An enthusiastic new chef at Stokes Adobe and more fresh stuff.
Thursday, January 8, 2009
Former Stokes Sous Chef Brian Christensen got an interesting Christmas present. Only when I ran into him late Dec. 25, the 30-year-old Carmel native hadn’t quite figured out how to react – he was enthused by the opportunity the unexpected gift represented but humbled by the responsibility it would bring.
Stokes GM/co-owner Kirk Probasco had just called and told Christensen he was now the restaurant’s top culinary shot caller. Award-winning chef Brandon Miller’s reign was over.
“Brandon and I had a long-running relationship,” Probasco said later. “[But] he was ready to do his own gig.
“Brian, having been with us for 3 years, is a great fit,” he added. “He’s young, enthusiastic, has great energy, and is a damn fine cook.”
Probasco and Christensen share a desire to honor what has made Stokes a beloved local staple, while tweaking the cuisine to match the new chef’s style.
“It’s not going to be wholesale changes, but there will be some changes to morph it into BC’s food,” he said.
Christensen, who trained at San Fran’s Campton Place under Michelin star-powered Daniel Humm, wants to crossbreed what he learned at one of the city’s so-called Magnificent Seven – named for their status as the area’s four-star spots – with Stokes’ locally sourced Northern Mediterranean-California fare.
“There’s a lot of things I don’t think should change because they’ve worked for 13 years,” he says, sitting down to structure his first menu. “It’ll still be all slow food, organic – and people can still get their duck confit salad. But there are a lot of things that are going to change. I want to add the refined element I learned at Campton Place.”
The Stokes Era BC begins this Friday, Jan. 9, when Stokes (373-1110, www.stokesrestaurant.com) opens after its annual weeklong hiatus to steam, buff and polish the historic premises.
Pity the people who aren’t feeling the flavor of fungus. The triumph of the truffle. The seduction of the chanterelle. The power of the portabella.
Recent news from a 2008 study only reinforces what folks at the Fungus Federation – who celebrate the adorable spore this weekend in Santa Cruz – have known all along. In short: Shrooms make you feel good. Locally based Monterey Mushrooms, Inc. was happy to share the news. They quote Walter S. Newman Jr., M.D., adjunct associate professor of medicine at Stanford University, in a recent press release citing mushrooms’ Vitamin D-rich properties that ward off everything from depression and diabetes to obesity and cancer.
“The arrival of mushrooms as a low calorie and natural option for Vitamin D supplementation heralds a giant step in the prevention of osteoporosis and other Vitamin D related conditions,” he said.
From 11am to 4pm Saturday and Sunday at the Santa Cruz Museum of Natural History, the 35th Annual Santa Cruz Fungus Fair honors the charge “to keep the fun in fungus” with a forest of exhibits, classes and cooking demos. Tickets are cheap, and the medicinal benefits discussed by many of the experts merit the drive by themselves – and make the mushroom quiche, cookies and cheesecake a delicious bonus.
THE OTHER SIDE
For all the lore the Tap Room at the Pebble Beach Lodge leverages, the Inn at Spanish Bay’s Sticks might be the cooler venue. The bar area at Sticks (17 Mile Dr., Pebble Beach, 647-7470) enjoys a 70-foot-long glass wall that taps beautiful views of the putting greens with the Asilomar Beach-bordered Pacific beyond. Some golf-fiend family members of mine love it because of the wine list, the sturdy menu and the fact that the banks of TVs make it a place where they can catch the game and their adorable ankle biter set can make a little noise.
The blackened tilapia fish tacos ($13.50), burgers and melts ($10.50-$14.50) and the seafood selections are rewarding ways to go; Bagpiper Specials rotate good stuff Monday through Sunday. I took on Tuesday’s pulled pork-stuffed baked potato ($15 with soup or salad) and wasn’t disappointed – tender and juicy peels of meat, crispy onion rings and pico de gallo.
Meanwhile, an ideal spot to grab a pre-dinner sipper lies across the lobby, where big fire pits draw folks looking to absorb the dying light and strands of bagpiper music nightly at sunset.
Rough news from a tough industry: The Weekly’s Micheal Whalen tells me P.G.’s superlative Melange is closing Jan. 10. Get there now for a final taste of greatness… Tried out the new Lebanese joint on Alvarado next to Lallapallooza. Maha’s Cuisine (372-8999) does a mean shish kebab ($13.95) and good stuffed peppers ($9.95), and their own take on stuffed grape leaves ($5.95). Everything – the falafel, the schwarma, the tawook – is from scratch. Enthusiastic Souhail Aridi, a professor at DLI, and his wife, Maha, run the show… Theo’s Cheesesteaks opens in Oldtown Salinas at 16 E. Gabilan on Jan. 15. Looks to be no joke – they’re bringing in Amoroso rolls from Philly, stuffing it with rib-eye and Cheez Wiz, white American and provolone. And there’s a vegetarian version for those still toeing the New Year’s Resolution line.