Friday, April 29, 2016

Santa Cruz Mountains: Los Gatos, Hotel Los Gatos + Dio Deka

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Hotel Los Gatos  210 E. Main St., (866) 335-1700, (408) 335-1700.  71 rooms; $$$-$$$+.  Some fireplaces.  Heated pool; hot tub; sauna; full-service spa; fitness room.  Restaurant; room service.  Located just down the street from a Ferrari/Bentley showroom, this luxuriously spacious property has a colorful Tuscan-country style.  Public spaces are decorated with Mexican tiles and pottery, studded leather chairs, and ornate wood-inlayed Moroccan tables.  A sort of Mediterranean hacienda, it melds the two architectural styles with a terracotta-tiled roof and a spacious interior courtyard with palm trees and fountains.  Attractive art is displayed throughout.  Guest rooms are furnished luxuriously with richly colorful silk drapes and comforters, soft Egyptian cotton linens, and tile-and-granite bathrooms.

guest room at Hotel Los Gatos in Los Gatos, California
guest room at Hotel Los Gatos in Los Gatos, California


guest room at Hotel Los Gatos in Los Gatos, California
guest room at Hotel Los Gatos in Los Gatos, California

Dio Deka translates in Greek as the restaurant’s address number (210) and also is the area code for Athens.  This is the only Michelin-star Greek restaurant in the United States.  Delicious upscale ethnic cuisine is served in a tasteful ambiance.  Menu winners include silogi (an assortment of delicious spreads served with housemade pita), dolmathakia (grape leaves stuffed with a tasty mix of braised short ribs, rice, and mushrooms), and lavraki (mesquite-grilled fresh fish).  More entrée options include a variety of premium steaks as well as more Greek dishes.  For dessert, don’t miss the perfectly prepared traditional Greek beignets dipped in a thyme-honey syrup (they are made with co-owner Yiani’s mom’s recipe), and do wash them down with a Greek Kourtaki Muscat from Samos Island.

Greek beignets at Dio Deka in Los Gatos, California
Greek beignets at Dio Deka in Los Gatos, California

Afternoon tea is served in the hotel lobby on weekends by reservation.

Dio Deka Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato 

More things to do in Los Gatos.

Things to do in nearby Saratoga.

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images ©2016 Carole Terwilliger Meyers

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

880 South: Oakland, Bowl'd BBQ Korean Stone Grill


Bowl'd BBQ Korean Stone Grill  4869 Telegraph Ave./48th St., Temescal, (510) 654-2000.  L-D daily.  Based on centuries-old family recipes passed down to two sisters, exotic choices on this menu are so extensive that it isn’t a bad idea to spend some time online studying the options before your visit.  That’s what I did, and it allowed me to zero in on the bibimbop bowl consisting of rice, veggies, and a protein.  I picked a mixed grain base (the other choice is white rice) with spicy pork topping, and asked them to hold the sunnyside-up fried egg that is usually placed on top.  A sizzling version of this is served in hot stoneware.  This was served with miso soup and nine banchan sides of small pickled and spiced vegetables that are refilled of by request.  After I ate my lunch, I had enough food left over for two more meals at home.  The house specialty Korean-style Fried Chicken--referred to as “KFC”--takes 15 to 20 minutes to prepare.  Among the drinks are fruit-infused unfiltered rice wine and fruit slushies.  The way understated interior decor here includes charcoal gray and taupe painted walls, both inside and out, and stone-tile flooring.  

exterior of Bowl'd BBQ Korean Stone Grill in Oakland, California
exterior of Bowl'd BBQ Korean Stone Grill in Oakland, California

interior of Bowl'd BBQ Korean Stone Grill in Oakland, California
interior of Bowl'd BBQ Korean Stone Grill in Oakland, California

bibimbop bowl at Bowl'd BBQ Korean Stone Grill in Oakland, California
bibimbop bowl at Bowl'd BBQ Korean Stone Grill in Oakland, California
Bowl'D BBQ Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

More things to do in Oakland.

Way more things to do in Oakland. 

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images ©2016 Carole Terwilliger Meyers


Thursday, April 21, 2016

Santa Cruz Mountains: Saratoga, Hakone Gardens

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Hakone Gardens  21000 Big Basin Way (Hwy. 9), (408) 741-4994.  M-F 10-5, Sat-Sun 11-5; Nov-Feb to 4.  $10, 65+ & 5-17 $8.  Tea & cookies:  Sat-Sun in summer; $5.  Tea ceremony:  3rd Sun of month, Apr-Nov; $7.

wisteria in bloom at Hakone Gardens in Saratoga, California
wisteria in bloom at Hakone Gardens in Saratoga, California

Reached via a steep, narrow, paved road off the highway, this is the oldest authentic Japanese-style residential garden in the Western Hemisphere.  Originally a private garden but now a city park, it is typical of a mid-17th-century residential garden and is composed of four separate areas:  a Hill and Pond Garden,
Hill and Pond Garden at Hakone Gardens in Saratoga, California
Hill and Pond Garden at Hakone Gardens in Saratoga, California

a Tea Garden, a Zen Garden (where stones can represent either water or clouds, and sometimes gardens or mountains),
Zen Garden at Hakone Gardens in Saratoga, California
Zen Garden at Hakone Gardens in Saratoga, California

and a Bamboo Garden that boasts the largest collection of Japanese bamboo in a public park in the western world (bamboo from the garden is popular with decorators and available for sale in the gift shop).
Bamboo Garden at Hakone Gardens in Saratoga, California
Bamboo Garden at Hakone Gardens in Saratoga, California

Besides being soothing, a three-level waterfall symbolizes from the top down heaven-man-earth.
three-level waterfall at Hakone Gardens in Saratoga, California
three-level waterfall at Hakone Gardens in Saratoga, California

Special features include a Japanese-style house built without nails or adhesives,
Japanese house at Hakone Gardens in Saratoga, California
Japanese house at Hakone Gardens in Saratoga, California

a pond stocked with eye-catching koi (certain orange-spotted ones are valued at up to $40,000 each!),


and three authentic tea ceremony rooms.  The natural greens in this garden bring calmness and are accented with seasonal bloom.  A claim to Hollywood fame--the final third of "Memoirs of a Geisha: was filmed here.  A picnic area with tables is available.  Cultural classes are scheduled regularly, and an annual Japanese Cultural Festival is held each May.  

More things to do in Saratoga.

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images and video ©2016 Carole Terwilliger Meyers 

 

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Santa Cruz Mountains: Los Gatos, Fleur de Cocoa

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Fleur de Cocoa 39 N. Santa Cruz Ave., (408) 354-3574. Tu-Sat 7:30-6, Sun 8-4; $. This tiny, authentic French pâtisserie presents a case full of croissants, éclairs, decadent macarons, and buttery madeleines. French mingles with English as customers exclaim over the famous housemade hot chocolate. And a small lunch menu offers several soups and quiches as well as the traditional croque monsieur and madame (with a sunnyside-up egg) sandwiches and a perfectly dressed salad.

exterior of Fleur de Cocoa patisserie in Los Gatos, California
exterior of Fleur de Cocoa patisserie in Los Gatos, California


interior of Fleur de Cocoa patisserie in Los Gatos, California
interior of Fleur de Cocoa patisserie in Los Gatos, California

counter at Fleur de Cocoa patisserie in Los Gatos, California
counter at Fleur de Cocoa patisserie in Los Gatos, California

croque monsieur at Fleur de Cocoa patisserie in Los Gatos, California
croque monsieur at Fleur de Cocoa patisserie in Los Gatos, California
Fleur de Cocoa Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

More things to do in Los Gatos.

Things to do in nearby Saratoga.

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images ©2016 Carole Terwilliger Meyers

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Santa Cruz Mountains: Los Gatos, We Olive & Wine Bar


We Olive & Wine Bar  112 N. Santa Cruz Ave./Grays Lane, (408) 354-7474.  Daily M-Sat 10am-8pm, Sun 10am-6pm; $$.  What a great idea to allow customers to sit down and order from a menu a snack or small meal made with the packaged items the shop also sells.  Actually tasting the products provides inspiration for using them to whip up something at home for dinner or even a party. 
Sara Bega pours a taste at We Olive & Wine Bar in Los Gatos, California

Wine is among the stocked items--so you can also enjoy a taste or two of those currently in stock--and hand-crafted beers are also available on draft and in the bottle.  I came here for a browse and early dinner based on the restaurant’s reputation.  Seating is in the back of the store, either inside at a bar or at separate tables, or outside in a landscaped courtyard garden that is pleasant in the area’s generally good weather.  The menu features bites (the peppadew African peppers stuffed with salami and goat cheese were cute, colorful, and delicious),
stuffed peppadew African peppers at We Olive & Wine Bar in Los Gatos, California

salads (a burrata version prepared with tiny baby arugula was delicious and served with crostini),
burrata-baby arugula salad at We Olive & Wine Bar in Los Gatos, California

and flatbreads (the artichoke-caper with fresh mozzarella, basil, and roasted tomatoes is particularly tasty). 
artichoke-caper flatbread at We Olive & Wine Bar in Los Gatos, California

A few panini are also options, and recipes for some of the menu items are available.  I tasted four wines, glasses for which were lined up in front of me with numbers matching descriptions on a menu.  This was fun.  I selected a spicy aromatic Gewurztraminer (2013 Handley, Anderson Valley) and full-bodied, smooth Tempranillo (2012 Bodegas “Viva Yo!”, Paso Robles) as my favorites. 
wine tasting at We Olive & Wine Bar in Los Gatos, California

The shop specializes in California extra virgin olive oil from small growers and farmers (all certified by the California Olive Oil Council) but also stocks balsamic vinegar, gourmet foods, and small production wines from throughout the state.  You can do an enlightening olive oil and balsamic vinegar tasting for no charge.  I tried two versions of white balsamic vinegar--a mild young white version and an older, more colorful and tastier version—and learned that balsamic vinegar comes only from Italy, and that it gets sweeter with age, even in bottles. 
white balsamic vinegar tasting at We Olive & Wine Bar in Los Gatos, California


Amanda Sarich conducts an olive oil-vinegar tasting at We Olive & Wine Bar in Los Gatos, California

Artisan food products sold here include tapenades, mustards, pestos, chocolate and caramel sauces, and unique spreads.  The shop also purveys some kitchen and dining accessories, and special events are scheduled. Custom gift baskets are a specialty and can be ordered in person or online. 

More things to do in Los Gatos.

Things to do in nearby Saratoga.

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

images ©2016 Carole Terwilliger Meyers