Isabella Corsetry a Sacramento Maker

Isabella  Erin Bray croset designer and maker Credit Jim CoatsErin Bray, Isabella Corsetry designer and maker, was a stay-at-home mom who fell in love with period costumes and architecture. Her passion inspired a foundation collection of extraordinary modern-day and traditional corsets. You don’t have Isabella Corsetry Credit Barbara L Steinberg 2016to be a dedicated tight-lacer, but “waist cinchers” can trim up to 10 inches. Endless combination of fabrics, trims, buttons and bows, patterns are drafted by hand and cut based on real customers. All finish work is under Erin’s careful watch. The well-loved and most popular Josephine “under the bust” corset is ideal for daily wear.

Isabella Corsetry
2311 S St, Sacramento
(916) 612-4075

Open by appointment




World of Flavors in Sacramento

Babylon City Market 2016 Credit Are You That Woman10Babylon City Market
1745 Watt Avenue, Sacramento; (916) 486-777
Six years young, this Mediterranean specialty market, bakery and café features halal meats, dairy, produce, spices, and traditional Iraqi breads prepared right before your eyes. You’ll swoon over fresh-baked samoon stuffed with chicken shawarma, pickled onions, garlic and tomatoes. Kabobs, falafel, chicken tikka, and hummus are all available to eat-in or takeout.  
Baking Samoon Bread Babylon City Market 2016 Credit Are You That WomanAre You That Woman Tip:  Ask about the anise cookies.


Locavores love Old Town Elk Grove Farmers Market

Old Town Elk Grove Credit Are You That Woman

Rating:  Star*Star*Star*Star*

Still uber cool, I know I must be getting older. How many times do I now say, "back in the day"?  Too many to count. So, back in the day...we use to go to Old Town Elk Grove! Comfy and quaint and ahead of the curve,we enjoyed Elk Grove Brewery brews and German food. That was then this is now. Lola's now lives at what was once the brewery. It's been too many years, seriously! Why? It's still so sweet and getting sweeter all the time. Motivated by news of a new farmers market, I made the short trek to Old Town Elk Grove and was not disappointed.
Old Town Elk Grove Farmers Marekt Sign Credit Are You That Woman
The new Old Town Elk Grove Farmers Market is finding its way—just five months new—it will get there. Allan D'Anneo, Market Manager, Living Smart Farmers Markets, is bringing locally grown, locally made, locally good to Elk Grove. Watsonville, Capay Valley, Sacramento, Lodi, Escalon—all good things from the earth— raspberries, apples, carrots, heirloom tomatoes, cheese, honey, peppers YUM! Bread, baked goods, tamales, good dogs (and I do mean tube steak) kettle corn (of course) and more! Delicious homemade goodies for your pooch, handcrafted soaps and body products, colorful tees, sea glass jewelry, and exotic goods, Yes, they're off to an excellent start.

Fruit and Veggies Old Town Elk Grove Farmers Market Credit Are You That WomanIt was quiet on this Labor Day Sunday—okay by me, but I know the vendors are eager to greet and meet you! Fabulous live music—this time the incredible and so mellow Jessica Malone and Matthew Hevesh!  More events coming to this corner including the 6th Annual Tomato Taste-off, September 18, 2016 and Pumpkin Patch and Paint, October 2nd and 30th.

The fifth star is coming for this rising star on the ag-tourism, farmers market circuit. And Old Town, I'll be back sooner than later! Are You That Woman is the ultimate omni-local. Lola's Lounge is now on the bucket list along with Bob's Club, a dive bar after my own heart. And just up the street, Boulevard Bistro! Stay tuned and @Visit Elk Grove


Nixtaco street tacos in Roseville, yes, Mexican perfected

Rating: Star!Star!Star!Star!Star!


Pork Belly Taco with pickled onions Credit Are You That WomanI fell in love with Nixtaco last year at the Auburn Farmers Market. The owner, Patricio Wise, had a small booth with a limited menu. Despite it's diminutive size, the descriptions were so delicious I couldn't decide and asked for guidance. He suggested the pork belly taco with pickled onions. I'll keep this brief and simply say, "OMG!" An explosion of flavors danced in my mouth. Sadly, the party was over too soon. And that's what I kept saying to everyone I met.


Elated to hear a storefront was in the making, I whined and begged a bit, "Please come to Sacramento!" But Patricio and Nixtaco opted for an obscure corner in Roseville — damn you Placer County! I waited with bated breath. Once I heard that opening bell, I made the drive from downtown Sacramento. Wild horses wouldn't/couldn't keep me away. And so, as part of my birth-month celebration, I posted to Patricio, "I'm on the way!"

The location is generic, but that's where it ends and deliciousness begins. Everything — I mean everything — is made with love and true to its Mexican roots. Honestly, most ethnic foods are dumbed- or watered-down for American taste buds. Plus, Americans expect huge portions heaped and spreading over the edges of plates. At Nixtaco, diminutive street tacos and burritos are bountiful and flavorful as they should be. Not stuffed to the point of exploding — three perfect bites — eat them slowly savoring every morsel.

IMAG0892On this birthday lunch, friend Barbara R. joined in as a first-timer and was thrilled. We both opted for the three-taco special(s) and over-lapped in some choices which included: Pork Belly, Pollo en Mole, Short Rib Barbacoa and Asado Norteño. I love, love, LOVE the black beans. We watched fresh tortillas being made, ate too many house-made chips, guacamole and salsa(s), and chatted away happily long after finishing every scrap. I like the simplicity service on metal trays and mason jars for the salsa. Less waste in our landfills or water wasted washing dishes. I would love to see some really fabulous art - maybe a cool mural by friend Dos Hermano/Gabriel Romo next time he visits from Mexico!

For those who commented about prices being high and portions small:  This is a small, locally grown, genuine experience. Quality. You get what you pay for which doesn't always mean a plate piled sky high. Nothing artificial here. Everything is made in-house. And just like any new business, there are bound to be hiccups. The owners are there watching carefully and putting heart and soul into what I hope will be a very successful venture.

Their website says, "Three bites of pleasure!" Are You That Woman is here to say three thumbs up along with those five (5) stars above. Patricio you'll forgive me if I continue to whine just a little, "Please come to Sacramento...after you catch your breath!"


Nixtaco
1805 Cirby Way, #12
Roseville, CA  95661
916/771-4165

 


The Dish on Placer County Small Towns

Small Towns are Too Much Fun, Too Little Time by Are You That Woman

I am so blessed to live in northern California. My dilemma always, “Where to go, what to eat?”  Less than 50 from California’s state capital, Sacramento, in any direction, farm and wine trails offer tours, festivals, music, flowers, art, and baskets brimming with edible delights. Day trips or overnight, bucolic communities wait with open arms.

Historic Higway 40 Loomis 2016 Credit Are You That WomanThis time, I choose to head out of Sacramento via I-80 east to the pastoral foothills of Placer County's famed Gold Country.  At Rocklin, I turn onto Taylor Road/Pacific Street—also known as historic Highway 40—to travel back road routes towards my chosen destinations.  I have a long-time love affair with this great American road, and slowing down is the best part of this journey.

The way is mostly quiet through the small rural towns of Loomis, Newcastle, and Auburn, whose combined populations top out at 25,000.  Up at daybreak, I’m giddy with anticipation as I head for the Old Town Auburn farmers’ market, anxious to peruse fresh produce, jams, baked goods, and crafts. Every Saturday, 8 a.m. to noon, Placer Grown and regional vendors Nixtaco Taqueria Pork Belly Tacos with pickled onion Credit Barbara L Steinbergvie for space at this premier market. My recycled bags fill quickly: Snow’s Citrus Court Mandarin Fruit Spread, The Baker & the Cakemaker Meyer lemon rosemary bread, fresh roasted chilies, crisp watermelon radishes, and made-by-hand Jollity Farm Chèvre. Seasonally, local Satsuma Mandarins are in big demand and sell out fast.  Away from the market, the Mandarin Trail provides endless possibilities for this healthful citrus, touted as a cure for the common cold.  I can’t resist Nixtaco Taqueria pork belly street tacos with pickled onions. The feasting has officially begun! 

Old Town Auburn’s historic sidewalks and brick and stone buildings speak to another place and time. IMAG0605However, a selection of retail shops and restaurants are strictly 21st Century. Fine art, antiques, wine, and museums provide a full-day’s exploration.  Across town, less than a mile away, I am drawn to Mickey’s Boots. Specializing in custom-fitting for more than 35 years, Mickey’s tops the list for Western boots. I was drooling over the Lucchese Classic – handmade in Texas since 1883 – it’s the Rolls Royce of boots. General Gomez Arts & Event Center, Winston Smith Books, Auburn Alehouse, Victory Velo Bike Shop – it’s all about locals!

Carpe Vino Auburn Dining Room table tops are made from a recycled bowling alley lane  Photo Credit Keith SutterLocated in the historic Union Saloon (circa 1855), Carpe Vino – award-winning wine bar, wine shop, and fine dining restaurant – is a northern California Top 100 according to Open Table, and favored by Wine Spectator.  Guests select from more than 400 labels, 30+ wines by the glass, or a house flight. Chefs Courtney and Eric, wife and husband, trained in classical French cooking at the Culinary Institute of America in New York and describe their menu as, “refined New American using French techniques influenced by flavors from around the world.” Acquiring produce and meats from local farms, menus change every month. “This is the food basket of America. We embraced that the day we opened,” stated Eric. They walk the talk every Saturday at the farmer’s market.

Having lingered at the market, I’m behind schedule. When visiting Placer County, you soon discover why schedules are made to be broken. In this case, I am immediately derailed by the historic Newcastle Produce fruit shed. The assortment of locally sourced goods is dizzying:  breads, cheeses, olive oils, produce, chocolates, and wine – truly your farm-to-fork one-stop shop.
Newcastle Produce Credit VisitPlacer.com4
Agriculture was Placer County’s second Gold Rush.  In the early 1900s, Newcastle was the fruit shipping capital of the world, transporting more than 69 million tons of fruits and nuts. The diverse landscape – foothills and majestic Sierra Nevada – supports a wide-range of crops from stone fruits, flowers, grapes, persimmons, berries, and kiwi to celebrated Satsuma Mandarins.  Locavores rejoice at Newcastle Produce! Deli staff prepares fresh soups, salads, sandwiches and more from local ingredients. This menu attracts hungry cyclists who pedal here daily. Before departing, I grab a latte and poppy seed scone.

Halfway between Newcastle and Lincoln, I navigate winding roads to sun-drenched Wise Villa Winery with 26-rolling acres of vineyards; the patio and tasting room are humming.  “I just wanted to make good wine!” Housemade flatbread and pulled mozzerella with tomatoes and balsalmic Dr Grover Wise Owner Wise Villa Winery Photo Credit Barbara L Steinbergasserts Dr. Grover Lee, owner and winemaker. Clearly, he has succeeded. Just six years since the first release, the winery was awarded California State Fair’s Winery of the Year, 2015. 

Estate grown and bottled, the winery consistently produces award-winning vintages, in particular, red wine. Partaking of a tour and full flight, I settle on the Touriga Nacional 2013, which has gold-medaled more than once. The complex flavors of berries, chocolate, vanilla and spice were luscious. The Bistro, under the guidance of Cher Tyler Huntley, is creating food and wine pairing magic. I enjoyed handcrafted flatbread with local tomatoes, house-pulled mozzarella topped with balsamic reduction, and house-cured olives with lemon, garlic and herbs. Other culinary delights, including house-made desserts, provide plenty of incentive to return.

Embracing the farm-to-glass experience Catherine and Michael Johnson converted their big red barn into the GoatHouse brewery and tasting room Credit GoatHouse BrewingIndulge your senses along Placer’s Wine & Ale Trail.  Small-production, family-owned wineries and craft breweries offer intimate tasting experiences. The granite soil and Mediterranean-like climate has provided the ideal environment for Placer’s liquid gold.  The burgeoning craft brewery trade shouldn’t be overlooked – family-friendly GoatHouse Brewing grows its own hops, 20 varieties.  A new generation is rushing to these award-winning wine and beer riches.

Crisscrossing back roads, I arrive at Loomis and The Flower Farm.  An inn, café, nursery, citrus and vegetable farm, produce stand, gift shop, winery, and events facility, it qualifies as a one-of-a-kind lodging destination.  Taking a breather, I stroll around the property.  The rooster makes himself known as I giggle over Gypsy Chicks, the resident flock of Silkies. Yes, farm living is the life for me!

The Flower Farm cottages provides porch provdes shaded comfort on a summer day  Credit Andrea's ImagesThe turn-of-the-century farmhouse offers relaxing spaces and three cheerful rooms upstairs. Shaded by century-old trees and flowering shrubs, serenity reigns. Just steps away, four cozy cottages are surrounded by expansive lawns and adjacent to citrus orchards, Bocce courts and blessed relaxation.  Sun porch or front porch, there are endless places to soak-up farm life. I collapse in my Climbing Rose Cottage, enjoying a quiet time in the spa tub before embarking on my dining adventure.

Loomis Basin Brewing, less than five miles from The Flower Farm, sits nearly unseen in an industrial park off Highway 40. In the dark, even I resort to GPS! With no food truck and the back patio empty, it’s a quiet scene tonight.  Inside, the tap room feels like old home week, and regulars invite me to their table. Looking for something light, the bartender recommends the Swetzer Pale Ale with notes of pear and citrus.  On tap, bottled or growlers, brewery selections range from IPAs and wheat beer to stouts and porters. It’s all local! 


With the day winding down, I’m happy dinner is less than a mile away.  Someone has suggested the Green Elephant, specializing in Burmese food. The lone server and owner, Rachel Lunt, greets me enthusiastically.  The dining room is empty, which gives us time to chat while I peruse the menu. I was told the Green Tea Salad is a must. “The younger tea leaves preserved with ginger, garlic and spices are imported from Burma,” Rachel says, “The salad is only available depending on the supply.” It includes cabbage, peanut oil, lime, tomato, peppers and an assortment of twice-roasted nuts. “Twice roasting Tea leaf salad Credit Tesssa Bmakes them crunchier,” explains Rachel. 

It's been a full day of indulging, the sizable salad qualifies as dinner.  Fresh and flavorful, there was a party happening inside my m outh! There’s a wide variety of items on the menu including Thai, Chinese and Japanese, and nearly every item can be made vegetarian. By the time I depart, the restaurant is full and clearly many are regulars.

After a good night’s sleep, I am up with the roosters. A country breakfast is included with the room, and I’m ready to eat, again!  San Francisco tablemates, Harry and Kate, are on a hiking adventure.  We’re dining in the café, which is open to the public for breakfast and lunch.  Eggs, applewood smoked bacon, homemade jam, local organic toast, and country potatoes; I’m a happy camper.  The menu includes vegetarian and gluten-free options and is crafted around what is grown in the one-acre vegetable garden.  “We love this place,” says Kate, “We’ll be back.” I agree, but so much more awaits. 

Baby Alpaca curious and smiling for the camera Credit Alpacas All AroundA short drive away, I pass over small bridge and head down a private road.  Pulling up to Alpacas All Around, five or six baby alpacas are racing around the pasture while moms quietly graze.  I immediately start to ooh and aah, completely enthralled by their antics. Tours are available on select weekends or by appointment.  Owner, Susan Peterson, is a gracious and informative host, and the alpacas provide endless entertainment. While they don’t like to be touched, some are curious and sniff me out.  Wonderful alpaca products are sold in a tiny farm shop. My feet love their new toasty alpaca wool socks.

There’s a lot of good living packed into Loomis’ 7.2 square miles and agricultural production, including Blue Goose Produce and High Hand Nursery & Café on Taylor Road. Part of the region’s fruit shed heritage, owners have taken locavore to the next frontier. Not just produce, but meat, cheeses, wines, art, clothing, and plants.

The historic Blue Goose Fruit Shed was preserved by the South Loomis Heritage Foundation and, today, houses Blue Goose Produce, Sarah Whitcomb Antiques, and The Loomis News.  Blue Goose Produce is open year-round and specializes in Placer Grown fruits, vegetables, and nuts, including their own Westview Growers’ Satsuma Mandarins. Recently opened, Popie Wines’ tasting room is open weekends, noon to 5:00 p.m.  

High Hand Nursery & Cafe 2015 Credit Barbara L Steinberg15A sensory experience, the centerpiece of High Hand Nursery & Café is an arboretum-like garden and nursery; High Hand-grown plants fill the greenhouse.  Allow plenty of time to eat, shop, relax, and to be amazed. Lunch or brunch, the café and deli are surrounded by light and greenery. Culinary delights crafted from the local best have me drooling. Shaded by trees, a glass of wine, a Rotisserie Chicken wood-fired pizza, and slice of Whiskey Pear Almond Tart – seriously, it doesn’t get much better!

High Hand Art Gallery, the oldest section of the fruit shed (circa 1901), houses leading artists of the region:  art glass, textiles, sculpture, jewelry, and paintings. A fantastic collection of shops include everything from flowers and garden art to olive oil and antique and vintage goods. The Tin Thimble, a creative sewing and fiber arts shop, tops my list. Hand-dyed felted wool, handcrafted children’s clothing, and vintage notions – it’s truly inspired. For the creatively challenged, classes are offered!

Carriage Loft and garden Courtesy of Carriage LoftFor this very local excursion, farm stays, bed and breakfasts, VRBOs, and Airbnb are a harmonious alternative to hotels and motels. On VRBO, the “Carriage Loft” included farm-fresh organic eggs, veggies self-picked from the garden, swimming pool, hot tub, foothill views, and luxurious décor. If comfort and close to the action is your preferred lodging, rest your head at the award-winning Auburn Holiday Inn. Elegantly remodeled, the new decor it's all that (snap) and more!  Amenities galore you can wine, dine, swim, workout and relax in the heart of Placer's gold country.

“People are nice here – a small town is like a big family,” observed one resident.  In Placer County, small towns deliver big on a promise of too much fun and too little time.  I can say without hesitation, “It’s true!”

   Placer County Logo hi res 2016
Originally published Food & Travel Magazine
April 2016

Food & Travel Logo


Secret Gardens of the California Gold Country

Go Explore! Oakwilde Ranch & Sculpture by Barbara L. Steinberg

You'll need all your best navigational devices to find this most secret art garden. Take Highway 99 south and enjoy some comfort food – breakfast or lunch – at the very local Woodlon Diner, Jahant Road exit in Acampo and then head towards Highway 26. If you know the backroads, you'll exit at Liberty Road and breath deep as cruise into the foothills.  Clements Ridge produce stand at highways 88 and 12 is a must! The very best homemade pies, local fruits and veggies, and more, more, more! Check online for seasonal hours.
Melanie Pickrell – Antioch, CA Oakwilde Ranch & Sculpture Nov 2011 Credit www.AreYouThatWoman.com
Hunger sated, continue east towards Valley Springs. Ready yourself for scenic vistas. Two-lane country roads framed by orchards, vineyards, and small towns are visually soothing.  Be one of the first to visit Oakwilde Ranch & Sculpture  during the 9th annual Spring Sculpture Exhibition! On 52 acres in Calaveras County, owner/artists Denise Mayfield and Kresimir Luckars are cultivating art and relationships along groomed trails and undulating hillsides. The winding road delivers sculptures, hospitality, wine tasting, spring wildflowers, and beautiful views. Ranch hikes are an adventure in search of art installations and views of Gold Country foothills from the “Top of the World.” Call ahead for an appointment and detailed directions.

If you have time on your return, Lodi wineries are plentiful and freeway-close.

Oakwilde Ranch & Sculpture
7111 South Burson Road
Valley Springs, CA  95252
209/931-4561    

 

Are You That Woman Hi Res Barbara Steinberg 2014 Logo text 2


Make/Do Sacramento is more in historic Oak Park neighborhood

Old Sew tote made from vintage rice bag.
Old Sew tote made from vintage rice bag.
www.AreYouThatWoman.com
 
Make/Do Sacramento new vintage store
Rating: Star!Star!Star!Star!Star!

Not too late for a little "sumpin sumpin" for that Valentine's Day, or any day, someone special. A new addition to historic Oak Park, Make/Do Sacramento is all about that perfect gift. With a focus on local artisans, you're almost assured it's one-of-a-kind, handmade, and yes, very local!

Make/Do Sacramento is shop local, made local, owned local. Vintage clothing, fabrics, handmade bags and jewelery.

Handmade jewelry and stylish purses and totes are sure to please. Vintage clothing, home decor, and fabrics, buttons, and notions are trendy again. And beautifully displayed. This diminutive boutique delivers on shop small, shop local mantra. Daughter and mother team, Lori and Linda, are the driving force. Mom Linda creates her Old Sew must-have handbags and totes from recycled fabrics including vintage rice bags! Sacramento-made Backyard Soapsmith soaps are made in small batches -- and vegan! Kitschy favorite is the Chandewheel by Kevin Greenberg the "up-cycled-bike-wheel-license-plate chandelier that you never knew you wanted..or needed!"

Anticipation! Make/Do Sacramento is only open Friday and Saturday, 10am to 4pm and by appointment. More hours coming soon, I hope. Meanwhile, this will definitely Make/Do!

Make/Do Sacramento
2901 35th Street
Sacramento, CA 95817


California romantic getaways this Valentine's Day or whenever

Romancing the Soul 100 Miles More or Less from Sacramento: Urban Urbane,  Bayside Bliss, and Brookside Gold

#1 rule this Valentine’s Day/Month: Your California romantic getaway begins by leaving day-to-day worries behind – embrace the call to loving escapades. Every journey begins with some urban highway or interstate miles. Whenever possible, this insider recommends the roads less-traveled.

P1260703There are country byways to inspire and lift your spirits as if the journey's end weren't reason enough. Stupefying scenic roads are the only access to Nick's Cove. Pick one off Highway 101 South – Lucas Valley, Shoreline Highway, Point Reyes-Petaluma Road – don't rush this romantic odyssey. The stimulus of lush landscapes, rolling hills, valleys, craggy canyons and (eventually) bay and ocean views is visual foreplay.

Romantic...OMG! Twelve luscious cottages tucked away overlooking Tomales Bay. Through sunshine and fog, draped in natural beauty. Breathtaking views. The first encounter will leave you giddy. No detail has been ignored. Plush beds, cozy sitting areas, music, mini-fridge with drinks, and the most 2 Nick's Cove Bandits' Bungalow credit ©2012 frankenyimages.comfantastic bathrooms. Deliciously prepared food, much of it local! Breakfast is delivered to your cottage -- juice, fresh fruit, homemade pastries, and coffee are included or for an additional charge -- buttermilk waffles, crab Benedict, steel cut oatmeal, bacon -- you decide. As if by magic, barbecued oysters appear upon arrival! You know what they say about oysters? Wink! Wink!

Dine at Nick's Cove Restaurant where menus change frequently and are a locavore's dream. Chocolate is an aphrodisiac! So they say. Savor gourmet s'mores fused fireside. Sensuous and finger licking good! “Nick’s Loves Love” package is available throughout February, Sunday - Thursday. Be sure to ask for details.

This corner of California abounds in beautiful scenery. Take in the Tomales Bay views from decks, docks, or a kayak built for two.

Downton Abbey fans, embrace romantic times gone by at the Berkeley City Club. Designed and built by Julia Morgan (of Hearst Castle fame), the Moorish “Little Castle” is classic Julia. If architecture and ambiance is what you seek, the Julia Morgan-inspired Berkeley City Club is the key to your 8 Berkeley CC Mezzsweetheart sanctuary.  All the genteel grace of the post-Edwardian era – you can imagine this amorous tryst!  If your heart's desire is to live like kings or queens, you will love the Berkeley City Club – a romantic kingdom. 

Originally a women-only club, it’s been painstakingly restored and is part of Historic Hotels of America. Not today's boutique, the BCC is all about quiet elegance of bygone times. Affectionately known as "The Little Castle," it's the closest you'll ever come to a night at Julia’s legendary Hearst Castle. Only members and guests can indulge in the indoor heated swimming pool, reminiscent of the bigger castle's famous Roman Pool. A late-night swim is sublime as you may be the only ones luxuriating in the heated pool.

Guestrooms are TV-free – remember the operative  word here is “romance”. Common areas beckon you to unwind and garden courtyards offer secluded spaces to gaze long and lovingly. A quiet loge has games of all kinds. Check online for special events and theatrical productions performed at the Club. The rate includes a sumptuous expanded continental breakfast!  Just blocks from Shattuck, Telegraph, and UC Berkeley campus BCC is an ideal location to dine, but consider lunch or dinner and the cocktail hour at Julia’s. Coffee and tea are available in the lobby throughout the day. We know it’s hard to resist the WiFi, but try.

This is a one-of-a-kind. Leave your notions of modern hotels behind. There are some larger suites but hotel rooms are of the era – smaller. Julia never intended you to spend all your time in the room, but they are still plenty cozy. It’s all about the public spaces and gardens. The exquisite tile work in bathrooms, architectural details throughout, the pool, garden courtyards – sensory overload.

Park and walk Berkeley’s urbane landscape. Valentine’s chocolates are a must from Chocolatier Blue (two nearby locations) so perfectly paired with a sake tasting at Takara Sake.

17  Cottages at La Honda Park  Murphys California Credit Barbara L Steinberg 2011 112For a tranquil and romantic retreat, The Cottages at La Honda Park is a fantastic antidote. Located in Calaveras County, the five cottages, barn and main house, once ramshackle and rickety,  are a tribute to recycling. Beautifully restored and utilizing many cast-offs, each of the themed rooms is comfort supreme. Cottages are equipped with a kitchenette and wood-burning stove. Front porches beckon to those in love. The restored barn built from many of the original materials, is a cozy recreation area with fireplace, pool table, foosball, darts, and board games. The original barn doors open onto the creek. The Park sits on the edge of Angels Creek and an old weir – the sound of cascading water is spellbinding – Mother Nature’s own brand of romantic background music. With six secluded acres, the natural setting is home to many birds and wildlife. TV-free, there is free WiFi – maybe Netflix your favorite romantic flick.

This quiet and romantic respite is just one-mile from the bustle of Main Street and Historic Murphys’ wine and culinary delights. More than 20 wine tasting rooms are just that close.  Best cocktails are imbibed at V Restaurant, Bar & Bistro and something very special The Spice Tin will, yes, will spice up your love’s life.

Whatever you choose this romance season – or any season – always remember to ask about seasonal and mid-week rates and AAA and AARP discounts. Oh, and pet-friendliness, too!


USA Today 10Best make Sacramento #1

P1220218

The clock is ticking down towards the January 5, 2015 deadline to vote Sacramento #1. Don't let us down! You can still vote three more times starting right now!

Sacramento has been nominated as one of 20 travel-worthy State Capitals in the United States by readers of USA TODAY and 10Best. California’s capital city is currently in 4th place behind Carson City, Nevada, Juneau, Alaska, and Boise, Idaho! How can this be? We can’t let any of those cities beat us!

Please show your support for Sacramento by casting your vote daily. Voting is open until January 5, 2015 at 11:59 EST. Share this with your email lists, Facebook, Twitter and other social media and networking options. Keep voting until we get the job done.

Sacramento, California, is honored to be one of 20! But at the end of the day, we should be #1!


Sacramento's Best Cookies

Goodie Tuchews has the crown for more than 30  years! by Barbara L.Steinberg

It’s shocking tGoodie Tuchewso hear that some of you are not into sweets! A box of expensive chocolate truffles holds no fascination and luscious cakes aren’t your Achilles’ heel. You don’t wait breathlessly for all those candy-laden holidays – Valentine’s Day, Easter, Halloween, or Christmas – to be swept away into a sugar coma. However, on the rare occasion when your sweet tooth is itching to be scratched, do you know where to go? A place – special above all others – called Goodie Tuchews. Sacramento’s bona fide cookie castle; and where Terry O’Reilly, owner and lone baker, reigns as the Cookie Queen.

It’s amazing – nay, stunning – that longtime downtown residents and workers say they’ve never noticed the cookie heaven at 1015 L Street (circa 2007)-- and for many more years at 10th & J streets. Terry’s love affair with cookies pre-dates Goodie Tuchews’ 1981 opening. For five years she honed her cookie skills as a regional manager for Cookie Magoo, a Berkeley cookie chain (which eventually succumbed to the wilds of Mrs. Fields.) Terry had a short-lived break on the road to cookie connoisseur when she went to “live” in Europe . Three months later she was back in Sacramento working at the family-run Goodie Tuchews.

Terry’s dad came up with the 10th Street location. Though lackluster, the rent was cheap. And the name? Just a fun play on words, Goodie Tuchews, it was somehow fated. They found out after the fact that people use to call the Cal Western building the “Goodie Two Shoes Building ” because it housed so many non- profits. Terry, along with her father, Gerald, and six siblings crafted their cookies. Six Cookie Magoo recipes (Terry was granted these as long as she stayed out of the Bay Area) evolved into 19 and a local cookie legend was born. Eventually the other family members left the business and Terry became the cookie maven in 1994.

In more than 25 years at her 10th Street shop and now 5 years at 1015 L Street, Terry has baked thousands and thousands of cookies. About relocating she said, “Everything happens for a reason. The new space is luxurious and a better location.” Though she’s joined the ranks of prettier storefronts, her cookies will never be cookie-cutter. Each one is made with love. The most popular cookie is always the semi-sweet, chocolate chip without nuts. The only cookie to ever be retired was the gingersnap – due to lack of interest. And rumor has it that the chocolate cookie with peanut butter chips is a real “adult cookie”…try it with red wine. My personal favorites are Snickerdoodle and Chocolate Chip Macadamia Nut!

Quoting the Cookie Queen:  “People said, ‘We thought you’d never make it!’ I never imagined after more than 25 years that I’d still be doing this. I made myself a job that I love. My motto has always been, Peace & Cookies on Earth!”