Northern California

pokebar1One of the many things I enjoy eating in Hawaii is poke. It’s a raw fish dish, that generally combines fresh yellowfin tuna, also known as ahi, with local ingredients like seaweed, Hawaiian salt and kukui nuts. There are seemingly infinite varieties, with ingredients such as green onions, sesame seeds, mayonnaise, tobiko, wasabi, sriracha, etc. In Hawaii you can find it at delis but also in supermarkets where there is often a poke bar in the seafood department.

Well, guess what has arrived at Costco in San Francisco? A poke bar! It features fresh wild ahi from different regions of the world including the Philippines and Sri Lanka and marinades flown in directly from Hawaii. It’s all prepared fresh at the store and sold only on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays. Prices range from $15.99 to $17.99 per pound.

Varieties include ahi shoyu poke, ahi wasabi poke, and ahi spicy poke. They also had two cooked shrimp styles of poke. I tried the ahi limu poke which had onions, ogo (Hawaiian seaweed) Hawaiian salt, kukui nut, sesame seed and sesame oil. The limu was my favorite, it was very fresh and had a particularly nice balance of flavors and brightness. It's cool and savory, but has an intensity from the dense fish and slightly nutty and spicy flavors.

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sliderbarshot.jpgSlider Bar Café in Palo Alto recently opened on the popular main drag, University Street. There were countless restaurants bustling on a Friday night, including this place. A striking, high ceilinged room welcomes folks to the café. We sat at the bar as all the tables were full. Slider Bar Café has a sophisticated take on the slider concept, also serving several micro brew type beers and mid-level wines. If you sit at the bar, the friendly bar tender will take your order and get your wine, while you watch the soccer game or ESPN on the flat screens behind the counter. If you sit at a table, you have to order at the counter, take a number and have the food brought out later.

Pat and I ordered up three sliders: the Classic American $2.89, a plain Classic American and a Mediterranean $3.69. The price drops for each additional slider you get. For instance, for the American, one slider costs $2.89. Two are $5.29. Three will set you back $7.49 and a dozen are $28. We also ordered baked fries $1.99. They don’t have a fryer.

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barndiva frontI recently performed Celebrity Autobiography at the Wells Fargo Center For The Arts in Santa Rosa. I didn’t know where Santa Rosa was nor did I realize that the Welles Fargo Center was a hip destination and the setting for many legendary comedy albums. George Carlin and Bill Cosby to name a few.

My plane ticket had me spending the entire next day there with nothing to do because there were no direct flights back to Los Angeles. I asked the driver who picked me up what the local places featured. For Christsakes I was in wine country!! And that was the thing to do; tour wineries.  The problem was, I don’t drink…any kind of alcohol. I know, I’m a sissy.  

So, I decided that I’d rent movies that were still in the theatre, (The Apparition, Jewish Ghosts) have room service, read my Stephen Kind novel and sleep late!! Heaven in my book.  But there’s only so long you can do that.  I got antsy and looked at the hotel ‘things to do’ book to see if there were any restaurants to check out.

There was a map showing what areas were close to the hotel and it looked like the closest  place for food and shopping was in Healdsburg. I’m always scared to venture out in a town I don’t know because I can and have gotten lost in a parking lot, but I planned my route there and back as if it were for a five year old. Success!

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NapaFallGott's Roadside (formerly Taylor’s Automatic Refresher) in St. Helena has been a Napa Valley institution for years. Everyone talks about wine when they think of Napa, but they should also think of great hamburgers.

My wife, Patricia, and I visited the St. Helena location on an unseasonably hot Saturday in November. This is a great time of year to visit Napa, because the fall colors are in full swing. The great weather brought out a throng of like-minded folk. The mid-century style building sits just south of town. A sheet metal smoke stack belched smoke form the grill.

At the refresher you order at one of two windows. They take your name and you sit at one of the many picnic tables outside to wait for your order. There was a line of at least 50 people waiting to order when we arrived. It took a good 20 minutes. But we got acquainted with burger lovers from Fresno, Denver and Mississippi while we waited in line. Pat got a white wine for her and a beer for me while we waited.

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yosemite.jpgThe Mountain Room restaurant at Yosemite Lodge in Yosemite National Park in California is a great place to have a burger after a hike. If you have never visited Yosemite, there are plenty of hikes to work up an appetite. I joined 10 friends as we assaulted Half Dome over 2 days. The hike covers about 4800 feet of altitude gain over a 17-mile hike.

After a night of martinis at the Ahwahnee Hotel bar, we rose early on Saturday morning and started on our hike. After climbing about 2000 feet and hiking past Vernal and Nevada falls, we camped out in little Yosemite Valley. The next morning we headed up the trail to Half Dome reaching “the Cables”. The cables are two parallel cables stretching up the shear side of half dome. It is the only way up unless you are a rock climber and was one of the most exhilarating experiences of my life. The views up top were incredible. (Photo below: The team perches on top for a photo before descending 8.5 miles for a burger.

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