Thursday, September 25, 2008
FEEL THE PAIN… Amidst the flailing (that’s correct) financial markets and institutions (“I’m not ready for an institution”– Mae West), the military unrest throughout the world’s hot spots, the blatant government-sanctioned theft by conscienceless corporate scalawags (self-censorship here), the snowballing worries about the comforts America’s majority took for granted, the vacuous pop culture crackling like fireworks, the snapping of our reputation as a country formerly inhabited by highly educated people, the systematic strip mining of our forefathers’ magnificently crafted instruction manual for self-governing, the most caricaturistic (don’t bother looking that one up) cast of heartless criminals running roughshod over every local, regional and national treasury dollar– whose reach is so pervasive and sinister as to make The Godfather seem like Little Women, the lemming rush toward the precipice of complete global thermodynamic disruption, the natural resource abduction and human dignity reduction– amidst all this and so much more, each of us (gulp) struggles to carry on our proud traditions, despite– actually in the very face of– so many indicators triggering our internal warning systems.
Believe it or not, I don’t have that big a problem with it. That is to say, crooks and power mongers have been the bane of humankind forever. I only wish the sonofabitches (still self-censoring) would be decent enough to leave a little for everyone else.
THE DOPE ON COPING… Meanwhile, we trundle onward, smiley facing new tomorrows, faith in goodness fueling our dreams, elevating our saddened moments, tilling the soil of hope and renewal. That’s what it’s all about, what it has always been all about, especially among the courageous, industrious members of the restaurant community. These are the stalwart souls whose daily dedication to service– the desire to make another’s life a bit better, if only for a moment– draws our recurring visitorship. Our favorite restaurants become the oases upon which we camp along our journeys through life’s desert landscape.
Having devoted 20-plus years in the trenches and sporting the variety of emotional, mental and physical scars restaurant dogs acquire, I hold an especially tender place in my heart for the great ones out there who have committed their lives to this double-edged sword of public servitude. I recently spent two hours with Billy Quon (look for it in an upcoming issue) listening to him talk about his 40-odd years of devotion to this crazy business. I think about the many titans from our industry who we have the honor of calling our own around here and tip my hat (tip, did he say tip?) to the lot of them.
Well, I got the menu for the upcoming MCAP Feast for AIDS at the Beach Club on Sept. 28. Beach Club Chef Benjamin Brown is the conductor with solos by Rod Uncangco and David Duron from Spanish Bay, Patrick Mullin and Josh Loeb from The Lodge, along with Pebble Beach Pastry Chef John Hui, Dory Ford from the Aquarium, Tony Baker of Montrio and Craig Von Foerster of Post Ranch Inn. The wines are coming from Joullian, Chateau Julien, Ventana, Bernardus, Hahn, Chateau Sinnet, Paraiso and Scheid. This is a star-studded, hugely important affair and there might still be a ticket or two left, so call MCAP at 394-4747 and try to get in. Also, buy some raffle tickets to win a very cool scooter so you can tool around town without spending all your money on gas while you’re wearing a helmet donated by Todd Sharp of Cuqui’s Cars in Marina, 101 Motorsports in Prunedale and Market Motors in Salinas.
ANOTHER CURE… Indicators from all my industry periodicals show that alcohol sales are not being affected by the current economic uncertainty (how’s that for delicacy?). What actually happens though is that people trade down in their choices, opting for less expensive methods of catching their much-needed buzzes. That hurts the high-end segment of the market in wine sales, restaurant sales, hotels, etc. Not as many folks are inclined to spend $100-plus per couple on dinner every night anymore. Pair that with skyrocketing costs and operators across the spectrum are feeling the crunch.
MAJOR PLAYERS… Talbott Vineyards, always a champion local winery, has added the irrepressible Dan Karlsen to oversee winemaking operations for at least the next year. This is exciting because Dan, one of the industry’s great individuals, brings a barrel full of experience at the highest levels– from his days at Dehlinger in the ’80s to Domaine Carneros, then a long run at Chalone and currently Graff Family. This guy is a virtuoso and will tune Talbott’s already-stellar wines to the highest pitch. Check out the new Kali Hart Chard, his first effort– you’ll see what I’m talking about.
On Saturday evening, Sept. 27, Andre “The Giant” Lengacher at Lugano Swiss Bistro in the Barnyard is having his yearly Oktoberfest. German band Alpine Trio, Spatten and Oktoberfest beer on tap, Sauerbratten, Bratwurst, Jagerschnitzel– dis ees goot, ya, dis ees goot, 626-3779… big congrats to Heather and Bill Rammel. Bill is a long-time restaurant dog from around these parts who is loved by a lot of locals. They just had a beautiful baby girl, Cynthia Kaye Lynn Rammel, welcome little one. Ain’t life grand… look for the opening events at Scheid Vineyards’ new tasting lounge on Cannery Row beginning Sept. 27… 20th anniversary Taste of Carmel coming Oct. 2 at the Carmel Mission, 624-2522… go to Kinship Center’s 2nd Harvest Moon Festival Oct. 4 in Salinas. Great local chefs and wines, great cause, 455-9965, kinshipcenter.org… might be a spot left at Bouchee for the Sept. 25 Tantara Wine dinner with Emanuel Kamiji, worth a try… bye.