My parents' restaurants, in and around Sacramento, were named Murrieta Mexican Restaurant. They were named after the family.
The menu featured what my dad called "early California cuisine": traditional moles, carne asada, chile rellenos, along with my dad's inventions like crepe enchiladas in mushroom cream sauce and "Mexican Wellington" -- marinated sirloin, chiles and cheese in puff pastry.
The front of the menus featured a charcoal portrait of a notorious, perhaps mythical Gold Rush-era highwayman, Joaquin Murrieta.
My dad says we're related to Joaquin Murrieta, whom some historians record as the inspiration for the Zorro legend. I've learned not to argue with my dad, but let's say that I claim to be the great-great-great grandson of Joaquin Murrieta only when it serves my purposes, like, say, when flirting with sexy history majors or gilding my resume.
Joaquin Murrieta crossed my radar again today while reading the New York Times travel section. In a story about Calgary, Alberta, there's a mention of Murrieta's West Coast Bar & Grill. I visited the Web site and read the Canadian restaurant's reason for naming itself after a Mexican avenger whose head was (allegedly) cut off by order of California's governor:
What was it about the infamous gentleman bandit Joaquin Murrieta that so inspired us to name our restaurant after him?
His sense of adventure and passion for life.
Known as the "Robin Hood of El Dorado", Joaquin Murrieta lived life with a heroic passion and outlaw honor that became legend in a land of cruelty and lawlessness. His seemingly single-handed acts of bravado and daring across the rolling hills of California's now world famous gold rush country were the stuff of pure, western fantasy and no man, horse or pouch of gold was safe.
A century later, as the sun continues to ripen the grapes adorning the hills of gold he once raided, Joaquin Murrieta, part man, part myth lives on. Today, at Murrieta's West Coast Grill we continue to raise a glass to this enduring, elusive legend.
What was once romantic legend continues to this day, as Murrieta's Westcoast Grill is hailed as one of Calgary's most celebrated and sumptuous places to dine. Situated within the spectacularly renovated walls of the Alberta Hotel building (c.1890) we offer a feast not only for the senses… but for the soul as well, with something unique to offer every distinctive palate.
Except for grilled chorizo, the menus at Murrieta's West Coast Bar & Grill look about as Mexican as Charlton Heston in "Touch of Evil": salmon Cobb salad, lamb meatballs and spaghetti, tiger prawn tagliatini and rare ahi.
Como se dice "whatever?"
I'm not looking for royalties on the use of my family's name. I'm just curious why Murrieta's West Coast Bar & Grill doesn't serve Joaquin's wines -- those made by Murrieta's Well, in California's Livermore valley, where it's said Joaquin watered his horses and hid his gold.