Photo by John PickeleAh, mes amis, this past weekend left me as ecstatic as Eddie Izzard with a new pair of Manolos! And all because of some corpulent Colombian gals and a repast at Napa Rose, the premier eatery at Disney's Grand Californian Hotel.
Perhaps I should explain that in light of my own Rubenesque proportions, I've never been opposed to feminine plumpness, and no artist renders zaftig dames better than Medellin-born painter/sculptor Fernando Botero. It was Botero's tubby temptresses who enticed me to drop by the LBC's Museum of Latin American Art for the show "Fernando Botero: The Evolution of a Master," continuing through Jan. 11.
After eyeing acres of porcine pulchritude —including a mountainous Mona Lisa, a very hefty Virgin Mary, and a lardaceous Leda being mounted by a less-than-svelte Swan—I felt famished; hunger and horniness are closely linked in my anatomy. Fortunately, Napa Rose was next on the agenda, so I high-tailed it as fast as my Studebaker would take me down to Walt's Magic Kingdom.
For those who haven't visited the Grand Californian, this Alpine lodge resembles a cross between The Shining's Overlook Hotel and the führer's wartime retreat at Berchtesgaden, albeit outfitted in the classic Craftsman tradition. Indeed, were it not for all the faux Frank Lloyd Wright touches, I would have been afraid of Jack Nicholson lurching out of a dark corner at me with an ax and a leer.
Located behind the main hall, Napa Rose is a warm-lighted, amber-and-gold dining space with high-backed chairs and copper-colored, art-nouveau roses adorning everything from the carpets to the chandeliers. Here, Uncle Eisner's minions have borrowed heavily from Glasgow designer Charles Rennie Mackintosh, known for his revival of the Scottish Baronial style during la belle époque. The effect is magnificent and would be well-worth the visit, even if the meals sucked donkey.
However, suck donkey they most assuredly do not. Though the tab will punch a hole in your pocket the size of Scandinavia, it's worth every bloody penny. I began with an appetizer assortment the menu calls the "Seven Sparkling Sins." And though "savory" seems a more accurate modifier than "sparkling," these treats were certainly sinful: cold water oysters slathered with wasabi; black caviar on blinis with dollops of crème fraîche; slices of smoked sturgeon and salmon; halves of "truffled" quail eggs (same as "deviled," if you're wondering); spicy lobster on wontons, topped with tobiko roe; and something called a "foie gras torchon," essentially a little patty of foie gras topped with what tasted like apple confit, the whole of which melted in my pie hole like milk chocolate.
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I could have gone for another round of canapés, but a food column calls for dining, so I skipped salad and went instead for a silky white-bean soup made from chicken stock with bits of carrot and grilled lamb. My appetite thus whetted, I ordered two plates of meat: porterhouse-thick lamb chops au jus on a bed of stewed cannelli beans (like kidney beans in look and taste), and Angus tenderloin wrapped in bacon with black-eyed peas and fried onion rings. Each was juicy and robust, though I've always been prejudiced toward lamb flesh, no doubt due to the barnyard romances of my Southern youth.
More memorable than the viands was a $49 bottle of Ferrari-Carano 2000, a silver-labeled Sonoma merlot broad enough to cover both the lamb and beef. It had a slight bite to it, distinguishing it from other merlots I know, which are often pleasant but bland. The vino especially complimented my lamb's rosemary seasoning, adding a hint of what I'd venture was blackberry to the aftertaste. Napa Rose's wine list will take you slightly longer than a Balzac novel to read, but you'll find the waitstaff well-informed as to its contents. The Ferrari-Carano, you see, was a suggestion of the house.
I topped off the meal with a cup of piping-hot coffee and a slice of layered, Manjari chocolate decadence cake in a pool of cherry zinfandel sauce. Note to management: I could have done with a larger piece of that cake, though I suppose I'd have then run the risk of splitting my breeches completely in two. Not that I'm shy when it comes to exposing my flaccid assets, but I would like to go back to Disneyland one of these days.
Napa Rose, located at Disney's Grand Californian Hotel, 1600 S. Disneyland Dr., Anaheim, is open daily, 5:30-10 p.m. (714) 300-7170. Full bar. Dinner for two, $140, food only. All major credit cards accepted.