Thursday, October 23, 2014

Tea at Tal-Y-Tara Tea & Polo Shoppe

A tea room and an equestrian shop in San Francisco's outer Richmond district in a mostly-residential neighborhood?  As I walked down the block of California Street between 26th and 27th Avenues, I was more than a bit hesitant about what I would find inside this shop with a full-sized horse statue out front. This was my introduction to Tal-y-Tara Tea and Polo Shoppe.

In fact, when I saw this horse head peering out of the doorway, I seriously thought about turning around and going back to my car.

But, alas, I couldn't leave because I had invited Harriet here to celebrate her birthday with Tal-y-Tara's Queen's Tea.

Once inside, we settled in to what turned out to be the best afternoon tea that I've ever had in San Francisco, and maybe anywhere.

The shoppe is small and cluttered in a very comfortable way.  The front part of the shoppe features equestrian wear and gear. The tea room is at the back but there is seating throughout the shoppe, even in the front area.

The furniture is mismatched and no two tables are alike.  I felt like I was going to tea at the home of an English person whose family had lived in the place for many generations.

The menu offers several fixed price, multi-course tea services. All courses can be ordered a la carte, as well.  While we were there, some people just stopped by for a cup of tea and a scone and others came for an entire tea meal. The customers on a weekday afternoon were of all ages. All the food is prepared here.

We started by ordering our tea. While we were deciding on salads and scone flavors, we were served a plate of biscotti, made from their scones.

Since we were having the Queen's Tea, our tea sandwich selections included one of each of six different sandwiches of each of us.  The sandwich bread is called a Motorloaf. Its recipe dates back at least four generations in England. The Motorloaf was traditionally used as a picnic item that could easily be wrapped up and carried when one motored off into the country.  It's a semi-sweet dark bread that contains raisins and walnuts.  The sandwiches are made from bread cut out of the center of the loaf and are served inside the loaf.  Our sandwich fillings were cream cheese and cucumber, egg salad with capers, cheese and chutney, smoked turkey with watercress, black forest ham with mustard, and smoked salmon with cream cheese and capers.

The serving plate was garnished with fresh fruits and cream cheese and butter to put on the part of the loaf that was not made into sandwiches. I noted that several customers had the loaf wrapped up to take home for later enjoyment.

For our side salads, Harriet had the Mixed Greens and I had the Wedge with Blue Cheese and Peppered Bacon.

There were three flavors of scone available on this day.  Harriet had the Lemon Vanilla and I chose the one with Currants.  The scones are served with Devonshire Cream and Jam. 

Our final course was English Trifle, a traditional sweet dessert made with cubes of pound cake, fruit jam, and a rich custard that is poured over it.

We lingered at Tal-y-Tara for more than two hours, enjoying every mouthful of our very tasty and satisfying tea.

Not only did I enjoy the freshly-prepared food, I enjoyed the personal service as well. Also, in contrast to most Bay Area complete tea services, Tal-y-Tara's is not overwhelmed by overly sweet/rich cakes and cookies.  It was just right for my tastes. 

The Queen's Tea costs $39 per person. It is substantial enough to be your main meal for the day. 

The Prince Harry ($25 per person) includes tea, shortbread cookies, motorloaf sandwiches, and scones. The Prince William and Lady Katherine ($35 per person) adds salads to the Price Harry. And, the Queen's Tea adds the English trifle to all of this.

Parking is free on the street and, in this part of San Francisco, it is not too hard to find a place to park.

As I walked to my car, I looked back and bid the horse farewell, with a promise to return again soon.

One last note:  There is currently a Groupon available for tea service at Tal-y-Tara which offers a substantial savings on your choice of tea service for two. 

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Once Again, I Swam A Mile for Women with Cancer

Last weekend was the Swim-A-Mile for Women with Cancer.  For my 17th year, I participated in the swim and completed the entire mile…all 72 laps/lengths of the Mills College Pool.

Thanks to all my generous sponsors, I've raised over $3600 for the Women's Cancer Resource Center (WCRC) in Oakland, California.

There are very few fund-raising events that are swims. Swimming is the activity that I do most often and regularly throughout the year. I have swum with the Walnut Creek Masters Team since 1995 or 1996 (after all these years, I've lost count). Before that, I'd had a life in the water, learning to swim as a very young child by going to the beach with my family during the warm weather months.  Swimming has always brought me joy and energy. And, when I was being treated for cancer, I kept on swimming and made my swim buddies my support group.

Once again I shared a lane with Harriet and Janet, mother and daughter, respectively.

Janet, who is about to turn 40, has been a cancer survivor for nearly 8 years.

The three of us were among 630 people who did the swim over the two days of this past weekend.

Here we are ready to swim.

and get in the check-in line

After the Swim, we celebrated.

At the Swim, there is a wall where swimmers can post the names of those whom they honor and remember. I include names from those who sponsor me and and from my own ever-expanding list. This year I swam in honor of 33 people and in memory of 26 people. When I write up my name cards, I have hope that one day, cancer will just be a chronic disease that can be managed and allow those with it to live active full lives. 

The Women's Cancer Resource Center will still accept donations to sponsor me in this year's Swim-A-Mile.  Just go to WCRC's web site and type in my name in the "Search for swimmers" box. You can also read more about the swim and about WCRC on the web site. 

Maybe next year, you will join me in the pool the first weekend of October.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Levi's Stadium & Museum Tour: Very Worth Doing

Despite all the current controversy surrounding NFL players behaving "badly" the Bay Area's excitement, curiosity and some frustration about the 49ers new football stadium, Levi's Stadium in Santa Clara, continues.

Last month, before Levi's Stadium opened for the football season, Dave, Jim and I journeyed to Santa Clara to take a Public Tour of the stadium.

The tours are given year-round, every day of the week, except when there is a home 49ers game or some other Levi's Stadium event, and on some holidays.

The Guided Stadium Tour (90 minutes) costs $25 for adults; add a tour of the excellent Museum, and the cost is $35.  If you just want to visit the Museum, admission is $15 for adults and $10 for those with discounts. There are discounts for seniors, children, locals and several other. Private groups can reserve their own tours. Between the tour, the museum, and lunch, we spent the entire day here.

Tour parking is free in the lot right by the entrance to the Stadium where the tours start.

The best way to reserve is in advance, though the Stadium's web site (link above), but you can take your chances and show up at the box office at the Stadium and hope to get tour tickets sometime that day. The tours start every half hour from 10 a.m. until 4:30 p.m.

Even Season Ticket Holders do not get to go behind the scenes to many of the places that the tour took us.

Our well-informed guide took us into several Club Levels.

We left the inside of the BNY Mellon Club to sit in the club's stadium seats. Looking down on the field, we saw a lot of discussion going on in the middle of the field.  While our tour guide was extolling the merits of the Bandera Bermuda turf on the field, a new drought-tolerant variety, little did we know that this would be that turf's last day. As we watched, the turf was being closely examined by many, including Coach Harbaugh. 

The next day, the turf was torn out because it was not holding up during a few exhibition events that had been held in the Stadium and the it was felt to unsafe for play.

If you care about turf, here is a closeup of the Bandera Bermuda, maybe an historic photo…

On the Press Level, we went into the Press Boxes and wandered this level's hallways which are decorated with magazine and program covers from past 49er's seasons.

Up on  the Roof Level, where the luxury suites are located, we went out the amazing "Green Roof." Throughout the tour, our guide pointed out energy-saving and environmental features of the Stadium, including the solar panels up on the Roof Level.

Levi's Stadium is the first United States football stadium with a LEED Gold certification. 

We visited the Away-Team Locker Room.

And, also, the Cheerleader's Locker Room. I couldn't resist taking a selfie at one of the Cheerleader's makeup tables.

Our guide would have escorted us into the museum, but we decided to have lunch first and do the museum later on our own.

The 49ers Museum itself is interesting and extensive enough to spend a good part of a day just in it. It chronicles the entire history of the 49ers with displays, exhibits, films, and much more. The Museum fills 20,000 square feet. Sony created/designed the Museum. 

We had fun with the live sizes statues of players and coaches, past and present. 

Five Super Bowl Championships: Lombardi Trophies.

So you want to be a cheerleader? Take an interactive lesson with a real 49ers cheerleader (on screen) and then be tested by dancing with the entire squad and then graded on how well you've done! This woman got high marks.

Finally, Save time to shop in the 49ers Team Store.

It is the biggest team store possibly at any NFL stadium, and I mean, HUGE!  Because there are two football teams in the Bay Area and there was a possibility that the Oakland Raiders might want to share this stadium, NFL required that the Team Store be large enough to accommodate merchandise for both teams.  For now and probably forever, the 49ers have a Team Store twice the size of usual stores at football stadiums.  It's a wonderful store and, of course, I updated my 49ers wardrobe a bit and bought a shirt, earrings, pins, and other decorative items for my annual Super Bowl party.


While the stadium's food concessions are closed on tour days, celebrity chef Michael Mina's Bourbon Steak and Pub, right at the Stadium, is open every day of the week. The Pub is open daily for lunch and dinner (Brunch on Sundays) and the Steak part of the restaurant is only open for dinner. 

We reserved in advance for lunch, a good idea as it is already extremely popular with the local business people who work nearby.

Bourbon Steak and Pub is Chef Mina's first sports-oriented restaurant. And, he had fun designing the menu.

I knew ahead of time that I was going to order the Nachos because I had read about the fun Chef Mina had in creating it. Instead of a pile of tortilla chips covered with cheese, peppers and whatever other toppings, Chef Mina makes his nachos with whole tortillas that are layered with Borracho beans, corn salsa, and cheese and topped with a sunny side egg (charred peppers and chile are optional extra toppings).  

Then, my server came to my plate with a mezzaluna knife in hands and proceeded to slice through the entire creation, cutting it into quarters.  

The end result was something more akin in appearance to traditional nachos, but with runny egg mixing into it.  It was so so good and the "theatre" of the presentation enhanced the experience.

The boys were a bit more conventional in their lunch selections:  The Smokin' Double Wagyu Dog for Jim. It was garnished with Honey Mustard, Cole Slaw, and Chicharrones. It came with a side of very tasty Fries. 

and, the Pulled Pork Sammy for Dave. Dave's sandwich was on a Black Pepper Potato Bun and came with his choice of a side dish. He chose the Salt-Roasted Potato Salad

I've never had Frickles before but have always wondered what could be so good about deep-fried dill pickles.  At Bourbon Pub I couldn't resist ordering them for our table to share, figuring if someone was going to prepared them well, it would be Michael Mina.  They came with "Secret Sauce" for dipping and were yummy. I'll have them again the next time I dine here.


I highly recommend a tour of Levi's Stadium. It's a fun, interesting, and modestly-priced day-long outing. While I may never get to see a live 49ers game, I know I will be back for another tour and visit to the Museum whenever friends or out of town visitors want to do something fun and new in the Bay Area.