Loss and Living
Seizing the day, mourning a friend.
Thursday, October 15, 2009
Both her arms were bound tightly in triangular slings, but she still used the tiny cradle of space her straitjacket allowed to somehow Blackberry clients and friends. Simultaneously, she entertained several guests with a spiraling epic of how she managed to break both her elbows in the first place – and then open her car door, get it in gear and drive to show a house, before finally succumbing to friends’ requests that she head for the hospital.
Only longtime local and respected Alain Pinel rep Lee Martin could star in such a bizarre portrait of vivacity. Just a few months later, though – last Saturday – she was dead of pancreatic cancer.
Over the last few months, much-loved hospitality fixtures like Daniel Barducci and Selby Henderson died before their time – “he left so soon,” several sources have said – but in losing a friend and an informal aunt, the mother of a best pal, a close associate of my folks, I had to make sense of such suddenness myself.
Of course, that’s the thing. Making sense of death doesn’t make the to-do list. Making the most of our time – in part by making spirited memories matter – does.
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As the Aquarium turns 25 this Tuesday, Oct. 20, its Seafood Watch program reaches an even 10 itself, and the local restaurants that honor its vision deserve some props.
So here it is, from the Duck Club to the Fish Hopper to Otter Bay, from veteran favorites Sardine Factory, Fandango and Favalaro’s to inspired upstarts like C Restaurant and Esteban. Here’s to Hula’s, Old Fisherman’s Grotto, Schooners, TusCA and Ventana. Big ups to Big Sur River Inn and props to Pacifica Cafe, Passionfish and the Aquarium’s own Portola Cafe.
That’s an awesome list to be on and a better one to eat from – and part of the reason the words “sustainable seafood” have gone from “huh?” to hallowed. Makes my stomach rumble for some reel-caught albacore right about now.
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I deployed a gift certificate to great ends the at Flaherty’s Oyster Grill last week, which meant massive barbecued Hood Canal oysters, star clam chowder and a bacon-crab sandwich for discount rates. The good news, come Oct. 22-29: Flaherty’s and dozens more local restaurants – Montrio! Fresh Cream! Pacific’s Edge! Café Rustica! – will extend similar deals during Monterey Restaurant Week, no certificates needed. New spots are sitting down to the table with special set menus that spotlight their most inspired flavors at either $25, $35 or $45 – the hit list is right around 30 restaurants at press time. Head for www.montereybayrestaurantweek.com for an updated list.
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If there are somehow still spots left, the spontaneous will be rewarded with the annual redefinition of autumnal excellence tonight, Oct. 15, with the Bernardus Wine Dinner. Chef Cal Stamenov prepares a five-course, season-inspired dinner with new-release wines; winery team and winemaker Dean DeKorth host, new releases including the 2008 Griva Sauvignon Blanc, 2008 Saignée de Pinot Noir, and the 2007 Ingrid’s Vineyard Chardonnay star, starting at 6:30pm. $140 well spent, 658-3400… More valley wonder: The American Institute of Wine and Food’s first Oktoberfest 2-6pm Saturday, Oct. 17 at Community Center Park – live music by Nick Williams and The Thirsty Three, Todd Fisher, endless Stella Artois, knockwurst, bratwurst – the best and wurst of Germany. 761-8463, $55-$70… CV fun part III – if a town full of superb and diverse spots like Wickets, Bahama Billy’s, and Cafe Rustica, plus more than a dozen grape purveyors including Joullian, Georis and Boete can all collaborate on boosting the village through Monday, Oct. 19’s A Village Affair (5:30-8:30pm at Hidden Valley Music Seminars), why can’t these Measure G freaks act civil? 659-3626, $50… More good life where that came from: the Under the Tuscan Moon event that has sell-out crowds swooning for stuff like this year’s venison tartare, marinated octopus and milk-braised goat, among other morsels, happens 6-10pm Friday, Oct. 23, at Peppoli in Spanish Bay. Iron Chef Chris Cosentino guest chefs. $80, 647-7490.
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Tried a California chicken sandwich ($9.95 with twice-fried taters) off the Grab-n Go menu at the new Danny I’s Grill (375-4100) in the former 68 Steakhouse near the airport. Thing was huge – with avocado, ham and swiss. Chili-cheese dogs are $1.50 for Monday Night Football at the spot longtime Old Fisherman’s Grotto and Sardine Factory manager Danny Iliscupidez has had up and running for about a month… You haven’t lived until you’ve seen a pug in a pumpkin suit. That’s just part of the magic Courtney Porras and company are conjuring for the Howl-O-Ween Dog Pawty 11:30am-3pm Sunday, Oct. 25 – farm fresh buffet, live music, killer Cima Collina and Talbott wines, all at idyllic Quail Meadows, $10/kid, $35/adult, 624-2888… Hula’s (655-4852) is still doing its chow charitably on Mondays. For October, Save Our Shores gets a percentage of the bill… Heard back from Ol’ Factory landlord-neighbor Robbie Robinson on the current situation that had Morgan Christopher splitting town to conjure how he might save the unlikely social scene he’s created in Sand City. “People have come out of woodwork [with ideas],” Robinson said, “and I am aware of financial problems, but Morgan has put a lot of work into it. He’s saying he’s coming back and I don’t want to put the cart before the horse.”