Thursday, August 27, 2009
That’s my stomach growling. Not because it’s hungry. It’s grumpy.
Sources tell my stomach and me one of the best and most visionary restaurants on the Central Coast could be leaving its longtime home: The owners of the storied adobe haunt that holds the complete-package powerhouse that is Stokes Restaurant & Bar (373-1110) – which does all its savvy sourcing, superior flavor and welcoming service very well and with comfortable class – are in escrow with new buyers. And reliable rumor has it that the high-profile buyers-to-be want to bring in their own food-and-wine concept.
All parties are hesitant to go on the record and heartily agree nothing is final. But the property could change hands in roughly a month if negotiations continue to go according to plan.
As news goes, this had a touch of inevitability: The Costello and Meyer families – whose relatives have owned the building since the late 1800s – have been looking at selling for three years, although hope remained Stokes could stay. And as bad news goes, this has a lot of good to it. Put differently, when one visionary kitchen door closes, another opens.
The prospective buyers are Coastal Luxury Management, the people behind Pebble Beach Food & Wine and the upcoming Harvest Farm-to-Table next month (see below). While they’ll likely orchestrate a dramatic departure from Stokes’ style, likely in the direction of even finer dining, it’s impossible not to get excited at what the David Bernahl-Rob Weakley-led CLM might bring to the table. These are the guys who crisscross the continent as they “scout” the very best that spills from our county’s cornucopia (tracking Bernahl alone on Facebook is a gastronomical geography lesson: Vegas, Miami, Napa… ). They prioritize style, sophistication and fun. And of late, everything they touch seems to turn to gourmet. “It’s gonna be hot,” Bernahl told me.
Of course, I’m telling myself maybe we can somehow have the best of both worlds, as I hope Stokes, which replaced legendary Gallatin’s in the historic converted house long-ago resident Hattie Gragg still haunts, might find new digs that provide another chapter for a very loyal fan base (though Stokes co-owner/G.M. Kirk Probasco wisely says, “Let’s see what happens first”).
In the meantime, my munching orders are preordained: Get to Stokes immediately and often. Roll in the amazing veal-pork meatballs, soak up the majesty of the mushroom pizza, topple the heirloom tower, commune with the crab salad and (best of all) kick back with Kirk, Mario, Brian and the rest of the incomparable Stokes squad. OK, that’s not much of a change from my normal maneuvers. But it’ll improve my stomach’s attitude.
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Something tells me the ol’ estomago will love CLM’s Harvest at Quail Lodge, where the Sept. 26-27 event has the feel of a down-home al fresco version of P.B. Food & Wine. Another overwhelming lineup of winemakers arrives (100 already) along with a throng of talented chefs, drawn largely from in county – but they are also joined by area ag vets in order to key off of a fast-increasing interest in source-verified satisfaction, and the place rightly called the Salad Bowl of the Whole Damn World.
“Many chefs have already partnered with local ag producers,” Bernahl says. “Guests will meet the farmer, taste their goods with the chef, pair it with wine, and take some home from the farmers market.”
There’s also a kid’s kitchen happening; barbecue, organic gardening, artisanal cheese and wine seminars assembling; DJ action spinning; cooking demos sizzling; and four worthy local charities benefiting. Nibble over to www.harvestcarmel.com.
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The world can use more ice cream socials. The scoop of sociality is just the tip of the ice-cream berg Sunday, Aug. 30, as one of the area’s most unique and under-the-radar local hospitality havens, HI-Monterey Hostel, celebrates a century of parent group Hostelling International providing travelers with a character-rich headquarters around the world. They’re inviting the community to share international foods, tours, children’s games and live music, including Bob Phillips and Friends, the Usual Suspects and fiddler Carolyn Anderson. 2-5pm, 649-0375.
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Ask a hostel-going backpacker: From greasy pad thai in Bangkok to grilled queijo coalho in Brasil, some of the best international flavor can be found along gutters and sidewalks. Up in Oakland, The Eat Real Festival, self-described as the country’s first-of-its-kind celebration of street food – only a lot more sustainable than the asphalt fare of backpacker hubs – rolls this weekend, Aug. 28-30, with 50 food trucks and two stages at Jack London Square. The “from scratch” cooking demos, canning and foraging demo-exchange, “flying knives” butchery contest, eclectic local music and food film festival are all free. www.eatrealfest.com/events… Potato latkes, kugel, blintzes, pastrami sandwiches, home baked challah, rugelach and chicken soup: That’s Yiddish for the Jewish Food Festival at Congregation Beth Israel, 10am-4pm Sunday, Aug. 30, free to attend… Valley sun, designer drinks and Bill Lee fusion dishes collide at Volcano Grill Restaurant (659-1280), where they’re rolling out a fashion show every Friday at lunch starring the looks of CV boutique Casa Del Soul (659-4043)… Where did summer go?