What Winter Doldrums?
Thursday, January 27, 2005
GOOD PEOPLE DOING STUFF… As I’ve mentioned here before (actually, written, although the techies at the Weekly are working on an audio version of my column), I really don’t get out much, and you all know how few friends I have, but I occasionally do happen to discover a bit of somewhat newsworthy stuff about what’s actually going on around these parts (I do so love a run-on sentence, especially when I can attach a nice bit of apostrophe’d insertion at the end, thereby extending it even further—no doubt a bit of chum for the Freudian fish there).
So I’m fortunate enough to get an invite to play golf with Michael Staley, the Vincent Price of Carmel Valley (he’s gonna kill me for that one) on a beautiful January day at The Ranch (we insiders refer to it that way). Rounding out the foursome (although I imagine a foursome would be squared out, and if this group of squares is any indication, it was) were Danny Vitanza, owner of Pino’s Italian Café in the promenade there by the Double—oops, Portola Plaza Hotel, and Alan Telfer, some guy Michael knows who lives around here and has nothing better to do than beat the living crap out of us in golf every time he sets foot on the *&%$$ course…but I digress.
After a beautiful round, while we were casually sipping après-golf refreshments and paying Alan, there was much spirited (no pun intended) banter about the local restaurant scene. Each of us has been involved in it to varying degrees forever. It was nice to talk to a bunch of veterans about restaurant industry stuff—still one of my favorite topics of conversation. From those talks I gleaned there’s a new joint, Ling Chow’s, opened in the Barnyard, right next to Andres Lugano’s Swiss Bistro. It’s a Pan-Asian fusion situation (from what I understand) that sounds like it will be pretty hip…I’ve got to try it out.
Also, Lighthouse Bistro, the place on Lighthouse near Nevada Bob’s in New Monterey, was sold (to friends of Alan’s). They plan an authentic Irish pub there called Shane’s Irish Bistro, and are excited to get underway. At the corner of Dolores and 5th in Carmel, downstairs where Akaoni used to be, a brand new restaurant—at press time various names were still under consideration—recently opened. It’s owned by Jerome and Spill (she’s a local artist of note as well) Fressinier and they’ve completely transformed the place into a living art project with really tasty food, great sounds and a very cool vibe. They’re just getting started as well and I’ll get you more on them in futurecolumns.
TAKING THE CHANCE… It’s amazing how much activity is constantly going on in the restaurant business around here. In some instances I wish the people undertaking some of these endeavors would give me a call. I’ve watched so many places attempt openings in the wrong place, doing the wrong type of thing and seen them go under in a short time or, worse yet, hang on like a body on life support, barely getting by day to day. I have certainly been fooled though, and do applaud everyone who gives it a shot. Just contact me and let me raise some important questions for you to consider…if you are considering getting into this toughest of businesses in the toughest arena around.
Also in Carmel, right across the street from the Barnyard branch of the Carmel Post Office, is a cute little lunch place that just got taken over by a true character, Mike Chiero. He’s a Chicago guy through and through so he opened Chicago Kitchen, where he serves up authentic Chicago-style hot sandwiches like Italian Beef, Meatballs and Hot Dogs, all done to his exacting Chicago specifications. I had the Italian Beef (don’t even go there) and Sweet Thing had the Meatballs, and we were more than happy, sitting there surrounded by photos and murals of Chicago, chewing the fat with Mike—who has a personality the size of Mike Ditka—and digging the juicy, dripping sandwiches. Check this place out at 624-7468…they’ll make you up Super Bowl fixings for game day too.
GET OUT THERE… A lot of nice events coming up…newly built California Pizza Kitchen, in the Del Monte Center, is having a fund raiser for the Boys & Girls Club of Monterey County on Tuesday, Feb. 1. It’s a Grand Opening event in which CPK will donate 100 percent of the profits to that worthy organization that helps keep kids like me off the streets (obviously they weren’t around when I was a kid).
Feb. 12 is the all important Crystal Ball at Hyatt Regency. It’s the yearly fundraising event for the wonderful John XXIII AIDS Ministry and features a great dinner dance celebrating the Valentine’s season of love and giving. There is still time to donate something valuable for the silent auction and/or purchase tickets to attend; in fact, buy a whole table. Call Kate Pride (an apt moniker) at 655-1737 or firstname.lastname@example.org immediately.
Of course, two of the greatest events on the planet are right around the corner. Naturally I’m speaking (sorry, writing) of the AT&T Celebrity Pro Am Golf Tournament and the Masters of Food and Wine, both in early February. Normally, especially when it comes to the Masters, I go into lengthy, diatribunal (man, that’s a cool word) rants about why you should attend. You know what: If you need anyone to convince you about how great these two events are, you are hopeless and don’t deserve to be saved. Everyone else, get your credit card out and slap down whatever the fee to ensure your presence at these two truly world-class happenings.
Marina is getting into the act. My friend Andre, who owns Dishes Bistro on Reservation Road, about 100 yards before Cuqui’s Cars, the world’s greatest car and motorcycle dealership, sent me an email about the upcoming International Flavors of Marina event on Feb. 23. It will take place in the UCMBEST Center at Marina Airport (a totally cool and underutilized area) and will feature wonderful foods from Marina restaurants like Dishes, Wild Thyme/Michael’s Catering, Korena BBQ, El Palmar, AJ Spurs and others. Of course there will be vino for everyone with Paraiso, Estancia, Pavona, Lockwood and more, plus, everyone’s favorite beer from Marina’s own English Ales Brewery. Contact Andre Vadas at Dishes 883-1207 for more.
ENCORE… tackle a spot at Knuckles, at the Hyatt Regency for the Super Bowl party. Ole’ Mac has that bad boy pumped up with so many promos and fun things that it completely spills over into the ballroom with giant screens, the works, 372-1234…terranovafinewines.com, that’s terranovafinewines.com. Now hear (see) this, the Web site is up, running and looking good.
Welcome back Mike and Mediterraneo Imports (behind Costco) 393-1075…Wendy Brodie is doing a really cool France trip in May (more to follow) 626-9000…Jacques and Janet Melac are doing a really cool Mediterranean cruise in July with Silversea Cruises (more to follow), 625-5646 or 659-0151…Adam LaZarre and Hahn Estates are winning everything in sight…more to come on everything. Have fun, open your heart and pour out the love.