Thursday, November 5, 1998
As we scratch our heads in confused wonderment, collectively attempting to figure out what happened to the year 1998--as in where the heck did it go??--enter the season of another strange phenomenon. It begins right around the time when the sun lowers its mighty beam, the autumnal signal to stow the Weber grill in the garage and consider upgrading to the 48-bulb, stand-up-and-sun-your-buns, ultra-bronzing package with unlimited visits and surround sound.
Some of us take seasonal solace by tanning over a hot stove, basking in the glow of rich stews, basting ourselves in hearty braises, and delighting in the aromatherapy of robust roasts. This season usually lasts through the winter solstice, when the cold light of January sheds glaring evidence that your wardrobe now consists of two pairs of stretch pants and a smock.
We are also apparently driven to gather gregariously in groups, a cultural holdover from pre-historic times, for events we now call the ''office party.'' These days, however, lacking the time to mount a hunt and drag home a wildebeest to whip up, your best friend is your corner deli-caterer, when you''re asking yourself ''what was I thinking when I invited all those people.''
If it''s speecy-spicy meat-eh-balls your crowd jives on, or maybe barbecued chicken wings or lahvosh rolled up with crab filling, hook up with Buon Appetito Deli in Salinas where they can accommodate you with small, medium and large-size party trays, depending on the size of your tribe.
For a Middle-Eastern flavored hoe-down, International Market and Deli in New Monterey will send you out the door with baba ghanuj (eggplant dip that''s so good the priest fainted, as the translation goes), dolmas, hummous and all the pita bread necessary to dip it with. Alex Keremian makes his cream baklava every Saturday, so it''s wise to order ahead of time.
Or, this year entertain your guests with the ''guess the salami'' game. Just stop by Mediterranean Market in Carmel and choose platters of no fewer than 20 kinds of salami, with a large variety of roasted vegetables and imported cheeses to choose from, to create your own Euro-style antipasto platters.
For a sit-down spread where you must let your conscience guide you on whether or not to take culinary credit, Karlen''s Deli at Bottles ''n Bins in New Monterey has menu ideas to make an impact. Karlen does a seafood strudel, along the lines of fruits de mer, with lobster, scallops and shrimp all rolled into a phyllo log to take home and bake. Her individual beef Wellingtons are also a hit, tenderloin that''s baked under a puff pastry crust and offered with either a garnish of pt, or eggplant, zucchini and Buffalo mozzarella.
At Santa Lucia Market in Monterey, Tricia and Uwe Grobecker will be busily roasting turkeys and hams all during the holidays, available with all the trimmings. They also specialize in house-smoked turkeys and smoked pork chops. Grilled tri-tip with caramelized onions is offered both as a main dish entre or sandwich selection along with vegetarian or meat lasagne, and gourmet pizzas. Santa Lucia does the whole nine yards, with everything from sushi platters to crab-filled stuffed mushrooms, antipasto trays and even chocolate-dipped strawberries to take it all the way to the finish line. With all of these sources to choose from, you won''t be the one getting a stove-top tan, but neither will you break a sweat. cw