With apologies to Julie Andrews, a few of my favorite things.

Ben Spungin’s “floating island” dessert capped a triumphant debut Big Night Out at Carmel Belle Sunday (left); Patrick Farjas went off in the chowder cook-off judges tent (“This is baby food!”) as crowds tried 33 entries.

Poets have compared it to a bird, a fire and an earthquake. Some say love can inspire war, unmatched music and mortal illness. 


Yes, love knows many faces. For me, of late, I found it in a feisty French chef, local turnips and langostino.


Allow me to elaborate: 


I love that ours is one of the planet’s most qualified places to host a clam chowder cook-off – and that the Monterey Wine Festival’s has proven to be as fun as a grape stomp over its first two years – because it means I get to take down a quart of inventive chowder in the judge’s tent, as I did Saturday, and because it’s there that I can hear guys like fellow judge, Day Break Gourmet Executive Chef and France native Patrick Farjas go off on both alcohol intake (“I don’t drink water, it’s against my religion,” he said when I brought in an Otter Cove bottle from Richard Oh) and substandard soup (“It’s seafood! Not baby food!”). And because it allows eventual winners Tene Shake/Isabella’s (Most Creative and Best in Show), Willi Franz/Marriott (Best Clam) and Mohammed Tabib/Fish Hopper (Best Seafood) to demonstrate how Monterey does it, though Seattle’s Pike Place stole People’s Choice.


I love that we have the kind of community that can rally around a school garden to produce a debut roof-raiser like last Friday’s Dinner in the Vineyard MEarth benefit at Bernardus – and that the supremely local food featured can taste so good. There are too many purveyors, donors and collaborators to mention here, but trust that the love was comprehensive, from someone like Carolyn Swanson donating Passion Purveyors consulting, Gnarly Nature carrots for the chilled soup and her own time slicing focaccia and plating fava bean dreams to Cal Stamenov steering a volunteer staff – with talent as iffy as this author – through a menu of the Swank Farms turnips, Hog Farm asparagus, PigWizard sausage and FogLine country-fried chicken. (Hit the blog for a video peek at how students harvested much of the glorious grub from their gardens.)


I love that Pebble Beach Food & Wine’s David Bernahl would be resilient enough to survive recent bankruptcy of his Pacific Tweed – “It was a very hard day,” he says, “but I can’t give it the energy it needs” – to donate a fat rack of rare wines, buy a whole table and shout himself literally hoarse running the live auction with insane enthusiasm. And he still held serve late night, rapping wine futures, sipping Baker’s and smoking cigars by the Wickets fireplace.


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I love that the first week at Post No Bills (324-4667) – and Saturday’s Beer Fest – included more than a steady flow of great beer and diverse folks: It also pulled in the delish Babaloo Cuban Food Truck (262-4150), exuberant graffiti from Eric Mallari and a big, beautiful beer painting by Amanda Burkman you have to see to believe.


I love Big Sur langostino, Monterey Bay halibut, Val Verde peas, golden raspberries fresher than congressmen on Twitter and organic strawberries the size of monkey fists. Serendipity Farms brought the big red berries to the table at a debut Big Night Out at Carmel Belle, the first special pop-up dinner of its kind schemed by Colleen Logan, whose new Savor operation seeks, admirably enough, as she said Sunday, “to help local farms make money, because it should be a viable profession.” Anton Tymoshenko’s Rock Farm, meanwhile, brought the raspberries, Jerry Wetle brought the fish, Charlie Casio brought the Sweetwater Farm cheeses, winemaker Frankie Melicia brought the luscious wines, a 2008 Parsonage Estate Syrah and an even better (really) Rocco Estate Syrah drawn from the little family operation’s three best barrels. Two maestros named Matt Millae and Ben Spungin whipped that orchestra of local ingredients into a full-on philharmonic feast that was one dry halibut note away from truly epic.

I love that Serendipity now has a little company, if not enough, in the local community-supported-agriculture context (where local family farms deliver a box of fresh-that-week foodstuffs by season subscription). It was Logan who turned me onto the WE Cooperative that’s bundling a selection of local goods with Catalan Family Farms produce. That meant in addition to a range of classics like plump fava beans, spring peas, lush broccoli, colorful farm eggs and crunchy carrots, I got awfully money honey from Acosta Farms and skin butter from Rockridge Arts and Botanicals. Call 708-8315 or visit wecooperative.com to learn more.


I love that Heller Estate (659-6220) was named the 27th district’s Small Business of the Year in Sacramento. I love that sustainability and sports are bedfellows, at least by Del Monte Golf Course, where Knuckles (372-1234) has boarded the Seafood Watch mothership, which means the Gilroy-garlic steamed clams, sea salt calamari, cod fish tacos, salmon sandwich and crab cake sliders are tasty and consciously caught. And I love that Ice T once said, “Passion makes the world go round. Love just makes it a safer place.”

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