Keep It Crackin’
Crab season opens up more must-know info.
Thursday, December 11, 2008
It’s been an interesting year for the talented and enterprising Gabe Georis, longtime general manager/apparent heir of his family’s Casanova Restaurant dynasty in Carmel by the Sea. First he and local teacher/longtime sweetie Mandy got married this October. Now he’s striking out on his own on the food frontier. While Georis’ rather-gifted-in-his-own-right little brother Nico stirred audiences at Monterey Live, Big G told me a 50-seat venue in the village in the courtyard behind Ron’s Liquors (formerly the Gem) will suit his needs nicely.
Expect him to select a savvy chef and build a dynamite wine list. “It’ll be geared toward the local scene,” he says. “Not over-the-top expensive.” He hopes to open by February or March.
SNAPPY AND HAPPY
The season of celebration is officially here: Crab season has started. For those locals so slow on the epicurean uptake that they haven’t de-shelled the gift that keeps on giving (and giving) that is the Portuguese Hall’s Crab Feed, ask somebody. They’ll tell you the event, which fills a massive expanse of picnic tables (twice) with people from all over the county, is absolutely cracking.
The energy is as contagious as the appetite for all-you-can-eat crab, shrimp and garlic bread bathed in a cioppino sauce (unlimited cheap wine too). Last month the atmosphere there, as always, rivaled the mood of the Super Bowl-winning team’s sideline – everybody is dizzy-dirty from smashing heads, delirious from enduring the two-hour-long victory and (rightfully) feels like a champion. Next one’s in February. More soon.
In the meantime, Sea Harvest is a great spot to seek out sweet crab meat, but call one of their three spots first – at $7.99-$8.99 a pound, it’s not always in stock (Monterey, 646-0547; Moss Landing, 728-8686; Carmel, 626-3626). My favorite joint for fresh catches, Royal Seafood up the Municipal Wharf in Monterey (655-8326, www.royalseafoods.com), has it for $7.50.
The best crab sandwich in town is a harpoon throw from there, down Wharf II at Sand Bar and Grill (373-2818, www.sandbarandgrill.com): fresh bits of crab, a couple of shrimp in there for good measure, truly crisp bacon (a lost art), fries, $10.95. Go for sourdough instead of the egg bread. Or try the scampi with the crab salad and slap the salad in with the garlic and butter.
ON THE SCHEID
Scheid Vineyards next Wine’d Down Sunday cometh Dec. 21 3pm – 6pm at its new 2,000 square foot Wine Lounge at 751 Cannery Row (656-WINE, www.scheidvineyards.com/). Go for superlative sips, flamenco guitar and freshly made breadsticks, gourmet nuts and charcuteries made by the Culinary Center of Monterey’s Mary Pagan. Wine flights range from $10 to $20. Free apps and a 15 percent discount on bottles for locals.
Speaking of Scheid, those fine wines led me to the Sardine Factory’s cellar room for the first time for a tasting dinner. The report from beneath the floorboards: The hype is deserved for both the room and Scheid’s reserves. There are few banquet/party backdrops as well appointed as the room they dug out after the Factory was built: Between the century-plus old felled redwood table assembled in the room (ever tried to take a 30-foot table down a slender stone staircase?), the Napoleon III era imported lamps, and the seamless service and top handiwork from the chef (not everybody serves dessert in a carved-ice swan), it’s easy to overlook the private polished wood lockers in narrow alleys stowing under-lock-and-key collections for political gunslingers Clint Eastwood and Arnold Schwarzenegger. In other words, find a way to wriggle into the cellar some time – and weigh the opportunity to attend Scheid events seriously.
Upstairs, the Factory (373-3775, www.sardinefactory.com) continues to churn out devoutly honest deals in the bar area. Classy gals offer cherry bargains on well drinks and tapas every night from 5pm on – $3.95-$6.95 for items like margarita oyster shooters and crab-stuffed mushrooms. Piano man David Conley, legendary barman Big Mike and the swanky setting alone could merit a cover, so these deals mean mad value.
Nearby, Jose’s Mexican Food (655-4419) and otherworldly welcoming owner Ozzie Maldonado have a newly baptized deal going themselves: dinner and an IMAX movie. Anything on the menu – Oz recommends steak and shrimp – plus a ticket, for $19.95 (they’re playing Wild Ocean, Polar Express or Dark Knight). Actually, Dark Knight is $24, but the Wild Ocean, while shorter, is the most breathtaking of the bunch. Especially combined with a carnitas taco-cheese enchilada-chile relleno combo.
KEEP IT COMING
Bobby Fried has masterminded a pretty inspiring lineup of activity for a brand spanking-new lifestyle event at the choice environs of Gardiner’s Resort. Check out the calendar listing for Yulefest in our reliably blockbuster calendar for more, but put it this way: he has aligned some stars – Brandon Miller, Gary Pisoni, Carrissa Chappellet, Peter Figge, Damien Georis are among the many standouts. Book one of the cavalry of eye-catching events (inspiring dinners, top tastings, brunch, floating candles, small lot wines, snow actually falling from the sky – dude knows what he’s doing). 1-800-453-6225.
Heller Estate – the original gangsters of organic wines – host an open house Dec. 13-14 from 11am-4pm (659-6220). If the wine and chocolate tasting, gourmet foods and mulled wines aren’t enough to draw you to their heavenly haunt of a backyard, rethink your approach.
Ken and Robyn Rauh, longtime stalwarts of the goblet with A Taste of Monterey, are Monterey County Hospitality Association’s honorees for the Fourth Annual Volunteer of the Year Award, bestowed Tuesday, Dec. 9, at the InterContinental. The. MCHA also installed a new board, including incoming Madam President Sarah Cruse from Quail Lodge. No word on where her beloved and everpresent pooch/assistant GM/bouncer Max will file into her cabinet appointments.