Last weekend I spent two days holed up in King City at the Keefer's Inn (a two-story motel and restaurant est. 1947). Our first night we had a group dinner here (one of the few non-Mexican cuisine sit-downs in town) for 20 people. Having looked at the inn's website and seeing that the salad bar and early bird specials were highlighted, I didn't have very high expectations. This set me up for being pleasantly surprised for one dinner and two breakfasts at Keefers.
An old fashioned relish plate with limp carrot and celery sticks, radishes, scallions, and some batons of Monterey jack cheese were on the table, along with some overly spongy soft bread and whipped butter. The menu has a large selection of steaks, chicken, pasta, and seafood. On Friday, a special of prime rib was offered. Wanting to order conservatively in line with what I thought the kitchen might be good at, I went for the prime rib short cut, $22, which turned out to be 1 1/2" thick! This was rare as ordered and very tasty and tender too, served with a bit of jus (tasted like packaged mix) and some creamy horseradish (and the server brought us some straight stuff when we asked), baked potato, cauliflower and broccoli. Also included was a trip to the salad bar, which should be skipped and taken off the website. The potato was on the wet side, but it was accompanied by real sour cream and real chives. The steamed then sauteed broccoli was the best I've ever had --- big spears of deep jade green and full of flavor --- remember, KC is the broccoli capitol of the world. Dessert was apple crisp which turned out to be more of a crumble and short on apples too.
For breakfast, I went with the veterans' recommendations for the corned beef hash and was glad I did. Made in house every day, this had shreds of corned beef mixed with cubes of potatoes, some grated onion, and a bit of bell pepper. It was formed into a large and thick oval patty (probably close to a pound in weight) and fried until crisp and brown on both sides. Really delicious with two eggs over easy and decent hash browns. Too bad it had already cooled off by the time it got to me and that the tabasco sauce and my biscuits never arrived.
The next day, I had the short stack of buckwheat cakes with a side of linguiça. The buckwheat cakes had good flavor but were too thick and chewy for my taste. The syrup wasn't maple, but at least it's warmed up. The split and griddled linguiça was mild-mannered and not that spicy and left a red oil slick on the plate. The coffee here wasn't anything special. But it was awfully nice to have fresh orange or pink grapefruit juice to start the day and almost made it possible to overlook the service problems.
Our other dinner was at Lockwood Valley Vineyards at the ranch house and catered by Valley Catering. Grilled tri-tip with salsa, green salad, a shredded potato casserole with corn flakes, mild cheddar and sour cream that reminded me of Minnesota hot dish, garlic bread, and more broccoli. Oh what broccoli!!! Our hosts fortunes grew from a 2,200 acre broccoi farm and we had the best of the best. Simply steamed until tender-crisp, the big juicy florettes were absolutely beautiful and intense. I learned that one should not touch the flowering part as that leaves fingerprints and ruins the appearance once cooked. And when absolutely fresh, the stems need not be peeled.
Lunches both days were provided by the fair's volunteers. However, on Sunday morning, I arrived to find a flea market with food vendors on the grounds. I snuck away to check out the taco trucks when lunch rolled around and paid 50¢ to enter the flea market area.
El Rey offers a line-up of standard taco meats, but also barbacoa. This is smoked beef braised in a mild but very flavor chile sauce, a bit milder and less sweet than al pastor's adobo. A decent size taco of this was $1.50 with a double corn tortilla of excellent quality. The garnishes were self-service and the proprietor suggested the chopped onions (very fresh, btw) and chopped cilantro and a little bit of the very hot salsa to add another flavor note. Abolutely wonderful consumed on the spot seated at the weathered benches.
La Unica II is the spot for excellent menudo. Two giant cauldrons bubble away at ground level and a fleet of ladies are pressing and griddling corn tortillas made to order. A huge serving (enough for two meals) was $6 and solidly packed with tripe, pigs feet and hominy. The accompaniments of limes, chopped onion, cilantro, dried chilis and oregano were included too. Plus those wonderful tortillas. I brought this back into the lunch area where others were eating roast beef sandwiches. My new friend Andy (who is Mexican) stared at my repast with a question mark on his face. I said, "it's menudo, would you like some?" He said, "I know it's menudo, but you're eating it, and you look Chinese to me, but you must be Latina!" This was the best menudo I've had --- tripe not too soft and not too chewy, full-flavored broth, and lots of intensity. It was the perfect meal, the hair of the dog, after two days of intensive wine tasting.