Brew Pub Love
Peter B’s gets better, CCM closes and a new veggie restaurant debuts.
Thursday, January 13, 2011
You don’t often see audit and awesome in the same sentence. But a recent audit-of-sorts at Peter B’s BrewPub (639-2699) has local beer looking much more awesome.
Portola Hotel leadership knew the knock on Peter B’s was: Sure, they make their own suds, which is cool, but it’s not that remarkable, which is not. So they brought in brew consultant Peter Licht and brewer Kevin Clark to collaborate with brewmaster Andrew Wyer on how to improve its house brews.
The Weekly food writer mafia rallied for a tasting and happily discovered the doctoring has paid off – the IPA is better than ever, the pilsner clean and balanced, the California blonde crisp, the Hefeweizen surprisingly juicy and smooth, and the porter much-improved.
Operations chief Chris Sommers says matching the best yeasts with the appropriate beers-to-be and calibrating equipment to function at its best made all the difference.
Also awesome: The new menu items, which include some sexy beer recipes – like the beer-braised pork shoulder sandwich ($9), ale-steamed clams ($8) and crispy mozzarella in housemade pilsner batter ($6) – and other Jason Giles-engineered wonders like local and sustainable fish tacos ($13), grilled steak salad with T&A artisan lettuce ($13) and crab-stuffed oven-roasted salmon ($15).
And, since they discovered their use permit from the Carmel Brewing Company days allows for it, they’ll soon introduce growlers, take-home tankers sold at bargain prices.
~ ~ ~
Ugh. Culinary Center of Monterey – which has primed scores of folks for their chef whites, hosted infinite benefit events and generally allowed saintly Mary Pagan to spread her edible benevolence and wisdom throughout the community – is closed. A lethal combination of economic/debt drama and serious health problems for Pagan were enough to make it the right decision, however painful.
That place, and the platform it gave Pagan, will be sorely, deeply and thoroughly missed. When I heard, I returned to something industry vet and Weekly contributor Ray Napolitano once e-mailed me. “She is one of our area’s great treasures,” he wrote, “and truly a remarkable woman on many levels.”
The good news is that Pagan is bravely recovering from a stroke; I saw her at an Aquarium meet-and-greet for new culinary partner Cindy Pawlcyn and new exec chef Jeff Rogers just last week.
~ ~ ~
Something’s astir in the Clementine’s Kitchen spot. Kristina Scrivani, late of Whole Foods Salud Kitchen, has reportedly taken the reigns from the bank at much-missed epicurean hub and aims to reinvigorate it come spring. First she has to move inventory she inherited. That means a can’t miss blowout sale Jan. 21-23. I’ll be there – Clementine’s had an inventory to rival its heart (huge).
~ ~ ~
Interesting lil’ something going on in P.G.’s Forest Hill center with Julia’s (656-9533), an exclusively vegetarian-vegan spot open only Friday, Saturday and Sunday. A weekend visit proved a trip – we received no menus, drink offers, explanation of what was going on or what it would cost. But we did get delicious garlic bread and garden-herb oil, great mushroom-leek soup, iffy salads, so-so stir fry rice and OK butternut squash ravioli for just $12.50 a head.
Another newbie: family-operated Cabo Blue Taco Shack (920-1692) took over on Alvarado where Karma Cafe was the last to go kaput. I was pleasantly surprised with the authentic stuff sweet and giggly Michoacan native Chiqui Ramirez is putting together at affordable prices. She fittingly recommended the big Chiqui’s al pastor torta ($5.75) and this gringo, who once lived off Oaxacan tortas for weeks, liked it as much my amigos dug their huge vegetarian super burrito ($7.75) and pork tacos ($2.25 each).
~ ~ ~
Fear not, Carmel Valley: The Running Iron (659-4633) will be back within two weeks, according to Tawni Foreman, who is turning it back over to her parents/previous owner-operators Jenn and Nelson Foreman after a divorce from her husband undid their desire to run the joint. As they await transfer of ownership and liquor license they are deep-cleaning the joint… Two bargains to celebrate anniversaries: 20 percent off at Harumi Sushi (899-9988) to commemorate two years, with a coupon in these pages. The same break applies on food at Cibo Ristorante (649-8151) with mention of the Weekly to toast a big fat 20 years… Props to my Armenian peeps: The earliest known winery has been discovered in an Armenian cave – the vat, fermentation jars and drinking bowl were 6,000 years old… Monterey Cookhouse (642-9900) has a fun miniseries going with Tasty Tuesdays. This week I poked in to see Boete Winery’s John Saunders in full force – describing everything from days selling bootleg wines at his Brass Rail bar to learning wine making from one Gary Pisoni after Pisoni bummed a ride home from the bar – as the carbonara, brisket and pork prime rib specials ($15.95) flew and Saunders tasted folks on fantastic Cab Franc and Cheval Rouge, available at a discount. Next up: Dean and Karolyn of Carmel Valley Brewing for “ale and pizza night” Jan. 18 and Mike Mann of Mann Vineyards Jan. 25… “That’s farming,” Saunders said of 2010’s nasty weather. “The big guy runs it.”