Carmel Food Company, Point Pinos Grill rank among welcome upgrades.

Outside Chance: A tented back patio-to-be will add more al fresco, dog-friendly seats at Carmel Food Company on Junipero.

Sam the server brought out a surprise. “This is from another table,” he said. “A bite of the hanger steak… ”


That’s a little strange, I thought, but hey, sharing is caring, and it’s got a nice Madeira sauce.

“… for your dog.”


You can’t script a more quintessential Carmel moment. But it also functions as a fitting fractal for the new Carmel Food Company (624-0300), where I sat down for a press dinner Saturday: Tucked off the street on Junipero between Fifth and Sixth, the newborn spot enjoys a range of cute welcoming elements. Take the striped decor of the little dining room, the water bowl for the pooch on the basic front patio, the choices of bread spread (two butters and a caramelized onion oil) and the bourbon vanilla sauce on the Danish bread pudding. 


Exec Chef Sven Hoffman, a Germany-trained lifer whose international credits include Tuba Garden in S.F. and Aubérge du Soleil in Napa, had a beautiful baked brie “Paris” ($9) up on his tiny counter when I passed by, so one for the table was compulsory. Once we cracked its shell the wedge drained, pouring out with surprising soupiness. With sips of 2009 Coppola Pinot ($48), we ate it – and the accompanying lingonberry compote and crispy parsley – but its liquidity would make it hard for me to order again. 


Not so for the tender butter lettuce salad with citrus, chives and ah-yes maple vinaigrette ($10), the excellent arancini ($7), and the sockeye salmon special ($29), which is spendy but Seafood Watch-worthy and lively with a mint-lemon zest zing. I also liked the coq au vin ($25), another special, a rich and worthy version of classic French comfort. 


They also do lunch, with asparagus-artichoke-gruyere-veloute crepes ($10), French omelets ($11), croque monsieurs ($12) and a recommended charcuterie plate with cured meats, pate and olives ($15). For Wednesdays through Aug. 31, a “haute summer” special means soup or salad, choice of two main course items and dessert run $14.95 (wine $20) plus tax and tip.


Here come huevos rancheros on a homemade tostada with refritos negros, diced ham, English peas, cheddar cheese, avocado, ranchero sauce and fried plantains; steel cut oats, with Dick Inzana almonds and walnuts, flax seed, sesame seeds, sunflower seeds, coconuts and raisins; roasted heirloom tomato tarts with Truffle Tremor cheese; and buttermilk pancakes made from scratch. 


If that doesn’t sound like classic golf clubhouse grub, that’s because it ain’t – it’s what Dory Ford is doing with the Point Pinos Grill (648-5774) at the Pacific Grove Municipal Golf Links now that his AquaTerra Culinary A-team runs it.


Despite its atypical (but improving) ambiance, the clubhouse – with beers coming July 1, views of the Pacific and arguably the best value course around within a wedge – just became one of P.G.’s most dynamic eating destinations. Check out photos on the food blog.


Pierce Ranch Vineyards (372-8900) recently debuted a new tasting room ingredient – music! – in its little house on Wave Street. Daily tastings of Pierce’s pioneering Portuguese and Spanish style varietals, wrung from San Antonio Valley sunshine, run $5. Come 8:30-10:30pm Friday, June 10, the live music in the guise of Sean Sullivan, formerly of Drone Hooligan (see p. 39), is free. 


Across town, meanwhile, one of the more under-appreciated sipping lounges has a robust month of jazz ahead.


At the Hyatt’s Fireplace Lounge (372-1234), you can order a black cherry-pomegranate martini ($9), pluck lemon gnocchi and gorgonzola cheesecake from a nice menu of lounge options and soak up live A-lister sounds.


My jazz writer is already buzzing about bassist Bootza Necak June 24. But that’s but one among many: Marshall Otwell, who toured with Carmen McCrae and recorded with a dude named Dizzy, performs Friday, June 10. Hit the blog for scheds at both spots.


Chamisal’s Courtside Cafe (484-1135 x17) remains a wildly underappreciated spot, especially come summer. Pals and I enjoyed watching foxes smack the ball around almost as much as David Frappiea’s superb sand dab salads (a steal at $8.95) and saffron-tomato halibut ($24.95), though it took longer than it should’ve (order an appetizer). Now chef says they’ve just added a stone bar to match the fireplace, featuring a “Salvador Dali-inspired tennis racket.” And Saturday, June 11, he’s doing a wine dinner with Joullian ($95); the five paired courses include everything from prosciutto-wrapped steamed jumbo white Gulf shrimp to rabbit tarts… Michelle Obama’s visiting Alice WatersEdible Schoolyard in the Bay Area Tuesday. They’d dig our premier edible yard, the MEarth acreage on Carmel Valley Road. Cal Stamenov’s hosting an impressive Friday (June 10) fundraiser for it at Bernardus – call 624-1032 for a shot at the final tickets and the insane auction items. That touches off a wowser weekend with Monterey Wine Festival, Beer Fest and Carmel Valley Art & Wine (see p. 29)… “The one thing in the world of value,” Ralph Waldo Emerson once decided, “is the active soul.”

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