Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Lands End

Lands End.

A place where the world drops off into a vast unknown. A place where you can contemplate the enormity of reality while you stand in the midst of it as a tiny, yet significant speck. A place which evokes every emotion. A place where many are missed. A place to stage Greek tragedies by flashlight. A place to imbibe inebriating drinks. A place to engage in deep philosophical discussion. A place to juggle or to toss. A place of bonfires and revelry. A place to fill every pocket with grains of sand. A place of first dates and moonlight walks. A place to turn cartwheels and skip. A place to simply feel the cool mist rising up off the water against your face. A place to just be. A place of memories....

There are few places in the world that hold so much significance for me. This wonderful space at the western end of San Francisco is one such place.

On a family excursion through the mid-West one summer, we stopped in a small town called Cody, Wyoming. It receives its name from a character in history by the name of Buffalo Bill Cody.

He was a travelling showman with a Wild West motif.

For a time in a the early 1900s, his show was camped in San Francisco along the bay.

In 1902, he took this photograph with his crew along Ocean Beach, which I came across while wandering through the museum in Cody dedicated to his life, filled with memorabilia from his show. (In September 2008, a man created a tribute to this photo with cardboard cutouts and it was on display for a week or so at the beach!)

It is funny the things in life which evoke a connection with people through the annals of history. To see a place where I had spent so much time, and to know that he had to, created a seeming bond between us. I knew just how special that place could be. And continues to be....

Glance up to the right-hand corner of the photograph and you will spot a grand building sitting atop an outcropping overlooking the ocean. This is the famous Cliff House. The building standing there when Buffalo Bill shot his photo was the 3rd of 4 buildings that have adorned that cliff since 1858.

It was a popular place for presidents and the like to visit, particularly in order to take advantage of the opportunity to recreate on the beach below.

It had a few additions made to it as it gained a reputation and increased in popularity. However, it soon became infamous for its debauchery which disturbed local businessman Adolf Sutro who purchased the site in order to reclaim its beauty.

He gave it a drastic makeover, designing it in the style of the French chateaus. It was never a hotel but housed several elegant restaurants and galleries frequented by politicians and other weathly citizens.

Although it withstood the 1906 earthquake, a devasting fire started in the kitchen burned it to its foundations in 1907.

The building that stands today was finished in 1909. It was closed briefly during Prohibition as the owner at the time decided it would be impossible to maintain without the ability to sell liquor on the premises. In 1977, it became part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area.

The facade was revamped within the past 5 years, give or take. It has the feel of a resort from the exterior, fine dining inside within several dining halls. It is a perfect place to warm the body with sumptuous food after a frolic along Ocean Beach.

We normally eat in the Bistro dining room, where I recently enjoyed their lamb sirloin with Israeli couscous. It is cooked in a jalapeno mint jus with dried apricots, figs, almonds, currants, and arugula. It was a very rich dish reminding me of previous African cuisine I have enjoyed.

The crown of the evening was a decadent creme brulee studded with vanilla bean, accompanied by lemon shortbread and delicately sliced strawberries. I couldn't help but finish every bite.

No comments: