What's great in wine, beer, fine dining,
places to stay, & places to visit
in California State

Santa Cruz Mountains wine map Picmonkey

July 6, 2016 - California’s many beautiful wine regions offer an extraordinary variety of wines and experiences to enjoy. To help visitors explore them all, Wine Institute’s California Wines Road Trips series highlights a different region each month.

This month, take a trip to the coastal Santa Cruz Mountains wine region, known for its wooded peaks and small, family-owned vineyards tucked into serene hillsides.

TASTE News Service, June 1, 2015 – There’s a vibrant craft beer scene south of San Francisco.AB Logo Picmonkey

Two new brewpubs are due to open this summer in South San Francisco. South City, as it’s known to locals, is actually located in San Mateo County, just south of its bigger and better known namesake. For years the municipality has carried the identity, “The Industrial City,” and it seems appropriate that a place that has reveled in being home to hard work should welcome the brewing industry.

Armstrong Brewing began brewing in another location three years ago and is awaiting the date they can open the doors in their new and bigger digs at 415 Grand Ave. By this July they’ll be serving from a menu that includes a sour dubbed South City Brown, a Belgian styled 415 Fog and an infrequently-seen German style (Moe’s Gose).

Also opening soon in South San Francisco is 47 Hills Brewing Company. Founder John Tucci studied brewing in Germany, where he worked for Paulaner. More recently, he managed 5 separate Gordon Biersch breweries. When 47 Hills opens at 137 South Linden Ave, John’s brews will complemented by a selection of locally-sourced sausages.

Seven miles south is Steelhead Brewing Company, which has been in business since 1991. It’s location at 333 California Drive in Burlingame is a 5 minute ride from San Francisco’s Airport (SFO)

Freewheel Taps PicmonkeyCask-conditioned pour at Freewheel A bit further south—but over on the coast—are two attractive options. Half Moon Bay Brewing at 390 Capistrano Rd. is actually located a few miles north of the town of Half Moon Bay and is closer to El Granada on the maps. They feature a substantial menu of pub grub and are frequently home to live music. Patio seating for those mild days, too. Just across Highway 1 (also known as Cabrillo Hwy) at 30 Avenida Portola in the town of El Granada is Hop Dogma’s tasting room. Owners Dan Littlefield and Ethan Martini have made beers in a wide variety of styles, but say that they’re narrowing the focus now to concentrate on hoppy American styles, Belgians and darks.

Further south, but  but over the hill and on the bay side of the county, is Freewheel Brewery and Pub, located at 3736 Florence St. in Redwood City. Taking a different direction than the many California IPA producers, Freewheel has chosen to specialize in lower-hopped beers in the British tradition. They’re even making them in cask-conditioned style (their brews are naturally carbonated and are poured using no added carbon dioxide).

Editor’s note: Links to the websites of many brewpubs and craft beer purveyors can be found in the Beer section of Taste California Travel’s Resource Directory. Also in that directory are links to Lodging and Dining options, as well as Wineries, and they’re all sorted in easy-to-use geographic zones.

Wednesday, 08 October 2014 14:19

Jack-O-Lanterns and More

David Vierra with wolf pumpkin PicmonkeyDavid Vierra with wolf pumpkin

TASTE News Service October 8, 2014 - Growers up and down California have created seasonal, small-scale agricultural amusement parks built around pumpkin patches. A visit givers urban families a chance to commune with nature, expose their children to a simplified version of farming and, or course, buy pumpkins right at the source. Additional activities like hay rides, corn maze navigation and cider tasting tend to justify taking a ride into the country and also provide the grower with income additional to the sale of pumpkins.

Dave's Pumpkin Patch is one such place. Though just 10 minutes from downtown Sacramento, the Yolo County property is a real farm and maybe the only one that visiting city folks ever will have seen. Admission to the pumpkin patch is free, but other activities are available for which a charge is made. Hay rides, pig races, baby goats, pony rides and the Haunted Corn Maze are among the options.

Some pumpkin growing areas have given rise to bigger, collective events. Perhaps the best known of these is the Half Moon Bay Art and Pumpkin Festival, which is held each October (the 18th and 19th of the month this year). Tim Beeman, whose Miramar Events organizes the two-day festival, explains that although this part of the county is within an hour's drive or less for the San Francisco Bay Area's 3-4 million people, it is still a very agricultural area. “Half Moon Bay has become known as the spot for families to go and pick their pumpkin,” he comments. “It's a Disneyland of pumpkins around here at this time of year. It's like a sea of orange. Half Moon Bay has become known as the spot for families to go and pick their pumpkin.”

family at Farmer Johns Pumpkin Farm pcmonkeyFamily visit to Farmer John'sActually, pumpkin farmers in this area welcome visitors all through the autumn. John Muller, a diversified small grower who operates Farmer John's Pumpkin Farm, stresses a strictly agricultural experience for his visitors and eschews the peripheral entertainment that many pumpkin patches offer. Muller enjoys hosting school groups and families and sees many long-distance travelers. His world globe—a map drawn on an 1800-pound pumpkin—logs where his international visitors are coming from. “It has 40 pins on it already,” he says. “They represent people who've come this year from Europe, China, Australia, even Brazil.”

Chris Gounalakis has been at Arata's Pumpkin Farm for 22 seasons. The property has been a diversified farming operation for nearly a century. Gounalakis and his wife are in the process of purchasing the farm and now concentrate on corn and pumpkin production. People may be come to his farm because of such attractions as the Minotaur's Labyrinth Hay Maze, but Gounalakis feels that, once there, “Kids learn a lot about agriculture.”

Maze at Aratas Pumpkin Farm PicmonkeyMaze at Arata's Pumpkin Farm

Each Monday preceding the Festival, the Safeway World Champion Pumpkin Weigh-Off is held on Half Moon Bay's Main Street. The current world record holder—a 2,096.6 pound monster—was grown in Switzerland and certified at Mainz, Germany in September. Over $30,000 in prize money is on the line if this year's local champion can break that record. Win or lose, the sight of pumpkins weighing upwards of a ton each creates a buzz in the nationwide media. Later, photo-ops with the display of the top five placing pumpkins at the festival keep stoking the PR fires. Beeman claims that as many as 250,000 people visit during the festival, adding, “It's hard to be sure because it's not a turnstile event.” However many attend, the event creates substantial revenue for the area. Now in its 44th year, the festival brings in major dollars to the community, buoying its economy and helping underwrite local civic projects. And it sells a whole lot of pumpkins.

Editor's note: If you're thinking of a visit to any of California's “Pumpkin Countries,” you should check out the Resource Directory of Taste California Travel. There you will find links to the websites of hundreds of Lodging and Dining options displayed geographically. Also in the Resource Directory are links to wineries and craft beer specialists.

Monday, 18 August 2014 19:19

Three Perfect Days in Pacifica

Pacifica scene PicmonkeyJust south of San Francisco, but a different scene

TASTE News Service August 18, 2014 – Located just 15 minutes from San Francisco, the beach-front town of Pacifica is an ideal destination for a quick three-day getaway.

While there are so many attractions and things to do in Pacifica, it's important to build in plenty of quiet time to unplug, unwind and chill. So, take it easy and understand that this list of suggestions for three perfect days in Pacifica is merely a summary of some of the visitors' favorite pastimes.

Day One

- Check into one of six hotels, there's something for everyone's taste and budget.

- Enjoy lunch at Nick's and be sure to order the signature grilled crab sandwiches or one of the hand-cut steaks..

- Take a guided Silicon Segway tour around the town and along the ocean bluffs to get your bearings and background of the area.

- To rejuvenate, take a brief power nap or leisurely walk along Rockaway Beach.

- Have a pre-dinner glass of wine, complemented by live music at A Grape in the Fog.

- Book a table with a spectacular, panoramic view for the sunset and dinner at Moonraker Restaurant, Pacifica's find dining restaurant.

Day Two

-First thing in the morning, head out to the Pacifica Pier with fishing gear, crab trap, tackle and bait, which are all available for rent at Coastside Bait & Tackle. They also provide instruction about set-up needs to catch fish and crab (in season). As a public pier, a fishing license isn't required.

-For a hearty breakfast, check out the menu at Valamar Station, which features large portions of the best, freshest fare.-Hike/walk the gentle path of the new Devils Slide Trail. Interpretive signage and stunning views of the Pacific are the focus.

-Enjoy a spot of tea and light snack at Lovey's Tea Shop where the mismatched china and quirky décor are easy on the eyes. The options for tea are out of this world and the menu features everything from hearty pub fare to gluten-free options…and all the tea you can drink.

Bar Craneshot Front PicmonkeyPisco Bar at Puerto 27 offers great beach view -Rest up with a quick nap or read a book on the beach.

-For dinner, head to the new Puerto 27 Peruvian Kitchen and Pisco Bar and be sure to sample a variety of menu items, tapas style.

-Check out who's performing in town at www.pacificaperformances.org. The theatre features everything from opera to tango, blues and folk.

Day Three

-Enjoy breakfast at the Salada Beach Café where choices range from healthy to hearty.

-Take a private art class with Janet Barker on one of Pacifica's dramatic beaches. Be sure to set up your appointment with this “art-trepreneur” ahead of time. This is an ideal activity for those that want to bring home their painting as a memento from their Pacifica getaway.

-Lunch al fresco at the Surf Spot and enjoy fresh seafood dishes and salads.

-Then, as the getaway winds down, take a pick from the several adventure options…a leisurely hike at Mori Point; powering up and down some of the most intriguing mountain bike terrain in California; paddle boarding at Linda Mar Beach; hitting the links at the Alister MacKenzie-designed Sharp Park Golf Course; or surfing the popular beaches of Pacifica (surf lessons are available for those that need a refresher).

Pacifica Lodging

Pacifica offers six lodging options in the budget to moderate price range and all are within walking distance to Pacifica's beaches. Four are located at Rockaway Beach. The largest with 97 guest rooms is the Best Western Plus Lighthouse Hotel, a full-service hotel situated on Rockaway Beach with spacious accommodations, beautiful ocean views, a swimming pool and the upscale Moonraker restaurant. The Holiday Inn Express Hotel & Suites Pacifica provides very comfortable accommodations with ocean views and a complimentary hot Express Start Breakfast Bar. Offering a dash of Victorian charm is the pet-friendly Pacifica Motor Inn and adjacent to Nick's Restaurant is the Sea Breeze Motel, which is very convenient for those looking to dance the night away at Nick's.  Situated across from Linda Mar Beach is another full service hotel called the Pacifica Beach Hotel. Under new ownership, the hotel now includes several remodeled rooms, offering spectacular ocean view rooms, Jacuzzi tubs, indoor swimming pool and the new Peruvian Restaurant, Puerto 27. Further north near Sharp Park is Americas Best Value Inn, which is a short walk from Pacifica Pier and the golf course.

Editor's note: More information about Pacifica is available at visitpacifica.com If you're thinking of visiting this coastside area, visit the San Francisco & Bay Area listings in Taste California Travel's Resource Directory. There you'll find links to the websites of hundreds of Lodging and Dining options, as well as links to craft beer specialists in the area and to nearby wineries.

Sunday, 06 January 2013 14:20

April 30, 2017 Dream Machine Festival

Region: SF & Bay Area     City: Half MoonBay     Contact: www.miramarevents.com/dreammachines

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