Highs and Lows at the Fairmont
Sunday we went to the Bay Area Cabaret at the Venetian Room of the Fairmont Hotel. It was the last show of this season, and featured the sisters Liz Callaway and Ann Hampton Callaway, women who have both made careers out of singing and songwriting.The show was wonderful. Liz is a soprano, Ann an alto. Their harmony is flawless. The title of their act is “From West Side Story to Wicked with the Callaways”, and they indeed pulled their music from the entire canon of Broadway, singing both singly and together. Sisters work well together; their comedic timing, their choreography, their general rapport make the event easy and pleasant. These two women just like to be onstage together, and it shows.
Musical director Alex Rybeck plays the piano and directs the drummer and bass player. The ladies perform for almost 2 hours without intermission, then go out to sell CD’s, sign autographs and pose for selfies with the well dressed, adult crowd.
The next season of Bay Area Cabaret begins in mid September, and we’re certainly going to get season tickets. We’ve enjoyed every show we’ve seen.
After the show, we went for dinner to the Laurel Court, which turns out to the be main lobby bar of the Fairmont. The buffet dinner was advertised at the last two Cabaret shows, so we thought we’d give it a try.
Dinner is $45, but they promised free parking in the hotel garage, which is ferociously expensive—it costs us $58 to bail the car out after a show and a bite to eat, so it was like they were paying us $13 to eat there.
The bad new is that will have to pay us more than that to return.
We went to eat right after the show, as did a considerable number of other members of the audience. Entering the mostly empty room, we were quickly show to our table, the forgotten. Eventually I tackled a passing waiter, who seemed to be very busy assembling the wine/cocktail card. It wasn’t easy, but we managed to order drinks and then made our way to the buffet.
The first thing we discovered was a small salad bar, of less interest than you can find at your local Sizzler. A bowl of lettuce, a bowl of fancy greens, some onions, carrots, artichoke hearts and 6 types of salad dressing. The most interesting part was two kinds of smoked salmon–hot smoked and cold smoked. Turns out I like the hot smoked better, so at least I learned something. Still, when you realize the salad bar at your $45 buffet is no match for the salad bar at the Peddler in Gatlinburg, you start to have some doubts about the direction your dinner is taking.
Salads finished, we went back for the entreé. Here’s the first thing I saw:This, one supposes, was meant to say “Trio of Cauliflower”. While anyone can make an error, I thought this indicated that there was no manager checking to see that things were done correctly. The Fairmont just doesn’t care.
And how was the dish?White, yellow, green and purple cauliflower were sauteéd for this dish, with no discernible seasoning. You would think that the different colors might have different flavors, but you’d think wrong–none of us was able to notice any variety in taste, just appearance.
There were some yams, which I liked. A “truffled risotto” which had too many mushrooms for me to try, but Gail was completely unmoved by. The meat was short ribs, which I liked (after I scraped the mushrooms off) but Gail thought was tough. There was also a cioppino, but I didn’t try it.
The desserts were the highlight of the meal, not only good to eat but works of art.The tiny pieces of clear gelatin look like shimmering ice cubes. The Fairmont pastry chef was the star of the evening.
How much do you tip at a buffet? Even an upscale buffet? The service was poor at best, not that there was much for the staff to do. We felt we had to tackle the waiter to get a drink order placed, and the fight to get a check. We bought the show tickets, so Micky paid the dinner bill. I know he’s a generous man, but it doesn’t seem to me that there was much call to leave more than a token gratuity.
Reclaiming the car, the garage tried to charge $25, even though it was clear that parking was included with the dinner and show. We got that issue squared away, but it was another indication that what was once one of the finest hotels in the nation is now just another hospitality factory without soul.