Sip of Success
1833’s drink program best epitomizes the epic heights it’s after.
Thursday, July 28, 2011
Levi Mezick’s warm goat-cheese custard ($12) moves eyebrows and hearts. Like the truffle-butter-rubbed roasted chicken breast with artichokes, bacon and black garlic ($23), the mac cheese and cheese ($5) and the caramelized endive with Medjool dates ($6.50) and the crispy prosciutto-wrapped hen egg ($12) and the watermelon gazpacho shooters ($5), perpetuate more eating – as they compel a desire to taste the whole menu. I’ve grazed all of the hits above (and the pizza, $16, gnocchi, $21, the boneless wings confit, $6.50, and the roasted cauliflower, $5, and the… ), and the only misses I count are the flat mini baked bacon potato ($5) and the confusing smoked heirloom soup – and the soup was an amuse-bouche from the chef, so that gets a pass.
Then there’s the setting. The hedged-and-firepitted patio might upstage any outdoor area in the vicinity, and it’s still adding elements. The sparkling historic-but-modern decor – the time-period magnifying glasses, pitch-perfect chandeliers, over-sized stuffed chairs and glowing green-onyx bar – had one local interior design pro I know breathing words like “stunning” and “inspiring.”
In short, there is no shortage of wow crackling through Restaurant 1833 (643-1833) as it completes its first month this week – enough, in fact, to somehow scale it to the outsize hype that only swelled as its original opening date spiraled off into the future, and even enough to drown out the complaints of service snafus (and I know of at least one wine-spilling doozie) or opening-night evals of the halibut. But it’s the absinthe that’s really on fire.
General Manager Tobias Peach believes his wormwood rundown can compete with the country’s elite. There are indicators it can: For one, he’s engineered a similar lineup at Hubert Keller’s Fleur de Lys. He is schooled on both the smear campaign that once kept the energizing green fairy from our lips, and purveyors, who he says are introducing new bottles daily.
“It’s great for when the candle’s flickering, to spice it back up,” he says. “It makes you a lil’ euphoric, a lil’ drunk, and breaks down fats like a digestif.”
They sold 30 in one night during their first week. On a Monday. When’s the last time any high-end drink sold that many anywhere around here on a Monday – let alone for $15-$25?
The tableside absinthe program works as the best metaphor for an awfully bold philosophy Peach is installing in his staff: Namely, that there is no reason why 1833 can’t vie for James Beard Best New Restaurant accolades nationally.
“Why make excuses that we’re not in a big enough city?” he says. “We have the building, the product, the people.”
His staff also gets the no-excuses treatment. “I’m going to give you the info on a manifest,” he says, “so you’re not gonna be able to say you didn’t know. If we can get to the smallest details, like [Nancy Oakes’] Boulevard or [Danny Meyer’s] Gramercy Tavern, and work on those, we know we’ve won the game.”
The absinthe, it turns out, is merely the most eye-catching element in an avalanche of elixir undertakings. At one of the soft opening events, in the gorgeous Governor’s Room white wine cathedral, Wine Director Ted Glennon, who signed on from running all sorts of wine and cocktail programs at San Diego’s landmark Hotel Del Coronado, softly promised that he had some tricks to pull out that would surprise wine guys with resumes like those of Rob Weakley and David Bernahl, the 1833 owners and Coastal Luxury Management co-founders who might be swigging Montrechet at this very moment. Glennon’s already barrel-aging his own recipe for coffee liqueur – wait till the bourbon gets next turn – and a wildly refreshing-and-flavorful Negroni in vanilla-oak char.
One of the reasons things are going well over there: All the principal talents have a wingman they trust. Peach has stud assistant GM William Townsend; Glennon brought on Spiritsmith Mike Lay to run the ambitious bar; Mezick has Nicolai Grigorov. The only thing missing, perhaps, is more female intuition, but there’s always whip-smart do-it-all CLM deputy Sarah Potter. Hit the blog for Peach’s absinthe picks and more.
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Great news from Pacific Grove Mayor Carmelita Garcia’s state of the city report. “Old Bathhouse sees the light at the end of the tunnel,” she writes. “Council will receive the first of a series of quarterly reports on the project in a couple of weeks. The Lovers Point Park has undergone a facelift and now provides accessibility throughout.”… More great news, from Highway 68: The Corral de Tierra Marketplace is open and already a week into business. Stop by for signature deli sandwiches, local wine, produce or other sundries without having to rumble into Salinas or Del Rey Oaks… Do Aug. 13 al fresco with the 19th Annual Winemakers’ Celebration at the Barnyard: More than 40 county wineries, roughly 200 wines, snacks from Barnyard restaurants, live jazz, winemaking displays, silent auction, www.montereywines.org… Old school Mondays start Aug. 1 at Alberto’s (373-3993) to help celebrate a decade in business locally (congrats you old master of saute pan and tennis raquet): four old school menu items (normally $20) for $15 with a glass of house Italian wine for $5… “Absinthe is the aphrodisiac of the self,” Dracula said. “The green fairy who lives in the absinthe wants your soul.”