Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Brookside: The Going Gets Weird

OK. So the day after The festival was a Sunday. I had decided somewhere during my hellride up the 5 to take the 101 home. I woke up early and thought I would hit brunch near Santa Cruz. There was a nice restaurant at a group of upscale cabins in the hills I had been to several times. It offers a slammin' brunch. It was the first place I ever ate ganache. So you understand it has a deep and profound meaning to me. I remembered the cabins/hotel used to be a monastary so I got on the laptop and started searching.

So this is the place I was trying to find. Looks nice, doesn't it? I started driving and driving and driving. I wove through the hills until I was in the Redwoods. This couldn't be right. So I find the address and I was definitely in the wrong place. I ended up here.

The Brookdale Lodge is famously haunted by the ghost of a little girl named Sarah who supposedly drowned in the brook that runs through the center of the restaurant. Food is so much better when enhanced by the tragic death of children.

More on the haunted lodge

How to even describe this place? It was as if it had been built in many different stages during different eras. There was some attempt to make it into an alpine fairy tale inside of a castle inside of an abandoned church.

The bar seemed like a good place to get into a fight with a biker and the bathroom seemed like a good place to shoot heroin. I can't imagine staying here overnight. Then in the middle of haunted Alpine Village, there was an ernormous fading art deco light that looked to have been salvaged from the Titanic.

So the buffet was in a room even dimmer than this one. Nothing whets the appetite like dark, creepy buffets. My biscuits and gravy were ice cold, which sucked, and I was none to impressed with their special chicken and dumplings. Of course, I like fluffy dumplings, not Pennsylvani-style rolled dumplings.

But the omelette! Jesus Christ, that was one of the best omelettes I have ever had in my life. If you are ever randomly in this part of town, it's worth it for the acid trip and the omelette.

The pasta was also handmade and delicious.

Throwing fish to the trout in the pond. President Hoover fished in the pond when the water used to be higher

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Great Food and Music 2

It was also an incredibly hot day, so I was very grateful for the press tent. Someone had the great idea to set up a backstage area for press and bring in food so that we could photograph and taste it without waiting in the crazy lines.

Pink's loves writing on their hot dogs

Bagel and lox from Barney Greengrass

After awhile the band backstage hosted a "meet and greet" and all of those people swarmed into the press tent and started eating all of the food. I was lucky enough to get the next-to-last slice of Juniors cheesecake. Pure heaven.

This banner was on the wall. If you sponsored the press tent, Foodbuzz, I love you!

But I couldn't hang out in the tent all day. Bobby Flay taught us how to make the perfect burger. He was the king of gestures.

Marshall Crenshaw was playing

I had to check out the wine tent, though I couldn't drink since I didn't have a designated driver.

The nice people at J Moss

Maybe just one beer

But I was really excited to find the dessert area. Charles Chocolates: the Perfect S'more

I met Tony Luke, who was supercool, telling me all of the restaurants I should hit on my upcoming trip to Philly. When he found out I hadn't got a photo one of his cheesesteaks, he sent me with his co-worker into the back of their booth to get pictures of them cooking a steak sandwich.

Where it all starts

After making the sandwich and holding it out for pictures, the guy said, "You want it or not?" I asked then to wrap it up so the people in line didn;t rise up as one and slay me. Later that night in my room, a movie and that sandwich made for a fantastic night.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Great Food and Music Fest Part 1

After a somewhat harried trip up the 5, I finally found my hotel behind an alley after driving around for what seemed like forever. It was kind of deserted, but I was shown to my room by a chatty bellhop. He said, "You're here for the Food festival? You know Anthony Bourdain stayed here when he was filming and watched porn all night long. You should have seen his bill!" Hmmm. I must admit the rooms are stimulating, with their funky chairs and profusion of velour.

The next morning I was all bright eyed and bushy tailed, ready for some serious grub. Saturday promised to be a gorgeous day of music, cooking demos, live music and feasting. Unfortunately, the best laid plans...There was a line. The line stretched for blocks and blocks and blocks. Seriously, the line was like a mile long. I pulled the press privilege and went in the side. I don't get paid, there has to be a little perk now and then. I think I would have turned around and driven all the way back to LA if I had to stand in that line.

The first restaurant I hit was South Side BBQ but the payment system was all wacked. You got a bracelet onto which you charged money. Vendors swiped the bracelet and it deducted the money. But my bracelet wouldn't work. I went up to the front and it was a madhouse. None of the bracelets worked. Volunteers feverishly messed with electronic card readers as the crowd grew more and more agitated. I returned to to apologize, and they just gave me the BBQ (LOVE you, South Side !!!)

The anticipated crowd of 2,000 people quickly grew to 8,000. With only 20-something booths, it was a recipe for disaster. Waits to get in to the festival were over an hour and waits in line for food averaged 45 minutes.

Many people blamed insufficient supplies, but it seemed to be more of a matter of distribution. The only items that ran out were pastrami and cheesecake. If there had been more counters around the event, like three Anchor hot wings stands, and sufficient staff for the additional booths, the waits might not have been such an issue. Another ten vendors or so would have helped too. Foodie paradises like New Orleans and Chicago were underrepresented.

Still, those who chose to make the best of it had fun anyways. People made new friends in line, shared food with each other, and were treated to some great demos and music. Hopefully next year the kinks will be worked out, and as Ed put it so well in his official apology, ""If you could find it in your hearts to think of this as our first pancake, that would be great."

There wasn't much to do about food until they figured out the bracelet problem (they eventually dumped the idea altogether). They had 2 stages - a small stage for food demos, and another for a concert, a burger cookoff and "big name" food demos.

Ed Levine, in a kind of amusing pose.

Anne Burrell

The lines were crazy

These nice girls were waiting near the front of the line

And they were nice enough to get me a sandwich and wings. I know, I'm a terrible, terrible person. But you would have done the same. God, that sandwich was so good, even if obtained by evil means. These wings were amazing.

People loooove Guy Fieri and he really brought some energy to the event. He was playful with the audience, pretending to squirt kids and really interacting with them.

They seriously love him

They want to MARRY him

Friday, October 23, 2009

Harris Farms

Last summer I decided to drive up to Mountain View, just outside of San Jose, by myself to attend the Great American Food and Music Fest. Curated by Ed Levine, founder of Serious Eats, the festival was serving up food from famous restaurants that don't normally travel outside of their neighborhoods. We're talking Katz's Deli Pastrami Sandwiches, Anchor Bar Chicken Wings, Tony Luke's Roast Pork sandwiches, and Junior's Cheesecake.

I hate driving the 5, but hey, it was for Katz's. After miles of nothingness, I started to hear a terrible noise. I pulled into a gas station and they said they didn't have tires, but there was a place at the next exit. The next exit was five miles away! That was a scary 5 miles.

Luckily there was an open mechanic who was able to put on a new tire. He said that stretch of the 5 eats up tires so he keeps a lot in stock. Coincidentally, we were also right across the street from Harris Farms, my scheduled stop. I should have known by the smell of manure wafting over the 5.

Harris Farms has been in Fresno County since 1937. Since its founding in Fresno. It is one of the largest family owned farms in the nation. They are best known for their quality beef. The family also raises thoroughbred horses and opened The Harris Ranch Inn and Restaurant in 1977.

There are different levels of dining rooms, which is fantastic. There is a cafe style area for big loud families, a quiet elegant steakhouse, and an informal but adults-only bar. I chose to eat in the bar. It was nice to eat on the road without screaming, cranky children. Not that I am a wicked child-hater. I am just cranky enough as it is. The filet I ordered came with soup or salad. I tried the clam chowder. It was full of butter and cream, not very clam-y.

This filet was as tender and delicious as it looks. It could not have been more rare if I had run outside, wrestled a cow to the ground and bitten a hunk out of its leg. The proximity of cattle did add a certain element of that SNL sketch "you stun em, we cook 'em" The rest of the meal was your standard middle-America restaurant fare.

The Harris Farms compound also has a meat market, a huge bakery, and lots of snacks for the road. This pie did not look like it would travel well.

So I got one of these instead.