Pocket of Change
Counting on the eternal constant and a wealth of fun foodie events.
Thursday, September 23, 2010
Apparently somebody sneaked a few boullion cubes of change in the soup of the day. This week I bumped into or spoke with several key industry players and found new movements bubbling up with each.
I saw David Fink sipping something sophisticated at Lalla Lounge, and he told me Aubergine Exec Chef Christophe Grosjean is sailing for his native France.
“He doesn’t want to raise his kids in this country,” Fink says. “Can you blame him?” Looks like Randall Hane, Aubergine’s sous chef, takes over from here. And Fink’s Mirabel Hotel & Restaurant Group, also behind Cantinetta Luca, keeps cooking.
Jacques Melac gave me a few reasons it’s not all bad that Rancho Cellars (625-5646) is closing its doors at the end of the month, at least for him (we’re on our own). For one, it wasn’t because of the acidic economy, but because the building sold. Two, he says he and chef-wife Janet, who ran the Cellars’ Cepages Deli, “don’t know how the wine business is going to make it through the next two years,” so a little break ain’t horrible at the moment. Three: “We’re sticking around here,” he says. “We’ll pop up somewhere.”
When I spotted a grinning David Dildine, he was basking in the bombastic Jazz Mafia hip-hop/symphony hybrid at the Monterey Jazz Festival – great taste, BTW, mister chef – when he told me he was no longer doing his Redwood Grill at Fernwood in Big Sur, where’s he has been an enthusiastic (and important) element with everything from the Chanterelle Cook-off to Big Sur Food & Wine. If I heard him accurately over the inspiring exercise of beats, bows and brass, he’s after world travel at the moment.
Speaking of the Sur, Bon Appetit named it one of the foodiest towns in the country, though they left off some big reasons why: “In the midst of a 90-mile stretch of protected wilderness along California’s Central Coast, this town is home to jaw-dropping scenery, award-winning hotels, and three of the quirkiest restaurants in the West,” it reads. “Big Sur Bakery & Restaurant, Deetjen’s Big Sur Inn and Restaurant, and Nepenthe. And be sure to order seconds when you visit Big Sur – surfing, hiking, and cycling are nearby to help burn calories.”
Um, guys… Sierra Mar, Ventana and Treebones! bear mention. (As one commenter wrote, “Most foodiest and only three restaurants?… what the hell does ‘foodiest’ mean anyway?) Fortunately all will all figure prominently into the Big Sur Food & Wine Festival Nov. 4-7 (www.bigsurfoodandwine.org).
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While local vintners get awfully itchy with the longest, coldest growing season they’ve seen, and oenophiles wait anxiously to see what sort of Pinots those conditions produce, we finally are getting just a taste of Indian summer. The best thing to do with it – seize a spontaneous evening by the picnic basket, swoop through Bruno’s (624-3821) or Mal’s (394-1881), where they know your name and good grub equally well, for homemade monster sandwiches, deli delicacies and an adult beverage. Then head for the beach with some firewood.
A quick primer, with help from the best bonfire sage I know, Monterey International Hostel’s Aaron Ely:
Do not: Bring glass, cover a fire with sand, forget wood, drive drunk, park in a dumb spot or leave litter on the beach or a flashlight at home.
Do: Head for the sweet spots where fires are still legal, including Asilomar (if the wind and weather are cooperating, this one’s tough to beat); Carmel Beach (still legal, but for how long?); Casa Verde Street at Del Monte Beach in Monterey (spiffy boardwalks, tables, fire rings, port-a-potties and adjacent parking); 17 Mile Drive, Pebble Beach (several locations from Moss Beach to Spyglass Drive offer a motley roadside assortment of tables, trash cans, and fire rings); and Monastery Beach (look but don’t touch the water).
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Harvest Carmel this weekend on the Quail lawns: scores of chefs, 100 wineries, WAR, Gin Blossoms, $85/day, 622-7770… Great little get-together coming Friday in Sand City in crazy-ass chef Todd Fisher’s The Kitchen (970-5073) 5-9pm Friday, Sept. 24. He’s throwing out tasty snacks and a wine gratis to help turn folks onto his catering powers and two artisan allies, sausage deity PigWizard Jonathan Roveto and muffin maven Katie Martin of KT’s Sweet Lunch (who also does lunches delivered direct to the office, starring locally sourced salads, soups and sandwiches)… The hell-of-a-time Heller Grape Stomp cometh. Saturday, Oct. 16, noon-4pm at the Heller Estate Vineyard in sunny Cachagua – winery tour with Winemaker Rich Tanguay, barrel tasting, good food from Bahama Billy’s, wine deals, cool organic grape juice up to the knees, yeehaw. $25 per club member; $30 for non club members. RSVP by Oct. 7, 659-6220 or firstname.lastname@example.org… The Eighth Annual Bernardus Winemaker Dinner happens Thursday, Oct. 14, 2010. Chef Cal Stamenov fires up a 5-course autumn-inspired dinner paired with the new-release Bernardus wines, Winemaker Dean DeKorth and Vineyard Director Matt Shea talk grapes – a party of the highest order. $165, inclusive… “Change is inevitable,” Robert C. Gallagher said, “except from a vending machine.”