<![CDATA[NBC Bay Area - Worth the Trip]]> Copyright 2014 http://www.nbcbayarea.com/blogs/worth-the-trip http://media.nbcbayarea.com/designimages/nbc_bayarea_blue.png NBC Bay Area http://www.nbcbayarea.com en-us Tue, 30 Sep 2014 16:59:27 -0700 Tue, 30 Sep 2014 16:59:27 -0700 NBC Owned Television Stations <![CDATA[Wave-Adjacent Wine: Big Sur's Food Fab Weekend]]> Tue, 30 Sep 2014 15:18:23 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/214*120/Cheersredwoodsbigsur.jpg

BEYOND THE MIND VISIT: Thank goodness daydreaming is free, and we don't have to pay a toll every single time our thoughts alight upon a favorite destination or a favorite pastime. We have a sense that spots like Pfeiffer State Park and Esalen and other Big Sur locations and retreats would stay mighty busy hosting all of the mind-wandering daydreamers, as the area makes for prime daydream material. As do the wines of the area, and the foods as well. Put together? Location and lunch? Big Sur, the nature-beautiful place, and Big Sur, the delicious foodie gathering spot, makes for a potent daydream subject matter and a desired real-life one, too. And the real-life end of Big Sur devotion gets a significant boost come November, when gourmands, winemakers, winethinkers, chefs, nature ramblers, and Big Sur aficionados gather for the Big Sur Food & Wine Festival. Visualize three days of walks and wine-tastings and vista-enjoyment and socializing and the savoring of suppers made with bravado and zest.

THOSE THREE DAYS... are Thursday, Nov. 6 through Sunday, Nov. 9, and the regional places on the roster are a who's who -- or a where's where, rather -- of Big Sur classics. The Henry Miller Library will host the Saturday night Dinner with Friends, Pfeiffer State Park has the Auction Experience and a Grand Public Tasting, a Tuscan BBQ at Big Sur Roadhouse, and a Paul Lato Winemaker Dinner at Esalen. Local top toques from Deetjan's Big Sur Inn, the Esalen Institute, and more major spots -- major both locally and on the wider foodie scene -- will be preparing the fresh-fresh-fresh eats (you can bet seasonal/local'll be two of the bywords). As for the vineyards? Big Basin, Banshee Wines, and Wind Gap Wines shall be the sparkling libations in many of the tasting glasses.

AS FOR TICKETS? They're a la carte, so pick what you want to do (and pick soon -- events do sell out). As for the setting? The web site says it best: You're in the land of "roughed coastline," the ultimate daydreamer's go-to. That there's a gourmet angle to it all, and that you'll really be there, is the cherry on the lovely icing.

Photo Credit: Big Sur Food & Wine Festival]]>
<![CDATA[Funky Nevada City: Outside Inn]]> Mon, 29 Sep 2014 19:34:16 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/169*120/nevadacitysharetable.jpg

MARVEL OF A MOTEL: Pop culture and the motel have had a rather colorful relationship over the decades, with the road-close, drive-up-to-your-door properties weathering a few fictional characters that might be called notorious. (It's autumn as of this typing, so, yes, it feels appropriate to mention Norman Bates right about now.) But motels in reality? They're usually not at all what pop culture has presented: They're tidy and friendly and efficient and a bargain to boot. And sometimes they go further than that, way further, and ascend to something rather esoteric and marvelous and a little wicked and a little whimsical, especially when the town they're in also shares those flavorful characteristics.

TAKE THE OUTSIDE INN... a motor-court-y landmark in Nevada City. It doesn't boast guests so much as fans, those hikers and kayakers and Gold Country buffs and nature-seekers who love some themed-fun with their motel room. And they get it: The Outside Inn offers gently imagined rooms that pay homage to climbing, to fishing, to winter, to the stars above. But it isn't just its non-cookie-cutter character that makes the motel, which has roots in the '40s, such a charmer: Look to its free vegetable table, its photo-packed blog, and its haunted pathway come Halloween.

IT'S TRUE...  that they're just dashing that Norman-Bates-y thing completely, though you may meet Mr. Bates outside the motel come Halloween. The haunted pathway, found adjacent to the Outside Inn, is full of ghoulies, meaning excited people from the town come to call on Halloween night (and not just guests). As for the vegetable table? It's a neighborly Nevada City staple, and you can take a squash/apple/cuke or leave one. As for the blog? Erin Thiem, who owns the motel, is an ace photographer who documents La Vida Nevada City, and the laidback life around the Outside Inn. Should you need to get stoked before you book your themed motel room at a funky, free-spirited property famous for haunted pathways and free veges, spin down the motel blog.

Photo Credit: Erin Thiem]]>
<![CDATA[Thank You, Rain: Bridalveil Fall Makes a Showing]]> Mon, 29 Sep 2014 08:58:13 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/214*120/bridalveil2234.jpg

HYDRO HAPPINESS: There've been several signs of the drought over the summer of 2014, but perhaps none have been so widely shared, and oft-bemoaned, as the waterfalls of Yosemite Valley. Springtime is waterfall time, but summer's falling water typically makes a powerful showing, too, with things starting to lighten up come the autumn. But what have should have been the peak of the powerful show was not peak-like at all, due to drought conditions. Water flows lessened considerably, and Yosemite Falls went dry in mid-July. But an end-of-September rain brought a positive showing to Bridalveil Falls, which is seen in a photo shared on the national park's Facebook page. Nope, it isn't "crashing" or "thunderous" but it is water where water typically is, so fall fans are rejoicing.

FALL FANS...  though can be buffs of both waterfalls and the season of autumn. So while waterfall aficionados look up, to the rock faces, for signs of moisture, fans of autumn are watching the trees that turn (there aren't too many of them around Yosemite, given its forest-pretty evergreenness). Autumn is not yet in full effect around the Sierra, but signs are everywhere. Want to see it yourself? Land in the valley and its environs some time in October or November. Want an early taste now of what the soft hue-gentle foliage looks like 'round the big Y? There's a video that will transport you there.

Photo Credit: Yosemite National Park]]>
<![CDATA[Furry Cute-a-tude: San Diego Cheetah Sisters]]> Sat, 27 Sep 2014 08:02:50 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/cheetahsandiego12345.jpg

I CAN'T: Catchy phrases among young people come and go, from "out of sight" to "dynamite" to "for sure" and beyond. "I can't" has been a major part of the parlance over the last few years, and it basically signifies that the viewer or reader or onlooker cannot take the level of cuteness or awesomeness or beauty or joy that is being presented to them. A perfect example of the phrase, should you want to fold it into your own lexicon (extending the saying's shelf life for a bit longer), would be what you might utter upon encountering two cheetah cubs being fed by bottles. That is, in fact, prime "I can't" territory, because there probably isn't a human around who could handle that high, high level of furry sweetness. Squealing helps the I-can't-ness, as does a good amount of sighing. And plenty of squealing/sighing is going on 'round San Diego Safari Park these days, where two cheetah females were born on Monday, Sept. 1. They're already quite alert and responsive, say the keepers, and they've got an interesting and helpful path ahead of them.

ANIMAL AMBASSADORS: The sisters will become representatives for the park and "each will be paired with a domestic dog for companionship, as are all ambassador cheetahs at the Safari Park and San Diego Zoo." Domestic dog friends for the cheetahs? Yeah, "I can't" would work here, as this is the very definition of heart-tuggery. The cubs, who aren't even a month as of this typing, are already "swatting and interacting with each other" and boast a lot of personality. As for the scale-tipping? They're both about three pounds, which you can eye for yourself, as the cubly duo is on view each morning around 9 a.m. "for a few hours" (you'll want to head for Safari Park's Animal Care Center). Keepers are raising the pair, as mom Allie has not had great luck in raising previous litters. So the littermates? They're being hand-raised. Staffers report that the sisters are "great eaters," too, so if you want to spy the furry ones take to their food, try and grab a spot one morning, the better to admire animal babyhood at its fuzziest. Yep. I can't.

Photo Credit: Ken Bohn]]>
<![CDATA[Mapping (and Helping) Yosemite's Bears]]> Fri, 26 Sep 2014 14:06:06 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/bearyosemitemap12345.jpg

BEAR LIFE, STEP BY STEP: What would your map look like if someone were to painstakingly plot out everything you did or tried and every spot you visited during a two-day visit to a national park? There might be a line connecting your tent to a cantina, then a line from the cantina to a trail, then a line from the trail to a picnic area, then a line from the picnic area to a waterfall.

Times at each stopping point would give a good indication as to how long it took you to reach each resting/eating location, and maybe how long you spent there. It's a pretty fascinating bit of knowledge, and it is one that National Park Service wildlife managers are looking at in regards to the black bears of Yosemite National Park. Bears and Yosemite are a famous twosome, so much so that pamphlets advise visitors what to do upon encountering a bear (there are also those iconic yellow "Speeding Kills Bears" signs, too). So the service decided to employ GPS collars to see how much of the developed area of the park a bear might cover over a couple of days and where that bear might go. The result? A fascinating map that reveals at least one bear, in particular, covered an impressible swath of Yosemite in just a couple of days.

TWO DAYS IN AUGUST: "A handful of bears" are part of the program, says Yosemite's Facebook page, which provided a visual peek into what one particular bear was up to over two August days. The rambler's start and end points are rather close together, but from a Sunday to a Tuesday the bear called upon a spot close to Upper Pines Campground and a location not far from Yosemite Lodge at the Falls. The ultimate plan for the GPS program is to "keep bears wild and visitors safe,"  says Don Neubacher, Yosemite National Park Superintendent. For more on what's behind the bear maps and how Yosemite will employ the information on behalf of Yosemite's big-pawed denizens and its occasional human guests, ramble on.

Photo Credit: Yosemite National Park]]>
<![CDATA[Clams, Clams, Clam Chowder, Clams: Pismo Party]]> Thu, 25 Sep 2014 20:12:13 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/clams2.jpg

GRAZERS OF THE DEEP: Food industry specialists who create the graphs and charts and figures and studies about who goes out to eat, what they order, and how often, must have a bit of a special case when it comes to seafood enthusiasts. Do lovers of lobsters only stick with their go-to crustacean, or do they venture widely into bass, shrimp, and beyond? It's a twisty wicket best left to those who pick apart the restaurant numbers, but anyone who knows a chowder maven knows this: The chowderist will always, always go for a big bowl of the steamy briny stuff even if it is 100 degrees out. There's kind of no question with this particular dish, right? It will be enjoyed as an appetizer and entree and often both, if Manhattan- and New England-style are both on the menu. If this is you -- if you'll order two types of chowder as both your starter and your finisher -- we'll correctly guess that you do know the way to Pismo Beach, California's salt-airy capital of clam domination. How clam-associated is the Central Coast burg? Well, clams are seen on Pismo-y t-shirts and beyond, yes; you can't pass through town without some clam smiling at you. But there's also...

THE PISMO BEACH CLAM FESTIVAL... each fall, and, goodness, that thing brings the brine. There shall be a Wine Walk over the Oct. 17 to 19 weekend, which fits, since this is the Central Coast, a region that boasts a fine vineyard or two or twenty. There shall be surfing, because, after clams, surfers are pretty much Pismo's next beach-found ambassador. And there shall be chowder, much chowder, because, well, chowder. Rounding everything up? An old-school clam dig, followed by an old-fashioned clam bake. Charming stuff, but, then again, this party has been around for 68 years, meaning they've got what works humming nicely. You can purchase tickets in a la carte fashion, or go for a two- or three-day pass. Bowls and spoons up, chowderians -- this is Pismo's big party, dig to bake to chowder to wine.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Ending Forever: Mariposa Big Tree Tram Tour]]> Tue, 30 Sep 2014 12:56:58 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/228*120/bigtreesfinalweekstour1.jpg

RETURN TO NATURE (ISH): There was a day, oh, long about the mid-century, when snack bars and gift shops and parking lots regularly sprung up across this great land on the grounds of a natural wonder or ancient site, very often in close quarters with the treasure in question. Many planners and preservationists have taken a different approach over the last few decades, not only not adding a gift shop that's cheek-by-jowl with a natural wonder, but also stripping away what was added over the last century. The purpose? To again let nature flower and the processes of time take their course without our sticking our hand in (well, sticking our hand in too much). The Restoration of Mariposa Grove, that stately clutch of trees inside Yosemite National Park, is one such wide-scope project that falls in this category. It's a visionary project that Yosemite Conservancy sums up thusly: The project is "an ambitious, multiyear effort to preserve these majestic trees and reverse 150 years of development by balancing visitor needs with ecological patterns." This means that various features around the grove, like trails and such, may be closed "intermittently," while one main feature is set to disband forever: The Big Trees Tram Tour.

FINAL WEEKS: The tour, which takes headphone-wearing visitors among the giants, will run through its typical season, which ends come November. After that "it will permanently end," says the Mariposa Grove site. If the tour isn't your thing, you can still visit Mariposa Grove in the coming year or two, but you might check ahead to see the stage the project is at. Yosemite has also provided other locations where big trees can be found, such as the Tuolumne Grove and Merced Grove, which are both in the park, and Nelder Grove, which is in the Sierra National Forest.

Photo Credit: Yosemite National Park]]>
<![CDATA[Bellagio Whimsy: Autumn Arrives in Sin City]]> Wed, 24 Sep 2014 15:23:52 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/bellagiohorsefall1234.jpg

TONY, WITH SOME TWINKLE: Anybody who has observed the hospitality industry, especially in a big, competitive market like Las Vegas, can absolutely understand why hotels would want to go the swanky route. People on vacation are seeking a bit of fantasy, some escapism, and perhaps the luxury they don't see as often as they'd like in their day-to-day lives. But the Bellagio in Las Vegas, while absolutely swankified, has a bit of twinkle to its tony ways. Any visitor who has ever strolled the massive property's Conservatory & Botanical Gardens, regardless of the season, understands that the giant animals and storybook touches fit right in with all that fancy, and pretty darn well. Oh, and come every autumn? Designers erect a talking tree, which, at first glance, seems like it might be something more akin to a children's theme park. But it is pure Bellagio, beautifully imagined and full of fictional fizz, and it only makes one wish that more hotels would take that whimsical plunge, rather than keeping only to the elegant side of things, far more often.

BELLAGIO, YOU'RE DOING IT RIGHT... with your 40-foot-tall windmill and your mega-sized floral apples, which each boast over 1,200 red carnations. The indoor, glass-roofed gardens feature a "28-foot-tall enchanted talking tree" and a pair of horses dotted with hydrangeas. Fall-hued flowers fill the nature-nice exhibit, over 51,000, in fact, and dancing waters, a baby bear, a harvest basket, colossal pumpkins, and "mystical wooden forest creatures" round out the picturesque wonder.

WHEN CAN YOU SEE IT? Be in Sin City through Nov. 30 for one of the desert's quintessential autumn experiences. True, it may be Vegas-bright out on the Strip, but a fall fantasy is tucked inside the Bellagio, in plain, photo-pretty sight.

Photo Credit: Bellagio]]>
<![CDATA[The Line: Hello Kitty Con's Official LA Stay]]> Thu, 25 Sep 2014 09:08:31 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/214*120/hellokittylinehotel1.jpg

"NOT A CAT": It's not too often that news headlines confirm what something is not rather than what something might be, but bold text trumpeted a rather startling mind-befuddler of a revelation back in August: Hello Kitty, the superstar Sanrio bow-topped feline, is not. A. Cat. It was enough to send pop culture bloggers to their keyboards to ponder what this means, given that Hello Kitty is coming upon her 40th anniversary and, for sure, most fans, over those four decades, have believed the feline-like character to be, well, feline. "She's a cartoon character. She's a little girl. She's a friend," said one anthropologist.  It is a revelation, we're sure, that will be much meowed over -- or pawed over, or whisker-nuzzled, if you prefer -- during the Hello Kitty Con, which lands elegantly on all four feet at the Geffen Contemporary in Los Angeles from Oct. 30 through Nov 2. Indeed, that's over Halloween, but Hello Kitty's very true-hearted followers are famous for dressing in the eye-bright, happy-pink hues of their pop-sweet character favorite. Thinking of planning your weekend around the Geffen gathering? Then purr your way towards...

THE LINE HOTEL: The color-pow, oh-so-stylish Koreatown stayover is the official hotel of the Hello Kitty Con, and "special travel packages, rooms themed to the Hello Kitty style, and a special lounge by designer Sean Knibb," which will be the setting for the Nov. 1 birthday party, are all in the works. Plus? "An exclusive Hello Kitty 40th Anniversary welcome kit" is presented to guests at check-in, should they choose the Hello Kitty package. It isn't often that a mega con's whimsy and storyline extends to the attendees' hotel, but anyone who has followed the Japanese cute cat -- we mean kid -- knows that fans want the whole experience, the dress-up, the products, the tunes, the scene. Between the Geffen and the Line, Hello Kitty's bow-wearing fans shall find plenty of rainbow-sparkle times. Don't forget your lunchboxes, lip balms, or hairbrushes, kitty conventioneers.

Photo Credit: Getty Images and Adrian Gaut]]>
<![CDATA[Safari West Halloween: The Beauty of Bones]]> Tue, 23 Sep 2014 12:28:27 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/safariparkhalloween12.jpg

BEYOND THE RUBBER AND PAPER: Skeletons are seen in all corners 'round the month of October, from the party aisle at your local drugstore to cartoons to masks to t-shirts to decorations. But these merrily grinning reminders of the Halloween season's connection to the veil between worlds are very often constructed out of paper or rubber or wax or cotton. They're not made of actual bone, in short, which is what real skeletons are made of (or so rumor has it). Learning about bones, however, is quite important, and, nope, rubber decorations don't count, and nope, that song that goes "the hip bone's connected to the thigh bone" doesn't count, either, delightful though it is (and impossible to get out of your head, too). 

RATHER... a deeper understanding of that deeper substance is a good thing, and the Osteology Department of Safari West, the Santa Rosa-close African animal preserve, wants to delve into the topic over Halloween weekend. Make that Halloweekend, Safari West's first Halloween celebration, and the bones that shall be discussed? Why animal bones, of course. Prepare to be fascinated, intrigued, and to have your osteo-knowledge grow.

THAT SAID... the animal park will observe some of the traditional touches of the holiday, like a trick or treating trail through Safari Park's new skeleton exhibit on Friday, Oct. 31 (dinner and lodging packages are available, too). The park then celebrates Dia de los Muertos on Saturday, Nov. 1 and Sunday, Nov. 2, when the bone-learning begins in earnest. You'll discover the methods the osteologists employ to learn more about a beastie from its bones, and you'll get up-close with some beautiful animal skulls. As for the Dia devotions? Safari West "will be celebrating the lives of the animals that have passed away on our property." That's lovely, and a lovely spin on a storied celebration. There's much muerto-love going on over the Friday night through Sunday afternoon gathering, so gaze ahead and plan, nature-happy Halloweenies.

Photo Credit: Safari West]]>
<![CDATA[Half Moon Bay Pumpkin Weigh-Off: A Look Back]]> Mon, 22 Sep 2014 22:44:24 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/175*120/184586787.jpg Some scale-tippers were seen -- and hefted -- at the 2013 contest.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Dining Destination: Taste of Carmel]]> Mon, 22 Sep 2014 17:21:10 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/202*120/carmeltasteofshutterstock.jpg

BEYOND THE BUCKET LIST: Whether or not every adult human being is actually in possession of an official-type Bucket List, whether that list be inside their brain or on a piece of paper, is likely of some dispute. Some people are very much into the idea of pursuing all the life-enhancing experiences one must pursue before they reach the end of the trail, and some people kind of want to take what comes. And while buckets are pretty capacious vessels that can hold a lot of liquid, we'll wager that a lot of people out there opt for Wine Glass Lists instead of Bucket Lists.

THOSE WINE GLASS LISTS... include all of the wineries and vineyards and wine towns and wine walks they want to visit, and what makes it all rather nicer is that a wine glass is far smaller than a bucket. Meaning? Finishing the Wine Glass List is doable, and not an overwhelming project. At the opposite end of the spectrum from "overwhelming" is the town of Carmel-by-the-Sea, which just happens to be on many a person's Wine Glass List. That's because of the excellent variety of tasting rooms in the small, cottage-dotted village, and the fact that there's a marquee eatery every fourteen feet (or so it seems). Want to take care of a lot of your personal Wine Glass List in one foodie fell swoop? Then make for Taste of Carmel, which is set to cuisine-up the cuisineful city from Oct. 2 through 5.

WINE WALKS, a dessert and wine tasting at Aubergine, a De Tierra Vineyards Winemaker Dinner at La Playa Carmel, a food tour, a tour by bike, and other gourmand goodies await. Events are priced in an a la carte fashion, too, so if you simply want to dip in and dip out, to do what you'd like to do, that's cool, too. So, ready to fill up that Wine Glass List a little bit? We're not saying that anyone chuck the Bucket List, but there are smaller vessels with great symbolism we can use for our enjoying-life rosters, too.

Photo Credit: Shutterstock]]>
<![CDATA[Gold Country Quirky: Musical Organ Rally]]> Sun, 21 Sep 2014 22:37:29 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/451724368organ.jpg

A SOUNDTRACK FOR A CITY: If you've ever strolled Jackson, the town that serves as both the Amador County county seat as well as the busy burg at the heart of Gold Country, you kind of know it comes with its own inherent soundtrack. It's just one of those picturesque places, full of the spirit of 1849, that summons the echoes of banjos and fiddles and the twangy, deep, storytelling instruments of yore. Many of those instruments have found new life in modern pop and country -- call it Suspender Rock or Alt-Nostalgia or one of the other affectionate names journalists have applied to contemporary twang -- but there's another instrument that may be due for, well, its larger due on the Billboard charts: the musical organ. But make no mistake: Musical organs have plenty of love from their devotees, people who both appreciate the cranks the organs boast and their calliope-esque cadence and their wood-carved and metal-shiny beauty. Fans also appreciate that these instruments were oftentimes some of the only live music people regularly enjoyed a century or two ago. Are you sweet on that particular storybook sound? A number of organists are ready to roll into Jackson, with their gorgeous instruments in tow, over the last Saturday in September.

LISTEN UP: "Unusual musical band organs" will set up shop, along with their humans, of course, down Jackson's Main Street on Saturday, Sept. 27. The nickelodeon-type wonders are free to see and hear, and there's a concert at the United Methodist Church on Sunday at 1 p.m. if you need some more time with the antiques. It isn't all about the tunes, though: The musical organ weekend coincides with The Days of 49, which will see an "authentic wagon train of twenty horse-drawn wagons pull into Jackson..." on that Saturday. And the reason? Amador County is 160 years old. (Fun fact: Did you know Amador City, which is just a pip up the way from Jackson, is California's smallest city?) Organ pipes, wagon trains, Gold Country history: If you aren't wearing suspenders and sleeve garters out on Main Street, we'll probably be a mite disappointed. And may musical organs remain as whimsical and beautiful as they are, even if a hot band soon takes the instrument's unique sound to the very top of the pop charts.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Pacific Grove Icons: Monarchs on the Way]]> Sat, 20 Sep 2014 13:05:23 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/monarchbutterfly.jpg

NATURE MIGRATION CHART: If you had a giant swath of paper on the wall filled with colorful lines, and each line represented a major migratory season for an animal or insect that entered or departed or passed through or passed by or or passed over California, well... you'd need a whole lot of wall. Our state is flush with beasties making that seasonal journey, the one made by their forebeasties and the one that their progeny beasties will make long after them. We humans tend to be rather on the stay-put side, at least comparatively, but we do have the good sense to be aware of animals' internal clocks and rhythms and the pathways they wend in order to create offspring or cocoon or nest or seek warmer or cooler climes. Natural Bridges State Park near Santa Cruz throws a full-on Migration Festival each winter, in fact, to honor all migrating animals but to spotlight a few in particular, including the state's most famous seasonal winged thing, the Monarch Butterfly. Those colorful wee ones are rather fond of the Central Coast and Monterey Peninsula, and while several villages will throw their own butterfly hellos, Pacific Grove is first out the proverbial gate, in October.

OCTOBER 4, TO BE SPECIFIC: That's the date of the Butterfly Parade & Bazaar, and if you feel like you saw the parade as a kid, you probably did -- it stretches back, like a butterfly stretching its wings, over the last three-quarters of a century. For sure, you'll see tots and a few grown-ups in butterfly gear, but if you want to see the Monarchs themselves, they have a date with various groves and tree tops starting around mid-October. Pacific Grove's Monarch Grove Sanctuary is an excellent look-up-and-point spot, but note that you'll want to keep your pointing finger limber for a few months, as the Monarchs hang around through the middle of February. And, yes, pointing is rude, but if it is up, towards a branch, where a cluster of ethereal wings are slowly moving in time, well... we can be excused. Migrations may happen every year, but that doesn't mean they're everyday or humdrum. They're quite extraordinary and invite our full-on attentions.

Photo Credit: Monarch Butterfly]]>
<![CDATA[Painting the Lost Coast]]> Fri, 19 Sep 2014 13:49:09 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/lostcoastpainting1.jpg

THAT BEAUTIFUL BALANCE: Keeping a special spot wild and remote and in its peaceful, nature-a-riffic state is the work of many people around the Golden State. But it can be a challenging task. On the one hand you want those out-of-the-way locations to stay as out-of-the-way-ish as possible, where they may remain very much themselves. And yet making them known, to spread the notion of their beauty, is the flipside, and also important work, because the more experience people have with such beauty, the more protections can slide into place. It's a balance, and one that the communities in and around The Lost Coast strike very well. There are welcoming events, like the springtime Tour of the Unknown Coast, and an early fall plein air happening, which invites painters to set up their easels in some of the sweetest empty stretches of the state. But such every-now-and-then events enhance the protective relationship between humans and place. Take Plein Air at the Lost Coast, which rolls out over the first five days in October. Artists will use brush and oil (or acrylic or watercolor) to capture the softness that is this wild space, and, fingers crossed, those paintings will spread out to spread the Lost Coast love. Are you handy with a canvas and love you some remote spectacularness? Head up 'round Southern Humboldt for a...

PLEIN AIR HAPPENING: The Shelter Cove Arts and Recreation Foundation oversees the affair, which will include workshops if painters need a touch-up on their talents and nature walks and a free concert and a Quick Draw contest at the Historic Benbow Inn. And, indeed, lots and lots of outdoor painting, and the participants' subjects? The sky, the water, the shoreline, and all of that pristine wonder that makes up the section of California that pretty much, hands down, rules in the romantic name department. We mean, if you were to tell your pals back home that you spent several days painting the Lost Coast, they'll think you stepped from the pages of a novel. Whether you want to wear a puffy-shouldered poet's shirt, or rhapsodize on the state of man and nature while you paint, is up to you.

Photo Credit: Plein Air at the Lost Coast]]>
<![CDATA[Catalina Island's Swashbuckling Weekend]]> Thu, 18 Sep 2014 23:03:11 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/catalinacaninebuccaneer1.jpg

AVALON AFICIONADO: Even if you regularly find yourself making for Santa Catalina Island's largest port-of-call, perhaps to attend the annual September film festival or a vintage ball at the Casino Building, you might occasionally ponder if you should venture beyond the town's borders a bit more. Sure, you might go on a few hikes, into the inland, or call upon the sweetest landing strip in existence, Airport in the Sky, but for many Avalon aficionados a boat trip to Catalina means dining, hoteling, snorkeling, and staying put within the snug city's confines. All of this can make Two Harbors, Catalina's other outpost, seem positively exotic. It's not on the mainland-facing side, it's smaller, and getting there? Well, it takes commitment. You might want to arrive by boat, in fact, which lends Two Harbors a rather wayback feel (something that locals rather like and cherish). So when buccaneers arrive over the first weekend in October, to whoop it up and speak pirate-talk, and raise a glass of grog (or beer, more likely), the smaller of Catalina's burgs bristles with colorful action. As it will again, from Thursday, Oct. 2 through Sunday, Oct. 5.

BUCCANEER DAYS: The Santa Catalina Island Company's matey-ist party marks its quarter century turn in 2014. There shall be live music and DJs every day of the big bash, and costume contests, and treasure hunts, and a deck's worth of revelers rocking tri-cornered hats. Camping packages, too, are part of the plan. There's definitely a party atmos, one that encourages the raising of the glasses, so call it the liveliest weekend on the Two Harbors calendar. But unlike other pirate-themed parties you've attended, in backyards and living rooms, this one has a major plus: It's in a scenic cove on the Pacific. That's an arrrrr-worthy setting, if there ever was one.

Photo Credit: Buccaneer Days]]>
<![CDATA[Vroom and a Room: La Quinta Cool Car Package]]> Sat, 20 Sep 2014 14:43:17 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/quintacars123456.jpg

THAT GLEAM MACHINE: If you've ever pulled up to the front door of a rather grand and historic hotel or resort, you've likely passed a lovely car or two at the valet stand. A touch of envy can ensue, and some admiration, and you may find, for a moment, that your mind is less on finding the registration desk than strolling around the automobile while eyeing the dash, the wheels, the fenders. But what if, after registering and locating your room and sniffing all of the complimentary toiletries and hanging up your clothes lest they wrinkle (you do do that, right?), what if you could return to the hotel driveway and slide into the front seat of one of those amazingly shiny autos? That's just the plan La Quinta Resort & Club has in mind for motor mavens booking a stay at the desert destination from Wednesday, Oct. 15 through Monday, Oct. 20. The package's name? It's the Waldorf Astoria Driving Experience, and if you're crossing your fingers that you'll get a chance to tool around those wide, pretty streets of La Quinta in something fancy, well, uncross those fingers and slide on the posh driving gloves: That is exactly the case.

FERRARI, MCLAREN, PORSCHE: A trio of famous names are in the package's mix -- visualize a Ferrari 458 Italia Spider, a McLaren MP4-12C, and a Porsche 911 Turbo. The Experience pairs with pro race car driver Didier Theys of Belgium for a three-hour experience. The price? It kicks off at $1258/double plus fees and taxes, and, for sure, you'll get to eye the mega renovation the historic-and-newer property just underwent. Also, if you get knots in your shoulders, as drivers do, from time to time? Some special spa add-ons are available for an additional cost.

AS FOR THE CARS? You'll get an instruction lesson from Mr. Theys ahead of time, and you'll get to rotate cars, too. And, true true, you'll go beyond La Quinta, heading for picturesque turns in San Bernardino National Forrest. If you've ever wanted to drive one of these gems, with an accoladed fast-car smartie at your side, this is a fine moment. And it should, for the time being, alleviate the need to linger too long before any fancy cars in any fancy driveways. You'll get to try one -- or three, rather -- out for yourself.

Photo Credit: La Quinta]]>
<![CDATA[Walnut Creek: Hometown Charm and Walnut Kings]]> Wed, 17 Sep 2014 18:10:06 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/walnuts-generic.jpg

FOOD MASCOTS: We're all familiar with those spokespeople -- and spokesclowns and spokescats and spokessharks and spokes-you-name-it -- that represent fast food restaurants and large-scale eat-out chains. So familiar that we probably have a toy or two with their visage in some box under some bed. But hometown festivals are known for their symbolic hosts, those people who greet visitors to the party, wave a lot, and in general represent the town as well as a person can. Or, in some cases, as well as a walnut can represent. Walnut Creek's Walnut Festival has a walnut celebrity front and center, and he's no mere face for the posters -- he's the king, complete with a crown and robe, and his reign goes deep back into the festival's 77 year history. Yep, the walnut head has changed a bit over time -- today's Walnut King is a smiler -- but his mission is clear: Represent the venerable festival, which is indeed about a particular nut that goes well in both savory and sweet dishes. The long-running late-summer closer is on again, and the king is in the wings. Be at Heather Farm Park during the Sept. 18-21 weekend for...

TUNES AND RIDES: There is indeed a carnival atmosphere, which suits the walnut's frequent appearance in fun, celebration-ready foods. (Is it the holidays without some kind of walnutty bread? Nope, it is not.) The city's centennial will also be a festive focus, and there are haps beyond civic doings -- think a car show and lake fishing and parades and community chum-nice doings. ("Chum-nice"=that small town atmosphere that Walnut Creek rocks so well.) Let's also give it up for the fact that the Walnut Festival started as the Grape Festival over a century ago. How is that for roots? May every festival be as long-running, and may every spokeswalnut -- or spokescharacter -- be as charming and where his crown with as much ease.

Photo Credit: Pauline Mak/Flickr]]>
<![CDATA[Pismo Sparkle: BUBBLYFEST by the Sea]]> Fri, 26 Sep 2014 14:57:50 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/bubblyfestbythesea.jpg

NEVER CHANGE: Pismo Beach and clams are such an enduring Golden State place-plate duo that they can make all other food-location pairings feel a little envious by comparison. True, sourdough and San Francisco are probably up there, too, and abalone and Mendocino County, but it is a challenge to spend a day toodling through the Central Coast's beachiest playspot without coming across multiple images of buckets and small shovels. We don't want the P.B. to ever change on this clammy respect -- Pismo Beach + bivalves 4evr ♥ -- but, in the spirit of dynamic duos, we also don't mind a new delicious liquid partner coming onto the slurping scene. It would be sparkling wine, which probably doesn't surprise you, as fancy beverages full of bubbles and seafood that arrives in shells is something, rumor has it, that discerning eaters rather appreciate.

SO... that BUBBLYFEST by the Sea, which is billed as "the nation's only dedicated sparkling wine celebration," is going to be as cozy with Pismo as a clam in sand makes beautiful sense. That several Central Coast winemakers'll be in town to pour their glitter-golden drinkable elixirs -- too much? Nah, you've probably trucked out "elixir" yourself while drinking fine sparkling wine -- makes beautiful sense, too. And the lovely fall weekend that this is all set for?

OCT. 24-26: True, that's just after Pismo Beach's venerable Clam Festival, so you can get your clam on the proceeding weekend and then grab a fancy glass of wine (or several). Some "40 producers of sparkling wine" are expected at the three-day bash, including Arroyo Robles Winery and Cass Vineyard & Winery. As for the tony to-dos? A grand tasting at Seacrest Oceanfront Hotel, a cocktail mixer at Dolphin Bay Resort & Spa, and a Sunday party at Dolphin Bay round out the first-ever BUBBLYFEST. And the beneficiary? Big Brothers Big Sisters of San Luis Obispo County. Here's a question to break the ice at those mixers: Are there more clams in the sand of Pismo Beach or more bubbles in a whole warehouse of sparkling wine? Number mavens, break that down as you beverage-up.


Photo Credit: Bubblyfest by the Sea]]>
<![CDATA[Harvest Fest: Mega Craft Fair Hits the Road]]> Tue, 16 Sep 2014 23:27:35 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/venturaharvestfest345.jpg

CRISPNESS AND CRAFTS: If something about mornings turning a bit crisper at their edges -- you know that feeling, that arrives just around 7 a.m., that says a new season is about to dosey-do this way at any moment -- and school fairs selling crafty goods gets your blood a-stirrin', then autumn must be your Official Favorite Time of the Year. (Don't feel guilty -- we all have one or two.) It is a time known for brisker mornings and scholastic fundraisers full of homemade treats and items, but only in a few places do those two elements reach their zenith. And at the top of that cinnamon-scented, calico-lined ladder? Harvest Festival Original Art & Craft Show. The traveling mega-vendor mega-everything show toodles around California and the West throughout the autumn months, landing in various centers and locations that are large enough to hold thousands and thousands of items. There will be well over 24,000 goods for sale in Ventura over the first weekend of October, meaning you'll want to spend a goodly chunk of your day eyeing each eyelet-frilled apron and jar of apple butter and hand-carved wooden jewelry box and walking stick and silver dangly gemstone earring. There are, in fact, hundreds of vendors, all with a craft-eye and artistic heart, so whether you find a holiday gift or several small goodies for yourself is up to you. (Our guess? Both.)

DATES AND CITIES: Pleasanton is the first of the California cities, over the last weekend of summer -- that's Sept. 19 through 21 -- and Pomona rounds it all out over the first weekend of December. Ventura is early October, San Jose is the Friday through Sunday following Thanksgiving, and everywhere it goes the fest'll have entertainment, tunes, kidly haps, and food-to-buy (for noshing on there, not the tied-up-in-ribbons munch mixes and cookies you'll see among the vendors). Are you feeling the autumn wave, the one that intersects with craft-cute, art-sophisticated shopping? Check out the schedule and many talented vendors and eye-and-palate-delighting categories the festival boasts.

Photo Credit: Harvest Festival Original Art & Craft Show]]>
<![CDATA[Joshua Tree Music Fest: Vibes Among the Boulders]]> Sat, 20 Sep 2014 14:44:29 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/180*120/joshua_samenglish.jpg

SPRING AND SUMMER... have a happy hold on giant-hearted, village-style, music-centered encampments that spread across the West. They can be very art-oriented -- howdy, Burning Man -- or more about the tunes -- high five, Coachella -- or they can incorporate a very complete cuisine scene into the proceedings (Outside Lands, we're looking at you). But some of the finest weather in the state happens in the deserts come fall, when the nights are getting brisker but aren't yet fully lunar and the daytimes possess a golden warmness that everyone on the coast has to envy just a pinch. This is when the fall version of the Joshua Music Tree Festival flowers like a waxy bud atop a cactus, and, nope, it isn't just about the music (though that serves as its beating, beat-filled heart). As befitting its connect-to-the-earth-and-everything location, the festival features a bouquet of beautiful, look-inward doings, from a Positive Vibration Station to Pop-Up Tea Parties to Yoga & Healing sessions to Kidsville (yep, if you show with the tots you can set up in a Family Camp, which not every festival boasts). And as for the tunes..?

THE LIST IS LONG... and includes Black Joe Lewis of Austin and Colombia's Bomba Estereo and Ribab Fusion of Morocco and a full complement of acts and singers and instrumentalists that represent a world sound of the flowingest, tune-in sort. Beyond the stages? There's more vibe-feeling to enjoy, from Random Acts of Mindfulness to the recording of your own songs to astronomy pursuits to t-shirt making. And, indeed, you'll be within shouting distance of the Joshua Tree boulders, though, really, they are not to be shouted at. Rather admiring those epic rock formations, and thinking nature-y, creative-cool thoughts, is the order of the weekend. Oh, and that weekend? The autumn Joshua Tree Music Festival goes down from Oct. 9 through 12.

Photo Credit: Sam English]]>
<![CDATA[A Felton Festival of Steam]]> Mon, 15 Sep 2014 21:23:23 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/214*120/steamroaring123.jpg

AIRY WONDER: Natural watery phenomena are regularly paired with seasons that best symbolize some of their most apparent properties. Rain and springtime are an old twosome -- April showers and so on and so on -- while winter and snow (and icicles and sleet and flakes and so on and so on) are a common duo. Summer? We'll say sweat is its frequent moisture-based feature, though lakes and creeks seem pretty darn summery, too. But what of fall? That's a little tougher. Sure there's rain, and sweat, and, on occasion, snow, but those gloamy early evenings and hue-tinged leaves speak of a much more romantic expression of water: steam. It's old-timey, and appears in films at their most heart-tuggy heights, like when people wave goodbye to each other train platforms. Oh, that's where you're apt to see steam these days, on platforms, though don't go looking for it in modern stations: Places like Roaring Camp Railroads in Felton rule the steam thing. And the nostalgia-sweet trackline pauses each autumn to bid autumn hello, yes, but to also celebrate steam, the airy substance often seen trailing above the Roaring Camp engines.

OCT. 4 AND 5: October's starting-out weekend gets harvest-y on the scarecrow-constructing, pumpkin patch-enjoying end of things, but steam'll be a superstar of the two-day festival, too. "Behold steam-powered line shafts, player pianos, letter-presses, printing presses, and more!" advises the Roaring Camp HQ. Given the rise (and rise and rise) of steampunkery as a lifestyle and creative aesthetic, and the return to some of the ye olde ways of doing things ("doing things"=homekeeping, gardening, beer-makery), pondering steam as a very solid subject matter, in a fun and kid-nice setting, is a fine way to spend a weekend afternoon. Riding a steam-puffing train? The icing on the cake, or, perhaps more fittingly, the toot out of a steam-powered whistle. Admission? It's free, while steam train rides are extra.

Photo Credit: Roaring Camps Railroad]]>
<![CDATA[Yosemite Summons Tolkien to Advise Hikers]]> Mon, 15 Sep 2014 18:47:28 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/yosemitetolkienfb.jpg

FRODO IN CALIFORNIA: Stewards of our state's wilder places know that catching some people's attention, when there's a fire or storm or headline-making event, can be a bit of a challenge. You can post yet again about trail warnings and advisements to steer clear of certain peaks and meadows, and it is up to the public to cautiously heed and take note. But Yosemite National Park's Facebook page found a memorable way to grab public attention about the very real concern of a fire in the park. It's the Meadow Fire, and while hundreds of firefighters are working towards containment -- Sept. 21 has been given as a possible date for full containment -- the national park's social media site went the literature route to bring news of the fire, and those all-important trail closures, to hikers' attentions. How? By summoning "Lord of the Rings" and author J.R.R. Tolkien, of course.

"FOULER THINGS THAN ORCS": A rather striking and startling photo of the blaze appeared on Yosemite's Facebook feed on Sunday, Sept. 14 with a warning and a hard-to-forget passage from "The Fellowship of the Ring": "If you decide to venture down trails that are closed, remember 'There are older and fouler things than Orcs in the deep places of the world.'" A link to trail closures due to the fire followed, as did a flurry of comments likening the Meadow Fire photo to something from a "Lord of the Rings" film.

LIT AS PUBLIC SERVICE: Could referencing stories many of us know, and employing quotes as gentle cautions to take heed during a blaze or other major park event, catch more eyes down the road? And, indeed, keep people safe and off closed trails? It's food for thought, for sure, but Yosemite National Park's deft employment of Orcs and Tolkien and myth made people stop and take note. Thinking outside the box, or park, clearly has its merits where public safety is concerned.

Photo Credit: Yosemite National Park]]>
<![CDATA[Sactown Spirits: Ghosty Gold Rush Tales]]> Sun, 14 Sep 2014 09:33:19 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/ghostssac234.jpg

THREE-DIGIT CHILLS: Honest and true? It can be 103 in our state's capital city -- and boy howdy, that does happen -- and an evening walk along one of the raised wooden sidewalks of Old Sacramento can lend a spirited sense of the eerie to your sweaty, hot-temperature night. It doesn't have to be chilly in Sacramento to picture spirits roaming those historic streets; the simple "clomp, clomp, clomp" of your footsteps against the wood can up the atmosphere, heat wave or cold wave or somewhere in the middle. That said, October is prime wraith-communing time 'round the Old-West-y destination, and ghosty walking tours shall make for those wooden sidewalks over a half dozen nights.

STARTING ON... Friday, Oct. 10. Nope, these aren't the subterranean tours of underground Sacramento, though one might think that, being that areas below the streets can lean eerie. Rather, you'll roam the 19th-century-esque byways of the oldest part of the city, learning about rapscallions of the past, anecdotes that are dang eerie, and maybe having a sighting or two. Maybe? Consider, at least, that there are few spots in the state more atmospheric than Old Sacramento on a fall evening, especially when it is visited, as it often is, by a rather large murder of crows.

AS FOR UNDERGROUND SACRAMENTO? That's still going, too, though not for long -- the go-below strolls roll up the carpet -- or wooden sidewalks -- for the cooler winter months. Old Sac Underground is on through the middle of December, though the adults-only evening tours wrap on Oct. 30. Could you spend a few days in the storied neighborhood and do both? Stories below ground and ghosties above? The tale-filled twosome lend a textured layer to the Gold Rush history of the area.

Photo Credit: Historic Old Sacramento Foundation]]>
<![CDATA[Ye Olde NorCal Renaissance Faire]]> Sat, 13 Sep 2014 09:45:42 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/181*120/norcalrenjimsamanthadowdall.jpg

YEAR-LONG MERRIMENTS: People with a passion for wayback times -- both of the historic and the fictional sort -- live that life all year long. True, they might not show up to their cubicle rocking a ruff or hoop skirt or a full-on, clanky-as-heck suit of armor, but they do belong to clubs IRL and social media sites in onlinedom where they can talk all about what life might have been like, or really was, during medieval times and the renaissance. Topics covered? Oh, jousts, of course, since those are pretty novel in these modern times. Fashion, yes. Food, yes. How one conducted themselves and courted a maiden or gentleman, you bet. But there's really only a few times a year when immersing one's self in that world, beyond chat rooms and small in-home gatherings, can come to full flower. It's during a Renaissance festival, and one of the largest in the state has just opened in Hollister. It's the Northern California Renaissance Faire, and people are jesting, and flirting, and sashaying in frolicsome frocks at Casa de Fruta from Saturday, Sept. 13 through Sunday, Oct. 12. That's weekends only, but even if you attend one day -- you and your clanky-clank suit of armor -- you'll get the opportunity to revel in all the revels, from shopping to laughing to noshing to waving at the queen.

YEP, THE QUEEN: Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth and Sir Francis Drake do make regal cameos at the Casa de Fruta affair, so best practice that curtsy. Commedia Volante performs scenes of a most uproarious and fascinating sort on the Royal Garden stage and shall there be entertainments and jesters and watchable whimsies throughout the grounds? Forsooth. (Surely we used "forsooth" correctly? Anywho, we find ourselves uttering it at every chance during a robust Renaissance Faire.) Theme weekends also reign, so if a Celtic Gathering or an Oktoberfest tempt, circle those particular dates on your calendar. Which, of course, is made of parchment, yes? Yes. For ideas on dressing in the spirit, things to do, things to buy, and how to get there, turn your steed in this direction, ye olden times partier.

Photo Credit: Jim & Samantha Dowdall]]>
<![CDATA[150 Years: Historic Hot Springs Reach a Milestone]]> Thu, 18 Sep 2014 23:02:29 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/bentonhotsprings_deboradelaneytalahimediaarts1.jpg

HISTORIC HOT WATER: It's true that the Golden State and Yellowstone National Park are a good distance apart, but believing that there are not plentiful thermal features dotting California is not correct. Hot springs burble up in pockets throughout the 31st state and all, of course, boast their own stories, town-centered histories, and fables. Benton Hot Springs of Mono County marked its 150th anniversary on Saturday, Sept. 6, but the sesquicentennial didn't go to the area's head. That's because Benton Hot Springs isn't a place known for putting on airs but is, rather, rustic, chill, remote, down-to-earth, and pretty unfussy. That charms bone-weary travelers looking for a deeply unfussy experience, but one that comes with some epic mountain vistas, some far-off-the-beaten-track peace, some probable cell-phone-spottiness, and some time spent deep in one of the state's most storied mining areas. Looking for a hot tub, fed by springs, next to an old-school inn, that's away from everything? "Everything"=stress, traffic, neighbors who like different tunes than you (and like 'em loud), general life challenges? Yep, then...

MEET BENTON: The seven-room inn "is housed in a 1940s historic building" with a trio of private houses with tubs and ten more private tubs on top of that. We unleashed the word "unfussy" earlier and we stand by that compliment: You're in Benton to catch up on your magazines, read up on local history, and sit in the "(n)atural mineral water that rises to the earth's surface at 140°" for a good long spell. Want to eye what each tub looks like (as they're all a bit different)? Click. Want to know more about the history of the inn and the hot springs? Towel off and head this way.

Photo Credit: Debora Delaney/Talahi Media Arts]]>
<![CDATA[Plumas County: A Fall Color Tour]]> Thu, 11 Sep 2014 14:47:02 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/160*120/autumnleaves_640x480.jpg

THAT ONE TREE: If you grew up in a postcard-perfect New England village, the kind with the steeple in the center of town and a creek babbling at the far edge, you probably would be hard-pressed to name a favorite tree, come autumn. They're all beautiful, right? The maples and the oaks and the vines that go from peachy to yellow to a deep burgundy, all over the course of a single month. But if you live in the west, you're apt to have a favorite tree or two from your hometown, if, indeed, your hometown experienced any significant amount of foliage. You might name the tree by the bridge or the one by the pizza parlor as being particularly spectacular around early October. But you are a local, or were, at least; how do visitors find those particularly spectacular trees when and where they occur? There are handy maps, thank goodness, and while foliage finders can't tell leaf peepers when branches'll go glorious, they can tell you where past years have been especially exciting in the fall color realm. Plumas County, not too far from Chico and Redding, is one of the state's most spectacular, if that sort of thing can be rightly measured. And since trees are starting to go full fall, or at least the maples are flirting with the notion, putting together your Plumas plan is a smart idea.

HIGHWAYS 89 AND 70: You'll take in a lot of nature while cruising through the county, if that's your bag: the area "boasts more than 100 lakes, 1,000 miles of streams, and over a million acres of forest land." Hello, wilderness, goodbye, daily frets. Plumas has plenty of pine, which, of course, never seems to get the foliage memo, but the dogwood and aspen? They look vibrant when contrasted to all of that green fir action. The toodle'll take at least a half a day, depending if you follow the whole map, so landing in one of the towns dotting Plumas County for the night is a fine idea, and a way to keep your foliage-admiring eyes well-rested. Start plotting your season-fantastic course here.

Photo Credit: Autumn Leaves]]>
<![CDATA[New Vegas: Delano Hotel Debuts]]> Wed, 10 Sep 2014 11:39:26 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/Delanopenthouse.jpg It's a "touch of South Beach on the Strip" next to Mandalay Bay.

Photo Credit: Delano Las Vegas]]>
<![CDATA[Rocking in the Redwoods: Old Grove Festival]]> Wed, 10 Sep 2014 10:44:06 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/204*120/motherhips-press2grove.jpg

REDWOODS INSTEAD OF WALLS: If you think back to the best concert you ever saw, where do you start the anecdote about the night, when you tell your friends? Probably with the music, right? Or perhaps the vibe of the crowd? The beers on tap, the tour tees, the lighting? Maybe. You probably also cite the venue, too, if it was especially beautiful or vintage or had great acoustics. But indoor venues all share certain commonalities -- they're indoors, for one (spoiler) -- while outdoor venues have the sunshine, the sky, and, yes, occasionally weather. But there are a few very distinctive outdoor venues around the state, that aren't like any other, and one of the most prominent, and pretty, happens to be Armstrong Redwoods State Natural Reserve. It's the Redwood Forest Theater, and "(c)oncerts and theatrical events took place there for decades until the theater was closed in the 1980s out of concern for natural resource protection." But in 2006? The occasional event would pop up at the theater, every now and then. And every now and then is arriving on Saturday, Sept. 13 when the Old Grove Festival pulls into one of the Golden State's most singular settings for a music-laden love-fest.

MOTHER HIPS: The Bay Area favorites'll be strumming, singing, and raising funds for the Stewards of the Coast and Redwoods, an organization that does exactly what its name says: It keeps an eye on the iconic trees and our wilder world, preservation- and protection-style. Midnight North opens the show, there's a pre-show meal and other beverages to consider, and are the benches wooden? It's definitely a more rustic setting, which lends to the special and rare feeling an audience member gets. Gets? Let's say the loveliness can overcome a visitor to the Redwood Forest Theater, in the best and most heart-filling ways. If you want to commune with the big trees, luxuriate in some Mother Hips-good tunes, and help out the Stewards, get on those tickets.

Photo Credit: Rodrigo Pena Photography]]>
<![CDATA[Happy 25 Years, Napa Valley Wine Train]]> Sat, 13 Sep 2014 18:13:31 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/napavalleytraindaylight.jpg

25 YEARS OF TOOT-TOOT-ING: Any business worth its "We're Open" sign knows that stirring up a loyal customer base, and the occasional curious-minded just-passing-througher, isn't as much a matter of charts and spreadsheets and graphs as waiting it out and being patient and allowing word of mouth to build. Then, maybe in a few years, or a few decades? You're set (if an innovative business ever truly wants to be set). But the Napa Valley Wine Train seemed to do a bit of time-and-space folding when it came to rising in the ranks of our general knowledge, our ability to pick it out of a train-based line-up, and the amount of adoration it got from both tourists and locals looking for a different day out. People talked about it from the get-go -- you're drinking wine! On a moving train! And you're visiting wineries! And eating! And it is all pretty dang cinematic! -- and people rode it, too, in droves, or whatever the fancier word for a throng of wine-loving train-riders might be. (A vinorailian? Yes, we think that's it.) Now the NVWT -- call it that if you want to be catchy -- is celebrating its big Silver Anniversary on Tuesday, Sept. 16, and longer than that, with a trio of fan-forward contests.

SELFIES AND WINE PHOTOS: The convivial competitions run throughout September and involve snapping selfies around Napa or anywhere else in the world and sharing them. There are some rules to know, and how points are earned on Instagram and Twitter, so read on before you and your camera set out. Not a selfie-taker? Try the Wine Train Photo contest. Submit your best NVWT pics and the train's crew'll post some of the best in a special Facebook album. The prizes? Ohhhh, you guessed it: Wine train tickets are up for grabs. There's a bouquet of things to know, as with all contests, so roll along the rails this way, vinorailians. And a happy 25 years to the train. It has helped "preserve the historic rail corridor" of the valley, and antique railcars, too, as well as brought many (many many many) wine buffs to vineyards snuggled up against its route. Would every business worth its "We're Open" sign be such a flowering source of good stuff for its community.

Photo Credit: Napa Valley Wine Train]]>
<![CDATA[Santa Cruz Celebration: Mariachis, Mole, and Mojigangas]]> Mon, 08 Sep 2014 21:59:56 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/molemariachisantacruz.jpg

THAT LAST SATURDAY OF SUMMER: The ol' chestnut "time is money" can sound cold to the ears, but there's a kernel of truth there. Actually, strike that: There's an entire cob of kernels, and if we really took stock of our days, we'd see that some have a higher currency than others, at least to our own hearts. And one day of the year we'd all probably agree has an inordinate amount of natural sweetness is that final summer Saturday, the one that arrives around the third week in September. Yep, the mornings feel autumnal, but the equinox is still a few days off. What to do with that precious 24 hours, or the 16 hours you're awake? Going outside and lunging-up on fresh air seems key. So does live music. So does really good, taste bud-awakening food. And so does some merry whimsy, to remind us that the passing of the equinoxes and the coming of seasons means time itself goes and we should laugh more. (Those inspirational posters have it right on that front.) The Friends of Santa Cruz State Parks have a rather grand plan for the second year in a row: Mole & Mariachi Festival. In short? Eat a bunch of different moles, dance to mariachi music, and marvel at mojigangas, those gargantuan, oh-so-festive puppets.

WHERE AND WHEN? At Santa Cruz Mission Adobe State Historic Park on Saturday, Sept. 20. You get in free, and the listening/enjoying of Mariachi Gilroy and Mariachi Sonora is gratis. The sampling of the rich chocolate-y spicy goes-well-on-pork-and-everything sauces? Tasting kits are ten bucks. And the trolley running from downtown Santa Cruz? That's totally free, too. There are other happenings at the park, but trust that they fall under the creative, art-nice, last-day-of-summer, get-up-and-shake-it umbrella. That's a rather nice umbrella to be under, too. Really, what do you intend to do the last Saturday of summer? We only get so many, which, honest and true, is a positive thing. We think about how we can best enjoy each one.

Photo Credit: Friends of Santa Cruz State Parks]]>
<![CDATA[Hands-On Harvest: Sonoma Valley CRUSH]]> Wed, 10 Sep 2014 21:31:13 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/205*120/sonomavineyardsunset1234.jpg

IT'S TRUE IN THIS LIFE... that there is guessing and there is knowing. Most of us, outside of our professional spheres, probably land solidly somewhere between the two on most topics, coming closer to the "knowing" part, fingers crossed, than the shadowier area of simple conjecture. And if any realm is mythologized more than most, it is the art, and business, of growing grapes and turning them, with time, into wine. But the Heart of Sonoma Valley Association seeks to create a window into the wine world for its ardent fans each and every fall via Sonoma Valley CRUSH. The three-day, first-weekend-of-fall to-do is, yes, about the trying of wines, but also the knowing of wine-making, and how the day-to-day of harvest, that big, big, big push from vine to bottle, happens. It's happening from Friday, Sept. 26 through Sunday, Sept. 28, and the "hands-on" experience awaits eager-to-learn students at 15 area wineries.

LIKE... Deerfield Ranch Winery in Kenwood, which'll give attendees a peep at the "crush pad and harvest equipment." Ohhh, neato. (We know, we know, "neato" isn't a posh wine-smart sort of word, but exuberant enthusiasm for learning new wine stuff shall win out over fusty manners during CRUSH weekend.) And VJB Vineyard & Cellars, also of Kenwood, shall show visiting fans a refractometer and how to measure brix, or sugar levels. Neato to the max. There shall be the tasting of fermenting wines -- did you just feel a sour note in your throat, reading those words? -- and the sipping of wines that are all done and cooked and finished and voila. Plus vineyard strolls, winemaker hellos, and such. Call it deep knowledge with a delicious twist.

WANT TICKETS? They're thirty five bucks a pop. Just check on the wineries to make sure the stuff you want to learn and try is happening at the places you'd like to learn and try it. Neato? Yes.

Photo Credit: Eric Luse ©2009]]>
<![CDATA[Red Carpet on the Island: Catalina Film Festival]]> Sat, 06 Sep 2014 15:45:36 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/catalinaredcarpet1.jpg

Photo Credit: Catalina Film Festival]]>
<![CDATA[Wolf Awareness Week at the California Wolf Center]]> Fri, 05 Sep 2014 16:08:50 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/californiawolfcenterwolfweek.jpg

Photo Credit: California Wolf Center]]>
<![CDATA[Prospector Rates Return to Furnace Creek]]> Sun, 07 Sep 2014 13:42:41 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/214*120/furnacepalmsdv.jpg

WHERE LEAVES ARE SCARCE: There's no argument to the statement that California gets a traditional fall season, and a vibrant one. Foliage fans keep watch for the aspens and oak that go golden around the Eastern Sierra and up near Shasta, spending weekends finding the most colorful copses of tree-spectacular goodness. But there's another way to mark autumn in the Golden State, and that's via a trip to the moon. Surely the moon is a little mysterious and autumnal and just right for October? Well, getting to our actual lunar neighbor is still pretty tricky, for the most part, but you can visit the next best moon-esque place: Death Valley National Park. Nope, it isn't pocked with craters in the way the moon is, but you also don't need head gear to draw oxygen, either. It's wonderfully atmospheric, in short, and an October or November trip makes creative counter-programming to all of fall's tree-focused doings. And deal-cravers are in luck: Both of the Furnace Creek properties are packed their saddlebags full of Prospector Rates, which are making a return appearance at the casual (Ranch) and deluxe (Inn) expressions of the historic Death Valley property.

YEEHAW: If you want to invoke classic prospector sayings and tropes -- such as "yeehaw!" -- while booking your room under the rate, we're pretty sure no one would mind. And the upshot on the special? The Prospector Rates feature "30 percent discounts on select rooms throughout the park's fall season." Those rates kick up their boots starting on Oct. 15 and ride straight through to Dec. 21 at the Ranch; the Inn's dates are Oct. 20 through Dec. 20.

AND... why not counter-program your fall? If you're a leaf peeper, usually? Badwater Basin sits just south of the properties, lending a lunar experience to a stay in the area. We'll call a trip to the moon, or the next most moon-like place, ideal for the time of year when shadows grow deeper and longer.

Photo Credit: Inn at Furnace Creek]]>
<![CDATA[Harvest Sweet: Stomping Grapes in Sonoma County]]> Fri, 05 Sep 2014 09:00:36 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/sonomagrapeharvest123.jpg

QUALIFYING STOMP: We're called upon to do and be many things in this life. Maybe we have to helm the park picnic or oversee the cupcake drive or volunteer to wash all the dogs on the block for a good cause or read every Jane Austen novel by the end of summer (and "Pride & Prejudice" twice, of course). But we rarely have the opportunity to pencil the word "stomp" onto our calendar or call ourselves "stompers" or "stompees" or even describe our talents as particularly "stomp-a-rrific." That can change come fall when loads of small, glistening grapes need their juices separated from their skins, all with a pretty good end goal in mind: wine. For sure, we rely on industry and machinery to do some of our human-touch work nowadays, but there are still a few spots in a few wine countries around the state that ask people to remove their shoes, and socks, too, please, and roll up those pant cuffs. The Sonoma County Harvest Fair is one of the biggest stompee scenes around, as there are numerous barrels lined up in a row (some wineries bring out a single barrel so that visitors may give the ancient art a whirl). And, for sure, there are spigots below, where all of their hard work, taken liquid form, may be captured in jugs and such. Tempted? Then make for Santa Rosa from...

OCT. 3 THROUGH 5: The fair mentions that stompers hail from spots around the globe, and teams form to compete for greatness, laughs, and a few stained articles of clothing along the way. (Of course; you want visual proof that you put some effort into it.) There are also Stomps After Dark, if you like to squish fruit underfoot by the glowing light of dusk. Key, though? Signing up early -- Sept. 22 is the date -- and planning your team's costumes/outfits. Wedding dresses have been spied in the past, and other sartorial zaniness. We'd imagine a hem that won't get in the stomper's way is important, but beyond that? Good grape, the sky -- or fruit-filled barrel -- is the libation-lovely limit.

Photo Credit: World Championship Grape Stomp]]>
<![CDATA[Trees Are A-Turning: Mono County Fall]]> Sun, 07 Sep 2014 07:44:06 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/monocountyfallcolorsept.jpg

IF ONLY WE HAD SOME SORT OF GUIDE... People who "chase" certain events in nature know the value of on-the-ground or in-the-water information. We're talking about those who love to see a lightening storm in play, or find the most surfable waves, or admire hidden waterfalls during the couple of weeks a year they might run. Leaf-peeping, or the seeking of fall foliage, is not often paired with "chase" or any other breathless term, but that's a bit of what autumn aficionados do: They chase down rumors of what groves of aspens are turning yellow in what mountain-snug valleys and they act on the intel they've received. Because if you love brilliant leafage you know that a week can change things, drastically, especially if a wind swirl kicks up or early snow falls. Some of the more foliage-rich places in our state want to lend a hand in the intel department, though, which is a major help to the leaf chasers -- er, leaf peepers. Mono County is at the forefront of the foliage wave each late summer, posting photos of when and where crimson-bedecked branches are showing up and offering a link to its free downloadable foliage guide.

WALKER CANYON TO JUNE LAKE: All of the hot spots for autumn action are listed on both the guide's main page and in the guide itself, with percentage updates as to what's starting to turn where. As of early September everything is still looking green, green, green along Highway 395 and into the Eastern Sierra, but Mono County Tourism posted some snapshots from the Rock Creek area. For sure, emerald leaves still dominate, but in a week when much of the state is still rocking temperatures in the 80s and 90s, it is cooling to see those golden signs of fall peeking through.

Photo Credit: Mono County Tourism]]>
<![CDATA[Autumn Outlandishness: The Scarecrows of Cambria]]> Wed, 03 Sep 2014 22:22:59 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/196*120/cambriascarecrowsbestwesternpluefiresideinn.jpg

ADDING ART TO ART: Say you're a small town with a penchant for breezy, open-air art shows and bottle-lined walls and funky buildings and a general live-and-let-live vibe. Could you ever reach maximum art-o-sity, the ultimate cap on your arty expressions? Would you ever say "we're done here, we've had just about enough art, thankyouverymuch?" Nope. You would never, ever say that if you were a sassy small town with a creative streak. You'd search out more ways to let your vivacious vibe flow, often allowing the seasons to guide your denizens to delightful new heights.

HOLD ON... one second: Are you Cambria, by chance? Because Hearst Castle-close Cambria is one such snug burg, a place that embraces art in all of its kaleidoscopic hues and yet adds onto that, wherever it can, with more whimsy. And the whimsy goes through the roof -- or, rather, the early morning fog layer -- come October, when the Cambria Scarecrow Festival opens. It bows, or, rather, it sticks its arms out straight as a pole, on Oct. 1, and runs right through Halloween.

CREATIVE FIGURES: If you're think you might only pass one or two of the famous fall figures on your way through town, we'll stop you right there to say "au contraire." Locals and business owners bring it on the hilarious and thought-provoking and beautiful front, fashioning over 350 scarecrows that run the gleeful gamut. The artworks summon the cinema -- Edward Scissorhands has made past cameos -- and books -- good day to you, Mary Poppins and lots of other concepts, too. Topical themes, the occasional dabble into politics, sweet flashes of humor, and a full stuffed-shirt of ideas blossom during the fest, which can be seen all over town. And, yes, as with most things seen all over a town, this is free to see.

NEED A GUIDE? One'll pop on the web site, or you can toodle around town on your own time. And if you're wondering if Cambria is the only California city to go scarecrow come fall, it is not: Others do it, including, famously, Solvang. Call it a fairly easy way to get your art on, fast, with seasonal flair.

Photo Credit: Cambria Scarecrow Festival]]>
<![CDATA[Death Valley's Happening Nightlife Scene]]> Wed, 03 Sep 2014 12:41:43 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/furnacecreekevening1.jpg

HOW'S THE NIGHTLIFE? The term "nightlife" isn't exactly a portmanteau, though we'd dearly love to say it is, because "portmanteau" should come back into more common usage, but it could qualify as the less colorful (but highly accurate) compound word. And the fairly new word "nightlife" -- well, newish, since it came well after "night" and "life" -- means just one thing nowadays: entertainment, action, go-go-go. Okay, that was a few things, granted, but people generally take it to mean a city's bars, clubs, restaurants, the whole going-out scene. But why can't a remote area also boast a nightlife, especially if it, too, has a show to stage? Maybe not of the neon-bass thumping-swanky cocktail variety, but a show that is spectacular nonetheless. A show that may involve the universe, or at least the cosmos as viewed from earth, in all of its Milky-Way-esque glory.

IF WE CAN USE... that measuring stick, then Death Valley National Park has a MAJOR nightlife. Nope, the thumping bass and valet line is not to be found, but there are full moon guided hikes led by park rangers. There's a reason these after-dusk strolls are popular: The International Dark-Sky Association named Death Valley a Gold-Tier location. "With clear nights the norm and the exterior lights of the resort dim by design, the big sky of the desert shines with starscapes that can be experienced in few places in the U.S.," says a Furnace Creek rep.

OH, AND FURNACE CREEK? We know you've got some lovely nightlife in the form of restaurants and pools to swim in under star-twinkle. So we're not saying some touches of traditional nightlife don't show a little bit in the very nice lobby bar at the Inn at Furnace Creek. That exists. But if you're version of nightlife is more about the moon and quiet and scurrying lizards and actually seeing the streaky evidence of the galaxy in which we call home, then your night will take on life -- yep, we did that -- in D.V.

Photo Credit: Furnace Creek]]>
<![CDATA[Prickly Fruits: A Walnut Creek Tasting]]> Tue, 02 Sep 2014 17:58:25 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/192*120/pricklyfruitpear123.jpg

A FLURRY OF FRUIT FESTIVALS: It isn't difficult to locate an entire weekend devoted to a single fruit in California, which is considered to be one of the hubs for all things juicy and peel-covered and sweet. The only issue is narrowing down which weekends to go to, especially considering that some fruits have multiple large-scale happenings. (Strawberries, we're looking right at you.) Even the apple gets a three month-long spotlight in Oak Glen, while simultaneously enjoying the pie-themed love around San Diego-close Julian. So finding a fruit that's a little off the beaten bowl -- that's like a beaten track, but only in food terminology -- can be a delightful challenge for the foodie forever in search of new flavors. But that challenge is given a helping hand every October when The Ruth Bancroft Garden in Walnut Creek invites the curious, the cuisine-minded, and the cactus lover into the succulent- and local-lovely plant expanse to snack upon the pricklier side of the fruit family.

NOPE... these fruits don't get multiple weekend-long parties around the state, complete with a carnival and live music, but they are in many a yard and store. Granted, they're not in every produce section, but if you taste palm fruit and dragon fruit during your walk, won't you seek it out in your market or online? The better to zest up salads? The pricklies aren't just pretty additions to a salad in a magazine spread. The date for the walk and taste is Saturday, Oct. 18, the cost is $20, and you might sup upon other treats from the garden that aren't so prickly, like pineapple guava. It may be a few years before palm fruit or dragon fruit festivals are popping up in foodie hot spots around the state, but the more love for them grows, the more their prickly profile rises.

Photo Credit: Ruth Bancroft Garden]]>
<![CDATA[Mondo Celtic Gathering Shines in Gold Country]]> Tue, 02 Sep 2014 13:17:08 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/mcleancelticgoldcountry.jpg

BANDS TO GUILDS: A veritable garden of festivals bearing a dose of history, charm, and ye-olde-ness blooms each year in the Golden State, and each boasts its own flavor and characters. There's the large brigade of Renaissance Faires, with some showing a more historic bent and others putting the emphasis on fantasy. There are 19th-century weekends, complete with ball gowns and chamber music, and, in a few special spots, Celtic sounds ring out via fiddles and accordions. Grass Valley in the north neck of Gold Country is one such place, and the joyful happening? It's the KVMR Celtic Festival and Marketplace. Yep, KVMR is the beloved indie radio station out of Nevada City, and, for sure, the huge festival -- think 10,000 people in attendance -- is fast approaching its two-decade marker (2014 serves as year 18). As for the weekend? It's the perfectly Celtic-cool, oh-so-atmospheric first weekend of fall, meaning that last weekend in September. (Friday, Sept. 26 through Sunday, Sept. 28, if you want to jot it down). As for the music end of the lively doings, which happens to be a huge end overall? Look for...

MAINSTAGE HEADLINERS... like Celtic-rocking The McLean Avenue Band, Irish flutist Nuala Kennedy, and Runa. Off-stage the Nevada County Fairgrounds "will be transformed into a Celtic village where Celtic musicians perform, shopping and dining opportunities abound, and O'Dea's Irish Pub celebrates the change of the season." Guild encampments, an educational exhibit featuring falcons and ponies, and demos showing how people lived in wayback Ireland, Scotland, and Wales are on the docket as are, for sure, Scottish Games. Anyone have a caber they can loan?

PERHAPS LOVELIEST OF ALL... are the stately Ponderosa pines lending the setting loads of character. We do love our Ren Faires, we do we do, but turning our hearts straight to matters of Eire, and Wales and Scotland, too, is a fine journey to make come the first weekend of fall.

Photo Credit: McLean Avenue Band]]>
<![CDATA[Tickets on Sale: 2015 Big Sur Foragers Festival]]> Thu, 04 Sep 2014 12:27:18 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/bigsurforagersplate.jpg

INVOLVED WITH YOUR EDIBLES: There are food-focused getaways that are all about the attendees relaxing with a glass of wine, making new friends (do people still trade cards or do they move directly to the sharing of @'s and Facebook handles?), and the strolling to a dinner table where an elaborate, trimming-filled feast awaits. There are eat-fun weekends that include a bit of hands-on participation, say, a chopping class or a demo of creating the lightest broth. Then there is the quirky cuisine-cool occasion where people don boots and trudge into the forest to locate part of what might be their next meal. Could this be called hands-, feet-, and entire body-on participation? Definitely. The Big Sur Foragers Festival is one of those rare treats where people do stroll out among the trees and undergrowth in search of the fungi with the flavor (led by experts in foraging, of course). And, of course, there are hallmarks of other types of food festivals, too; it isn't all walking and scanning terra firma. "Big Sur area restaurants will host the culinary expertise of notable chefs preparing unique fare from rustic to elegant, paired with the region's amazing selection of wines and beers." Rustic to elegant, yum and yum.

TICKETS ARE NOW ON SALE: The foragers'll set out -- and set in to dine upon some excellent dishes -- in the middle of January 2015. Jan. 16 through 18, to be specific, so if you've got a fungi fanatic on your holiday gift list, well... how timely are those dates? Very well-scheduled, indeed. Peruse the line-up of events, which include a "Fungus Face-off" at Ventana Inn & Spa, a Grand Celebrity Chef Dinner (at the same spot), and a foraging walk into Pfeiffer State Park and the Big Sur Wilderness (for beginning and intermediate foragers, respectively). To start daydreaming, peek back at the 2014 Fungus Face-Off. Mushroom-infused cannelloni, lemon pepper chowder, wild boar and truffled mushroom rilletes...

Photo Credit: Big Sur Foragers Festival]]>
<![CDATA[The Heirloom Tomatoes of Kendall-Jackson]]> Mon, 01 Sep 2014 16:25:36 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/kendalljacksonheirloom1.jpg

BEYOND THE BURGER: If you were to stop an eater on the street and ask them what libation goes best with tomato-y products, chances are pretty strong that the tomato-y products end of things will bring a burger and fries to mind. Consider that a patty between to halves of a bun, plus a side order of potatoes, usually arrives with a tomato times two: a slice for the meat and ketchup for the dippable shoestrings. So the libation answer? Oh, a beer or cola. But the juicy fruit pairs well with other beverages, including the drink commonly seen on the other side of an ampersand from beer: wine. Wine and tomatoes show together in the great pairing of a chardonnay with Caprese salad, and merlots go with any tomato-dotted pasta. Thus it should surprise no one who is sweet on both vino and vine-grown fruits that Kendall-Jackson Wine Estate & Gardens has a culinary plot which yields dozens upon dozens of tomato types. Beyond "dozens upon dozens" actually -- over 175. And beyond "tomato types," too -- heirlooms are the order of tomatodom for the Fulton winery. And those fancy fruits get their day come early autumn when the wine house turns over a pleasant afternoon of tomato-tastery to its wine- and tomato-loving fans.

SATURDAY, SEPT. 27: The tony tomato slices and chunks'll be out come the first Saturday of autumn, a day that's often as golden as a Gold Medal heirloom. Garden tours, seminars, and food + wine meet-ups complement the seedy-sweet enjoyment. A chef's challenge and live tunes gussy up the garden party. Tickets? They're $95, and the Ceres Community Project, which engages teens "as gardeners and chefs" while encouraging "leadership skills and commitment to healthy eating" is the day's partner. (Low-cost and free meals are also delivered through the region, courtesy of Ceres, to family's dealing with a "health crisis such as cancer.") Help out, buy a ticket, and clear that Saturday for autumnal fruit savoring.

Photo Credit: Kendall-Jackson]]>
<![CDATA[Detective Dogs: Bodie Spotlights Canine Forensics Team]]> Mon, 08 Sep 2014 10:07:12 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/214*120/bodiedogs1234.jpg

HISTORIC-MINDED HOUNDS: While an hour spent at Bodie State Historic Park in Mono County might consist of taking a few pictures of buildings, admiring the craftsmanship of the town's early layout, and chatting with a park ranger about a few of the 19th-century mining hub's more prominent characters, there are people, and sometimes animals, hard at work to preserve the place, and to protect and further research. The people end of things we understand -- Bodie is a favorite for historians and Golden State-focused scholars -- but the animals? They hail from the Institute of Canine Forensics in Woodside, California, and they call upon the fabled settlement to seek out the historic unknown  gravesites that might slip the attention of those human stewards of the town. Those detective dogs, and their efforts, were spotlighted at the Bridgeport Founder's Day Dinner on Aug. 31.

OVER 400 UNMARKED GRAVES: It started a few years back when John Grebenkemper, an associate with the Institute, visited Bodie with pup Tali in tow. After meeting with Bodie Foundation historian Terri Geissinger, and explaining that "Tali was being trained to detect human historical remains" with the ICF, plans to invite more Institute-smart pups into the park began to form. The dogs would prove a big help to those attempting to know more about Bodie, since many burgs from the 1800s did not immediately establish cemeteries upon their founding, but rather chose random and unmarked places as final resting places for the local citizenry. Tali, Rhea, and more of ICF's four-footed detectives made for Bodie-close spots that were believed to be likely first burial areas for Bodie, and discovered, through their amazingly sharp canine senses, over 400 unmarked graves.

THE PUPS... of course aren't always in the park, but perhaps, on your next visit to the place that many consider America's best-preserved ghost town, you'll think of their work, their abilities, and how dogs can partner with people in the unfolding of history.


John Grebenkemper
John Grebenkemper

Photo Credit: Bodie Foundation]]>
<![CDATA[Monterey Wharf Walks: The Story of Squid]]> Fri, 05 Sep 2014 16:16:23 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/squidmonterey_ashleytedesco.jpg

Photo Credit: Ashley Tedesco]]>
<![CDATA[Santa Rosa, Wine Month's Chillaxed Hangout]]> Sat, 30 Aug 2014 09:38:47 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/santarosawinemonth134.jpg

WINE COUNTRY METROLIBATIONS: When we visualize a day spent noodling around wine country, a blood pressure-lowering activity that many people engage in about 12 to 20 times a weekday, we visualize, above all, bucolic vineyards. We see rows and rows of grape-producing leafy tendrils, and we picture a rustic winery, too, somewhere in the background. But towns dot the wine country map, regardless of where that wine country happens to be, and the occasional larger city, too. Santa Rosa is one such city -- it's the largest burg in Sonoma County, of course, and while it has the typical city-y things, it also participates in what its home county is known 'round the world for. That participation grows robuster come September, which is Wine Month throughout the state. It's year 10 for the celebration in 2014, and Santa Rosa is breaking out the corkscrew, and the party hats, with a roster of full-bodied, bouquet-sniffy events. Such as...

SONOMA WINE COUNTRY WEEKEND: This is the mondo-of-mondos, the big event to kick it all off, and it flows over Labor Day (through Sunday). But there are more Rosa-near doings afoot. Like? A Sept. 13 Lobster Feed at Trentadue Winery (shrimp, sausage, and artichokes complement the crustaceans) and Korbel Winery's Flavors of Fall, which breaks out the bubbly. The Wine & Sunset Seasonals'll go down at Paradise Ridge every Wednesday through Oct. 2 -- and here we'll type "pretty pretty pretty" to emphasize how lovely the setting is -- and a Porsche show on Sept. 21 at Ledson Winery & Vineyard.

FOR THE ALL OF THE SIPPABLE STUFF... going down around Santa Rosa and spots close to Santa Rosa during California Wine Month's 10th anniversary, point your corkscrew this way.

Photo Credit: Santa Rosa Wine Month]]>
<![CDATA[Happy 10th: The "Sideways" Celebrations Grow]]> Mon, 01 Sep 2014 10:37:15 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/216*120/sideways10.jpg

BEYOND THAT ONE GLASS OF WINE: Just like there are numerous vinos sipped in the seminal wine-loving flick "Sideways," there must be numerous celebrations marking the 10th anniversary of its release. Yes, "must" is a strong word, but consider the lavished love the Alexander Payne flick bestowed upon the Santa Ynez Valley, where the film was memorably and picturesquely set. Maps to locations seen in the film, and wineries where Miles and Jack tasted everything but merlot, soon appeared on stands around Solvang and Buellton, and the already popular weekend-y region grew in further stature. So when a merlot taste-off sprung up to pay homage to the movie's 10th anniversary, well... like a single glass of wine, fans guessed more to-dos would soon follow.

AND SO THEY HAVE: That aforementioned merlot taste-off, which is a bit winky, given that Miles, the film's lead, was having no merlot nope nope nope, lands in Solvang on Saturday, Sept. 13, but there is a veritable bouquet of "Sideways" happenings flowering around the valley during the fall. Want to see stills from the movie? Head for the Elverhoj Museum in Solvang from Oct. 4 through Nov. 2. Kalyra Winery in Santa Ynez will screen the film on Oct. 10. And will Fiddlehead Cellars in Lompoc raise a toast to the film with the sauvignon blanc seen in the film? You bet, on Sept. 20.

THERE ARE MORE... more more "Sideways" happenings springing up all around the already famous wine country it helped to make super extra tremendously famous, but if you just want to snag a map and go where the film's characters went, you can do that, too, any ol' time.

Photo Credit: Sideways]]>
<![CDATA[Tahoe Tastes: Autumn Food & Wine Festival]]> Thu, 28 Aug 2014 22:32:26 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/tahoefoodsky1234.jpg

DINNER FUN, DAPPLED DAYS: Fall can summon a whole grab bag of words -- caramel, foliage, woodsmoke, and crabapple among them -- but Lake Tahoe is a slightly different place. Well, you know that, if you know the mythically beautiful spot of pure amazingness, but it can be difficult, at first glance, to land upon some of those Tahoe-type words that might be said a little bit more come September and October. We'll start with salmon, since the fall is spawning season for the lake's ruddier denizens. We'll start with skiing, which actually isn't going on yet, but will be, almost immediately, so the chit chatter is on the rise. We'll start with mellow, which Tahoe often is, but its mellow dial gets turned up when the summer takes its last golden bow.

BUT... more than anything, we'll say dappled is a fall-Tahoe-y kind of term. Sure, sun dapples during other times of the year, but to see it twinkling through the trees in September is to feel like you're at the bottom of a pitcher of lemonade. In short? It's the ideal time for anything, but if you're going to throw a food festival, you do it then. No snow, no crowds, just dapply, mellow good times good-times-ing up the Autumn Food & Wine Festival at North Lake Tahoe.

 THE LOCAL DELICIOUSNESS... hits the grills and pans and plates from Friday, Sept. 5 through Sunday, Sept. 7. The weekend starts off with an Art of the Cocktail seminar -- how very Friday -- and dips into other dining treats along the way, including Hands-On Mozzarella Cheese-Making, a wine and brew walk, and a hike into Tahoe National Forest with "tasting stations along the way" (think "craft beer" and "light snacks"). Farm-to-table themes, seafood, freshness, and the bounty of the high-elevation region shall come into play. A gourmet vendor fair, a long table harvest dinner -- how very autumn -- and a seminar all about how we should rock our own personal preferences when it comes to tastes are on the calendar. Wait. Did we say there's a hike with tasting stations? Oh, goodness, we did.

AND, JUST TO CONFIRM: We also called Tahoe a "mythically beautiful spot of pure amazingness." Not toning or dialing that down, either. It stays because it is true.

Photo Credit: Jeff Lamppert/Autumn Food & WIne Festival]]>
<![CDATA[Guac Next to the Big (Morro) Rock]]> Wed, 27 Aug 2014 22:57:33 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/tlmd_tlmd_071612_guacajpg_bim.jpg

TO PIT YOUR PAL... or not? It's always the admittedly delicious dilemma of the person standing at the cutting board before the perfect avocado. When you slice it lengthwise -- and 100% of people pretty much do, yes? -- and you gaze upon those two harmonious halves, with their paler yellow color near the middle and the greener hues near the skin, do you hand your dining companion the 'cado that's still with pit? If you're not slicing it into a salad? Or do you keep the pitty part for yourself? Is that the "lucky" half? Or does it bear the more tender fruit, at least in kitchen lore? The questions are numerous. (And we didn't even get to whether you should save the pit, to grow it on the kitchen sill.) But the only conversation to have is this one: mashed or not? Will you guac it or scoop it out of the bumpily skin, the better to enjoy it plain? That's a query answered in more ways than two at Morro Bay's yearly Avocado & Margarita Festival, which mashes the queen of green fruits on Saturday, Sept. 13 and Sunday, Sept. 14.

OH, AND, HELLO... lime and salt and ice and tequila. A particular zingy beverage also gets it due during the weekend, which is the eighth go-around for this not-too-far-from-the-water whoop-di-doo. There shall be other libations and there shall be other foods, but "special avocado dishes" and the chance to win "a year's supply of avocados" are what will keep attendees talking about the alligator pear. Now we're pondering this most excellent challenge: A year's supply of avocados. What would you do if you were picked to be the winner? Click your heels and plan on making guac 365 ways, yes?

COST? It's five bucks to enter, but bring food and drink cash. And a last aside: Shouldn't all food festivals arrive with a complementary beverage in their names? Two things that go together as well as two halves of an avocado? And seriously: Is the half with the pit just better?

Photo Credit: Shutterstock]]>
<![CDATA[Fashion Up, Theme Parkers: Disneyland Dapper Day]]> Wed, 27 Aug 2014 10:12:28 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/206*120/dapperalbertsanchez1+-+Copy.jpg

REPEAT VIEWING: If you're a fan of a classic theme park attraction -- say, Walt Disney's Enchanted Tiki Room -- then you likely know the feeling of wanting to repeat the experience of sitting under the singing birds (and flowers!) a few times during the day. Just once more, you think. That just-one-more-time line of thinking folds into a lot of Disney-type diversions very well, especially because you can feel that you missed something on the ride's first go-around. And Dapper Day? That very same principle applies. You know the event that comes around twice a year where people dress up, many in vintage togs, and visit Disneyland Resort? The outfits are so swanky and panache-filled and pretty that it can be difficult not to look at them all, once you land on the Dapper Day Instagram or Facebook accounts. There's something about seeing the perfect '70s necktie or 1940s shrug against the also-retro-y background of the park's carousel or Main Street that inspires you to keep clicking (and clicking and clicking) on photographs. In short? Dapper Day and the Magic Kingdom make for a match made in a fashion-setting daydream. Eager to participate in the retro spectacular? Be at the park on...

FRIDAY, SEPT. 12: That is Dapper Day for the fall -- or the "Fall Soiree," if you prefer -- and you'll just need to pay admission to the park, like you normally might. Only you'll be in heels and stockings or a vest and suspenders, and a lot of other people will be, too. There's also a new Dapper Day Expo at the Grand Californian Hotel on Friday, Sept. 12 and Saturday, Sept. 13. So should you forget an old-school hat, or you want to pick up some snazzy cufflinks, that's your sartorial spot. Nope, you don't have to dress in vintage gear -- contemporary classiness is a-ok -- for simply looking spiffy is the happy order of the day. Up to it?

THEN... get inspired by photos. Just note: You'll think "just one more" over and over as you look through these swanky snaps.

Photo Credit: Albert Sanchez]]>