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November 2009

Oto's Marketplace in Sacramento feels like a faraway adventure

A Japanese Market Escape by Barbara L. Steinberg©

The new Oto's Marketplace on Freeport Boulevard in Sacramento has been open for a couple of years. The new store replaced the "old" Oto's just a few blocks down Freeport Boulevard near Sacramento Executive Airport. I remember the other store quite well and enjoyed the few times I ventured there. I shop at many of Sacramento's Asian markets enjoying their sensory delights...so different from the typical Safeway or even Trader Joes.

I had wanted to visit the new Oto's for some time but just hadn't found that right moment. Then my friend, Allen Pierleoni, the Sacramento Bee food critic, asked if I would like to join him for lunch at Oto's. He didn't have to ask twice. We had many hit and miss attempts at this lunch date, many months going by. I was dying to venture into Oto's, but waited...saving myself for the review. I wanted it to be new and fresh...my observations untainted by previous exposure. I wasn't sorry for waiting.

When we walked through the door it was like a child walking into a candy store...or going to a carnival. I was positively giddy. Its was so bright and shiny. And colorful. So many aisles of products I couldn't name  but the packaging is so pretty...who cares. So many things have little faces on them you have to laugh. American packaging is bland by comparison.

The other reason I love the Asian markets is their produce. It's always so beautifully displayed. Fresh. Unblemished. You simply can't beat the prices. And Oto's is no exception. And much of what they sell is from local farms....very important to me. I bought beautiful yams, shitake mushrooms, apples, and avocados. Believe me, I will be back for more.

Yes, we ate at Oto's. Allen wrote a his wonderful Counter Culture: Oto's Marketplace: It's out of the box...which I am certain you will enjoy. We had a great time and I don't want to spoil the surprise if you haven't read the story already. But I must add a sidebar...Allen and I have "known" each other for quite some time. But until our Oto's adventure, we had never met face-to-face. Over the years we have talked by phone and email. I would sometimes call to inquire about places to eat or shoot him an email about something I had discovered. We have very similar likes when it comes to dining out. And I really appreciate his Counter Culture Epicurean nature. My favorite part of the Sacramento Bee is the Friday "Ticket"...and specifically Allen's food reviews. And nothing personal, I am not a "foodie." I have been fanatic about food my whole life and have been known to drive hundreds of miles just to eat...how about a pancake. I swear, it's true. And when Allen wrote about the Pine Grove Munnerlyn's Ice Creamery, I drove there one night...just because.

Okay, but back to Oto's Marketplace. It's a great getaway from the daily dull drums of cleaning and running to the bank. Enjoy some lunch with friends. Or get something to take away. And if you're really in the know about sushi, call ahead and ask if Ray, the sushi chef, can make you up something special. But go and plan to spend an hour or two. As quoted in Allen's Counter Culture, "Oto's is my new favorite store!" Something else that's a real treat at Oto's, the staff is so friendly and delightful. They seemed to be having as much fun as me. Amazing!

And Allen...I am looking forward to another "Lunch Pal" adventure.  Chow.


Enjoy A Winter Weekday Escape With Point Reyes Lodging

Point Reyes is the Place to Visit for Winter Wildlife Viewing

Pic_giacominiwetlnd_556x200 An easy drive from the San Francisco Bay Area and other northern California destinations, Point Reyes is an ideal choice to escape the wintertime blues for a weekday getaway.  The decision to visit Point Reyes is made even easier with Point Reyes Lodging’s Whales and Wildlife promotion.  From Sunday, November 15, 2009 through Wednesday, March 31, 2010, guests can stay two nights midweek (Sunday through Thursday) and get the third night free at Point Reyes Lodging bed and breakfast inns. 

To make a Whales & Wildlife reservation, visit
www.ptreyes.com and contact the inn or cottage of your choice.  Mention Whales & Wildlife when you make your reservation. 
Holiday periods are excluded and advance reservations are required.

Winter is the optimum time to view wildlife at Point Reyes. Winter wildlife viewing is heralded by the annual migration of gray whales along the coast.  The Point Reyes Lighthouse and Chimney Rock offer some of the best vantage points to view the whales from land.  Winter also marks the arrival of elephant seals, which are best viewed from the Elephant Seal Overlook near Chimney Rock, migrating waterfowl and shorebirds, plus spawning Coho salmon and steelhead trout up coastal streams.  Year round residents include black-tailed deer, more than 400 tule elk, found mostly roaming within the Tule Elk Preserve at Tomales Point, and non-native fallow deer and axis deer.

On the
Point Reyes Peninsula, the world’s your oyster, too.  The waters surrounding the Point Reyes peninsula are home to some of the most productive oyster growing locations in the country.  Oysters are farmed in Tomales Bay and Drakes Bay by three commercial operations that are open to the public:

  • Drakes Bay Family Farms Oysters (www.drakesbayfamilyfarms.com)
  • Hog Island Oyster Company (www.hogislandoysters.com)
  • Tomales Bay Oyster Company (www.tomalesbayoyster.com)

    In addition to wildlife viewing, the Point Reyes National Seashore is an ideal hiking destination, offering a vast network of trails to choose from, year-round accessibility, beautiful scenery, incredible vistas, and yes, fresh air.  

    While on the Point Reyes Peninsula, check out the West Coast’s newest wetlands – the Giacomini Wetlands.  The restoration project is reclaiming 560 acres of land at the head of Tomales Bay and will eventually restore about 12 percent of the coastal wetlands in California
    .  The wetlands is already creating habitat for shorebirds, ducks, egrets, herons and pelicans.

    Point Reyes Lodging innkeepers serve as resident wildlife and nature experts and can offer insider tips to enhance a visitor’s experience at Point Reyes.

    The Point Reyes Lodging Association is a collection of 16 unique bed and breakfast inns and cottages near Point Reyes National Seashore.  To plan your
    Point Reyes getaway and make a Whales & Wildlife reservation, visit www.ptreyes.com.

Pumpkin Patch open in Fairfield California's Suisun Valley

Suisun Valley Pumpkin Patch is Fun for Everyone

Pumplkin Located inFairfield, California just off Interstate 80, Suisun Valley is a short drive from Sacramento. It's the perfect time of year to visit. Vineyards are at their autumn best with colorful fall foliage. With recent rains, the valley will be greening up soon. Enjoy the drive...stay for the fun!

More than 25 varieties of pumpkins, gourds, squash, ornamental corn and more for all of your fall decorating needs!

The Suisun Valley Pumpkin Patch
Open daily until Sunday, November 01, 2009.
10 AM - 6 PM
Admission is $3
Children 4 and under are FREE!


Includes five-acre corn maze, scarecrow gallery, pumpkin monster, hay pyramid, pumpkin bowling, picnic area. Lots of parking!

For Directions:  4443 Suisun Valley Road


Fall foliage in California in Suisun Valley wine region

Grape Leaf Credit Robert Holmes SUISUN VALLEY CALIFORNIA FALL FABULOUS

The splendor of autumn makes it an especially ideal time of year to travel in Solano County's Suisun Valley, one of California’s oldest standing viticultural and agricultural areas. A best kept secret of California, a foliage trip to Suisun Valley is one that’s best suited to travelers who long to be away from the crowds.

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Fairfield Tourism Association

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Yosemite National Park dresses up with fall color

Autumn Colors Paint Yosemite Valley Photo by Keith Walklet

Yosemite Credit Keith WalkletFalling for Yosemite 
by Barbara L. Steinberg©

 For most of us, Labor Day signals the unofficial end of summer.  Vacations are over.  Kids are back in school. The final firework display at the California State Fair has faded away.  It’s the last bonafide summer holiday weekend and, from this point forward it’s a slow, steady slide into the New Year.

The Fall Equinox occurs around September 23rd each year. The sun crosses the celestial equator, from north to south, heralding the end of summer marking the official start of autumn. Professed or scientific – it’s autumn!  Days are getting shorter; shadows are longer; nights are cooler; and you can feel the change in the air.  It’s inspirational!  It’s also one of the best and most inspired times of year to visit Yosemite National Park!

                                                    The Rest of the Story.....and lots of it!


Fall Foliage Abounds in California State Parks

COLUMBIA SHP- CREDIT CA STATE PARKS The Colors of Fall in California State Parks (Columbia State Historic Park)

Many state parks in Northern and Southern California have fantastic displays of fall colors.  Cooler weather, fewer visitors, and the changing colors of the landscape make a fall visit to a state park an excellent getaway, whether for a weekend or just a day.

Poison oak is changing color as the vine changes from green to red leaves and can look beautiful climbing up a tree trunk.

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Horse lovers Fandango will steal your heart