Wednesday, November 26, 2014

80 North: Richmond, Huong Tra


Huong Tra  12221 San Pablo Ave. #8/after MacDonald Ave., (510) 234-7428.  L-D M-Sat; $.  No reservations.


interior of Huong Tra in Richmond, California
Located in a strip mall, this is a small place that serves up large portions at bargain-basement prices and usually has a wait line.  Tabletops are polished granite, chopsiticks and forks are wrapped up neatly in a napkin, and beer glasses are chilled.


crispy prawns at Huong Tra in Richmond, California
Sure things on the extensive menu include the Vietnamese crispy pork-and-shrimp pancake with fresh herbs, the spicy chicken rice plate, and the crispy prawns served atop a sort of onion-ginger salad.  Additional popular dishes include shrimp fried rice, lemon-beef salad with minced peanuts, and a cubed beef rice plate that is a version of shaken beef (bo luc lac).  Rice plates and vermicelli bowls are generally good, as are shrimp dishes and Vietnamese sandwiches.  Drinks include a good Thai iced tea, iced coffee, and boba smoothies.

Huong Tra Restaurant & Deli on Urbanspoon

More things to do in Richmond. 

Here are some travel articles to inspire and help you plan some spectacular getaways.

images ©2014 Carole Terwilliger Meyers 

Friday, November 21, 2014

101 South: Palo Alto, The Beam Store


The Beam Store  425 University Ave., (855) 200-2326 (BEAM).  Taylor is a face in a Roomba-like robot who chats with me from upstate New York.  He is the host in this unmanned Beam store, which has been open just two weeks and is the first remotely staffed store in the world!  Apparently Beam can beam you around the world for the price of a car.  I suspect you are probably first hearing this here!?  If I received one as a gift, I think I would save it until I find/select my new cat and then I would use it to keep in touch with my kitty when I am traveling.  Or maybe I would dress it up in one of my outfits and give it to my grandkids to have video chats with me--I could follow them around and we could keep talking.  What would YOU do with it?

More things to do in Palo Alto. 
 
Travel articles to inspire and help you plan some spectacular getaways.

video ©2014 Carole Terwilliger Meyers




Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Highway 49--Gold Rush Country: Rough and Ready


Rough and Ready  5 miles from Grass Valley.  


blacksmith building in Rough and Ready, California
In 1850, about 3,000 people lived here.  A proposed government mining tax got townspeople angry enough to vote to secede from the Union.  They named their town for the 12th President, Zachary Taylor, who was nicknamed “Old Rough & Ready.”  The new republic lasted just three months.


firehouse in Rough and Ready, California
A Secession Days Celebration occurs on the last Sunday in June and includes a pancake breakfast at the firehouse.   

Things to do in nearby Grass Valley.
 
More things to do in Gold Rush Country.
 

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

images ©2014 Carole Terwilliger Meyers


Monday, November 17, 2014

Highway 49--Gold Rush Country: Penn Valley, Pilot Peak Vineyard & Winery + Blue Cow Deli


Pilot Peak Vineyard & Winery  12888 Spencerville Rd., in Penn Valley, 10 miles from Grass Valley, (530) 432-3321.  Free tasting Sat-Sun 12-5pm (Mar-Oct), 1-4pm (Nov-Dec).  Getting here takes you through peaceful rural countryside, making for an enjoyable and scenic excursion.


comparative tasting at Pilot Peak Vineyard & Winery in Penn Valley, California
You can do a comparative tasting while seated under mature shade trees on beautiful stone-walled terraces overlooking the expansive property.  You’ll sample a flight of four wines in numbered glasses that match tasting notes to guide you.  A  small plate of complimentary appetizers are provided so you can experience the delicious interactions created by the marriage of food and wine.  Be sure to also try Peak a Boo, a blend that uses the best red grapes available each year, and Grenache--my favorite—a delightful summer-weight red.  Bring a picnic, buy a bottle, and stay a while.  All wines are sold only on site.  Do consider joining their active wine club so you get invited to the many very special events scheduled throughout the year. 


sandwich from Blue Cow Deli in Penn Valley, California
Blue Cow Deli  17500 Penn Valley Dr., (530) 432-5500.  M-Sat 10:30-5:30.  This deli is a great spot for lunch or a picnic pick-up.  Sandwiches are made to order on really good breads, and side salads and decadent cookies round things out.  Seating is provided both indoors and out on a patio. 
Blue Cow Deli on Urbanspoon

Things to do in nearby Grass Valley.

More things to do in Gold Rush Country.

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

images ©2014 Carole Terwilliger Meyers


Friday, November 14, 2014

80 North: Albany, White Lotus Thai Cuisine


White Lotus Thai Cuisine  843 San Pablo Ave./Solano Ave., (510) 525-2791.  L-D W-M; $$.


interior of White Lotus Thai Cuisine in Albany, California
Spacious and colorful, this restaurant consists of one large room with a scattering of tables and chairs.  A complimentary hot tea is offered with the extensive menu, which takes some perusing.  Many dishes have meat and tofu options, and you can choose the degree of spiciness.  I liked adding heat from the condiments, my favorite being the pickled hot green peppers.


Kao Rad Kang at White Lotus Thai Cuisine in Albany, California
Kao Rad Kang
I tried the Pad Kee Mao with chicken, a delicious flat-rice noodle dish with chili, garlic, tomato, and Thai basil; and the Kao Rad Kang, a pretty red curry with chicken and veggies.  On future visits, I plan to try the spicy chicken wings and the Thai samosa appetizers, the spicy sweet-and-sour fish filet, the Pad Thai, the spicy basil chicken, the pumpkin curry, and the traditional Massaman curry.  A large section of the menu lists special vegetarian items, and rice-plate or noodle lunch specials are available from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.

White Lotus on Urbanspoon

More things to do in Albany. 

More things to do in nearby Berkeley.

Way more thing to do in Berkeley. 

Here are some travel articles to inspire and help you plan some spectacular getaways.

images © 2014 Carole Terwilliger Meyers
 

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Highway 49--Gold Rush Country: Grass Valley, Gold Miners Inn--A Holiday Inn Express Hotel and Suites + Grass Valley Courtyard Suites


Gold Miners Inn--A Holiday Inn Express Hotel and Suites  121 Bank St., 1 blk. from historic downtown, (530) 477-1700.  80 rooms; 3 stories.  Breakfast; afternoon wine.  Fitness room.  Pets ok.


guest room at Gold Miners Inn in Grass Valley, California
Located freeway-side, this hotel offers easy-on, easy-off plus the expected chain amenities.  In addition to a complimentary buffet breakfast, a complimentary afternoon wine reception sometimes includes appetizer samplings from local restaurants.


pillow at Gold Miners Inn in Grass Valley, California
Guest rooms include large flat-screen TVs and a variety of pillows for sleeping.  I got a kick out of a towel folded into an elephant on the bathroom counter, but I didn’t like that the windows didn’t open and that the couch felt like sitting on a brick.  Keep your eyes open here for celebs, as this is where many stay when performing in town.


Grass Valley Courtyard Suites in Grass Valley, California
Grass Valley Courtyard Suites  210 N. Auburn St., 1 blk. from historic downtown, (530) 272-7696.  38 rooms; 2 stories.  Breakfast; evening snack.  Some fireplaces & kitchens.  Heated pool (seasonal); hot tub; fitness room; small health spa.  Pets ok.  Family-owned, this attractive motel has a bit of B&B in it that is especially noticeable at breakfast, when the owner often gets in there herself and whips up waffles to order.


guest room at Grass Valley Courtyard Suites in Grass Valley, California
Guest rooms here are extra-large and feature a comfortable memory-foam mattress.  Nights are very quiet in the residential area the inn is located in, but keep in mind that noisy events are sometimes booked at its new complex across the street which also has some nice new guest rooms.

More things to do in Grass Valley.

More things to do in Gold Rush Country.

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

images ©2014 Carole Terwilliger Meyers

 

Monday, November 10, 2014

Highway 49--Gold Rush Country: Grass Valley, Tess’ Kitchen


Tess’ Kitchen  115 Mill St., in historic downtown, (530) 273-6997.  This gigantic gourmet kitchen store sprawls over three levels.  It is by far the largest such store I have seen, and stocks both the latest and the greatest as well as the tried and true.  Among the goods are a large selection of knives, locally-made wood cutting boards, and pots and pans galore.


cheese case at Tess' Kitchen in Grass Valley, California
A refrigerated cheese cooler-case has the perfect pick-ups for a picnic, plus crackers, olives, and more.  The shop also carries goat milk personal products from local Nightingale Farms, my favorite being the thick ginger-lime body lotion. 


Alan Tangren, chef at Tess' Kitchen in Grass Valley, California
In addition to the hands-on cooking classes scheduled in the basement kitchen, Chef’s Dinners are offered one per month by reservation.  These expansive dinners are prepared by multi-talented chef Alan Tangren, who formerly was on the staff at Chez Panisse, taught meteorology at U.C. Davis, and was raised on a local farm!  Dinners are limited to ten participants and consist of five courses that are paired with local wines, plus a concluding course paired with coffee.  Diners sit on stools at a high marble counter—all the better to watch the preparations, listen to interesting stories between courses, and eat each item as it is ready.  Dinners sell out fast so plan ahead.  My dinner consisted of: 


goat cheese salad at Tess' Kitchen in Grass Valley, California
1.  Chez Panisse-style baked Sonoma goat cheese with garden lettuces, paired with a Szabo Vineyards Sauvignon Blanc


artichoke heart tart at Tess' Kitchen in Grass Valley, California
2.  a colorful artichoke heart tart with Dinner Bell Farm sweet red peppers, paired with a Solune Winegrowers Rose of Barbera, which stood up to the potentially wine-killing artichokes


naked ling cod ravioli at Tess' Kitchen in Grass Valley, California
3.  naked ling cod ravioli with butter and Parmesan and the secret ingredient nutmeg—a Florentine item that omits the pasta and just dusts the outside with a little flour, paired with a Solune Winegrowers Pandora


chicken stuffed under skin with herbs at Tess' Kitchen in Grass Valley, California
4.  truly free-range Family Friendly Farm chicken (making it less fatty but more flavorful) stuffed under the skin with herbs (parsley, rosemary, and thyme, but no sage) and served with roasted Nevada County tubers—turnips, carrots, and potatoes, paired with a lightly oaked Pilot Peak Winery Cabernet Franc


baked Bosc pear at Tess' Kitchen in Grass Valley, California
5.  a spiced baked Bosc pear with creme fraiche ice cream, paired with Szabo Vineyards Elvezet


Mignardises at Tess' Kitchen in Grass Valley, California
6.  a bonus course of Mignardises--Empire Apple jellies and chocolate almond rochers, paired with coffee

More things to do in Grass Valley.

More things to do in Gold Rush Country.

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

images ©2014 Carole Terwilliger Meyers

Friday, November 7, 2014

880 South: Oakland, Cat Town Cafe


Cat Town Cafe  2869 Broadway/29th St.  W-Sun 8am-7pm.  Cat Zone, 10am-7pm; free, but when crowded, entry is not guaranteed unless you have a reservation--available as a courtesy on-line for a $10 donation.  Located on Oakland’s historic Auto Row, across the street from the Mercedes dealership, Cat Town is a cat rescue organization that works in close collaboration with the Oakland Animal Services municipal shelter to get cats out of cages and into homes.  

order counter at Cat Town Cafe in Oakland, California



sugar cookies at Cat Town Cafe in Oakland, California

America's first cat cafe cafe (it opened just last month, October 2014) is a delightful diversion—it even has a cat-centric art gallery--and it doubles as a cat adoption center.  The counter-order menu consists of light snacks such as sugar cookies (mine was decorated with “meow”) and coffee, which you can down while sitting on one of the few benches or carry on into the separate Cat Zone area--definitely the way to go.

Cat Zone area of Cat Town Cafe in Oakland, California

Don’t forget to sanitize your hands before entering the cat area, which due to monitored admission is quiet and uncrowded.  You can pet the kitties, play with them, purchase treats to feed them, and in some cases watch them catnap.

napping cats in Cat Zone area of Cat Town Cafe in Oakland, California

The goal is to get these kitties adopted.  Large windows make it easy to also observe from the sidewalk or cafe.  

Cat Zone area of Cat Town Cafe in Oakland, California

Cute cat furniture includes beds inspired by the Port of Oakland’s cargo cranes and play structures based on buildings from the downtown Oakland skyline, and large colorful murals cover some of the walls.  For me, it was the purrfect way to spend my Caturday.

More things to do in Oakland.

Way more things to do in Oakland. 

Mostly humorous cat items from Caught on the Web..

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

images ©2014 Carole Terwilliger Meyers

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Highway 49--Gold Rush Country: Grass Valley, The Center for the Arts


The Center for the Arts  314 W Main St., in historic downtown, (530) 274-8384.  M-Sat 12-5.  Free; fee for most performances.  This non-profit center is a hub for the area’s arts, including visual art as well as music, dance, theater, film, and more.  The space holds two art galleries and two theaters--one is large (190+ seats) with great sound and a dancing space and it presents major performers (David Crosby and Kris Kristofferson to name a few), and the other is a small black-box room (40+ seats) used for children’s productions and productions by emerging artists.  Julie Baker, the center’s director, is a transplant from NYC who owned a gallery there, and her energy drives the machine.  “You can’t get much closer to the artist than here,” she says.  Something is happening every day.

gallery at The Center for the Arts in Grass Valley, California

More things to do in Grass Valley.

More things to do in Gold Rush Country.

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

images ©2014 Carole Terwilliger Meyers


Monday, November 3, 2014

Highway 49--Gold Rush Country: Grass Valley, North Star Mining Museum

update/p.368

North Star Mining Museum  10933 Allison Ranch Rd./S end of Mill St., (530) 273-4255.  W-Sat 12-4; closed Nov-Apr.  By donation.


This museum is located inside a rustic 1895 stone building that once was the power house for the North Star Mine.


It displays a collection of old photographs, mining dioramas and models, and a 30-foot-diameter, 10-ton Pelton water wheel dating from 1896--the largest such wheel ever constructed.


It also displays the country’s largest operational Cornish pump, which was used to remove water from mine shafts.  An assay room, blacksmith shop, stamp mill, and dynamite-packing machine are also among the exhibits.     
A grassy picnic area is located across adjacent Wolf Creek in Glenn Jones Park and accessed via a beautiful rock footbridge. 



The Julia Morgan-designed North Star House is being renovated and meanwhile is a site for special events. 

More things to do in Grass Valley.

More things to do in Gold Rush Country.

More cats in exotic places.

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

first three images courtesy of venues

last image ©2014 Carole Terwilliger Meyers