Farmers markets flourish, Basil dishes late night and several more tangy tidbits.
Thursday, June 18, 2009
Like a gorgeously orange and green chunk of chard, this is pretty purty: With the addition of a Del Monte Center Farmers Market on Sundays, locals can get their fresh fix at 14 different county open-air venues nearly every day of the week.
Think about it. There’s a Sunday session in Marina and at both Northridge Mall and Hartnell College in Salinas. Mondays means produce in the streets of P.G. Tuesdays has three (in East Salinas, at the Barnyard in Carmel and in downtown Monterey), Wednesday there’s a market at Toro Park Elementary School, Thursdays stay fresh in Alisal, at Monterey Peninsula College and down south in Soledad, and Saturdays ripen in Greenfield and Oldtown Salinas. (For times, visit www.montereycountyweekly.com/fresh.)
The DMC’s market debuts June 28 with live music from the Farmers Market String Band, free cake courtesy of Catering Magik, complimentary coffee from Whole Foods and – wait for it – balloons. Oh, and more than 25 vendors will set up from 8am-noon. www.montereybayfarmers.org, 728-5060.
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When the upscale champagne and fancy chocolate spot Bubbly Fish went pop a few months back, Basil Seasonal Dining (626-8226) assumed its cute-as-a-cupcake spot in Carmel’s Paseo courtyard on San Carlos between Ocean and Seventh.
Like the restaurant itself, the menu is small but appealing, with exactingly crafted California-Mediterranean food like duck prosciutto-wrapped chicken ($17.50) and butter fish nicoise ($19.75) prepped fresh by hands-on Chef-Owner Michele Cremonese in the itsy bitsy kitchen. An insider-by-the-sea recommends the seared ahi salad ($10.95) and the halibut when they have it on special.
There for drinks with a motley menagerie of writers, I tried the Pisco Sour ($7) and the Pineapple Ginger Infusion ($8). Sumptuous but stiff.
Keeping with the theme, the wine list is small but stylish, reaches from $26 to $135 a bottle and includes some solid Santa Lucia Highland representatives. Best of all, the place has an outsize surprise up its diminutive sleeves – it’s open late. From 9:30pm until midnight there are six solid $4 plates, including tempura fish and chips, mini cheeseburger sliders and lamb meatball.
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Last Friday I made it out into the pale golden hills where the very well-to-do and wild turkeys trod for the Santa Lucia Preserve’s first ever Ranch Club Wine Festival. Relatively new Restaurant Manager-Wine Director Ray LeMaire devised a delicious event dripping with dozens of great wineries (sipping Silver Oak from a Riedel glass is a good thing – for more on Riedel, see story, pg. 43), buttressed by “indulgences” from Carmel Valley Olive Company, Layers Sensational Cakes and The Tuck Box and the tasty creations of Chef Carlton Lepine. Other takeaways: The peaceful grounds out there are up to the ample legend, the history is fascinating and this LeMaire lad is one to watch.
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The edgiest art venue in the area is now brewing a mean Acme espresso as strong as the content of their Fremont Street gallery: Alternative Cafe (583-0913) and pointman Scott Grover are now hip to drip. As you sip, check out the money multi-media En Fuego collection – particularly the wonderfully warped scenes devised by L.A.’s Paul Torres and the unique lucha libre portraits by a woman named Mitsy… You gotta like the passion Tobin Peregrina is pouring into promoting at Jose’s Underground Lounge (655-4419). Meanwhile, Ozzie Maldonado keeps things running yummy upstairs in the kitchen. One lunchtime last week Maldonado was personally manning the stove when I stopped by – screamin’ good carnitas and chile verde resulted. I like the sound of the deal they have going Thursday from 8-10pm: $1 beers, $1 tacos… Across the bike path from Jose’s, the Blue Fin (717-4280) is officially back. Liquor license coming soon; breakfast, lunch and dinner, billiards overlooking the bay in the meantime… The angels at Ag Against Hunger can use a little help working with local growers to collect high quality, marketable produce that has been left behind after commercial harvest and distribute it to food banks and pantries in the tri-county area. Next session is Saturday, June 20. 755-1480… New Ventana restaurant chieftan Dory Ford says his former Chef de Cuisine at Portola Restaurant in the Aquarium, Estevan Jimenez, will be joining him down south as his “right hand”… Trailside Café (649-8600) is now doing a revamped catering menu for those looking for a nice locally grown spread whether for breakfast, lunch, cocktail hour or dinner – and still is master of the New Orleans-style beignets, excellent breakfasts and some superb fish tacos (and one of the more pleasant patios in the area)… Food, Inc. casts much needed light upon our country’s food chain at the Osio Friday, June 19. Fast Food Nation author Eric Schlosser speaks at the local debut (see story, pg. 50)… Fathers Day Bernardus style: Sobieski Vodka mixology cocktail reception with martinis and hors d’oeuvres by Cal Stamenov. $65, 658-3550… Hasta.