Thursday, August 28, 2008
TOP OF HIS GAME… Watching the Olympics has reminded me just how much I love sport. The searing heat of competition, the camaraderie among participants, the excruciating emotional risk, the exhaustive expansion of individual and collective capabilities, the laser-like focus, the compelling sacrifice, the unpredictability– everything.
Sport, at its essence, provides a framework in which humans may perfect our greatest mental, physical and emotional attributes. Sport disavows all racial, ethnic and religious stereotypes and naturally regulates gender biases. You either have game or you don’t– plain and simple. The more game you got, the further you get to go.
Sport gives dream-drenched children visions of glory, something good to hang their immediate hopes on regardless of their surroundings, circumstances or family dynamics. When I was a young adult, during the chaotic and violent transition from the ’60s to the ’70s, while everyone, including me, did more than just experiment with mind-altering substances, eventually it was my love for and commitment to basketball that brought me back from a world of hopelessness to a place where grace, symmetry and synergy reigned.
To all the athletes in all the sports and all the sport inside the athletes, to the children dreaming of big leagues and big accomplishments, to the weekend warriors hanging on to fading youth, from world-class big timers to kindergarten first timers, I salute you all.
BRING THE HEAT… You may not be able to race with Usain Bolt (damn, that guy is fast) but you can get in a commercial kitchen and boost your skills at a one-day, hands-on cooking class at the Culinary Center of Monterey. Throughout August and September, classes like Cooking for Two, Summer Salads, Beginning Cooking for Kids, and Mastering Cooking Techniques are available by simply registering in advance. Contact the Culinary Center at 333-2133 or get online at www.culinarycenterofmonterey.com.
George Edwards, an Olympian wine guru, is adding another service to the community. His store in Pacific Grove, Wine Market, is now the drop-off point for corks. He has found a company in Paso Robles that recycles them, so bring yours to him and he’ll get them to them, OK? 646-0107.
CRAZY LEGS… For those who missed Zeph’s Pinot tasting last week, bummer. Don’t miss the next one. In September is a massive new release Chardonnay tasting. Don’t forget all the fine beer action either, along with their happening wine bar (the afternoon hangout for local winos). Stop by to see Bill, Vince and the gang, www.zephs.com, 757-3947.
GO TIME… I was in Watsonville recently for one reason and one reason only: Café Ella. Right on E. Lake Street (Route 152), across from an old Victorian called the Tuttle Mansion, sits a delightful corner hideaway run by a beautiful restaurant animal named Ella King– and she is king of the fine food jungle. Check this out, from www.Café-Ella.com: “Our joy and commitment is to nurture your body, lighten your load, and lift your spirit.”
You will indeed leave this fine breakfast/lunch spot (dinner plans pending) with your body nurtured and your soul healed. Ella and her wonderful staff use the freshest, locally grown, organic ingredients, fair trade coffee, etc., all the stuff you want to see and they create delicious items like panini, waffles, fresh-baked pastries and pies, soups and salads. A recent addition is handmade pizzas in a wood-burning oven plus beer and wine– this is a beautifully decorated hangout for anyone in the Monterey-Santa Cruz corridor who craves real food the way it’s supposed to be. I love this place, 722-0480.
SLOW BURN… Been talking to contacts who are close to the Big Sur scene and am hearing disappointing news about the schedule for rebuilding Cielo’s kitchen at Ventana Inn. Apparently the damage was more extensive than anticipated and there are other issues about bringing everything up to code, etc. They are discussing a temporary kitchen, much like Post Ranch Inn did when they were redesigning Sierra Mar. Whatever happens, I hope the disruption to people’s lives is as minimal as possible.
OTHER STRUGGLES… Was talking to Antoine Maalouf, director of food and beverage services at Citronelle at Carmel Valley Ranch. He was lamenting the difficulties of finding well-trained restaurant staff around these parts. Welcome to the Peninsula, my man. With an overabundance of restaurants and an underabundance of affordable housing, there is no way service personnel can live close enough to jobs and still afford a normal life, especially with the rise in gas prices. Antoine was thinking that maybe an answer would be to do like they do in Europe– import the labor and house them… thing is, where?
I like to drift around on the Sunday evening of a big weekend, like Car Week or the AT&T, etc. I like to sit down for a pop and revel in the staffs’ worn-down, beat-up demeanor. The beauty (sic) of this great business is how success brings with it inescapable pain– physical, emotional and mental. After the recent Concours week, one that thankfully saw some record numbers for local businesses, I went out and chuckled at how tired the folks who had managed the assault of customers all week were feeling. Like big-time athletes after an important tournament, they were spent, sore and happy… you go, you restaurant dogs, you.