Monday, January 01, 2007

Manka's Inverness Lodge Closed by Act of God

Manka's Inverness Lodge was at least temporarily done in by the high winds that swept over the bay area last week. A tree toppled into the building that housed the restaurant and lodge, and apparently ignited a fire as it went.

Our friends Maya and Leo held their rehearsal dinner at Manka's, and while we didn't make the list for that particular meal, they were kind enough to invite us there for dinner a few weeks later. This was during the time when the most notable thing about the restaurant was how local the food was. Nearly all of it caught, raised, hunted, or gathered within 15 miles or so of inverness. Sunday was locals night, where folks who lived nearby could stop in for burgers.

As we waited in the homey space adjacent to the dining room, a large dog milled about with the guests. On the way to our table, we walked past a cake plate topped with a wheel of Pt. Reyes Blue Cheese that looked for all the world like some massive chiffon cake. We ate pig, duck, rabbit, salmon, and deer that night before downing espresso and braving the drive back to Berkeley. Rooms tended to be about 300.00 or more a night after all - I'd looked up the rates on their steadfastly idiosyncratic website (tiling plaid backgrounds and antler them prevailed). Hence, a soft spot.

When we returned for dinner a few months later, we were startled to find that the dog had been replaced by actual front of house people. The cheese wheel was there, but someone had decided that the dining room ambience would be enhanced by if they played Enya very loudly. After being sold a sparkling wine to start and a dessert wine to wrap up, dinner for two came to just over 400.00. The restaurant began to get mentioned more frequently in the national press. Mentions usually included a line or two about the celebrities you might run into there.

I have no ill will for Margaret Grade or Daniel De Long. I've not met either, but the anecdotes of friends who have more than earn them the benefit of the doubt. So, I'm not sure that He struck down upon them with furious vengeance for selling out, I am sure it will be rebuilt. Better, faster, stronger. The current and steadfastly New Age website, replete with loon and running water soundtrack, suggests it. Here's hoping they get the mix right. Find a way to make the money that it takes to make their food, without going (more?) obnoxiously corporate.

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