Monday, November 9, 2009
I tried my best not to succumb but the mean old devil tempted me sorely. And you know the good lord said to resist not evil...
Saturday night the boys took me to a special place in the hills of Woodside, the Bella Vista, which offered spectacular views of the south bay and some really good food, seemingly out of a distant era. We drove about a half hour from San Mateo on a twisty mountain road and found the romantic hideaway. Nestled in the tall redwoods on Skyline Drive off of Highway 92, and approached in darkness, we recognized the restaurant by the neon martini glass out front that illuminated the clear night sky. One of the group, Bill Warmboe, was lucky enough to see a rare daytime meteor from the taurid storm earlier in the evening. He thought that the impact was really close bye. Many other people also saw it and it made the newspaper the next morning.
My first thought on entering the rustic old place was that it was like some backwoods Wisconsin hunting lodge. Knotty pine and a bit kitsch. All it lacked seemingly was a large moose head smoking a cigar. It's the kind of place where the newest staff member has only been employed for a mere quarter century. Nouvelle was definitely not spoken in this culinary brigadoon. Jack Lemmon was one of my favorite actors, and the movie Days of Wine and Roses was filmed not too far away, both geographically, chronologically and thematically. An old warhorse of a bygone time. No t-shirts, shorts or cellphones, a little propriety, thank you.
Drank a stiff greyhound while we waited for a table with a remarkable view and then were seated by the tuxedoed and bow tied server who rattled off the specials. Menu probably hasn't changed since Adlai Stevenson made his own run for the roses. I was told to have the hearts of palm salad, which was admittedly magnificent with its bay shrimp topping.
For my entree I settled on the pricey abalone almondine, which my pals agreed to buy for me for my birthday after I got a load of the price. Pappa told me never to look a gift mollusk in the mouth and I want to be gentle because it was a present and was pretty good but the almondine covered up the natural flavor of the sixty plus dollar dish and it didn't quite match the taste of the abalone of my youth, when it was a hell of a lot cheaper and cooked up with beer at the beach. Those days are unfortunately now long gone. It was served with a carrot puree and asparagus on the hand painted china. We drank a nice pinot with the meal. Finished the whole thing off with Godiva and Grand Marnier soufflés which were delightful.
Joints like the Bella Vista or the Iron Gate in nearby Belmont are definitely on the endangered list. My generation doesn't have the class or style to keep too many of them chugging along and they are definitely relics of a different age. Great place to bring a date. Not the kind of food I could eat with regularity but a real treat.