Best scandal, surf spot, place to eavesdrop and more.
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Best restaurants by city, cheap eats and best restaurant of the county!
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Our picks for the sometimes less obvious winners.
Best Chef / Best Restaurant To Splurge (2012)
Cal Stamenov / Marinus
415 West Carmel Valley Road, Carmel Valley
Why aren’t these folks Michelin-rated? Well, they would be if the critics made it to this part of the world. Whether it’s Michael Mina, Gary Danko or the French Laundry, Marinus is in the same neighborhood, knocking on doors and delivering knockout tastes like Stamenov’s stammer-inducing Monterey Bay red abalone with semolina spaghetti and black truffle “carbonara.” While Mark Buzan, wine director, makes sure to pour wines that will pair poetically with Stamenov’s life-altering cuisine, the county’s premier chef makes the sommelier’s job easy by avoiding ingredients that could ruin the nuances of a bottle of the 1982 Latour. However there are significantly less expensive options like half bottles of the 2005 Dr. Loosen “Urziger Wurzgarten” Riesling Spatlese from Germany’s Mosel-Saar-Ruwer region. In other words, you don’t need to have a lot of money to have class, or even to splurge. The four-course pre-fixe menu, which includes a complimentary amuse buche, awakens and preps the palate before it’s confronted with a dynamic progression that the diner can choose. Maybe it’s Kobe beef with killer Cabernet that will leave you desperate for another bite? Maybe a foie gras with Sauternes pairing pushing you to redefine your definition of decadent? Perhaps it’s something savory like epoisse cheese matched with a Syrah from France’s Rhone Valley that will rewire the link between your senses and the brain? The opportunities are endless, the service is top-notch, and the atmosphere is far from stuffy.