Thursday, June 14, 2001
With the much-ballyhooed influx of Silicon Valley refugees, Salinas'' population explosion caught the attention of many local restaurateurs who hoped to grab the newcomers'' hearts, gullets and wallets. Hullabaloo (the Weekly Readers'' pick for "Best New Restaurant" and "Best Restaurant in Salinas" in 2001), Spado and Taste of Monterey are among the favorites that have opened in Salinas in the last couple years.
Even so, Salinas usually isn''t the first place that jumps to Peninsula diners'' minds when they''re looking for a night on the town. Hence, the second annual "Passport to Oldtown Salinas" on Wednesday. Presented by the restaurant owners in Oldtown Salinas, the event highlights the eclectic culinary offerings of 17 local restaurants.
You have to "apply" for a passport (it costs twenty bucks but it''s cheaper than going to the consulate and no frightening pictures are required) and then travel among the culinary destinations, sampling their gustatory delectations. Get your passport stamped after trying a New York strip, then move on to delights from the Middle East, Mexico and Thailand before your trip is over. Each restaurant serves their specialties at cozy tables inside, not from stands in the street like most other ''Taste Of'' events I''ve attended. You''ll experience the ambiance and service--the real personality of the eateries--as well as the scrumptious food.
Patti Bowie, executive director of the Oldtown Salinas Association says, "The culinary scene in Salinas is definitely changing. Everyone is working together to promote the great downtown restaurants." This is Bowie''s second year organizing the Passport event, which is one of several projects encouraging tourism in Salinas. If the way to the tourist dollar is through visitors'' stomach, then Oldtown Salinas is following the right path.
I''m getting hungry just thinking about it... the tapas-style eating, live reggae, Latin-rock and country music in the streets, a warm night away from the bay, all for $20 (gulp!). Sounds delicious!
Tickets for "Passport to Oldtown Salinas," which begins at 5pm on Wednesday, are $20/advance and $25 at the event. Call 758-0725 for more info and tickets.
Accessorize Your Cheese... Does Stilton go with a Syrah? How about Camembert and Chardonnay? In the world of gourmet snacking, pairing wines with cheeses is an artform all its own.
If you want to bring out the cheesy artist hidden inside you, come to Bernardus Lodge in Carmel Valley for an afternoon "Wine, Cheese and Port" pairing and tasting. Bring your Dad for Father''s Day or at least make a toast to him as you try the brand-new Bernardus Savignon Blanc 2000 just released on June 1, 2001. Ken Torrey of The Cheese Shop in Carmel shares his insight as he pairs cheeses with five other wine selections by Bernardus'' wine director Mark Jensen. The afternoon in the Harvest Room finishes with Portugal''s best portos. Tawney Port Grahm''s 20 Year, Vintage Character Warres Warrior, and Vintage Neipoort 1997 are the featured sweeties.
You can reserve a spot for the "Wine, Cheese and Port Pairing and Tasting" at Bernardus Lodge (415 Carmel Valley, Carmel Valley) by calling 658-3550. The event begins at 2pm, and tickets are $45.
Work and Play... Last Monday, the Monterey County Hospitality Association sponsored an "Employee Appreciation Day" at the Monterey County Fairgrounds. And how did they honor the hard-working employees? By making them work. Throughout the day, employees from local restaurants and hotels competed in a variety of events including making drinks and beds, and folding napkins. By day''s end, the overall winner of the entire competition was the Inn at Spanish Bay, toppling the DoubleTree Inn (the second-place winner) from a four-year reign. In the bartending competition (a favorite amongst judges), Gene Alonzo from the Hilton Inn took first place for his Cosmopolitan, and Adrian Aiken took top honors for his "Fruit Salad" from the Marriot in the Specialty Drink division. And, in the little-appreciated category of napkin-folding, the DoubleTree''s Robert Maple proved himself to be a master in the art of linen origami. At the end of the day, employees were treated to a barbecue dinner prepared by their bosses--the management personnel from several hotels, restaurants and golf establishments... now that''s appreciation.