Best Of 2011 - Around Town
In the cold, dim, dawn light, a single marathoner broke from the pack of trembling runners at the starting line – into the forest.
He barreled at a tree, stopped, spun, planted his back against it and squatted suddenly. What came next was a pre-run ritual that should’ve been scheduled much earlier than 30 seconds before the start of last year’s Big Sur International Marathon.
This marathoner was not on top of his game. Fortunately the marathon is, which is why it dethroned the mighty Pebble Beach AT&T Pro-Am for Best Event in Monterey County. Another significant development: the fact that Monterey County enjoys this many excellent and engaging elements going on “around town,” as detailed below:
Best Place to Read the Weekly
Best Place to Eavesdrop
Various locations throughout Monterey County
After 40 years, the ’Bucks ain’t stopping here, instead adding things like Starbucks Petites, a new tribute blend and 100 percent Kona joe. Something about that always-improving approach, the soothing setting and the suprisingly diverse snacks (wraps and cupcakes!) and, of course, the big pumpkin spice creme frappuccinos, makes it a great place to kick back with a massive Weekly like this one, while keeping an ear to the relentless, caffeine-fed chitter.
Best Place to See and Be Seen
Carmel Valley Athletic Club
27300 Rancho San Carlos Road, Carmel
Whether you’re smashing a ball, looking equally smashing in your hot little Venus Williams-inspired tennis dress, nibbling a health nut salad (organic greens, alfalfa sprouts, tomatoes, avocados, sunflower seeds, raisins, Swiss cheese and tuna or chicken) at the Club Bar & Grill or sweating your way to enlightenment at one of CVAC’s group classes, the “local’s resort” is the place to do it – and be seen looking good while doing it too. Oh, and did we mention there’s also a pool and a bocce court? And that the new, under-construction clubhouse will feature locker rooms with a fireplace, TVs, sauna, steam rooms and radiant floors?
Best Place to Take Visitors
Best Place to Work
Monterey Bay Aquarium
886 Cannery Row, Monterey
Inside the Kelp Forest’s swaying, 28-foot-tall underwater jungle lives a 188-pound sea bass that likes it when divers scratch its chin. For those lucky enough to work at this happiest place by the bay, they know the feeling – working in a setting that surrounds them with giant octopi, pink flamingos, sea otters, coral reefs and the Pacific quenches an itch for aesthetic beauty, and its conservation mission makes every bit of glass cleaning and Humboldt squid husbandry mighty meaningful. It also means colorful creatures are not limited to the coral reefs, hypnotic jellies and playful penguins – which draw as many as 10,000 visitors a day – as biped personalities roam the exhibits and labs of the community institution too.
Best Scandal of 2010
Rich Guillen’s Sexual Harassment Scandal
Carmel City Hall, Monte Verde between Ocean and Seventh, Carmel
Combine the inability to stay the hell away from the computer keyboard with the decision-making chops of a bag of rocks and you have the Carmel-by-the-Sea City Hall scandal of 2010. Rich Guillen, writer of bizarrely affectionate and completely inappropriate e-mails to former Human Resources Manager Jane Miller, finally announced his retirement from the city administrator’s job in February, nearly eight months after the city’s insurance company said it would give Miller a check for $600,000 to make her sexual harassment and age discrimination claims go away. Still, while Guillen’s bad game is reprehensible, Mayor Sue McCloud’s opaqueness was even more painfully misplaced.
Best Beach Best Place To Watch The Sunset
Best Place To Walk The Dog
End of Ocean Avenue, Carmel-By-The-Sea
Soft white sands. Sky-tinted waters. A consistent shore break. Postcard-quality sunsets that beg for a bonfire. Malteses and mastiffs. Shitzus and schnauzers. If you don’t get how this beach sweeps these categories annually, then you’ve never participated in a little frisbee-by-the-sea, a doggie happy hour in the sand or a long, looping walk that soaks up views that sweep from Pebble Beach Golf Course to Point Lobos.
Best Architectural Treasure
San Carlos Borroméo de Carmelo Mission
3080 Rio Road, Carmel
Even replications of the 230-year-old landmark – which has hosted more than 3,000 baptisms, 1,000 weddings and a relentless parade of community-boosting tastings, meetings and art openings – are amazing: A recreation of the basilica in seeds and flowers, befit with giant monarch butterflies, won the 2011 Governor’s Trophy at last year’s Rose Parade.
Best Surf Spot
Sunset Drive, Pacific Grove
It’s consistent and super surfable when most spots are flat – and its outer reefs can handle just about any size swell – provided you have a big enough board and willingness to test your mettle. The playing field is so big that it’s downright silly to get into paddle battles with veteran shredders. After all, those folks have the spot dialed and the sea lions know them by name. When the dolphins show up, they start boosting airs and have more fun than anyone (or anything). The funny thing is, those mammals aren’t sponsored and don’t care about getting photos.
Best Golf Hole
18th Hole at Pebble Beach
2700 17 Mile Drive, Pebble Beach
This is where heavenly happens. Unearthly views. Holy history. Godlike manicuring of sand trap, fairway and green. This is where Hale Irwin’s ball once bounced off a divine intervention rock in the tide pools and into the fairway, along with his Crosby championship hopes, where Tiger proved toothless and a little Irish underdog hoisted the U.S. Open hardware, where Michael Bolton nailed a putt to earn an angelic $19,000 in charity cash – after his shot was interrupted by Anthony Anderson singing “When a Man Loves a Woman” – and where the well-worshipped, never-quiet Bill Murray was rendered speechless when he won the amateur segment of the AT&T. Amen.
Best Public Golf Course
Pacific Grove Golf Links
77 Asilomar Blvd., Pacific Grove
From the first hole, “Little Tombstone,” to the closer, “Last Chance,” P.G.’s 18 throw it all at you: 533-yard par fives and multiple water hazards at once, raised tees and bottomless bunkers, peerless vistas of unique treasures like the Point Pinos Lighthouse and El Carmelo Cemetery, and a sweeping intimacy with the Pacific Ocean that defines half the course. The place will forever be known as “Poor Man’s Pebble,” but nothing compares with its bang for the buck. Pebble greens fees are $495. Here, after 3pm, it’s just $20 to walk.
Dennis the Menace Playground
777 Pearl St., Monterey
An old locomotive steams back to its glory days as children’s laughter echos through the cab and railway. Sure, a 6-year-old on a play date with peers can have a blast, but the Dennis the Menace Playground can turn any adult into a kid again. The sound of the rolling-pin slide! The shakes and quakes of the rope-line bridge! And the hedge maze! All of it sparks excitement. Plus, after the kid in you is done playing, the grownup can go home and join the “I Played at Dennis the Menace Park and Lived!” group on Facebook.
Monterey Public Library
625 Pacific St., Monterey
Visitors of all ages sit at computers, skim the magazine rack and thumb through the music section. The first floor features a kids’ corner, an eye-catching teen-art wall and plenty of space to study or read. A catalog of Monterey’s history covers the walls of the second floor, including photos of Alvarado Street circa 1890, Steinbeck at his niece’s wedding and beauty queens from yesteryear. From free paperbacks to free Wi-Fi, the Monterey Public Library is the definitive destination place for a serious study session or a leisurely afternoon.
Best Hiking Trail
Garland Regional Park
700 W. Carmel Valley Road, Carmel Valley
There are parks, and then there is Garland. At more than 4,500 acres, it’s seven times the size of Carmel. The natural opportunities border on overload: Snively Ridge takes the ambitious up steep grades to breathtaking panoramas of Carmel Valley you can’t get anywhere else; troughs give the horsie a chance to whet its whistle; oak-sheltered meadows and stategically placed benches beg hikers to pack a picnic; open-air plateaus invite everyone to soak up the sun. The park district, meanwhile, leads hiking tours, star-gazing trips, plant life education classes – and much more – while hawks and California condors soar above the lush lupine.
Best Place to Bike/Mountain Bike
The boots of marching soldiers first laid the sandy trails. Army Jeeps first explored the windy roads. But when Fort Ord closed, a public playground the size of San Francisco County opened to adventurous bike riders. Now you can gallop down the Goat Trail on a hard tail or power up Jacks Road on a road bike. With 86 miles of trails and a patchwork of unmarked paths, Ord offers endless routes and supreme solitude.
Best Volunteer Organization
SPCA for Monterey County
1002 Monterey-Salinas Highway, Salinas
Creatures big and small, cuddly and fierce, depend on the care of SPCA’s dedicated team of volunteers. Besides the obvious perks of playing with cute animals ranging from kittens to beavers to horses, this volunteer opportunity offers one-on-one specialized trainings and skills for working with both pets and wildlife. For the ornithologically inclined, baby bird season is just beginning. If helping out on-site doesn’t meet the animal-lover’s snuggle quota, SPCA also needs foster homes for orphaned and injured animals.
Best Place to Get Married
Ocean View Boulevard and 17th Street, Pacific Grove
The aptly named Lovers Point is a city park perched over the ocean with breathtaking Bay views – but you probably won’t notice them, as your gaze won’t move past your lovely bride or handsome groom. Wedding guests, however, will appreciate the green grass, sandy beaches and rocky outcrops, and the fact that you’re not getting married at a public park in, say, Fresno.
Best Hangout for Teens
Del Monte Center
1410 Del Monte Center, Monterey
Like, isn’t staying at home with your parents such a drag? Teens swarm to Del Monte to gab and grab a caramel frappaccino from Starbucks while gossiping about that scandalous girl from algebra class or swooning over the Justin Bieber movie they just chittered through at Century Cinemas. Savory pretzels from Pretzeltime, cups of Cold Stone, wild slices from Pizza My Heart and affordable sushi from Yama fuel the adolescent exploration of favorite stores like Hollister, Pacsun and Zumiez.
Best Hangout For Seniors
Eighth and Lincoln, Carmel
With more than 60 activities offered, members can partake in classes including Tai Chi, French, ballroom dancing and woodcarving. Certified instructors also lead courses such as personal fitness, literature, art and music appreciation, to name just a few. There are still more services where that came from: access to affordable housing, timely and convenient transportation, delivered meals and daily excursions to plays, shopping destinations and museums.
Best Local Website
Monterey County Weekly
Venimus, scribimus, vicimus – loosely translated: We came, we posted, we conquered. We broke as much news online as we possibly could and let our readers know what to see, where to eat and what to do. We gave you the ability to connect with each other, local musicians and with your surroundings, and you rewarded us with your comments, your pictures, your blog posts and, yes, your votes. As the Web evolves, so does the Weekly: More food, culture, news and arts bloggers, more great community-connectivity features and the Weekly-to-go (i.e., our mobile website).
Best Radio Station
Will anyone care about a floppy-haired, one-man boy band or a chesty pop star who sings about “California Gurls” in a decade? Not likely. On the other hand, the music that local, eclectic FM radio station KPIG plays is built to last. KPIG’s DJs mine a rich vein of American musical forms, from blues (B.B. King, Keb Mo) to rock’s classic music makers (Neil Young, the Rolling Stones) to undersung singer/songwriters (John Prine, Billy Joe Shaver) and even promising contemporary acts (Old Crow Medicine Show, Todd Snider).
Best Radio DJ
Hal Ginsberg - KRXA 540
495 Elder Ave., Suite 8, Sand City
Hal Ginsberg waved buh-bye to his work as a lawyer and said hello to progressive radio a few years back, and we’re glad he did. Delivering the KRXA Morning Show (weekdays 8 – 10am), Ginsberg incorporates a blend of local, regional, national and international issues with home-grown politicians, writers and activists. He presents us with solid facts and leaves us thinking for ourselves.
Best TV News
Best TV Anchor
KSBW, Dan Green
238 John St., Salinas
In a year that some local news stations morphed into the Monterey County version of Harvey Levin’s TMZ, NBC-affiliate KSBW remains, above all, sensible – and thank God for it. The anchors are seated behind their desks, where they belong. The station has a good mix of veterans (Dan Green – more about him later – along with Erin Clark, Felix Cortez, Phil Gomez) and fresh talent (May Chow, Stephanie Chuang). Weather from Jim Vanderzwan – is this guy ever wrong? Bemused sports coverage from Dennis Lehnen – getting giddy with the rest of NoCal when the Giants took the World Series. As for Green, we write our adoration for this veteran anchor in classic Haiku:
Voice made for broadcast world
weary and sardonic
Dan is always on.
Dr. Patricia Sevene-Adams
California State University Monterey Bay
Building 82, Suite D, Seaside
After only one year at CSUMB, Kinesiology Professor Patricia Sevene-Adams has gained popularity as impressive as it has been immediate. All her courses, ranging from nutritional science to anatomy and physiology, are bursting with overjoyed Otters – the study of skeletal, muscular, nervous and endocrine systems has never been so human. It’s only fitting that Sevene-Adams’ research gravitates toward nutritional science, anatomy and physiology: She received the 2010 National Strength and Conditioning Association’s Journal of Strength and Conditioning Editorial Excellence Award.
Best Local Politician
Congressman Sam Farr
1100 W. Alisal St., Salinas
He’s been with the county (Board of Supervisors), he’s been with the state (Assembly) and for the past 18 years, Sam Farr has been our man in D.C. The highest-ranking Democrat on the appropriations committee on agriculture, Farr is a champion of organic standards, widely lauded for his contributions to sustainable agriculture and research. And his record on the environment is similarly stellar: the League of Conservation Voters just gave him a perfect 100 percent ranking on their 2010 National Environmental Scorecard.
Best Green/Eco Trend
Compostable Takeout Containers
According to vivbizclub.com, a supplier of compostable everything, there are several reasons this movement is worth the effort. Most plastic containers are never recycled, contain chemicals like hormone disruptor BPA, and, in the case of petroleum-based plastics, strengthen our dependence on oil. Compostable containers are made of corn or wheat, and recent movements have shown the change from plastic to compostable can actually be cheaper for businesses. Let’s hope this trend becomes a requirement for Monterey County.
Best Local Do-gooder
City of Marina, 3037 Vaughn Ave., Marina
When Marina Mayor Bruce Delgado eats out, he carries a tote bag with his own chopsticks. He drives a Zenn all-electric car and has a solar panel on his roof. He demands government transparency and has become an unlikely fiscal watchdog. The always-enthusiastic Delgado is also the city’s biggest cheerleader, trying to promote local businesses and turn Marina into a university town. He chases wild pigs for the Bureau of Land Management by day, leads native plant hikes on the weekends and still has the juice to support whatever good cause is calling.
Best Local Event
Big Sur International Marathon
3618 The Barnyard, Carmel
You know you have a blockbuster winner when nearly 14,000 runners sign up – months in advance – for the chance to punish themselves from the cold, dark, 5am dawn through Hurricane Point hell and miles of further pain. The definitive pub for the fleet of foot, Runner’s World, chose Big Sur as one of the three best marathons in the U.S., and the country’s “Best Destination” Marathon. Weekly readers understand why.
Best Farmers Market
Old Monterey Marketplace
Alvarado Street between Del Monte and Pearl Street
No-nonsense shoppers might stick to the middle produce section, a one-block stretch from the young dreadies hawking arugula and elephant garlic to the wizened old farmer with lemons and avocados. But it’s more fun to wander the entire three-and-a-half blocks, from the hot foods on the Del Monte end – think fried artichoke hearts and steaming samosas – to the craft vittles fronting Pearl Street: spiced pecans, herbed hummus, fresh-caught fish and rotisserie chicken. Bring your own bags for extra street cred.
Best Traffic Headache
Hwy. 68, Salinas/Monterey
Will the real 17-mile drive please stand up? Yeah, you know who you are. You’re that pompous little 17-mile strip of asphalt winding its way through untouched hills and valleys. Yeah, that’s right. You’re the one with the checkered past, part of the De Anza Trail. Yeah, you were special. Then you got paved, didn’t you? It’s all right, baby. Yeah, we know, they said you could handle 16,000 cars a day. Now you’re busting out twice that. Don’t give in, baby. You’re beautiful. Hold out. We’ll just park here on our way to work and admire you for a while.
Best Local Blog
Gastronomic gumshoe and Weekly Managing Editor Mark C. Anderson debuted his local brand of online food porn last April and, 250-plus posts later, the site has made a habit of serving up topical flavor combos more surprising than bacon-imbued bananas – with as much respect for the Basura Blanca beer/tequila 5-pack (hatched by a Monterey Bay ex-cop) as the “cauliflower panna cotta with scallops and salmon roe, with a rhubarb foundation” (at last year’s Pebble Beach Food & Wine). Anderson and his correspondents dish on local restaurant openings and shutterings, celeb-chef gossip, wine press, top nosh spots and salivatory gourmet galas – often complemented by food close-ups you could lick off the screen.