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Thursday, September 9, 2021

Winter Weasels

Winter Weasels

 Sunday the 21st was the annual Winter Weasel Fest. This year’s gathering was a simple lunch at our favorite restaurant, Joe’s of Westlake. We try to get together sometime in December and spend some quality time. Commonly the winter “thing” vs. the summer “thing” includes spouses, girlfriends, and occasionally an assorted friend or relative. The summer event in Truckee is a guys-only weekend.


Over the past 12-13 years, the “winter thing” has included several trips into San Francisco where we did a lot of walking, shopping, and eating, several trips to a great local radio broadcast called “West Coast Live,” a couple trips to The Cliff House, a tour of the Haight-Ashbury district (we knew a lot more about “The Haight” than the tour guide knew), and a couple dinners in the City. 


So, what’s the significance of Joe’s of Westlake? Westlake is the section of Daly City where we all grew up. Those of us who spent our very early years there recall a vacant lot, which has been the home of Joe’s since 1958 (giving away my age here, aren’t I?). Westlake Joe’s was the brainchild of Bruno Scatena, and it’s been a local mainstay since the day it opened. From 11 AM ’til Midnight every day (11 PM on Sundays), there’s rarely a time when you don’t have to wait for a table. Joe’s attracts people from all over, but it’s distinctly “old Daly City” and it’s rare that you don’t run into someone you’ve known for decades. People who eat at Joe’s have for the most part been doing so forever. You never get a bad meal there. I’m sure it’s happened, maybe someone’s been overly picky or plain didn’t “get” the food, but you can pretty much count on great food, prepared just like the last time you had it, with each successive visit. 


Most of us start thinking about what we’re going to order, days, or even weeks before we go. The lunch menu is a little different than the dinner, but you can pretty much order anything on either menu, any time of the day or night. A couple exceptions being the roast lamb and pot roast, which are commonly gone by about 7pm. The hamburger or cheeseburger is arguably the best on the planet (and I never exaggerate). A half-pound of top-grade ground beef on a quarter of a loaf of San Francisco Sourdough, served with a big portion of “dinner fries.” Request the Monterey Jack on your cheeseburger, which is much better than the default Swiss. Add a bowl of their minestrone for a killer meal. And a very full stomach. 


So, what to eat for lunch on Sunday? The afore-mentioned hamburger and minestrone? Maybe. Or the huge ground beef patty fresh from the wood-burning grill, with a side of rigatoni? The veal parmigiana (best with rigatoni, but great with fries too) is phenomenal, and it’s the only place I’ve ever eaten where they give you TWO good sized cutlets. The filet of sole is exceptional. Steak a’ la Bruno (named after the late founder) is always great. I have a friend who routinely orders the sweetbreads and says they’re incredible (I draw a line at anything resembling “innards”). Sides of spinach or garlic bread are a good possibility. All are under consideration right up to the time when our very efficient server Theresa asks what I want for lunch. 


Today would be a day for the ultimate Joe’s meal. The one thing that they specify is to “be patient,” this dish requires 20 minutes to prepare. 


 Today’s lunch was to be veal scaloppini sec with button mushrooms, and a side of raviolis. Similar to a veal marsala, this dish consists of cut pieces of veal cutlets sautéed in a wine and garlic combination, with button-sized mushrooms, and finished with some Italian parsley. Add a squeeze of lemon and have at it. The homemade raviolis (or the rigatoni) are the perfect accompaniment. To quote … my friend JB once again “if it gets any better, I don’t want to know about it.” 


This was a great gathering of friends, wives and girlfriends. People traveled 100 miles for this lunch, in addition to the bulk of us who live all around the Bay Area. Some people didn’t make it, and they will of course be forgiven (although the standing rule is that if you don’t show up for an event, we talk about you the whole time). Our group of Winter Weasels included a cardiologist, pharmacist, lawyer, master mechanic, network specialist, telecom manager, insurance broker, a beverage salesman, and a graphic artist. A diverse group, all with the commonality of growing up in this little hamlet, due south of San Francisco. The dream of John Daly, developed to maturity by Henry Doelger. 


The city where Westmoor High School was located just off the top of Southgate Avenue, and where we all graduated. And Ben Franklin Junior High, and Garden Village or Westlake School, where most of us met in grammar school. 


Joe’s was the perfect spot for this year’s event. We’ve eaten here together dozens, and in some cases hundreds of times together. We’ve been to wedding receptions in the Cascade Room, mourned the passing of friends and family members, and celebrated some of the most important events in many of our lives … right here. 


A very generous member of our group “picked up the tab” for this lunch … generosity beyond description. And this allowed us to all contribute to a pile of cash, which was to be donated to the American Cancer Society. A fitting end to an amazing Sunday with the best of friends. Another Weasel event in our personal history books, another addition to the series of events that’s kept this group friends for so many years and will undoubtedly do so if there are enough of us around to carry on the traditions we love so much. 

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