A review of the epicurean elements that we didn’t expect.
Thursday, October 4, 2012
Maybe you expect to see Carlo Rossi wine at a nice wine event. Or that the rabbit food at Esalen will rival fine-dining fare. Not me. And those are just a pair of plot twists to arise of late:
:O Surprise: The team at pickle-jam-kombucha café Happy Girl Kitchen (373-GIRL) set a Kickstarter goal to raise $72,000 by Friday. Seems like, um, a lot, or at least until co-owner Jordan Champagne intensely explains the overhead (percentages for Kickstarter and credit cards plus gift exchanges) and her husband Todd the scale of the mission (to do nothing less than take their local farm-preservationist mission to the next level, with more classes, deliveries and a stocked store that harkens back to days of natural foods spot The Granary). But before Friday: Thursday, Oct. 4, and the harvest party installment of the monthly Sand City Independent Marketplace that the Champagnes help pop. Don’t be surprised if a theme built around what they do – preserve/celebrate the harvest – makes for another epic (just go).
:O Surprise: Tarpy’s Roadhouse Exec Chef Michael Kimmel is a star. He’s quietly played third musketeer to the bigger names in the Downtown Dining family (Montrio’s Tony Baker and Rio Grill’s Cy Yontz) but now his new menu is earning him overdue attention. No surprise: RVSPs are full for the Tarpy’s 20th anniversary party Sunday, Oct. 7. Fortunately the new craft cocktails and dishes – peep them on the blog – are now being served, and the new 3-6pm happy hour is alive in the redone bar. 647-1444.
:O Surprise: Coffee is its own food group. That mantra gives you an idea of what kinda caffeinated enthusiasm Manager Katie Minafo is bringing to P.G.’s freshly opened Crema Espresso & Wine Bar (375-1300) in the victorian where Pasta Mia sat. For now it’s coffee drinks like the famed iced white mocha ($4.25) by day, lots of events in the 70-person house spaces by night, with the weekend wine bar on the way. It’s a fun and natural play for Tamie Aceves, who has La Creme Catering, and Minafo, who used to own Lighthouse Cafe. More on the blog.
:O Surprise: Sierra Mar is for normal people too. A savvy 62-year-old author interviewing to be an intern told me there are only two types of people who eat at Post Ranch’s S.M. (667-2800): The wealthy who stay there and folks who have been saving up tax returns for one big splurge. No longer, as it’s no surprise Chef John Cox’s new $40 three-course lunch menu, which I described last week, looks and tastes as good as it sounds, particularly with wines paired by Sarah Kabat. Bonus surprises: Grape soda floats for dessert, and the apples in the on-site garden are as big as grapefruits. Pics soon on the blog.
:O Surprise: California Wine Festival (www.californiawinefestival.com), founded to promote the state’s wine regions, will have jug wine Carlo Rossi on hand for the Custom House Plaza fest 1-4pm Saturday, Oct. 6 ($65 in advance; $80 day of). In all fairness, there are 15 local wineries (like Pessagno, Paraiso and Scheid) joining 50 others (including Opolo, Mercy and Grgich Hills). And they’ve got a rare and reserve tasting at the Hyatt Friday, Oct. 5 ($99; $120). Click MCW’s web ad for $15 off.
:O Surprise: The Esalen kitchen, despite having to dish up three meals for 300-plus folks a day, cafeteria style, with a modest kitchen and all-student staff, does house-cured salmon, fresh sourdough ryes, robust soups, and homemade jams that, with a little plating, could match their fancy neighbors (see story, p. 18). Chef Phillip Burrus sees eye-opening transformations with people who come there to work (and, as importantly, eat). The key, he says: Not having a set menu, and prepping what the nearby garden has ready. They deal with friction in the kitchen similarly: By acknowledging it and staying open to where it takes them. In other words, dealing well with surprises.
•Saw former Esalen chef and author of The Esalen Cookbook Charlie Casio in his old chomping grounds, sampling folks on his Spanish-style “El Sur Grande” manchego soaked in red wine and rubbed with lavender; Swiss mountain-style “Mt. Carmel” crusted with herbs de provence; and a farmstead Romano “Pico Blanco” with four types of peppercorns and a beeswax rind. Now you can try his goat milk cheeses – with his honey – at Mundaka (624-7400), and soon on Sierra Mar’s “taste of Big Sur” menu.
•Earthbound Farm’s Myra Goodman speaks and signs The Earthbound Cook: 250 Recipes for Delicious Food and a Healthy Planet 7pm Tuesday, Oct. 9, at Pilgrim’s Way (624-4955). I use that book as much as any in my kitchen – actually, it’s a tie with the one that came before it, Food to Live By.
• Schooners Coastal Kitchen & Bar (372-2628) has itself a little beer party noon-4pm Sunday, Oct. 7, with English Ales pouring eight beers and Santa Cruz Ale Works sharing three ($4/8-ounce), Chef James Waller on the Q and live music from the International Party Officers.
•American Culinary Federation Monterey Bay Chapter picnic – expect live music and bevs to go with a boatload of barbecue – happens noon-4pm Sunday, Oct. 7, at Indian Village in Pebble. And it’s f-r-e-e. R-S-V-P to Paul Lee at 915-9357.
• The big, spicy and beautifully blackened chicken sandwich ($6.99) at Ferdi’s (394-2244) in Seaside proved such a popular weekly special the Cajun-powers-that-be made it available every day. Bless em for that. Also excellent: The seasonal milkshakes like peach and watermelon.
• The 24th Taste of Carmel ain’t cheap ($115) now that early rates have evaporated but it’s good for business (or at least the chamber), set in the incredible Carmel Mission Courtyard and brings to bear a dozen distinguished area wineries and 20 nice food spots like Anton & Michel and Aubergine 6-9pm Thursday, Oct. 4.
•Like E-40 raps: “Top of the line wine Carlo Rossi/ I drinks it all the time it’s hecksa satisfying.