Thursday, September 2, 2010
Last year, the inaugural Food&Wine Harvest felt like the one and only Monterey Music Summit, only with rock star chefs like Tyler Florence and Stefan Richter replacing rock rock stars like Michael Franti and The Roots. Both productions were big-city-grade, wildly entertaining events where the small amount of attendees demanded three thoughts, namely:
1) Where the hell is everyone?
2) Those knuckleheads are missing out in a major way.
3) Thank goodness. More for us.
The light crowd meant heavy indulgence for those there, from the cracking fresh oyster bar (though I’ll pass on the vodka-oyster shooter next time) to the waves of fine Santa Lucia wines. OK, there were waits for chefs named Baker – Rob Baker’s barbecue and Tony Baker’s little something amazing (he ran out before I got some) – but everything else, from hand-tended McIntyre grape juice to Florence’s festive food demos to Top Chef star Richter’s delicious Thai soup, was available with zero waiting and maximum chef-winemaker-crowd interaction.
After throwing together the event quickly in the wake of TomatoFest’s close, which left a vacuum in the foodie calendar too good to pass up, the event was also a testament to parent Coastal Luxury Management’s ability to throw an electric event with only the collaborating chefs and staffers knowing how seat-of-the-pants a production it actually was.
With a full year to arrange sponsorships, charm chefs, harvest wineries, plot demos and recruit gardening displays, Harvest 2.0 – imagine a Pebble Beach Food & Wine-style grand tasting with a more regional chef base, a lot more connectivity to the farm and a more family-aimed orientation – should evolve significantly. It’s coming up quickly: Sept. 25-26. It’s $85 a day or $150 for two. Kids 12 and under are free.
The crowd-pleasers will be back, including the Kids Kitchen/garden funland run by the MEarth Hilton Bialek Habitat directors, bike-powered blender included. Guests will again be able to collect farm-fresh produce to take home.
But there are some key components to consider beyond the impressive fundamentals: 100-plus winemakers, 50 chefs, two days, all set on the Quail Lodge lawns in the Carmel Valley sun, with a portion of proceeds going to local nonprofits. Expect more demos from studs like Cal Stamenov, and also seminars on barbecue, wines, gardening and artisan cheeses. And a prodigious uptick in music – live bands will add to the DJ-driven beats present last year.
Call 622-7770 or get on www.harvestcarmel.com.
Speaking of CLM, I was in the neighborhood the other day, so I stuck my head in over at Hartnell Street to see how things were coming together at Restaurant 1833 in the old Stokes Adobe. Restaurants chief Gary Obligacion was his usual ebullience, despite what he described as a steady diet of “curveballs” in getting the place ready.
“Every time we do anything,” he said with a grin, “we find something that we have to replace.”
It was a surreal thing seeing its gradual reinvention in action – like seeing Grandma get a massive makeover. The outside’s no longer pink; the piles of cement in the parking lot testify to how much has been excavated from unexpected trenches underearthed beneath the kitchen floor. The kitchen is another impressive animal already, with the oven moving into the back, a couple of walls coming down to open up communication and work space, and smoothed floors. Obligacion adds that Chef Tim Mosblech has consulted constantly.
“The kitchen’s built for speed,” Obligacion says.
Nearby, the bar is coming together beautifully. Though the original lift-off date has come and gone, and CLM co-owners Rob Weakley and David Bernahl would like “to see it open yesterday,” from the looks of it, the explosive opening sequence is still weeks away.
Corn dogs are more than one of my best friends. They are proof that God loves us – and examples of how he can save us. After all, they are hot dogs baptized in everlasting batter.
And here they come with the start of Monterey County Fair in all their food-on-a-stick glory, flanked by buckets of barbecue, corn on the cob, funnel cake, caramel apples and kettle korn.
But to think the county fair edible opportunities end there is merely to demonstrate your ferris wheel doesn’t go all the way around.
The Monterey County Fair Cake Eating Contest returns 4pm on Military Day, Friday, Sept. 3 at the Community Stage featuring two rounds of cake-eating kids devouring the storied confections from Rosine’s Restaurant (375-1400) in Monterey. (While supplies last, more cake will be provided by Rosine’s during the Military Day Flag Raising Ceremony at 11:30am at Gate 3.)
A little more adult action happens with the “Taste of the Vine” wine tasting 5:30-7:30pm Thursday, Sept. 2, at the Turf Club featuring winning wines from the Central Coast Wine Competition. There were some impressive wines last year, though Monterey County was weirdly under-represented. Still, this ticket is a deal given its $20 tag includes $8 fair admission and some (albeit so-so) snacks.
The first ever Monterey County Fair Ice Cream Eating Contest happens 2pm Monday, Labor Day, Sept. 6 with goods from The Ice Cream Shoppe/Beatles & Rock Museum (642-9789) in Pacific Grove. The Ag Building also features fabulous fresh, locally grown produce fairgoers can purchase – which is almost as cool as the Cinderella-carriage-size pumpkins and ungodly zucchini people coddled for the various contests. For more call 372-5863.
A super-powered dinner has materialized suddenly – and from a look at the lineup the tickets might go at a similar speed. The RSVP is already nigh, in fact. (Translation: Get your you-know-what in gear, you ding ding.)
The local American Institute of Wine & Food and American Red Cross tribes have aligned four of Nor Cal’s most capable chefs in Charles Phan (The Slanted Door, San Francisco), Ken Frank (La Toque, Napa), Peter Armellino (The Plumed Horse, Saratoga) and Gerald Hirigoyen (Piperade, S.F.) for “An Evening to Remember” 5:30pm Saturday, Sept. 11, at the Beach and Tennis Club in Pebble Beach. The privilege runs $250, includes the champagne reception, silent auction and entertainment, and could even merit a black tie (read: that’s optional). “To remember” sounds right after a glance at the menu, which includes Manila mango, Maine lobster and lemongrass (Frank), California farmed abalone with black trumpet mushrooms (Phan), roasted squab with Moorish spice and braised fennel (Hirigoyen) and South Texas antelope (Armellino). Damn.
I’ve tasted his grade AAA crock-pot jambalaya and scouted some of the best barbecue in Texas under his direction, so when veteran Weekly contributor Stuart Thornton tells me he’s got something worth chewing on, I tend to listen. He filed this report on a once-a-week winner on Calle Principal in downtown Monterey.
Like a shooting star or a rare seasonal wildflower, Café Lumiere’s patty melt specials don’t stick around for long. This past Thursday, the special sold out in just over an hour. It’s easy to understand why after biting into the hot sandwich, which includes a seasoned beef patty, caramelized onions, fresh avocado, melted Swiss cheese, grilled sourdough bread and, best of all, a tangy chipotle mayo sauce.
Café Lumiere (920-2451) is hoping to offer the melts every Thursday, and Lumiere cook Cirilo Aragon lets me in on his secret to crafting the quick-selling item.
“It’s all fresh,” he says. “It’s not frozen meat. I buy it the day before, and it makes all the difference.”
Hopefully, next week, Aragon will buy more so this tasty lunch special sticks around a bit longer.
The special, $7 with a salad, starts flying out of the kitchen at 11am.
And there are other daily specials. Friday rotates between chicken posole with quesadillas or burritos and Southeast Asian style plates like chicken curry.
My favorite hits Wednesdays with Aragon’s big bowl of Vietnamese pho ($7) luxuriated with fresh bean sprouts, mint, basil and sliced peppers. (It’s big enough that a half order might be advisable for $5.50.) Then again, I haven’t played the patty.
Coincidentally, on the fifth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, Thornton put together a National Geographic Education piece on how the food of New Orleans reflects its changing populations. There’s a link on the Weekly’s Special Edible food blog to that.
Big woofs to the big dog out there on Carmel Valley Road. Bernardus’ Marinus restaurant (658-3400), led by Chef Cal Stamenov and Wine Director Mark Jensen, claimed one of only five Northern Californian Wine Spectator Grand Awards in the last issue, rubbing shoulders with the likes of French Laundry and Michael Mina. I mean, there are only around 75 winners Grandies in this whole section of the Milky Way. Time for another car wash to finance another trip out there – and for Michelin to get down there for its own little ranking – but you don’t need an off-shore account to enjoy maybe the best value of the summer when Bernardus does its annual garden party-anniversary 2-5pm Sunday, Aug. 29, with live music, new release Bernardus wines and hors d’oeurvres by Stamenov. Just $25. 658-3515… A local great gets greater: Paris Bakery (646-1620) now has wine. $3 per glass… As G.K. Chesterton writes in Wine and Water: “And Noah he often said to his wife when he sat down to dine, ‘I don’t care where the water goes if it doesn’t get into the wine.’”