Food for Thought
One amateur chef’s way to hone his game and feed a company, plus downtown Monterey developments.
Wednesday, November 23, 2011
It’s a modern day lemons-into-lemonade fable of foodieism in tough times: Life gave Daniel V. DeCamp fewer hours at his job translating for the courts, so DeCamp made meat loaf. And chicken satay. And wild-rice-mushroom soup from scratch. And tomato bisque with grilled albacore sandwiches.
DeCamp’s a cultured Weekly contributor and my secret weapon at the Carmel Valley Great Bowls of Fire Chili Cook-off. This year, as the Weekly staff swooned over his spicy OMG (Oh My Goat) chili, we wondered if they might go for regular lunches from his kitchen.
Now he’s a cult hero at our headquarters with beauties like last week’s tender and tasty Italian-style meatloaf sandwich on Paris Bakery baguette with three-cheese mac ‘n’ cheese and garlic green beans ($8).
“I love cooking,” he says. “And I don’t get to do enough of it because my wife and I can’t eat too much and I don’t like freezing stuff. I like putting on music and pouring a glass of wine and sort of losing myself with the ingredients.”
A couple weeks back his peanut-sauced chicken satay, which he grilled on the sidewalk in front of the building, was a hit – and outshone by a Thai-Mex fusion coleslaw he learned from Earthbound Farm founder/cookbook author Myra Goodman. A week before his “Notyomama’s” egg-salad sandwiches were spot-on. Today he fashioned some potaje de verduras, a hearty Spanish pork and vegetable stew and yum tortillas Españolas with potato and onion ($8). Call him at 601-4142 to scheme a similar treat for a small office of 10-20 who struggle to get away.
“I do it to make food, not to make money,” DeCamp says. “It gives me an opportunity to cook, to practice, to subsidize my cooking habit.” Amen.
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There’s action on Alvarado in Monterey as three spots within maybe 30 feet have tasty developments at work: My foodie deputies say the new Caffe Trieste (241-6064) is worth checking out for a feel that evokes its North Beach San Francisco original, tasty panini, pizza and pastas and strong espresso. Get more on the blog.
Next door Sushi Moto (646-1109) has taken over the tiny storefront formerly occupied by Sakana Sushi and turned heads with an expansive menu of wacky maki like the Landshark and the Guido.
On the other side of the Golden State Theatre, meanwhile, another neighbor has locked down its crown as Baklava Capital of the County with no fewer than 12 different Greek, Lebanese, Turkish and Egyptian variations (try the pistachio). Koko’s Cafe (375-3777) also does excellent gelatos ($2.95-$4.95, with seasonal treats like pumpkin and eggnog rotating through), solid falafel ($6.50) and a fusion-funky tri-tip schwarma ($7.25).
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Monterey’s Barbara Altman had a little beef with our review of Diggitty’s (663-6100). It wasn’t enough to know that they use Nathan’s hot dogs.
“We want to know about ingredients,” she writes by hand, with a felt-tip pen.
Weekly editorial intern and crack investigator Jean Zee logged 10 calls and a couple of hours in pursuit of some answers. She got two.
Answer one: “Beef, Water, Contains Less than 2% of Salt, Sorbitol, Sodium Lactate, Hydrolyzed Soy, Corn Gluten Protein and Wheat Gluten, Protein, Paprika, Natural Flavorings, Sodium Diacetate, Sodium Phosphate, Sodium Erythorbate, Sodium Nitrite.” Mmmm.
So where’s the beef… from? Specialty Foods Group, Inc., a Virginia-based provider. Where do they get theirs?
“Specialty Foods Group, Inc. purchases its beef from various USDA-inspected facilities,” says tight-lipped Consumer Affairs Representative Gloria Chavez.
That’s the pathetic best Zee’s been able to summon from Nathan’s and SFG. Can’t say that summons my appetite.
• Something I am very thankful for: All the donors and volunteers and saints rallying for community meals at Monterey County Fairgrounds and Dorothy’s Place. They’ll serve 2,500 meals – and they need help. Dorothy’s needs turkeys – and ovens to roast them in. Call 757-3838 to help there. The Kiwanis running the show at the fairgrounds can always use desserts day of (they start at noon). Salvation Army at the Good Samaritan Center also seeks a Thanksgiving-bird boost. Call 899-4988.
• Duck Club (646-1706) celebrates the end of an 18-year era with a Friday-Sunday (Nov. 25-27) party: complimentary champy, half off wines and the Steinbeck duck, no corkage.
• The wine keeps flowing in Carmel Valley. Carmel Valley Art Association’s Holiday Art & Wine Walk happens 1-7pm Saturday, Nov. 26, and Holman Ranch’s new tasting room (659-2640) gets its grand opening 1-4pm Saturday and Sunday, Nov. 26-27: $5 for tastes of full-bodied Pinots, light Pinot Gris, complex Chards, plus free apps, John Shery live, tractor rides and a demo with Mundaka’s Brandon Miller. And that’s just Saturday. Come Sunday Santa shows up.
• The Moses Brothers of Monterey Beer Festival and Post No Bills Craft Beer House (324-4667) pulled off another coup with the packed Holiday Beer Festival at Fort Mason in San Francisco last weekend. There were “farm to bottle” glories like Almanac autumn ale made from plums, a pleasantly bacon-tasting Stone Brewing smoked porter and a knockout organic Lucky Hand black lager among the great tastes. Salinas’ BevMo! (442-2411) and Sand City’s PNB are your local places to find pours like those, and Jeff Moses’ own craft excellence like his Hermitage and Irondale better beer brands for the nice boys and girls on your list.
• With the rains come the mushrooms. Learn the difference between tasty and terminal at Garland Park 10am Saturday, Nov. 26. $20 for residents, 372-3196 x3.
• “Cooking is like love,” Harriet Van Horne said. “It should be entered into with abandon or not at all.”