GOOD WORK… When this hits the street it will be just one day until COMMUNITY FEEDS OUR NATION, the hurricane relief event Friday, Oct. 7 from 7:30 to 10:30pm at the Monterey Bay Aquarium. It’s amazing how quickly everything came together, how supportive everyone was and how generous people have been with their time, money, goods and services. I hope it sells out; I know it will be a great event—too much talent not to be—plus the right intention, which is always the key to a party of any sort…they know that down along the Gulf Coast in Louisiana and Mississippi and Alabama. They do so need all the help. Please get yourself down to the Aquarium Friday night, bring your appetite for good food, good drink, good music, good fun and good spirit.

Tickets: Hullaballoo; Montrio; Tarpy’s; Bernardus Tasting Room; Rio Grill; Stoke’s; www.byte-technology.com/aid; 375-5730; 424-4824; 624-6921; or at the Aquarium door. $95. Please come.

STORM OF FUN… Lots of stuff going on, been going on, will be going on as folks around here and elsewhere focus on trying to help our brothers and sisters along the Gulf Coast. SLOW FOOD—the wonderful grassroots organization dedicated to perpetuating the old-style concept of appreciating delicious food the way it was meant to be—has been hard at work helping small farmers and fishermen from the ravaged areas. Local chapter head GABRIELA FORTE, who has the power of a petite hurricane herself, has already had one fundraiser here, having raised approximately $2,000 dollars to help a small family of Louisiana shrimp fishermen. She is planning another event in November to keep the flow going so check out her Web site, www.gabrielasfeast.com, to find out the how, when and where of it all.

The Fish Hopper employees, along with owners SABU SHAKE JR. and CHRIS SHAKE, raised $5,000 dollars to help the Red Cross hurricane relief effort. Also, they announced the plan to open a Fish Hopper Restaurant on the big island of Kona in Hawaii. The Fish Hopper on Kona Bay is scheduled to open in about six months; good luck and congratulations bringing some of the Monterey Aloha spirit to the source.

Thursday the sixth, at Bernardus Lodge in the Meritage Ballroom, catch a wonderful wine dinner with CHEF CAL STAMENOV’s food and Bernardus winemaker DEAN DE KORTH’s wines. Call immediately to see if you can still get in, 658-3400.

Don’t forget this Saturday, the 8th, is the Second Annual Harvest Dance by the YOUNG FARMERS AND RANCHERS, Central Coast Chapter. Head out to Chapin Pines at 440 Crazy Horse Rd. in Prunedale and enjoy a fund-raising barbecue and dance to help out Monterey County Food Bank plus Second Harvest Food Banks of San Benito and Santa Cruz counties. You can get a ticket for $25 through the Farm Bureau or from any YF&R member (sorry, I’m not one—too old). Call KRYSTAL THOMSEN at 320-5075 or e-mail krystal.thomsen@driscolls.com.

PARADISE, CARMEL… On Monday, Oct. 10, get to L’Auberge Carmel for an amazing Abalone Tasting Dinner Menu with special guest ART SEAVEY from Monterey Abalone Company. Chef WALTER MANZKE will be creating what will no doubt prove to be a spectacular menu of abalone dishes that will be paired with an outstanding selection of wines from L’Auberge’s cellar. Call 624-8578 fast.

While I’m on the subject, I was fortunate to experience the staggering AUGUST KESSLER Wine Dinner at L’Auberge Carmel recently. Kessler, who was in attendance, is one of the top German winemakers, making him one of the top winemakers in the world. There was a time in the early part of last century when German Rieslings were the most expensive wines in the world. Wine aficionados have begun to rediscover why. The purity of expression, delicious flavor and outstanding food compatibility truly distinguish them from the rest of the so often homogenous wine world.

Herr Kessler, who showcased about 15 different wines throughout the evening, each one absolutely flawless, proved he is truly an elite winemaking talent. His Spatburgunders (German Pinot Noir), a category of wine extremely rare and rarely done well, proved to be some of the most intriguing Pinot Noirs I’d ever tasted. The whites, including the opening Sekt (German sparkling) were so stunning they transported me right into the vineyards.

Manzke’s food, so incredibly delicious, so full of love (heightened by the added serenity of his recent trip to Thailand) supported the great wines like Bird’s sax to Dizzy’s horn, those seven or so courses of incredible edible creations from the mind of Chef Manzke. And the setting of L’Auberge, the comfortable beauty—beautiful comfort—combined with truly world-class service made the guests feel at home—and their home was a country estate and they were titled aristocrats.

I found the endless array of delightfully shaped plates and elegant and functional silverware to be a fun intellectual accompaniment to the otherwise hedonistic four-and-a-half-hour gustatory extravaganza. DAVID FINK, his wife KATHLEEN and all the staff must be very proud of L’Auberge Carmel. It can’t be too difficult for any of them to come to work each day.

HARD WORK… Man, I was noticing the other day that it’s a bad time to be a bartender these days. Always one of the toughest jobs there is, one that requires the patience of JOB, the fierceness of DAVID, the wisdom of SOLOMON and the craftsmanship of NOAH, it has been made just a bit tougher lately due to the endless stream of fascinating yet extremely labor intensive “martinis” that have sprung forth upon bar menus across America. To watch one person stand back there alone, cranking out rounds of complex combinations of ingredients while continuing to do the thousands of movements and priority shifts, makes my varicose veins throb.

I have another message for all you restaurant owners who insist upon having those Godforsaken espresso machines of death behind the bar: Now that the demands of the new cocktail era are overwhelming enough, rather than subject your bartender to getting buried for 10 minutes making four different types of foamy coffees while bussers and waiters stand around talking about what movie they’re going to be watching, perhaps you should have the machine duct taped on your back, then have the guests make their own right there at the table while you buckle under its weight. Get the damn machines in the kitchen where they belong.

Nice doing business with you.

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