Thursday, May 25, 2006
NEW LIFE OF SPRINGTIME… For anyone who has ever been involved in the opening of a new restaurant, you know how crazy and exciting it is. There is so much minutiae that needs to be taken care of and so much expectation placed on everyone and everything, from the shiny new pans to the people and the concept. Personally, I’ve been involved in 18 different openings of restaurants and/or nightclubs, some pretty low key and others about as high profile as there is.
The adrenaline rush a new joint charges everyone with is truly unique, not unlike the rush of restaurant work itself. The beginning days of a new restaurant operation are like the beginning days of the new baseball season. Everything points toward winning the pennant. For many, the realities of restaurant life quickly erode early confidence and plunge most operators down the cannon-barrel of broken dreams. Others defy the odds and realize their vision.
With the spate of new places opening around here, I had some fun private moments checking out the various stages during construction of La Bicyclette, Zillo’s, Kinger’s Klubhouse, Hula Hut, Cellar Door and Cantinetta Luca. I’ve got to get down into Willie’s Smokehouse to see how that one feels. I wish all of you involved in all these endeavors the best possible fortune—I know how hard y’all are working.
FOLLOW THAT STAR… The William Morris Agency in New York is recommending our own Chef TODD FISHER for a new show about a chef that travels around the world destroying cities like Todd-zilla—no, wait…goes around the world eating whole cities—no, wait…I don’t know, does something or other. Anyway, we’re hoping he gets the gig. The folks at William Morris caught Todd’s act when we sent them the Chef Todd’s Cookin’ With Grandma demo and saw the man’s star power right away. Shoot, everybody around here has known that for years.
You know, thinking again of Todd Fisher (and who doesn’t spend time doing that), here’s a fun thing to do one day: Pile yourself and the family into the wagon, head over to Salinas and do the Steinbeck Center—it’s very educational, familiarizes you with our most important local internationally acclaimed artist (although 25 years from now Clint will have usurped the throne) and allows for a meal at Chicken Scratch Flats, the totally smokin’ fast-casual concept Todd and his partner WILL REYNOLDS have created just off the lobby of the Steinbeck Center. In fact, here’s a better day. After a late morning early afternoon cultural/Chicken Scratch Flats lunch combo, take in a matinee at the great Maya Cinema complex, then come out, taste a little wine at Taste of Monterey—purchase a few bottles, pick up dinner to go at the Flats and head home for a casually delicious picnic style meal back at the farm…your inner circle of loved ones will grow stronger, I promise.
WINE AND SEA… MICHELLE LAGANA, who is helping direct restaurant operations at Monterey Plaza Hotel for Food and Beverage Chief LARS STOKEBYE, was telling me about the new monthly series of local wine dinner menus they’re unveiling at the Duck Club Grill at the hotel. For those of you who have lived with a giant squid covering your head for too long (what?), Monterey Plaza Hotel houses two local gems in Schooners, the casual, nautical-themed eating and drinking establishment with one of the best waterfront patios anywhere; and The Duck Club Grill, its elegant yet casual restaurant cheffed (I don’t think that’s a word, but why stop now) by JAMES WALLER and his trusty sidekick SAUL “DON’T CALL ME RAUL” ROMERO (who’s gonna kick my culo for this).
It’s a simple yet fun format. Each month a local winery will be featured, paired with a special three-course menu designed specifically for those wines. The special Wine Dinner by the Bay will be available along with the regular Duck Club menu, adding an interesting alternative. At only $49, you can’t beat the deal either. Now you can sit and gaze out at the beautiful bay while sipping nectar from grapes grown just down the road and hoping to catch a glimpse of Romero, winner of the 1999, 2000 and 2002 Sexiest Sous Chef Awards (there goes another kitchen I’ll be banned from). Call 646-1700 x5520 to find out more and make a ressie. First up starting June 5: Jekel Vineyards, for the whole month. On deck (in no particular order): Paraiso, Chalone, Pessagno, Estancia and Talbott.
COOL STUFF TO DO… Hey, turn on the radio on Saturdays and check out my man SCOTT DICK’s Tasty Planet Radio Show on KRXA 540AM or streaming at tastyplanet.org. He’s always jammin’ with local and national food-related guests, not to mention other peripheral subject matter from his wildly creative head full of whatever it is he has floating around in there. Hit that on button and have some fun…oh yeah, it’s from 1 to 3pm every Saturday.
Where’s The Beef? That’s the name of the upcoming presentation at Wills Fargo on June 17 from 1 to 3pm (you can tape Scott’s show) by our favorite son CAL STAMENOV (call me Daddy—what the hell, TIM WOOD already threw me out of that kitchen) along with ROBERT ESSER of Newport Meats. They’ll be discussing aging of meat along with the various cuts. (Didn’t you always wonder how the universally accepted method for carving up whole animals and naming each cut was arrived upon?) They’ll probably have big knives too…Cal does sort of remind me of one of those characters you see in scary movies…you know, the ones who look really timid and shy—until they get the big knife in their hand. Call 658-3550 to get close to the action…arrrrgggghhhhhhh.
Saturday, Sept. 9 will be this year’s Monterey Beer Festival at the Fairgrounds. Jeff Moses is rounding up breweries and says we’ll have a great lineup. We’ve also got a couple of bands locked in as well. I’m learning how to update the Web site (slowly) so log onto montereybeerfestival.com to find out the latest. Tickets are on sale on line, just click on the link…the tomatoes are coming. I love artichokes like crazy, but they’re labor intensive. I wish we could get tomatoes year round, especially the beautiful heirlooms…oh, I do miss them so…and I miss you too, until next week.