In the 1980s and 90s my friend Jim Whitacre and I traveled each year to the furthest away Husky football game. Neither of us went to the University of Washington (him to Western and me to UPS), but Jim’s brother did and was a captain of the football team. Our first trip was to Houston with a small group of friends. We spent an evening riding the mechanical bull at Gilley’s in nearby Pasadena, Texas. We were a fun loving group.
The following year, we couldn’t find friends to join us for the trip to Southern California to face certain defeat at the hands of USC. Instead we traveled with three attorneys, who were Husky fans. In the first few years we never expected the Huskies to win, but we cheered them on, anyway. We knew we had a different group when the attorneys all showed up with clothes hangers of sport coats and suitcases. Jim and I each had overnight bags for overhead storage.
We flew to Los Angeles on Friday evening and checked into our hotel. We stayed two nights and returned home on Sunday morning. Saturday afternoon our beloved Huskies never had a chance. After the game we needed a good laugh and so we went to Hollywood and stopped in at a comedy club. George Wallace, the black comedian, not the ex-governor of Alabama, was performing along with some other comics I had seen on the Johnny Carson show. We enjoyed ourselves, but left after a few sets.
The next stop was Beverly Hills. We were hungry. We visited the Beverly Hills Hotel restaurant, but they wouldn’t seat us because we weren’t wearing sportcoats. Even our lawyers were just dressed in shirts and slacks, now. There were thirteen year old boys running around in suits to attend a bar mitzvah, they could get in for dinner, but we couldn’t. We chose another restaurant. We were seated and served water, but we didn’t like the menu . . . it was just too mundane for world travelers. We left and walked around until we found a restaurant without a sign out front. They did have a menu posted in the window, however. The selections looked excellent. I gave it a thumbs up!
We walked into La Maison du Caviar (The House of Caviar). It was like entering the Twilight Zone. The “maître d’hôtel” had a perfect five-o’clock shadow and a light mint green pastel sport coat (Miami Vice was the current darling of TV and our host could have been a regular). We were seated close to the kitchen. We sat there for a while and then our host returned and asked, “What brings you gentlemen to Beverly Hills?” You could almost hear the sneer. Without skipping a beat one of the attorneys says, “We’re food critics from the Pacific Northwest. We’re visiting local restaurants.” The air changed. He wished us well and disappeared. He returned and took our orders personally. We ordered a sampler of caviar (Beluga and several types of Osetra) as an appetizer. “Normally, there wouldn’t be enough for all five of you to sample, but I’ll make sure there is plenty to taste.” From then on each time we our water glasses went down an inch, they were refilled. Once a plate was empty, it was whisked away. The food was fantastic. The caviar was excellent. We were fawned over and offered a tour of the kitchen along with a cigar and a shot of their special house vodka. On the tour one of the attorney’s mentioned the beautiful caviar tins. He was given one as a souvenir. Our bill was staggering and someone said, “I don’t recall ever paying that much for dinner before . . . for just myself.” It was worth it.
At the time there were three locations for La Maison du Caviar: Beverly Hills, New York City, and Paris, France. Today there are only two: Paris, and Monte Carlo . . . plus our memories.