Thursday, June 23, 2005
GOOD WORK… During last month’s Cooking for Solutions happenings, I ran into many local chefs and restaurant movers. One of my favorites, MARIE PERUCCA-RAMIREZ, who along with her husband JULIO RAMIREZ heads up the Fishwife/Turtle Bay Taqueria dynasty, told me about a great trip to Italy she and Julio had taken. I asked her to write me about it so I could get it in here. By the way, they just announced the winners of this year’s Fishwife/Turtle Bay New Millenium Scholarship. EDDIE WU, a senior at Monterey High, gets the $4,000 scholarship honoring a student who exhibits academic excellence and a desire to make a positive contribution to our community. Also awarded $750 scholarships were ADALBERTO CORRES and KAREN GUITERREZ from Seaside High, SUSAN GIR and ADRIENNE BUELL from Monterey High and ROBERT STOICA from Carmel High. Here goes Marie’s story:
MARIE PERUCCA-RAMIREZ REPORTS:… “It’s a bare-bones story (I left out poignant details like my grandmother selling her hair to buy passage to America—I think all of us have to be in awe of how much our ancestors were willing to give up to make a better life for themselves and their families). We were in Italy on a quest to find my grandfather Perucca’s village.
“My dad’s father left Italy in the 1890s on a sabbatical to ‘America’ before taking his final vows as a Jesuit priest. He met and married a lady—the Belle of Calaveras County. She later committed suicide, jumping off of what is now Telegraph Hill onto Sansome Street in San Francisco, leaving my grandfather with a small son. He cut off his relations with his family back in Italy, so we had very little info about his background. He was a gold miner in the foothills of California, his young son died, he married my grandmother in 1910—a young widow from the Old Country, and he died from quartz lung during the Depression in 1931, leaving a family of six children. My dad, at 15 the oldest son, quit school and went to San Francisco to wash dishes in a North Beach restaurant to help support the family. We knew my grandfather had been born around 1870, but no one was really sure exactly where he came from, except that it was in the Piemonte region of Italy, towards Switzerland. The folks always said he was from Locarno, but I noticed on his gravestone it read Locana. I didn’t think this was a misspelling because Locarno, although it’s on the lakes shared with Italy, is in Switzerland, and we were sure my grandfather was born in Italy.
“We found Locana on a very detailed Atlas. It’s a small village in the Orca River Valley, near Mount Grand Paradiso, up a road that dead-ends about 10 miles from France. We found snow on the jagged mountain peaks, houses with slate roves and herders still moving their cows with the help of dogs. Wild, long-horned mountain goats and chamois were grazing on the green mountainsides. I was ready for Julie Andrews to pop out from behind a boulder and begin singing. And we found the Peruccas! The next day we went to the commune and found my grandfather’s birth certificate and the names of my great grandparents.
“Gourmet delights of Locana include a local cheese called “toma” which is made from the evening milk and the morning cream of the cows. It’s got a nutty bite like Fontina. Toma is made in large wheels that look like they’re covered with a rough, dark brown bread crust (it’s actually aging mold). Pasta here is served with chamois meat along with butter and sage.”
TIME TO GET MOVING… My man ANDRE LENGACHER, owner of Lugano’s Swiss Bistro in the Barnyard in Carmel, called to get the word out that lunchtime is the right time to check out Lugano’s. Stop thinking heavy Northern European food, think salads, Portabella mushrooms and varied lunch items for all types of appetites. Stop in after 11:30am and stay straight through dinner, they don’t close in between so it’s one of the few spots to go when you get hungry around 2:30 or 3pm. Call Andre or NARGIS at 626-3779 for more info.
June 24, this Friday, get down to Southern Lattitudes, the fabulous wine shop in Carmel specializing in wines from the Southern Hemisphere. The one and only LAURA CATENA will be there pouring eight different Catena wines from Argentina. For $20 you can taste spectacular wine, munch orderves (just decided I’m changing the spelling of that nonsensical term—pardon mon ami Français) and hang in a cool place with really nice people. I’ll bet SCOTT THOMASEN will be there also; that alone is worth the price of admission. Call Southern Lattitudes at 622-7652.
Stop in and say hi to Marvin at BLUE FIN BILLIARDS in Cannery Row. He’s doing a great job in transforming that place into a more diverse venue with multiple television viewing area for sports, better food and just an all around good feel, and they’re now open for brunch… SWEET THING stopped into Central Avenue Bakery on Lighthouse—oops, Central Avenue, just at the Monterey tip of Pacific Grove. She told me they have a really good Russian pastry chef named GALINA who weaves beautiful baked goods from homemade organic flours. They make great breads and nice sandwiches too. Owner TINA THOMPSON fills the place with a beautiful, loving spirit and the goodies to go with it. You Russian students from the DLI go down there and practice your Russian with Galina—she would probably welcome the camaraderie, comrade (you see, there I go again). Central Avenue Bakery, 173 Central Ave., 402-1103…I’m bummed I’m gonna be in Irvine during the 15th LA PLAYA GARDEN PARTY, but you should be there. It’s this Sunday, June 26 from noon to 4pm and you better hurry, 624-6476, ext. 488…Set your sights on THE QUAIL (obviously at Quail Lodge) coming up on August 19—this is a very big deal for motor sport enthusiasts, food and wine lovers, art aficionados, the works. Call 877-734-4628 or visit www.quaillodge.com. Arrivederci, y’all.