Thursday, March 15, 2007
BEHIND THE CURTAIN… It’s the Best Of MC issue and that means one thing: controversy. Whenever this issue comes out I get bombarded with: “How could so-and-so be Best This, or such-and-such be Best That?” Hey, people. This country screws up at electing the president with more botched votes than there are botched Best Ofs.
Here’s what happens. The ballots are there for everyone. Some businesses do a good job of encouraging their patrons to fill them out. Other businesses don’t do diddly. Some businesses are so big that the numbers game prevails—and also the opposite. Everybody knows that some of the picks seem wacko, but that happens with all lists like this. Others are right on. So have fun with it, take it all with a grain of salt, congratulate the winners, and encourage folks to vote next year.
FROM OUR CORRESPONDENTS… Renee Brincks, I apologize for holding you off for so long after I promised you a guest spot in the Chain: So, I fretted for weeks about what to write in Ray’s famous food column. Then one day, a friend said, “Write what you know.” I think he was setting me up for disaster. This same guy gave me The Joy of Cooking, knowing my cooking skills end at the cereal bowl. I grew up in Iowa. In food terms, this means I knew sweet corn and steak washed down with cheap beer.
On the topic of beer...I had a couple of great pints last week at Duffy’s, that delightfully unpretentious joint hidden at one end of High Street in Monterey. Like a good pub should, the place has a lively group of regulars, endearing characters, and the menu dedicates a whole page to burger options. Check Duffy’s out on Saturday nights, when local music man Rex Wheeler’s set list often includes a phenomenal cover of “At Last.”
A couple of Mondays ago, I popped by Montrio for a cold Kona and small bites. Montrio has some of the best bar karma around—the bartenders are tops and the lounge hums, even when the crowd is small. Most importantly, they’ve got real conversation. Trendy chefs, big-time bankers, former government agents—I always meet someone fascinating there.
It’s nice having friends out in the community to pass along their observations and insights about the local scene. Like my pal Roxana Robles-Gorriti, owner of Wild Goose Café as well as Garden Bistro, both out in Carmel Valley Village. I stopped in there last week. Roxana and husband Martin had just gotten back from…well I’ll let Roxana tell it: It could not have been a more perfect day for a wedding in Carmel Valley. Jonathan O’Bergin (Gryphon Wines) reconfirmed vows with Zabbie Johnston (they eloped in December) at their home, at high noon with family and friends in attendance. The vicar, Bill Rowlands, with his great Scottish brogue and humor, brought the group to laughter and tears.
Jozsef Kovacs and his beautiful wife Betty (Szalay Wines) enjoyed the pasta covered with Perigord black truffles the happy couple brought back from France last week. Zan Hensen complemented the pairing of Duck Maqret with the 2004 Vieux Telegraph (Chateau Neuf du Pape). Madelaine Dowdakin [founder, with Zabbie’s mother in 1949, of the first French Restaurant in Carmel, The French Café, which became “La Boheme” (and is now Le Biciclette)] really enjoyed the Foie Gras, also imported by the lucky couple for the event. While taking in the sun, their good friend John Kenny (Keller-Williams) was really glad he hadn’t sold the house. The afternoon ended with a full moon lunar eclipse (in Africa)…How more perfect a day could it be?
Now that’s what I’m talking about. That’s why you go out to Carmel Valley and hang with these people.
LET’S GET BUSY… March 31 is CASA Monterey’s 10th anniversary gala fundraiser at the spiffy new Hyatt Regency. “Lighting the Way” is the name of this event that will be recreating the famous Cotton Club, with Dennis Murphy’s 17-piece big band, great food by Mark Ayers of Highlands Inn and Clay Purcell of Hyatt, wonderful local wines, dinner, dancing, auctions, the works, and Marci Bracco, too; call 455-6800…Kurt Grasing is getting busy with weekly wine dinners at his boutiquey Grasing’s Restaurant on Mission and Sixth (across from the firehouse) in Carmel. On tap (or “in barrel,” as the winemakers say): Cedar Lane Vineyards on March 21, Silvestri Wines on March 28—get on grasings.com or call 624-6562, or hang around there or Carmel Chop House (his other joint) and tackle the guy (Kurt’s the quiet, handsome one with the mustache) to find out more; alright—maybe you shouldn’t tackle him…Kurt’s almost-a-neighbor, Bruno’s Market (actually, Surf n’ Sand, Bruno’s adjunct wine & spirits & more store), is having its latest on the Sanchez Gang Traveling Wine & Spirits Show Tour. It’s Fermin, Ryan, Brian and the rest of the Junipero Youngbloods taking over Chris Caul’s Lincoln Street hangout, Christopher’s Restaurant. Look for dozens of great wines to taste, delicious food, music and aggressive discounts for case buys on any of the wines you like. It’s on March 27, from 5pm to 8pm. Call Surf n’ Sand at 624-1805…Zole Andahazy, Wickets manager/Bernardus bar manager, just took third place in the Shake It Up Cocktail Competition in Vegas, where only special invited participants were allowed to compete. Congrats Zole (and thanks to Gary “Big O” Obligacion for the knowledge)…whoa, it’s almost March 23 and that’s when Cal Stamenov is hosting Pascal Beillevaire, a producer of dairy products and an affineur (I don’t know what it means either) of farmhouse cheeses from French and European farms. Guests will enjoy 20 varieties of raw milk cheeses from various regions in France, along with wine pairings by the Dean of Decanting, Mark Jensen. This one’s a no-brainer, 658-3400…bye bye Best Ofs.