Full Plate

After a half decade cooking in Scotland and time at Michelin-starred One Market in San Francisco, 1833’s Mikey Adams is clearly enjoying what he calls his dream job.

Maybe it’s because we squeezed 21 different stories, on everything from Marina’s fast-casual food boom to the area’s best gluten-free desserts, into last week’s Food & Drink double issue. Maybe it’s because there is so much flavor flowing around town. But food news demands we squish three stories into the available real estate here. Get longer versions and photo slideshows on the blog, www.mcweekly.com/edible.

The ingredients can be special, the flavors fresh, the execution mindful.

But as many food enthusiasts have articulated previously, there’s an elusive element that makes dining greater than the sum of those more predictable parts.

Some call it love.

For the guy standing at the helm of Restaurant 1833’s latest reinvention, joy would probably be a better word, which is something the place hungered for of late.

It’s there in homages he pays to his past, including his native Santa Cruz, adopted Scotland and the intriguing Far East. It’s there in his playful but devoutly approachable style, via menu items that center around fun, comfort and sharing. It’s also there in his general disposition.

Bearded and tatted Mikey Adams exudes joy because this is the job he always wanted, and one he was willing to wait for as he prepared himself for the moment. And that he did, working with founding chef Levi Mezick and James Beard-nominated Jason Franey.

A range of dishes shined across a rich seven-course tasting peppered with what Adams calls his “flavor bombs.”

Among them were glorious Oaxacan string cheese sticks with smoked jalapeño ranch; a clever coconut-crema shrimp ceviche; a kale-sunflower shoot salad with “hippy vinaigrette”; an 1833 burger crowned with crispy jalapeño caps, bacon, Monterey jack and green chili mayo; silky smoked wild salmon over creamed leeks; and barbecue tri-tip with tempura-style maitake mushrooms and Korean barbecue sauce over kimchi porridge.

Adams said something toward the end of the meal about the burger, immediately one of the area’s best, but he could’ve been talking about the bigger opportunity, after being with 1833 since its beginning: “This is my obsession – I want to knock it out of the park.” Batter up.

~ ~ ~

A year ago, the powers-that-be at Big Sur Food & Wine decided El Niño provided a chance to avoid potential liabilities, take a year off and regroup.

The time and the updates have its loyal fans desperate for Nov. 3-5 to arrive.

It’ll be worth the wait.

Among the many highlights: David Kinch’s Bywater will anchor one of the flagship traditions of the festival, the memorable Wine & Swine – this year “with New Orleans flair” – at Henry Miller Library, along with 20 hand-selected wineries and a half-dozen other top-shelf pork masters like Cal Stamenov (Lucia/Bernardus), Jonathan Roberts (PigWizard), Ben Spungin (Sierra Mar) and Frank Ostini (Hitching Post 2).

Much about the festival will keep with a half decade-plus of magnetic BSFW tradition that draws people from as far off as Alabama, including its strongest quality: a feeling of family.

There will be collaborations (Hitching Post + Big Sur Bakery), five-and-a-half-hour Magical Mystery Tours, Hiking With Stemware, panel tastings and a Pinot Walkabout in Sierra Mar’s garden.

But there are changes. BSFW is now a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, with books open to the public. CFO/Events Director/Harmonic Converger Elsa Rivera hopes that means more effective monetary management and greater impact on the South Coast. “I keep saying that if the festival can bring much-needed economy to Big Sur – if we can raise funds, not only for our designated beneficiaries but those affected by the Soberanes Fire,” she says, “we will truly be a success.”

No more Gateway to Big Sur at Hyatt Carmel Highlands, but BSFW is planning events beyond one weekend in fall. Longtime BSFW head cheese and founding presidentToby Rowland-Jones retired after seven years; his longtime collaborator Aengus Wagner has taken the helm as president.

“With names like Pisoni and FranscioniMudd and Weston, evoking thoughts of Jeffers and Miller, while basking in the beauty of our stunning coast and roaming Rancho Rico eating Justin Cogley’s hamachi with coriander, avocado, lemon and dill and devouring Black River caviar out of your best friends hands,” Wagner says, “this is BSFW 2016.”

~ ~ ~

For Jack and Luke Sinclitico, the marshmallows alone merit a major award. They were the miniature humanoids joining me at Carmel Valley Ranch’s Valley Kitchen (1-855-OUR-RANCH) last week. For me, the food would be enough for said award. For others, it’s all about the zombies.

On the food front, Exec Chef Tim Wood wowed with a wakame seaweed salad-poke dish, olive-oil-braised pulled pork and a revelation he called “cinnamon toast crunch” lumped with foie gras.

“We build on tradition, but we don’t have to be full of ourselves,” he says.

The little Sincliticos were ready to adjourn the meal about two minutes into deconstructing their cheese pizzas with grotesque flair to get after some s’mores.

Those represent a small and thoughtful part of the on-campus activities that helped earn Best Resort in Northern California in the Condé Nast Traveler Readers’ Choice awards, out this week.

Other programming includes beekeeping, horsewhispering, yoga and – new this month – zombie survival skills like archery, combat self-defense and first aid for wounds caused by the undead.

~ Quickbites ~

  • Mulligan Public House eyes Nov. 15 as its open date on Dolores in Carmel.
  • Nacho Bizness next to Bulldog (601-2424) in New Monterey now does rotating Saturday night specials like bacon-jalapeño-mac-’n’-cheese nachos and crispy carnitas with mole-Monterey jack sauce. This week: pumpkin curry nachos.
  • Friday, Oct. 28, the Dalí17 Gala at the Museum of Monterey features zoo animals, but also a dinner by Aqua Terra Culinary with things like “Peacock a la l’Imperiale Dressed and Surrounded by Its Court.” (See p. 33.) That sold out, so it’s after-party for you ($100/one, $150/two, 372-2608, www.Dali17.com).
  • J. Lohr Vineyards & Wines just named Dave Muret senior marketing director after his seven-year run as the executive director of the Santa Lucia Highlands Winegrowers Association.
  • The Monterey Bay chapter of the American Culinary Federation hosts its annual Christmas dinner at the Marriott Hotel (649-4234) on Tuesday, Dec 13.
  • The Trailside Cafe (298-7453) hosts live music Friday and Saturday evening.
  • Trio Carmel (800-860-3024) celebrates Carmel’s 100th Saturday, Oct 29, with gelato topped with gourmet balsamic vinegars and complimentary wine tastings. Doors open at 11am and demonstrations take place from 1:30-5pm.
  • Boardwalk Sub Shop (264-1171) now brings on weekly specials. This week features chicken pesto.
  • Restaurant 1833 (643-1833) holds a social hour every 5-7pm Sunday-Thursday with discounted drinks ($7 for goodies like the martini and old-fashioned) and bar snacks (including fried Oaxacan string cheese for $6 and smoked halibut croquettes for $8).
  • Sundays and Mondays at Casa Sorrento Pizzeria (757-2720): all-day happy hours, $3 pints or $10 pitchers.
  • Moss Landing’s The Whole Enchilada (633-3038) hosts a free wine tasting every Friday from 4-7pm.
  • Monterey Cookhouse (642-9900) asks only $10 for a wood-fired burger, fries and a beer 4-6pm daily.
  • Wayne Dyer: “If you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.”

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