Thursday, August 14, 2008
SIX HUNDRED FOR SUR… “The winds of change blow through, and leave me in the clear blue sky of mind more quickly when I greet them with an open heart.” A friend of mine, Beth Benjamin, whose soul soars among the souls of the blessed, wrote that line. She is a California native who resonates at the same frequency as our beloved Big Sur brethren.
We who occasionally venture those 20+ miles south intuit the differences between them and us. On some level we are envious of the freewheeling energy, the rugged individualism, the natural sense of perspective that the folks down there live with. On another level, we think most of them are just nuts. That also holds some appeal.
Our Big Sur stepfamily reminds us that we are all just one step away from the precipice of collapse, materially speaking.
Each year presents real possibilities for isolating the Big Sur populace from the rest of mankind. Many residents there rely on travelers from near and far to inflow revenue so their basic needs can be met. Any disruption to that flow severely dampens Big Sur’s prospects for maintaining normal living standards. In this case, the recent wave of forest fires swept across the inner wilderness of our southern paradise, stripping countless acres and leaving charred stubble.
The devastation hit Big Sur through loss of property, ceased business due to road closures and evacuation, and psychological trauma. Some 80 days or so of fire season remain, not to mention the possibility of major landslides if winter’s rains come with any fury. It was with this awareness that last week’s Neighbor to Neighbor Big Sur Fire Relief Gala played itself out at the Monterey Conference Center.
About 600 concerned friends of Big Sur purchased $100 tickets to an upbeat, heartwarming, good-vibe hoedown where they drank, ate and opened checkbooks to the tune of $200,000-plus (see story, pg. 6).
I joined a group of about 15 volunteers to help with the wine service. I got to pour alongside real pros like Marc Cutino– who I think I heard trying to sell Bert Cutino some Talbott wines for the Sardine Factory– and Peter Heirs, both of whom used to handle Grand Award wine lists. We had wine industry types like Ross Allen, Bill Cascio, Lorraine Alban, Adam Olthof and Matthew Peterson, along with restaurant folks like Darryl Brewer, Beccy Breeze, Sander Konig, Jenna Moscoso and Deborah Scarborough, plus others I really didn’t know before, Cindy Bean, Rosalia Byrne, Adrian Duarte, Alicia Hahn, Christen Jones, Rosie Kenworthy, Lee Lightfoot, Scott Melley, Andi Upton, Heidi Vrable and Michelle Warren. We were organized by Toby Rowland-Jones, who had too close an encounter with the fires and was one of the stars of the evening.
In the kitchen and throughout the massive food staging area, teams of volunteer chefs and kitchen staff led by Todd Williamson of Nepenthe, Peggy Giles of River Inn, Craig Von Foerster of Post Ranch, Matt Glazer of Esalen, Kurt Steeber and Matt Millea of Ventana, Domingo Santamaria of Deetjen’s, Philip Wojtowicz and Michelle Rizzolo of Big Sur Bakery, Mark Ayers of Highlands Inn and TusCa and Willie Franz of Marriott worked with precision to crank out the three-course dinners. Chris Groves, who will be the chef at Beaujolais Bistro (opening soon in Carmel Plaza), was there to help, as were a number of students from Monterey Culinary Center. Michael Gilson of Big Sur Bakery was dressed in chef whites and Bert Cutino in special chef blacks, but I’m not sure they did much more than sign autographs and make sure the chef groupies didn’t disturb the operation.
The evening’s hosts and organizing committee, Dave Potter, Mary Ann Leffel, David Bernahl, Rob Weakley, Tom Fichera, Lisa Kleissner, Patte Kronlund, Dennis “Guitar” Murphy, Jayson Fann and Janet McAthie have a lot to be proud of. There were so many people from the community there, so many uplifting spirits, the Big Sur drumming band, fire dancers, and a great after-party for the volunteers at East Village Coffee Lounge. Most importantly, the nonprofit Coast Property Owners Association got a nice infusion of funds.
THE GOODS… Let’s get going… Bourbon lovers: Cal’s Bernardus food, Beam Family bourbons, Zole cocktails, Thursday, Aug. 21, call Gina Martin at 658-3574… Get your act to Trailside Café at 550 Wave St. in Monterey. Always has been one of the premier breakfast/lunch joints. They also serve dinner Thursday-Sunday and have wine and the best beer selection in the Cannery Row region. Great food, great people, great views– get going, www.trailsidecafe.com, 649-8600… Celebrate California Wine Month with Scheid Vineyards and four special dinners. Thursday, Sept. 4, Chef John Pisto’s Paradiso, steak and seafood dinner, 375-4155; Thursday, Sept. 11, Chef Anthony Momo’s Bahama Billy’s, Caribbean-fusion, 626-0430; Thursday, Sept. 18, Chef Mark Ayers’ TusCa at The Hyatt, Ital-Cal, 372-1234; Thursday, Sept. 25, Chef Jerry Regester, C Restaurant & Bar, California cuisine, 375-4500… TomatoFest is Sept. 14, www.tomatofest.com… whoa– car week is on us already. Gotta display the ’86 BMW 325 with 277,000 miles on it and one-of-a-kind patina from years of baking in the sun and not being washed. Those car people will be so envious.