Bacon and Beets
Montrio rules, plus a smorgasbord of “quick bites.”
Thursday, September 15, 2011
Surprise: Montrio Bistro (648-8880) business is up since Restaurant 1833 came in. In case you need a reminder why: Chef Tony Baker is a fiendish gastro-genius with an affection for superior purveyors. His oatmeal-crusted brie ($4.50) deserves a monument. His brick chicken ($23) and the bistro burger ($14) never fail. And now his dry-cured, hand-rubbed, slow-smoked artisanal meats – you gotta sniff out Baker’s Bacon at wwww.bakersbacon.com – are available to order, or in house with, say, a peerless bacon-and-egg salad ($11), a “pig plate” ($6.50) or the habit-forming pork trio ($23.50).
Cocktail doctor Anthony Vitacca remains a smooth assassin behind the bar. His Beta Vulgaris ($10) was already arguably the best drink within city limits thanks to depth and complexity furnished by roasted beet juice, green chartreuse and St. Germain elderflower. On my last visit, he unleashed another fresh and smoky sensation with the Corazon Valiente (with Del Maguey mezcal, blackberry-plum shrub and organic agave, $10) and a magic Monk’s Piñata ($10) that just flies around your mouth with La Pinta pomegranate-infused tequila, pineapple gomme and yellow chartreuse.
About a block away, Caffe Trieste (241-6064) started cracking its doors open this weekend to test out some of its signature cappuccinos and espressos on passersby. Lively founder “Papa Gianni” Giotta, 91, started the coffeeshop in 1956 with San Francisco’s now-landmark North Beach spot. With his nod, the sixth outpost officially opens on Alvarado in downtown Monterey any day now with coffee and pastries, later launching breakfast, lunch and dinner – think paninis, salads, pizza and pasta.
>> I'll spare you the inanity of Tuesday's Carmel City Council meeting. (It will not make you smarter.) The bottom line (or bun): David Fink got the 4-1 vote he needed to proceed with his controversial burger joint.
>> Pop quiz, hotshot: What’s better than a Pinot party soaked with Bernardus, Chock Rock, Cima Collina, Comanche, Cru, De Tierra, Figge, Holman Ranch and Joyce? One that pours on La Rochelle, Manzoni, Michaud, Montoya, Muirwood, Oh, Paraiso, Pelerin, Talbott, Tondre, Silver Moutain, Ventana and Wrath too, plus smoky barbecue to pair beautifully, music, dancing, bonfires and beach chairs all to benefit Ag Against Hunger. Pinotfest happens 6-10pm Friday, Sept. 16 at Del Monte Beach House. $55 in advance ($60 day of) includes a Burgundy bowl wine goblet. 646-5446, www.pinotfest.com.
>> Our Best of Monterey County Visitors Guide lists breakfast institution Katy’s Place (624-0199) as a purveyor of 10 eggs Benedicts. Nope. Make that 15, including a Romanoff with salmon and caviar ($17.50), a Santa Fe with grilled onion, tomato, avocado and spiced Hollandaise ($15.50) and the most popular, the lobster Benny ($19.50).
>> If you don’t like lederhosen, you don’t like life. Those German breeches, bratwurst, Bavarian chicken, pretzels and beer star at the first Monterey Bay Oktoberfest at the Barnyard noon-6pm Saturday-Sunday, Sept. 17-18. $15 (VIP $50) at Lugano Swiss Bistro or www.oktoberfestmontereybay.com.
>> The deals advertised in these pages can make it hard to stay home. Last week they included half-price Wednesday wine at Hula’s (655-HULA); a $14.95 three-course mushroom Provençal lunch for National Mushroom Month at Fandango (372-3456); a $7 early bird dinner coupon weeknights at Fishwife (375-7107/Asilomar, 394-2027/Seaside); a happy hour with half-price pinxtos and bargain mojitos 5-7pm every dang day at Esteban (375-0176); half-off everything at Mando’s (656-9235) for the 200th of Mexican independence Friday, Sept. 16; and $13.95 all-you-can-eat ribs daily at the Windmill (678-1775). There are also three more Fridays of free music overlooking the bay 5-9pm at Monterey Plaza Hotel & Spa (646-1700) Sept. 16, 23 and 30.
>> With apologies to Walter Whitman Wong, Jr. the tarantula, Cosmos the cat and Nala the carpet python, my worms might be my favorite animal allies. And I wouldn’t know how to keep the little wrigglers transforming my scraps into soil amendments (and keeping trash from the landfill) without a free vermicomposting workshop like the one 10-11:30am Saturday, Sept. 24, at the dump. RSVP: www.mrwmd.org or 384-5313.
>> Del Monte Shopping Center’s certified farmers market trundles on through October 8am-1pm Sundays with 25 vendors – including organic eggs, honey, seafood, cut flowers, potted plants, seedlings, and baked goods. Visit the blog for a scouting report on all of the area’s farm-fresh outposts, with stats on vendors and EBT availability, among other notes. Speaking of farms, Family Farm Day is 11am-3pm Saturday, Sept. 24, at ALBA in Salinas (758-1469), where folks can harvest organic berries and veggies alongside ALBA’s farmers and walk away with a beautiful bounty for a few bucks.
>> Post No Bills in Sand City (324-4667) got some deserved love from Draft Magazine: “The spouts are a bouquet of regional beauties from San Jose’s Hermitage Brewing, Redding’s High Water Brewing and Santa Cruz Ale Works peppered with I-can’t-believe-this-is-in-Monterey gems like Ninkasi Spring Reign. There’s no kitchen, but you can order in – or take your beer to go.” Word. A Women’s Beer Basics Class happens there 12:30pm Sunday, Sept. 25, for $20.
>> Much-hyped Il Vecchio (324-4282) has opened near the P.G. Chamber on the border of Pacific Grove and Monterey. Try the gorgonzola gnocchi. And the scallop ravioli. It's open at 5pm Tuesday through Sunday.
>> Two big al fresco fun annual shindigs: Le Mistral Feast in the Field on Sept. 24 at Ventana Vineyards (372-7415, $95-$120) means paired five courses from Dory Ford at a huge table in the grapes with all sorts of behind-the-scenes insight. Harvest 101 on Oct. 1 at McIntyre Vineyards (649-WINE, $55) tours folks around the vineyard with namesake Steve to study fruit qualities, sip unreleased wines and lunch in the sun.
>> “Fan the sinking flame of hilarity with the wing of friendship,” Charles Dickens said, “and pass the rosy wine.”