Three good values and a tale of two bakeries.
Thursday, July 31, 2008
The chef is smiling. That’s not terribly surprising, because he’s talking about food.
Sous Chef Shean Suter stands tableside at California Market (622-5450), touching on everything from $300 cookbooks to his genetic tendency to sneak away from farm tours to try stuff. But he really starts grinning as he hits upon a favorite culinary theme of his, creativity, which so happens to be at the heart of his restaurant’s “Hot Summer Nights” prix-fixe-menu promotion.
He says featuring a different fresh ingredient and farm for each week’s set menu lets him and his staff really have fun crafting dynamic dishes.
“It’s a playground,” he says.
Last week it was stone fruit and Frog Hollow from the Sacramento River Delta. Bartender Les Sula’s Strawberry Lemon Drop Martini led off the menu, followed by endive stuffed with a delicious goat cheese lobster salad, a generous plate of grilled herbed chicken (with a bing cherry and apricot cous cous) and a dynamite chocolate hazelnut mille-feuille from pastry wizard George Fritzche.
At $45, it’s a deal befitting CM’s reputation as the spot for discerning locals looking for a more relaxed, less-expensive, but breathtaking-view-intact alternative to the fine dining furnished by Pacific’s Edge upstairs.TOTALLY SET
The fix is in every week at Old Fisherman’s Grotto (375-4604), too. The iconic Wharf spot is one that locals tend to leave to the tourists, but on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, they should reconsider staking a claim.
The value I uncovered from Chris Shake and company midweek was a revelation. A bowl of the still-the-best clam chowder (chosen over a green salad), a plate of well-executed sand dabs from a list including chicken picatta, seafood pasta and broiled salmon– with two very sturdy sides– and a prodigious piece of cheesecake all go for a slim $12.95. Wines, meanwhile, are 25 percent off.
The great-value campaign is also alive at the new Me-n-Ed’s Pizza in the evolving Seaside City Center. Over there at Broadway and Fremont, the endless pizza pie and salad sessions take place 11:30am-2pm weekdays for $6.99 ($8.65 with tax and drink). This Monday an all-you-can-eat episode traversed cheese bread, a big salad and several types of pie (including the veggie with broccoli pictured below and a white-sauce slice with chicken and bacon) that satisfied while stopping just short of the post-buffet bloat. Here, beer’s also a good deal, anytime: pitchers are $8.50/domestic, $10.99/premium– and $5.50 and $6.99, respectively, for the all-too-rare half-pitcher option.BAKERIES GOING AND COMING
Weekly Editor Tina May was a little solemn last week. Chris’s Classic Confections, purveyors of what she calls “extraordinary caramel corn” and “a killer chocolate-peanut butter pie,” closed its doors for the last time a week back.
The mom-and-son shop was in operation for just over two years at the Monte Vista Village shopping center in Monterey. There is some solace in the fact that while Barbara McHale calculates her next move and Chris Beavers plans to join the California Highway Patrol, McHale will sell her treats to restaurants and at farmers markets, including downtown Monterey’s (where she will take requests).
Other comfort for baked-goods groupies emerged across town, as local shop Fournier’s Bakery Café (655-1447) found new life on Lighthouse Avenue in Pacific Grove after leaving Carmel’s Crossroads about three months back. The hot breakfast sandwiches are an indulgent way to start the day (I tried a deliciously rich turkey-pancetta-and-provolone on a croissant for $5.95); the fresh Olallieberry muffins are also worthy. Come lunch, a strong selection of deli sandwiches (with chips: $4.75/half; $8.25/whole) and grilled paninis on focaiccia ($8.25) look promising.