Thursday, April 25, 2002
Then I really started getting serious: The spiffy little Bento Boxes from PASSIONFISH; a little Dry Chenin Blanc from VENTANA/MEADOR Estate; up to the BAUM AND BLUME caterers for White Bean salad, Ziti that was neaty, and aged asiago (I think). Some "J" Pinot Gris for accompaniment. Then off to see my man SAUL from the DUCK CLUB (too busy; couldn''t wait); hit one of the Wisconsin Cheese tables; nice stuff, well positioned-bumping into friends, foes and fawners-Ahh, there''s MICHELE from Fifi''s with CHEF GERMAN and his lovely Carpaccio-a glass of PAT DEROSE''s Cabernet Franc; warming up now, starting to feel the power; there''s TOM MCGOWAN, still goo-goo, ga-ga with sweet ALLISON; wow, PORTOLA CAFe (the new place in the Aquarium) with a huge display and plenty of food; ADAM AND MIKE showing off the new HAHN/SMITH AND HOOK wines; JANET AND GEORGE from LA SCUOLA doing the artichoke thing, plus awesome first-growth strawberries from SWEET DARLING STRAWBERRY FARM, some dipped in chocolate; MARK CUTINO holding court while a mini mob of adoring ladies hang on his every word-he''s a rock star; the COSENTINO corner where fans of that stellar winery jam the space every year; CHEF GIACOMO STOLTZ, president of the Monterey Chapter of The American Culinary Federation, kindly acknowledging my piece on Chef of the Year RAUL CERVANTES, (even though I didn''t even mention the Stoltz''s name!); the amazing Cedar Mountain Ports (four different kinds) made by the AULTS, a husband-and-wife team of scientists from Lawrence Livermore Laboratories; ROSS ALLEN, the JULIE HOWARD of Talbott Vineyards, who told me about his friend''s joint in Mid-Valley, but for the life of me I can''t remember the place''s name; the incredible JELLYFISH ART EXHIBIT; CHUCK and HEIDI HUNSAKER (Chuck thinks there ought to be a contest each year for the best food display-I agree); the Germain-Robin brandies. Ran into TERRY TERFLINGER and MARILYN BEACH, former owners of White Oak Grill out in Carmel Valley. They looked so relaxed and healthy-he''s running a Ducati dealership and she''s working for a lawyer and investment banker-we miss ''em in the biz. I could go on and on.
As for the rest of the weekend''s events-the seminars, tastings, lunches and dinners-there was a little grousing by some of the old timers who are used to the festival when BOB MASSARO had it humming the last nine years or so. During this transitional year that the NATIONAL RESTAURANT ASSOCIATION EDUCATIONAL FOUNDATION has taken the reigns, it was to be expected that there would be a few glitches. All in all it was still a great festival-I got to speak to dozens of the attendees and virtually all were happy.
BEST BOY...Meanwhile, JOE and LYNN CINGARI christened their new son, OLIVER (actually, the priest at The Carmel Mission did the job) and had a fun gathering at THE FORGE IN THE FOREST. CHRIS HUFFINE, from wine and spirits distributor Young''s Market, played beautiful guitar music to enhance the festivities. Oliver, the star of the show, was like a sweet little dumpling we all took turns holding and playing with. There is nothing on earth more enriching than holding a baby close to you-it generates pure love that circulates between you both and elevates your spirit.
BEST SOUTHWEST...Had a lovely dinner at The Rio Grill. We hadn''t been there for dinner in a while and were reminded why that place rocks all the time-very nice ambiance with a touch of cool, plus good food and good service. The only thing missing was better music that was audible.
Speaking of good music, SWEET THING and I had a beautiful late lunch Sunday at CORKSCREW CAFe, out in Carmel Valley next to the Georis and Talbott tasting rooms. The garden patio, with trickling fountain, rustic appearance and gorgeous music played at the perfect level, perfectly framed our sumptuous meal made from the freshest possible ingredients. We had a beet and green bean salad that tasted like we were gnawing them from the plant stock. Also, when I went through the Georis tasting room, I could have sworn I spotted Michelle SPODARO there. Buon Appetito tutti.
-RAYMOND NAPOLITANO (RAY@COASTWEEKLY.COM)