Thursday, February 22, 2007

Mission Inn in missing

Good friend Jochen came to terminal 4 of the Los Angeles International Airport for pick-up in his 12-year-old Toyota Camry.
He has about 76.000 miles on his car and it is still running and of service without any problem. Of course design-wise it is dated but who cares?
Nor does it matter what the neighbours and others think of keeping a car for as long as it serves well.
Trying to impress others with a fancy car is acting like a child and demonstrating irresponsibility towards our environment.

Jochen wanted to have lunch in the Mission Inn, a hotel restaurant in Riverside, California.

The Mission Inn is a place with a high reputation.
It used to be a place where Hollywood stars would go to lodge and dine and have their wedding parties.
Ronald and Nancy Reagan married in the Mission Inn.

The Mission Inn calls itself a Hotel and Spa and a “National Historic Landmark Hotel”.
It all started when a man called Christopher Columbus Miller build in 1876 a two story 12-room boarding house.
It was his son Frank who really expanded the place into a hotel with shops, a music room and even a chapel.
In 1913 they build what is known as the Spanish wing. Designed by Myron Hunt it tries to make us believe we are in the courtyard of a Spanish castle.
It was here good friend Jochen wanted to have his lunch.
The courtyard is not a replica of any Spanish castle.
It is persiflage.
Like a movie set.
Make believe architecture comparable to the buildings to be found in Disneyland.
But amusing and understandable in a country where a 1913 architectural anomaly is considered a historic landmark.

In the patio of our Spanish castle in Riverside, California, nice tables and chairs are placed with metal umbrellas in which gas heaters keep the diners warm.
It is a nice ambience and a popular place to have lunch or dinner.

Walking into the courtyard there was confusion if one could just go and sit at one of the many free tables or that a host would come to greet and guide.
As professional and experienced diners we spotted even two hosts and waiting at the entrance of the patio it was expected that one of the two hosts would approach us warmly shortly.
But the two hosts ignored the newly arrived completely.
When one of the hosts passed by closely, she was addressed with the request for a table to have lunch.
Amazingly, the host simply ignored us and went inside.

A door was open where the waitresses were getting the food to serve where we asked how for heaven’s sake one could get a table in this restaurant.
The procedure was to have to go inside, announce oneself at a reception desk after which the host would guide the persons to a table.
Inside the same host who had ignored us outside before was now available to guide us to a table.
And no, the bad mooded host replied, the tables in the sunshine on this cool day were not available.
Although those tables were not reserved.
Although they were not hard to reach for the waitresses.
Host had simply decided nobody was going to sit there.

We were ready now to ask to see the manager.
To complain about the unwelcoming attitude of the bad mooded host.
But why spoil the appetite and the nice ambience?
Let her go to hell.

Now Tamara approached our table.
A warm and more than well-proportioned woman obviously not very experienced in waiting tables.
Forgetting what was ordered and having to ask this several times.
Tamara asked later how the Merlot was tasting as she had become insecure because the glass was not touched.
It was explained that while good friend Jochen was washing his hands somewhere else the wine drinking would only start after his return to the table to be able to cheer and share.
“You’re from Europe?”, Tamara asked.
And when confirmed she had another question: “Is it considered impolite in Europe the waitress takes away an empty plate while another person is still eating?”
Yes, this is considered impolite in Europe.
“Well, you see, not over here”, Tamara responded, “My boss tells me to clean a table as soon as a plate is empty”.

Although not a good waitress, Tamara was a warm woman with who one feels comfortable and whom is easy to chat with.
But that is not exactly the idea of a culinary expedition.

We were ready to come to our conclusions about our lunch in the Mission Inn.
Great place.
Nice ambience.
Very good food.
Lousy service.
That is a pity because a place can be very nice but when service is bad it influences the whole experience negatively and makes one writes a posting on a blog.

It is also unforgivable that a glass of wine in the Mission Inn costs $ 7.50.
The delicious vegetarian Pasta Athena was costing $ 14.00
Jochen took the buffet, all you can eat for $ 20.00
But the two glasses of wine consumed were a staggering $ 15.00

To learn more about the Hotel, Spa and Restaurant "Mission Inn" in Riverside, California, click on:


Anonymous said...

Man, you are whiny. Maybe it was jet lag. You are not in Europe anymore and things are different in the U.S. Maybe you are giving off a " I'm superior" vibe and it's turning people off, and after reading your blog for a few weeks, I can see where some folks would pick up on that. Your body is here but your mindset is still in the old world. Just sayin'.

Anonymous said...


You are entirely correct in your appraisal of lunch. I am in the restaurant business. It a combination of FOOD, ATMOSPHERE, and HOSPITALITY that define your satisfaction and value.

Think of a three legged stool, what happens when one of the stool legs is too short?

I enjoy your perspective.

Anonymous said...

If you go to a friends house to eat a meal, the home is nice and your friends live there so it will be an inviting comforting place to be. Ambience & Atmospere. The food will be good because even if the friends cannot cook they will hire out or have food brought in so their guests will be satified.
Fine cuisine. The friends will do all they can for the comfort and happiness of their guests because they are loved. Hospitality. Why should you put up with anything less when you have to pay for it in a retaurant? You would not be freinds for very long if you were treated with out respect no matter how wonderful the house or the food. T.