Dining with ghouls and ghosts


Saddlepeak serves haunting feast.

By Jody Stump/Special to The Malibu Times

Trick or Treat?

Although Saddlepeak Lodge was filled with mouthwatering treats on Halloween, the evening held the specter of a ghoulish trick or two before the clock struck twelve.

It seems the Lodge plays host to more than live and hungry diners – it boasts five certified ghosts. One, a sympathetic spirit of kindness inhabits a cozy corner table on the third floor where it is said that she watches guests ascend the stairs. Another hovers near the front door where, it is thought, she waits for the return of a long-lost love, but this one is a bit shy – she’ll flit away if a harsh word is spoken. If you happen to stumble into the Wine Room, you’re likely to bump into an elegant bit of ectoplasma that has been imbibing there for decades, and experts say the kitchen closet is possessed by a slightly demented, but very dead, busboy from the ’60s. If these silent souls escape your notice, there’s a grumpy ghoul who hangs out at the second floor service station and makes his presence known in the waning hours of the evening. He gets a bit odoriferous after 9 p.m. – avoid him; he’s unpleasant.

Do you doubt the tale?

These spirits have been taped and documented by a pair of paranormal investigators from West Hills. Rob and Anne Wlodarski are archeologists who travel the country identifying spirits who have come to unrest in a variety of public places. Together, they have published 19 books on the subject and are investigating a number of other sites in Malibu, including the Malibu Inn. But to them, Saddlepeak Lodge remains unique in the number and assertiveness of its spirited residents. According to the Wlodarskis, the ghosts do no real harm and are there, in large part, to protect the premises.

They seem to be a doing a good job since Halloween in the Haunted Lodge was a delightful treat for all the senses. From the sight of glamorously costumed servers to the aromas and flavors of the night’s special tasting menu, the staff outdid themselves. Chef Warren Schwartz kicked off the menu with individual pumpkins, each the size of a crystal ball, filled with steaming sweet pumpkin soup laced with tiny cubes of smoky bacon and chunks of crunchy croutons. He followed up with delicate skate wings sautéed in brown butter and flanked with tender artichoke halves – an amusing presentation that looked like tiny bats flitting in a dusky half-light. It was so good our table sought seconds. Entrée selections were culled from Saddlepeak’s excellent seasonal menu with favorites such as a succulent roasted pheasant breast in a Dijon mustard sauce and the bacon-wrapped elk tenderloin in a creamy wild mushroom sauce. And, always at Saddlepeak, save room for dessert. Any time of year, this restaurant is filled with treats and only the most delightful ghostly tricks.