Thursday, March 8, 2007
SHOWTIME… It’s March Madness time, when universities across America vibrate with anticipation and excitement as their gangly warriors chase down their hoop dreams. College basketball is pretty big business in many institutions. It doesn’t have huge overhead like football, player rosters are relatively small; but ticket sales in 20,000-seat arenas, combined with lucrative television packages, advertising revenues and enormous alumni donorship can add up to millions per year in the university’s coffers. With that kind of money on the line, coaches, players and administrators feel the pressure. In the face of that pressure, to believe that many of them don’t bend, break or simply disregard the rules—many of which are exceedingly impractical and hypocritical—is naïve at best, really naïve at worst. The specter of gambling hanging over the whole thing adds yet another dimension.
That said, it’s still a good show.
Local Heroes…Another good show happens nightly at Alberto’s, on Forest Avenue in Pacific Grove, where Il Signore himself, the irrepressible Don Alberto Bonatelli, holds court over stove, dining room and spectators alike. When you have folks visiting you from out of town, there’s no better place to bring them for down-home Italian food combined with Alberto’s singular expression of why neighborhood trattorias, where the owner is actually cooking your meal, are the best example of why we eat out in the first place. Hit albertos-ristorante.com or call 373-3993.
Our own local Chris “The Beer Geek” Nelson, who is among the final four candidates for the newly created job of Chief Beer Officer for the entire Four Points by Sheraton line of hotels, needs your vote. Log onto thebeergeek.com, vote for him, then send the link to everybody in your address book and get them to do the same. Hurry, you’ve got like two days left.
Visiting Dignitaries…Queen Ann of Winchester arrived last week for an extended West Coast vacation. With her entourage of servants (me and Sweet Thing), Her Royal Highness ventured out among the proletariat to tend to her subjects. First stop was a reception at Fifi’s Café & Bistro, that den of Parissien atop the hill in PG. Michele and Calvin Wilkes, proprietors, set the majestic front table for 10 and provided a splendid feast for Queen Ann and another dignitary, Italian Countess Ofelia Muracchioli, who was visiting from her Cambria estate.
Another stop along the Queen’s social route was the splendid Parsonage wine dinner at Garden Bistro. Owner Roxana Robles-Gorriti is thrilled to have Daniel Barduzzi on board at the Bistro. Barduzzi, a long time industry veteran, adds the perfect touch to a restaurant that specializes in the best ingredients prepared in delicious style in a comfortable Carmel Valley setting.
The next event scheduled at Garden Bistro is Mar. 16, Moroccan Night, featuring bellydancer Jamaica Sinclair.
THE WINE BEYOND… For you Burgundy hounds, the Domaine Comte De Vogue Rarities Dinner at L’Auberge Carmel on Saturday, Mar. 10, will catapult you one step closer to Pinot Paradise. Le Musigny from ’49, ’69, ’91 and about seven or eight other vintages, along with the always delicious L’Auberge food and the sophisticated, elegant and stylishly smooth wine commandeering of Sommelier Thomas Perez will put this one over the top. Call 624-8578.
I don’t know if you’ve ever met Chef Alessio Giannuzzi of Il Fornaio. He’s a gregarious, fun-loving guy who loves to have a good time, especially when it comes to sharing his knowledge of and love for Italian food. He is launching Chef Alessio’s Tuscan Cooking Classes, a series of hands-on cooking classes recreating dishes highlighting his hometown region of Tuscany. All classes include a five-course menu and are prepared alongside Chef Alessio in the kitchen at La Giostra Ristorante in Monterey using the freshest local ingredients. Italian wines accompany the menu and the cost is somewhere in the $100 dollar range, which includes a morning reception and coffee, three-hour class and recipe book, the five-course meal with wine and commemorative apron. Class is limited to 12 guests so call 238-5553 or visit foodwineandfun.com.
MUCH TOO MUCH… Christopher Caul, Chef/owner/raconteur (I really don’t know what that word means, but I’ll bet he’s one), of Christopher’s on Lincoln in Carmel, was telling me that he’s still having trouble convincing locals that Christopher’s is just a casual local hang out, not just a destination, special-occasion joint. I suggested he spray paint some graffiti on the inside walls to make the place look a little ragged. Hey, it’s not often you get to have a fun, tasty, casual restaurant experience in a place that looks like a formal affair—get happy and dig the good fortune. Casual doesn’t have to be ugly.
Look for Ryan and Fermin Sanchez’ next Surf n’ Sand tasting at Christopher’s. It takes place on Tuesday, March 27. Fine wine is the theme with many, many great wines to try, nibbles by Chef Chris, Ryan and me playing one-on-one basketball (no, that’s another event), call 624-1805 for more info…my buddies at Passionfish received another award, Sanctuary Reflections Award for their role in keeping the Monterey Bay a sanctuary. A big right on and thanks to their ongoing efforts…CASA Monterey, “Lighting The Way” 10th annual gala fundraiser at Hyatt Regency on Saturday, March 31, recreating the Cotton Club with Dennis Murphy and a 17-piece band, Mark Ayers (Highlands) and Clay Purcell (Hyatt) cooking a great meal, wines, booze, broads (hey, it’s the Cotton Club), the works, casamonterey.org, 455-6800…I’m outta here.