The Best, Baby
Wine & Dine wow, a Carmel restaurant’s coup and pop-up foot juggling.
Thursday, September 22, 2011
We are talking caramelized day boat sea scallops with fingerling potatoes. Fluffy spinach dumplings in a dreamy Parmesan cream sauce. Sixteen-ounce single bone-in prime short rib cooked for four hours in stout beer and homemade veal stock. Flopping-fresh catch of the day crusted with pistachios and grilled, drenched in tomatillo-avocado sauce and served with organic quinoa and plantains stuffed with Cotija cheese.
Yes, we are talking about some of the best grub between Pajaro and Pebble Beach, as gathered for the first time in the Best of Monterey Bay Wine & Dine guide, which debuted last year with a list of such signature dishes, recommended directly by local chefs, and bundled with a catalog of local signature wines. My copy still sits within arm’s reach. I’ve used it just about every week this year.
Now Wine & Dine 2.0 is in the works. Email firstname.lastname@example.org if you haven’t gotten your go-to platter sent yet. (Like all editorial content, it’s free, though ad space is also available.)
The glossy special pub hits streets Oct. 20 as an insert in the Fall 2011 Wine & Dine. Bonus: The first person to email me the names of three of the four restaurants whose new signature specialties are listed above gets lunch on me.
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First our coastline stole their hearts. Then our sharks and otters stole their imagination. Now one of our finest restaurants has stolen a Top 5 Zagat slot.
OK, steal isn’t a valid term, because the honor was earned by Aubergine (624-8578), which bested thousands of Bay Area and Napa restaurants like Chez Panisse, Slanted Door and the Restaurant at Meadowood in the 2012 guide. Only Gary Danko, The French Laundry, Cyrus and Manresa scored better.
I went a few months ago to see what alchemy Chef Justin Cogley, pastry kingpin Ron Mendoza and Wine Director Thomas Perez were crafting. To this day I have a hard time articulating the creativity, elegance and excitement of a meal that began with a simple grid of words like “lobster,” “avocado” and “bull’s blood.” But that didn’t stop me from trying, with the help of some photos. Eyeball that attempt on the blog.
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Arguably the most ambitious local pop-up is back for round two.
The last Carmel Supper Club show at All Saints Church sold out. Grasing's (624-6562) did dinner. Bernardus (659-1900) blessed lips with great grape juice. And Tony-nominated Susan Egan gave lil' Carmel a big breath of Broadway.
Part deux, dubbed “Mangia del Arte,” goes down 6pm Friday, Oct. 21, at Sunset Center and doubles as a fundraiser for the host venue. This time the theater-spectacle dinner stars a Mongolian contortionist (yes), a lady who juggles parasols with her feet (yes again) and ace a capella stars SoVoSo, who have previously sold out Sunset by themselves. Grasing's or Il Fornaio will do the gourmet goodies and organizers Peter Lesnik and Russell Lefebvre are scouting for a worthy local wine label. Partially tax-deductible tickets run from $95 to $200, 620-2048.
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One way to do NFL football: At Knuckles (372-1234), with chips and blue cheese and bacon guacamole ($6.50), maybe a Sunday game-day Coors 24-ounce ($5) and all the free peanuts and popcorn you can eat. Another way: Monterey Cookhouse (642-9900) with a quarter pound dog, fries and beer for $7.95, which also plays daily at 4-6pm happy hour. One more: Kula Ranch (883-9479) for Pigskin Mondays, when owner Joe Loeffler spit-roasts a whole hog, bathing it in coconut juice, while double-teriyaki cheeseburgers, turkey sliders, prime-rib or pork-and-pineapple-sausage sandwiches are all $5 each, Bud Light drafts are $2, microbrews $3 a pint, margaritas and mai tais $4 even. Game on.
>> Marina Mayor Bruce Delgado may not know what a “flash mob” is (hint: for starters, BD, it’s a surprise), but he knows he likes him some In-N-Out, so he’s rallying a so-called flash mob for an overhead photo in an attempt to woo the chain. It gets better.
>> Take that, glazed donuts. This week MPUSD’s Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program does three on-campus farmers markets at elementary schools in Seaside and Marina, where kids get $2 to purchase stuff like pluots and sugar-snap peas. A-plus for nutrition services supe Jenn Gerard and company.
>> London Bridge Pub (372-0581) taps a cask ale night Friday, Sept. 23. That means old-school brew from English Ales, hand-pumped to your pint glass, while you fist pump the Rugby World Cup on the telly.
>> Chef Thomas Snyder’s pairing things like oyster tartar with American caviar, a rabbit “menage a trois,” “tongue and cheek” and a lamb duet with Damien Georis’ small-plot Madeleine Wines at Esteban (375-0176). Five courses Wednesday, Sept. 28, $65++.
>> Can I get a sad sigh for KION? In their rush to level a hit piece on the Weekly’s student guide for having medical marijuana and lingerie in it (see Spin, p. 15), they missed all the content, including a buffet of food finds, like “High Five: Places to Take Your Parents,” “Cheap Eats & Cool Hangouts,” “Ten Places to Find a Happy Hour Pint at the Right Price,” and guides to the area’s farmers markets and family-owned cafés, juice bars and froyo. I’ve posted High Five and farmers markets on the blog. More soon.
>> OMG all over again, congregation. The second coming of Oh My Goat: Chili From God showed up gloriously at the Carmel Valley Great Bowls of Fire Chili Cook-off on Sept. 21, elevated by cheddar jalapeño cornbread and a year’s worth of divine tinkering. Check the blog to see what answers our flock’s prayers got from the gathered.
>> “If you enter a goat stable, bleat,” goes one Indonesian proverb. “If you enter a water buffalo stable, bellow.”