Thursday, May 6, 2010
Change is creeping up on one of Carmel’s coolest haunts, Brophy’s Tavern (624-2476), as big-hearted Joe Cingari hands over the reins to Brett Wales. Wales is already directing traffic, and – famous last words warning – if escrow closes on schedule, it’ll be official come mid-month.
Monterey High grad Wales has been there for 18 months and says he was given first right of refusal to run things when Cingari wanted out. Wales, who jumped on it, is turning to Brian Christensen – last seen stirring and starring in the kitchen at bygone Stokes – to streamline the back-of-the house action and consult on an enhanced menu.
“I don’t want to change too much,” Wales says. “We’re keeping a lot of the menu, but we wanted to bring in a little flair, some different stuff.”
Christensen says that will include a $5 small bite menu with 5-10 items like frog legs, sweetbreads and broccolini fritters.
Brophy’s continues to rock righteous cheesesteaks and be a favorite among industry people for its inviting vibe and open-till-11pm kitchen. More organics and fresh flavors from Christensen’s clever, half-crazy head will only help.
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Cue the I knew it!s: Drinking is a form of exercise, thanks to a protein-infused vodka being produced in Northern California and poured at local watering holes.
Devotion is an 80-proof, triple-distilled vodka with one paradigm-cracking difference: It contains a proprietary infusion of casein, a protein precipitated from milk and very popular with body-builders and other fitness-minded people that can actually be found as a pure supplement in many nutritional stores.
The spirit is the bastard child of founder Drew Adelman’s love interests: nightlife and fitness. His idea: “If you’re going to be bad, be good!” As my wise colleague Dr. Wong would say, Hmmm.
The truly good news is that it was created in San Francisco, original home of the martini, and distilled and bottled in San Jose (cheers to you, screwdriver-loving locavores) and doing well on taste scorecards (“Huge smoothness to it,” one reviewer writes, “a medium bodied thickness almost mimicking that of a reposado tequila with a finish that reminds me of saké”). Locally it’s served at Piatti Ristorante & Bar in Carmel; The Running Iron in Carmel Valley; The Sandbar, El Palomar and Alfredo’s in Monterey; Embassy Suites and American Legion Post 591 in Seaside; and Old Town Bar & Grill in Salinas.
I’d love to stick around and tell you more, but I gotta go “work out.”
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Three-month-young Chopstix (899-2622) on Fremont has added Vietnamese sandwiches to an already rockin’ lineup of boba teas, rice and noodle dishes, solid phos and DIY yogurt bar. They arrive fast, 8 inches long on a sturdy baguette, and only $3.25. I tried the barbecued pork, which was crisp, crunchy, fresh and fragrant thanks to shards of carrot and pepper, cilantro and onion. I encountered more fat and gristle than I’d like, but hey, the thing is still a steal. The “vegetarian,” with veggie ham and tofu and the pile of greenery, translated to less taste but fewer rough spots.
But there was no traditional Vietnamese pâté option in sight (there are steamed pork, meatballs and more, but everything seems Americanized). I asked young owner Mikey Nguyen why there wasn’t the one I was looking for.
“There is!” the 30-year-old entrepreneur told me. “It’s just not on the menu.”
I’ll be back for that, for two reasons. One, I can’t resist the ’wich that kept my shoestring budget and me alive for a month in Vietnam. Two, Mikey offered to let this cashless writer pay for my sandwiches next time – they don’t yet take credit – a classy play from the old-school neighborly way.
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Last call for $100 prize: The deadline on the food photo contest has been extended. Send a nice shot of grub prepped in Monterey County (at home or at a restaurant) to email@example.com by May 15, get selected by chef judges, earn a hundred bucks’ worth of shrimp and sippers at Bubba Gump… Already home of top tapas and a great 5-7pm daily “hora feliz” (free pintxos and $3 sangrias), Esteban Restaurant (375-0176) in Casa Munras Hotel is adding another excuse to get over there: Industry Night on Sundays, with happy hour all night and 20 percent off food with a pay stub/biz card/name tag. Peter Evans, meanwhile, keeps plucking flamenco by the fireplace 6-9pm Friday and Saturday… Ag Against Hunger launches its 2010 gleaning program on 8:30am Saturday, May 8, at San Benito High School. Volunteers meet at the Windmill Market parking lot in San Juan Bautista at 8:30am, and then caravan to a local field to harvest produce; a barbecue by Central Coast Young Farmers and Ranchers follows at noon. Last year their work fed 120,000 low-income people each month, 755-1480… 2010 Monterey Beer Festival’s coming up quick, complete with Thursday and Friday night pre-parties before the June 5 epic, maybe the best $35 you’ll ever spend, 521-7921, www.nightthatneverends.com… Good local wine deal at Costco: Jack Galante’s KickAss Cabernet’s just $8.99… “The noblest of all dogs is the hot dog,” Laurence J. Peter said. “It feeds the hand that bites it.”