July 31, 2008

Clear Lake area, California: Tallman Hotel; hotel review + restaurant review

updated 5-24-18, see new post here

Tallman Hotel  9550 Main St., in Upper Lake, north lake, (866) 708-5253, (707) 275-2244. 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. 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 c2008 Carole Terwilliger Meyers

Clear Lake area, California: Ceago del Lago (CLOSED); things to do

Ceago del Lago  CLOSED  5115 E. Hwy. 20, in Nice, north lake, 707-274-1462. 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 c2008 Carole Terwilliger Meyers

Clear Lake area, California: Kelseyville Pear Festival; things to do

Kelseyville Pear Festival  In September. In Kelseyville, on Main Street, west lake; (707) 279-9022. Free.

Old-time fun includes a parade, some contests, and pear-related food and displays.

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July 20, 2008

San Jose, California: Arcadia; restaurant review

Arcadia  100 W. San Carlos St./Market St., in the San Jose Marriott, (408) 278-4555. 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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San Francisco, California: Chez Papa Resto (CLOSED); restaurant review

Chez Papa Resto  CLOSED  414 Jessie St./5th St., on Mint Plaza, South of Market, (415) 546-4134. 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.

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July 18, 2008

The Hassler Roma Inspires Romance

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.

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July 14, 2008

Monterey, California: InterContinental The Clement Monterey; hotel review

InterContinental The Clement Monterey  750 Cannery Row, (831) 375-4500. 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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Berkeley, California: Looney's Smokehouse (CLOSED); restaurant review

Looney's Smokehouse  CLOSED  2190 Bancroft Way/Oxford St., (510) 649-0628. 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.

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Berkeley, California: Maritime East Restaurant (CLOSED); restaurant review

Maritime East Restaurant  CLOSED  2826 Telegraph Ave./Oregon St., (510) 848-9299. 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.

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Mountain View, California: Xanh; restaurant review

Xanh  110 Castro St./W. Evelyn Ave., (650) 964-1888. 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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