With the passage of Santa Monica Proposition Z in the Nov. 6 election, well-known local restaurateur Michael McCarty lost his bid to build a beachfront hotel and community center in that seaside city, on the site now occupied by the private Sand 'n' Sea Club. Are his plans to become an innkeeper in Santa Monica definitely dead in the water, then?
"It's just too early to tell," he says. "Right now, we're just hanging in there to see what's going to happen. We're just very disappointed, and we're sorry that the city is going to lose all the benefits our project was going to provide. I think what happened was that we somehow became a symbol for all the overwhelming frustration people felt towards the politicians and the developers here. I know one thing for sure: We didn't lose on the merits of the thing."
On the bright side, adds McCarty, he picked the last of his 1990 Cabernet grapes from his Malibu hillside vineyard on Election Day itself. (He is making Chardonnay, pinot noir and two different Cabernets there, and hopes to have his first commercial vintage in 1991.) "Life goes on," he says.
SAVED FROM THE FIRE: I'm probably not the only local food lover who wondered, upon hearing of the tragic Election Day fire that destroyed part of Universal Studios' historic back lot, whether Universal's Western town set--site of the Wolfgang Puck Foundation's annual American Food & Wine Festival to benefit Meals on Wheels--survived the blaze. The answer is that it most certainly did.
One theory FROM WHO??? is that because the mostly wood-frame town is adjacent to the studio film vaults, it was given top priority by firefighters at the behest of Universal executives. SINCE WHEN DO FIREMEN ANSWER TO THEM?? Whatever the reasons for its survival, it stands ready to accommodate the Puck event again next year. Early purchasers of 1991 calendars might want to note the date: Sept. 21.
STREET OF BROKEN DREAMS: The Mediterranean/French-themed Le Bilboquet, which opened in September on the site of the short-lived Bice Pomodoro on La Cienega, has turned out to be even more short-lived--closing after less than two months in business. Da Bice U.S.A., which retains the lease on the property (Le Bilboquet was opened by a management group hired by Bice), is currently negotiating with the landlord regarding possible new uses for the site, according to the company's director of operations, Paul Guzzardo. "We're not giving up on that space," he says. "La Cienega is a difficult street, but we're working on ways to make it work." Regarding the immediate reason for the demise of Le Bilboquet, he adds, "As holders of the lease, we just didn't want to let things go too far."
WHAT'S COOKING: The autumn menu at Pierre's Los Feliz Inn in the Los Feliz district offers marinated wild boar, New Zealand venison, ringneck pheasant from Missouri and homemade duck confit with Yukon gold potatoes and wild mushrooms, among other dishes--and from Dec. 11 the Inn's owner/chef, Pierre Pelech, will serve roast goose stuffed with Italian chestnut dressing nightly. . . . Verdi Ristorante di Musica in Santa Monica has launched a Sunday gospel brunch, with traditional and gospel songs plus sing-alongs, starting at 11 a.m. each week. Music will be by Michael Jason Booker and Renee Roque. The brunch will feature "Italian rustic" cuisine (including such old Italian rustic specialties as fruit consomme and Cajun sausage). Both a $19 fixed-price and an a la carte menu are available. . . . Babette's, serving "California modern French cuisine," is new in Marina del Rey, under the proprietorship of chef Christian Royere (formerly with Ma Maison and the Bistro Garden) and his wife, Babette (ex-Chez Helene). . . . The latest Panda Express has debuted at Fashion Plaza in Sherman Oaks. . . . On the other hand, the Mandarin Cove in the Beverly Center closed suddenly several weeks ago--when confronted, say its owners, with an unexpected 48% increase in rent. . . . Gardel, the veteran Argentinian restaurant on Melrose Avenue, has begun serving lunch. . . . Lud Rennick, who runs the Chronicle in Pasadena, has recently taken back full ownership of the establishment. "At this very delicate moment in the restaurant business," he says, "I felt it was better not to have a lot of partners looking over my shoulder asking why I was doing things a certain way." The restaurant will be 19 years old Dec. 6. . . . And Cafe Montana in Santa Monica has at last obtained its wine and beer license. "We're no longer Cafe Utah," says George Crowder, one of the restaurant's managers.
ON THE CALENDAR: Hakata in Santa Monica celebrates its 20th anniversary, today through Nov. 30, by rolling back prices to their 1970 level--which means, for example, a complete dinner of beef and chicken teriyaki, sashimi, and shrimp tempura for a mere $6.50. . . . And on the off-chance that you, well, overdo it a bit on Thanksgiving this year, you might be interested in attending a Spa/Pritikin dinner to be held on Monday, Nov. 26, at Chez Melange in Redondo Beach. Local Pritikin members will be on hand to answer questions.