Thursday, June 2, 2011
When she says, “It’s all about the ingredients,” I’m thinking Kristina Scrivani is talking about the elements in the perfectly simple sandwich I’m holding in my right hand – with roasted Spanish piquillo peppers, all-natural Italian-style soppressata and Pecorino Romano on a beautiful bit of baguette. After all, the ingredients make for a super-satisfying bit of midday munching.
But she could be talking about the duck-lamb ingredients that fired the partnership that makes Stone Creek Kitchen cook. As Scrivani and partner Linda Hanger giggle and grin over the onrushing realization of a tasty vision – they’re opening in the former Clementine’s Kitchen next week (more on that in a second) – they reminisce on the duck breast and lamb chop paella that Hanger tried in one of Scrivani’s Whole Foods Salud Kitchen classes. It inspired Hanger, a bored publishing exec, to accost Scrivani and ultimately tempt her into brainstorming something more heartfelt – and fun – for both of ’em.
Or she could be talking about the complement of killer kitchen tools that make this a worthy retail successor to Clementine’s. Or she might be evoking the dishes she’ll shape and reshape daily as part of a promising prepped-food formula – think Whole Foods with less uniform, more versatile flavor, with seasonal-homemade things like baby spinach and stone fruit salads, grilled salmon spinoffs and roasted poblano chiles stuffed with corn and goat cheese, and a Friday “paella day,” designed to encourage folks to grab a pan and a bottle of wine to take to the beach.
That said, there are so many inviting ingredients in this Stone Creek soup. There are the exotic spices – Indian terrines and Tuscan salts and zesty pizza blends in fresh, one-meal $1-$1.50 bundles – and Carmel Valley olive oils dispensed from Italian metal jugs called fustis, and drip coffees from Seaside’s Acme, and local and Mediterranean wines and cheeses. There’s a new commercial kitchen in addition to the re-furbed teaching kitchen, to make sure the instructional lineup, starting with a fiery June 23 “Dad Is Smoking Hot” barbecue-and-smoker tutorial lunch, doesn’t clog the ambitious prepared-to-go and eat-on-the-patio productions. There’s an orientation to the curvy main desk and the check-out counter that mandates interaction, something echoed by the cute-but-quality quotes on the walls, “Cooking is like love. It should be entered into with abandon or not at all” (Harriet van Horne) and “Everything you see I owe to spaghetti” (Sophia Loren) among them.
“It’s like a talking store,” Scrivani says. “The [take-home] recipes are a part of it. We don’t want to say we’re the only ones who can cook like this. You can, too.”
“Yes,” Hanger laughs. “You can’t eat here every meal.”
She’s got a point. The place will open around 10am for coffee and a sandwich or salad pickup for the Ryan Ranch set, and close around 7pm (later Fridays, most likely) to indulge those who might gravitate to the wine tasting bar in back.
“If you really like to cook, or just like to eat, you have an incredible place to come,” Scrivani says.
The compulsory smile that comes with that motto hints at the most important input here, maybe the ultimate epicurean ingredient: fun.
Meanwhile, the anxious anticipation of Stone Creek’s arrival has precipitated some bizarre but entertaining moments: People banging on the glass, and generally demanding to be allowed in.
To those folks I say: Don’t rush this wonderland. It will be here by Wednesday, June 8. And a collective appetite for the best ingredients will be happily quenched.
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There is more good news from nearby places: Post No Bills craft beerhouse is opening right around the same time. Like Stone Creek, it has community institution written all over it. (For more, see story, previous page.)
Also: The beer and wine cometh. Quickly. The Monterey Wine Festival (800-422-0251) and the Monterey Beer Festival (373-2843) land on the same weekend, but it ain’t impossible to attend the arty wine fest opener at (both) the Hyatt and MMA-La Mirada Friday (June 10), blow through the West Coast Chowder Competition Saturday (June 11) for 20-plus tastes and still have time to taste a few hours’ worth of beers from all over the world – Kona and Konig, Dogfish and Duvel, Scrimshaw and Sea Dog – at the beer fest. That will make it hard to get to the Carmel Art & Wine Festival (11am-5pm, 659-4000), though, not to mention to stand upright when you do… Ag Against Hunger’s first couple of volunteer gleaning sessions of the season are in the books. Week one, volunteers gleaned 7,200 pounds of lettuce for local food banks. Call 455-5445 to help… Attractive collaboration coming from Carmel Belle (624-1600): Jamie Collins of Serendipity Farms, Bill Parsons of Parsonage Winery and Jerry the Fisherman of fresh-catch fame are teaming with Matt Millea, loose from Sierra Mar, for a “Big Night Out,” 6pm June 12. $75 for county residents ($85 otherwise)… One more from Loren: “Mistakes are part of the dues one pays for a full life.”