A Look Ahead at 2012 (Part Two): Six Big Things to Anticipate
January 6, 2012
It's nice to have something to look forward to. Carmel Valley knows the feeling, as it anticipates the coolest kick-it eatery to arrive in a decade. Aquarium fans can ready for a more ambitiously delicious food element than the world's best ocean observatory has ever seen, and Sand City will welcome a baseball legend the size of a vending machine, only taller, who will appear to boost his newly introduced, locally managed beer.
And that's just a taste from this list of a half-dozen large and edible/potable items on the way in 2012:
• Big Hurt Beer.
Monterey Beer Festival's Jeff Moses, who produces a range of beverages by way of his Sand City headquarters and San Jose brewery, now has a beer out backed by hulking former all-pro first baseman Frank Thomas of the Chicago White Sox. To give Big Hurt Beer a proper national intro, they're touring the country, including a stop here with an accompanying party at Post No Bills (324-4667) in February.
• Big honors for big Wharf players.
The second annual Spud Spadaro hospitality award goes to Chris Shake and the late Vince Liguori with a party that pops this week (Monday, Jan. 9) at Isabella's (375-3956). Shake asked to defer the award to the late Liguori, a longtime Fisherman's Wharf fixture with Liberty Fish, and the award team said, in not so many words, Sharing is caring (call it a tie). "These guys are gifted at making the customer happy," says pointman Johnny Aliotti, "with a long history of hospitality in Monterey County, outgoing personalities. involvement with nonprofit organizations, great giving people. In 20 years, after 20 plaques, [their names] will be in 20 locations."
• Big flavor in Carmel Valley.
The wineries will likely continue to proliferate—and at least Chock Rock (659-ROCK) will be evolving its current space as soon as this month—but there are plenty of grape-juice stations already. Not so for food hubs like the Cachagua General Store-style project of Brendan Jones. Lokal (214-3429), which might open as soon as Feb. 15, will star Spanish-style tapas, a 29-foot bar, full breakfasts, creative salads and sandwiches like a pork loin with arugula and caramelized onions, plus a dip. "It's about having a good time,” Jones says. “I want atmosphere, food, wine."
• Big progress at Lovers Point.
Radiant-heated floors, glass-walled patios, cathedral ceilings and new ocean views from an upstairs bar and ambitiously designed dining rooms will help make the former Old Bath House one of the biggest foodie stories of the year. With James Gilbert and Kevin Phillips at the controls, the design and demolition are essentially done, the new name is a legal approval from being minted (Lovers Point will figure in as prominently there as with the window-heavy layout), and the real excitement arrives when the skeleton appears. "When the framing goes up people will react strongly," managing partner Phillips says. "It will be dramatically different on the ocean side." Conservative grand opening target, he adds: June.
• Big Schooners upgrade.
Within the month, popular Schooners Coastal Kitchen & Bar (372-2628)—our readers perennial pick for Best Drink With a View—will consume all of its former neighbor The Duck Club, capturing its ample square footage and Monterey Bay views. Chef James Waller gets more room to do his organic goods and sustainable seafood thing. A brand new entrance will reinforce the effort to brand the spot as a free-standing destination, not a hotel restaurant. Schooners' nautical theme—hardwood floors, clean lines, white tile—will spread from the sizable patio to the raised booths. The re-open comes Jan. 28, followed by a grand opening Saturday, Feb. 4. Bring on the seafood salad, with seared ahi, jumbo shrimp, fresh crab, avocado and tomato on mixed greens with mango dressing ($17).
In other upgrade news, Marinus at Bernardus (658-3400) is also getting a minor facelift, taking a month to evolve the soothing setting with a change of colors, lighting and linens.
And the Coastal Luxury Management coalition will soon introduce a catering arm that deploys the tastes of its Cannery Row Brewing Company and Restaurant 1833 operations—plus, for them, an appropriately ambitious boutique branch that customizes events with big talents from their kitchen of Pebble Beach Food & Wine and L.A. Food & Wine chefs.
• Big fish.
Come the shark tail-end of the year, the Monterey Bay Aquarium culinary team will start renovating the restaurant in concert with an (even) more ambitious sustainable eating education effort. On the heels of hiring Cindy Pawlcyn to direct food in ’11, that means, to use their languaging, treating food itself as a special exhibit, syncing exhibit designers with the chefs themselves. “The whole food service area hasn’t had a major facelift for a long time,” spokesman Ken Peterson says. “We’re ready to raise the game.”