Wednesday, April 23, 2014

101 North: Healdsburg, Café Lucia



appetizer tray at Café Lucia in Healdsburg, California
Café Lucia  235 Healdsburg Ave, (707) 431-1113.  L-D daily; $$$.  In a contemporary space set down a long outdoor hall away from the street, this restaurant presents delicious Portuguese Mediterranean cuisine enhanced by local and seasonal California ingredients.  The contemporary decor includes striking large canvas prints of landscapes and scenery from Portugal and the Azores.  Wood tables are made from old wine crates, and banquettes soften the seating.  A large open courtyard is divine in good weather.  Because we weren’t super hungry, my husband and I composed a delicious meal from tasting plates and starters.  Our small plates included boquerones (white anchovies), Tremoco-Lupini beans, and marinated vegetables.  Fig bread and almonds were included gratis, and all was served on an attractive plank.  

dayboat scallops at Café Lucia in Healdsburg, California

We also shared perfect day boat scallops and a dramatic asparagus salad topped with a fried egg.  Main dishes included a fisherman’s stew, a traditional baked casserole of north Atlantic salt cod, and a New York steak.  I liked that we could order wine by the half glass so we could sample more vintages, and the waitress made excellent suggestions.  With our fruit trio dessert (passion fruit mousse, fig bread pudding, and frozen pineapple mousse), we shared a delicious Barros sweet white.  Portions are on the small side, and prices are on the high side, but the entire package is so satisfying that it is money well spent.

Café Lucia on Urbanspoon


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images © 2014 Carole Terwilliger Meyers\


Monday, April 21, 2014

Greater East Bay: Richmond, Saigon Seafood Harbor Restaurant

dining room at Saigon Seafood Harbor Restaurant in Richmond, California
Saigon Seafood Harbor Restaurant  3150 Pierce St./Central Ave., (510) 559-9388.  Dim sum daily 11-3, D daily; $$.  Though the name makes you think this is a Vietnamese restaurant, it is actually named for a lake in China and is a Chinese restaurant.  The dim sum experience here is as I think it should be—it takes place in one gigantic room serviced by carts.  A glass-enclosed chef’s station and tanks of live seafood provide a sort of entertainment at one end.
 



rice balls dim sum at Saigon Seafood Harbor Restaurant in Richmond, California


Quality ingredients and an efficient staff plus fresh seafood and some unusual dessert items—sweet pastry stuffed with taro root, round puffs of hollow donuts sprinkled with plenty of sugar—make it worth the often long wait.  So get your ticket at the check-in stand and chill (I saw adults busy with books and kids with phone games). 

Saigon Seafood Harbor on Urbanspoon

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images © 2014 Carole Terwilliger Meyers

Friday, April 18, 2014

80 North: Kensington, Benchmark Pizzeria

interior of Benchmark Pizzeria in Kensington, California
Benchmark Pizzeria  1568 Oak View Ave./Colusa Ave., in Kensington. (510) 647-9724.  D daily.  Located just off the Kensington Circle, this simple spot features red walls, black wood tables, grey tile floors, and big windows that let in plenty of light.  Popular with families, it is cheery and noisy.  The specialty is crispy-crusted Neapolitan-style pizza pies made with local ingredients and baked in an 800-degree wood-fired oven.  The menu changes daily.  Antipasti choices are especially interesting—perhaps house-pickled vegetables, olives and almonds, or house-pulled mozzarella.

house pizza at Benchmark Pizzeria in Kensington, California
Pizzas measure about 12 inches and include the simple namesake Benchmark as well as one with housemade sausage and also a folded-over calzone.  A few pastas are available, and dessert includes Straus soft-serve ice cream—my favorite is vanilla topped with butterscotch.

Benchmark Pizzeria on Urbanspoon

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images © 2014 Carole Terwilliger Meyers



Wednesday, April 16, 2014

1 North: Mill Valley, Matt Davis Trail



view of San Francisco from Matt Davis Trail in Mill Valley, CA
I still daydream back about my hike on the popular, mostly shady and flat, Matt Davis Trail.  It is where I fell in love with yellow finches; lizards also abound.  We went all the way to the West Point Inn, which took about 3 hours round-trip.  The inn was built in 1904 by the railroad as a restaurant and stopover for passengers, and it still accepts hike-in overnight guests today.  We didn’t bring along food, but picnic tables and a spectacular panoramic view that includes San Francisco in the distance invite lingering. 

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An escape to Mt. Tam

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images © 2014 Carole Terwilliger Meyers







Monday, April 14, 2014

101 North: Healdsburg, The Wurst

interior of Wurst restaurant in Healdsburg, California

The Wurst  22 Matheson St./Healdsburg Ave., (707) 395-0214.  L-D daily; $$.  Reminiscent of what you find in Germany, communal tables are available here both inside—in an industrial-style open room with a high tin ceiling and exposed pipes--and outside on an exposed front patio.  Local beers dominate the draft spigots, and I like that just a half-pint is an option.  Order at the counter, then select your seat.  Service is friendly and fast.  

 
hot dogs and fries at Wurst restaurant in Healdsburg, California

Dog choices include a popular Southside Detroit Polish topped with onion rings, the mild Italian house Wurst, the Harissa Hottie with apricot and habanero chilies, and my favorite—a plain old beef hot dog from Schwartz in San Francisco.  An eggplant vegetarian version is also on the long list, and all are served on a good sesame seed-topped bun.  A condiment bar includes my favorite whole grain spicy mustard and sweet relish and plenty more.  Burgers (even a falafel burger!), fries, and a few salads round things out, and Double Rainbow ice cream is scooped up for dessert.  

 

the Wurst Sausage Grill & Beer Garden on Urbanspoon


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Friday, April 11, 2014

101 North: Healdsburg, Geyser Peak Winery

Geyser Peak Winery  2306 Magnolia Dr., (707) 857-2500, (800) 255-9463.  Formerly located in Geyserville, this winery moved here recently and opened just this month.  Vineyards surround the large tasting room featuring oak floors and a white and brown-flecked Spanish quartz tasting bar quarried in Cordoba.  The winery is known for its cabernets and is the first winery in California to produce a non-oaky New Zealand-style sauvignon blanc.  The 2008 Walking Tree Petite Sirah is big in color though not as chewey as some, and the 2009 Ascentia Cabernet Sauvignon is 100% those grapes which come from the colorfully named, cypress tree-edged Wedding Cake Vineyard.  A traditional Tawny Port tastes of caramel, maple, and butterscotch and has been described as having a finish that “lays on your tongue for a lifetime.”  Note that the California Series label features balanced and affordable wines available at Safeway and Trader Joe’s.  Picnic tables are provided. 

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video © 2014 Carole Terwilliger Meyers

 

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

San Francisco: Wayfare Tavern

Wayfare Tavern interior in San Francisco
Wayfare Tavern  558 Sacramento St./Montgomery St., Financial District.  Celebrity chef Tyler Florence starts meals in his American brasserie with a perfect popover (eat it while it’s hot!) and offers many down-home dishes—a juicy grass-fed burger on a brioche with brie from Marin, organic buttermilk-brined fried chicken, and sometimes baked Alaska or peach pie.  The deviled eggs, baked macaroni and cheese with Vella dry jack, and fresh mozzarella burrata are also justly popular.  For dessert you can’t go wrong with the Tcho chocolate cream pie, devil’s food cake, or any anything with salty caramel.  The cozy ambiance includes natural red brick, dark wood paneling, and high ceilings plus some very comfy booths.

Wayfare Tavern on Urbanspoon

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image © 2014 Carole Terwilliger Meyers

Monday, April 7, 2014

San Francisco: Ironside

sign for Ironside restaurant in San Francisco
Ironside  680 Second St./Townsend St., SOMA/South Beach, (415) 896-1127.  L M-F, Sat-SunBr, D Tu-Sat.  Operating within a former ship repair shop, this spot features an industrial look with concrete floors, brick walls, iron beams, and weathered-wood walls yet manages to feel cozy.  The main dining area downstairs has big windows to the street, while an overflow loft area upstairs hugs the wall and sports high ceilings.  Lunch is counter service.  Starters include long, gently curling plantain chips and also unusual fried avocado slices with smoky jalapeno aioli.  Barbecue dinner plates offers the usual suspects—meaty pork ribs, beef brisket, chicken, pulled pork—as well as shrimp and Portobello mushroom.  Sides include tangy pickled pepper slaw, good-for-you collard greens, and cowboy beans with house-smoked bacon but also cheddar grits and mac & cheese.  A tasty pressed Cubano sandwich (veggie version available) is on the menu along with several burgers and a shrimp po’boy.

ribs plate at Ironside restaurant in San Francisco

Dishes are prepared using meat from naturally raised animals with no added hormones or antibiotics.  The weekend brunch has nothing to do with ‘que and everything to do with eggs.  Six California micro brews are on tap, and housemade sangria is available along with bottled beer and wines by the glass.  The Chronicle Books shop next door is a good browse.

Ironside on Urbanspoon

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images © 2014 Carole Terwilliger Meyers

Friday, April 4, 2014

San Francisco: The Westin St. Francis

update/p.49

exterior of The Westin St. Francis in San Francisco
Throughout 2014 The Westin St. Francis is celebrating its 110th anniversary with special packages, menu items, spa treatments and more.  Complimentary historic tours held on the 21st of each month at 1:10 p.m. will present the hotel’s rich history  They begin in the Landmark Lobby with its famous Magneta Clock and include the historic cases filled with relics that tell the story of the hotel.  

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Wednesday, April 2, 2014

880 South: Oakland, Homestead

Homestead  4029 Piedmont Ave./41st St., (510) 420-6962. D Tu-Sat.  Entering through the doorway of this 1920s Julia Morgan-designed building brings you into a restaurant turned farm kitchen.  The staff is large, young, enthusiastic, and efficient.  A counter separates from the dining room a totally open exhibition kitchen, where you can easily see the chef and his minions preparing and plating and putting the final touches on your meal.
chef plating at Homestead in Oakland, CA

Almost everything is cooked on a custom-built almond wood-burning grill.  The menu is short and seasonal.  I’m crazy about the housemade bread and butter.  Fortunately, round loaves of the bread are available for purchase to take home.
bread loaves for sale at Homestead in Oakland, CA

Our shared appetizer was a delicious lemon-cured sardine with a potato cake and horseradish crème fraiche, and tagliatelle with fava beans and pecorino Romano.  Both were tasty and fresh and served in very small portions--we left nothing on the plate.  Main dishes are larger.  A fennel and kale-stuffed sole was delicate and satisfying, and a classic sliced pork roast served pink with potato gratin included also some nicely braised fall-apart pork belly.
kale-stuffed sole at Homestead in Oakland, CA

A side of grilled asparagus with Meyer lemon salsa was superb.  For dessert, I was intrigued by the Arnold Palmer sherbet sundae and shortbread cookies that was offered but opted instead for the stupendous carrot cake with cream cheese icing, glazed pecans, and tiny plumped and sugared kumquats—lucky me!
carrot cake at Homestead in Oakland, CA

Though good wines are available by the glass, the menu of beers is exceptional and what I will order from next time I visit.  Seating at wood block-style tables includes a few banquettes.  Large windows add to the light and airy feeling, original brick walls add a coziness, and kitchen antiques and artwork by local artists add charm.  I also like the mismatched vintage silverware and the salted caramels that come with the bill.

Homestead on Urbanspoon

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images © 2014 Carole Terwilliger Meyers