Thursday, March 18, 2010
In the name of epicurean investigation, I infiltrated a pistachio conference at the Monterey Conference Center Thursday, and came away with more than a “Get Crackin’” T-shirt.
I learned the California farmer-fueled Paramount Farms has gone global in a major way, especially of late, as chief nut Stewart Resnick and others illuminated, with sales exploding in China, India, and beyond, where P.F. adjusts the roast and seasoning to native tastebuds.
Some other factors are helping the nut bust the best returns of any in the San Joaquin Valley, including slick ads starring Wee Man and Bristol Palin-impregnating Levi Johnston demonstrating ways of opening shells. (Wee does it “dangerously” – he holds the nut against his forehead while a ball machine rockets a shot off his dome; Johnston, snacking behind a bodyguard, “does it with protection.”) Increasingly apparent health benefits aid the effort more: The ’stacio is the lowest-fat nut going, its fiber has a bunch of upside and those who eat shelled nuts chomp 50 percent less (the work involved and the pile of shell shrapnel have an impact). Meanwhile Resnick, one of the most unnervingly powerful guys around – he’s got control over a big amount of the state’s water and his campaign donations have earned rather attentive ears from U.S. Sen. Diane Feinstein and Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger – has scientists furiously researching its other benefits.
Apparently almonds, walnuts and even the mighty peanut – “It’s not even a nut,” said Pom Wonderful marketing mind and Paramount co-owner Lynda Resnick, “it’s a legume” – are overmatched. When wise chefs like Ted Walter crust their halibut with it, it’s almost unfair.
That news, and the fact that my brother farms them in Coalinga, where our grandparents rest in peace, summoned enough of my stateside pride to forgive the fact that Resnick’s Suterra LLC sued the Weekly after we published ingredients in the light brown apple moth spray the pest control firm made and sold to the state for Peninsula drizzling.
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Readers awarded Rich Pepe’s Little Napoli Best Italian and Roy’s the title Best Restaurant in Pebble Beach, but Roy’s neighbor down the hall, Péppoli (647-7433), which like Napoli is a Pepe production – and just celebrated 10 years – deserves a nod too.
My brother invited me to dinner there, where we loved the choice Chiantis (including one from Rich Pepe’s own label that outperformed a bottle of Marchese Antiori), the wild boar pappadelle ($24.75), the celery root and garlic soup ($11.50), and the rib-eye ($52). But it was the lasagna ($31.25) – loaded with filet mignon and Calabrese sausage – that deserves Best Use of Noodles in Monterey County. (A tough and skunky roasted grouper, $36.75, was the only surprisingly off note.)
Props to Pepe – who spars with his son G, a boxer at UC Berkeley, as part of Celebrity Boxing for Charity at the Hyatt this Saturday (see Calendar, p. 110) – and Chef Arturo Moscoso. Now only if I grew pistachios and could afford to eat there on my own.
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Apparently the powers that be at Sardine Factory (373-3775) aren’t content to kick back on their legendary laurels. Weekly food contributor Jeanne Howard tells me its lounge now serves an antioxidant cocktail and salad for those anti-free radical folks looking to fortify their immune systems. One Stoli martini ($9.95) comes infused with açai berries and 19 other fruits from the Brazilian rainforest, and an açai salad heaps hearts of romaine with poached pear, orange segments, walnuts and açai-blackberry vinaigrette ($10.95). Her assessment of Bert Cutino’s latest creation: “Cutting-edge nutrition and tasty, too.”… Another bold and unique thing’s happening there Wednesday, March 24, with a Glenlivet XXV Club Dinner: Five courses like braised Aberdeen Angus beef deckle and a minted raspberry salad paired with Glenlivet’s grandest 12-, 15-, 18-year-old and XXV tastes… Parker Lusseau goods are great, as anyone who has laid their lips on their quiche lorraine or symphony cake can testify. So it was good news they added a Ryan Ranch outpost in ’09 – and that, as Yann Lusseau tells me, they now own the coolest digs of their three Monterey spots, the Fremont adobe next to the Post Office (643-0300) after buying it for a bargain from former landlords the Monterey History and Art Association. And their excellent Easter-inspired chocolate specialties are already in place… Linda Cantrell at Monterey Cookhouse (642-9900) showed some class this week. After an incomplete e-mail moved me to report she was doing a big burger, fries and draft beer for $10, locals descended at every hour, and she honored the deal despite the fact that it’s intended as a 4-6pm happy hour promotion. Good news: the special has no expiration date… Seaside’s Stammtisch Restaurant (899-3070) was selected one of the top 20 German restaurants in the U.S. by www.GermanDeli.com – out of 400. That’s serious schnitzel, son… Talbott Winery’s Dan Karlsen uncorked a quote worth repeating at Saturday’s Taste of Monterey Pinotfest panel: “Pinot grapes are a lot like children,” he told the 100-plus attending. “You can’t neglect them that long – and if you abuse them, it comes back to haunt you.” … Rest in peace John Spadaro, Spado’s founder, who died suddenly last week. He’ll be missed, at Madonna Del Sasso Church’s Lenten dinners and well beyond.