I love a Cabaret
Another Sunday at the Venetian Room, attending Bay Area Cabaret, feeling elegant listening to live singing from an era that is no more. The performer tonight was Jane Monheit, a 38 year old singing the music of Lerner and Loewe, Cole Porter and the great Ella Fitzgerald.
Jane came onstage and sang, accompanied by her husband Rick Montalbano on drums, Neal Miner on bass and Michael Kanan on piano. Sometimes the artists are accompanied by musicians from the local union hall; it’s always better when they are a seasoned unit.
In just over an hour, Jane sang her way through some old standards and some less familiar sounds from the swing era, paying tribute to her idol Ella Fitzgerald. There was the obligatory encore, which is just a standard part of the act these days. Jane’s rendition of “Over the Rainbow” was a show stopper, slotted inexplicably in the middle of the act. Overall, we thought the show was a journeyman act–solid, professional, well put together, not star quality but more than good enough to keep us coming back.
These cabaret shows are well run. They start on time, run for an hour or so and then they are over. We’ve developed a pattern of going across the street to the Mark Hopkins hotel to have a bite at the Top of the Mark, living large with the great view and some spectacular nibbles.
You can’t make a reservation here, you just have to hope there’s a table. Ideally, you want a window table to enjoy the immense views from the 18th floor on top of Nob Hill. We got seated almost immediately, but in a center table. The waiter then helped us move the window when something opened up.
The Mark has the most confusing, unreadable, misleading, baffling, bizarre menu I’ve ever encountered. It looks like a drinks menu, but it isn’t. The food is good, if you can figure out how what to order.
“Flatbread” is the way you can charge $19 for a tiny pizza. It’s a damn good pizza, though.
The drinks menu, the real one, is full of fancy cocktails using all sorts of obscure ingredients. If you’re into modern fancy cocktails, this would be a good place . I drink iced tea. They have good iced tea, too.
The Top of the Mark has been a San Francisco institution since it opened in 1939. When you go there you feel like a member of the upper crust, giving the servants a night off while you paint the town. It’s a perfect finish to an afternoon at the Cabaret.