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Palomar Observatory

Monday, November 9, 2009

Bella Vista


It is only with slight exaggeration that I tell you that I barely survived my week of dipsomaniacal excess in the Bay Area. Every night was a coronary clogging, brain bending episode in bacchanalian revelry.

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 souffl├ęs 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.

11 comments:

Anonymous said...

Thank God you survived that gastronomic orgy! Sounds like you had a great birthday week -- and deservingly so.
May you have many more!

I appreciate the restaurant reviews -- I've added them to my list.

Jerri

NYSTAN said...

class and taste have nothing to do with it.....how's about MONEY??
Damn-that sounds like heaven. Maybe one day....when will Jet Blue fly me there from NY for under 50 bucks including meal?
OK-under 200 would do. THanks for sharing.
Stan S

Sanoguy said...

I hate to be a nit-picker, but (and it's what happens after the "but" that is important) .... but, "sartorial" pertains to clothing. I double checked with Mr. Webster.

Are you trying to tell us that you ate your clothes??? Strange!!!!

HAPPY Birthday!!!!!!

Blue Heron said...

You are right, Sano, I was talking out my ass...

Sanoguy said...

I think you meant "gastronomic"!!!!

grumpy said...

when Jesus instructed us not to resist evil, what He meant was that we not repay evil with evil; He wasn't being a cosmic killjoy; after all, His first recorded miracle was changing jugs of water into wine, at the wedding feast in Cana, that He and His family were invited to...i loved Jack Lemmon also; and Adlai; my dad was his military escort at LBJ's inaugural.

Blue Heron said...

that's your impression - were you there? I think he meant that one should give in to your passions every once in a while and not to live our lives as miserable wretches - at least that's the meaning I am sticking with...

grumpy said...

yeah, i was there.

Anonymous said...

Grumpy's getting on my nerves

like a punchbowl full of turds

his self righteous points of view

I want to tell him 'go get screwed'

but like the good guy that I am

I let him punish me with his spam.....

grumpy said...

may you enjoy many more birthdays, Robert.

grumpy said...

amigos: have voluntarily checked myself into a blog rehab facility in Malibu for an undetermined period; all future comments here will be carefully screened for content by staff, so as not to offend postmodern sensibilities, etc and so forth; your prayers, no, your good wishes, would be appreciated. A bien tot.