Thursday, April 8, 2010
In the name of gastronomic discovery I have ingested everything from grasshoppers to grass-fed beef to gourmet “grass” cookies, lived exclusively on food from within 150 miles for 15 days, and gone without any grub for another 10. Now, another brazen experiment.
Special Edible, a new blog, soft-launches this Thursday at www.mcweekly.com/edible. Visitors get everything they can find here, extrapolated and expanded, plus more recommended restaurants and impressive plates, more pictures, menus, links, and even the occasional video. Already up: Posts on the brand new Noodle Bar in Marina, awesome-and-underappreciated lunch patios, fresh crab on a sailboat at sunset, a wowser wine-bar revelation on River Road, the best from Michael Pollan’s latest, and live photo commentary direct from Pebble Beach Food & Wine. Another blog exclusive: an amateur food-photo contest for a $100 gift certificate. Buen provecho.
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We can all agree that PBF&W is wonderfully overwhelming. So I figured I’d talk to an expert on such indulgence for advice on managing such intoxicating and delicious demands.
Dan Dunn, spirits-wine-bacchanalia beat writer for Playboy, once said his job was “like a supermodel serial killer – it might look great and be a whole lot of fun, but it will cut your throat if you take your eye off it for a second.”
We hung out at PBF&W last year, where he turned me onto one of the better wines of the weekend (and that’s saying something) in Vérité and even introduced me to the family behind it.
Here’s the pneumonic-adept insight he has. “I’ve developed an acronym for a new approach,” he says. “SMASHED.
“Spitting – this is important, I didn’t do a lot last year. Moderation. Air – as in get some occasionally. Sleep. Hydrate.
“Eat – I forgot for stretches. And, if all else fails: Depends undergarments.”
On Special Edible I include links to his personal Imbiber website and his epic interview on life as a professional drinker with BroBible. There are also paths to an extended Q&A I had with PBF&W regular Thomas Keller of French Laundry. Hit 622-7770 or www.pebblebeachfoodandwine.com for PBF&W tickets – events are selling out.
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The Penny’s never been so shiny. Penny Farthing Tavern (422-5652), the institution that long defined neighborhood pub in Salinas – then went dark after an ill-advised attempt to convert it into a club – is cleaner than ever under its new-old ownership (Hugh Thomas worked at the original Penny). Sadly the pool tables and dartboards are gone with the grime, replaced by a banquet room.
True to the hype, the new menu trends toward “gastropub,” but without charging more than $12.95 for anything (most items are $7.95-$9.95).
Local emcee Justin Klineman and I took on a deal where the third appetizer’s half-price (with some draft Boddingtons pints – $5.50, from a rack of a 16 drafts). The pricy but sizeable pulled-pork tacos enjoy all-day slow-roasted flavor and a Sriracha aioli jalapeño slaw ($8.95); the tenderness of the Asian steak tips ($9.95) illuminate why they’re popular; and the best value was the juicy lamb tikka skewers ($8.95 before discount).
There are also salads like a “black and bleu” or “Hong Kong steak” ($9.95 each). Sandwiches range the world over, or at least from the basil-chicken-tomato-mozarella-ciabiatta Tuscan, grilled Mediterranean gyro and the revolutionary Cuban to the Philly cheese, Brooklyn Reuben and the Dunwoody beer brat ($6.95-$9.95 with soup, salad or fries). The burgers arrive with chicken breast, turkey or beef, none bigger than the Original Dunwoody Doozie ($9.95). “Tortizzas” layer things like pulled pork or Mexicana grilled chicken on a 10-inch tortilla, pizza style ($9.95). And the main events include a Norfolk pot pie with garlic-braised chicken, Irish stew and bangers and mash ($11.95-$12.95).
Salinas native and Penny GM Desmond Carreras presided over an enthusiastic staff and told me they are eyeballing spots in both Carmel and Monterey. It’s here in Salinas, though, where folks are appropriately overjoyed about getting their baby back.
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Just around the corner sits another welcome Oldtown addition. The third Michael’s Taqueria (754-8917) follows in the footsteps of the popular family-run 1986 original in P.G. (and the sequel in Marina) in a cute spot on Main. Though their traffic was tiny on a Friday evening, the burrito vegetale ($6.59) I ordered, smothered in red chile salsa, cheese and scallions, was huge, barely fitting in the to-go clamshell. (Thing might’ve outweighed beautiful new county resident Ava Maxon.) I can only imagine how grande the house burrito ($9.49) gets between the charbroiled shrimp, blackened chicken, rice, cheese, pico de gallo and roasted tomatillo-chile sauce.
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Hot dames. Les Dames d’Escoffier assemble an April-in-Paris afternoon Sunday, April 18, at Pasadera. Expect a French feast of the highest order – chef specialties, cheeses, pastries and, bien sur, les vins. $95, 625-3425… Fun idea: A Masters viewing party at the Point Pinos Grill at P.G. Golf Links noon Friday, April 9, with a flat screen broadcast at 1pm, a “green jacket menu” with traditional Masters’ fare such as pimento-cheese sandwiches, beer and wine specials, discounted twilight rates, 648-5775, www.pggolflinks.com… As ol’ “anonymous” once said, “If you ate pasta and antipasto, would you still be hungry?”