Eating Republican

I've always been what Southerners refer to as a "yellow dog Democrat," meaning I'd have voted for a yellow dog as long as the critter was a Dem. But the past few weeks have shown me the error of my ways.

I'm turning Republican.

In what other party can you be elected to high public office after admitting a predilection for groping gals and public sex, as has been the case with Herr Schwarzenegger? Or, as is in l'affaire Limbaugh, receive the sympathy of fellow wing-nuts after being exposed as a hypocrite and Oxycontin addict?

These days, it seems membership in the Republican Party is like 007's license to kill, or at least a get-out-of-jail-free card. Could a Dem elude obloquy for the same activities? Hardly. After all, former President Clinton was impeached and nearly removed from office for a few consensual blowjobs, while Ahnuld was voted in after admitting some vague memory of participation in multiple sexual assaults.

There being no point in whining about the Republicans, I have joined them. And not just for the great sex and drugs. I'm in this for the food.

Republicans eat better because they have the money to do so, and this rotund gourmand is all about eating like a pre-guillotine Bourbon prince. So to celebrate my electoral switch, I decided to lunch at San Juan Capistrano's Café Mozart, known for its none-too-cheap continental cuisine.

Nestled in the courtyard of Mercado Village, a complex of offices built to vaguely resemble a smaller version of the Capistrano Mission only a few blocks away, the establishment faces a quaint stone fountain and is shaded by immense eucalyptus trees. The interior is homey, the sort of place old ladies meet for tea. But on the day I visited, the weather was splendid, so I chose to eat outside at one of the tables covered in green.

As the name indicates, Café Mozart's menu is German-Austrian themed, so I ordered a tall stein of Aktien Oktoberfest ($5), a pale lagerish beer that went well with my appetizer of Bavarian bread dumplings. The egg-sized dumplings come two per order and sit in a brown pool of wild mushrooms. Made of three different kinds of bread and flecked with bacon, the moist dough balls soak up the savory mushroom juice, caressing one's taste buds as they ease down the gullet.

Though Café Mozart offers some reasonably priced sandwiches for lunch, I was keen to try their beef Wellington, a pastry made famous by that same Duke of Wellington who spanked Napoleon at Waterloo. Though this item is on their dinner menu, my genial waiter assured me they could comply. To drink with it, I ordered a darker beer—dunkel in German—made by the renowned Weltenburger Kloster brewery, a monastery and brewery dating to 1050. Well, let's hear it for those monks! I've had the Weltenburger dunkel before, and this time, as every time, the malty, brownish-black brew left me smacking my lips with glee.

A lovely salad of mixed greens topped with slivers of red and yellow potato chips and a sort of honey-mustard dressing preceded the main course. Then came the beef Wellington: baked puff pastry inside of which is a brandy-flamed filet covered in mushrooms and pâté. An amber, brandy-tinged sauce surrounded the pastry, and before each bite, I made sure the crust was drenched in it. The meat itself was a little chewier than I expected, but overall, I can't say my stomach complained in the least. This was accompanied by green beans, baby carrots, and scalloped potatoes so creamy and scrumptious I could have had another helping for dessert.

Fortunately, I went with apple strudel and coffee. They give you a nice helping of strudel here, topped with vanilla sauce and fresh, hand-whipped cream—nothing like the stuff you buy in the store. Eating my strudel and drinking my coffee, I could have whiled away the whole afternoon before that gurgling fountain, but the establishment closes at 3 p.m. for a break before dinner. After paying the bill, I walked inside briefly, hoping to get a matchbook with their logo on it. (Sadly, they had none.) There on the wall, what did I see but framed photos of monarchs Reagan and Bush II, a sign of the owner's political allegiance and further proof that Republicans really do eat like kings.

Café Mozart, located at 31952 Camino Capistrano, San Juan Capistrano, is open Tues.-Thurs., 11:30 a.m.-3 p.m. & 5:30-9 p.m.; Fri.-Sat., 11:30 a.m.-3 p.m. & 5:30-10 p.m. (949) 496-0212; Beer and wine. Dinner for two, $80, food only. All major credit cards accepted.



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