Thursday, March 15, 2007
•USE OF AN EMPTY PARKING LOT
OLDTOWN SALINAS MARKETPLACE | Saturdays on the 100 block of Main Street, Salinas • 758-0725
Salinas’ downtown marketplace makes Saturday shopping a fun and communal experience. People fill up their cloth farmer’s market bags or African baskets with organic strawberries, plump peaches and ripe tomatoes—all for a reasonable price. The year-round marketplace, which sprung up this past summer, also has fresh fish and numerous hot food vendors, not to mention tables full of great gifts like jewelry and cashmere scarves. After a visit to the marketplace, you may not even have to step foot in a mall. Instead, enjoy the sunshine, familiar faces and live music.
USE OF THE METRIC SYSTEM
CAFÉ RUSTICA’S WINE PITCHERS | 10 Delfino Place, Carmel Valley • 659-4444
At first you might think Café Rustica’s 250ml servings of wine are just a gimmick. You’ve taken a seat inside the gorgeous little Carmel Valley restaurant, settled on a glass of chenin blanc from a carefully constructed wine list, and here comes your glass along with a small, charming pitcher of wine so you can refill it yourself. It’s a trick, right? A clever ruse to make you think you’re getting more wine, eh? WRONG! You are getting more wine. That 250ml is a third of a bottle, folks, and here’s the best thing: it costs the same as the smaller servings you get everywhere else. I’ll drink to that.
•REASON TO PARTICIPATE IN POLITICS
MONTEREY CITY COUNCIL’S LAST MEETING OF THE YEAR
People start to catch the holiday spirit in December. Maybe it’s the constant Christmas carols that begin the day after Halloween, or the snow on the ground…or not. It’s actually the promise of free food and booze courtesy of the city of Monterey. Every year, at its last meeting in December, the City Council meets at the Portola Plaza Hotel. People dress for the event, in skirts and suits, and many wear holiday brooches and pins. City staff and councilmembers seem happy and festive. All of the appointed committees and commissions give year-end reports to the council, and highlight their accomplishments. And then, after the business part of the meeting is out of the way, everyone breaks for a full spread of appetizers and wine. Ah, the joy of free, public meetings. It almost makes every other Tuesday-night meeting during the year worth the pain.
•FREE ADULT ED
CARMEL VALLEY VIDEO | 10 E. Carmel Valley Rd., Carmel Valley • 659-3651 | 308 Mid Valley Center, Carmel • 624-2270
When Pete Jones and his wife, Peggy, opened Carmel Valley Video, they hoped educational and documentary titles would be a specialty. But they weren’t popular. So Jones decided to lend the films at no charge, for up to three days. He also features these DVDs and videos prominently and continually updates the selection. The documentaries are primarily on political and environmental themes. Titles include the hard-to-find Loose Change, The Next Industrial Revolution, The Corporation, Travels with George, Cadillac Desert, and Introductory Yoga, as well as both Farenheit 911 and Farenhype 911 (an example of the diverging viewpoints that are represented). Jones also owns Carmel Video in the Mid-Valley Shopping Center, and titles can be returned there for convenience.
It’s probably not fair to vilify Tony Lombardo, the Salinas attorney whom developers love and environmentalists loath. After all, he’s just doing the job that his (rich) clients pay him (loads of money) to do: Ghostwrite county documents, lobby elected officials to push development projects through the pipeline, convince the Board of Supervisors that a 50,000-home-and-seven-golf-course project that also includes a mall and a movie theater and a petting zoo (an evil petting zoo?) really doesn’t require any environmental review. With his piercing blue eyes and shock of white hair, Tony makes quite the dashing villain. And he gives us plenty to write about.
•PLACE TO GET LOST
ZMUDOWSKI STATE BEACH | Hwy 1 at Struve Road, North County • 649-2836
Once upon a time, this secret stretch of sand was called Hidden Beach and was mostly clothing optional. At some point—presumably after folks figured out that this has got to be one of the coldest spots in the county—clothing became less optional, and the name went from Hidden to Zmudowski. Its seclusion is still the major draw. Even in the height of summer, the only crowd to speak of is the occasional horse and a few scattered fishing poles. Mother Nature has provided ample seating by scattering enormous hunks of driftwood everywhere. It’s too rough for a swim, but early morning beachcombing is a must. On a good day, the beach is rich with sand dollars. And though we’re much bigger fans of leaving seashells and sand critters behind untouched, it’s the perfect spot to inspect the living shoreline and cast your worries away for a while.
BENIHANA | 136 Olivier St., Monterey • 372-8900
CRYSTAL FISH | 514 Lighthouse Ave., Monterey • 649-3474
Don’t rock the boat. For that matter, do not knock, dis or doubt the boat—it’s named the Number 1 for a reason. The sushi boat is the biggest value on Bennihana’s lunch menu: miso soup, salad, edamame, fried tempura, sashimi (or grilled salmon), California roll, chicken teriyaki, rice and a pretty little sliced half orange. For $8. Another thrifty thrill is just down the Rec Trail, at Crystal Fish Sushi, where the large hot sake is $2 during happy hour. The Eastern bang for the buck with this combo is simply ichiban. (That’s loose Japanese for “Best Of.”)
•PLACE TIME STANDS STILL (BUT THE GROUND DOESN’T)
PARKFIELD CAFÉ | 70410 Parkfield Coalinga Rd., Parkfield • (805) 463-2421
Sometimes ya just need to get away. Next time, try a scenic drive inland on Highway 46 or 25. Either will get you to Parkfield, the infamous “Earthquake Capital of California,” home to 6.0 quakes regularly for over a hundred years, and population of a whopping 37. No, the rest of them didn’t fall into the San Andreas where the tiny town (eh-ehm) rests. It’s just a quiet place, forgotten by time and invaded now and then by scientists and thrill-seekers hoping to ride The Big One. The café, which urges customers to “Be here when It happens,” is perhaps a little sad-looking to the untrained eye. But for those who get it, Parkfield’s rustic, barn-like café is a place others only dream to be, surrounded by deeply creviced valleys and rolling green hills kept perfectly manicured by grazing cattle. So go. Stay awhile. Bet you’ll feel it, too.
•HIKE THIRST QUENCHER
BIG SUR RIVER INN STORE SMOOTHIE BAR | Hwy 1 at Pheneger Creek, Big Sur • 667-2700
The sun beating down on Big Sur’s hiking trails can cause the sage to sweat its sweet scent, but it can also cause hikers to lose a lot of their precious fluids. When this happens, may we suggest the River Inn Store’s wonderful smoothie bar. Here, thirsty hikers can pick between a big 16-ounce or bigger 20-ounce smoothie in flavors like Ginger Peach and Berry Berry, which blends strawberries, raspberries, blueberries and honey.
•UNDERUSED PATIO LOUNGES
SPANISH BAY | 2700 17-Mile Drive, Pebble Beach • 647-7500
JACKS | 2 Portola Plaza, Monterey 649-2698
TRAILSIDE CAFÉ | 550 Wave St. (lower level), Monterey, 649-8600
The perfect patio is the reason God gave us sunny afternoons. These three diverse but deserving variations on perfection never get enough play: Spanish Bay, the venerable coastal spot, with brick fireplaces and the bagpiper; Jacks, the new Old Monterey jewel, with its exclusive views of Portola Plaza; and The Trailside Café, with water for the doggies and air scented by fresh beignets, a flowering garden and the imposing Pacific.
•PLACE FOR A BREATHER
BLUFFS TRAIL ON FORT ORD | off Crescent Bluffs Road near East Garrison
Barrel your handlebars through overlying bush limbs. The unmarked single-track trail appears to be going nowhere when around a bend the ridge collapses into the Salinas Valley. The 100-foot-high bluff offers a bucolic view of an expansive agricultural field bordering the Salinas River. Fremont Peak towers above the valley, and you can clearly see all the way to Santa Cruz. Cars drive by on Reservation Road below. The highlight of the perch: exchanging a thin saddle for a faded wooden bench.
•PLACE TO FONDLE THE PRODUCE
PEZZINI FARMS |Nashua Road and Hwy 1, Castroville • 757-7434
There’s something very chic, in an Earth Mother sort of way, about getting your produce directly from the farm. Everything just tastes better there: fresher, cleaner, healthier. It’s hard to keep your hands to yourself in this roadside shop. And the selection is huge. They have vats upon vats of onions, avocados, scallops, garlic, potatoes, fruit, and countless tomato varieties to fondle. Then there’s the never-ending supply of gourmet salsas, exotic oils, sauces and jams. Topping off the store, and the reason most folks show up to begin with, is Pezzini’s world famous artichokes. Wanna know where they’re grown? Step outside and take a look around. They’ve been swiped right from those very rows of bushy green beauties. Back inside, they’re displayed neatly divided, from the teeny-tiny walnut-sized to the feed-a-family-of-four ones. Might not want to feel-out these babies, though. Artichokes can bite back pretty hard.
•Hip New Corporate Trend
It’s like the old Alice’s Restaurant song. What was once a protest is now officially a movement. The grassroots good ideas espoused by Sustainable Monterey and Sustainable PG have taken hold. This year Cal Am and PG&E are selling conservation, the Monterey County Business Council and AMBAG are hosting symposia on the topic of green business, and the Pacific Grove Chamber of Commerce is introducing the first-ever carbon neutral tourist event in Monterey County when the 50th anniversary of the Good Old Days festival falls on Earth Day next month.
•USE OF STUDENT FEES
BLACK BOX CABARET | 3rd Street and 4th Avenue, • CSU Monterey Bay
Well, it only took about 10 years, but Cal State Monterey’s Bay’s beloved Black Box Cabaret finally has a state-of-the-art sound system. The venue was always great while the sound was consistently crappy. It was a good night when bands had monitors. But students recently invested $40,000 to bring a new 32-channel soundboard, speakers with plenty of punch, and yes, count them, six monitors. Now virtually any musical act can perform at the BBC without the desire to strangle the sound guy.
•RELENTLESS STYLE OF STEWARDSHIP
MONTEREY BAY MARINE SANCTUARY VOLUNTEERS | montereybay.noaa.gov
The tide is turning: People are starting to get it. No longer is Storm Water thought to be that rowdy local band. What we do here, says the growing murmur, directly affects the out there. And yes, as goes ocean, so goes us. These volunteers—through activism, volunteerism and an abiding love for the big blue—have résumés that read like comic books: 500 hours donated, alien kelps largely eliminated, whole monitoring networks created out of sweat and marine science. It feels good to know these everyday heroes are out there; it feels better to help them out.