So you’re hosting a gala celebration, a large party with many anticipated guests, sending invitations to everyone you know, some you don’t; yet others, perhaps business associates that may just be interested in attending to show respect… The invitations include a brief geographical map, the address and contact information. Who would have thought nowadays, people don’t use some convenient on-line mapping or other type of installed automotive GPS service to find their way? Inevitably, someone calls for directions the day of the party, usually after the party has begun, and the host is already involved with the guests. You’re busy finalizing the Grilled Salmon, carving the Garlic-Inspired Prime Rib, squeezing the last lime on the Sea-Monster Ceviche, grilling the Teriyaki Chicken Skewers and giving the last stir to the Chimichurri. Now…, a good host would have parlayed the phone, emails and texts to properly tend to the guests, keep the party lively and guests attended to…
Visited kind-of a San Diego landmark and sat with quite the notable icon. Barbara Beltaire, founder of Barbarella in La Jolla invited me into her office to show me her website. She read my CritDicks business card and questioned where I got my humor, whether from my Mother, or Father. She seemed to immediately connect with me on the basis that I was a writer and her father was a successful journalist.
Barbara, as she is called by many of the seated, and obvious repeat customers, walked me around almost every conceivable corner of her restaurant showing me the obvious Halloween decorations. The big things, and small. The details and the subtle that makes her business standout among others on the block.
She walked with me explaining how she resolves the social media challenges of today; agreeing that social media is extremely powerful, a great marketing tool, but just too much for her to keep up with. In her office now, Barbara explains to me and shows me how she counters the social media frenzy with a reasonably simple website and regular emails to her customers. She also said she maintains an almost non-existent “removal” number from her email distribution list. I thought that to be a pretty neat statistic, especially since I didn’t know that “removal” was a statistic . . . something to be followed, . . . and to be proud of.
Wow, she was so down to earth and friendly. This is the same person that throws a national celebration of St. Barbara’s Day that includes high-profile visitors to her establishment such as Barbara Streisand, Barbara Walters and other “Barbaras” from around the globe. Well, I don’t know that it’s a “national celebration” or quite “global”, but to have the name Barbara celebrated in your own special way . . . and recognized by such biggies. Barbara also admits she has a problem when it comes to Halloween decorations as well as most other holiday celebrations. You see, Barbara has created the unique ambiance and anticipation that her restaurant, Barbarella, brings with a visit here. I really don’t know that any more decorations can possibly fit into this place. Barbara even told me to check out the bathrooms. Barbara drug me around in a 15 minute psycho-rapid tour of everything. Every decoration and every feature of the older building. She was even elated to show me her 1960 Nash Metropolitan automobile. Wow, her car was immaculate. A seemingly perfect specimen. You can obviously tell that Barbara was very proud of her things, as was she seemingly very proud of herself . . . and very happy to show and share with her customers and me. This was Barbara’s place that she created, nurtured and built up through the years. She is Barbarella’s. Her passion for this place is obvious.
Across the street is another of Barbara’s places. I believe the story goes that Barbara has a partnership or other monetary and legal part ownership of Piatti and or the restaurant group that owns it. Piatti offers this on their website, “Piatti features rustic Italian cuisine, intriguing wine lists, many of which are served via our barrel-to-table program, and unique, handcrafted cocktails. All of our Piatti locations offer seasonally inspired lunch and dinner menus and many offer vegetarian, gluten-free and kid-friendly menus, as well as happy hours and enticing bar menus.” Barbara hired Tom Spano, the General Manager during Piatti’s infancy and has grown it for over 25 years into what it is now.
Well now, why would I talk momentarily about the restaurant across the street if these weren’t linked somehow? Not only are they both linked by ownership, they are also linked because we visited them on the same evening as part of a class field trip. It wasn’t until the Saturday after that the other original CritDick, his wife and my wife actually ate there . . . and yes, the food was pretty darn good (not going to get close to that portion of a review . . . just damn good).
A week after our visit our professor opened a class discussion about our field trip. There was discussion made about Barbara’s comments to the class members during the field trip. Comments that would leave some students thinking she had a negativity about the restaurant industry and/or being th owner of her own restaurant. Since I had spent a bit more personal time with her that same evening, I supported her passionate views of the restaurant industry, and her passionate views of being a restaurateur. I can see where there might be some communication that may be construed as being degrading to the industry; but I feel Barbara was telling it straight. It’s not easy work . . . it takes passion . . . it consumes you . . . it takes your life! That’s why I not sure if I’ll ever work in, run or own a restaurant. There was question in the discussion about her mental state, her potential alcohol dependency (duh . . . , most every restaurant owner) and her being a control freak. I had to look back at what Barbara said to me. “Gunga galunga . . . gunga, gunga-lagunga. So we finish the eighteenth and he’s gonna stiff me. And I say, “Hey, Lama, hey, how about a little something, you know, for the effort, you know.” And he says, “Oh, uh, there won’t be any money, but when you die, on your deathbed, you will receive total consciousness.” So I got that goin’ for me, which is nice.” (Caddy Shack, 1980) . . . Sorry got totally side-tracked on that one. Actually, Babara said a lot to me; but I could see that this restaurant was, in fact, “Barbarella” for a reason, and Barbara was the driver of this truck. You don’t just let anyone drive . . . and you can’t just let go of the wheel.
I hope I can speak candidly about Barbara Beltaire. I spent 15 solid minutes with a passionate restaurateur, and I listened to her . . . You know, I joke a lot and I also tell most things straight up, at face value. Some things are not always easy for folks to take. Barbarella is a historic San Diego and La Jolla Shores icon that has been built on a dream from a woman that, for 30-or-so years, has given her life. She has given her everything!!! That 15 minutes I spent with Barbara Beltaire has given me vision. Vision to seek passion.
Truthfully, I think my wife would be happy I got a Woody at all.
Today was supposed to be a working lunch and I recommended we go to Woody’s in San Diego on Miramar Road, just outside of the west gate at MCAS Miramar. The location is convenient and I’ve had their burgers before.
The trip today seemed a bit odd since we arrived just after Woody’s opened for lunch. Funny, my last visit was for a large take-out order just about the exact time as today, and about the same size order as the one I was watching be filled upon my arrival. Today, as we waited for our dine-in meal to arrive at our table, I watched that large take-out order being filled. Last time, I wrote about the service failure that occurred with Woody’s missing an order of my fries from my take-out. I could not help think as I was watching them fill that large to-go order, that I was that guy . . . last time. Maybe that to-go order is what set off a chain of service failures again today at Woody’s . . . I just hope they get my fries right.
We ordered three burgers, each of which was hailed as “outstanding” by my cohorts. But as we waited for our food to arrive, we clearly noticed that a table that was seated a good 10 minutes after our arrival was now receiving their burgers. “Hey, didn’t that table sit after us”, I asked the others at my table. “Yeah, I think they were”, they responded. Just then, I notice the server heading our way, now with our burgers in hand. How do I know they were seated after us; because we were the second to be seated in the dining area for that lunch service. Our food came out a bit slow, but that was ok because we were engaged in “work” conversation; but when I saw the other table get served before us, I began to worry.
We finally did receive our burgers. And my cole slaw quickly arrived on our server’s second run back from the service counter. But wait, as we all kind of stared at each other, . . . uh, . . . wondering where our fries and onion rings were. After another solid 3 minutes of staring at our burgers and my cole slaw, . . . we then saw the other table get their fries . . . us again, just having our burgers. I said, “doesn’t look like the fries are coming anytime soon, lets eat!” Just then, we also realized we had no flatware or plastic-ware to eat with. Thank God we had napkins on the table. When the server finally brought out our fries and onion rings . . . ,late, we asked her to bring out some forks and knives in which she hurriedly responded with fulfilling that request with Woody’s finest plastic-ware. It wasn’t until another solid 5 to 7 minutes after the first round of fries showed up, Woody himself brought out a second order of fries. I thought he had made a mistake. Either he recognized me and wanted to reconcile the missing fries from my previous visit, or the order was extremely late to be filled. He asked at that time if there was anything else we needed and offered some ranch for the onion rings. He immediately filled that request. Once Woody left, I confirmed with my business associates that the second order of fries was correct.
So let’s recap the service failures. 1) our table was served out of sequence from other guests. 2) we were served our fries late after our burgers were served. 3) second order of fries were brought out very late, clearly after the meal had begun to be consumed. 4) no serviceware brought out with the coleslaw or other entrée’s.
Although Woody checked on our table several times, as did the server when refilling our waters and other drinks; I didn’t think it right for me to complain about the service failures in front of business associates, especially since I didn’t pay today. I’m not really sure I ever really feel right about complaining in front of other people I’m with unless it’s really something blatantly wrong. Most folks know I write and I don’t want them to feel awkward. I may be wrong for not saying something at the time of failure, but that is also why restaurateurs and servers are supposed to ask of their patrons within 2 minutes or two bites of the food delivery to the table; and supposed to do it when you have a bite of food in your mouth, so all you can do is nod. “Everything ok here?”, the server usually asks, . . . mouth-full “nod”, is what is returned.
Woody’s still has a knockout burger and some pretty good fries . . . when they do get the fries to you. The coleslaw was again just meh flavor-wise, but the size of cabbage cuts seemed to be remedied. The onion rings were still not that good. The onion was again non-existent flavor-wise compared to the very greasy and heavily breaded coating. The other persons at our table agreed they could not taste the onion either.
Woody’s needs to care for their patrons. They need to correct their service failures. Other than this “Dick” noticing many things wrong, they were also noticed by others at my table . . . and, they are also noticed by other patrons.
I can’t say I won’t go back, but I won’t be ordering the rings, the slaw or expecting my fries. I don’t know if the fries will show up late . . . or show up at all!
First things first. “Where the hell is your football game?”, I ask my son. “In Del Norte, at Del Norte, against Del Norte”, he says. “Ok . . . where the hell is Del Norte?”, I ask. “I don’t know”, he responds.
Turns out this ‘Del Norte’ is an area in San Diego that has been rapidly developing for some time. I typed “Del Norte High School” into the POS (piece of s#!^) navigation system in my Avalon and “alas”, it found it; so it can’t be that new of an area . . . or high school. As I traveled to Del Norte, which is located somewhere west of Rancho Bernardo, south of Lake Hodges, east of San Elijo and north of Carmel Valley; I quickly notice that everything appears new. I see new houses, new buildings, new streets and new street lights. I finally arrive at a seemingly new school that is surrounded by new construction. Hey, this place is pretty nice.
I went to Del Norte to watch a recent football game in which my son was playing. Before the game begins, I have to go see if there’s anything I feel like nibbling on during the start of the game. As I approach the snack shack, the wind kicks up and knocks the menu off of the wall above the order window and smacks one of the volunteer mothers in the head. She laughs off the OSHA incident since the sign is one of those plastic types with the press-in letters and numbers. I still check out the menu to see “Na hos” and “Ho Dogs” still available since some of the letters were now on the ground. Laughing about the incomprehensible menu items, the volunteer mother says to me, “forget about that stuff, what you want to try is the grilled cheese . . . we have two”. I looked briefly at the menu item that was barely hanging onto the now fallen sign by just a small piece of plastic tape. “Yeah, yeah”, I said. Not really giving much thought until just before half time, when I got a hankerin’ for something. So I made my way up to the snack shack.
I quickly looked at the menu hoping to find something edible . . . some candy, some chips or perhaps something smothered with canned chili-con-carne, so I can gag down whatever else I can find. Just then, I remembered about the grilled cheese sandwiches the worker mentioned. I again looked at the menu and saw the “American” grilled cheese sandwich, with Muenster, Cheddar, pickle and bacon. The other was the “Italian”; with Provolone, a pesto spread and tomato. These were both pre-assembled under some plastic in a wrapped hotel pan. Once I ordered them, the volunteer staff snatched it out of the pan and quickly placed them on a hot sandwich press. This press was not some home use model you buy at Macy’s, but one of those expensive sandwich presses like you might find being used at your favorite deli. Wait a minute, where is this school getting its money? I was told to wait about 5 minutes so I looked at more of the menu and things behind the counter. Also on the menu was a Buffalo Chicken Sandwich; and on the counter, were these 8-inch round chocolate chip cookies. What is going on here? . . . where have I been? . . . wait a minute, where have all of the other high schools been. This is not normal.
Well, I waited my 5 minutes to be handed these remarkable creations. Roof-of-the-mouth searingly hot and perfectly grilled. Plated with the best of the gourmet food truck presentations; including the checker-board sandwich cardboard tray lined with checkered blue wrapper (technical terms I have yet to learn). I separated the huge halves to some oozing cheese and fillings of incredible delight. This is not the norm for grid-iron grunge.
A couple things went through my head as I was eating them. First I was wondering about the preparation outside of the snack-shack environment. Then I began to think about the pre-preparation and the use of the ingredients. Then it all started to make sense. I’m very willing to bet, there is someone back there that knows the limitations to that sandwich press and the limits of the health and safety code. But when I bit into them, I couldn’t help but refrain myself from quickly consuming the large sandwiches that only cost $5 each. These were easily a $7.50 sandwich on a food truck . . . in fact, a $10.50 creation if you throw a piece of grilled chicken breast on it. Someone at this school knows what they’re doing, or they just got really lucky. Maybe this is all pre-calculated political BS that is being forced upon the consumer in place of . . . or perhaps strategically along side of the nachos with that nasty cheese, canned chili and jalapenos.
What does this school have going on? Obviously the same thing as many of the food trucks in the San Diego area. Impressive! Easily the best snack shack I have ever seen, or eaten at that I can remember. I wonder what this place does when it fires up the hamburger grill. These sandwiches rocked. I had to save the other two halves for my son after the game. I knew he would be hungry and he seems to always venture foods with me, so I thought he would enjoy them. His response once we were underway in the car, “I don’t normally like grilled cheese . . . , (smack, smack, smack), but these are really good!” He didn’t even save me a bite, . . . oh well, I was driving anyway.
Ok, so I’m being asked today if I am going to the chow hall to celebrate the Navy’s birthday with the rest of my office. This is just one of those semi-traditional things the office does on the Marine Corps and Navy birthdays. Often, I blow them off because I’m not that motivated to eat what I ate for many years while serving. One office worker said the difference between the Navy and the Marine Corps’ birthday meals is just the color of the frosting on the cake. The Navy of course is blue and gold, while the Marine Corps colors are scarlet and gold. I actually grilled some young Marine that visited me in my office today about the proper colors of the Marine Corps. Poor kid, didn’t know that it was scarlet. God help him if his Gunny every gets a hold of him. “SCARLET…MARINE!” I can hear him yell right now. The young Marine thought it was just red! Hell, I’m a properly initiated Navy Chief; I probably had to look that up for some BS that some super crusty Master Chief wanted to exploit us with. Don’t get me started with that crap.
To get things started, my camera on the Android has been failing lately (needed a new battery), so all of these pictures are what I could find on the internet.
Todays meal was to be special. The work email even sends out the menu ahead of time. For like $7.68 (or something like that), you get a char-grilled rib-eye steak (about 8oz), a baked lobster tail, shrimp cocktail, corn (frozen . . . NASTY!), green beans (always better than the corn), rolls, potatoes, salad bar, deviled eggs . . . it just keeps going. And the best part of it, is the huge selection of deserts; cake, cheese cakes, pies, ice cream bar with toppings, coffee, cookies. . . again the list keeps going. Now I know why everyone attacks this place when they open it up. Now you also know why they only open it up a couple times during the year. They used to have the chow hall open to civilian employees all the time. I remember going for breakfast when I was still in the Navy and with my subsidence pay I would have a breakfast throw down for less than two bucks. Well, today the result was the steak was really quite good, medium rare and perfectly seasoned. I mean the chow hall even had giant pump dispensers of A1. I didn’t even need it. The lobster was . . . meh. everything else pretty much sucked except the roll and deserts.
Well, if your planning to enlist in the service; my father told me . . . “become a cook”, ’cause at least you’ll eat good. This is especially true if you are a cook in the Chief (CPO) mess. We ate pretty well.
We (CPO’s) actually paid extra to eat while deployed. Plus we had a cadre of dedicated young men that made sure we, and they, ate well also. They take care of us . . . we take care of them.
Talk about a guy on his game. Ramone, forever now known as ‘Rrrrr’amone (roll the ‘r’), was definitely on his game.
We were to sample foods for a buffet selection intended to cater a wedding about a year away. We had tried some other attempts at concocting ways to save money and energy for the providing families paying for this event. I was even given the opportunity to put the menus and food catering operation together as long as I was not involved for the wedding day . . . yes, I too am part of the wedding. Well, I failed miserably. ‘Rrrrr’amone seems to be bailing me out.
Here’s this guy I quickly noticed, seemed to know what he was doing. He was really on the ball, wrote everything down, taking copious notes and providing detailed explanations about every detail . . . about his experience doing these wedding events. ‘Rrrrr’amone was definitely on his game. ‘Rrrrr’amone has been in the events industry for 17 years, starting following his Mom to work at the young age of 12. He started washing dishes, to bussing and serving, to now event management. This guy knew his stuff, He knew all of the things that make up a successful wedding event, like he’s done them hundreds of times or something. He explained everything to us and helped guide us in decision-making without ever asking us to sign, or trying to close a deal. WOW! This guy knew his shit! I think to this day from the first meeting, we have infinite confidence in ‘Rrrrr’amone. Everything from the place setting selection and importance of the centerpiece with color coordination, to what kids eat . . . and don’t eat at a wedding. “Some people have just bought the kids pizza”, he says. “It’ll save you money” . . . “sit them away from the head table” . . . and this is why. He was bad ass! He told me he had pretty much seen everything and done everything. He also made us feel incredibly comfortable that he was going to make our day the best day possible.
We will be working closely with ‘Rrrrr’amone for the next year. We have several planning meetings that we will lay out the finest details. I really think ‘Rrrrr’amone has our backs on this one. He really made us feel good.
I’m going to give ‘Rrrrr”amone the coveted “Recognizing Awesomeness”; because even if the event gets trashed and he is to blame, he is still an awesome event planning sales person. I think he has sold us. Don’t let us down ‘Rrrrr’amone.
Finally landing at Lake Havasu City Municipal Airport, Arizona and needing to get up the river to meet up with some family for the second leg of our weekend getaway, we found ourselves immersed in services and accommodations normally reserved for the rich and famous. Well maybe not all that rich and famous crap, but we kinda felt that way with all of the services being provided by the staff and hospitable receptions at the various airports we landed at. Seems like everyone is just so damn friendly. I mean, being parked out in the last quadrant of now hell (102 degrees) away from the Lake Havasu City Municipal terminal, the flightline crew gave us a ride back to the terminal next to where my brother and I had planned the much-anticipated lunch at Waldo’s BBQ.
Waldo’s had an offer on their website for some BBQ ribs and Pulled Pork with unlimited sides (I had cole slaw . . . meh, and mac-n-cheese . . . sorry, but this was not good) and a drink for $9.95. Sheesh, If I had known there was going to be so much food, I probably wouldn’t have ordered a side of their superior onion rings. Yeah, the rings were pretty friggin good. Their beer selection was a bit below that what I consider suffiicient, by craft brewery laden San Diego standards, but I was able to find something acceptable to help alive the annunciator warning light that came on in my body in after coming out of altitude, landing in 102 degree weather and being in “party central” Lake Havasu.
Anyway, at Waldo’s, I thought we were off to a great start when the server took our order then immediately brought out some corn bread. Well, the corn bread was dry and not very tasty. The butter didn’t even help it. That remained untouched on the table the whole meal. I hope they noticed it had just one bite out of it. I think my brother had the Blackened Catfish Po-Boy. He said the sandwich was quite good. I’m guessing there are probably other things that are just as good on the menu, because judging by the crowded dining area, this Saturday noon’s lunch crowd was sufficient to consider this place a popular joint among residents, visitors and flyers alike. Unfortunately, we were in a slight rush to get up the river to our next destination, so we could not sit and savor and really analyze the food and drink, but thought it worth a retry upon our next landing.
Once I got home and relooked at the menu, I noticed several options to many of Waldo’s food items that I was not aware of, nor do I remember them being offered by the server. For example, the ribs and pulled pork were served without BBQ sauce on them, rather on the side in a mini cast skillet. I guess I could have ordered them wet and supposedly they would have been finish cooked in their sauce. Whatever, there was a lot of meat and the flavor was still pretty good and they were tasty. Also, the Po-Boy could have had the cole slaw added to the sandwich for $ .50 but I don’t remember that being offered. That is an opportunity for suggestive or upsell on that particular item. Who knows, maybe the server was super busy, ’cause I didn’t know to ask for different BBQ sauces that were also available. Damn, now I’m going to have to go back for sure. There were other items on the menu I wish we had tried, but with all of the food from the special, there’s just no way. I think this trip to Waldo’s will have to get only two ribs, I felt I got let down by other reviews. I dunno, maybe it’s the whole Havasu thing going on about serving crappy food with crappy service. I don’t want to say it was bad . . . just not that good. We’ll try it again later.
We finish with Waldo and go outside to wait for our cab ride up the river. I’m going to guess it’s about 12 miles up the river from the lake because we had to travel about 25 miles to get there in a somewhat indirect drive. The trip from the airport to Pirate Cove in Needles, CA cost us $55. We used Todd’s Shuttle Service. https://www.facebook.com/toddshuttleservice I had one other quote from another taxi service in the area of $135 to make the same trip. Todd’s was spot on for service that day. A couple days before our intended arrival, I had phoned them, emailed them and Facebook’d them letting them know I was coming in. They promised me they would make sure I had a driver available. I called them once again just as I was about to land, telling them to pick us up in an hour so we could eat. Well, the driver showed up 10 minutes early . . . perfect. We didn’t even have to wait. The driver could have been a bit more friendly . . . I think he may have said, “hello” . . . but that was definitely it. I don’t think he ever sped (huge + for Havasu area), but I did note that he was doing a bit (Ok . . . a lot) of texting once we got on Hwy 40. Now I may be wrong, but I don’t think that should be something a cab service should be doing. Anyway, we got there. Todd’s got us there cheaper than the other guy . . . possibly the cheapest. I figured that was a great deal and I questioned it several times while making arrangements with them. I had just planned on tipping the guy a $20, but I had reserved that right just in case he was a dud. Today, we got a dud! He only got $10 for his tip. I guess there’s something to say about cabbies in Lake Havasu. All he had to do was strike up a bit of conversation; like, “Hey, where did you guys fly in from?” Nothin’ . . . Oh, and if you think you’re getting the comfortable air conditioned limo treatment around this city, you had better stay in New York City; cause we got the old, busted 15 passenger van with 8 X 50 A/C. That’s right . . . open all eight windows and go 50 mph. The driver was just rocking his Megadeath, having a great time! Sorry, no big tipper here today. I had to carry conversation with the same person I’ve been striking conversation with over the last 8 hours of flight time. “Ubu . . . Speak Ubu, Speak!
Anyway, we sat at Pirate’s cove a bit and started to get acquainted with the folks there at the bar and the surroundings. We finally began our decent down river, stopping occasionally along the way to take in a sight or two, stop for a break and jump in the water. It was hot that day, but it was only hot on the west facing side of my head about 4pm. Sunscreen me! We had a nice boat though, and plenty of gawkers of the vintage Campbell.
We traveled down the river eventually crossing the lake. This day was definitely the day to have a larger boat on the lake. We traveled under London Bridge (yes, it’s actually one from London) and go down through the very un-busy channel. It wasn’t a big weekend so there were boats and hoes, just not a lot of ’em. Finally making our way to the Naked turtle, we found the party we had left up river somewhere. We didn’t have much of anywhere else to go, so we decided to get our drink on and prepare for the evening. It wasn’t until the evening started to close in on us that we realized the boat lights were not working, so we had to pull it out before we got a citation . . . It’s not worth the risk.
To conclude our evening, we met up with a friend at his house along the channel under London Bridge. We had a few more wonderful cocktails and wines to go along with his great bar-b-que’d steaks and chicken. Had some great conversation and sat outside on the deck. A very nice trip and day at Lake Havasu.