Thursday, May 21, 2009
The bad news: We’re f***ed. That was the early takeaway from the increasingly vital Sustainability Institute the Aquarium puts on as part of Cooking for Solutions to school media on food issues facing us: Our oceans remain unregulated, farmed fish are busting out of their open-ocean pens and the world’s people, of whom there are twice as many as 50 years ago, are each chomping twice as much seafood.
The good news: Lobsters have two penises, as author Trevor Corson (Secret Life of Lobsters) pointed out as part of a panel on the Global Food Crisis. The fact that said crustaceans are doubly endowed isn’t as arousing as the fact that minds like him are working on solutions. His approach is to amuse while he educates. International Institute for Ecological Agriculture’s David Blume, meanwhile, wants to grow kelp in ocean dead zones to suck up suffocating nutrients and generate more oxygen. Iowa State’s Fred Kirschenmann has ideas on strengthening food democracy, food justice and food sovereignty. Aquarium Executive Chef Dory Ford found a supplier who will give him fresh wild halibut at below-market rates if he swears off farm-raised.
In short, as the gala event demonstrated with seemingly infinite permutations of luxurious-but-conscious flavor, hope is alive and swimming. But they’ll need our vigilant help. Readers should stay tuned to plug into different things we can do about it in the coming weeks.
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Between the flawless bone-in rib eye and some atmospheric local abalone, the German Reislings and the Napa Zin, the moving views and the symphonic service, this would be what all great restaurants aspire to: an experience.
Pacific’s Edge (622-5450, www.pacificsedge.com) had me out for a media run through Mark Ayers’ new menu. As much as PE has mastered the sport of splurging (Weekly readers gave it the nod for Best Place to Splurge), Ayers hopes to bring his high-flying fare within reach of more people – particularly us locals – so they might slide down the coast more often. To that effect, the restaurant’s also open seven days a week instead of five, staff uniforms and tone are less formal and the menu has a little sumpin for everyone – not that you can’t still satisfy the urge to splurge with a grilled New York steak ($38) and a butter-braised half lobster “side” ($28, dual genitalia not included).
I made a play for the pairing menu ($65 or $105 with wines) – starring beautifully arranged grilled African salt prawns with brown butter-roasted white asparagus, a dish of California white sturgeon and a pair of spiced pork cuts (braised belly and smoked tenderloin) – and helped Rosie jump around the rest of the creative options offered. I really can’t imagine the abalone ($20) tasting better, loved the recommended rib-eye ($45), wish I had room for also-suggested ahi tartare ($17) and Highlands Inn Chowder ($9), might swap the warm brussels sprouts salad ($12) for the Point Reyes blue cheese treatment ($10) next time, and see no way to go wrong on Pastry Chef George Fritsche’s lineup (note the Valrhona chocolate peanut butter torte with espresso drizzle and chocolate “caviar”).
With each dish already elevated by the sunset-over-the-ocean eyescape, Wine Director Mark Buzon’s choices and graceful presentation took us what distance remained, with everything from a memorable 2005 Sheldon Pinot out of Sonoma to a comparison of ports aged 10 years and 20 years.
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Look for local master elixir mixer Jeff Moses’ new Stomper wine label at Whole Foods for well under $10. He’s got an unoaked Chard and a Merlot to start – and enjoy the art from graffiti heroes on the label, grapes from San Saba and McIntyre Vineyards in the bottle. His now institution-status Monterey Beer Festival, with suds carefully selected by Beer Geeks Chris Nelson and Meredith Canham-Nelson is June 6… Kiki “Wow” Whitman has been enthusiastically renewing the mojo at historic Rosie’s Cracker Barrel in Carmel Valley, with some great wines and impressive songwriters to complement the reborn general market. Neighbors aren’t so enthusiastic about the increased entertainment, which she says has slowed permit processing with the county. The good news is she’s exporting the tastings and live music to Plaza Linda, where the owners are happy to have access to her select vendors, and she’s stoked with her sun-splashed patio setting. There’s a wine dinner there Friday, May 22, and Brett Mikels plays there the next night. RSVP 659-4229… The American Institute of Wine & Food Monterey Bay Chapter’s hosting a screening of Ratatouille with an all-inclusive classic French buffet dinner prepped by the AIWF board and wines provided by Ventana Vineyards Wednesday, May 27, 2009. Add a blanket and some stars and it sounds like a fine al fresco film night. $25 for members; $50 for non-members… Knuckles at the Hyatt (372-1234) is doing something daring: Toss-Up Tuesdays. Every Tuesday, at the end of a diners’ meal, a “referee” visits their table and flips a coin. The guest calls it (heads or tails) and if he or she wins – the food is on the Hyatt… Zeph’s remains relentless with their tastings. Thursday, May 21, stars Marilyn Remark, Puma Road and Pedregal; June 18 pulls an ABC (anything but Chardonnay) range of dynamic whites. $20-$25, 757-3947… Salud.