March 27th, 2011

Our rooms are pretty steadily booked up these days. At night our bar is full of smiling faces. We get pretty favorable comment cards. Some of you even claim to read this newsletter. It kinda seems like you like us, maybe. The thing is, we’re just not sure if you’re really, truly our friends. Real friends, you know, willing to admit to the whole world that you’re with us. Like on facebook, for example.

The thing is, actually, I have to admit we’re not very popular on Facebook, and we’re feeling kind of self-conscious about it. It’s like we’re the school nerd who no one wants to sit with at lunch. And, so, in the spirit of Sixteen Candles, Can’t Buy Me Love and who knows how many other cinematic gems of teen angst, we’re offering to pay for popularity! For every hundred new friends we get on facebook, we’ll keep happy hour going at the bar for an extra hour. And how will you know about these super happy days, you ask? Well, by checking in with us on facebook, of course!

This is shameless bribery, for sure. Forgive us. We didn’t choose this modern world, but here we are in it. In the good old days, like two years ago, a hotel could know she was doing well by having rooms full of familiar faces. Now, though, we have to wonder why, though you continue to stay with us, you won’t proclaim your affection to the world. Are you ashamed of us? Are we comfortable, but not cool? Oh, please, help! Be our friends! This social network anxiety is killing us!

March 27th, 2011

More likely than not, the reason you are coming to this hotel has something to do with technology. The Silicon Valley, as we all call it now, has, for my whole lifetime, been only that. Apple was born just before I was, so I’ve only ever known this place as a big suburban sprawl that was, and is, changing the world. But before Apple, and me, there were orchards. This entire valley was covered with fruit and to grow up here was to live with other people’s nostalgia for trees. When I was a little girl, there were still cherry trees in someplace in San Jose, but they’re all gone now.

To get a little glimpse of what it must have been like, you can go to Casa de Fruta. It’s about an hour south and it’s a warm, friendly place to go feel a bit of California’s past. I will not deny that it’s set up in a somewhat cheesy, touristy kind of way. In addition to a fruit stand and a restaurant, there are weird little “attractions” and everything there is called “Casa de something or other”. “Casa de Restaurant,” for example, or “Casa de Choo Choo and Carousel”. Still, what they are doing, by means of these marketing strategies, is keeping a real, functional, family orchard alive well past its natural expiration date. Plus, tucked away as it is, southeast of Gilroy, en route to nowhere, it may be touristy, but it’ll never be overrun with tourists.

It’s a nice, quiet place to touch this agrarian part of California that doesn’t get as much attention as beaches, mountains, movies and computers. And a good place to stock up on the dried fruit and nuts that make such good gifts for family and friends.

March 27th, 2011

Stephen, who’s now working behind our front desk, first interviewed for this job fifteen years ago. If you’ve seen him, you’ll now be thinking to yourself that he can’t possibly be old enough for that, and it’s true that he was only five at the time, but little Steven announced himself to our general manager, all those years ago. in such an unforgettable way that when she next encountered him, a young man of working age, she immediately offered him a job. He had lived on her street, you see, and she reports that he was the cutest little kid she had ever come across. Blond and covered with freckles, not unlike Dennis the Menace, he would come over everyday and ask to play with her son, Jerry, who was sixteen. Fifteen years later she was still so touched by this, and trusted whoever that little kid had grown into enough, to ask right away if he would be willing to come work for her.

Talking to him, you know she was right. He’s soft spoken but open, looking forward to his life. He laughs easily. He’s taking a break from business classes to do an EMT training, with the idea of opening up a pathway to becoming a firefighter. He’d like to move to San Diego, where he has two half brothers and the sun always shines. Basically, he’s a really nice and very sincere guy, just like he was a really nice, sincere little kid. He is exactly what she expected him to grow into.

Please, though, people, this is not an invitation to start sending your children to our general manager for evaluation.

March 27th, 2011

I should have known something special was happening at Opa, the Greek restaurant in Los Gatos that people have been telling me to try for the last year or so, because every time I tried to have dinner there, it’s been too busy to get in. Not that I’ve made such a super special effort. I could have, for example, made reservations. But I’m the kind of person that reads a crowd like one of those signs on the back of a school bus: “Keep back 200 ft,” and, so, rather than thinking that a wonderful culinary experience awaited me, I assumed that this was just the latest trendy spot and that I may as well wait until its moment passed before eating what was sure to be a mediocre meal there.

I guess, if you take the long view, the fact that I will get to have this as my favorite restaurant for many many years to come will, in the end, way outshine the year I spent missing out on it. Right now, though, I admit I’m a little concerned about all the wonderful meals I missed in the last year. Surely by the 50th or 60th time, that feeling will pass. Friends, let me say this clearly, this is the best restaurant in the Silicon Valley. Does that sound like a crazy thing to say? Go see for yourself. I will not try to describe it, just go. If you don’t like it, consider seeing a doctor, as something may be wrong with you.

A tip, though: that dinner rush is no joke. If you can go at lunchtime, do it. Otherwise, don’t even think about it without a reservation. The next time I go will probably be for the weekend brunch. I have no idea what baklava waffles might be, but I will soon!

March 27th, 2011

Neyers Vineyards is a pretty young winery. They got going in 1992, purchased and renovated their winery in 1999. Though they produce excellent, and quite well regarded, wines, there is the sense that they are still finding themselves. The best example is in the way they talk about their French influence. They are very proud to have a winemaker who worked in France, as well as an owner who has worked closely with French importers over the last years. They claim a great admiration for the more natural French techniques, which include organic farming and winemaking without fining or filtration, and they say that they’ve learned so much from what they’ve observed in their wine’s ancestral home. So, then, one reads on in anticipation of learning about the Neyers Vineyard’s own organic farms, or some such evidence of a more natural process. And one learns that they are trying. There are years where they bottle their wines without fining or filtration. There are years where they do not. Their Chardonnay is fermented naturally, their Merlot is not. Their vineyards are not organic, but they do import their barrels from France. They are finding their way and, truly, one glass of their wine will convince you that they’re on a pretty good path. But, though I would imagine that it’s hard to find one’s identity in an industry steeped in centuries of tradition, I wonder if wholeheartedly proclaiming themselves to kinda sorta be French naturalists is the way to go. Clearly they need our help! Next time you’re here staying with us, have a glass of Neyers wine, and then tell all your friends about it when you go home.