Thursday, November 5, 1998
Less than half an hour north of Monterey, Moss Landing is an enclave that is part bustling marina and fishing village, with another part that's a little like a step back in time; antique shops keep a quiet testimony to the past, alongside boatyards of rusting hulks long since sea-worthy. Turn the corner and find a sophisticated marine research complex rubbing elbows with commercial boats off-loading their catch, droves of adventuresome kayakers, and a dockside of sails, ready to set. Gritty and charming all at once, Moss Landing is a gem in the rough, intact with its own identity apart from the ceaseless, itinerant drone of Highway 1.
Keeping tabs on all the comings and goings for the last 35 years is the restaurant that sits harbor-side, for thirty of those years known as Genovese's and in 1993 becoming Maloney's. With long walls of windows onto the bay, it's been a popular gathering spot for the community of growers and fisher folk. If you happen to stop in on a day when Hilde is working the floor, she might be inclined to share a story or two about the place where she's been taking orders all down the line since the doors first opened.
Terry and Jeffie Maloney weren't new to the restaurant business when the opportunity came to take over the place. They sold their landmark watering hole, the Pioneer Saloon in Woodside, and headed down the coast to launch a new concept, featuring "California fresh" cuisine that would take advantage of all the new neighborhood has to offer--fresh fish and produce, spilling out all over the place.
A couple of years ago, the Maloneys brought in Chef Nancy Ackerman, a former self-described "ninety-nine pound weakling" who discovered herself a dynamo when turned loose in the kitchen, and with no less intensity when it comes to describing her chosen profession. "I enjoy what I do--I love what I do!" she effuses. "I come from a family where everybody cooks. Parents, grandparents, kids. Cooking is a giving thing: whether you're feeding people you know or that you've never met, it's an intimate act that creates pleasure, a transient art."
If you've heard of Maloney's, you probably heard about their crab cakes: lots of sweet, tender crab meat mixed with the right bite of pasilla pepper, red onion and bread crumbs, sauted crisp on the outside and succulent throughout, served with sherry-cayenne mayonnaise. Another local favorite, and well-kept secret for the uninitiated, sand dabs get special treatment done Piedmontese style, crusted with Parmesan and herbs and served with a piquant parsley, caper and anchovy sauce.
On the lunch menu, fresh ling cod is dipped in Anchor Steam beer batter and served up with chips. The oyster po' boy and snapper po' gal are popular sandwich selections along with non-seafood items like the classic burger or the grilled portobello with pesto, fontina and roasted pimiento peppers. An appealing variety of salads rounds things out.
With no lack of fish, fresh off the boat, to choose from, swordfish, rockfish and yellowtail are frequent specials for both lunch and dinner. Ackerman also recommends the prawns Jerez, finished with saffron-infused tomato-and-garlic sauce laced with sherry, or the Spanish paella, given a local twist with freshly-made Corralitos chorizo and artichokes.
Other choices abound for those not inclined seaward. Several pasta dishes (penne gorgonzola with chicken, baby artichokes sun-dried tomatoes and pine nuts) as well as barbecued ribs, rack of lamb Dijonnaise, and tournedos in peppercorn sauce assure the need to spend some time studying this ample--and artful--selection.
Maloney's Harbor Inn
Hwy. 1, Moss Landing, 724-9371
Hours: Lunch from 11:30am, dinner from 5-9pm Sunday-Thursday, Friday and Saturday to 9:30pm, Sunday brunch 11:30am-3:30pm
Price range: $3.75-19.95