There are certain performers that we always get tickets to see whenever they are in town, and David Byrne (formerly of the Talking Heads) certainly falls in this category. With the great summer we are having this year, the intimate open-air Mountain Winery Venue in Saratoga was the ideal venue to see him perform with St. Vincent on their Love This Giant tour. They serve food and beverages with a great view at the historic Paul Masson Mountain Winery; however, we decided that a pre-concert meal in Los Gatos would be the better choice, and we ended up at the Forbes Mill Steakhouse.
Originally opened in 2003, the upscale Steakhouse is owned by a partnership of brothers Dean and Darin Devincenzi, who own nearby Double D’s Sports Grille, and Ron Gerald, whom they met while all three worked at Marie Callenders. They named the restaurant after a historic flour mill owned by James Alexander Forbes which helped establish the town of Los Gatos in the mid-1800s. They hired English-born Executive Chef Brian Weselby to craft the upscale steakhouse menu. With extensive experience working at Michelin-starred restaurants in England and France, Weselby has also served as the Executive Chef at Sunnyvale’s Lion and Compass in Sunnyvale and Le Mouton Noir in Saratoga.
Since the concert started at 7:30 pm, an early dinner and proper “attitude adjustment” was warranted, so we arrived at Forbes Mill in time to partake in their daily Happy Hour which lasts until 6:30 pm. They have a few cocktail specials and great prices on some of their appetizers, all pretty much priced at $7 or less.
Since it was hot outside, the rum-less Mai Tai (Absolut Citron, Cointreau, pineapple juice) hit the spot although it was very sweet. From the Martini menu we also ordered a classic Vesper (Gin, Vodka, Lillet) which was mixed to perfection:
The plate of Fried Calamari came topped with fresh garlic and shaved Parmesan cheese. House-made tartar and cocktail sauces accompanied the crispy and seemingly grease-free battered rings and tentacles. This Mediterranean dish may be ubiquitous, but it really is a great bar snack that is easily shareable:
We also ordered the Dungeness Crab Cakes swimming in a citrus beurre blanc sauce and topped with micro greens. The cakes didn’t seem to have much bread filling, but we felt that the orange supremes were too sweet for the dish and ended up leaving them behind:
We asked Benjamin to make us a couple of Sazerac Rye Manhattans, which he expertly hand-stirred using a bit of Cinzano Vermouth and Bitterman’s ‘Elemakule Tiki Bitters. The unorthodox choice of the tropical bitters added an interesting spicy note of allspice and cinnamon to the Rye cocktail served with premium cherries:
The Prime Steak Tips are a great bargain at Happy Hour. The tender beef, topped with scallions and garlic, came served with a cognac peppercorn sauce for dipping. This was so good that we almost ordered a reround of this excellent appetizer:
To go along with our steak, we also ordered the Steak Fries which were soft and creamy on the inside, but not all of them were crispy on the outside. It didn’t matter that they weren’t all crunchy since they were still tasty with very soft insides (almost like mashed potatoes), especially when dipped in the steak peppercorn sauce:
We have seen David Byrne in concert several times, and what makes him unique is how this boundary-less musician manages to reinvent himself and put on a great show. A few years ago he traveled with the Tosca Strings, and another time he came with choreographed dancers. This tour featured his collaboration with independent singer St. Vincent (Annie Clark), where instead of fronting a typical rock band they went with an eight-piece brass band complete with French Horns and a tuba-like Sousaphone. The result of their collaboration is ethereal and almost steam-punkish in sound (do yourself a favor and click here to download their latest EP to listen for yourself – it’s free!):
It was interesting since David Byrne seemed to take a back-seat to Annie in the choreographed performance. It was clear who the audience really came to see, as they really came to life when he sang his solo and Talking Heads favorites like Strange Overtones, Like Humans Do, Wild Wild Life, followed by Burning Down the House and Road to Nowhere as encores. No one rocks black and white better than David Byrne:
Once again the Lytro camera took some great concert photos, thanks to high zoom lens:
Forbes Mill Steakhouse was definitely a great pre-concert place for us. We do admit to having a difficult time finding great cocktails in the South Bay, especially ones that are not sweet and vodka-based. But Forbes Mill’s bartenders definitely know what they are doing. Due to it’s proximity, their great Happy Hour may not be enough of a draw for us to sneak out of work early on a regular basis; but at least we know it’s our place to go prior to the Mountain Winery concerts.