Is it ‘owing’ an apology, or ‘owning’ an apology? – Decoy – San Marcos, CA

It all started with a walk through the grounds at Bernardo Winery. We were supposed to meet at 4pm on this Saturday afternoon to enjoy some of the shops and other Christmas hoopla that goes into the holiday season.

bernardo1We arrived at 4pm awaiting my son, Daughter-in-Law and Granddaughter to walk her through to see Santa (HUGE . . . HUGE line). Well forget about that, lets go get some food. “From here Vintana looks pretty good”, my son says. So we’re off for some friendly cocktails and a bit of fine flavors Vintana is known for. We ask to be seated but are faced with a 2-hour wait. “Forget that, I just called Decoy and they can sit us in 3o minutes”, my Daughter-in-Law says. “I know you’re not to keen on going there since our last boondoggle”, she continues. I tell her it’s fine and I would like to see if they had changed any for the better. To my surprise, it was better . . . but not only the food.

I had mentioned to my son as we finished our supper this evening, and being asked by others at our table, what I thought of the meal tonight and how it compared to Vintana and the previous visit here at Decoy. My response was, “it is definitely much better and closer to my expectations” for a great customer experience, but I also mentioned that it wasn’t just the food or menu changes since its opening. I said they must have hired a new or fired the old General Manager, Chef or staff as our entire experience had vastly improved. This experience was mush closer to what I expect from a 4-star experience similar to Vintana.

img_5111Upon arrival and being seated at our table, my son ran into the owner of the property company that owns the properties of several 4 star restaurants with adjacent resort. I guess he and my son have known each other for years as my son, at one point had interests with the company and plays soccer with the owner on the weekends. Something like that. Now I don’t know if their shaking of hands and introductions may have spawned a fresh, and quite possibly their best, server; but everything seemed to go off without a hitch tonight. Even the timing was just about perfect. The ONLY thing I found off this evening was the temperature of the food coming out of the back. Seems like the timing and expedience out of the kitchen had produced only very warm food (heat lamp) vice sizzling hot temps expected for a Rack of Lamb, Braised Lamb Shank and Scallops. Seems that the only sizzling hot plate were the Penn Cove Muscles that were tastily smothered in tomato, wine and just the right amount of Spanish Chorizo. A lot of tomatoes . . . but good. The presentations were good and consistent. The wife and I got charged an extra $4 for a splitting from the kitchen, but they were identically delicious plates. Of course, we were first introduced to the menu from our server who was excitedly explaining that “It’s completely new”. I believe I remember, as were also pointed out from our server, a couple of items that had remained.

Part of the odd enjoyment of the evening was upon our first stop while at Bernardo Winery as I had previously mentioned. Well my Son’s small family was 2 hours late that afternoon. The wife and I had decided to see what food abounds at Bernardo Winery since we are remotely acquainted  with the owner of that joint, also through my son. The wife and I figured we would just sit, relax and enjoy a glass of wine and check out an appetizer or two while waiting for the fools . . . the kids that is, . . . and our Granddaughter. We sat, ate, and drank and also watched the amount of patrons there were at Bernardo to see Santa, shop and possibly visit another food event. But that  wasn’t the food we were looking for. We wanted to see what was at the every day eatery on board Bernardo.

cafemerlotCafé Merlot was an experience that was an overall, meh! With our menu disintegrating shortly after take-off, my Linguini and Clams, or something like that (their current menu is not available on line) had changed to Linguini and Shrimp. The sauce and flavors were fine, but the presentation was possibly as it should have been, with the sauce and shrimp all together in the same pan as the pasta; because all but one of the shrimp ended up underneath the 4oz portioned pasta. I wasn’t impressed upon arrival but the flavors were quite delicious especially with the bread that came with a very unattractive looking olive tapenade tray. The tapenade tasted fine but was, again nothing food porn was missing.

I guess I am now again curious to visit Decoy again, both up and downstairs at Dockside.  I am also interested to begin visiting some of the other resort restaurants owned by this company. My son has been to another; Heat, in Lake Havasu along the Colorado River.

So I don’t yet know that I owe anyone an apology for my previous scathing review of Decoy, but I may feel the need someday after their history proves to hold culinary values.

 

Dicks

 

The guy had no accent.

This week I am being trained (a professional class I am attending) by one of the leading trainers of the environmental subject I am supposed to be a specialist in. I have learned more about an Environmental Management System (EMS) from he, and my long-time friend, than any other team or program provided by the Department of Defense (DOD). As your life progresses and this story unfolds, you might start seeing a lot more of these acronyms, and understand just a bit more about yourself.

The instructor for the course, for a very long time, has enamored me with his deliberate verse of the International Organization of Standards (ISO) 14001. The instructor has an enormous background supporting his keen British, English or what may have been described by himself (after a mocking of him during class), an Australian accent in the International Standard of an EMS. Listening to him deliver any message with his dialect is often interesting in itself.

First thing my readers need to understand is that an EMS (on the environmental front) is nothing more than a way of doing environmental “stuff”. Basically, how we do environmental ‘stuff’ where I work? What is our system? . . . in a written and documented format . . . requiring certain ‘elements’ to ensure it meets an ‘International Standard’. All Federal Government agencies are required to abide.

So throughout the four days of this class I was able to dump another couple jars of my signature Chimichurri (my friend calls it Chubascomoenvea, . . . or something like that). Hopefully my Chimichurri will soon become an “International Standard”. The class was being held in Point Loma at one of a popular hotel chain’s conference rooms that supported our government employee’s sloppy learning comforts for those four days (all the very icy water available, . . . that seemed to be all). The hotel location was adequate with some mysterious parking arrangement adjacent in the city owned lot next door that perplexed every classmate and the teaching staff the very first day. Turns out the lot next door is fair game for up to 72 hours (constant). So it was easy to park and access the training site, because anyone not staying at the hotel was only there for the day. But since the training site was at a distant location from my home, I was never able, or necessarily prepared for bringing my leftovers as lunches to the training location. There was no obvious hotel staff nearby or microwave that I noticed, yet I think some of us brought some non-perishables from home anyway for sustenance.brown-bag

As the first day broke for lunch I already had my plan to extinguish my sandwich fix from Brown Bag Deli ( a long time favorite of mine and 8ft sandwich caterer for my military retirement). I also had a fresh workmate (New Guy) with me and I was eager to show him ‘my place’ to have a sangwich. I enjoyed my lunch, as New Guy and I had begun to learn a bit about each other over a sandwich; however the sandwich wasn’t the same as I remember, New Guy thought there was just a bit too much of ‘the green stuff’, referring to the avocado/mix that is used. I said to him, “no, never get the avocado”. I had forgot to tell him about that. Maybe it is the bread that I remember, cause that simply rocks; and I believe they have had the same bread for many . . . many years. I don’t remember if they make it at the Point Loma location (they have only one other shop near 32nd Street Naval Station), or if they buy it from another bakery. Good stuff!

Anyway the second day takes us further on an ambiguous road trip through Point Loma searching via cell-phone mapping app, to find New Guy’s favorite place to eat a sangwich in that area. You see, I had not totally realized this “New Guy” had lived in, basically, Southern California his entire, guessing 34 year life; and I had found out that his father was a multi-restaurant/café owner in San Diego and previous Executive Chef of the RMS Queen Mary in Long Beach. But with every conversation we began to reminisce about various Southern California (I’m So Cal born and raised as well) locations. I even brought up another restaurant (must have been before his time), The Velvet Turtle in Redondo Beach, where in front of that restaurant is where I rolled the first VW I had owned. We remembered and actually shared a lot of the same locations and experiences of living in Southern California together. We even recognized some of the same events with our 20 year difference.

So New Guy (this is still day 2) takes me to his favorite ‘deli’ that he says, “It’s in the back of a market, but it’s my favorite sandwich in Ocean Beach (OB)”. Again I was still learning that New Guy has lived in So Cal his whole life . . . literally! olive-treeAfter the hand-held navigation on New Guy’s phone damn near killed us 3 times, we end up at Olive Tree Market, an international foods market that has been in this location for some 40 years, owned and operated by a Greek family that New Guy was acquainted with. I guess he had lived just down the street from this market for some time. I am walking through and checking out the market and some of the foods available. I notice this place does not carry a Chimichurri. Stumped, I become curious as to the other ‘worldly’ things this guy carries at his market as New Guy is now conversing with the store owner. New Guy calls me over for an introduction to Chris, the store owner. I am somehow surprised this ‘international food’ market owner does not have an accent that I somehow anticipated being of Greek ancestry and being introduced by another Greek . . . the New Guy, and he doesn’t have an accent either.

So I missed an opportunity to talk Chimi with Chris, but had hoped for a reintroduction later that week to drop off two jars of my Chimi and talk shop . . . and restaurants, since I had learned that Chris now owns the entire building and the restaurant next door, Ulivo, where the family’s Mediterranean cuisine may be enjoyed. There’s still another Indian food restaurant, Sundara, that has been there for years occupying the end of that building. We didn’t try either restaurant, but we did order a fresh sandwich from the deli inside of the Market. As was with New Guy’s interpretation of ‘the best’ sandwich, my experience was just played as a reverse role. My Rueben sandwich was overpowered with their 1000 island dressing. It made for an awkward eating along some part of the boardwalk wall that he had navigated us to not far from the market. As we sat along the wall eating our sandwiches and talked more about living in the area, we would become increasingly interrupted by one of the various beach transient people staring, gawking and asking questions about where we scored the sandwiches. New Guy seemed at home telling them the Market was just up the street.

I learned a thing or two about New Guy, a couple restaurants I may elect to try in the future, and a bit more about an EMS and myself, now realizing that I am increasingly less of the “original” Californians living in Southern California, cause I keep running into long-time residents with roots that run deep . . . just without an accent.

Dicks