Wine Enthusiast released its annual America’s Best Wine Restaurants list last week. The list honors 100 restaurants across the country that “incorporate wine in thoughtful and exciting ways . . . restaurants where wine is shared and celebrated, and where, in our experiences, the selection, food, service and atmosphere are all exceptional.” Three local restaurants earned the magazine’s acclaim this year: Aubergine, Passionfish and Seventh & Dolores Steakhouse. Check out the full list—and observations on wine service from sommeliers John Kiely (Aubergine), Bob Kovacs (Seventh & Dolores) and Jannae Lizza (Passionfish)—at winemag.com.
Next time you’re strolling the produce aisle, keep an eye out for some new fruits and veggies from local ag ventures. Earlier this month, Mann Packing Company—part of the Del Monte Fresh Produce vegetable division—unveiled “caulilini.” The baby cauliflower is derived from an Asian-style variety with long stems and blonde, open florets. It’s entirely edible from stem to flower and will be available packaged—washed and ready to eat—in North American stores this July. And last week Driscoll’s debuted its Rosé Berries: new limited edition strawberries and raspberries with “sweet, peachy notes capped off with a soft floral finish that’s as delicate as a rose.” The blush berries are available at northern California Whole Foods from June-September.
Cult Taco now offers happy hour 3:30-5:30pm Monday-Friday. Snag $5 wines by the glass and $5 (wine-based) margaritas, served with complimentary pinwheels for snacking.
Alta Bakery + Cafe serves up a limited edition summertime sipper this month: a double shot of espresso, strawberry puree and lemon verbena from the Cooper Molera gardens, shaken with ice until frothy, then topped with strawberry sparkling water.
And don’t forget, Alta has a Summer Solstice BBQ coming up on Friday, June 21, from 6:30-10pm. The evening features a whole-roasted pig on the grill, corn and salads from the Alta team, plus mole and tortillas from neighboring Cult Taco taqueria, beer, wine and live music by Paige Too. $45, includes two drink tickets, purchase tickets at altamonterey.com.
Summer brings news flavors of French macarons to Blue Aces Bake Shoppe in Salinas. For June, it’s summer in California with campfire s’mores, California rosé, watermelon mojito, elderflower lemonade, raspberry cheesecake, key lime pie, passion fruit, matcha green tea, vanilla bean and pistachio. July will serve up fair favorites with carnival-inspired selections including cotton candy, Firecracker Bomb popsicle, root beer float, popcorn and more. August will be a nod to back-to-school favorites with PB&J, childhood cereals and more. $2 apiece or a dozen for $24. More info and special orders at blueacesbakeshoppe.com.
Revival Ice Cream and The Quail & Olive are teaming up to bring ice cream to Carmel Valley this summer. On Saturdays, the Revival team will scoop cups and cones at Quail & Olive’s shop in the Carmel Valley Village from noon-5pm through the end of July.
Join Aubergine for the next Thursdays in the Courtyard on Thursday, June 20. The happy hour on the courtyard of L’Auberge Carmel hotel features cocktails, wine and beer, plus bar snacks. Bonus: Each beverage purchase gets you two complimentary oysters from Morro Bay Oyster Company. 4-6pm, reservations not required.
Stationӕry’s monthly dinner series returns on Friday, June 21 with a special summer supper for the solstice. Chef Amalia Scatena is preparing a family-style feast featuring rockfish crudo, summer squash, apricot salad, halibut, farro salad, whole-roasted chicken and strawberry shortcake. 7pm, $75, $45 wine pairing, tickets available at thestationaery.com.
PS. If you’re looking to plan ahead, tickets for Stationӕry’s July and August dinners are now available online. Look for an evening celebrating Italy’s Amalfi Coast on Friday, July 19 (7pm, $75, $45 wine pairing) and a summertime crab feed on August 23 (7pm, $85, $45 wine pairing). Head to thestationaery.com to grab your tickets.
Celebrate the Summer Solstice with Earthbound Farm Stand on Saturday, June 22, from 11am-4pm. Spend the day under the summer sun with a lineup of free activities: plant a solar circle of sunflowers, learn how to make a sundial, take part in a meditative group walk in the labyrinth and enjoy live music. If you’re an early riser, there’s also morning yoga at 9am ($25, includes organic fresh-pressed juice). 625-6219 for more information.
The Carmel Valley Art & Wine Celebration is Saturday, June 22, from 11am-5pm. Sponsored by the Carmel Valley Chamber of Commerce, the annual block party showcases more than 50 local artists with an afternoon of live music and wine tasting. Local wineries will pour favorites from their portfolios to pair with small bites from Carmel Valley restaurants—including Carmel Valley Chophouse, Jerome’s Carmel Valley Market, Percy’s Pies, Quail Lodge, Roux and Waypoint Bar + Kitchen. Free admission, $30 advance tickets for wine tasting at carmelvalleychamber.com or $40 at the door, wine tasting ticket includes 10 tastes, a commemorative glass and complimentary transportation via the MST Grapevine Express.
Rosé season is here! Bernardus Lodge celebrates with its annual Rosé Soiree on Saturday, June 22. Raise a toast to summer in the rose garden with a selection of refreshing rosé wines. Nibble on olives and cheeses, plus seafood selections from Executive Chef Cal Stamenov and sweet treats from Pastry Chef Kelsey Larson. Noon-2pm, $75, 658-3400 for reservations.
Bernardus Winery is releasing its new vintage of Sauvignon Blanc with a party on Sunday, June 23, from 1-4pm at the Carmel Valley tasting room. Pair the new 2018 Griva Sauvignon Blanc with sushi from Sakura and appetizers from Jerome’s Carmel Valley Market. Meet and mingle with Winemaker Dean DeKorth and Vineyard Manager Matt Shea with live music from Rod Wilson. $50, $45 wine club members, 298-8021 for reservations.
Negroni Week is June 24-30. The annual celebration of the crimson cocktail—a bitter and boozy concoction of gin, Campari and sweet vermouth—is sponsored by Imbibe magazine and Campari and sees restaurants and bars donating a portion of Negroni sales to charity. Local participants include Alvarado Street Brewery & Grill, Il Fornaio, Ventana Big Sur and Yeast of Eden.
And as part of Negroni Week festivities, Yeast of Eden hosts a Negroni Throwdown with local bartenders on Thursday, June 27, from 6-9pm on the restaurant’s outdoor patio. Competing bartenders include Bijan Emadi (jeninni kitchen + wine bar), Kelly Kuhn (Alvarado Street Brewery & Grill, Nick & Nora Cocktails), Cesar Osuna (Montrio Bistro), Joshua Perry (Cultura Comida y Bebida, Nick & Nora Cocktails) and Alice South (Hula’s Island Grill, neXt doOr). $20, includes tastes of competitors’ cocktails and passed appetizers, available via Eventbrite.
If bitter Campari isn’t your thing, try some Scotch at Grasing’s instead. The restaurant welcomes Glenlivet and Aberlour for a tasting in the rooftop lounge on Wednesday, June 26, from 5:30-7pm. Sip some Scotch and snack on passed appetizers from chef Kurt Grasing. $25, tasting fee waived with $100 purchase, call 624-6562 for more information.