This Will Be Our Year
Thursday, January 12, 2006
Gotta say I enjoyed the holidays this year. Me and my SWEET THING started ‘em up on Christmas Eve, with a tree-trimming open house and we went straight through ‘til about Jan. 9. Had a beautiful Christmas tree, played holiday music, had friends over numerous times, went to a bunch of parties…all in all, a great holiday season.
Now is the time around these parts when local businesses slow down for a few weeks. Many use it as an opportunity to close, get a vacation, do some important maintenance or redecorating, then come on strong for the heavy February events like the AT&T, Valentine’s Day, the MASTERS OF FOOD AND WINE, etc. Hopefully, we’ll have a beautiful rainy season with enough rain to fill the reservoirs and water all the growing things, but nature will give us a break on the weekends when we have our events, and most importantly, not wash out Highway 1, so our neighbors in Big Sur won’t be cut off.
This year’s Masters of Food and Wine, the 20th, is shaping up to be one of the greatest ever. Log on www.mfandw.com to check out the lineup of star chefs, winemakers and other food industry titans.
FRESH TASTE… I was at the Highlands recently talking to food and beverage director ROB WEAKLEY about this and that when I heard someone yell out, “Rayyy.” I turned to see an attractive young blond woman running toward me. Naturally, my first response was fear, since attractive young blond women only run at me to exact some type of punishment (they normally run away from me). But then I recognized this particular person as MEGAN WALTER, long lost daughter of TED and CINDY WALTER and sister of KEVIN WALTER, all of Passionfish fame. Well, she hasn’t actually been lost, just away at school in Adelaide (that’s in Australia), studying enology (stuff having to do with wine).
Well she recently graduated and is back on the scene with a vengeance, as well as a degree. Turns out my man Rob “Watch This” Weakley had Megan in there interviewing for the recently vacated position of wine director, following the beloved BERNABE DE LUNA’s departure to the latest MICHAEL MINA project down in Orange County. Next thing you know, guess who’s the new top cellar dog at Highlands Inn? You guessed it: Megan “Don’t Let The Blond Hair Fool You” Walter. How about that, yet another twentysomething star in the professional world of restaurants. I say a big right on to that.
NEIGHBORLY GORMANDERIE… With the holidays crimping the deadline situation I wasn’t able to get some newsy tidbits in, like the fact the JULIHANH of Carmel, on Ocean, second place east of Lincoln Street, over there where CAFÉ NAPOLI used to be (not LITTLE NAPOLI, which is around the corner on Dolores, just past TUTTO MONDO—would it be so hard for Carmel to put some numbers on the addresses? All right, how about letters? Or dog breeds? “My address is Yorkshire Terrier, Dolores.” No, that wouldn’t work…Argghhhh. I think I have a holiday hangover…) Where was I? Oh yeah, Julihanh. They’ve got a revamped lunch menu, featuring new dishes and new pricing. Stop by to check it out, you’ll enjoy it.
Also, stop down to the Crossroads Shopping Center and give a look-see to the one-two punch of CHIANTI RISTORANTE and BISTRO 211. Domenico Vastarella and Jon Magnusson, the two iconoclastic owners of those two fine establishments, have the market cornered in their courtyard of wining and dining. You can jump back and forth between places, depending upon your whims, but either way, you’ll enjoy yourself. Often, after everything winds down, Domenico and Jon can be found in one place or the other, explaining some of the deeper mysteries of life to anyone interested.
LETTUCE PRAY… One of the deep mysteries is how MILLS FAMILY FARMS gets those magnificent Wholeleaves in the packages. If you’re not aware of it, the Mills Brothers (I just love using that) came up with a process whereby lettuce leaves are individually selected, separated from the core with a patented “no-cut” system, meticulously washed and carefully packed, then shipped to restaurant and food service applications throughout the country. I have been to the plant in Salinas and done a tour from the farm to the final packaging and I was blown away by how amazing these lettuces (lettuci?) are.
Anyway, turns out the AMERICAN HEART ASSOCIATION agrees, but for a different reason—they are really good for you too. The stuff is all now certified with the AHA’s heart-check mark, the symbol that grocery shoppers look for in heart-healthy food choices. Oh yeah, the AMERICAN CULINARY INSTITUTE has given Wholeaves “Best of Class” status every year since 2002, when it was introduced. I say a big rabbit right-on for all that beautiful lettuce.
HEAD NORTH… We were in Marina having dinner at Dishes Bistro, the warm and friendly eatery of ANDRE and GUDRAN VADAS, when he started telling us about the upcoming Second Annual International Flavors of Marina event on Wednesday, Feb. 22. For those of you who missed this last year, it was a wonderful evening, with loads of great food from the varied Marina dining establishments, plus local wine and beer, music, an auction…it was really fun.
Only 425 tickets (at only $20) are on sale for this year’s soiree so act now. Call 883-1207 or email Andre at email@example.com to reserve some spots. Or just go down to Dishes, have a bite to eat, maybe a Capirinha (I know that’s spelled wrong) or two and enjoy life while you’re buying tickets. Adios y’all.