The first stop of Alice In Chains’ North American tour and a day to remember the USMC.
I got stopped by the rent-a-cops (actually Native American tribal police authority) for holding a cold one in the parking lot getting ready to take my second gulp and he say’s, “Ok, right there is a federal offense and citable”. Attempting to understand just who the f’ this guy is, he chimes in a second time. “Since you just opened it, you should not abuse alcohol; and make sure you get one last gulp before you throw it out”. As we chat a bit more about Federal law and California law and walk from this cops-on-bicycle infested parking structure, the cop lets out an ooo-rah to us as we head toward the show. Realizing now, that his grunt was in respect for his fallen brethren at a recruiting office that day. I departed the patern leaving this guy with something to think about . . .
This was just one of the moments of our night that included Foie Gras, flat-grilled Scallops, Langostino topped Crab Risotto, copious amounts of Vermouth and some duck.
Just to resolve the Vermouth story right off the bat. Our bartender that night Juan, I think his name was, had a light elbow on two girlie-red martinis that both contained heavy amounts of Vermouth. Both of those drinks were different martinis that interfered with my dinner. So I off-set the poor bitters cocktails with a giant Pala souvenir cup of water throughout the night. The cup actually started as a giant cheap beer (only thing available) that guided me through most of the Alice In Chains show. I’ll just end this paragraph with explaining that Alice In Chains was a very good show. They came on stage about 20 minutes later than my casino concert adventures normally tell me the show is to start (8pm); but they played until the 10:00pm witching-hour of the casino concerts. That is the casino’s desire to get those concert goers back into the casino and gamble their grungy asses away.
Alice performed an endless list of favorites with only about 6 songs from their newly released LP atop the Cave wine cellar (previously written about) that still seems to be an awkward place during my recent visits. I still have a hard time with that sub-stage sanctuary. The stage atop is artfully set in the exact position it was before when the erector-set style stage had now been removed to build this new complex. The whole outside area of the hotel lawn/pool spa was changed to better utilize the grounds. Pala Casino did a very good job incorporating everything of the Starlight Theater that even includes a moat, behind stage bar, a path that encircles the facility and a converted special event room/rooms that hosts a second bar. For the experience, the Starlight Theater just reinforced my vote for “The Best Small Venue in San Diego’. Only to be confirmed by my visiting guest family and friends that watched the show for their first time in this venue. It truly is, one of the best places to see a show I have ever been to.
A couple of user-experience issues I found include the lack of a third bar in the venue that would alleviate the now very long lines for alcohol with a very limited play list of beers for this craft-beer engorged North San Diego brewing industry. The inside, security (event staff) bar area was ok once the show got started and the line subsided a bit; although it was lacking some small speakers to fill the room with the stage sound to compensate the mids and highs lost by the building structure of the converted hotel room/bar. Another were the transitions of the grass to the pavement/walks were riddled with ankle-twisting low spots in the lawn. I fell into several of those throughout the night as I just cruised around the stage area complex, never once finding or sitting in my seat. Again, every seat in this venue is a good seat, but you just have to walk around and enjoy the full venue. It’s a fun place to see a show.
Prior to the concert, we had made reservations with Cave. Cave is a nicely adorned fine-dining restaurant capable of providing a far finer dinner execution that our sit-down engagement than we experienced this night. While the service was good, it lacked an element of seasoning that seemed to continually set our dining experience as a detriment to our stellar musical evening. While everything was good, or ok; it just lacked elements that are noteworthy at places like Vintana or Stone’s World Bistro and Garden. Both in the North San Diego County area. Our party found nothing that really set Cave above others.
I tried Foie Gras for the first time. Very interesting and very good. It was accompanied by port-reduced caramelized cherries that, not only appeared on another of our duck dishes, but had a peculiar bitterness of an aftertaste that seemed to throw both the Foie Gras and the Duck dinners (yes it appeared twice at our table) off; however, each of the menu items described the plate’s accoutrements as different.
We also ordered the Charcuterie of cured meats. As I ordered the cured meats and the Foie Gras, I asked the server about the origins and preparations of each and we began an in-depth conversation about the Prosciutto that the server had indicated was part of the charcuterie platter. Ours had Mortadella, Salami, Sopresetta and an Orange Marmalade that didn’t seem to help anything. The Crab Risotto may have only been cooked with a crab stock since we could not find any of the underwater crustacean, nor was it noticeable in the flavor. Now on to the good parts of the food. The sauce that the lobster was prepared in was delicious and the chef used local mustard flowers as a garnish for the Foie Gras plate. The chef also garnished with another local flower that I can not identify at this moment . . . probably later when I walk around my property. And, in my opinion, the scallops are pretty good, but nothing to really carry on about.
Again, as I entered Cave, I had asked one of the greeters about a particularly good cocktail they may be aware of, but got the same “never tried” response. Our table server also didn’t know the menu because he had to go back and ask the kitchen about the origin of the Foie Gras (France) and fumbled with other elements of the dinner. One being my second martini when our server failed to adhere to my request for a drink that was not pink. Yup, my second girlie-looking cocktail . . . strong on Vermouth, and in front of business associates and friends. It became a rough table to sit at . . . Yes, the server offered to replace the cocktail.
I really wanted to write about a great experience with the whole Cave/Starlight venue, but I can only admire the musical performance, the beautifully adorned restaurant and the stage grounds of the Starlight Theater. Chef Luciano Cibelli needs to change things up a bit between the cuisine, training of staff, and the incorporation of the bar into his cuisine with tastings. I also I have to question their sommelier as my wife didn’t care for her first recommended $15 glass of Chardonnay; and with the staff unknowledgeable of the menu, I can’t hardly believe they would know wine pairing to match the menu. Kinda shameless thinking Cave hails itself as a wine destination. I’m not sure I will eat there again unless I notice there are changes made to the menu . . . then perhaps. We’ll see how it goes over the years.