A chef showdown worthy of Bing, ’cue for you and Afghani for me.
Thursday, February 4, 2010
Long before the big corporate boxes on Pebble’s audacious 18th, when crowds walked the fairways with the pros and one Mr. Bing Crosby called the shots, the clambake that preceded the tournament was as legendary as anything that happened on the course. Crosby divided men and women volunteers so inappropriate jokes could be targeted to the appropriate gender, open bar ratcheted up the rowdy, cigar smoke filled the air and everyone from Tennessee Ernie Ford to Phil Harris entertained with both class and crass.
Napa’s Jocelyn Lonen Winery is looking to kindle a little of that lively fire for a good cause Thursday, Feb. 11 – albeit with much more class – with its own Clambake for a Cure and Celebrity Chef Cook-off in the Carmel Highlands.
An impressive menu of toques from Monterey County and the wider region – Todd Fisher, Steven Salle, Mark Huber, Jeffrey Jake, Eric Harnish, Willi Franz, Jerry Regester, David Frappiea and Paul Lee – will cross tongs, with all the proceeds going to The Musella Foundation to research brain tumors like the one that claimed Jocelyn founder Lonen Curtis, who was diagnosed weeks after retiring from Hewlett Packard. His wife Susan and daughter-winery manager Brandi Jocelyn Pack will host the event in tents at Susan’s Wolf Creek Canyon-adjacent place.
“People don’t talk about brain tumors,” says event organizer and Golf & Grapes Foundation executive director Sam Peters, who is also a golf pro and the winery’s tasting coordinator. “There’s this code of silence around it. That’s one of the reasons there’s a lack of funding for research.”
The wines will be excellent and extensive, with Peters summoning pals from across Napa to bring their best: Karl Lawrence and Krupp Brothers, Atlas Peak, Artesa and Ardente Estate, Dos Lagos, Hill Family, VinRoc Wine Caves and, of course, Jocelyn Lonen’s finest. It all bodes well for what Peters hopes will become a Pro-Am weekend institution. $125, 707-832-6263.
One of the cook-off judges will be longtime Weekly contributor Ray “Mundo” Napolitano. Speaking of the crazy bastard from the Bronx, he’s helping local hospitality peeps close to his heart at the Monterey County Business Council gather local small businesses to team up for tourism packages. Anyone with a prixe fixe or a room deal or a round of golf to incorporate can call Chris Sentieri at 224-3130.
Back in Nappyland proper, Ray’s assembling a GreenFest for the Fairgrounds in fall, starring, as he says, “anything that does something to get us another couple thousand more years on this planet.” Call 236-5339 for more.
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The county’s new, and unlikely, barbecue headquarters: Castroville.
Central Texas Barbecue (633-8396) has been pumping out the pork shoulder, brisket and ribs with Texas-style sides for years, pulling down our reader’s nod for Best of Monterey County barbecue along the way (see ballot, p. 25). Now The Trolley Car Diner Rotisserie (632-0182) has also moved onto main-drag Merritt with a funky carriage storefont that inspires its name.
Chef/co-owner Hippolito Hernandez recommended the tri-tip ($9.95 with a side) or the brisket ($8.95) for a to-go sandwich on my visit; the nice big roll and thick, tender cuts of tri-tip redeemed his rec. They only thing missing was more (superb) sauce – ask for extra. The homemade sides are half the fun – I took on some buttery scalloped potatoes over the attractive mac-n-cheese and bacon-baked beans – and they serve big combos packed with whole or half chickens and racks of pork ribs.
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The top happy hour haven of the moment might be the Barnyard-Crossroads crux. Swung by Rio Grill the other day, where well drinks, drafts like Scrimshaw and Sierra Nevada and house wines from McIntyre’s Bobo label are but three bucks and deals on apps like New Mexican chile onion rings ($2.85) and buffalo carpaccio with morita chile aioli ($4.95) last 3:30-6pm… A short walk north Hola! (626-1814) serves a free appetizer platter per pair of happy people and half-price well drinks, tap and house margaritas 3-6pm weekdays. And at Bahama Billy’s (626-0430) just across the Barnyard, a select menu and drinks are 50 percent off 3-6pm every day. It may be time for a Weekly satellite office over there… During a happy hour visit at Monterey Cookhouse (642-9900), Linda Cantrell conjured a nice spinach salad special with baked pear, roasted chicken, Danish blue cheese and crisp bacon ($12.95) and fired up an excellent pulled pork pizza ($14.95), both new. The smoky pork pizza bodes well for the Super Bowl party this weekend where her new chef German Perez, who came over from the Tap Room, will smoke a whole hog and the bar will pour a team of drink deals… HER Helmet Thursdays rolls on: Ride a bike to a long list of local restaurants, venues and hotels on Thursdays and receive sizeable discounts by showing your helmet. Visit www.bicyclingmonterey.com to see the list at Mari Lynch’s blog. There are 50-plus restaurants alone involved… Rode my bike over to Amir’s Kabob House (642-0231) and asked Amir to surprise me with something while towering belly dancer Jamaica Sinclair did her wiggle – and his towering mound of delicious stewed spinach with brown basmati rice piled with moist sustainably sourced salmon topped with a skewer of roasted prawns and crispy onions was pure Afghani-Cali excellence. Place gets better each time I go… Eat well.