Wednesday, December 23, 2009
Something’s happening to a primo pork sandwich near you (at Curly’s Barbecue). Same for a bomb crab Benedict (Sandbar & Grill) – and the county’s best cashew sauce (Fishwife), kebabs (Amir’s Kabob House) and beignets (Trailside Cafe). They’re getting better.
Here’s how it works: Meals find a higher gear after a bike ride. Textures and tastes are filtered through senses pre-enhanced by the sea air and vivid viewscapes; appetites are only elevated. Now a growing pack of hotels, entertainment (and education) venues, and restaurants (HER) offer incentives to experience exactly that: HER Helmet Thursdays, an ecology-economy partnership pedaled by local grassroots bike-advocate Mari Lynch Dehmler, gives anyone who rides there and shows his or her bike helmet a discount, usually 10 to 50 percent off. For lodging discounts, guests can bring their own bike or rent a bike in town.
The peloton of charter participants (including the four above):Bullwacker’s, Cafe La Strada, Carmel Belle, Carmel River Inn, Cypress Inn, El Mariachi, Elli’s, Gilbert’s Seafood Grill, Hola by the Sea, Jose’s Mexican (both spots and the Underground Lounge), La Casa Bodega, LALLA Lounge, LALLAgrill, LALLApalooza, London Bridge Pub, Maha’s, Merlot’s, Monterey Hostel, Monterey Hotel, Persian Grill,Pino’s Cafe, Plume’s Coffee House, Porto Bella, Salinas Valley Fish House, Schooners, Steinbeck Center, Terry’s at the Cypress Inn, Duck Club Grill, Turtle Bay Taqueria (both), Vista Blue Spa, Wild Plum Cafe & Bakery. More at www.bicyclingmonterey.com. Let’s ride.
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Good gift-giving is a gift. Some have it. Some need inspirational aid.
Help hit the Weekly in a cardboard box: Monterey County Muscats and Ports, Rieslings and Viogniers – rich and sweet treats in bottles bulbous and sleek, which could look adorably boutique beneath a certain type of tree. Certified sommelier-Weekly contributor Paul Wetterau and I promptly assembled a dessert-wine tasting panel with the help of editorial intern Greg Tomascheski, whose lack of oenological lexicon acted as a perfect complement to Wetterau’s scholarly semantics (and a reminder that with wine, there is no right answer – you like what you like). Here’s what we found, in the context of the various vineyard’s proposed pairings:
Kendall Jackson peeps like lemon curd with their 2006 Late Harvest Chardonnay ($25). We were pleasantly surprised by its balance and uncloying 11 percent-alcohol honeysuckle hum.
J Lohr’s thinking Granny Smith apple tart with an apricot-brandy glaze would go with its OK 2006 Late Harvest White Riesling ($25). Joyce Vineyards likes pear poached in its pudding wine, a bizarre combo of sherry up front and almond toffee on the back ($28).
2007 Graff Family Vineyards Chalone July Muscat ($16; they picture an apricot or pear tart pairing) has a lightness that beats the admittedly more muscat-y and alcoholic Ventana Vineyards 2008 Orange Muscat ($18), though VV’s would benefit from a partnership with the suggested fresh fruit.
Mer Soleil 2004 LATE Late-Harvest Viognier ($36) didn’t blow us away, but we did skip the recommended warm blue cheese stuffed Mission figs.
A Mission Trail, Potbelly Port ($36, good with chocolate bread pudding, perhaps) introduced a brand out of South County’s tiny San Lucas. The name fits with this 18.5 percent heavy oak finisher.
Two stood out: The Pessagno Griva Vineyard 2006 Late Harvest Sauvignon Blanc in a super-slim bottle ($25, best with crème brulee, they say) might’ve been the best. That or the Paraiso Souzao Port Santa Lucia Highlands ($25, suggested dance: chocolate upside down cake and drunken dried cherries), thanks to a juicy blackberry-black cherry balance.
Try www.montereywines.org for a list of the many options for wineries who each offer club memberships that last for months or a year. Gifted giving feels good.
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“It’s on like Donkey Kong up in Carmel Valley,” a friend e-mailed. “I just ran into a buddy and they pulled pounds of chanterelles. I’m going commando style early tomorrow.”
“Four pounds of chanterelles and a two-pound bolete,” wrote another. “My sweetie’s sautéeing as I type.”
Yes, it’s mushroom boom time in Monterey County thanks to a rain-rallied bumper crop built for glorious sporing.
Fortunately, for those lacking the absolutely critical cap ID aptitude (as local shroom scholar Chuck Bancroft likes to say, “All mushrooms are edible – once”), the funky, grassroots Big Sur Chanterelle Cook-off is back after a year stung by regional pests like fire and flood. The Big Sur Food & Wine Festival team has assembled a nice lineup Feb. 26-28, with events centered around the Big Sur Lodge: a Friday reception with top South Coast chefs, wines and surprise guests, a Fungus Federation-led hunt Saturday followed by a panel and then the featured event, a three-hour chanty championship with more toques in attendance (and vying for titles like originality, presentation and taste). A new awards dinner closes the day and a David Dildine brunch extends the event Sunday. Call Toby Rowland-Jones (667-0241) for more on the Big Sur Victory Gardens-benefiting effort.
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James Beard Award winner Suzanne Goin of Lucques in Los Angeles and Rick Bayless of Topolobampo/Frontera Grill in Chicago are Cooking for Solutions’ honorees for the May 21-22, 2010 event… Merry merry.