Friday, February 29, 2008


Thursday was a warm springlike day and the perfect day to head for Napa with my food-demo friend, Bev for a day at Copia, the American Center for Wine, Food and the Arts.
I always start my Copia visits with an early morning start at Sweetie Pies Bakery, which is a short drive to Copia.

My most favorite of Sweetie Pie's pastries is their Morning Bun, a sinful pastry made of puff pastry dough which is wound around a mix of cinnamon and yummy!
Their scones are very good too and Bev throughly enjoyed her pain chocolat, a croissant filled with chocolate.

After our pastries and tea in Sweetie Pie's cozy dining area, we headed to Copia.
Since my last visit, Copia has made some admission is FREE! But, one must pay for wine classes and food demos...somewhere between $20 and $25 per class; Copia members save $5 on each class. Also, Copia has decided to emphasize wine and has removed much of its food-related art...their "Forks in the Road" permanent exhibit remains and the current temporary exhibit is of wine photos from all 50 United States, but the art and sculpture that I also so enjoyed here, is all gone. We started our visit with the 10:15 docent-led orientation. I always take this free orientation tour as there is always something new to learn about Copia which was founded by chef Julia Child and winery owner Robert Mondavi.
While I've remained a fan of Copia since it opened, I've noticed that few people seem to visit. Most of my wine and foodie friends have not been here. I think the free admission will encourage visitors but fear the cost of classes may not bring in much revenue.
That said, Bev and I had a lovely day here...we took the Wine and Food Pairing Class during which we tasted two wines with sweet, sour, salty, and savory foods to see how food influences the taste of wine. The class lasted about 45 minutes and was excellent. We took time to walk through Copia's vast edible gardens and browsed in the gift shop and onsight restaurants.

Dining choices at Copia are the elegant, full service Julia's Kitchen restaurant and a more casual cafe. Outside Julia's Kitchen is the peg board from Julia Child's home, all filled up with her pots and pans.

Rather than have lunch at Copia, we decided to check out the newly-opened Oxbow Market next door to the Copia parking lot. This new market is something like San Francisco's Ferry Plaza Marketplace, but much smaller. It is a mix of casual restaurants, and shops of all kinds. We enjoyed the Venezualan food at Pica Pica...A warm ham and cheese on sweet cornbread for Bev and a Bululu Salad for me...a mix of corn, red bell pepper, jicama & pineapple, topped with a sweet vinaigrette..a perfect light lunch after our wine tasting class.

Open less than a week, Oxbow Market is still under construction, with many more businesses scheduled to open soon.
There is seating indoors and outside in the back. overlooking the Napa River...I know this will be a popular destination...and, being next door to Copia, I suggest visiting both if you come up this way.

Monday, February 25, 2008


I was visiting a friend who lives in the Diamond Heights/Glen Park neighborhood of San Francisco. She's just had surgery and wanted a bit of fresh air. Little did I know that she was going to lead me on a moderately vigorous hike in a part of San Francisco that I have never explored.

Today was a sunny almost-spring day in San Francisco and being outdoors was a treat after our rainy weekend.

Glen Canyon has dirt paths and some areas with was a bit muddy after the rains...beautiful vistas and a great's just one of San Francisco's many hidden treasures.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Dinner at Le Cheval before Nixon's Nixon

Last night we met two friends for dinner at Le Cheval in Walnut Creek before going to see Nixon's Nixon at the Dean Lesher Regional Center for Arts (DLRC). 
I've long been a fan of Le Cheval in downtown Oakland. When this popular Vietnamese restaurant opened a branch in Walnut Creek, I was both ecstastic and apprehensive. When restaurants expand into areas where the population is a bit different from their original locations, they do not always catch on.
The Walnut Creek Le Cheval was an instant success. My first visit was during the first week they opened last summer...the place was packed. And, it has continued to thrive. Last night, we started with the Watercress Salad with Grilled Prawns. Our other dishes were the Claypot Rice, Vietnamese Fried Rice cooked in a clay pot with chicken, prawns, beef and vegetables.
We also had Lemongrass Chicken, Green Beans, and a Crispy Bird's Nest, filled with seafood, chicken and vegetables.
With our meal, we drank a bottle of Ventana Riesling...a tart, dry Riesling that is delicious with the complex flavors of the food.  The cost of this satisfying meal for four? $85 before tip!!!
The Walnut Creek Le Cheval has a more elegant dining room than that in Oakland...I like them both. What is most important to me, regardless of which one I dine in is that the food is fresh, well-prepared and moderately priced.
Oh, and about the show afterwards...Nixon's Nixon is a hypothetical conversation between Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger on the eve of Nixon's resignation as president of the United States. The two main characters are on stage for 90 minutes of fascinating brought back a lot of memories.  It continues to play at the DLRC until March 1...if you can't make it to Walnut Creek, look for it in your own location theatres. 

Thursday, February 21, 2008


Well, I am starting to get the hang of blogging and carrying my camera with me everywhere I go. 

Today, I had business in Berkeley. After my meeting, I headed over to Berkeley Bowl, an amazing produce, meat, fish, poultry, grocery market.

While I now buy most of my produce at my local Farmer's Market, whenever my travels take me to Berkeley, I stop here for what has to be one of the largest arrays for fresh fruits and vegetables anywhere...and at some of the best prices around.

This is the place to go if you need fresh plums in the middle of winter.  I was after juice oranges today and could choose from those from Texas or those from California. When it came to apples, there were dozens of varieties, both organic and traditional.

I tend to get carried away at Berkeley Bowl and today was no exception...I filled my cart with two kinds of apples, juice oranges from Texas, brussels sprouts, an avocado, blueberries, raspberries, yams, fingerling potatoes, and zucchinis..both green and yellow ones.  Passing by the prepared food section of the market, I picked up a rotisseried lemon herb chicken for dinner tonight. YUM!

Wednesday, February 20, 2008


Once a month, I get together with five friends to talk about all things Apple Computer...and much, much more.  This group is a club I founded many years ago as a small spin off of the Apple Macintosh User Group to which we were all members, Diablo Valley Macintosh User Group (DVMUG). We call ourselves the MacManiacs.

Some of us remain members of DVMUG. Some have left the world of Apple and become PC users, but, what remains constant, is our friendship.

Our monthly meetings are at lunch. Each month, a different member chooses the restaurant and treats for lunch. Today's meeting was at Chopin Cafe, a Polish restaurant in the Palos Verdes Shopping Center in Walnut Creek.

Chopin Cafe is a tiny restaurant that seats fewer than 30. It looks like a tea room or even the dining room at some friendly Polish grandma's house. 

Our selections included Polish Sausage, Pork Cutlet, and Hunter's Stew. The meals are hearty, even at lunch. The Sausage and Pork Cutlet were served with sauerkraut and fried potatos. The Stew had sauerkraut in it.  I'm told that the Stew is the National Dish of Poland; in addition to sauerkraut, it has cabbage, beef, pork, sausage, and mushrooms. Some of my other favorites include the can choose from cheese, mushrooms,or beef fillings; I like to order a combination of all three fillings. The Cucumber Salad with sour cream and dill or a cup of Beet Borscht are popular starters. Those in the know, ask for a cup of Pickle Soup to is not on the menu but is usually available.  Dessert choices are limited. Today's desserts were Blintzes or homemade Rum Cake.

Entrees are priced at about $8 at lunch and about $15 at dinner.

Chopin Cafe is open Tuesday through Sunday for breakfast and lunch; Wednesday through Sunday for dinner. Breakfast is the only meal where no Polish dishes are offered. 

Sunday, February 17, 2008


I've gone to South Florida just about every year for more than 30 years. In all my visits, I've never been to the Everglades, the east end of which is very near where I visit.
I spent last week in Coral Springs, which is a short distance north of Fort Lauderdale. A brochure in my hotel lobby inspired me to take an Airboat trip into the Everglades.
At the Everglades Recreation Park in Weston, Florida, about a 40 minute drive south and west of Coral Springs, I boarded an airboat for a 30-40 minute ride into the Everglades.
Believe me, there is not much in the Everglades other than water, tall sawgrass, birds, and ALLIGATORS. There were about 10 of us on my boat ride. I got to sit in the front row. Our driver sized us up and, I think, decided that our group was "tough" enough for a somewhat wild ride through the grass. Airboats can navigate through this sharp tall grass, thus their popularity in Florida's waters.
It was pretty exciting riding head first through the grass. Sometimes the grass was so tall, it hit me in the face or on my arm...we were warned to hang onto hats and anything else that might fall off as we sped through the water. I kept one hand on my sunglasses all the time. 
Our guide told us there are alligators in the waters but there was not promise that we would see any.  We were in luck!!! We came to a clear area and there was a 10' alligator, eager to check out our boat. This amazing creature is guessed to be about 35 years old. He/She circled our boat several times, looking for an arm or leg hanging over the edge. Fortunately, all of us kept our extremities and everything else well inside the boat. After awhile, we sped merrily off through more grass and back to the dock.
The Everglades Recreation Park also has exhibits of reptiles and farm animals. It has a pleasant picnic area. I suggest bringing your own picnic food rather than buying any of the packaged food they sell in their shop. The cost for the Airboat ride and to visit the exhibits is about $20. 

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Panera Bread...a great place for a meeting or after a movie!

The other morning I was early for a 10 a.m. appointment in Concord. Thinking about where to go for a cup of coffee, I remembered that the Willows shopping center in Concord had at least one coffee shop/cafe.  

Sure enough, right opposite the entrance to the center's Any Mountain store is a Panera Bread Bakery-Café.  I knew about Panera from my many trips to South Florida, mainly because they offer free wireless internet in their cafés. In the last few years, Panera has opened several locations in Northern California. I've noticed one in the new Nut Tree shops in Vacaville just off Highway 80. 

But, I've never been to a Panera until this week. Inside, there is lots of seating spread over a large interior space. Also there is seating outdoors at the Willows location. At 9:30 a.m. on a Tuesday morning, the place was bustling. Groups of business people were having breakfast meetings. Some customers were in there buying a sandwich or salad to take with them for lunch later in the day.

I ordered a cup of hot tea and a Tart Cherry Scone, sat down, and enjoyed my yummy sweet breakfast pastry and a lot of interesting people watching. Before I left, I bought a loaf of freshly-baked bread which we enjoyed at home for several days. Each day they feature a changing selection of soups, served with your choice of French or Whole Grain baguette, chips or an apple. In addition to salads, sandwiches, and soups, which are served througout the day, after 4 p.m., Panera offeres made-to-order Crispani, their version of individual pizzas.
The Panera in Concord is open daily until 9 p.m. Next time I want a light dinner after a movie in Concord or Pleasant Hill, I plan to stop here. The Concord Panera is at 1975 Diamond Blvd.; 925-825-1582. 

To find a Panera near you, check their web site at

Friday, February 15, 2008

H&M's Spring Collection is in!

I am lucky enough to have an H&M very close to my home. I stop in often and frequently come away with great finds.

Today I got a blue and white sleeveless top that is new for Spring...yes,the weather will be warming up soon, I am sure!

At any rate, it is very much like some Marc Jacobs tops I've been admiring but can't afford at $200+. But, at H&M the affordable version is a big boost to my Spring 2008 wardrobe.

Why a blog?

Welcome to the Where-To-Guide blog!

Why a blog? Well, we already have a web site at but quick updates just don't seem to happen.

We are using the blog to tell you about our travels, our dining experiences, and to give shopping tips.  

Our main focus is on the San Francisco California Bay Area. From time to time, we travel out of the area and, when we do, we will share our experiences with you.

Enjoy the Where-To-Guide blog!