Thursday, April 11, 2019

A Short holiday in Mendocino

Around mid January the travel bug bit me. I had no major trips planned but I wanted to get away for a few days. We had been to Carmel and Monterey many times, I was tired of Calistoga and Palm Springs, and when Dean was playing softball tournaments we had driven to the Central Coast and Santa Barbara. I envisioned something new.

A view of the Santa Ynez mountains near Santa Barbara from Dean's van (c1994)

I checked my book shelf and pulled out Karen Brown's guide to Charming Inns and Itineraries in California. Karen Brown recently closed her business and took down her web sight which I had consulted often over the years. She always came up with good ideas, especially in Italy. A special favorite was the Masseria Marzalossa in Puglia.

This time I decided on a short trip up the coast through the Anderson Valley and north to Mendocino, and I waited until April. What luck! After the winter rains the hillsides were amazingly green and the streams and rivers were flowing.

Just after Boonville, we spotted these spectacular blooming cherry trees at Scharffenberger Winery and stopped for a picnic and tasting of their sparkling wines. Our vacation had officially begun!

In Mendocino we located our B&B—the Agate Cove Inn—and then browsed around the charming little town in a light drizzle.

               Water towers like the one above dot the landscape and add to the  Mendocino charm.

We had a  super meal at the old victorian Café Beaujolais. I remember when Margaret Fox opened the restaurant and published her Café Beaujolais Cookbook . I finally made it up there, and though she sold the restaurant years ago, the new owners have maintained her level of excellence and she is often spotted dining there. We had an amazing salad that consisted of three smallish heads of romaine lettuce artfully presented in a creamy dressing followed by wonderful duck in a light orange sauce. Too bad we forgot a camera!

We arrived to this view in the breakfast room of the Agate Cove Inn. It was a pleasure to linger over breakfast searching for whales in the cove. A few days before they had spotted baby whales playing among the nearby rocks after a storm. We weren't so lucky.

                                    Russian Gulch State Park on a cool, windy spring day

                                          Here's a short video of the sink hole in Russian Gulch

  We wandered for hours in the notable Mendocino Coast Botanical Gardens, rated fifth in the nation.

I loved this wooden " bench" wth the high far end.

                                                  Our favorite sculpture in the gardens

Next we headed to Fort Bragg for fish and chips at Sea Pal cafe in Noyo Harbor on the Noyo river. We shared our delicious, crusty lunch with enormous seagulls. Other than that, Fort Bragg was a disappointment, except for the farmer's market held inside until May. We just stumbled upon it. Where else can you find a legendary blind accordionist accompanying  produce shopping.

                       I loved this metal moon at the entrance to Luna Restaurant in Mendocino

Heading back to Berkeley, we stopped at Hendy Woods State Park and were greeted by the ranger who had just heard that her colleague had spotted tracks of a mother and baby mountain lion. The cub, who had been walking alongside the mother, was estimated to be two months old. The rangers were overjoyed that the lions were reproducing in the park, so we hurried in and found the prints on mud-slurry covered concrete next to the picnic tables. As you can see, this was an ideal situation for preserving animal tracks!

Then we took a trail through the magnificent redwood forest

We concluded our road trip by getting lost on our way out of the woods. We finally located Hwy 128 which meandered through  gorgeous green Anderson Valley and we celebrated with more wine tasting at Handley and Navarro Wineries. I'm waving goodbye at Handley vineyards.

Wednesday, January 30, 2019

Swiss Fondue with Salade Niçoise--- Sacre Bleu!

Swiss fondue with all the accoutrements

While hitchhiking through Switzerland one summer after college in the '60s, my friend Susan and I found a perfect spot for dinner in a classic Swiss chalet, and we ordered my favorite, Swiss fondue. I probably ordered beer since this was before my wine drinking days. Then to complete the meal and add a bit of green, we ordered salade Niçoise from the menu. We thought that sounded like a perfect meal...

The fondue arrived first and we dunked chunks of bread into the delicious molten mass of emmenthaler and gruyere cheese with our fondue forks. We were having a fine time until the salad arrived. A few patrons stared at our table and snickered and soon the whole restaurant was pointing and laughing at us. We were embarrassed, to say the least and we couldn't figure out what the problem was. Is there a taboo on eating cheese fondue with the classic french composed salad?  We could no longer enjoy our meal and we soon left the restaurant confused and humiliated.

In the intervening years I've tried to solve the mystery of the salade niçoise-swiss fondue faux-pas. I've asked around and studied up on the subject but have always come away empty handed. If there are any of you out there who could shed light on this, I would love to hear an explanation. In the meantime, I have never again ordered this combo, which still sounds perfectly matched to me. Who wants to get laughed at during dinner?

Monday, January 21, 2019

Hitchhiking Through Switzerland

A lovely day in the Swiss countryside, photographed by Susan Berkowitz

More nostalgia---This time I'm hitchhiking through Switzerland and Germany with my friend Susan Berkowitz during my 1969 summer in Europe. She was living in Amsterdam and when I met up with her we decided to hitchhike for a few weeks. I had taken the notorious Icelandic Airline Charter from New York(?) to Luxembourg, with a short stop in Reykjavik. My flight left in June and returned to the US in August. After a bit of research I found an article about the company, founded in 1944 by three Icelandic Pilots trained in Canada. Here's the pertinent section:

"During the '60s and the '70s Loftleidir Icelandic  pioneered as a low fare service airline across the North-Atlantic flying into Luxembourg, 'the heart of Europe.' The airline became very popular among college students traveling abroad and soon became known as 'The Hippie Airline' ..."

After arriving in Luxembourg, I traveled to England, Scotland and Brussels. Then I took the train to Amsterdam to see Susan, who was renting a room in an apartment.

Susan was constantly taking photographs with a fancy Nikon, while I waited for her

Hitchhiking in Germany, with destination sign in hand

The two of us had planned on driving to Spain in Susan's Volkswagen bug, but when her car was totaled by a tram in Amsterdam the day before we were leaving, we spontaneously decided to hitchhike through Switzerland and Germany, as far as Berlin. She then returned to Amsterdam and I continued traveling by train to Austria, Denmark, Sweden and Norway. The hitchhiking experience was priceless and we had great fun. We even got a ride to East Berlin when the Berlin Wall still divided West from East Berlin. I remember waiting in long, nerve-wracking lines while entering the Communist sector.

Here's the 1969 passport I used on the three month European trip. The photo (gulp) was taken by a Milwaukee Journal photographer. My father was music critic for that venerable newspaper, so he rounded up a photographer to take my passport photo. And yes, my given name is Sara. I thought this was my first passport, but I must have had a previous document, since I traveled to Greece in 1964 and the one pictured above is clearly a renewal. Strangely, I have no memory of that 1964 passport or the photo I used. Apparently, passports expired in 5 years then.

At a certain point I decided to use "Taya" on my passports, but I never changed my name officially or encountered any red tape when I switched from Sara. How times have changed!

Using Alice's 1960s passport photo on her book's front cover is brilliant

I loved Alice Water's recent biography Coming to My Senses mostly because her early European experiences mirror my own in so many respects. And then our lives have intertwined in Berkeley since I moved here in 1971. It's strange that she fell in love with food on her first journeys abroad and I remained indifferent until about ten years later. My postcards home brim with excitement about museums, train travel and social interactions, but meals are never mentioned. I remember living on wiener schnitzel in Germany, pastries mit schlag  in Vienna, cheese fondue in Switzerland, raw herring in Amsterdam and a tasting of Scottish cheeses at the Edinburgh International Music Festival. I ate so few vegetables that my health started to suffer by the end of the summer. I can trace my travels and relive the whole European adventure  because my mother saved  the postcards and letters I sent home that summer.  Here's a postcard from Traunkirchen, Austria, where I went to visit friends. I can see she would forward my postcards to my sister in New York.

Monday, January 14, 2019

Greece 1964- An Innocent Abroad

Delphi 1964- I'm on the left in a smocked dress my mother made and a pair of sandals I loved

Here I am in Greece on my first trip to Europe, sitting on an ancient stone wall in Delphi with three school friends, laughing at who knows what. A group of us were traveling on a short jaunt in Greece, lead by Sarah Lawrence College. For two weeks we traveled around the Peloponnese by bus and to Mykonos and Crete by boat. A young Greek woman was our guide. After this prelude we headed for a summer course in Paris where we lived in dorms near Porte d'Orleans. In the mornings we studied French, art history and existential literature with Professors from Sarah Lawrence and in the afternoons we had the free run of Paris. This was the Paris of the early 60's, the Paris of Jean-Paul Belmondo and Jean Seberg in "Breathless" and I couldn't catch my breath. We ate in bistros, visited museums and mastered the metro. On weekends the program arranged for us to visit Mont San Michel and the Loire Valley to see a Sound and Light performance at Chambord ( if I remember correctly.) Though Greece seemed terribly foreign, Paris was perfect. Candace, the girl on the right in the Liberty print dress, was my mentor. She spoke excellent French, knew just how to order poulet rôti and pommes frites in the neighborhood bistro, and introduced me to the fragrance "Chant d'Aromes" at Guerlain on the Champs- Élysée. I wore it until it was discontinued many years later.

Belmondo and Seberg in Jean-Luc Godard's 1960 breakthrough film " À Bout de Souffle  ("Breathless")

Tuesday, January 1, 2019

New Year's Eve Memories of Tuscany

The medieval Duomo in Siena, photographed by Carey Moore in Views from a Tuscan Vineyard

Because it's New Year's Eve, I'm reminiscing about times that have had the most profound influence on my (long) life. I would have to rank my 1965 college semester in Florence # 1. The sensory memories of that trip are still so vivid that I can pull them up with just a momentary sight, smell or taste. Today I was paging through one of my books titled Views From A Tuscan Vineyard and I came across this picture of Siena. Suddenly, I was flooded with memories of  Italy in 1965. I think the experience was so intense because I was young and impressionable and homesick and because Italy was much more foreign than it is today, and also because each of us was placed in an Italian family where we were forced to speak Italian on whatever level we could. We had what is now called total immersion in the culture. In some ways, I have never emerged from that experience, so a random photo, a whiff of diesel or the scent of sage can transport me back to the cobblestone streets of Florence, Siena or Pisa.

The Florentine Duomo also photographed by Carey More

By today's standards, it's pretty amazing that I don't have one photograph from that Junior year abroad. Of course we didn't have cell phones, but I guess we also didn't carry cameras. It seems that because we weren't distracted by the need to capture our experiences, they became all the more vivid.

                                                           Buon Anno

Monday, December 24, 2018

Merry Christmas Kitty Ornaments

                 Merry Christmas from my favorite Jack-in-the-box kitty ornament

                        Here's the new calico kitty addition to my tree thanks to my sister Lucia

                                   And here's another cutie from a few years back

Monday, December 10, 2018

A Rustic Christmas Eve/Hanukkah Table

Last year Christmas Eve and Hanukkah fell within a few days of each other, so our multi-denominational family was able to celebrate the two holidays together. The Seattle Stein family arrived in town just in time for our annual Christmas Eve crab extravaganza at Ricki's lovely Sea Cliff home. This rare religious coincidence allowed Ricki to pour her creativity into a table depicting the entire holiday season.

She combined winter greenery, berries and pine cones gathered in her San Francisco neighborhood, with elegantly arranged succulents and mosses spanning the length of the table. With flair she placed miniature wooden dreidels, horses, donkeys, ladders and other objects from her years of collecting.

          As usual, the tablecloth, napkins, china, glasses, silverware and serving pieces were perfection. Check out her beautiful  2018 Thanksgiving table Here and her Thanksgiving 2013 table  Here

I snapped photos from all angles before we assembled for dinner. Here you can see a miniature dreidel and goat

I can't wait to see this year's Christmas Eve table