After exploring the museums in Balboa Park (in truth, we only went to the photography museum, and stayed there a couple of hours), we went to the motel to set up base camp and braved the hideous traffic (as bad as L.A.'s in its way) to find the restaurant, Blue Bohemian, in the hip Kensington section of town. It was easy enough to find the restaurant, though they had no light on their sign, and it was dark by then, but finding parking was another thing. Helped by the Christmas lights still blazing in the residential neighborhood off the main drag, we parked a few blocks away and sat down by the bar to await Tracy and Chris, Richard's co-worker and her new husband. However, as usual, I had forgotten to bring crucial supplies in the suitcase--in this case, socks and a toothbrush. I brought the overnight case, which I had once stocked with enough fold-up toothbrushes and toothpaste for all three of us, but it seems I had raided this store at one time or another, and there were now none of these, save one slightly squashed minitube of toothpaste. And I had forgotten socks! So I asked R to find a Target. Though we passed one, he was unwilling to get off the freeway to do that because the traffic was so hideous he feared imminent death should he try any such maneuver, so we proceeded to look for a drug store. When none emerged, we asked someone, who told us that several blocks on the other side of the freeway, we would find one. It actually turned out to be about six or seven long blocks into terra incognito, but we found a large Rite-Aid and stocked up. By the time we made it back to the restaurant, they were there waiting for us.
I love food and cooking, but there are a number of foods I do not eat--cheese, pork (in most instances), scallops and lobster, chocolate. These foods featured prominently on the French menu before us, but that wasn't a problem. It was mostly the extremely high prices that got me. Richard had asked for a "medium" priced restaurant. If this was medium, I'd love to see expensive. The entrees averaged $25.-$30., a la carte, way too much for our meager bankroll, particularly since I lost my job. But we didn't blink an eye, and decided to go ahead. What else could we do? Though I flirted with just ordering an appetizer plate, the truth was I was hungry, so I ordered coq au vin, despite the bacon. Damn the torpedoes, I was going to have a nice dinner!
It was a rather petite plate of food for that price, actually. The sauce was promising, rich and dark, with plenty of pearl onions and chicken, though these pieces of fowl were notably mostly wing, with perhaps a bony thigh tucked into the small ramekin. Hardly what I'd expect for this price. In truth, the meat was mostly bone, and the mushrooms tiny slivers, not the hearty chunks I'd had before in this dish. Richard's filet mignon (when in Rome, right?) looked lovely, though somewhat lonely on the big white platter, which it shared with nary a vegetable or potato, but it didn't taste like much, and he never has liked most steaks. He ordered it mostly because of a recent experience at Ruth's Chris Steak house, where he had ordered the same thing and had a revelation about why steak is so highly prized by many people. This one didn't have much of a taste, truly. Chris's special, king salmon with a pesto sauce, was dry and over-cooked, and Tracy had ordered the same thing as I had. I must say though that the appetizer, mussels provincal, were lovely, a generous portion of tasty mollusks, but again, way overpriced for such a normally cheap item.
The whole thing was lubricated generously with the bottle of wine they had brought from their recent trip to vineyards in the wine district of northern CA. It was a good wine, I guess. I don't generally drink because a thimbleful is enough to get my head reeling, but I partook of some, in order to be polite.
The conversation was long and varied, definitely the very best part of the evening. More another time...