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Art, California, Cultural Attractions, Museums, San Francisco

Hats Off to Degas–Lucas Shakes Things Up at SF’s Legion of Honor

September 4, 2017

San Francisco’s venerable Palace of Legion of Honor, part of the city’s Fine Arts Museums, is currently hosting the very popular Degas, Impressionism and the Paris Millinery Trade.

The extensive exhibition focuses on the impact of the millinery trade in Paris during the Belle Epoch era on the work of Degas and his contemporaries.  Paintings and pastels by Degas, Renoir, Edouard Manet, Mary Cassatt, Toulouse- Lautrec and others, some never before shown in the U.S., are featured. In addition to the splendid impressionist paintings, included in the exhibition are 40 marvelous examples of millinery from that time period—in other words—hats!

Hats featuring flowers were popular in the 19th and 20th centuries. Silk, cotton, velvet and paper were all used to construct artificial flowers like those shown here.

Some patrons were definitely in the spirit of things.

These hats range in size and complexity from the sublime to over the top. One chapeau is topped with an entire owl, which had been preserved specifically for that purpose. There are plumes, beads, metallic wire, ribbons and flowers adorning these mostly enchanting toppers.

Plumage from domestic and exotic birds, including ostrich and owls, often were used to embellish luxury ladies’ hats.

These hats all sport fashionable feathers. The hat on the left features a complete owl while the one on the right has an African starling above its brim.

A visitor admires Manet’s “At the Milliner’s”–one of about 40 paintings and pastels in the exhibition.

Men’s hats are included in the exhibit too. There are fine examples including boater and bowler hats, along with a sketch of Degas himself in a top hat.

Bowlers and top hats, along with carrying cases, are part of the exhibit.

The 42 year-old Edgar Degas is shown here wearing a top hat.

The exhibition was quite crowded, mostly with ladies of a certain age, oohing and ahhing over the millinery creations. There were a few patrons sporting hats and we spotted several of the museum’s docents in the spirit of things– wearing lovely fascinators.

Feathered finery got a lot of attention from visitors.

We didn’t take a docent-guided tour but shared our table at lunch with a group of ladies from the San Jose area who had and raved about it. It is necessary to reserve a spot for a guided tour in connection with this exhibit.

This docent wears a fine fascinator for her presentation. Reservations for the free tours are essential for this exhibition.

Some of the Impressionist paintings in this exhibition have not been shown in the U.S. before.

Special exhibition tickets are required for the Degas exhibit, in addition to the general admission fee for the museum. This doesn’t seem to be keeping the crowds away at all downstairs. There were numerous tour groups vying to get close to the works during our midweek trip to the Legion of Honor.

Special exhibition tickets are required, in addition to general admission. The galleries became quite crowded at times.

Upstairs in the galleries featuring Rodin’s classic sculpture, visitors can enjoy near solitude—at least during our visit. Displayed with the August Rodin: The Centenary Installation, which honors the 100th anniversary of the artist’s death, you’ll find the provocative work of Sarah Lucas. Sarah Lucas:Good Muse is the first major exhibition of the UK artist’s work in the U.S.

The museum is best known for its ancient and classical European collections which includes paintings, sculpture, furnishings and porcelain.

Sarah Lucas’ work brings contemporary art and controversy to the Legion of Honor.

Sarah Lucas:Good Muse would probably be much more comfortable at the SFMOMA (SF Museum of Modern Art) than at the classically- focused Legion of Honor. The docent who provided a tour of the exhibition shared that many patrons and members of the museum were more than a little unhappy with Lucas’ work.

Giant plaster cast boots, soft sculptures and a series of Lucas’ yellow urinal sculptures are on display among the 50 bronze, plaster and marble works by Rodin.

Lucas’ sculptures, made from plaster, panty hose, florescent lights, a bedspring and mattress, cigarettes and other materials, allude to sexual interactions, availability, empowerment, and domestic responsibilities, according to the docent. She also pointed out examples where Rodin’s work related to the themes of Lucas’ pieces.

“Washing Machine Fried Eggs” invites discussion of women’s sexual and domestic roles.

Apparently the artist wanted to “bring color” to the galleries and chose to include a series of yellow urinal sculptures displayed atop small refrigerators, placed among Rodin’s classic sculpture. We found the juxtaposition interesting but could easily understand the contretemps. At the entrance to the galleries where Lucas’ work is displayed, there are signs warning that the art may not be appropriate for all viewers. We have chosen not to include photos of the most controversial work for that reason.

Electricity in this piece “keeps the energy up” according to the artist.

Degas, Impressionism and the Paris Millinery Trade closes September 24 and Sarah Lucas: Good Muse closes September 17. Go see these very different exhibitions for yourself and let us know what you think. A day at the Palace of Legion of Honor is always a day well spent.

California, Carmel, Family Fun, History, Monterey Bay, Motorcycles, Museums

Motorcycle Mania—Moto Talbott Collection

April 6, 2017

I’m not much of a motorcycle aficionado myself, but I have been married to one for enough years to recognize the distinctive sound of a Ducati from a distance. On our recent trip to California’s Monterey Peninsula, we drove up to Carmel Valley to indulge in some wine tasting and discovered the Moto Talbott Collection www.mototalbott.com. My husband’s delight quickly faded when he saw the motorcycle museum was closed, but fate smiled once again when founder Robb Talbott appeared in the courtyard.

Moto Talbott is a “must see” for motorcycle aficionados.

We had a nice chat, but Mr. Talbott was off to an appointment so no chance for a sneak peek behind the gates that day. We left with the promise to return later that week; my husband clutching the newly printed brochure Robb had kindly given him.

Rare, vintage, award- winning and beautifully restored motorcycles, all with stories to tell, await visitors to Moto Talbott.

Bright and early that Friday morning, we returned to Moto Talbott. In the courtyard were the museum’s newest acquisitions—two BMW Isetta 300s. Originally produced in Italy in the 1950s, Issetas are known as micro cars or “cabin scooters.” These two had been languishing in a hayloft in a Northern California barn for more than 40 years. Robb had picked them up just the night before.

These Isseta micro cars had just arrived after languishing in a hayloft for 40 years.

The Moto Talbott Collection has only been open since November 2016 but is already attracting motorcycle fans from all over. The collection is mostly motorcycles (more than 160 of them) but also features scooters, vintage transportation- themed toys, motorcycle memorabilia and more. The bikes are artfully displayed in a 6,000 square foot building with walls of snow barrier board trucked in from Wyoming and constructed by hand. Every detail has been carefully thought through.

This BMW is handsomely displayed against a handcrafted wall of Wyoming snow barrier board.

There are some real gems in the collection, including the Ducati Marianna that won the very last Motogira D’Italia in 1956 and is credited with saving the Ducati Company from possible closure. There’s a terrific photo of the wining rider, Guiliano Maoggi, with a cigarette clenched in his teeth on the wall above the bike, along with the fascinating story of his victory.

Visitors can learn about the last Motogiro d’Italia and the winning Ducati’s intriguing victory tale.

Steve McQueen’s 1931 VL Harley is there, as is a demonstration bike from WWII with the gas tank and engine covering cut away so soldiers training on it could learn what went where. This particular bike, which is quite a rare find, came to the collection complete with troop movement maps, gloves and a fully- functioning Thompson sub-machine gun, which has since been rendered inoperable.

Every bike has a fascinating story and a great deal of history behind it, including this rare WWII demo bike.

There’s a Vespa specially designed to promote Coach’s leather goods, a motorcycle that was buried in the backyard to protect it from certain destruction in a fire, race and award winners, beautiful restorations, trial bikes, rare and vintage motorcycles—they’re all here.

Each Coach logo was carefully hand painted on this promotional Vespa.

What really makes a trip to Moto Talbott special is the opportunity to learn the history and stories behind these bikes from the engaging and knowledgeable docents. We were fortunate to spend the morning with Rich Watson, former Economics professor at UC Santa Barbara and a lifelong lover of motorcycles. Rich could not have been more informative and entertaining. We were captivated by the intriguing tales he told, from his description of riders being impaled by enormous splinters during the American board racing days of the early 1900s to stories of unbeatable BSAs.

Engaging docents like Rich Watson enrich the visitor’s experience by sharing the stories and history behind the bikes.

These Indians from the early 1900s were used for American board racing– an extremely dangerous form of motorcycle racing not permitted for decades.

The impressive collection currently features road bikes and dirt bikes from 16 countries, from the Czech Republic to Mexico. MV Agusta, BSA, Bultaco, BMW, Indian, Harley Davidson, Kawaski, Maico, Gilera, Triumph, Honda—nearly every notable motorcycle company is represented here.

Road bikes and dirt bikes from around the globe are part of the collection at Moto Talbott.

The “Riders for Health” motorcycle under the orange vest traveled more than 80,000 kms bringing health care and aid to those in need in Zimbabwe.

The former proprietor of the highly regarded Talbott Vineyards and chairman of the board of the eponymous clothing company his family founded, Robb Talbott’s commitment to excellence and quality is as apparent in the Moto Talbott Collection as it was in his previous endeavors. The museum was at least three years in the making and was created so that he could “…share his passion for bikes and beauty… And mostly to share the stories of these bikes and their history.” The museum’s mission statement rings especially true after talking with Robb—”preservation, restoration and education…all driven by passion.”

Some of founder Robb Talbott’s vintage toys are displayed here.

We also had the chance to meet Bobby Weindorf, the museum’s curator and chief restorer.   Motorcycles have been part of Bobby’s life since he was 12 years old. His career was built on his passion: five years with American Honda’s factory road race and Supercross/Motocross teams; a dealership in Santa Barbara for 10 years, and several years in Italy working with motorcycle race teams. When asked about his three favorite bikes in the collection, he chose the 1977 MV Agusta 850SS because, “It’s big, powerful and makes a bold Italian statement,” a 1977 Hodaka Super Combat Wombat, “…cute dirt bike with an awesome name,” and a 1965 BMW R 69S in Granada Red, for it’s “pure elegance in a rare color…”

Moto Talbott is dedicated to preservation, restoration and education–and doing a spectacular job in all three area.

Bobby noted that Moto Talbott will continue to evolve: expanding and changing the collection, offering events, and continuing to educate visitors, preserving the “survivors,” and restoring the classic motorcycles that he and the others involved in this marvelous museum have worked so tirelessly to make accessible to motorcycle lovers from around the world.

Please visit www.mototalbott.com for the most current information on opening hours, events, and ticket prices.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

California, Dining, Restaurants, San Francisco

San Francisco’s Star-Studded Dining Scene: Al’s Place, Lord Stanley, Kin Khao, SBP

October 27, 2016

Forget any notion of stuffy dining rooms, pretentious servers and worshipful silence that Michelin- starred restaurants may conjure in your mind. A recent trip to San Francisco showed beyond a doubt that dining in that city’s expanding constellation of contemporary, casual (unless you feel like dressing up), one star Michelin restaurants is more about revelry than reverence.

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Think fun not fussy at San Francisco’s constellation of one-star Michelin restaurants.

Al’s Place, Lord Stanley, and Kin Khao were on our list this time, as well as a return to State Bird Provisions, which we discussed in detail in a previous post.

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Al’s Place

We were only able to get a 5:30 p.m. reservation on a Sunday night at the very popular Al’s Place www.alsplacesf.com. The sparely decorated room was packed when we arrived. There are only 46 seats at this Mission District eatery and they are in high demand—it’s no wonder with Chef/owner Aaron London at the helm. His creative cookery is the reason Bon Appetit magazine named Al’s Place best new restaurant of 2015. Just about everything coming out of the tiny kitchen was remarkable.

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Chef Aaron London (AL’s Place) was kind enough to stop and smile for a quick pic. His fantastic fries are pictured to his left.

We were a party of four that night so had the chance to sample quite a bit of the menu, which is designed for sharing. One of our guests had food sensitivities but the kitchen was incredibly accommodating.

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There’s a reason Al’s Place is packed. The food is stellar and the service exceptional.

Start with some Snackles—small dishes just right for munching while you enjoy an aperitif and decide what else you’d like to eat. We had chickpeas Catalan style and the highly touted brined French fries served with a smoked apple dipping sauce. The fries lived up to their reputation–crispy and differently delicious!

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Catalan style chick peas with a tasty Romesco sauce was one of the snackles we chose.

Next up were the Cold/Cool choices. Some eyes rolled when I suggested a salad, but our server, Rebecca, assured us that this would be the most beautiful salad ever and she was right—cool, crisp greens, avocado, pistachio, all topped with lovely edible flowers.

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A beautiful salad, indeed.

We also chose the green bean casserole. This is not the casserole of anybody of a certain age’s youth—the dish was composed of perfectly cooked green beans served cold with tiny tomatoes, micro greens, basil, and creamy burrata—yum!

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Not your mother’s green bean casserole.

The black lime cod in stone fruit curry was the star of the Warm/Hot offerings, for us. The fish was perfectly prepared and the curry was complex with just the right amount of heat.

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The cod in stone fruit curry was spectacular.

The yellow eye bean stew with torn bread was hearty and could have been a meal on its own. Some at our table found it a little salty though.

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Yellow eye bean stew with torn bread was a substantial dish.

Our pick from the Sides was smoked brisket. We’re still not sure why this dish is considered a side. It was a large portion and our companions pronounced it thoroughly delicious.  We got a second order.

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The brisket could be the centerpiece of any Sunday supper.

On our visit, Limited Availability choices included trouty brioche, fish head under a brick, a dry aged rib eye and foie gras. Limited Availability means just that, so if you see something you like, order it. It may not be on the menu the next time around. We said, “yes” to the trouty brioche with its terrific textures, colors and tastes. It was a thick slice of brioche with roe and pickled green peach—superb.

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Trouty Brioche featured creamy cheese nestled under a bed of crunchy roe on a tender slice of brioche.

Though we all were very satisfied with our dinner, we couldn’t resist dessert. The brownie with ice cream was perfect for sharing and a sweet ending to a sensational meal.

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We always try to save room for dessert. A good idea at Al’s Place.

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Dine al fresco at one of the street side tables.

Al’s Place also has a few outdoor tables on the side of the restaurant. Perhaps we’ll try one of those on our next visit– and there will definitely be a next visit!

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Lord Stanley

If you go to Lord Stanley lordstanleysf.com, and you should, consider sharing all of the dishes you want to try, especially if there are only two of you. You’ll have the opportunity to try more of the delicious dishes on offer that way.

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Lord Stanley has tables upstairs and down. The room is casual and lively.

We shared starters—salt cod beignets and onion petals in sherry vinegar and then had the heirloom tomatoes—all deliciously good and clever rifts on what only sound like simple dishes.

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Onion petals in sherry vinegar topped with edible flowers was our first dish.

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The salt cod beignets were tasty with a dollop of house- made tartar sauce.

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A look inside the beignets.

Each dish had something special and unexpected—all in a very tasty and good way. The heirloom tomatoes were done with cardamom and gazpacho, for example.

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Perfectly ripe heirloom tomatoes in a light, bright gazpacho.

We both had the incredible halibut for our entrees which was served with butter beans, roasted dashi, and samphire, whose crunchy texture reminded us of ice plant. It was all delicious, prepared perfectly, and easily big enough to share. We realized we could have had a meat dish as well, had we chosen just one order of halibut. The short rib at the next table looked amazing—and we were assured that it was. Next time!

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The halibut was succulent and rich.

Lord Stanley has a well-priced and interesting wine list. Our server was very knowledgeable and made several excellent suggestions for wine pairings.

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Lord Stanley’s interesting wine list has a number of organic/ biologic wines on offer.

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This light Loire Valley red was organically cultivated and manually harvested. It was a fine complement to our meal.

Though we’d had plenty to eat, we splurged and had the dark chocolate pudding with black sesame and toasted rice for dessert. The “pudding” was a delightfully different assemblage of tastes and textures from the dark chocolate crumbles to the crispy toffee on top.

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The dark chocolate pudding was a winner in both taste and texture.

img_4092Don’t be put off by Kin Khao’s www.kinkhao.com simple surroundings. Located in the Parc 55 Hotel in what looks a lot like a coffee shop—this place is really good. They have extraordinary Thai food, attentive, knowledgeable service and a solid wine list with interesting choices that complement the cuisine nicely.

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Spare surroundings belie the rich, tantalizing Thai food on offer.

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The brief wine list perfectly complements the complex flavors of the food.

Entrees are pretty large but the appetizers are so good, it’s hard not to start with one or two. The Som Tum Papaya Salad is complex, flavorful and super hot—maybe the spiciest item on the small menu, but one bite leads to another and after a few, you’ll enjoy the heat.

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If you like it spicy, don’t miss this papaya salad.

The Pretty Hot Wings are just that, and pretty tasty, too. They hold their own against Andy Ricker’s Pok Pok wings in our estimation.

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Tangy, spicy and just right, these wings hold their own against more well- known competitors.

The Pinto Market Lunch with green curry, rabbit meatballs, pork riblets, salad and rice was more than satisfying and a veritable smorgasbord of taste treats.

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The Pinto Market Lunch is a hearty, satisfying meal full of flavor.

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A light chicken broth and a additional house- made curry sauce come on the side.

We also had a very hearty and savory noodle dish called Kanom Jeen Nam Ngiew.  Tender braised pork cheeks with rice noodles, Ngiew flowers, cherry tomatoes, pickled mustard greens in a hearty pork broth made a delicious dish. Curries are prepared in- house from scratch each day.

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Kanom Jeen Nam Ngiew was a sensational dish with complex flavors.

For a smaller appetite or on a hot day, try the chicken fat rice with ginger poached chicken, served with a restorative cup of chicken broth—light and delicious.

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The Pad Kee Mao with drunken egg noodles, ground pork, chilis basil and onions was outstanding. It’s also available as a vegetarian dish made with tofu.

Kin Khao has numerous vegetarian and gluten free items on their menu. Some items can easily be made vegetarian by substituting tofu.

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Kin Khao’s dining room between meals.

We’ve enjoyed several meals at Kin Khao and have been delighted each time. The restaurant is open for lunch and dinner.

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State Bird Provisions

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State Bird Provisions is still a tough table to get but well worth it.

Our unreserved and enthusiastic recommendation of State Bird Provision still stands. We had another terrific evening enjoying lots and lots of small, shared, interesting dishes at this popular Michelin one-star restaurant.

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Perfect heirloom tomatoes with crunchy quinoa and tahini chili oil. Piquant and refreshing.

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Sashimi grade fish and careful spicing makes SBP’s take on poke outstanding.

If you can score a table here do it, even if you have to get up at midnight, 60 days in advance to book, which is exactly what we do. If that doesn’t work out, take heart, they do take a limited number of walk-ins at 5:30 p.m., every night. For more on SBP, read my earlier post.

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A whole grain pancake topped with fiscalini cheddar and heirloom tomato is a two bite treat.

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State Bird’s extensive wine list has something for every palate. Try one of their wine flights.

The San Francisco Bay Area now has 49 Michelin star-rated restaurants from Los Gatos to the Napa Valley. What are you waiting for? Let’s go eat!  Find new favorites?  Please share them with us.

 

California, Dining, Restaurants, San Francisco

San Francisco’s Stellar State Bird Provisions

September 20, 2015

There is a framed print in one of the bathrooms at State Bird Provisions that asks, “Where’s the f&#@ing party?”   Well folks, it’s right here! Dinner at State Bird http://www.statebirdsf.com is exuberant and exciting. It’s a lot like being at a super fun, fairly exclusive dinner party where you might not know many of the other guests but you’ll have a great time anyway.

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Everyone seems so happy at State Bird– it’s like going to a great dinner party.

There’s been nothing but buzz around this place since it opened on New Year’s Eve in 2011 and it’s still one of the toughest tables to get in San Francisco. The restaurant does take walk -ins and keeps a nightly wait list at the hostess stand, but if you are committed to eating here, you need to have a reservation. Online reservations open at midnight PST, 60 days in advance, and fill up promptly. Getting a booking is kind of like winning the lottery — your chances don’t improve even if you’ve dined there before. Is it worth it? Yes!

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Some seats at the chef’s counter are reserved for walk-in guests. These were filled moments after the photo was taken.

State Bird’s cuisine is deliciously creative and the concept is American dim sum. Each evening enthusiastic servers with carts and trays make their way through the casual dining room with a rotating selection of a dozen or more tantalizing treats. These “provisions” are innovative small dishes meant for sharing, like everything available at State Bird. This is a great place to come with friends—more people mean more dishes to try. Leave anyone who isn’t good at sharing at home.

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The restaurant has a casual, buzzy vibe, two James Beard Foundation Awards and a Michelin star.

Word of advice—pace yourself! It all looks so good that you’ll be tempted to take one of everything right away. Before you know it you’ll have seven different dishes on your table and are just too full for that extraordinary one you didn’t even know you wanted– until it passed by. Sad face.

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Nectarines with whipped crescenza & pink peppercorns captured the best flavors of late summer.

Our recommendation—take a look at what’s available, choose a dish or two at a time, savor and repeat until you can’t eat another bite. In our case, two of us had eight of the passed dishes, the small portion of the state bird (more on that later) and half portions of dessert. Service is very attentive and no one is offended if you say no or ask to have a dish brought around again later—they do that as a matter of course.

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Servers are helpful and happy to explain preparations. Here’s Ben with a cart of tasty dishes.

There are a few items that appear regularly, like the sensational smoked trout-avocado chip and dip—a layered mousse-like trout and creamy avocado served with crispy house made chips, and the savory guinea hen dumpling with aromatic broth. We’d enjoyed both on a previous visit but ordered them again because they were just so good.

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Smoked trout- avocado ‘chip & dip’– so good we ordered it twice.

Because the focus is on seasonal and local fare, dishes change regularly. On our recent visit the “provisions” included hog island oyster with kohlrabi kraut and sesame; guanciale chawanmushi; duck liver mousse with almond biscuit; summer squash with roasted nardello and smoked almonds; shishitos with cumin- goat cheese fondue; sweet corn polenta ‘elote’; pork belly pluot salad; heirloom tomato bay shrimp ‘louie’ ; chanterelle, ham and fregola summer salad; charred octopus with kampot peppercorn and tomato sauce; air dried beef with red chili vinaigrette; and wild king salmon tartare with cucumbers and kosho aioli.

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Duck liver mousse with almond biscuits was decadent and delicious.

Knowledgeable wait staff happily answer questions and explain preparations. Prices are clearly marked on each dish and range from $3 to $14 (for the large portion of pork belly pluot salad). Most are $5 and $6. Servers mark your menu each time you choose something, just like in a typical dim sum restaurant.

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This air dried beef with chilis was even tastier than it looked. The crispy rice was a wonderful addition.

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The shishito peppers with cumin-goat cheese fondue was a great combination of flavors and textures.

There is a small printed menu that features the actual state bird, which happens to be California valley quail, served in two portion sizes($9/$18) and accompanied by seasonal “provisions.” It is delicious—crispy and succulent and you really should order it.

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The “must have” state bird for whom the restaurant is named.

Other “commandables,” as the plates on the printed menu are called, included red trout with toasted hazelnut-mandarin-garum vinaigrette; fresh Hawaiian heart of palm salad, with tahini chili oil; ‘kung pao’ beef tongue and sweetbreads with bacon, nuts and seeds; and Don Watson’s lamb with squid, shishito peppers and dates. These range from $14 to $22 and are good- sized servings.

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Sweet summer corn polenta ‘elote’ takes simple polenta to a level of luxury.

The printed menu also lists a variety of interesting sounding toasts and pancakes. There is heirloom tomato Cabot cheddar whole-grain pancake, pickled local anchovy-tomato toast and smoked chicken walnut ‘Waldorf’ toast, among others, at prices ranging from $3 to $5 each. We have not sampled the toasts—very of the moment– or the pancakes, but perhaps next time.

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Wait staff mark your orders just like in a typical dim sum restaurant.

We saved room for dessert on our recent visit and we’re happy we did. We shared half orders of a wonderfully refreshing suncrest peach granite with tapioca, smoky tea gelee, Asian pear and mint; a surprising chevre ‘ice cream’ sandwich with sesame macaron and roasted strawberries; and a dense, moist apple pudding cake with cocoa nib cream and blackberries. We also sampled a shot of the ‘world peace’ peanut muscavado milk ($2). Desserts are $9 each and while the menu doesn’t indicate this, they are happy to give you half servings at half the price, on request.

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Choosing half orders of dessert allowed us to satiate our sweet tooth.

The wine list has interesting offerings from U.S. producers in California, Oregon, New York and even Utah. The Utah selection was a 2014 Arneis/Dolcetto/Barbera blend from Fox Hill Vineyard that was served cold—we just had to try it.   Austria, Germany, France, Portugal, Spain, Italy (including Sicily), and Crete are all represented on the list. Diners can choose from a large number of by the glass options or the bottle. Though it isn’t printed, half glasses are also available. This latter option makes for a really fun evening of wine pairing with all of those delicious small dishes.

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By selecting half glasses of wine, we could sample widely and not overindulge.

We sampled a great selection of half glasses to compliment our meal. We began with a palate pleasing sparkling Reisling Sekt from the Mosel region of Germany and a Portugese Naga/Bical “metodo tradicional rose” that was super dry and nearly red. After consulting with wait staff we worked our way through the list with a food-friendly 2013 Gruner Veltliner from Wagram, Austria; a crisp California Riesling from J. Brix in Santa Barbara; flinty 2012 Falanghina from Mustilli in Campania, Italy; a well-balanced 2014 Marsanne from the Rhone Valley’s Yves Cuilleron; a surprisingly bone- dry 2014 White Zinfandel from Napa Valley’s Turley (I know, but it was from Turley–we couldn’t pass it up); an earthy 2011 Liatiko from Crete; and a big, juicy 2009 Zweigelt from Austria’s Johnanneshof Reinish. Our last half glass was a lovely, floral Gamay from Jean-Paul Brun– the perfect ending to a delightful evening.

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These hard working gentlemen were among those responsible for a stellar meal and a marvelous evening.

We’re looking forward to our next meal at State Bird and will also try to get a place at the table at The Progress— husband and wife chefs Stuart Brioza and Nicole Krasinski ’s new restaurant next door. Diners “choose their own family-style adventure” by selecting six dishes (from a list of 17 plus three desserts on a recent menu) for $65.   We’d love to hear from anyone who has already been to The Progress, and as always, we welcome comments and recommendations.

 

California, Napa Valley, Outdoor Art, Wineries

Napa Valley Winery Visits: B Cellars

September 16, 2015

Gone are the days when it was possible to drive up and down Route 29 or the Silverado Trail and pop in to wineries for complimentary tastings. Though there are plenty of wineries that are open to all during posted hours, many are open for tours and tastings by appointment only. It is also rare to find a winery that offers complimentary tastings, though we did visit one in Sonoma on this trip—more on that in an upcoming post. Buses, and even limos, are discouraged at most wineries these days, too. We think these are all positive changes and if you’ve ever seen large, loud groups who’ve clearly been doing more drinking than “tasting” you’ll probably agree.

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B Cellar’s owners preserved many of the older oak trees on the property when they built the new winery facility.

The Napa Valley has more than 400 wineries with tasting rooms so to make the most of your trip, it’s important to do some homework. Get a map of the Napa Valley and find where your favorite wineries’ tasting rooms are (sometimes tasting rooms are not where the wine is actually made) —you won’t want to waste time driving up and down the Valley backtracking, so plan your itinerary with location in mind. Our rule of thumb is no more than three winery visits a day and only two if the tours are very extensive. Do some research and contact your favorite wineries to see what they offer and reserve accordingly. Many offer a range of “experiences.” You’ll frequently get to taste special bottles and vintages when you book a visit and you’ll certainly have the chance to learn more about that particular winery and their wine maker. You’ll avoid the crowded tasting room experience too!

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B Cellars open demonstration kitchen.

On our most recent visit to Napa Valley we began with a trip to B Cellars www.bcellars.com in Oakville. We had visited them once before in May 2014, when the winery was being built. Our tasting took place in a construction trailer on that visit. The wines were spectacular then too, but the setting left something to be desired. What a difference a year makes! The beautiful new facility is situated on gorgeous, expansive grounds and includes the Hospitality House with several tasting areas inside and out, a demonstration kitchen, a culinary garden, chicken coop, wine production facilities, wine cave and event space.

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The grounds are populated by Seward Johnson’s lifelike sculptures of people involved in daily tasks like shopping, gardening and just relaxing.

The winery, which was founded in 2003 by Duffy Keys and Jim Borsack, with the highly respected Kirk Venge as winemaker, offers several tasting experiences. The wine tasting options range in price from $35 to $125, depending upon the wines to be tasted and food offerings. Most take about 90 minutes. Since we would be coming right after lunch, we chose the Sojourn, which included B Cellars Flagship wines and several delicious local cheeses.

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Our Sojourn tasting included three local cheeses that complimented the wines perfectly.

We were greeted with a 2013 Juliana Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc, which we enjoyed on the expansive terrace. We moved over to an umbrella- shaded table and began our tasting in earnest with a 2012 Dutton Ranch Chardonnay.

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The Hospitality House has tasting area inside and out.

Red wines we tasted included the 2013 Manzana Vineyard Pinot Noir, a 2009 Blend 24, and 2012 Ehrlich Cabernet Sauvignon. Our delightful and knowledgeable wine host Alex also poured us several wines not typically included on the Sojourn tasting including a 2012 Blend 26.

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Our knowledgeable wine host Alex.

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The wine cellar has plenty of private event space.

After our tasting we elected to tour the grounds and wine cave with Alex—a lovely and memorable afternoon at B Cellars and a great place to begin our Napa Valley wine adventure.

 

 

 

 

Art, California, Museums, Napa Valley, Outdoor Art, Restaurants, Wineries

Carneros: Art, Bubbles and Fine Dining

September 14, 2015
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This lovely path leads to the di Rosa Collection– one of the most extensive contemporary art collections in Northern California.

If you’re ready for a break from wine tasting and need to get off the well-trodden and always busy wine road that is Route 29, head over to the tranquil Carneros District and stop in at the di Rosa Collection www.dirosaart.org. This lovely property has been open to the public since 2000, when it was incorporated as a nonprofit public trust.

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The Gatehouse Gallery features rotating exhibitions of contemporary art.

Rene and Veronica di Rosa’s extensive contemporary art collection includes some 2,000 works by 800 artists including Richard Shaw, Bruce Nauman, Larry Sultan, John Buck, Allan Rath, Paul Kos, Viola Frey and many others and is considered to be one of the most important collections in Northern California.

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Book a tour to see the entire collection both inside the buildings and around the gorgeous grounds.

The works are displayed in three buildings and throughout the property. The modern Gatehouse Gallery is home to rotating exhibitions of modern paintings, sculpture, multi-media and interactive pieces.

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A recent exhibition in the Gatehouse Gallery.

 

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An interactive piece lets visitors…

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…blow giant smoke rings!

 

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Tongue-In-Cheek, a recent exhibition at Gatehouse.

Gallery admission allows access only to the current exhibition on view in the Gatehouse and is a self-guided proposition. To experience the entire collection, set aside 1-1/2 to two hours for the superb guided tour of the outbuildings, including the chapel, and the exquisite grounds. It is best to book the guided tour in advance to avoid disappointment.

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Take a tour and experience the art outdoors.

You’ll likely see peacocks racing through the tall grass around many of the sculptures including one of my favorites, “Field Hands.” You really need to experience this for yourself.  The catalog of the permanent collection, Local Color, makes a great souvenir or a gift for an art-loving friend. Be sure to check the website for hours of operation and the tour schedule.

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Outside art.

 

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Domaine Carneros is right across the road from di Rosa.

After your tour of the di Rosa Collection, go across the street to the elegant Domaine Carneros—it’s home to Tattinger’s California sparkling wines http://www.domainecarneros.com. Reservations are not required but there is a fee to taste.

Domaine Carneros-- Taittinger's California Sparkling Wine.

Domaine Carneros– Taittinger’s California Sparkling Wine.

Tours are also available by reservation via website or phone. There are numerous options for tasting from flights to single glasses. Take your glass out onto the beautiful terrace and enjoy the spectacular view across the vineyards of the Carneros District.

 

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Enjoy a drink in this pleasant lounge area at Farm.

One of my favorite dining destinations is in the Carneros, just a short distance away—Farm at the Carneros Inn http://www.thecarnerosinn. We have celebrated many memorable meals here and the last, which happened to be an anniversary, was no exception. Start with your libation of choice and relax outside on the comfy couches that surround the open fire. Depending on the hour, you’re likely to see children running happily around the lawn—much better here than in the dining room!

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The dining room is casual but elegant.

The menu at Farm changes often to reflect the restaurant’s commitment to local, seasonal and sustainable produce, fish and meat. The cuisine is contemporary Californian and the wine list draws almost entirely from California producers.

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The wine list focuses on Californian bottlings. Our somm gave us terrific recommendations like this Philip Staley 2012 Viognier.

Service is impeccable and the room is spare yet elegant. The restaurant is open daily for dinner only and reservations are a must.

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A complimentary amuse bouche began our dining adventure.

 

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Even a chicken breast is elevated to new culinary heights at Farm.

 

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The halibut was sublime.

 

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A chocolate lover’s dream dessert.

 

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A lovely finish to a beautiful meal.

The hotel also has a casual option called Boon Fly, which is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Reservations are only available at dinner. This is great place to stop if you want a quick and tasty lunch and are in the mood for a burger, salad or sandwich.

Mix it up a bit and add Carneros to your itinerary. You’ll be glad you did!

 

 

 

 

Art, California, Napa Valley, Uncategorized, Wineries

Art and Wine in Napa Valley—A Visit to Mumm Napa and Hall Wines

September 14, 2015

A surprising number of Napa wineries also have art galleries on their premises. The Hess Collection Winery www.hesscollection.com, Clos Pegase Winery and Tasting Room www.clospegase.com, and Hall www.hallwines.com –more on that winery later—are among our personal favorites.

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Mumm Napa is a great place to stop for a glass of sparkling wine and a visit to their photo gallery.

We frequently stop by Mumm Napa www.mummnapa.com to see what’s new in their gallery, which features fine art photography. This time, we grabbed a glass of their California sparkling—always choosing one that is not readily available outside the winery, like the Santana or a DVX Cuvee – and headed off to see the Graham Nash photos then on view.   The primarily black and white photos focused mostly on Nash’s days as part of the band Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young.

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Mumm Napa’s gallery features fine art photography and exhibitions changes frequently.

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A color photo by singer/songwriter Graham Nash on view at Mumm Napa’s photography gallery.

Mumm’s permanent collection includes a sizable collection of Ansel Adam’s black and white photos of Yosemite and other beautiful California locations.

Mumm’s photo exhibits change frequently and you may be lucky enough to visit while they’re hosting an artist’s reception.There is no charge for admission to the Mumm gallery nor are you required to purchase wine, but why wouldn’t you? After viewing the photos, relax on their expansive verandah with another glass and enjoy the pleasant views out over the vineyards.

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Hall Wines www.hallwines.com has a truly marvelous contemporary art collection and they make delicious wines, too, which were two reasons we chose to stop in. Located on Route 29 in St. Helena, visitors can’t help but notice the huge metal rabbit that appears to be leaping over the vineyards (shown above).   Lawrence Argent created the sculpture. He is also the artist responsible for the gigantic red rabbit titled, “Leap,” in the Sacramento, CA airport. Hall’s owners, Kathryn and Craig Hall, were quite taken by the airport piece and had a similar one commissioned for the winery.

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Baldessari’s camel greets visitors to Hall Wines in St. Helena.

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Please don’t ride the sheep!

Guests at Hall are greeted by a whimsical flock of sheep by Francois- Xavier Lalanne and a camel sculpture by John Baldessari, both positioned close to the main entrance. Other contemporary pieces on view include a an enormous piece constructed of “temperamental” index cards by Peter Wegner and a huge wall hanging fashioned from embroidered and bedazzled textiles (read repurposed sweaters) by Nick Cave. You’ll find fiber optic art, a crazy kaleidoscope by Alyson Shotz that looks out over the vineyards behind the modern tasting facility, and many more edgy pieces to capture your imagination by highly regarded artists like Russell Crotty, Joel Shapiro, Anya Gallaccio, Jaume Plensa, Jesus Moroles, Ivan Navarro, Spencer Finch and others.

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Wenger’s “temperamental” index cards are prominently displayed in the visitor’s center.

 

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This piece by Nick Cave was fashioned from repurposed textiles like embellished sweaters.

Outside, you’ll find more art including a number of structures by Patrick Dougherty reminiscent of the “Big Bamboo” installation that until recently was on display, and open for climbing, at Rome’s Macro Museum in the Testaccio. There are plenty of benches to rest on to contemplate life and watch the grapes grow. There is also a barn on the property available for private functions.

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It’s fun to explore these “structures” on the grounds at Hall Wines.

 

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Hall hosts private events in this barn.

After touring the collection outside, head back in to the LEED® Gold certified building for what the Halls tout as #crazygoodcabernet—and it is. The attentive and very knowledgeable wine hosts will tell you everything you want and need to know about the provenance of the grapes, the processes used and the excellent wines you will taste here. There is a fee for tasting and several options are offered but reservations are not required.

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Step inside the beautiful tasting room for some #crazygoodcabernet.

 

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There are several tasting options available at different price points.

Hall also has a well-stocked gift shop with just about anything the wine aficionado could want, including a suitcase designed to carry those precious bottles back home on the plane.

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The gift shop has something for every wine fan.

Just remember that when you’re considering shopping for wine onsite, you’re best served by buying wines that can only be purchased at the winery. Wineries cannot compete with their own distributors by discounting prices so if you can find a wine you liked in the tasting room back at your favorite local wine merchant, you are better off to wait until you get home to buy—this applies to all wineries in California.

California, Hotels, Napa Valley, Restaurants, Wineries

Downtown Napa Dining: Atlas Social + Torc + 1313 Main + Oenotri + Cadet

August 14, 2015

There are few vacations I find more relaxing than a trip to the Napa Valley. There are always new restaurants to try, old favorites to revisit, and of course wonderful wines to enjoy. The Napa Valley also offers plenty of shopping, spa experiences and interesting art.  But first, let’s eat.

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Atlas Social is a fun, new downtown venue.

Downtown Napa has come a long way in recent years and offers a wide range of delicious dining destinations that will fit most tastes and budgets. We started our culinary adventures with dinner at Atlas Social www.atlassocialnapa.com, which is operated by the same people who own Azzurro Pizzeria and Enoteca and the Norman Rose Tavern, both in downtown Napa.

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Inside Atlas Social.

Atlas Social, which opened in January 2015, has a casual vibe and a big, open dining room and bar area. The menu will appeal to locavores and fans of the farm to fork concept. The dishes, which range from snacks like their addictive Herb Leaf Fries with Meyer Lemon aioli ($6) to platters for a group, like the Garlic and Chili Roasted Whole Fish ($35), Spice Highway Chicken ($19/$35) and Grilled Hanger Steak ($36), are meant for sharing. They have an interesting and well-priced wine list that is all Californian except for a sparkling offering from France. Craft brew lovers won’t go thirsty either.  There are beers on tap from California and Oregon, large format beer offerings from the West Coast, and ciders and a few other imported beers in cans.

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Crunchy, crispy herb leaf fries with an addictive Meyer Lemon aioli.

We happily worked our way through the seasonally appropriate menu, sampling from all the categories—Farm, Sea, and Ranch plus those amazing fries. We ate the delicious shaved snap pea salad ($8), “angry” shrimp (I didn’t find them all that spicy) with basil, chilies and orange ($14), Masala chicken skewers ($10) and finished with the duck confit ($13), which was a very generous portion.

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The shaved snap pea, marcona almond, sieved egg + citrus vinaigrette salad was my favorite dish. Spectacular!

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Masala spiced chicken skewers with eggplant-pepper Muhammara + pine nut syrup were nicely seasoned.

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Duck confit with frisee, baby spinach, cherries and a pancetta vinaigrette was a hearty and very satisfying dish.

Aside from ordering more food than we should have, we were completely happy with our meal and would definitely return. Check their website www.atlassocialnapa.com for specials, winemaker diners, and other events and pop by for their “Social Experiment” AKA Happy Hour which runs daily from 3 to 6 p.m.

IMG_8320Our next delicious downtown dinner was at TORC www.torcnapa.com . We’ve dined here before and were looking forward to returning.

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TORC always seems to draw a crowd.

We’re glad we did. We got a great window table and started our evening with deviled eggs with pickled onions and bacon ($5). We’ve noticed deviled eggs popping up on many Northern Californian menus and we’re happy to sample them.

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Deviled eggs seem to be the dish du jour, appearing on many menus lately. These were really tasty.

TORC’s menu focuses primarily on locally raised, sustainable food and the menu changes frequently to ensure that diners are enjoying what’s fresh and available. After the deviled eggs, we shared a Jamon Iberico, romaine, and stone fruit salad ($15)—light and refreshing and the ham brought us back to Spain for at least a short time.

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Crisp romaine, succulent Jambon Iberico and stone fruits made a great sharable salad.

We had a gorgeous salmon with fresh peas, radishes and favas and the Alaskan halibut with morels, peas and shaved crispy artichoke ($29). Both dishes were sublime.

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This salmon dish captured all the flavors of early summer.

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Perfectly prepared halibut with morels and sugar peas.

A 2013 Keplinger Rose (Grenache, Mourvedre, Syrah) was a fine accompaniment for the meal.

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This Keplinger rose was just the right match for the meal.

We had excellent service and a delightful evening and left looking forward to another marvelous meal at TORC www.torcnapa.com.

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1313 Main www.1313main.com was new for us and definitely deserves a return visit. What began as a wine bar is now a fantastic full- fledged restaurant.  Even though there were plenty of people enjoying their meals on the Saturday night that we dined, the room was quiet enough for conversation and quite comfortable for a leisurely meal.

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1313 Main should be on your list of downtown Napa dinner spots.

After a complimentary amuse bouche, we began our meal in earnest with a flatbread “carta musica” topped with chevre, lettuces, radishes, raspberries and nasturtiums ($11).

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This flatbread was so beautifully presented, it looked almost too good to eat.

Champagne by Henri Goutorbe recommended by somm Bryan, made a festive and well-matched accompaniment.

Sommelier Bryan helped navigate the extensive wine list at 1313 Main.

Sommelier Bryan helped navigate the extensive wine list at 1313 Main.

Next up was a green garlic risotto with green peas, escargot and topped with crunchy garlic breadcrumbs ($17). I rarely order risotto out since I prepare it at home often, but this was delicious.

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The risotto was a perfectly delicious.

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Bacon-wrapped rabbit loin on a bed of polenta and salsa verde was an excellent choice.

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The sturgeon was wrapped in “brick dough” and served with beautiful seasonal vegetables.

We chose a Knez Winery’s K—and Anderson Valley Pinot Noir to accompany our main courses, Sonoma Rabbit ($28) and Sturgeon in Brick Dough ($25). The Day Boat Scallops ($28) and Lamb Saddle ($29) we tempting, too, but will have to wait for the next time.

For once, we saved room for dessert—pound cake churros served with a Valrhona drinking chocolate ($8). A perfect finale to a terrific meal.

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Save room for dessert!

1313 Main also offers a seven course Chef’s tasting Menu from amuse bouche to mignardises for $70 per person with an additional $55 for wine pairings.

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Complimentary mignardise.

The wine list is very well thought out and will fit most tastes and budgets. Offerings are broad, global and interesting with bottles ranging from a 2010 Santa Rita Hills Pinot Noir from Fiddlehead Cellars for $39 to a 2008 Opus One Red Blend from Napa Valley for $1020. Both small and large format bottles are offered including a number of wines available in Jerobaoms and Methuselahs. 1313 Main also has a wonderful champagne list which includes the well-known labels, or grandes marques,  as well as bubbles from grower producers and negociants. There are of course a full complement of  sweet and fortified wines to end the meal.  The people at two adjacent tables seemed to enjoy their dessert wine– two glasses of  1890 De Oliveiras Verdelho Reserva Madeira ($150 per glass) very much– a sweet end to a memorable meal.

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Oenotri has a busy, open kitchen and a bustling dining room.

Oenotri www.oenotri.com is a downtown Southern Italian restaurant that we return to again and again.  It’s a fun, casual restaurant with delicious, well-priced fare, a lively bar and great service.  Salads are inventive and large enough to share.  We had a stone fruit salad with pancetta and nuts that was a great beginning to our meal ($13).  Other antipasti on offer include pork belly, salmon crudo and seasonal vegetables.

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A stone fruit salad was a great choice on a warm night.

Pastas range from a standard like bucatini with Alfredo sauce to an unexpected canneloni stuffed with pigeon. The pasta dishes are also suitable for sharing and prices range from $17 to $18. We didn’t have pasta this time but have enjoyed them as part of past meals here.

The pizzas are thin crusted and tasty and range in price from $15.50 to $18.00.  If Oenotri’s seasonal toppings aren’t enough, diners can add traditional items like anchovy, Calabrian Chili or pancetta for a few additional dollars. We shared the nicely spicy “Diavola” pizza with gypsy peppers, lamb sausage and fior di latte with heirloom tomatoes.  We added arugula to ours– vegetables are so important!

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This was a terrific pie– crispy, thin crust and tasty toppings.

There is also a selection of “secondi”– main plates, usually including a fish, a meat and a poultry dish, that change frequently.  We chose the swordfish prepared in the typical Sicilian agrodolce style which was served with grilled squashes and fennel.  We had a crisp 2013 Tami Grillo from Sicily which was perfect with the meal. Main courses are in the $28 to $32 range.

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Sicilian-style swordfish took me back there, for a little while.

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A nice Sicilian wine was a great match for the food.

We were too full for dessert after another delightful dinner at Oenotri! Check their website for events and news www.oenotri.com.

A bonus to our meal was learning from our server about Cadet www.cadetbeerandwinebar.com, a fun little bar just around the alley.   Naturally, we had to pop by and check it out.  We were there on a surprisingly crowded Monday night. Turns out it is a popular spot among those who work in the hospitality business.  Plenty of restaurants are closed on Monday night and Cadet is where those folks go to take a break.

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Cadet has a lively bar scene with libations and a casual menu.

 

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Monday is “School Night” at Cadet.

Other restaurants in downtown Napa that we’ve enjoyed and recommend checking out include: Celedon www.celedonnapa.com, Zuzu www.zuzunapa.com, Angele Restaurant + Bar www.angelerestaurant.com, and Kitchen Door www. kitchendoornapa.com at Oxbow Market.  If you have any favorites we haven’t talked about, please let us know and we’ll be sure to add them to the list for our next visit.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

California, Museums, Palm Desert, Palm Springs

Art Oasis- Faye Sarkowsky Sculpture Garden

February 11, 2015

Art and nature lovers share a common destination– the Faye Sarkowsky Sculpture Garden in Palm Desert.  The stunning sculpture garden is located within the Eric Johnson Memorial Gardens and is part of the Palm Springs Art Museum in Palm Desert. Contemporary sculptures are installed among the four beautifully landscaped acres that surround The Galen, the museum’s LEED-certified building.

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Felipe Casteneda’s Seated Thinking Woman

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Walks Among Stars by Dave McGary

This welcoming garden, which is open to visitors all year long, includes soothing water features, winding walkways, beautiful native plants and plenty of quiet nooks for contemplation. As you stroll along the pathways it’s easy to forget that this lovely oasis of art and nature is located off a busy street between sprawling shopping malls.

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Blue glass in the pavement paths through the garden replicate a winding river. The pavilion is used for concerts and events.

The contemporary sculptures on display include works by international artists such as Felipe Casteneda, Gio Pomodoro, Betty Gold, Dan Namingha, Donald Judd, Yehiel Shemi and Dave McGary. Downloadable self-guided tour information is available on the museum’s website. Admission to the garden is free.

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Barry Flanagan’s Acrobats

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Peter Reginato’s Midnight and Morning Rain…Waiting for Miro

The Faye Sarkowsky Sculpture Garden is also used for concerts and events. For complete and updated event information contact the Palm Springs Art Museum.

 

 

California, Museums, Palm Desert, Palm Springs

Go to The Galen-The Palm Springs Art Museum in Palm Desert

February 10, 2015

Go ahead. Put down your golf clubs, get up from that poolside chaise and go to The Galen. Open since 2012, The Palm Springs Art Museum in Palm Desert is housed in an 8,400 sq. ft., LEED- certified building called The Galen and features photography, sculpture, painting and new media exhibitions, at no charge.

Bob Hope, Frank Sinatra and Gerald Ford may have streets named after them in this affluent desert community, but it’s Lucille Ball who’ll welcome you to the marvelous Personalities: Fantasy and Identity in Photography and New Media exhibition now on display through May 3, 2015 at The Galen.

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Morning by Yehiel Shemi is part of the museum’s Faye Sarkowsky Sculpture Garden.

 

A gorgeous, nearly life- sized photograph of America’s favorite red head, “Lucille Ball, Lover Come Back” by Ray Jones, leads the way into a fascinating exploration of the photographic portrait from early daguerreotypes, circa 1851 and 1860, to a 2013 video portrait by Brian Bress created during the artist’s residency at the MACRO in Rome.  Bress’s work, titled “The White and the Yellow Hunter,” is revealed, and then just as quickly, hidden, from the viewer.

Unfortunately, no photography was permitted in the galleries so I will have to tell, instead of show, what I saw.

In addition to Lucille Ball, notables whose images grace the galleries include: Marilyn Monroe, Marlene Dietrich, Bette Davis, Steve McQueen, Francis Bacon and Salvador Dali. Works by Diane Arbus, Richard Avedon, Harry Callahan, Weegee (Arthur Fellig), Robert Mapplethorpe and other photographers, some better known than others, are included in the exhibition.

LWS-105-2, LWS 95-4 and LWS 237-7 are part of a series of photos taken over a 30-year time period by Milton Rogovin, a retired optometrist. Dr. Rogovin began photographing people and places, some year after year, in Buffalo’s down and out Lower West Side, when he was 62 years old. He completed the project when he was 92.

Among the images I found most striking was one of a hyena handler (that there were such people was a bit of a revelation) called, “Abudullah Mohammed with Mainasara.” The photo was taken in Ogre Remo, Nigeria by Pieter Hugo and is part of his series The Hyena and Other Men. Ike Ude’s “Sartorial Anarchy #5,” Andrew Bush’s “Deerheadman,” and Jono Rotman’s image of the tattooed countenance, “Denimz Rogue,” from his Mongrel Mob series, were other standouts.

Several videos are also on display, including one by Marina Abramovic titled “The Kitchen V- Carrying the Milk.” It’s a 12 minute and 43 second video of the performance artist holding a bowl of said beverage. Tony Oursler’s doll in a suitcase featuring a video- recorded face, with sound, called “Passage,” also drew quite a bit of attention.

The exhibition also provides the opportunity to walk on water, or at least walk on five underwater images of the artist, Wang Wei, in “1/30th of a Second.” I enjoyed watching a school group gingerly step on the images, one by one, as the docent explained what they were seeing.

After you’ve enjoyed The Galen, step outside. The stunning four-acre Faye Sarkowsky Scupture Garden, also at no admittance charge, surrounds the museum. More on that later—with photos!