I'll admit that I'm not the smartest guy in the world; pretty much anyone who knows me will second that emotion. However, I have had some small degree of success at food and beverage operations of many types and sizes, mostly because I was smart enough to hire good people and stay out of their way most of the time, so I feel that I have some basis for expressing my opinion oh this subject: Why the hell do so many people with perfectly good restaurants/cafes/diners/food trucks, etc, feel compelled to change or dramatically alter their format in some fashion, usually resulting in either abject and swift failure or a slow and lingering death that leaves everyone shaking their heads and mumbling to themselves? This, to me as an operator, is the absolute height of lunacy. I suppose that it has worked for somebody, somewhere, at some time, but I don't know when or where.
As you have probably guessed, something has happened locally to set me off (again). Specifically, the fact that a perfectly good little barbecue dive that was always busy (at least when I was there, which was frequently) and served up wonderfully tender, fall-off-the-bone baby back ribs, great burgers, and addictive fresh-cut fries, has been ruined, and for no apparent reason that I can see. The friendly little joint (maybe 40 seats inside plus an elevated bar area with seating for maybe 10 and a patio that could accommodate 15-20 in the right weather) has been abandoned for a "bigger and better" space on the other side of town left empty when another wanna-be steakhouse went belly-up a few years back; big, big mistake. The place is cavernous, cold, and rarely even semi-busy, at least when I've been there. The old crowd, made up of locals on their way home from a softball or soccer game, bikers passing through on their way to who knows where, hikers and kayakers heading for the mountains, old golfers like me stopping off to pick up dinner-to-go after an afternoon away, and a wide assortment of others just relaxing and enjoying themselves, has pretty much been replaced, but I'm not sure by whom, because I haven't really seen them. The menu, too, is "new and different". sort of like a Chili's, but not as imaginative. Don't know how long they'll last, and it's a shame, but when it goes it won't be a huge loss except to the people depending on it for a check. You'd think folks would learn to leave well enough alone, but they never seem to.
Some good news, now: I just stumbled upon a bottle of Matson Vineyards' 2012 Chardonnay (Trinity County), and the wine is remarkably tasty and well made. And, as a bonus, it actually tastes like chardonnay, which is a big step up from several of the varietal bottlings produced by other wineries in this part of the world over the past decade. Pale gold color with some green tints, a ripe meyer lemon and vanilla nose, and a medium body with fairly forward chardonnay fruit and a firm, slightly warm finish (which will probably soften after a bit of air in the glass) make for a nice pairing with light soups and shrimp dishes, or cold chicken salad with crusty sourdough. Nicely done. We'll be interested to taste some others from this Redding-area winery, and we're wondering why it's taken us so long to find them. A little embarrassing. You can check them out for yourselves at matsonvineyards.com.
Final recorded thought for the day: Why is there such a seeming lack of interest in far Northern California tourism? Seems so, anyway. And not only on the part of the tourists and vacationers, themselves, but there also seems to be a real absence of creativity and energy on the part of those who should be promoting it, meaning those who live here and sure as hell need the cash flow. I'm pretty sure I'm not the only person who recognizes the facts: high unemployment, low per-capita income, ditto education, no real industrial base (not a bad thing in some ways, but a real draw-back for those looking for work), lots of homeless and displaced folks wandering the streets, and on and on. Sure, we draw a fairly significant number of fishermen, kayakers/rafters/tubers/and other assorted water sports enthusiasts on a seasonal basis, or did before the drought really got a stranglehold on us, but not much more as far as I can tell. Why is that? Are we too damn lazy to do the work required? Are we just not smart enough or industrious enough or imaginative or ambitious enough? I think not; in truth, I believe it comes down to a fundamental inferiority complex that is pervasive in our part of paradise. Get a map of our state, then draw line from the Pacific coast just west of Santa Rosa to the east/northeast through Sacramento and proceeding gradually but certainly all the way to Reno, just over the line in Nevada. I firmly believe that everyone north of that line to the Oregon border (except Napa and Sonoma, of course) has a weird little inferiority complex, one based in the mistaken notion that because of the fame, glitter, and glory that has been heaped on all the kinfolk to the south, the San Franciscos and Santa Cruzs and Santa Barbaras and Malibus and Los Angeleses and San Diegos, that they are unworthy of comparison and unable to compete. This, of course, is nonsense, and has to be put right. The far North State has a tremendous heritage, one to be proud of, and is going to have to learn to blow its own horn very soon, before the depression sets too firmly to be broken up. Beginning with our next post we're going to take our own stab at the problem and begin exploring some shiny Norcal jewels; first up, Mt. Lassen and surrounds.
See you very soon...