Fresh fodder from a trio of culinary pillars.
Thursday, March 31, 2011
I’ve watched Carmel icon Rich Pepe – he of Peppoli and Little Napoli fame – trade punches with a pro boxer a fraction of his age and earn the keys to Hoboken, N.J., from the mayor, but I’ve never seen him quite this excited.
He was touring me through his newest project, Vesuvio Bistro Italiano in the former Piatti, last week. Maybe he was stoked because the place, as he said, “is beginning to look like a restaurant and not a construction site.” Maybe it’s because of the new firepits and a rooftop stage he’s scheming, the sexy surfaces and Pompei-style murals in place, or the fact that a May open date looks realistic. But I think it’s the fact that his two prodigal sons will help steer the ship.
With racy PR force of nature Katana Alexander running the hype, you can expect it to be a scene when it opens.
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One of the region’s finest French finds, and arguably the top spot-by-sea for devilishly tasty sauces, Andre’s Bouchee (626-7880), is getting an added splash of flavor through a collaboration with local winemaker Dan Tudor. Come April 1, the spot’s cozy-cute wine bar is now the official place to taste Tudor Pinot.
Of late, while not chasing his latest love – kite-surfing – Tudor had been eying different outlets, and Andre’s was eager to turn more folks onto the cozy bar.
“We did a wine dinner there in November,” Tudor says, “and it was one of the best dinners we’ve done. [Chef] Andre [Lemaire] does a great job.”
Tudor will personally pour all four of his 2006 Pinots by taste for $10, which includes a Reidel Burgundy glass, noon-5pm Friday-Sunday until the summer crowds widen those time windows. All those wines are available whenever the wine bar’s open (11:30am-close Wednesday-Sunday).
These are elegant wines – two each from Santa Lucia and Anderson Valley – built from grapes culled from growers like Tondre and Paraiso. Each has earned at least a 90 in Wine Spectator.
“There’s no cutting corners with top quality Pinot,” Tudor says. His resulting wines aren’t cheap ($55-$75), which makes the tasting that much more attractive. Cases can also be had at special tasting room rates.
More Bouchee news: Starting this Monday, April 4, and every Monday from there, wine bottles during the dinner hour are 25 percent off. From April 7 on, there will be a three-course prix fixe dinner menu every Thursday for $35.
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News Flash: There are one or two restaurants in Carmel, let alone California or the country. So when one of our own is one of only six chefs to earn the right to represent the entire Americas, you don’t have to be a math whiz to know that’s bloody rare.
Such is the skill of Aubergine Executive Pastry Chef Ron Mendoza, who will be one of six semi-finalists from the Americas to compete in the C3 International Restaurants Desserts Competition in Paris, France this week.
I dug his commentary on the competition too: “It means a lot to make it to the semi-finals in Paris,” he says, “because it reinforces that even though Aubergine isn’t located in a major metropolitan area, there is still the opportunity to be recognized internationally for creativity and style.”
I posted some other pictures of his powers on the blog (though not of his championship item – he’s keeping that a secret until then). In a word: damn.
Across the kitchen, new exec chef Justin Cogley is assuming the reins from Christophe Grosjean admirably, and launching some inspired cooking classes with Mendoza starting April 20 (624-8578) – think “Sauce Boot Camp,” “Wonderful World of Tubers” and “The Great Crepe Escape.”
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For several years now, whether it was to acquire some artichoke starts or star anise herbs, a pink lady apple sapling or a baby pluot tree, a piece of vermi-composting advice or a six-pack of sweet peas, Helaine Tregenza of The Raised Bed has been my organic gardening vendor sent from heaven (or Del Rey Oaks). Now she is opening The Garden Party (620-0700) in the Barnyard this Saturday, April 2, across from Homescapes. “Everything you need to help you with your edible gardens and more,” she says, with a healthy crop of classes, guest speakers, book signings and such sprouting soon… Noodle Bar Two (384-6225) is readying a bahn mi/Vietnamese sandwich hub in Marina… In noting Peppoli has some new playmakers in place, including manager Federico Rusciano and new head chef Angela Tamura, I reported Arturo Moscoso was still around at Peppoli, only he flew in fall… The Collaborative Dinner Series at Marinus continues with Robin Lail of Lail Vineyards Tuesday, April 12, $125, 659-3131… Montrio is doing artisan foodie classes in coming months. The first – “Celebrate Beer” ($40) is noon-2pm Saturday, April 9: Ways to detect nuance, how to match food, four-course lunch by Chef Tony Baker with paired beers and a hands-on beer making demo… “Homebrewing,” says local craftsperson Abbie Beane, “allows for lots of down time to drink beer while still feeling like you’re doing an activity.”