Thursday, October 30, 2008


Traveling to Mendocino a few weeks ago to cook with friends (see our earlier post about this meal), we stopped on our way in Healdsburg and on the way home, first in the Anderson Valley in Philo and Booneville and, then, in the Napa Valley in St. Helena.

Mendocino Village is about 180 miles from our house and from San Francisco. Healdsburg is our halfway point. I love the downtown plaza and the shops that surround it.

Our first order of business was coffee at the Flying Goat.

Most tourists like to flock to the Downtown Creamery for their morning coffee and pastries. But, we prefer the Flying Goat which is more the hangout for the locals. Also, Flying Goat has lots of cozy seating indoors, whereas, Downtown Creamery just has a few outdoor benches.

Doesn't this Flying Goat Pumpkin Cinnamon Bun and my pot of tea, look tempting? If you love coffee, Flying Goat roasts their own and in addition to enjoying a hot cuppa here, you can take a bag of beans home with you.

After our pastries and drinks, we strolled around the Plaza. There is always a new shop to at least window shop in. And, it struck me as interesting that this small village supports two independent bookstores, Copperfield's and Levin & Company.

Of course, we peeked into the Downtown Creamery while we were here.

We arrived in Mendocino Village at about noon, just in time to meet A & J for lunch at Café Beaujolais.

It was not until we got to Highway 1, a few miles south of Mendocino, that we found ourselves in the fog. It was a bit surprising because October is usually a fog-free time on the Mendocino Coast. This fog was more what is typical summertime weather on the northern California coast.

Although no longer owned and operated by its founding chef, Margaret Fox, Café Beaujolais continues to be an excellent and charming choice for a meal.

Our lunch choices were Bacon, Wild Mushroom, and Gruyere Quiche for JD,

Beaujolais Eggs Benedict for me,

A Cheeseburger on a housemade bun for J,

and the Shang-Hi Chicken Salad for A

After lunch, we walked around the village, visiting some of our favorite art galleries and shops and simply enjoying the beauty of the town...the church steeple and the many watertowers are some of my favorite things in Mendocino.

J always makes a stop at Out of this World, a shop filled with Science toys, games, books and more. If you are in the market for a pair of high-quality binoculars, Out of This World is the place to find one.

Sallie Mac is a shop I always visit..sorry, I was so busy shopping here that I forgot to take a picture. Sallie's shop features gifts and treasures from France and Italy. Be sure to ask for their complimentary gift wrap on all the gifts you purchase.

Mendocino is a dog-friendly village where many shops and hotels/inns welcome dogs.

If you are looking for a Starbucks in Mendocino Village, forget it. No chain stores/businesses are allowed in town. When we wanted an afternoon break, we headed to the Mendocino Bakery for our coffee and cookies.

We also checked out some of our other favorite restaurants, which include the Mendocino Café and 955 Ukiah.

The next day, we left Mendocino midmorning. Our first stop was in Philo at the Philo Apple Farm. This is the height of the apple season and we found several apple varieties from which to choose.

We stashed our bags of apples in the car and drove a few more miles to Booneville, home of the Booneville Hotel and Restaurant. Our mission here was to check out the relatively new Farmhouse Mercantile, a general store packed with decorative and functional items for the home.

There is a family connection between the Apple Farm, the Booneville Hotel, and Farmhouse Mercantile. Sally and Don Schmidt and their daughter Karen Bates own and operate the Apple Farm. Karen gives weekend cooking classes at the Farm and the Farm has four guest cottages that provide accommodations to visitors to the Anderson Valley. The Schmidt's son John owns the Booneville Hotel and is the chef in its restaurant. And, Karen Bates is a partner in the Farmhouse Mercantile. If you forgot to buy some Apple Farm Chutney at the Farm, worry not, Farmhouse Mercantile is well stocked with jars of it. Other Schmidt/Bates family members are also involved in these and other businesses.

Our last stop was for lunch in St. Helena, in the heart of the Napa Valley.

We had Mexican food on our mind and had hoped to have lunch at Ana's Cantina, said to have the most authentic Mexican food in the Napa Valley. Unfortunately, the kitchen at Ana's was closed for renovation; just the bar was open. So we walked across the street to Armadillo's, an other Mexican place that we have noticed for years, but never tried.

This cheerful restaurant was packed with customers out for Sunday Lunch.

We joined them, ordering a Chimichunga and Fresh Grilled Fish Soft Tacos. The fresh fish was Opa...both meals were delicious.

I drove over 400 miles on this two-day jaunt. Ideally, we should have spent a day or two more in Mendocino to truly enjoy the area. But, it was fun to make these quick stops coming and going and we fully enjoyed our two-day getaway on one tank of gas.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008



Please, do not take this presidential election for granted. Every vote is going to count.

Many communities are offering early voting. Whatever your choice, you have less than a week to cast your vote.

Election Day is November 4!

Friday, October 24, 2008


Yesterday, M, H, and I had a girls' day out at the new California Academy of Sciences in Golden Gate Park.

The Academy opened a month ago, with much excitement. It is a Must-See, despite its $24.95 general admission (discounts for children, students, seniors, and other groups and free admission on the third Wednesday of each month, courtesy of Wachovia, and to members at all times).

The building, designed by Renzo Piano, is architecturally exciting. An entire Aquarium had been moved away, while the new building was being constructed, and then returned, with many more creatures. The roof top is a living garden that requires no irrigation. There is a four-story exhibit of Rainforests of the World. The Plantetarium is a state-of-the-art facility...and these are just some of the attractions that make the California Academy of Sciences such an exciting place to visit.

We got an early start to our day, arriving at 10 a.m., shortly after the Academy opened. We were lucky enough to find free parking along JFK Drive in the Park in an area far enough away that the 4-hour parking limit was not in effect...closer to the Academy and and DeYoung, there is a 4-hour limit, so, watch your time if you park there. Of course, the pay-to-park garage under the Music Concourse is always an option and has elevators to the entrances of both the Academy and the DeYoung Museum. If you arrive in an electric car, there is a charging station on the west side of the Academy, and MUNI's new Culture Bus makes a stop here about every 20 minutes.

It is being said that the Academy is the greenest museum in the world. It has bike racks and vehicle recharging stations, radiant sub-floor heating inside the building, and energy-generating solar panels on top of the building! The walls are insulated with recycled blue jeans.

Before heading to the four-story Rainforests of the World exhibit, we picked up tickets to the Fragile Planet show in the Morrison Planetarium. Tickets to the show are first come first serve; no extra charge. There is a ticket kiosk in the entry area of the Academy. Tickets run out quickly, so stop here first if you want to see the show. The Planetarium is the largest all-digital dome in the world with its 75-foot diameter projection screen tilted at a 30 degree angle. I must warn that those who have motion problems, might feel woozy during the show...H covered her eyes through most of the Planetarium show.

The Rainforests exhibit was my favorite and the tiny colored frogs were my favorite creatures. The approach to the Rainforest passes by the Tidepool Exhibit.

Inside the Rainforest, you walk to the top up a spiraled walkway. It is hot and humid and reminded me of my visit to the jungle in Belize. I also was fascinated by the butterflies that flutter about, munching on flowers, near the top of the Rainforest.

No more words for awhile, just some of my photos:

Up on the roof, we felt like we were on the moon...except there was lots of life up here...but the combination of hills, valleys, portals, and plants was a bit overwhelming.

The 197,000-square-foot rooftop is a living tapestry of native plants. Living Roof Consultant, Rana Creek, worked with architect Renzo Piano to design the roof. She developed and patented the BioTray®, a special biodegradable trays made from tree sap and coconut husks, which serve as containers for the rooftop plants. 50,000 of these porous trays line the undulating rooftop, and enable the plants and soil to stay in place as the roots grow and interlock the trays together.

Four perennial plants and five wildflower annual plants were chosen as the species best suited to flourish in Golden Gate Park's climate. They require little water, can resist the salt spray from the ocean breezes, and can tolerate wind. It is hoped that the rooftop will provide a habitat for wildlife, including the endangered San Bruno Elfin Butterfly and the Bay Checkerspot Butterfly.

Here are some Rooftop photos, including some of the DeYoung Museum across the Music Concourse...this is the first time I've enjoyed this particular view of the DeYoung. Of course, we girls had to ham it up a bit with photos of ourselves.

After "doing" the Rainforest, Roof Garden, and Planetarium show, it was time for lunch.

Lunch choices include the Academy Café, a multi-cultural cafeteria, or the more formal, table-service Moss Room. The restaurants are operated under the auspices of local chefs-in-residence, Charles Phan (Slanted Door) and Loretta Keller (Bizou and COCO500). The Academy Café is open during museum hours. The Moss Room (reservations advised) is open for lunch and dinner.

We opted for the Academy Café, where H had a Shrimp Louie Salad, M had Tortilla Soup, and I had Chicken Pho with an array for interesting fixings. It was a warm, sunny day and we ate our lunch outdoors.

Before heading back inside to visit the Steinhart Aquarium and the African Hall (Penguins here), we had a little more fun, taking "rides" on the seal sculptures in the garden near the outdoor dining patio.

The Aquarium, or Water Planet, on the lower level of the Academy, has more than 100 aquarium tanks filled with fish,reptiles, amphibians, insects, and other invertebrates. Our timing was such that "Diver Dan" was "on exhibit" in the Phillipine Coral Reef tank from which he talked with the crowd about the underwater life in which he was diving.

Jellies, Stars, and other Fish captivated us as well.

Not everything is entirely new at the Academy. And, we saved some of our old favorites for the end of our day.

The Swamp looks much the same as we rememberd it from the old Academy. Its metal railing and decorative tiles have been preserved. Some of the big turtles are still swimming around in the Swamp along with its newest attraction, a White Alligator, named Bonnie...there was a contest to select a name for her.

Other of our old favorites include the Foucault's Pendulum and the African Hall, where we got to watch the African Penguins frolic about in and out of the water.

We spent close to 6 hours at the Academy and did not see or do everything. We pretty much concentrated on the living exhibits of creatures and plants. I look forward to returning to spend time in the educational exhibits which include Altered State: Climate Change in California, Science in Action, and Islands of Evolution. We got to see some fish feedings, but missed the Penguin feeding and the Bugs movie in the 3-D theater.

I'll be back again soon and am sure my out-of-town visitors will be wanting to make visits to the Academy.