FOODCHAIN: Smells Like a Winner
Thursday, July 28, 2005
SOUP STARTER… I’ve had a nice week so far, especially if you include the couple of days coming up (which will actually be a couple of days that just passed when this comes out in the paper. With this opening salvo of disjointed words I manage to sink a few of the stout vessels carrying English language rules from the Chicago Manual of Style, the authority on editing and writing). My editors over the years have approached my gumbo from many different angles. I think the ones who end up the happiest are the ones that pass it along to one of the rookie staff—kind of like a rite of passage…“Here, edit this thing. If you can get through it without punching something, you’ve got the job.”
But I digress—what exactly from has yet to be established. Just want to say congrats to my man DOUG AHLSTRAND, a long time sales rep with the Henry Wine Group. He was so good he got kicked upstairs to do more of a regional manager thing. I know those shoes are going to be hard to fill on the street—it’s like trying to coach the 49ers after Jim Walsh—or was it Joe Walsh?
FAIR PLAY… So I went to the Monterey Fairgrounds last week to be one of the judges at the first MONTEREY COUNTY FAIR WINE CHALLENGE. It was a blast. There were about 20 judges, all local wine and restaurant biz people. We had to assess approximately 115 wines. I know this sounds like I’m whining, but you feel like you’re over a barrel being pressed into judging that many wines that fast, so don’t have sour grapes because it seems glamorous. There ain’t a glamorous thing about swirling, sniffing, sipping and spitting at 10am…but I wouldn’t have missed it for the world.
The results will be announced at the Monterey County Fair at a dinner for about 100 people who will be served the winning wines. What a great idea by STEVE PESSAGNO and FRED CRUMMEY, who came up with the plan, organized it and ran one of the smoothest tastings you’d ever want to see.
RAISE A GLASS… Speaking of wines, you should have been at Peppoli in Pebble Beach when ALBIERA ANTINORI, daughter of the Marchese Piero Antinori, presented a number of stunning wines in conjunction with a four-course feast by Peppoli Chef ARTURO MOSCOSO. Chef Moscoso has really elevated the cuisine at Peppoli, due in part to his time spent in Tuscany absorbing the culinary scene, trading recipes, etc. Between the food, the wines and the setting, you couldn’t have asked for a better night. The place was jammed with happy, happy diners. For a taste of it all, stop in one night. They have the wines on the list and the food in the kitchen.
HELL, RAISE ANOTHER GLASS… Continuing in the wine world, check out the latest edition of the WINE SPECTATOR. The cover story is about the best restaurants in the world for wine lovers. Monterey County rocked the book with 20 something restaurants. First, the five Grand Award winners: CASANOVA, MARINUS, PACIFIC’S EDGE, SARDINE FACTORY and SIERRA MAR—this has to be the highest per capita of anywhere on earth.
The others mentioned include ANTON & MICHEL, BOUCHEE, CALIFORNIA MARKET, CARMEL CHOP HOUSE, CIELO, CLUB XIX, COVEY, FANDANGO, FRESH CREAM, GRASING’S, IL FORNAIO, L’AUBERGE CARMEL, MONTRIO, NEPENTHE, OLD BATH HOUSE, PAJARO STREET GRILL, PASSIONFISH, PEPPOLI, RIO GRILL, ROY’S, STILLWATER BAR & GRILL, TAP ROOM, TARPY’S AND WICKETS BAR & BISTRO. Believe me, there are a couple of dozen more that fall right in line with these, proving ours is just about the greatest area anywhere for wine.
RED BALLS OF GLORY… This past week was also the judging of the TOMATOFEST recipes. It was an all-star panel of judges: BERT CUTINO (needs no intro), RICK EDGE (Executive Chef, Club XIX), SARA SCHNEIDER (Food Editor, Sunset Magazine), PETER PAHK (Executive Chef, Silverado Resort), HERVE LE BIAVANT (Executive Chef, California Culinary Academy), BEAT GIGER (Director Special Events/Corporate Chef, Pebble Beach Co.) and GARY IBSEN (he must have known somebody…oh, that’s right, he started the TomatoFest).
I couldn’t make it to observe…frankly, I was being prissy because I wasn’t asked to judge—although, frankly, why would I be?
FAMOUS FOODIES IN OUR NECK OF THE WOODS ARE A GOOD THING… Actually, I’ll confess. I had plans to go hang out with EMERIL LAGASSE up in San Juan Bautista. He was coming to film a segment of “Bringing It Home with LAURA MCINTOSH,” a cooking show shot entirely on location at regional farms, featuring dynamic host McIntosh and notable guest chefs.
As you may have read here, our own BRANDON “I’m not the guy who makes the skiing videos” MILLER and JEFF “Choir Boy” JAKE have already been on the show. I guess Laura was getting desperate for guests so she had to start seeking out some of the other up and comers in the business, like this Emeril guy. The filming took place at Pride of San Juan, at 1275 San Justo Rd. up there in beautiful SJB. I’ll let you know how it went next week.
ORGANIC WOMEN ARE NATURALLY A GOOD THING… Got a cool e-newsletter from ELKHORN FARM & MERCANTILES. It introduced the principals: “If you haven’t met us, we are HELAINE, SARAH and JANE, three women and a barn. Our mission is to bring you products you’re unlikely to find anywhere else in Central California (or dare we say, anywhere else for that matter!) all under one roof. Although we are committed to offering locally produced produce (organic whenever possible), fine foods, and art, we scour the country for the unusual, the unique, and the exquisite. If we wouldn’t eat or wear it, we won’t sell it. We do our level best to bring you these delights at the best possible prices. This is definitely not your garden-variety roadside stop!”
Now that’s what I call an uplifting introduction. Check out the Web site at www.elkhornfarmandmercantile.com or stop by at 8850-B Highway 1 in Moss Landing, or call 633-4769. You’ve got to love the exciting and creative new things we get to experience in our patch of paradise.
WE JUST CAN’T STOP MAKING NEWS… Local celebrity chef WENDY BRODIE and her husband/partner Bob Bussinger made it back safely (although probably a bit calorie rich) from a France guest chef gig. Find out all about it on her Web site: www.wendybrodie.com.
ANTHONY DIAS BLUE, a big shot writer in the food and wine game, recently gave props on WCBS Newsradio in New York and KFWB Newsradio in LA to a great Web site, www.localwineevents.com. If you’ve never checked it out, do so. It lists hundreds of events around the world (including the Monterey Beer Festival).
THERE’S NO PLACE LIKE THE RED HOUSE… Sweet Thing and I hit Red House in Pacific Grove for dinner last week for the first time in a while. Got to give it up to CHRIS D’AMICO, who interprets his mother’s gift in the kitchen by consistently putting out perfect meals day after day. We’ve never missed once there…not even close. Stay cool.