I have been a fan of Moody’s Bistro Bar & Beats for more than 20 years, even during the days when it was The Passage. The reason I am still writing about this beloved blast from the past is that Moody’s is equally as beloved as its predecessor, remaining a popular respite with both old-timers and newbies. Some of the new faces to frequent Moody’s are familiar. Sir Paul McCartney has been known to stop by when in town, finishing off his dinner with an impromptu turn on Moody’s lounge-area stage. Britney Spears, probably discovering there was no Sonic drive-in in the Sierra, gave Moody’s a big thumbs up following her dinner, promising to “Ooops, do it again.”
Even devoid of famous faces, I just love walking into the bar area (OK – any bar area), which reminds me of what it must have been like when California was flush with gold and settlers traveled in wagons full of heirlooms and luxury. The ceilings are high, the lighting warm, the atmosphere convivial. It’s a happy place, especially now, with the summer upon us and Moody’s outdoor patio open. This hidden gem, located in the courtyard just off Moody’s main dining room, has become synonymous with the end of winter. It is like our answer to the groundhog, but more attractive.
What can be expected during any season at this Zagat-rated restaurant is a dining experience you’ll remember and repeat. Chef Will Burns, who studied at the French Institute in New York City honed his culinary skills at three other Zagat-rated restaurants; The Mariposa in Deer Park, Utah; The Ritz-Carlton, Laguna Niguel and Manzanita at the Ritz-Carlton, Lake Tahoe; before joining the team at Moody’s. To Burns it is a team. “I don’t believe in kitchen monarchy,” he says. “No one person is better. Everyone needs to use his or her skills to do what needs to be done.” What can I say? Happy in the back of the house translates to happy in the front of the house.
I know I was thrilled to see my favorite seasonal salads back on the menu: Wild arugula with dates, Midnight Moon cheese, wild boar bacon and a pistachio vinaigrette, as well as the roasted beet with endive, Point Reyes bleu, walnuts, pickled red onion and Greek yogurt. I have been known to order two appetizers (the Ahi poke and the truffled deviled eggs) followed by the two salads for lunch. For dinner I am all about the Salmon Creek smoked pork chop with pear purée, house bacon, rapini, whole wheat spaetzle and sauce espagnole or the halibut with purple potato and a saffron nage (sauce for poaching). Everything at Moody’s is made in-house, from salamis, pate, pastas, breads, even pickles, so I take no menu item for granted. If I cannot decide what to order, I choose according to who is performing in the bar/lounge area. If it is a band I know I am going to dance to, I go very light and skip dessert. And as the Stones have yet to be on Moody’s line-up, I have never missed dessert. I asked Chef Will to share a secret from his kitchen with me, something I could take home and wow them (me) with. His tip? “You should cook like you’re serving to your mother. If it is not the best quality, it does not go out.” Chef Will’s mom is one lucky girl.