Thursday, October 16, 2008
NIBBLING AWAY… As we grudgingly face the ever-more possible possibilities made clear by all economic indicators in a world gone wrong, along with the many depressing realities already plaguing more of the world, it becomes more difficult than ever to feel enthusiastic about the future.
Fortunately we still have the freedom– but not always the money– to eat and drink out. The restaurant business is taking a hit during these difficult financial times. It irks me to see the sandwich wars among the major chains. That brings folks, whose real income is declining, to their stores, stuffing them full of overly processed, hormone- and other additive-laden Frankenfoods that are ultra-high in sodium, fat, refined sugars and all types of harmful ingredients. Meanwhile, independents face greater challenges to hold customers and turn a profit.
The uplifting aspect to all of this is how people continue, even in less-than-ideal conditions, to open new joints and in many cases, bust a strong move toward success. Two recent openings include Carmel’s Firok Shield, owner of Da Giovanni and Bistro Giovanni, who has his Bistro Beaujolais up and running in the Carmel Plaza, two doors down from the Cheese Shop. The other is Ella “Bibi” King, who has taken her immensely successful Café Ella concept from Watsonville and expanded it at her second location in Hollister, in the old DiMaggio’s location.
Neither of these two stalwart restaurateurs is giving much credence to the slowdown in the economy. They’re betting that a cool-looking spot with good food, good drink and most importantly, good people, will prove the old adage: “Where there’s a will there’s a way.”
FEELING TOOTHY… I also say right on to Jacques Melac. The intrepid owner of Rancho Cellars Wine Shop at the mouth of Carmel Valley is expanding his offerings to include afternoon café style eating along with delicious sandwiches, salads, pâté and cheese plates. His wife, Janet, is preparing the scrumptious eats, nothing new, as many of you remember Melac’s (in P.G.), one of the best restaurants around for about 10 years with Jacques out front and Janet in the back doing the cooking. They are just getting this up and running so I’ll have more to report later on.
Meanwhile, my man Sean Allen of Trailside Café on the bike path in Cannery Row, one the best breakfast and lunch spots in the area, has a wonderful Friday and Saturday evening menu (open until 9pm) with great beer (amazing selection), California wine, their popular sand dabs, lasagna, fruit and cheese board, mac and cheese, sliders, calamari, salads, heated patio, Indian Summer evenings. You can bring the dog too. Before a movie or as a dinner spot, this is very nice.
Steve Pessagno and Todd Fisher are continuing 1645 River Road, whereby they turn the Pessagno Tasting Room into a wine dinner extravaganza with a tasty menu by Todd and the always-popular wines by Steve. The next dates are Oct. 17, Nov. 14 and Nov. 21, call 206-8401 or surf www.1645riverroad.com.
CLASSIQUE WITH CLASS… Each year, the Culinary Classique d’Elegance creates itself at Spanish Bay to raise funds for the ever-important Meals on Wheels (this year it is on Nov. 2). As you would imagine, Bert Cutino is a big part of it– his philanthropic efforts in the community are continuous and far-reaching. This year, after a conversation with our now local and always wonderful artist, Guy Buffet, the Classique will have a special painting of his to use for its fundraising efforts. Buffet, whose upbringing in Paris was a beautiful mixture of restaurant life and art, has a uniquely whimsical style of capturing restaurant life. To find out more, contact MOW at 375-4454.
AND MORE TO DISH OUT… Janine “I put the Chick in” Chicourrat is back in the hotel business, GMing at Portola Plaza in downtown Monterey– welcome back… if it’s not too late, get to Under the Tuscan Moon at Peppoli on Oct 17. Guest Chef Mark Estee of Moody’s Bistro in Truckee joins Arturo Moscoso for a grand dinner. I played golf with Mark at this year’s Pebble Beach Food & Wine and not only is he a great chef, he hits the bejeezus out of a golf ball… another good choice on Oct. 17 pairs small-lot reserve wines of Scheid Vineyards, presented by Scott Scheid, at the Sardine Factory with a six-course feast prepared by Chef Jacques Wilson, 373-3775… Brett Wales, who many of you know from Cantinetta Luca, is throwing a golf tournament at Quail Lodge on Oct. 24 to benefit local firefighters. There is a Bloody Mary registration at noon with a 1:30pm start, prizes, giveaways, a reception at Edgar’s, the works. Call Brett at 601-7207, it’s a good cause and fun too… whoa– Bistro Moulin is having its first wine dinner on Oct. 22. Doug Meador, whose winemaking style he always categorized as European with California fruit, will be on hand with his delicious Meador Estate wines. That’ll be fun… so will Halloween at Bahama Billy’s when I will be judging a costume contest for dogs. I thought it was going to be humans dressing up as dogs, but it’s actually the reverse, dogs dressing up, probably like humans. It’s from 4 to 6pm, bring your dressed-up dog, there’ll be special drink and food prices and lots of arf-arf fun. It’s to help Animal Friends Rescue Project. 626-0430… Friends of CASA Monterey will be having a luncheon at 11:30am at the Clement Hotel in Cannery Row on Oct. 22. KSBW’s Dan Green will emcee and the keynote speaker is Judge Leonard Edwards, a formidable force in Juvenile Dependency reform in Santa Clara County who now sits as a judge in residence with the Administrative Office of the Courts for the State of California Family and Children Services. Reservations are required, 455-6800. There is no fee to attend; however guests are encouraged to pledge their support.