Back when gas was still only $.21 a gallon it wasn't unusual for families to take a drive on warm summer evenings like the ones we've been experiencing recently. And, of course, this was the era where it still took longer to actually drive to Los Angeles than it did getting out of North County ;-). Gas was cheap and traffic sparse. Destinations differed, but in my family it was usually one of two places. The bay to check out the Navy ships and tuna fleet, the lights and the then new Shelter Island, or Balboa Park. Particularly Balboa Park since my dad had been a musician and had done long stints in the Starlight Bowl orchestra.
We loved going to the park at other times to ride the carousel, which is still there and the minature train, which isn't. My aunt and uncle schlepped us through every museum possible including some of the lesser known ones like the Hall of Champions, Aerospace and all the little International Houses. Most of the time we had to get dressed up because this was, well, that's just what people did back then. And, because often times we'd end up eating at The Prado restaurant and if you were going to be seen, you had to be presentable enough to be seen. People still cared about that kind of thing back then too.
I hadn't been to The Prado in a very long time. Oh, sure, I'd taught some classes at the cooking school upstairs, but I hadn't had a meal there. And frankly, after having seen their back of the house after closing, I wasn't too eager to dine. But when my mother suggested trying it out for my birthday earlier this week I thought "why not". Why not, indeed. The meal was surprisingly good. From the housemade crackers with chipotle hummus that arrived shortly after being seated to the cream cheese flan that marked my birthday dessert, the meal was very good and the service even better.
Say what you will about the Cohen Group of restaurants, but with their flagship operation they've got things well in hand. The only clunker in what we ate was a chicken skewer on the appetizer plate that while flavorful from grilling, was also really too dry. The rest of the skewers on the plate were very well done with accompanying sauces that complemented them well. The beef dishes were remarkably tender. Portions are generous. I'm not a huge fan of either flan or cheese cake, but put the two of them on a collision course and voila, a flan with a denser texture and a cheesecake that less dense and moister.
Since I haven't figured out how to upload photos on this site yet, you can check out what we ate at this link --
Click on the photos to enlarge them. Since I'm still mastering my digital camera, they look better enlarge ;-D