Friday, March 19, 2010

WEEKEND ADVENTURES: A Can't-Do-Without Resource

Carole Terwilliger Meyers' Weekend Adventures and Family Fun books have been an importance resource to me in my travel writings since her very first Northern California guide in the late 1970s.

Meyers main emphasis is on travel and adventures in Northern California.

Whenever I am setting out on a trip, I always consult her books...I never throw away even the oldest ones because they might just include a park or a restaurant or an attraction that didn't make the cut in an updated book version.

Carole's newest book, Weekend Adventures in San Francisco & Northern California was published almost a year ago.

While her earlier books emphasized traveling with children, because that's what she was doing at that stage of her life. Now that her family is grown and she isn't always traveling with children, this newest book (her 9th edition) has even broader appeal. But because her roots are with family-friendly travel, she makes sure that all concerns of travelers with children are addressed.

The book is organized by geographical area. She takes her readers through San Francisco and all its neighborhoods. Going North and South, she follows Highways 1, 101, and 5. Heading East, she covers travel destinations along Highways 80 and 880. She dedicates special chapters to travel along Highway 49 in Gold Rush Country, in the High Sierra, in the Santa Cruz Mountains, on the Delta, in Napa and Sonoma Wine Country, at Lake Tahoe, and to Snow Country. About her only omission is Contra Costa County which happens to be where I live. This omission might mean that she feels that there is nothing worth a visit in Contra Costa, or it could mean she's saving it for a future guide...we will never know.

I particularly like her "Annual Events" sections. Just glancing through her Oakland entry, I see that March and April is Tulip Bloom time at the Mountain View Cemetery. While I am familiar with the cemetery's location on Piedmont Avenue, I did not know that more than 22,000 tulips are in bloom there at this time of year. Guess I know where I will be off to next week.

Weekend Adventures is available in most bookstores and online, including And, her book is constantly being updated online on the Weekend Adventures Update blog.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Two Great Meals plus Culture: More from Palm Springs

On our first full day in Palm Springs, Jim went out for his usual several-mile morning walk. Along the way, on Palm Canyon Drive, he noticed a restaurant called Cheeky's. He looked at the menu, was tempted, but kept walking another few blocks. Then, he decided that he was hungry and returned for breakfast, ordering the breakfast sandwich of Cornmeal Fried Green Tomato, Bacon, and a Fried Egg.

Meanwhile, while I was in the gym riding the stationary bicycle, I was reading an article from the November 22, 2009 Washington Post by Tom Sietsema about three restaurants that he likes in Palm Springs. The first one he praised was Cheeky's, the very same restaurant where JIm was eating breakfast. Sietsema went on to elaborate how 32-year old chef/owner Tara Lazar never went to cooking school and had studied "political economics of industrial studies" at UC Berkeley but now at her Palm Springs restaurant makes the best breakfast and most interesting lunch in Palm Springs. The restaurant opened in the summer of 2008.

Jim returned to our condo with a copy of Week 87's menu in hand. The menu changes weekly.

A few days later, we walked the few miles from our place to Cheeky's for breakfast. We got there a bit before the 8 a.m. opening, amusing ourselves with the Lawn Chair sculpture covered with artificial grass on the corner near the restaurant

and looking in the windows of Tchotckes, an eclectic home decor and gift shop next door.

Cheeky's patio with its bright orange acrylic chairs was glowing in the morning sun.

Almost everything at Cheeky's is made fresh in house. At this time of year, the fresh-squeezed juices include Blood Orange, Tangerine, Grapefruit, and Orange. The eggs and coffee are organic, the produce comes from sustainable farms, the pastries and sausages are homemade, as are the batters, sauces, and dressings. Breakfast is served all day long. Lunch is served after 11:30 a.m. Cheeky's is open every day except Tuesday.

Jim's breakfast choice was the Buttermilk and Fresh Corn Pancakes with fresh Blueberries. They were served with a slice of bacon.

I ordered the Buttermilk Waffle, which was garnished with Lemon Curd and fresh Strawberries. I accompanied my meal with The Bacon Flight, an order of five different kinds of bacon ($4). The flight that day featured the following bacons: Nodines Smokehouse, Applewood, Jalapeno, Maple Vanilla, and Pineapple (pieces of grilled pineapple on top of this slice.)

It was there and then that I decided that next year we have to spend more than a week in Palm Springs so we can eat more meals at Cheeky's.

When Lazar opened Cheeky's, after leaving a stock trading job in San Francisco, she worked with a furniture designer friend to create her cheerful restaurant. Dogs are welcome on the outdoor patio and are treated to dog biscuits and bowls of water. I love her attention to small details such as having miniature milk bottles of coffee cream on each table and serving maple syrup in tiny log cabin tins.

Even my stop in Cheeky's restroom made me smile at the hot pink bands around the rolls of toilet paper.

Breakfast dishes are priced between $7 and $10; lunches are in the $8 to $14 range.

After this wonderful breakfast, we meandered back to our condo, stopping along the way to peek in at Copley's, a restaurant in the home where Cary Grant once lived, or at least entertained.

Jim and I have dined at Copley's in past years. Much of the seating is outdoors on their lawn (hidden from view from this street photo). While the food was elegant and tasty, I did not enjoy the meal because the light is limited and I don't like not being able to see my food. Copley's is popular with the locals. Entrées are about $30; first courses in the $10 to $14 range.

Our next stop was at The Corridor, a complex of shops that surround a very popular interior park.

The park attracts lots of people with dogs and children as well as being a favorite gathering place for gay men. Koffi, a local favorite coffee shop has its shop at the entrance. On pleasant days, most Koffi customers take their drinks out to the park.

The park is something of a hidden treasure. We bought Louie a cute dog toy at The Corridor's pet shop, Paws.

And, I could not resist this vintage Palm Springs poster, printed on tin, at Just Fabulous, a store packed with books, cards, artwork, gifts, and more.

On the block directly behind The Corridor is Liberace's house, Casa Liberace. Liberace is no longer alive and the house belongs to a private party, but the candelabra and plaque on the door remain.

I am always fascinated by the stars on the sidewalks of Palm Canyon Drive and in front of the Palm Springs Museum on Museum Drive. These are a few stars that caught my attention.

I stopped to say "hello" to Sonny Bono in the middle of town. Sonny was mayor of Palm Springs from 1988 to 1992. It was he who brought VillageFest and the Palm Springs International Film Festival to Palm Springs, both of which still go on.

Later in the afternoon, we headed over to the Palm Springs Museum, one of our favorite museums anywhere. We were so fascinated by the "Between Earth and Heaven: The Architecture of John Lautner (through May 30, 2010), that we later drove near some of his Modernist homes in Palm Springs. Many of our favorite art works in the museum's collection have been relocated to make room for the "The Passionate Pursuit: Gifts and Promised Works from Donna and Cargill MacMillan, Jr." (through June 20, 2010), which is the collection of more than 75 contemporary works that the MacMillan's have either promised to or already donated to the museum. All of these, except, I think, the Chihuly glass, are in the MacMillan's collection.

For dinner, we met friends Mary and Bill at Shame on the Moon in Rancho Mirage. Every year we dine at Shame on the Moon and continue to love the food and ambiance. It was Mary and Bill who introduced us to Shame and tipped us off to ask for a table in the Garden dining room where it is quieter. The menu stays pretty much the same, indicating that's what Shame's regulars have been enjoying for its 26 years.

All entrées are served with soup or salad and mostly priced between $20 and $30. Meals are served with seasonal vegetables.

Mary ordered the Scallops and Shrimp.

Bill's choice was the Tilapia.

Jim almost always orders the Calves Liver with Bacon, the chef's signature entrée and something I never prepare at home. This year, that's what he had.

I was pleased with the evening's special, herbed lamb medallions.

For dessert we all shared a serving of Peanut Butter Pie with Butter Pecan Ice Cream.

End of another day in paradise.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Flying Palm Fronds...More from Palm Springs

We woke Tuesday morning to palm fronds flying everywhere. We are told that palm trees rarely fall down but the fronds, some very big, do go flying when the winds kick up. There were wind warnings for the entire day.

The wind didn’t stop me from a morning swim but I was fishing palm fronds out of the pool as I swam my laps.

After a leisurely morning at the pool, we headed to Palm Desert for lunch at Tommy Bahama, in the Gardens on El Paseo and then some shopping on El Paseo, a glorious shopping and art gallery street that is sort of the Rodeo Drive of the desert.

At Tommy’s we did sit out on their upper level deck but because of the wind, despite sunny skies, they had the heaters on and we enjoyed the warmth. The Tommy Bahama's restaurant is a lot like a Jimmy Buffett's Margaritaville. Both have menus with a tropical theme and the servers wear their store's cheerful clothing. After a meal at Tommy's or Margaritaville, I always go shopping in their store.

Jim had the St. Kitts blackened roasted fish sandwich…a beautiful piece of fish in a bun and accompanied by a chopped tomato, cucumber, and onion salad.

My choice was the South Beach Cuban sandwich, a warm grilled sandwich of sliced ham and pork with cheese and pickle. My sandwich was accompanied by Yucca fries.

Much as we wanted Key Lime Pie or Coconut Pineapple Whipped Cream cake, we resisted. We drank Mango Iced tea with our lunch.

Then it was on to Saks, Williams Sonoma, Banana Republic, Fresh Produce, Tommy Bahamas shop and many of my our other favorite shops.

We spent quite a bit of time at the Coda Gallery, a large gallery with a beautiful variety of art, both paintings, sculptures, furniture, and glass work.

Dinner was at El Mirasol, our favorite Mexican place in Palm Springs…I like El Mirasol because it is off the beaten path, away from downtown, and for its fresh authentic food.

They still feature their homemade Pipian sauce which they make fresh daily. They still had some when we got there. I had Grilled Shrimp in Pipian.

Jim tried something new, Shrimp Piccado, salted shrimp with peppers and onions.

With a couple of blended Margaritas, we were happy

Monday, March 8, 2010

Greetings from Palm Springs

Greetings from Palm Springs!

There was fog very early this morning, a rarity in the desert but the weather turned coldish overnight and I guess the contrast between the cold and the warmth of the morning sun brought in fog.

But, by 8 a.m., it was burning off as I headed out to the gym. Our condo backs up to Mount San Jacinto and is always a glorious sight, especially early in the morning.

After my workout, I headed downtown to see what's new, changed, and the same.

I didn't get very far because I discovered Lush Couture, a very attractive boutique for women where everything is priced at $16...that is EVERYTHING, except one rack of clothing where everything was marked down to $6!!! And the clothing is nice! While I was purchasing a sweater I chatted with the sales person who told me the owner goes to Los Angeles every week and knows people from whom she buys. I still don't quite get it, but their dresses, tops, skirts, jeans, jackets, name it..seem to be good quality and I can't believe the prices. The clothing is junior sizes so some bigger women might not find sizes that fit, but there are always shoes and accessories! The store is crowded but the clothing is displayed by color themes...very appealing.

Oooh La La, one of my favorite shops, albeit much more expensive than Lush Couture, is still thriving. Their pink poodle greets customers decked out in a green boa for St. Patrick's Day next week.

Jim and I were in the mood for BBQ. With a little research I discovered Tootie's in Cathedral City, very near the Pickford Theatre where we were going to see The Blindside, one of the few Oscar-winning films we haven't seen. So after the show, we stopped at Tootie's which is on a back street where there are a lot of car dealerships.

It was Pork Ribs for me

and Brisket for Jim.

You order at the counter and your food is brought to you in a paper carton.

Tootie's serves Texas BBQ and our food was good. My sides were Cowboy Beans (Ranch style) and Cole Slaw; Jim had Baked Beans (sweeter beans) and Cole Slaw.

After dinner we chatted a bit with owner Larry Babitz who bought the place a year ago. He's kept it pretty much as it was for the last 8 years, adding a spicy Kick Ass BBQ sauce to complement the sweet one that is always served. I like the hot sauce and even added it to my beans to spice them up. Larry's life has included being a Navy Seal, working on the set of Titanic, and doing food service for several sitcoms in L.A. And now he is dishing up BBQ in the desert. Hope to come back here again next year!!