This is a strange and beautiful moment to live and work in Silicon Valley. Maybe some of you feel this too. As the country struggles to get itself out of recession, with unemployment numbers making grudging micro-shifts and foreclosures still on a rampage, somehow we, here, are back to living in the land of opportunity. A storm named Sandy just tried to do away with the east coast, but in the Bay Area it’s 70 degrees and sunny. This is a comfortable place to be in an uncomfortable time. Whatever combination of good choices and dumb luck got each of us here, we sure have landed well.
With that in mind, and with the holidays upon us, we’ve decided to have a canned food drive. This is your invitation to participate. Bring us any non-perishable item between now and the end of the year, and we will give you, in exchange, a ticket for a free drink after happy hour. Not that “after happy hour” is a rule, it’s just that all drinks are free from 5-7, so using drink tickets during that time is probably unwise. The one and only rule, actually, is in the word “non-perishable”. This means that you may not take an apple out of the bowl that’s sitting near the front desk and exchange it for a drink ticket. I’m not naming names here, but let’s just say I didn’t invent that idea. Aside from that, though, you can play this however you’d like. If you want to bring in 100 cans of soup, we’ll be happy to give you 100 free drinks. We probably won’t be quite so happy to give them to you all on one night, but the tickets won’t expire either. We’re looking forward to both the generosity and the merriment of this project, so let’s all have fun with it!
Someone asked me recently where to go on a nighttime picnic and, though I never, ever, ever go on nighttime picnics, I surprised myself by coming up with the perfect answer. Are any of you out there more romantic than I am? Looking for a nice spot to go howl at the moon when you have the misfortune of being on unfamiliar ground when it gets full? Well, friends, if you answered yes to either question, I’ve got just the spot for you.
The Lawrence Hall of Science is a great place in it’s own right, an interactive science museum for kids, affiliated with UC Berkeley. It doesn’t deserve to just be the setting for the romantic night I’m creating for you, but life’s not fair and it happens that it’s sitting on some amazing real estate with a very particular attraction. Perched in the Berkeley hills, it’s got a view of the bay that, to quote a friend’s mother, almost makes you believe in god. Not that this is the only place in those hills to get that view, but it is the only place you can get it while sitting on the back of a whale. I guess it’s a great whale, anyway it’s a big whale, built to scale, well worn by years of scampering kids, living in the courtyard in front of the museum. Sitting on it, you are both perched above crazy, surreal beauty, and also a safe 10 feet from a protective wall. During the day it’s amazing and/but you compete with kids for the space. At night, though, and this was my revelation, confirmed by the friend I sent up there, it’s completely un-treacherous access to natural wonderment by moonlight. I might even go check it out myself sometime, if I can be bothered.
Karla, who has just recently begun appearing behind our front desk, says that she’s finally getting comfortable with how our system works. Starting any new job, of course, there’s going to be a period of acclimation, which can be awkward and a little stressful. What’s nice for Karla about coming into work at this hotel is that if she feels any of that anxiety, she’s got a bit of a support system ready to help her. Her father, you see, works in the kitchen, as do her aunt and a couple of uncles. Plus she’s got a cousin who’s a bellman. I asked how this is for her, knowing that this is not a dream situation for every 18-year-old girl. The answer is that she loves it. Her family, she says, is a lot of fun and it’s great for her that she now gets to see so much more of them.
That family, just to say, is one of the strongest currents running through this hotel and is a big part of how we can be as good as we are. She may be biased, but she’s not wrong.
Back to Karla, though, who is in her first quarter at De Anza College. She’s getting her general ed requirements done, taking the first steps down the path to figuring out what she’ll do with her life. Next quarter she’ll try kickboxing. She has dreams traveling, she says, to the other side of the world. Someday she hopes to live in Spain. In the meantime, she has good friends and an amazing family and no reason to be in any hurry. For our part, we plan keep her until the day before her travels begin.
Do you remember when you first started hearing about Krispy Kreme donuts? Eating one of these things sounded better than being made love to by God. There were lines around blocks at 5 in the morning; people were going nuts for them. And my big expectations only swelled with the years I had to wait to get one, as they took their sweet time going west. When I finally got my teeth into one, though, I could only assume that the people who were so into them had never had a donut before they had a Krispy Kreme. I’m sorry if I’m offending anyone when I say this, but a Krispy Kreme donut is a pretty average donut. And they’re kind of small.
Fast forward to the present moment in food. The uber-trendy hipsters are all doing something that a friend of mine calls “fetishizing whiteness”. Hence in San Francisco’s Mission District you can get $5 donuts with rosemary and lavender and a lot of other ingredients normally found in soap. I recently had, in LA, a non-fried, vegan donut. Well, vegan except for the bacon on top. These fancy things taste good if you can forget what a donut is and let them exist in some new category all their own. But, come on, a donut is meant to be cheap and easy.
Of course, I wouldn’t be writing all of this to you if I didn’t have the perfect solution in mind. Stan’s donuts, just right around the corner from this little hotel, is making fresh donuts that are just exactly the delicate pillows of decadence you have always thought were possible. And, at less than a dollar apiece, hey, if you’re gonna go for it, you may as well go all the way and get a few!
When my mother asked her grandmother, my great-grandmother, to teach her to cook, the old lady was sly. She handed over a pastry recipe, for example, with the spice that turns sugary white bread into choreg somehow absent. A recipe for stuffed grape leaves was intact, but had a few unnecessary eggs thrown in at the end. It was like this with everything my mother got from her; every recipe was almost right, but not quite. She didn’t want anyone to cook as well as she did, my mother says, telling it as a story of how mean her grandmother had been.
She, my mother, can’t be so overt, then, about protecting her position as the best cook in the family. I’m not scared of her the way she was scared of her grandmother and if she handed me a screwed up recipe I’d call her out on it. So she’s subtle. Yes, she says, of course I’ll show you how to make that. When we have more time, she’s been saying for years. When I press her she says that cooking is hard and offers to take me shopping instead.
And so it is that everything I’ve heard that one should learn from one’s mother, I am learning from the internet. I’m telling all of this to you, our guests, because I know that many of you have played, and continue to play, different roles in the development of this, my new mother, who knows way more than my old mother anyway. Since it’s the season of gratitude, I’d like to thank all of you makers of the various software and hardware that are not only teaching me to make the dishes my ancestors made, but are helping me on my path to doing all of them better than my silly old biological mother ever could.
Just for the fun of it, I’m going to take a little bit of a leap with the use of this space this month. Normally this is a place to learn a little something about one or another of the wines we serve in our bar. In the last few months, though, I’ve dallied a bit, telling you about my favorite trips to the places where the wines we serve in our bar are made. This month I’m going way off track and trying to try to send you away to The Picchetti Winery, where wine that we don’t serve in our bar is made. Seems a bit silly, I know, but maybe you’ll get my enthusiasm when you hear that this winery is right here in Cupertino. Which, to me, sounds like such a great opportunity for a bit of an exotic, California adventure, just randomly after work someday.
And then, because it’s such an easy little early evening adventure, you can come back to the loving embrace of our little bar afterwards, where we’ll have plenty more wine waiting for you. How could we be jealous? It’s ok with us if you want to go out and pay, every now and then, for what we’re giving away for free. Plus, I hear they’ve got a real nice port and, you know, if those are the kinds of needs you have, it’s probably better for you to find someplace else to get them met. But, remember, if you’re gonna make that your choice for a night, we’re not going to wait up for you. Our bar closes at 11.
I miss Thanksgiving! I know it may seem crazy to say that, seeing as how Thanksgiving is, in fact, coming, and later this week, no less. I have this sensation, though, that it’s being erased, or, rather, phased out due to poor market performance.
I went into downtown San Francisco yesterday, for example, and Macy’s had just set up its Christmas display. When I was in Walgreen’s buying shampoo last week, one whole aisle had already turned red and green. The ads on TV are singing carols and selling toys and diamonds. As far as I can tell, walking around in the world, Christmas is upon us, and, sure, maybe it’s true that we’re all going to end up at one or another dinner party this coming Thursday night, like some kind of national coincidence, but it’s Christmas that’s happening now.
The creep of Christmas decor, though, is not the worst of it. This year Black Friday sales will start, in some stores, at 8pm on THURSDAY. People will be forced to choose between a full evening with their family and friends, and being sure to get those cheap HDTVs before they run out. I’d like to think that this means that those stores will have mellow openings, and that it ensures that no one will get trampled this year, but I kind of doubt it.
The reasons for plowing over Thanksgiving, though, are exactly the reasons it’s such a satisfying holiday. There’s no obligation to buy anything for anyone. It’s not affiliated with any religion. It’s only just a day to gather with your friends and family and give thanks. No one, except maybe the turkey and potato farmers, has found a way to make it their big payday. But that means it’s up to us to make sure it stays alive. If we rely on advertisements to tell us what has value and what doesn’t, we’ll lose anything that doesn’t cost money.
On that note, the Cupertino Inn wishes you a happy Thanksgiving!
Hi everyone. Welcome (back) to this new(ish) location. As some of you may have noticed, sometime in this last year, we had an idea. We wanted to start up a bi-weekly blog that would make you all crazy with desire for our humble little hotel. Not a bad idea, hopefully, but we stumbled a little on the questions of how and who and what and so there was a bit of a false start. This, then, is a real, official, true beginning, and I, who already give you a newsletter every month, will be taking this thing over from the sales department.
It feels a little abrupt to me to just start writing about whatever it is I’m going to be writing about in the coming weeks and months, though, pretending like this space has been up and running and like you, our guests, are somehow just finding it now. The truth is that I’ve got to figure out what it can be, what it should be, what exactly I’m going to be permitted to let it be, and it seems like the best way to start that off is with a bit of transparency. That kind of thing is all the rage these days, anyway, you know.
Here, then, is why we started doing it to begin with: Our web designer told us that we need new content more often. He doesn’t care what that content is, and, more to the point, he actually believes that it doesn’t matter what it is. This is not a poet we’re talking about. If I copied pages out of the encyclopedia, he’d post them without blinking, and probably be happy about all the hyperlinks he could make. His attitude hurts my soul a little, but his point has been taken. More words more often. My task then, even if I’m the only one who thinks it’s worthwhile, is to not let those words be empty. I guess we’ll see how well I manage to pull it off. All feedback will, of course, be welcome. If this isn’t fun for you and me both, it won’t be right, so bring it on.