my personal favorite. It is a hardsided roll-aboard, perfect for holding all the during-travel essentials or for holding everything for a short trip. It has four of those new multi-directional wheels, making it super easy to maneuver through cramped spaces. I like the idea of giving it as the wrapping for a ticket to ride tucked inside.

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

Monday, December 1, 2008

Great Sleeps: Lakeport, California, Lakeport English Inn


Lakeport English Inn 675 N. Main St., in Lakeport, west lake, (707) 263-4317; http://www.lakeportenglishinn.com/. 10 rooms; $$-$$$. Full breakfast. The innkeepers here raised their children in this 1875 Carpenter Victorian, which was a county hospital from 1926 to 1946. It is unpretentious, unfussy, yet satisfying in an English-style B&B way. Guest rooms are furnished with high beds fitted with Frette sheets, and most of the large bathrooms have a whirlpool tub for two. Sometimes guests encounter Myrtle Hobbs, the nice resident ghost. The back garden is enclosed by a very tall Italian cypress wall, and a teeny pub (for guests only) opens on weekends for “a bit.” A full-on proper high tea served on bone china is scheduled during holidays and is open to non-guests.

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Saturday, November 29, 2008

Things to Do: Middletown, California, Langtry Estate winery


Langtry Estate 21000 Butts Canyon Rd., in Middletown, 707-987-2385; http://www.langtryestate.com/. Tasting daily 10-5; tour Tu-Sat at 11 & 1, reservations required. In the late 1800s, this picturesque property was purchased by British actress Lillie Langtry. According to winemaker Paul Brasset, “She was the Madonna of her time. She was outrageous in many ways and one of the first famous women to capitalize on her image.” Now named for her, it is a vast 22,000-acre (that’s 37 square miles) estate--the biggest winery in Lake County--and produces a Petite Sirah that has won more gold medals than any other in the world. Getting here via the mandatory back roads is half the fun; the other half is tasting that Sirah and taking the Tephra Vineyard Lunch Tour, during which participants picnic at a table overlooking the Guenoc Valley and sit within the very vineyard that produced the grapes for the wine served with lunch. Their Guenoc label is known for delicious, well-priced wines.
"Tour Manager Jose Vasquez pours wine."

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image copyright 2008 Carole Terwilliger Meyers

Sights to See: Galveston, Texas


This photo was taken from Seawall Blvd. and 22nd St. The aqua building was Murdochs, a souvenir shop, but used to hold famous bath houses in the early 1900s; the pilings next to it was Hooters. In the background is the Flagship Hotel.

Though Galveston was hit hard by Hurricane Ike in September, it is on the mend. Some of the hotels can accommodate guests right now, and more will be ready for spring vacation. For updated information, contact the Galveston Convention & Visitors Bureau.

image copyright 2008 Carole Terwilliger Meyers

Great Sleeps & Eats: Fall River Mills, California, Fall River Hotel


Fall River Hotel 24860 Main St., in Fall River Mills, (530) 336-5550; http://www.fallriverhotel.com/. 17 rooms; $. One mini-kitchen. Restaurant. They keep things simple in these parts. This inn provides cozy comfort, with antique furniture and handmade quilts, but it’s not hard to tell the building dates to 1935. And we wouldn’t want it any other way. It will be clear that the world has gone to hell in a hand basket when a Ritz opens in this area. Dinner in the restaurant (B&D daily; $-$$. Reservations advised.) includes a salad and a glass of house wine, making it quite a bargain. Seating is in either a small area with booths and counter stools, or in a more formal dining room with a fireplace built from river rock boulders.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Things to Do: San Francisco, California, Dame Edna


Post Street Theatre (415) 771-6900; http://www.poststreettheatre.com/. Wacky, witty, wonderful Dame Edna is in town. See her in all her lavender-haired, curly-cued- eyeglasses glory on her "First Last Tour" through January 4. Do note that this is a heavy-duty audience participation show, so dress well or avoid the first four or five rows.

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Things to Do, San Francisco, California, Ride the Ducks


Ride the Ducks Jefferson St./Taylor St., Fisherman’s Wharf, (800) 452-4386, (415) 922-2425; http://www.sanfranciscoducks.com/. Daily 11-5. $32, 62+ $30, 5-17 $23; discount for Bay Area residents through Dec. 31, 2008. The just ducky Ducks are amphibious vehicles modeled after the DUKWs that carried troops and supplies during World War II. They spend half the tour riding through the streets of San Francisco and the other half cruising in the bay near AT&T Park. Riders are given bright-yellow duck-bill "quackers" to blow on throughout the trip. I had no idea I held so much hot air. I reverted back to my inner 8-year-old and quacked away crazily at pedestrians. I found their reactions very interesting. Some people refused to acknowledge us (there were more nutty quackers on board than just me); others smiled like 8-year-olds; 8-year-olds and under smiled and usually waved, too. But what really amazed me, is that no one--not a single person--gave us the finger! I have no idea what these observations mean, except I had one crazy good time.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Great Sleeps: Mill Creek, California, St. Bernard Lodge


St. Bernard Lodge 44801 Hwy. 36, 15 mi. E of Mineral, 10 mi. E of south entrance to Lassen park, 10 mi. W of Chester, in Mill Creek, (530) 258-3382; http://www.stbernardlodge.com/. 7 rooms; $. All shared baths. Continental breakfast; restaurant. No pets.
Old World charm dresses up the cozy knotty-pine interior of this 1920s German inn situated at just under 5,000 feet. One of the two shared bathrooms sports a large clawfoot tub (all rooms have a sink), and antiques and historic memorabilia are displayed throughout. The owners maintain a crystal-clear pond filled with their pet rainbow trout, which guests may feed in the morning. Stables and horse boarding are available, but no horse rentals. Campsites are also available.
The dining room (F D, Sat B-L-D, Sun B-L; $-$$. Reservations required.) is illuminated by oil-burning lamps, and lace tablecloths cover the tables. The BLT and burger are exceptional and are served on a housemade whole wheat bun with a side of really good big fries; the iced tea is served in a gigantic 16-ounce beer stein.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Great Sleeps: San Francisco, California, Orchard Garden Hotel

Orchard Garden Hotel 466 Bush St./Stockton St., 4 blks. from Union Square, (888) 717-2881, (415) 399-9807; http://www.theorchardgardenhotel.com/. 10 stories; 86 rooms; $$$-$$$+. Fitness room. Restaurant; room service. Self-parking $30, valet $40. No pets. Well-situated in the “French Quarter,” this hotel gives vigilant attention to green practices. Anyone with environmental illnesses should be quite happy, and everyone can breathe deeply, and easily, while inside. However, once you hit the street, all bets are off. Unfortunately, the hotel can’t control what goes on outside. In-room green features include a key card energy control system, trash recycling system, chemical-free cleaning products, compact fluorescent light bulbs, FSC-certified maple wood furniture, organic bath products and sustainable amenities, water-efficient bathroom fixtures, and individual climate control.

Casual Roots Restaurant ((415) 659-0349; www.therootsrestaurant.com. L-D daily; $$-$$$) features innovative American-Mediterranean cuisine that is prepared with locally sourced organic and sustainable ingredients. Vegetarian items are options, and still or sparkling water--filtered, and bottled in house--is available. Cocktails are served late into the night at the bar.

Just up the street, the Orchard Hotel (665 Bush St./E. of Powell St., 2 blks. from Union Square, (415) 362-8878; www.theorchardhotel.com. 10 stories; 104 rooms; $$-$$$+. Fitness room. Restaurant; room service. Self-parking $30, valet $40.) sister property is a slightly older, well-maintained boutique hotel. And, like most sisters, they are very similar but also different--this hotel features a classic Pan-Asian style décor and platform beds.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Things to Do: Portland, Oregon, Classical Chinese Garden


Classical Chinese Garden 127 NW Third Ave./Everett St., 503-228-8131; http://www.portlandchinesegarden.org/. $8.50, 62+ $7.50, 6-18 $6.50, under 6 free. Apr-Oct 9-6, Nov-Mar 10-5. Free tours daily at 12 & 1. This tranquil garden takes up one city block. It was built by trades people brought over from Suzhou—known as the Venice of China and Portland’s sister city in China. (In return, Portland gave Suzhou a rose garden and some fire engines.) Workers used the same hand tools that were used in the 1300s Ming Dynasty. Known also as the Garden of Awakening Orchids, it has no straight pathways, forcing visitors to slow down. All plants are indigenous to China, but sourced locally.

The Teahouse in the Tower of Cosmic Reflections is an airy, two-story wooden pavilion with keyhole windows and latticed shutters. The menu offers a large selection of Chinese teas, including silver needle tea that must be picked within 48 hours of sprouting, and jade flower tea made from leaves roasted in a wok and then laboriously sewn into a flower shape. Snacks include cookies and moon cakes as well as black-tea-steeped boiled eggs and turnip cakes.

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image copyright 2008 John Briggs

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Things to Do: Portland, Oregon, Japanese Garden



Japanese Garden 611 SW Kingston Ave., in Washington Park, 503-223-1321; http://www.japanesegarden.com/. 10-4 Tu-Sun, M 12-4; to 7 in summer; tours at 10:45, 1, & 2:30. $8, 62+ $6.25, 6-17 $5.25. This serene 5.5-acre formal garden features five garden styles: Tea Garden, Strolling Pond Garden, Natural Garden, Sand & Stone Garden, and Flat Garden. Each invites lingering, and a visit in any season is a treat. The garden also includes an authentic Japanese tea house, streams, colorful koi, and a superb view of Mt. Hood. 

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image copyright 2008 John Briggs

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Things to Do: Calistoga, Castello di Amorosa


Castello di Amorosa 4045 N. St. Helena Hwy., S of town, (707) 967-6276, tour (707) 967-6272. Tasting 9:30-6, Dec-Jan 9:30-5; tour daily, must be age 10+, reservations advised. America’s only authentically replicated 12th-century medieval Italian castle consists of 107 rooms on 7 levels, 95 of which are devoted to winemaking. Two-thirds of the castle is underground, where wines are stored instead of in caves. “I just didn’t know when to quit,” says owner/winemaker Dario Sattui. “Instead of going forward, I’m going backwards.” Reached by crossing an authentic drawbridge, the castle has its own well, church, and stables. The walls in the great hall are covered with hand-painted frescoes, and the castle boasts secret passageways, a prison and dungeon torture chamber, and, comfortingly, an escape tunnel. Like many unusual facilities found at wineries, it is the result of Sattui’s passion for castles. And melding it well with his other passion for winemaking, he produces here high-end wines from primarily Italian grape varietals. A “Super Tuscan” is among them--as is an “Il Barone” reserve, their biggest red--and all wines are available only on site. The tour includes a barrel tasting and sampling in a private tasting room.


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image ©2008 Carole Terwilliger Meyers
 

Things to Do: Santa Clara, Halloween Haunt

Halloween Haunt occurs select nights in October and November at California’s Great America. It's a monster of a party, with wandering ghouls galore. A foggy atmosphere adds to the creepiness. Best of the bunch is The Gauntlet, CarnEvil, and Ed Alonzo's Psycho Circus of magic and Mayhem. Don't bring children under 13; they will freak out and you will pay dearly in the form of their nightmares. Friday thru Sunday: October 3-5, 10-12, 17-19, 24-26, plus October 31 & November 1; 7pm-midnight; $34.99 advance online; additional fee for some rides; parking $10; http://www.cagreatamerica.com/.

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Saturday, August 30, 2008

Book Reviews: Novel Destinations

This book's subtitle is "Literary Landmarks from Jane Austen's Bath to Ernest Hemingway's Key West." It's the perfect tome to pore over for inspiration for a themed vacation--perhaps you'll want to visit Beatrix Potter's stomping grounds in England's Lake District, as I did last year (see http://www.grandparents.com/gp/content/travel/tours-explorations/article/englands-other-potter.html)--or just to fantasize about where you wish your were. The book also lists related places to stay and dine, and with its guidance you can do as little or as much related to an author as you like. The delicious fact that it is a hard cover means you'll keep it on your reference shelf for a long, long time.

http://www.amazon.com/Novel-Destinations-Literary-Landmarks-Hemingways/dp/1426202776/ref=sr_11_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1220138134&sr=11-1

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Good Eats, Willits, Loose Caboose Cafe

updated August 3, 2015
 
Loose Caboose Cafe 10 Wood St./Hwy. 101, (707) 459-1434. M-Sat 10-4; $. Reservations advised. No cards. Folks sometimes get loose as a goose relaxing at this simple old-time cafe filled with locals. A collection of train memorabilia is displayed throughout. Seating is either indoors at tables and in tall-back wood booths or outside on an entrance patio. Service is casual--in Styrofoam cups and on paper plates--and food is simple--hot New York- and Kansas City-style subs made to order, dogs, salads, pizza, soup and chili, and milkshakes.

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Good Eats, Millbrae, Shanghai Dumpling Shop

Shanghai Dumpling Shop 455 Broadway, 1 blk. W of El Camino Real, (650) 697-0682. L-D daily; $. No reservations. Some people who visit this small cafe manage to snag one of the booths, which are particularly comfortable after the usual wait to get in. The specialty dumplings are made fresh in the small kitchen and include Shanghai steamed pork dumplings and Beijing-style boiled chives dumplings. Rice rolls, an assortment of rice and noodle dishes, and typical Chinese dishes round out the extensive menu.
A few doors down, Dean’s Produce (461 Broadway, (650) 692-1042.) displays colorful produce outside and offers plenty more inside along with exotic imported goods. More shops line the street.

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Monday, August 11, 2008

Good Eats, San Francisco, Baraka

Baraka 288 Connecticut St./18th St., Potrero Hill, (415) 255-0370; www.sfbaraka.com. D daily; $$$. Reservations advised. Retaining remnants of its former life as a Moroccan restaurant, this popular spot features deep rose-rouge walls, red velvet banquettes, and copper-topped tables. The short-but-interesting menu includes a warm pistachio-crusted goat cheese appetizer that is a must along with a side of grilled flatbread and sesame zahatar sauce. Among the winning entrees are slow-baked local halibut atop a warm tomato and bread salad and braised beef cheeks with baby spinach. Esoteric items such as seared octopus and roasted beef bone marrow are also options, as is a vegetarian entrée—perhaps a wild mushroom-polenta dish. Cocktails include an array of martinis and a very good mojito, and among the housemade desserts are yummy cinnamon sugar-dusted bomboloni (dense donut holes), granitas, and an unusual Moroccan mint tea with floating pine nuts.

Good Eats, Redwood City, Amelia's

Amelia’s 2042 Broadway St./Jefferson, downtown, (650) 368-1390. B-L-D daily; $. No cards. This casual spot offers an extensive menu that includes unusual Salvadoran pupusas with more than a dozen fillings (several are vegetarian) plus more familiar Mexican tacos and burritos. Flautas, sopitos, and fajitas are also among the choices. Agua fresca here is a blending of fresh fruits topped with chopped fruit and a snippet of watercress. Order at the window in back, then keep hunger at bay with complimentary chips and delicious housemade salsas. Seating is in a large, pleasant interior space and also outside on the sidewalk.

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Things to Do: Pescadero, Harley Farms

Harley Farms 205 North St., (800) 394–2939, (650) 879-0480; www.harleyfarms.com. Tours Sat-Sun at 11 & 1, by reservation. $20, 6-10 $10. This 9-acre dairy goat farmstead (this term means cheese is made only from milk produced on this farm) offers a 2-hour behind-the-scenes tour that includes meeting some of the 200-plus curious American Alpine goats, milking one, and learning how to make goat cheese. Cheese tasting occurs in a rustic hayloft. Spring is kidding season. Guide Ryan Andrus says, “Sheep are dumb. Goats are smarter, noticeably smarter.”

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image copyright 2008 Carole Terwilliger Meyers

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Great Sleeps: Clear Lake, California, Tallman Hotel


Tallman Hotel 9550 Main St., in Upper Lake, north lake, (866) 708-5253, (707) 275-2244; www.tallmanhotel.com. 17 rooms; $$-$$$. Heated pool, hot tub. Continental breakfast, restaurant. Built in 1895, this beautifully restored hotel combines rustic and chic in a delightful manner. The original hotel has 4 high-ceilinged guest rooms that are decorator-adorned in a soothing mix of subdued colors in a fashionable mix of patterns and styles. Should a guest fall in love with any fabric or color, a resource book is kept at the desk to advise of brands and numbers. One of the most interesting features is the highly functional antique bathroom plumbing, which is so old it’s new again. Room #1 has both an oversize clawfoot tub with center drain and a tall shower enclosure with a wrap-around chrome fixture sporting all kinds of porcelain knobs and levers that control a giant sunflower head and side sprayers. Lodging is available in several other buildings, and some new-construction garden rooms have a Japanese ofuro soaking tub on a private patio with outdoor shower.


The complex’s Blue Wing Saloon & Cafe (9520 Main St., (707) 275-2233; www.bluewingsaloon.com. L-D daily; $-$$.) serves a well-priced eclectic menu. Specialties include barbecued tri tip, agave citrus salmon, and portobello mushroom ravioli. Local wines are featured, and beers and sarsaparilla are on tap. Diners can sit in the cozy interior or, in good weather, outside in a delightful garden patio sheltered by umbrellas and plane trees. It is hard to believe the saloon is all new construction; do take time to admire the long, seamless, straight-grained black walnut bar made from one piece of wood.

Upper Lake is a tad larger than a one-horse town. Once the end of the stage line from Cloverdale, it now holds a wine tasting bar and several antique stores—including one right across the street from the hotel where the owner leads an eccentric tour of his homage to the old west (it includes western art, a stage coach, and guns galore).

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image copyright 2008 Carole Terwilliger Meyers

Things to Do: Clear Lake, Ceago del Lago--CLOSED

Ceago del Lago 5115 E. Hwy. 20, in Nice, north lake, 707-274-1462; www.ceago.com. Tasting daily 10-5; tour by appt. This spectacular property is right on the lake and is the only winery in North American accessible by boat and seaplane. Though anytime is a good time to view the good-for-you biodynamic farming they practice here, June and July permit seeing the vast, fragrant lavender fields in bloom. That is also when the sheep are shorn. And don’t miss seeing the vineyard chickens that live in mobile chicken coops. Bring a picnic and enjoy the views.

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image copyright 2008 Carole Terwilliger Meyers

Things to Do: Clear Lake, Kelseyville Pear Festival

Kelseyville Pear Festival In September. In Kelseyville, on Main Street, west lake; (707) 279-9022; www.kelseyvillepearfestival.com. Free. Old-time fun includes a parade, some contests, and pear-related food and displays.


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Sunday, July 20, 2008

Good Eats, San Jose, Arcadia

Arcadia 100 W. San Carlos St./Market St., in the San Jose Marriott, (408) 278-4555; www.sanjosemarriott.com/dining.html. B-L-D daily; $$$+. Reservations advised. Valet parking. Overseen by well-known chef Michael Mina, this sophisticated spot is well removed from the hotel lobby and features a dramatic beige decor with black accents. The open kitchen adds drama. The cuisine is contemporary American with an emphasis on seafood--the chef’s forte—but also includes steaks and meats. Items such as a salad with a bevy of beets in pretty shades or foie gras sliders are also options, and, at lunch, wood-oven pizzas and toasted brioche sandwiches are on the menu. Signature dishes include a lobster corn dog and a whole fried chicken for two with truffled macaroni and cheese. Many dishes feature sauces that are poured on dramatically at the table, and all are served on oversize plates. A tasting menu with paired wines is available by request, and fun cocktails are made at the bar. Desserts might include a tangerine soufflé on a shortbread crust or a delicious mascarpone mini-cheesecake.

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Even more things to do in San Jose.

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Good Eats, San Francisco, Chez Papa Resto

Chez Papa Resto 414 Jessie St./5th St., on Mint Plaza, South of Market, (415) 546-4134; www.chezpapasf.com. L M-F, D daily, Sat-SunBr; $$$. Reservations advised. Located just across the street from San Francisco Centre, this spot serves authentic French Provencal cuisine in a comfortable room with high ceilings, large windows, and chic black walls. The professional staff is mostly French and from the South of France, so charming accents ring out throughout a meal. However, the cool temperatures that keep diners inside and not out on the umbrella- and heater-equipped front patio is all San Francisco. Menu stars include a butter lettuce salad with mustard vinaigrette, a tasty and tender braised lamb daube, any of several roasted fishes, and greaseless pommes frites with aioli.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Good Eats: Rome, Italy, Hotel Hassler Roma


The Hassler Roma Inspires Romance
Meet Simone and Rosetta. They may be the Hotel Hassler Roma's most loyal customers, arriving every day at the same time for a meal from the property's panoramic restaurant, Imago. And they are most certainly the restaurant's only customers with wings. For nine consecutive years, these two love birds have showed up at 5pm for a late lunch, and again at 10pm for a romantic dinner under the stars. Their feast of gourmet left-overs--served on a silver plate, but of course--varies between smoked salmon and toast, sea scallops, fresh sturgeon, and their absolute favorite, lobster. Simone always arrives earlier than Rosetta, and, acting as the gentleman he is, always waits for her to take the first bite. "These two are the restaurant's most affectionate clients," comments one of Imago's waiters. Now it's clear where the term "love bird" comes from...and that it's not easy to give up Imago's gourmet cuisine and breathtaking views. For more information on the Hassler Roma, visit:
http://www.hotelhassler.com/

Monday, July 14, 2008

Great Sleeps: Monterey, California, InterContinental The Clement Monterey

InterContinental The Clement Monterey 750 Cannery Row, (831) 375-4500; www.intercontinental.com/montereyic. 4 stories; 208 rooms; $$$-$$$+. Some gas fireplaces. Heated lap pool; hot tub; full-service spa. Restaurant; room service. Self-parking $17, valet $20. This brand new, sleek, luxurious hotel is now the closest lodging to the aquarium. Indeed, it is an easy walk to all the row’s sights and restaurants of interest, and it is adjacent to Doc’s weather-beaten lab made famous in Steinbeck’s novel. The hotel consists of two buildings attached by an enclosed overpass over Cannery Row. Rooms are spacious, with a spare, clean design and basically grey decor—sort of mimicking the foggy mornings this area often sees—and 110 have an ocean view. A children’s center operates for ages 4 through 13.

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Good Eats, Berkeley, Looney's Smokehouse

Looney's Smokehouse 2190 Bancroft Way/Oxford St., (510) 649-0628; www.looneysbbq.com. L-D daily; $. The owner here is proud as punch of his enterprise and personally greets most diners, taking time to explain that they smoke their own meats and make their own sauces. A North Carolina pulled pork sandwich and a burger are on the menu along with beef ribs, pork spare ribs, and pork baby back ribs in three portion sizes. Brisket, fried chicken, and catfish are more options. Sauces come in both spicy and girly-man mild and styles include vinegar-based Texas, sweet Kansas City, and spicy North Carolina. Sides include really good hush puppies with dipping sauce, good-for-you collard greens, and whipped sweet potatoes. For dessert, the bread pudding is the best around. Seating is in several airy rooms, an upstairs loft, and on an outdoor back patio.

Good Eats, Berkeley, Maritime East Restaurant

Maritime East Restaurant 2826 Telegraph Ave./Oregon St., (510) 848-9299; www.maritimeeast.com. D Tu-Sun; $$. Reservations advised. Featuring a sleek décor, with a back wall that peeks into the open kitchen covered in a metal-sculpted version of silver fish scales, this simple spot whips up tasty fish dishes. A raw bar features a variety of oysters and clams, and some fish items—as well as a few pizzas--are prepared in a wood-burning oven. Fish & chips and petrale sole are good choices, and specials change with the seasons. A cheeseburger served on Acme bread and several other meat dishes are also options. Coconut cream pie is not to be missed—even the crust is delicious, perhaps because it is prepared from the owner’s mom’s recipe. In addition to wine, cocktails and a selection of beers are available.

Good Eats, Mountain View, Xanh

Xanh 110 Castro St./W. Evelyn Ave., (650) 964-1888; www.xanhrestaurant.com. L M-F; D daily; $$. Reservations advised. Portions of the modern Vietnamese cuisine served here are large, and the presentations are spectacular. Signature dishes include the Deuce Roll (a mix of pork and shrimp), the Xanh Salad and Shaking Beef (dishes taste similar, but salad is huge and dramatic), Fighting Prawns, and any of the housemade noodle dishes. Desserts include a hazelnut mousse (delivered atop a charming tall, thin-stemmed glass plate with dome cover) and Menage a Trois (a delicious Vietnamese classic that mixes tapioca, sweet yellow mung beans, and coconut milk) desserts. Intriguing cocktails with catchy names seem to go particularly well with the cuisine. The restaurant is expansive, with three sleek interior dining rooms (one is a cool, very loud glass box punctuated with stainless-steel bead curtains), a street-side outdoor area in good weather, and a bar that sometimes has a DJ or live music (it also has a dramatic stone wall over which water cascades gently).

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Saturday, June 21, 2008

Great Sleeps: Puerto Vallarta, Mexico



I'm just back from a stay at the all-inclusive, all-suite Barcelo resort at la Jolla de Mismaloya in Puerto Vallarta. It is a well-maintained, attractive property on a lovely bay, and it recently completed a major restoration. It is the very bay, in fact, where John Huston filmed "Night of the Iguana" with Richard Burton in the '60s (Liz was along for the ride). The food was fresh and tasty. I loved the margarita made with fresh lime juice--it was one of the best I've ever had--and I also loved the ice cold Coronas. The resort has lots of pools and a swim-up bar. I'd go back in a flash. Check it out at http://www.barcelo.com/BarceloHotels/en-GB/Hotels/Mexico/PuertoVallarta/LaJollaDeMismaloya/Home. I also loved Puerto Vallarta. It's a nice little town to explore.

When you're leaving from the new airport, you might want to buy some of the cute little shot glasses with blue rims that I found there. They have little cacti inside and are perfect filled with a shot of the excellent Mexican tequila I also picked up.

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More things to do in Mexico.


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image copyright 2008 Carole Terwilliger Meyers

Good Eats, Monterey, Hula's Island Grill and Tiki Room

Hula's Island Grill and Tiki Room 622 Lighthouse Ave., (831) 655-HULA; http://www.hulastiki.com/. L Tu-Sat, D daily; $-$$. Atmospheric, with a kitschy island decor and surf videos playing continuously, this casual restaurant serves a menu of island favorites. Fresh fish is prepared in a variety of ways—pan-fried or encrusted with coconut, lemongrass, or macadamia nuts—and plate items include slow roasted pulled pork in a super-tasty sauce. Ribs, fish tacos, and several burgers are also options. Sweet potato fries and tangy island slaw are popular sides. Better than dessert is an island drink to mellow things out.

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Things to Do/Good Eats: San Francisco, Supperclub

Supperclub 657 Harrison St./3rd St., South of Market, (415) 348-0900; http://www.supperclub.com/. D Tu-Sun; $$$+; price varies depending of night of week. Reservations advised. Valet parking. Surprises and naughty fun await diners here, where a bit of San Francisco butts heads with a bit of Roman decadence. It’s best not to know too much before arrival. Ideally, the experience begins with a drink in the round bar area before the doors open to the club, and a Black Cherry Drop is a great way to go. Diners are led to their spot among a bank of beds that flank ¾ of the all-white room. After taking off their shoes and climbing up on the beds, they can snuggle back into pillow backrests. The rest of the room is left open for watching theater—the video screen that is reminiscent of a ‘60s light show, the DJs doing their thing, the bartenders shaking away, the chefs scurrying in the exhibition kitchen, and the night’s entertainment. The set menu (dietary restrictions are accommodated) multi-course dinner consists of sophisticated cuisine served to loungers on a bed tray. Scheduled entertainment might include anything from a delightful designer fashion show to a bit of divalicious drag queen debauchery. One night, anyone who wanted to be spanked was accommodated, and every night a foot massage is available for an additional fee. After dinner, guests have the choice of staying on past bedtime for the club scene or exiting through the oversize, shiny-brass double doors and seeing the envious looks of those who are still waiting outside behind velvet ropes for entry.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Good Eats, San Francisco, Mexico DF

Mexico DF 139 Steuart St./Mission St., South of Market, (415) 808-1048; http://www.mex-df.com. L M-F, D daily; $$. Reservations advised. Given the choice between the dark back dining room and the more airy front bar space, the bar wins. However, most diners wind up in the back at a table cheered up by colorful hand-painted Mexican motif “plates” that are removed when service begins. The space features framed computer screens on the walls showcasing a changing array of Mexican art and an open kitchen. A delicious meal can be made from an order of mango guacamole and a margarita (there are many versions), either a huarache (a sandal-shaped corn masa base topped with short ribs and refried black beans) or gorditas (corn masa stuffed with chorizo and cheese), and a cooling burnt caramel flan for dessert.

Things to Do: San Francisco, The Contemporary Jewish Museum

The Contemporary Jewish Museum 736 Mission St./3rd St., South of Market, (415) 655-7800; http://www.thecjm.org/. Thur 1-8:30, F-Tu 11-5:30. $10, 65+ $8, under 19 free, Thur after 5 $5. Retaining the original brick façade and some interior catwalks and trusses from the historic 1907 PG&E Jessie Street Power Substation building, this brand new museum has a very modern angular interior. Designed to explore Jewish culture, history, art, and ideas, the structure is filled with symbolism--for instance, the auditorium design is based on a map of Jerusalem. The museum has no permanent collection. A free cell phone tour is available, and a Family tour and drop-in art program occur each Sunday. Café on the Square serves a contemporary kosher-style Jewish menu of mostly vegetarian items. A vast entry courtyard in front—an open space that seems quite luxurious because it is surrounded by high-rises—is city operated.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Great Sleeps: San Diego, California, Britt Scripps Inn

Britt Scripps Inn 406 Maple St./4th Ave., a few blks. from Balboa Park, (888) 881-1991, (619) 230-1991; http://www.brittscripps.com/. 9 rooms; $205 to $515. Evening wine; full breakfast. This multi-gabled 1887 Queen Anne-style Victorian mansion is a historic landmark. It features a striking turret, wrap-around porch, and a two-story original stained glass wall depicting morning, noon, and night in changing colors throughout the day—also an opulent parlor, hand-carved oak staircase, and music alcove with 1883 Steinway Art Case piano signed by Henry Steinway, great grandson of the founder. Exquisite attention is paid to details. Each individually decorated room represents a different design genre from the Victorian period, and each is equipped with a flat screen TV, bathrobes, and cashmere throws. Some bathrooms have claw-foot bathtubs. The exterior is painted in the original Victorian colors of yellow and red with green trim. Out front, the oldest Camphor Tree in North America--planted in 1865—is fragrant with menthol.

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Good Eats, San Diego, Asti Ristorante

Asti Ristorante 728 5th Ave./W. G St., in Gaslamp Quarter, 619-232-8844; http://www.astisandiego.com. L M-Sat, D daily, SunBr. This restaurant is named for Asti, a historic Italian town located in the northern Piedmont region that is acclaimed for its outstanding wines, white truffles and a medieval bareback horse race called “Palio.” The Interior of this European-style restaurant has tall ceilings and red brick walls, but the fenced-in front patio has heat lamps and is fabulous for lunch in any weather. The menu is extensive and features a bargain three-course lunch special.

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Good Eats, Half Moon Bay, Sam’s Chowder House

Sam’s Chowder House 4210 N. Cabrillo Hwy. (Hwy. 1), (650) 712-0245; http://www.samschowderhouse.com. L-D daily; $$$. Reservations taken. This New England-style seafood house boasts excellent views of the Pacific Ocean from almost every table. Outdoor seating is also an option. Specialties include fresh fish, live lobsters and crabs, and a raw bar. Choose from New England (white) or Manhattan (red) clam chowders, and count on the award-winning lobster roll sandwich as always a good choice. Drinks are creative and fun—anyone for a Strawjito? A seafood market (W-F 4-8, Sat-Sun 12-8.), sells locally caught fresh fish and specialty seafood items and side dishes plus picnics-to-go—the all-inclusive lobster clambake pot is an easy way to entertain right on the beach but requires 48-hours notice--and Sam’s is family-friendly, too.

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Great Sleeps: Santa Cruz, California, West Cliff Inn

West Cliff Inn 174 West Cliff Dr., (800) 979-0910, (831) 457-2200; http://www.westcliffinn.com/. 9 rooms; $$$-$$$+. All gas fireplaces. Afternoon snack; full breakfast. Built as a private home in 1877, this 3-story Italianate Victorian is now a historic landmark. It boasts a view of the beach and Boardwalk from some rooms and from its two porches. But it’s not your grandma’s Victorian. Inside, it features clean-lined, contemporary finishes and accents throughout. One room has a private outdoor hot tub, and breakfast is served in bed for a small fee. The inn is well position for an easy walk or ride (the inn has bicycles for loan) to the Wharf, beach, and Boardwalk.

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Good Eats, San Francisco, Troya Restaurant

Troya Restaurant 349 Clement St./5th Ave., (415) 379-6000; http://www.troyasf.com. L F-Sun, D daily; $$. Reservations accepted. Contemporary Turkish cuisine is served here in a light-filled room with a pleasing view of the street. Signature mezes, or starters, change regularly and include delicious delicacies such as borek (filo dough stuffed with fresh spinach and pine nuts), dolmas (grape leaves stuffed with braised lamb), and warm olives. A meal can be made from mezes alone, but it would be a shame not to try one of the entrees, perhaps a vegetarian moussakka or a satisfying manti (handmade ravioli). Turkish deserts include baklava and kunefe, which are even better with a cup of thick Turkish coffee or refreshing peppermint tea.
Before or after dining, duck in to Green Apple Books & Music (506 Clement St./6th Ave., (415) 387-2272; www.greenapplebooks.com. Daily 10-10:30.) and 6th Ave Aquarium (425 Clement St., (415) 668-7190; www.6thaveaquarium.net. M-F 11-10, Sat-Sun 10-10.) for an enjoyable browse.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Good Eats, San Francisco, A. G. Ferrari Foods

A. G. Ferrari Foods 688 Mission St./3rd St., South of Market, (415) 344-0644; http://www.agferrari.com. On a recent visit here I picked up the perfect quick dinner to keep on hand in my pantry. It consists of a box of Bucatini organic pasta "straws," a jar of pesto alla Genovese, and a 2005 Il Rosso Di Annibale Sangiovese. I plan to repeat this delicious meal many times more. Fortunately, this popular deli has locations all over the bay area; just check their website.

Things to Do: San Jose, San Jose Improv

San Jose Improv 62 S. 2nd St., (408) 280-7475; http://www.sanjoseimprov.com/. Tu-Sun; showtime varies. Cover $10-$45+ 2-item min. Some age restrictions. Performers and audience alike enjoy the cozy ambiance of this beautifully renovated former classic movie house, built in 1904 and the city’s oldest theater. Top comedians are booked, and the two-item minimum can be either food or drink (the fruity vodka-based Sex on the Stage is a satisfying number). Dinner reservations get priority seating; the menu includes well-priced salads, pastas, and a burger. It is interesting to know that The Smothers Brothers comedy duo attended San Jose State and began their career in the town’s small clubs.

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Good Eats, San Jose, Teske’s Germania Restaurant and Bar

Teske’s Germania Restaurant and Bar 255 N. First St./Divine, (408) 292-0291; http://www.teskes-germania.com. L Tu-F, D Tu-Sat; $$. Situated in a historical building, this family-run German restaurant is entered through swinging saloon doors. After passing through an atmospheric dark bar, diners enter two large dining rooms. The one is front has a slightly cozier feel, while the back room features tall ceilings and a giant moose head. In good weather, a brick patio with a big wall fountain becomes a festive beer garden where nothing can be finer than sipping a big stein of Spaten amber lager. The menu offers a plethora of good German dishes—crisp potato pancakes, schnitzels, sauerbraten, and wursts—plus German beers and schnaps galore. Many entrees include housemade spatzle noodles, and all dinners include bread and butter, soup, salad, and apple strudel. Special events include Sommerfest in summer, Oktoberfest in September and October, and Seinfeld-inspired Festivus in November.

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Good Eats, San Jose, Peggy Sue’s

Peggy Sue’s 183 Park Ave./Market St., downtown, (408) 294-0252; http://www.peggysues.com. B-L daily; $. Located just across the street from The Tech, this ‘50s diner grinds chuck daily for what it claims is “just possibly the best hamburger in the world.” Hot dogs, sandwiches, and salads are also available, as are smoothies, shakes, and sundaes. Breakfast is a choice of egg dishes--including a really good spinach and avocado omelette--and pancakes. Diners order at the counter, then settle into one of the cheery cherry-red booths or chrome tables and check out the room-full of nostalgia that includes autographed rock and sports memorabilia adorning the walls and even an old-time gas pump. And all the while, those oldies but goodies play in the background.

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Saturday, March 15, 2008

Things to Do: San Francisco, Beat Museum

Beat Museum 540 Broadway/Columbus, North Beach, 800-KER-OUAC, (415) 399-9626; http://www.thebeatmuseum.org/. Tu-Sun 10-10. $5, seniors $4. The late, beloved San Francisco Chronicle columnist Herb Caen is credited with coining "beatnik" in 1956 to describe the followers of the Beat Movement who hung out in the coffeehouses of North Beach. This cool museum has existed before in a variety of venues, including a traveling bus. Now in the back of the former Figone hardware store, it displays book collections, manuscripts, and ephemera from Beat legends such as Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg, and Lawrence Ferlinghetti. The merchandise in the front retail store is almost as interesting as the museum itself.

Good Eats, San Francisco, Rose Pistola

Rose Pistola 532 Columbus Ave./Union St., North Beach, (415) 399-0499; http://www.rosepistola.com. L-D daily; $$$. Reservations advised. Valet parking. In a modern setting with sleek décor, this comfortable Italian trattoria produces top-notch Ligurian-style fare. The enticing menu changes twice daily and includes wood-fired pizza, housemade pastas such as pappardelle with pork sugo, entrees such as delicate whole petrale sole grilled with white beans and fennel, and vegetable sides such as grilled broccoli di cicco. Appetizers usually include a creative bruschetta, and desserts something tasty beautiful like a blood orange panna cotta atop an oat cake. Meals begin with house-cured olives and ciabatta bread, and sometimes service is by the effervescent waiter, Harry, who brings joy to the experience at no extra charge. Service is family-style. A full bar serves colorful cocktails, and live jazz adds to the atmosphere on weekends.

Monday, February 4, 2008

101 North: Mill Valley, Avatar’s Punjabi Burritos

Avatar’s Punjabi Burritos 15 Madrona Ave., (415) 381-8293. L-D M-Sat; $. The whole family helps out in the kitchen and behind the counter at this small spot. About ten combinations are available either as rice plates with the nan on the side, or as burritos,with the filling wrapped in nan. Tasty options include curried sweet potato with lamb, smoked eggplant with chicken, and curried garbanzo beans and potatoes. Soup, a few salads, and a fresh mango lassi are also available. Order at the counter, then sit at one of the few tables available indoors and out, or better yet carry it away to the park.

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Tuesday, January 15, 2008

San Francisco: Fish & Farm

Fish & Farm 399 Taylor St./Ellis St., (415) 474-FISH; http://www.fishandfarmsf.com/. D Tu-Sun; $$$. Invitingly decorated like an old-time train station café, with a sprinkling of half-moon booths and a dark cave-like atmosphere, this small venue strives to serve only sustainably farmed organic produce from nearby sources. The contemporary surf & turf menu includes tasty fish renditions—a cracker-crusted petrale sole is scrumptious—as well as some meat selections, including a slow braised lamb shoulder. A side of house-pickled vegetables is a must. The menu is also served in a separate bar area that is particularly suited to solo diners. Organic house cocktails and wines marry well with the menu items. The cookie plate makes a satisfying dessert.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

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