Monthly Archives: March 2011

90. Three Wells – Mill Valley

All this rain has given our watershed and waterways a real replentishing and refreshing. One lovely spot that seems even more Eden-like when it’s wet and cool is Three Wells, a marvelous formation of three circular cascading pools formed in rocks along the creek in Cascade Canyon, Mill Valley.

Three Wells has always been a popular destination in Mill Valley for swimming, hanging out with friends, or just sitting quietly and enjoying the rush of the water and the verdant surroundings. I have friends who grew up in Mill Valley who have many colorful memories of teenage Summer gatherings and understand it’s held its attraction with the same demographic!

I’ve found some interesting photos of this special place from over a hundred years ago, the first being a family gathered there around 1890 (Courtesy of the Lucretia Little History Room, Mill Valley Public Library) and the second a post card mailed in 1907 (found it on eBay for sale for $1.99). You can see the that the Wells and the vegetation are largely unchanged over the decades and centuries.

When it warms up, a fun activity is to zip down the natural waterslide that’s formed above the first well. Very refreshing and fun!

Where: In Cascade Creek about 100 yards below the parking lot at Cascade Falls/Cascade Park. (map)

89. Red Hill Community Dog Park

A couple of years ago, unused school district land was converted into Red Hill Community Park, and one of the dedicated areas created was the Red Hill Community Dog Park. The area was already being used unofficially a a dog park, but the new dog park is much more dog- and people-friendly.

The dog park is a completely enclosed fenced-in field for off-leash fun for the dogs and peace of mind for the owners. There are benches, trash cans and pooper-scooper dispensers. There are also, of course, rules, but they are less restrictive than those at the Marin Humane Society dog parks. For example, one individual may bring up to six dogs, versus only two at the Human Society facilities.

The Friends of Red Hill Community Park are still working on raising money for Phase II of the park development, which will include more trees and benches for the dog park. If you are interested in donating or volunteering, click here for the contact information of the appropriate people at Friends of Red Hill Community Park.

Where: Between Shaw and Sunny Hills Drives behind Red Hill Shopping Center (map). Parking available on both streets at dog park.

Hours: Open from one hour before sunrise until one hour after sunset

Red Hill Community Dog Park website

88. Let’s Go Chipper Story & Activity Time

Wait! If you are a Marin parent of a young child and you just heard that it’s supposed to rain again this coming Saturday, don’t pull your hair out! There’s a great indoor eco-event for kids aged 2 – 8 featuring Marin’s own Chipper the Squirrel, Ambassador of the Great Outdoors, Saturday morning at REI at Corte Madera Town Centre Mall.

Saturday’s event will have story-telling, crafts-making and activities for about 90 minutes, and is designed to engage the parents (if they so choose) as well as the children in the activities. The Chipper the Squirrel character was created by Corte Madera nature enthusiast, marketing and communications specialist and mom, Stephanie Rach. Her Chipper the Squirrel DVD-CD was ranked by Disney.com as a top 10 baby video in 2008 and won an IParenting Media Award in 2009.

The event is free and there is room for 50 kids (click here to sign up). They’ve held a number of these around the Bay Area, and it seems that kids can be a bit older or a bit younger than the ages stated. As of this writing (Tuesday morning) there were 45 spots still available.

The first 20 kids to arrive get a free “Let’s Go Chipper” activity set compliments of REI. Definitely worth getting there a bit early. And, the kids will love the big furry squirrel!

Where: REI, Corte Madera Town Centre #213 (map)

When: Saturday, April 2nd, 10:30 – 12:00

Event website

Let’s Go Chipper website

87. Youth Film Festival – Larkspur

The 6th annual Youth Film Festival is this Sunday, April 3rd, at the Lark Theater in Larkspur. It is an amazing collection of films by youth aged 11-18 across the country, with the majority from the Bay Area. The young filmmakers represent a wide variety of schools and youth film programs, including public and private, high school and middle, coed and single sex, and general education versus arts magnet schools.

The 29 films selected are 11 minutes or less in length. They are broken down into two filmmaker-age categories: 11-13 and 14-18, and are further broken down by theme: narrative, documentary, music, and green.

Tickets are amazingly inexpensive at just $10.00 each, so plan on bringing the whole family to the show. The event sells out, so they recommend buying tickets in advance. To do this, call the theater at 415.924.5111. If no one answers, press # to leave a message, and they’ll call you back to take your order.

Also, the City of Larkspur is the major sponsor of this festival, using funds from the city’s Transient Occupancy Tax. As a Larkspur resident, I enthusiastically support the use of the TOT funds for this event!

Where: Lark Theatre, 549 Magnolia Avenue, Larkspur 94939 (map)

When: Sunday, April 3rd, 11:30 a.m.

Cost: $10.00/ticket all ages

Phone (to purchase tickets): 415.924.5111

Youth Film Festival web page

Lark Theater website

86. San Rafael Farmers Market

The San Rafael Farmers Market at the Civic Center is the biggest one in Marin County. It’s a great market with all types of produce, breads, condiments, meats and poultry, seafood, wine, prepared foods and treats to eat while you shop. They’ve got both organic and non, locally produced and out-of-area.

It’s the perfect place to go if you want to have fresh ingredients for the evening’s dinner. You can just wander through the aisles of booths and see what looks and smells especially appealing. Today I couldn’t resist some large, sturdy looking leeks, plump mushrooms and particularly fragrant Fuji apples. It’s not a bad idea to walk throughout the market without buying anything first, so that you can compare prices and goods before you start filling up your bag or basket (which most people bring with them). By the time you’re done, you’ve usually got quite a heavy load.

It’s operated by the Agricultural Institute of Marin, and is open Thursdays and Sundays. Some of the folks who sell things are the owners themselves, while many are employees of the farmers and producers. Check out the websites below to see which producers are there on which days.

If you like to make these trips more of an entertainment outing, you can sit at the cafe tables near the live music at the entry and have a bit to eat while being entertained. There’s also a jumping tent for kids at the north end of the market.

Where: Marin County Civic Center parking lot

3501 Civic Center Drive, San Rafael 94903 (map)

When: Sundays and Thursdays 8:00 – 1:00

San Rafael Farmers Market website (Sunday market) (Thursday market)

85. Fat Angel Bakery

Fat Angel Bakery makes delicious breakfast pastries and breads, cookies and cakes, pies and tarts, and, of course, coffees and teas. These are served up in a large, open, airy and light-filled room with long communal style tables. Of course, the frangrances filling the room are always delicious – a good mix of the sweet and savory baked goods they offer up.

I like their “of the Moment” daily goodies. Every day they’ve got a “Scone of the Moment” and “Muffin of the Moment”. My most recent was a buttery, light and mildly sweet carrot muffin cooked just right with a slightly crunchy top but really moist inside. If you’re more of a savory breakfast person, they’ve got a variety of cheese- or meat-filled scones and pastries. Don’t forget to grab a baguette to take home for lunch or dinner.

You can also order special cakes (including wedding – they’re gorgeous!), pies and tarts.

They’re also a member of Marin Organic – which is reflected in the freshness, quality and flavor of their goods.

Where: 71 Broadway, Fairfax (map)

Hours: Mon-Sat: 6:00 – 4:00

Sun: 7:00 – 4:00

Phone: 415.455.0590

Fat Angel Bakery website

84. The Hummingbird Cafe

New Orlean’s loss is Marin’s gain with the opening of the Hummingbird Cafe on Broadway in Fairfax. Michelle, the owner, left after Hurricane Katrina and just recently purchased the old Koffee Klatch cafe and revamped it into a New Orleans-themed breakfast and lunch spot (she hopes to open for dinner as soon as she gets her wine/beer license).

The cafe has a wonderful New Orleans flavor, complete with NOLA slogan “Be Nice or Leave” on the wall and cafe T-shirts. There are huge photos of very colorful Mardi Gras revelers on the walls, taken by Michelle, who is a (former) professional photographer. The menu features beignets in the morning (I heard diners raving about them and will have to go back for my own), gumbo and po-boys at lunch, and lots of things with crab and oysters (like an oyster omlette). But, they’ve got local favorites, too, like exceptionally juicy, well seasoned burgers featuring Niman’s Ranch beef.

I love sitting at a counter, and they’ve got a great one, complete with friendly patrons who can’t say enough good things about the place.

Where: 57 Broadway Blvd, Fairfax (map)

Hours: Mon – Fri 6:00 – 3:00

Sat – Sun 7:00 – 3:00

Phone:  415-457-9866

83. Stage Door – Marin School of the Arts

Marin County has some of the best high schools in the state. The Marin School of the Arts, a magnet school on the Novato High School campus, is one of these. It draws its students from throughout Marin, and has won the Golden Bell award twice in the Visual and Performing Arts category from the California School Boards Association (only about three schools win statewide annually).

Starting next Friday, April 1st, their Theatre Department presents “Stage Door”, an adaptation from the 1937 Academy Award Best Film nominee of the same name.

It’s a parody of would-be actresses living on the Upper West Side in New York City in the ’30′s and has a lot of music and humor. It’s staged in black and white, which should be really interesting to see how they pulled this off. Don’t miss your opportunity to see this great performance!

Where: Novato High School, 625 Arthur Street, Novato 94947 (map)

When:

Friday, April 1  7:00 p.m.

Saturday, April 2  7:00 p.m.

Sunday April 3  2:00 p.m.

Friday, April 8  7:00 p.m.

Saturday, April 9  7:00 p.m.

Sunday April 10  2:00 p.m.

Tickets: Students: $8.00

Adults $15.00

Reserved Seating: $20.00

 click here to purchase tickets online

82. The Spanish Table

I fell in love with Spain as a 12 year-old when I had the chance to travel there with my 7th grade Spanish class under the guidance of our teacher, a Spaniard living in California but still a reserve member of Franco’s army (all male citizens of age were at that time). Then, it was still a country closed to most external influences, and did little trading with its European neighbors and even less with the United States.

Fortunately for us, in the past few decades, Spain has opened up and been discovered and explored by many Americans, some of whom have devoted their lives to bringing us the bounty of that country. We are extremely lucky to have such folks here in Marin, and they have a fabulous store, The Spanish Table, that offers up these delectable, quaffable treasures.

The store offers not only a fabulous selection of Spanish wines and gourmet foods, but an amazing variety of dishes, cookware (have you ever seen a paella pan for 40 servings?!?) table linens, etc. Simply put, they’ve got everything needed or desired for preparing and serving the simplest to the most elegant Spanish meal.

The owners, Tanya and Andy Booth, are often at the store, and are incredible sources of information about any wine, food or cooking item you’re seeking. Andy helped me pick out a selection of wines for a weekend away with new friends, who loved being introduced to the different regions and varietals, and loved his selections.

They now offer wine tastings every few weeks, where they serve several wines along with cheeses and other Spanish tidbits. If you’re a member of their wine club, the tastings are free. If not, they’re only $10. Click here to sign up for their e-newsletter, which will keep you informed about upcoming events. Their next tasting is the evening of April 22nd. They had about 30 people at their last tasting, with lot of socializing in addition to drinking, eating and learning. Be sure to reserve a spot ahead of time.

Where: Strawberry Village Space #123
800 Redwood Hwy 123
Mill Valley, CA 94941 (map)

Hours: Mon – Sat 10:00 – 6:00; Sun 10:00-5:00

Phone: 415.388.5043

The Spanish Table website

81. Nicasio Valley Cheese Company

There are small but important distinctions that organic food producers make, and one of these is the moniker “farmstead”. This means that the food product is made from ingredients produced by the same producer that makes the finished product. In the case of Nicasio Valley Cheese Company, it means that they raise the cows and produce the organic milk from which their cheese is made. And it all happens here in Marin. Hence, the Nicasio Valley Cheese Company can claim to be “California’s only certified organic farmstead cheesemakers”.

All this wouldn’t make much difference if they didn’t offer a superior product. But, they do. They produce six delectable cheeses, in the Swiss-Italian style of the ranch’s owners’ heritage. The ranch and cheese company are owned and operated by the Lafranchi family, descendents of Fredolino and Zelma Dolcini Lafranchi who started the Lafranchi Dairy  in Nicasio in 1919. They have 1,150 certified organic acres of pasture for raising their dairy cows, who happily munch away on the grass and produce delicious organic milk.

The six cheeses are available at the creamery store in Nicasio, and also fortunately at pretty much all of the up-scale or gourmet grocery stores in Marin and throughout much of Northern California.  Stop by their Nicasio store Thursday through Sunday to pick up cheese or a custom-made cheese gift basket.

Where: 5300 Nicasio Valley Road, Nicasio (map)

Hours: Thursday – Sunday 10:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.

Phone: 415.662.6200

Nicasio Valley Cheese Company website