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Summer It Up: Heady Stuff: Guests can sip dozens and dozens of different drafts at Saturday’s Beer Festival, hat or no hat.— Toni Schulman

TOMATOES AND BEER… It must be September. I’m sitting here with a pile of reminders about stuff that is coming up so that means the perfect weather is here and everybody is trying to capture a piece of it for their event. Hopefully this weekend will be magnificent—a little selfish interest here, with Saturday, Sept. 9 seeing the fifth installment of the annual MONTEREY BEER FESTIVAL at the Fairgrounds. Last year we moved it from the Coast Guard Pier to the Fairgrounds, where it is now ensconced and becoming part of the landscape of great events here on the Peninsula. Check out the ad in this issue for details on times, tickets, etc.

There is no mistaking TOMATOFEST as one of the premier events around these parts. GARY IBSEN’s yearly homage to the round mound of astound, the heirloom tomato, in all its variations, rolls on. The main event happens Sunday, Sept. 10. This year marks the inaugural class of the TomatoFest Hall of Fame. Inductees include CAL STAMENOV, WALTER MANZKE, TODD FISHER, WENDY BRODIE, BERT CUTINO, COLIN MOODY, DIDIER DUTERTRE, JIM GALLIVAN, MARK MARINO and MARY PAGAN. Go to tomatofest.com to learn more.

Just a word about Mary Pagan. For those of you unaware of the many things she is accomplishing at the Culinary Center in Monterey as a good citizen and friend to the community, time to take a look. The latest was the moving and important benefit for Chef STEPHEN BLACKWELL, an instructor at the Culinary Center who is fighting cancer. She’s always one of the first in line to initiate or support a good cause in the community.

Some of the folks who are the future for our community, the Central Coast Young Farmers & Ranchers, Salinas Jaycees and the Monterey County Young Professionals, are having a gathering, “Forum for the Future: Creating Opportunities for Tomorrow’s Leaders,” on Thursday, Sept. 7 at Laguna Seca Golf Ranch. Apps, wine, networking, golf course backdrop…372-2259 or 970-4141 or just get there.

HOT, HOT, HOT… Another place you should just get to is Garden Bistro in Carmel Valley, just nigh of the village, around the corner from Talbott’s tasting room on Pilot Road. ROXANA ROBLES GORRITI, the Molly Brown of the Carmel Valley eating scene, has fashioned a true local bistro with some of the best food around the Central Coast. She uses the freshest local organic ingredients, and hand-makes everything from the breads to the pastas. There are European-style dishes, diverse wines, a beautiful garden and great people—it’s the happeningest place in the vicinity. Call 659-5020 for more info.

Another spot where folks were congregating was the Surf n Sand Tasting Seminar. Here’s what heir apparent Mark C. Anderson of this paper had to say: “Mundo, I owe you a debt of sweet-agave gratitude for turning me onto the fine spirits tasting-seminar series anchored by Surf n Sand’s RYAN SANCHEZ, with an assist from his pops, FERMIN SANCHEZ of Bruno’s Market, Aug. 24. Across the street from their double-barreled business dynasty, Piatti’s upstairs deck was alive with diverse, lively and downright good-looking folks from around the Peninsula and smooth, aged and creative tequilas from around the Western Hemisphere. Somehow, despite the gorgeous pourers and the variations of Patron, Asombroso and other sleek cacti flavors prickling my palate, I managed to learn much about the adept art of fine tequila, the difference between silvers, reposadas, añejos, etc.” Can’t say it any better than that.

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HALLMARKS OF EXCELLENCE... Can’t say it any better than MARIE PERUCCA-RAMIREZ either, who just rolled back into town after…well, after this: “What a summer—it just flew by. We spent a month bush camping in Africa—Botswana and Zambia. The African people were very gracious and hospitable. We’re now working on an article about the foods of South Africa and the cooks—especially focusing on safari cooks and the career opportunities that foreign tourism affords traditional rural peoples.

“This past weekend, Julio and I caravanned down to Los Angeles with Tony and Maria Salameh and Csaba Ajan to attend the California Restaurant Association’s Hall of Fame Dinner at the downtown Marriott. Julio had been nominated for Chef of the Year, Csaba for Restaurateur of the Year, and Tony along with his restaurant Anton and Michel for the Hall of Fame for the state of California. It was a glittering, black-tie evening—Southern California took the gold, but our guys were great ambassadors for our local restaurant industry.”

Speaking of the Hall of Fame Dinner of the CRA, this year’s inductees into the Monterey Branch are Ted and Cindy Walter with Passionfish. The affair will be at the Highlands Inn in November. Look for a big spread in Bon Apetit magazine in January.

HAPPY ENDING... Chianti Ristorante in the Crossroads is doing a happy hour each day from 4:30 to 6:30pm. Stop down to see the one and only Domenico for discounted apps, drinks and martinis…Wassim “The Dream” Chaarani, GM of Hog’s Breath in Carmel, has opened Papa Riva’s Pizza in Salinas, right between the brewery and the movie theater. Stop in for pizza by the slice or pie, subs, salads, beer and wine…Check out the calendar for the Pepe Talk events coming up in September, wholefoods.com…David Frappiea, chef/partner at Mélange Restaurant in Pacific Grove (333-0301) told me about the wine dinners they’re doing there on Tuesdays. With his creativity and the interesting wines Mélange always comes up with, you know these will be worth a look-see. Stop by for one or for dinner and check it out. Hey, it’s Michael Staley’s favorite place. Enough said.

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