The Finer Things: Stirring Stuff: The ecologically-responsible flavor the chefs of Cooking for Solutions come up with is nothing short of inspiring. — Jane Morba

NEAT TRICK… It really bothers me when bartenders, managers, waiters or whoever open a bunch of wine bottles way ahead to “prep” for service. Wines start oxidizing when you open them and nobody wants to spend $5 to $25 for a glass of oxidized wine. If you must open them early, try this: gently pull the corks about two thirds only, then remove the screw. The bottle is not open, but you can quickly yank the cork by hand later.

HUNGARY AND THIRSTY… Only a couple of weeks until May 21 and the one-of-a-kind, first-ever-in-the-US Royal Tokaji Wine Dinner. It takes place at Casa Palmera at Pebble Beach Resort and features the unprecedented Hungarian Tokaji Aszu wines of Royal Tokaji Wine Company, a producer that resurrected the ages-old tradition of Tokaji, the majestic late-harvest wines once referred to by Louis XV as: “King of wines, wine of kings.”

On hand will be BEN HOWKINS, one of a small group of founding partners who got together to create Royal Tokaji Wine Company. Chef LISA NAKAMURA of Club XIX will prepare the seven-course feast, each accompanying a different “Premier and Grand Cru” Royal Tokaji wine. Here’s one course: pan-seared scallop with tangerine and tarragon, orange supreme sauce and sevruga caviar, paired with 1999 Betsek, first growth, six puttonyos. Call 622-8761 for one of only 35 spots available.

EAT OUT MORE OFTEN… Restaurant folks are good at kicking back and partying—kind of like pirates when they finally get to shore. Join some of them (restaurant people, not pirates) Sunday, May 7 at 1pm at Whispering Pines Park in Monterey for a barbecue rib cook-off. Five local chefs will present their barbecue ribs: JASON GILES of Portola Plaza, JEROME VEIL of Wills Fargo, BEN “Megan’s Friend” EDWARDS of Rancho Cellars (congratulations Jacques—I hope), and barbecue chef NOLAN BOURGEOIS. Also featured will be the Tap Room Ribs from a recipe created by CLINT WILSON.

Monterey wines, beer and soft drinks will be served, along with all the important rib accompaniments, plus bocce and horseshoes. It’s being put on by the AIWF (short for AIWF) so you know it’s gonna be juicy. Call SAL GARGONE, 722-6580, or MARY CHAMBERLIN, 624-0830.

DINING FOR THE FUTURE… I bet TIM WOOD makes good ribs. He just looks like the type (don’t ask me what that means, I’m making this stuff up on the fly). He’s the executive sous chef at Bernardus Lodge—when I asked him his job description, he shrugged and mumbled something about “following CAL [Stamenov] around to make sure he doesn’t forget what he’s supposed to do,” or something like that (for sure I’m getting banned from Bernardus now)—anyway, Tim’s one of the chefs partnering up with an out-of-towner at this year’s Cooking For Solutions at the Aquarium. He’ll be teamed with MELISSA KELLY from Primo of Rockland, Maine.

I asked him what that’s like and he told me: “It’s about getting her set up with good local cooks, taking care of all the ingredients, equipment, etc. so that the less stress they have, the better.” When I asked him the best part of being involved in the event, Tim cited “the camaraderie between all the chefs. We meet at Pebble Beach beforehand and by the time the event comes around, we’re tight. Plus, when other chefs come into your kitchen, it raises everybody’s game.”

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Just like it raises the game of our whole community to be fortunate enough to have this event at our local treasure, the Monterey Bay Aquarium. On May 19 and 20, it’ll be headquarters for a gathering of world-class culinary, winemaking and agricultural talent, all committed to preserving our world’s biological resources in as uncorrupted and naturally beneficial a fashion as humanly possible.

With Guest Chef of Honor RICK BAYLESS as the linchpin (kingpin?), a great lineup of locals team up with out-of-town talent to provide feasts, demonstrations, exhibitions, educational seminars—it’s a wonderful and necessary two days. Of course, our own star chefs JEFF “Shoulders” JAKE, “Easy” KURT GRASING, TERRY “Rochambeau” TEPLITZKY (what the hell does “Rochambeau” mean?), DORY “Ferrari” FORD, TONY “Mover & Shaker” BAKER, DOUGLAS “The Whisk” FISK, JAMES “Don’t Call Me Fats” WALLER, STEVEN “Get Even” TEVERE, ROD “Lightning” UNCANGCO, plus the aforementioned (there’s golf?) TIM “Fairway” WOOD will all be on hand to cowboy up with the visiting chefs. Get down to the Aquarium box office or call 647-6886 or 644-7561.

FUTURE FUN… Get yourself to Paraiso Vineyard on May 13 from 10am to 4pm for its amazing Fifth Annual Air Show. Special wines, great food by Chef TODD FISHER’S Hullaballoo crew, live music and the amazing aero-dynamics of WAYNE HANDLEY and his flying nutjobs (I’ve been there, believe me, these cats are wacko). Call JENNIFER MURPHY-SMITH at 678-0300 now.

Thursday May 11:  Friends of Monterey County Fair fundraiser, 6-9pm in the Monterey Room at the Fairgrounds. Hawaiian-themed fun and food so hurry and call Kelly Baldwin at 372-5863, it’s already late…Clementine’s Kitchen with Chef DAVID (“I was the Norma Rae of Le Cordon Bleu”) BABCOCK will be hosting all types of wine tastings and cooking seminars. Check out for more…take off with Chef WENDY “Love Boat” BRODIE, husband BOB BUSSINGER and a small band of foodies to France at the end of May. Learn more at or call 626-9000…JON MAGNUSSON of Bistro 211 hooked up with BILL PARSONS of Parsonage Wines at this year’s Carmel Village Affair, now Bistro 211 is featuring Parsonage Wines with the juicy and delicious Snosrap blend selling for a mere $26 through May…Maria Murray has got Buon Giorno on Junipero in Carmel doing The Supper Club. E-mail her ( to get on the mailing list and learn about each month’s choice of prix-fixe entrees…ROXANA ROBLES’ Garden Bistro on Pilot Road in Carmel Valley Village is almost a year old and serving great meals with local wineries like Carmel Chardonnay (LYNN and PAUL STOKES) and Szaley (JOSEPH KOVACS). Still TEDDY “TWO PUTT” WALTER of Passionfish’s favorite place for breakfast…I’ve gotta fly.

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