The Last Best Piece
Thursday, March 2, 2006
BEST OF THE BEST… So another Best of Monterey County issue is here (or near). The editorial staff and the writers always get to find out the results early since we have to create the cute little synopses (synapses?)…um, write-ups that appear in the issue. I’m glad we’re getting to have some Editors’ Picks again this year because, quite frankly, I usually disagree with many of the Reader’s Picks. For example, there is no way that the best…(come on, you really think I’m going to give it away?). I guess that is what makes Best of lists so interesting…they sure do stir things up.
FUN SEASON APPROACHES… I’m getting spring fever, man. I don’t really know what that means, it’s just that every spring, I start getting a little crazy (I hear the wisecracks) and I want to do things like quit my jobs and move to another state or something (Hallelujah Martha, we’re finally through with this nut). So I’d like you all to be the first to find out that this is my last column in the Monterey County Weekly. I’d like to thank all the folks who so graciously allowed me…hah hah…April Fools. Got you didn’t I?…what, it’s only March? Oh well, a practice run. Y’all aren’t gonna get rid of me that easily.
Another great International Flavors of Marina event last Wednesday. Kudos to all the wonderful MARINARIANS who made that possible, with special congrats to ANDRE VADAS of Dishes Bistro, who played the point man for the organizing group. Marina has got a style unlike any other of the municipalities around here and it really shines at that party. No doubt about it, next year it needs a slightly bigger venue.
Don’t forget to check out the exciting things going on up at Elkhorn Farm and Mercantile on Route 1 just before Moss Landing. JANE E. BEDNAR (I love a woman who uses her middle initial) and HELAINE TREGENZA are creating quite the cozy quality-conscious outlet for diverse products made with love and thoughtfulness by conscientious and caring professionals. Everything from free-range eggs to really cool hand cream, get up there, bestroadsidestop.com.
Sunday, March 5 is one of my favorite events, the MCAP Party With Oscar hoe-down (watch it) at Embassy Suites. Dress up like JAYNE MANSFIELD (or not) who is this year’s tribute, or just dress up (or not). But come, eat, drink, watch the Academy Awards on giant screens, dance, bid on auction items and most importantly, help a great organization do important work helping victims of HIV/AIDS and their families. Call 394-4747.
Some time between when this story is filed and when it appears, two wayward local boys will have returned from their lively jaunt down under. These two, who will temporarily remain unnamed, spent about a week and a half tooling around Australia playing golf, being hosted by wineries and getting all manner of special treatment. As soon as I get all the juicy little inside stories, I’ll be sure to pass along the printable ones…along with who it is I’m referring to, of course. Great, this column’s looking more and more like a sleazy tabloid piece every week. (See Martha, I told you).
CH-CH-CH-CHANGES… Bully III, I’m sorry, Mulligan’s, has been bought and will reincarnate as an Italian restaurant. Also, Toot’s Lagoon, aka Lucy’s (or whatever), now owned by the DAVID FINK gang, I believe, is also headed toward some type of Italian/Mediterranean style. Looks like the Italians are quickly outpacing the French for most copied cuisine…but it’s like Vegas. The more they keep opening Indian casinos around the country the greater the allure of Las Vegas, and in this town, the Vegas of Italian food is still ALBERTO’S.
TONY SALAMEH, owner of Anton & Michel (my first employer in this area) as well as partner in the Grill on Ocean Avenue, Portabella and Merlot Bistro, plus past player in a number of local restaurants and long-time wine expert and collector (he has the longest vertical of Chateau Montelena Estate anywhere on Anton & Michel’s list) told me a great story confirming yet another reason why restaurateurs are a breed apart.
His policy has always been to take back a wine after the customer has tried it, if that customer wants it taken back. Already, that’s where he and I differ (we had great debates—alright, arguments—when I worked for him). I think, if a customer chooses the wine and he doesn’t know what he’s ordering and doesn’t ask for or show any inclination toward being helped, the only way that wine should go back is if it’s flawed—showing TCA, overly oxidized or any other result of bad storage or another defect. Of course, every circumstance is individual and you always would help out somebody where you can—there’s flexibility with most wines…but not the following.
So Tony is passionately (I love that about him) telling me about this table of golfers (sometimes a dirty word) that orders the 1982 Chateau Petrus off the list—3,000 strokes baby—you know the waiter was salivating. It’s opened, poured—the guy sends it back.
As luck would have it, neither Tony, nor BERT SIMPSON, his longtime capo, was around to intercede at this juncture, so the manager on duty dutifully took back the wine. The second choice was ’82 Lafitte, only $800 or so. Same thing, he sends it back…it is taken back (by now, I’m throwing them out—maybe that’s why I had to get out of that business). They settle on a Caymus Special Selection California Cab (to savvy wine folks, the answer as to why is evident).
To compound things, nobody on the staff drank the two returned bottles. I would have sat at the table next to the golfers and savored the errors of their ways—then gotten fired. They just let two of the greatest wines ever made sit and rot away in the cellar, where they remain to this day. (“Since I wrote them off on my taxes I’m keeping them around in case I’m audited,” says Tony wryly.) Reason #1,239,005 why you don’t want to get into this crazy-ass business in the first place. See you next time.