On the Down Under
Australian delis, picture-perfect new pastries and cowboy boots.
Thursday, July 8, 2010
‘Tis a tongue twister and a seasonal truth: Prime picnic packing places are at a premium come summer. The new Down Under Deli (625-DELI) in the Mid-Valley Shopping Center on Carmel Valley Road deserves to rank among them (and is a serviceable sit-down spot too).
We grabbed a nice bottle of Yalumba Chardonnay ($15) from a list that grows out of Monterey County and Australia. For those eating there, glasses arrive as affordably as $3 for a Jacob’s Creek Reisling to $7 for a Hesketh Shiraz, with some tasty Chalone, Silvestri and Stump Jump options in between.
Seating lingers inside and out with simple set-ups and kitschy salt-and-pepper shakers. We sat inside with the didgeridoo and the wall of vintage 49er paraphernalia, including “Super Joe!” press clippings and signed jerseys from William Floyd, Steve Young and Jerry Rice – co-owner Vanessa Jager says former Frisco owner (and AT&T National Pro-Am participant) Eddie DeBartolo Jr. sent her two after she wrote him a letter.
The deli enjoys the same heartfelt feel as that letter must have. It’s a familiar (albeit tricky) formula owners Tom and Vanessa Jager furthered at Duffy’s Tavern when they owned it in its heyday – sturdy, rustic fare served in a warm atmosphere. The motto “we’ll keep you coming back” – borrowed from the boomerang – fits. The DUD acronym doesn’t.
Steer away from the Aussie style sausage roll ($4), though – the one I sampled was bland. The meat pie’s ($5.50) better thanks to its gravy-upgraded insides.
Hence next picnic it’ll be something from the extensive sandwich menu, like the “Sheep Dip” ($7.50) with house-roasted Australian lamb, pepper jack and horseradish aioli or maybe the 1/2 or 1/3-pound Aussie Extreme Burger ($10.50), aka “the Lot” with cheese, bacon, pineapple and beets.
Their breakfasts look intriguing, from baked beans on toast (piled with two fried eggs with sliced tomato on the side, $5.50), to an Aussie favorite called Bubble and Squeak ($5.95) and, yes, Vegemite on toast ($1.95).
Given the new deli – open 8am-6pm weekdays and 10am-3pm Saturday – the flowering Midvalley Shopping Center has enough components to earn a mini culinary destination designation: Carmel Roasting Company (good joe, better folksiness, 622-0787), Ioli’s Pizzeria (great pies, draft beers and more, 622-9463) and Jeffrey’s (maybe the best breakfast spot in the Valley, 624-2029) all lie there within a few steps.
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“Everyone loves something that tastes good,” says Jeanne Johnston, owner of shiny new Pastries and Petals at Mission between Fourth and Fifth (620-1400). “I’d like to think we are what old Carmel used to be.”
Weekly photog and former barrista Nic Coury just scouted its digs in the former Le Coq d’ Or. He reports Johnston’s daughter, Jennifer Hatton, who used to be the baker at defunct Buongiorno in Carmel, is pastry chef and that “most everything is made completely from scratch,” with produce coming from the Barnyard farmers market.
It’s open 7am-6pm weekdays, until 8pm Saturday and 1pm Sunday, with two daily soup specials; “sweet and savory” happy hour 4-6pm Friday (complimentary pastries, quiches and such); a mostly local wine list peddling Bernardus, Georis, Rombauer and finds like an ’85 Lynch Bages (for a few Benjamins).
The choice nibbles for the courtyard patio or cute interior, meanwhile, include panini with apricot and brie ($7); antipasti orzo ($5.50 or $11) with grilled zucchini, feta, sundried tomatoes, kalamata olives and pine nuts; and eggplant casserole ($12.50) filled with mascarpone, asiago and goat cheese.
A stockpile of pastries and breakfast items include cupcakes ($2.50-$3.50), croissant sandwiches ($5.50 and up) and old-fashioned sweet cinnamon sourdough French toast served with housemade berry maple syrup ($6.50).
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With the 100th California Rodeo Salinas riding this way, the first annual Cowboy Pancake Breakfast happens 8am – noon Saturday, July 10 in the 100 block of Oldtown Salinas: pancakes, sausage and orange juice, plus the weekly farmers market and live music from Blues Power. The $5 adult rate (and $3 for 12 and under) goes toward future community events. Plus Rollick’s coffee for $1… Brandon Miller’s doing his own mozzarella at Mundaka (624-7400), where Mount Shasta morels are in season (and on the menu with cream sherry grilled asparagus), as are the padron peppers and squash blossoms… Chateau Julien’s 2006 La Conviviance was awarded the Chairman’s Trophy Award in New York City’s Ultimate Wine Challenge last month. CJ says their wine scored higher than any other red submitted, including wines from Napa and Bordeaux, France. The ’06 is CJ’s first – with 46 percent Merlot, 38 percent Malbec and 16 percent Cab all from in county… 18th Annual Winemakers Celebration is a month away, Aug. 7 in Custom House Plaza: four hours of 40-plus all-local wineries pouring more than 200 wines outdoors for $45, www.montereywines.org or 375-9400. “Don’t worry about the world coming to an end today,” our own Charles Schulz said. “It is already tomorrow in Australia.”