Remember Dan’s Place, the hillside Moss Beach restaurant and bar?
When we moved to Half Moon Bay, 30-plus years ago, our party of four frequented Dan’s for special occasions and ordinary ones. Dan’s was a Coastside institution. It looked like a converted hunting lodge, with mounted animal heads.
Apart from the silent, antlered audience, Dan’s was a happy place. The family-style food came in several courses: shared dishes of antipasto, soup, and salad; main courses from the menu, usually with vegetables and boiled potatoes as sides; and desserts. We never left hungry.
Some of our fondest family memories began at Dan’s. We conspired to trick my long-suffering wife, Susy, into having birthday parties, which she’d otherwise prefer to skip. Someday between holidays Elizabeth or Sheila would say, “Let’s go to Dan’s tonight,” and on arriving Susy would be greeted by two to 40 relatives and friends in partying moods.
When it was “just us” at Dan’s we’d talk. The girls would crack each other up just by looking at each other, as they still do. Preschool Sheila would draw pictures upside down on her paper placemat, as perfectly as her rightside up drawings — an artistic gift the rest of us don’t share. She now sells her art online.
We think of the Coastside as an unchanging place, a Brigadoon complete with the fog. We can’t preserve it as-is. Restaurants close, people move away and others move in. Little girls grow up.
The ocean is our most permanent institution, providing new memories every day. Recently, two friends, Nancy Stern and Jeff Crofton, invited us to a crab feed on Miramar Beach. It was a new experience for us, eating Dungeness crab, that was caught hours before, right on the beach.
Crofton, Max Bunuan and Nicole Skerry had paddled about 50 yards from shore on kayaks to drop their crab pots. They came back with more than enough crab to feed the party of 12. (Well within the limit, I hasten to add. It was nearly the last day of the season for crab sport-fishing.) Crofton cooked the crab on the beach in pre-boiled seawater, preserving the flavor. We met new friends and made new memories.
There’s a difference between Dan’s Place and the ocean’s generous gifts, which each generation must preserve for succeeding ones. With our respect and stewardship, they can last as long as the ocean itself.
Without Dungeness crab the Coastside would be a lesser place. We can build a new restaurant. We can’t replace a species or environment once it’s gone.