An unexpected visit

When his former lover arrives, Henri takes a gamble

RAISE THE STEAKS<br>Friendly service is a sure bet at the Steak House at Gold Country Casino. Waitperson Kara Haddock deals dinner to (right to left) Scott Hawthorne, Dawn Ritchie and Harrold Haddock.

Friendly service is a sure bet at the Steak House at Gold Country Casino. Waitperson Kara Haddock deals dinner to (right to left) Scott Hawthorne, Dawn Ritchie and Harrold Haddock.

Photo By Tom Angel

Go for the gold: Gold Country Casino and Hotel is located at 4020 Olive Highway, Oroville (800/334-9400). The Steak House is open for dinner Wed. through Mon. In addition to beef and chicken, entrees include seafood, veal, and game (elk) and run $18-$34 (for the 24-oz. Porterhouse). For menus and more information on the Steak House--or the 24-hour café or the all-you-can-eat buffet--visit

Imagine Henri’s surprise to learn a couple of weeks ago that L. was coming to visit. A conference in San Francisco—and then, with a few free days, a little jaunt north to Chico.

I set down the phone, took a deep breath and poured a tall glass of Bordeaux—we hadn’t seen each other in more than two years—and then made breakfast. Afterward, I went immediately to work getting the house ready, washing dishes, doing laundry, returning videos, throwing out dead plants, even painting my kitchen walls a darling pale cinnamon—although I spilled paint all over my best apron.

L. arrived on a Monday afternoon just as I was powdering Miss Marilyn after her bath. It was a bit awkward at first, but once we got to talking about our days in the Village, it was just like old times. L. recalled a weekend we spent in Atlantic City, and when I pointed out that there were several casinos nearby, L. suggested a little drive.

We took a short nap and then headed out in L.'s little rent-a-car.

We were soon walking through the doors of Gold Country Casino, Henri realizing immediately that he was a tad overdressed in his two-tone Bruno Magli loafers and light summer blazer—though under no circumstances would he ever resort to a NASCAR baseball cap or a Sacramento Kings tank-top just to fit it. Or gym shorts, ciel forbid!

L. sat right down at a blackjack table, and I headed for the slot machines. I was thrilled when a waitress came by pushing a drink cart—disappointed when I learned that my choices included nothing remotely resembling alcohol. I found L. and we made a beeline for the lounge, where I had decent little Pinot, L. had a Tanqueray and tonic, and the bartendress told us that the casino’s Steak House was the best restaurant in town.

L. lifted a glass in toast. “Here’s to the best restaurant in … Oroville? Shall we?”

We took the elevator to the sixth floor and were immediately impressed. A softly carpeted, arcing stairway led up to the tri-terraced dining room, with floor-to-ceiling windows and a sweeping balcony, and we were greeted, seated and treated all evening with surprising class by an attentive and knowledgeable staff—beginning with our “assistant server,” Jesse, filling our water glasses from a bottle of Evian. At one point Jesse pointed out that we might want to check out the view from the balcony.

“Of what?” L. asked.

“Downtown Oroville.”


“But if you look out over the treetops, there’s a gorgeous view of the mountains. I want to say the Rockies.”

Well, knowledgeable about the food, anyway.

Our bread basket included an array of freshly baked and delicious rolls and focaccia, and the wine list, though not huge, offered an impressive range of foreign and domestics, priced from $3.75-$13 a glass to $14-$65 a bottle (including Dom Perignon for $200). We were also very impressed with our salads ($4-$6)—I had the spinach with goat cheese and roasted bell peppers, L. the Caesar. Delicious.

On the other hand, our entrees were a bit of a disappointment. My prime rib was either overcooked (I asked for medium and was told it would be slightly pink—it wasn’t) or a tough cut to begin with, or both, and L.'s ginger chicken breast was also rather tough. We left assuming that the restaurant, only six or seven months old, will soon work out the kitchen bugs and that the food will match the service.

L.'s visit was over almost before it began, and we were soon saying our good-byes, L. insisting, again, that I return to the Village some day, at least for a visit. Perhaps. But for now Henri is finding Chico quite to his liking. Besides, he has new kitchen walls.