Thursday, March 17, 2011
In some people, the best can bring out the worst. We’re not naming names, but consider the experience one staffer had while discussing this year’s “Best of Monterey County” with his own mother during a family outing at Peter B’s Brewpub (winner for Best Happy Hour the past two out of three years).
“What do you mean, you don’t have a Best Electrician [category]?!” she gesticulated. “How could you not include Best Electrician?”
We, the residents of Monterey County, are clearly passionate about our people, our things and most definitely, our places. For the past month-plus, the passionate folks of the Weekly offices have been hearing all about it from you as the 21st Annual “The Best of Monterey County” edition was gestating.
We asked you to pick your favorites in 192 categories, everything from Best Performing Arts Center (the sun shone on the Sunset Center) and Best Park (huzzah, Dennis the Menace Playground). We rounded it out with 30 more entries in the editors’ picks section. It’s a slice-of-life look at what makes Monterey County home.
You told us you like the sticky buns and flaky delights at Paris Bakery, the intimate atmosphere and choice indy flicks offered at Osio Cinemas, the stylized artistry of painter Dick Crispo, and the smooth tunes of local band favorite, honeymoon. You favored the food that Phil DiGirolamo dishes up at his eponymous fish joint in Moss Landing, let us know that PacRep Theatre is the most popular spinner of on-stage tales, and named DJ Hanif Wondir the best spinner of records.
It may seem frivolous to talk about this life’s rich pageant at a time when there’s so much suffering and chaos going on in Japan, a country whose citizens helped spawn the Salinas Valley agriculture industry.
I believe it’s a way of honoring what we have.
For me, much of “The Best of” goes back to “The Third Place,” a concept pioneered by sociologist Ray Oldenberg, professor emeritus at the University of West Florida. Oldenberg in his book The Great Good Place wrote about why our informal gathering places are essential in order for society to function.
“The character of a third place is determined most of all by its regular clientele, and is marked by a playful mood, which contrasts with people’s more serious involvement in other spheres,” Oldenberg says. “The third place is remarkably similar to a good home in the psychological support and comfort it extends.”
“INFORMAL GATHERING PLACES ARE ESSENTIAL FOR SOCIETY TO FUNCTION.”
Did you know that about yourselves, Lopez Brothers Casa Bodega, the best place to Pair Pinot Noir with Al Pastor? You’re providing meaning to the very fabric of our existence.
This year the Weekly again opened up the selection process to what we like to call the “wild card” category. Anyone so inclined was invited to create their own “Best Of” category and write in their selection for winner. We received votes in obvious areas left off the list (Best Chiropractor and Best Place to Get Smogged, for example) and some areas that were sweetly tongue-in-cheek – Best Husband and Best Place to Sweat – the winners, by the way, were Brian George and Bikram Yoga Monterey, respectively. Congratulations, Brian – pick up some flowers on the way home. Our readers say Swenson & Silacci is the best place to go for that. And they deliver.
In the wild card category of Best Person to Know? Stuart Newhouse. We’re not sure why he’s the best person to know, nor are we sure who nominated him, but his response to finding out he was nominated at all was charming: “Again?” he quipped in mock exasperation. And then he laughed.
“It doesn’t completely surprise me,” says Newhouse, a longtime proprietor of audio-visual and home technology. (Turns out, someone had mentioned to him that they might.) “I don’t really know why they did it, but I guess I’m a good networker. I’m good at putting people together.”
It took a Weekly village to put togther the skinny on the collective village, a herd of contributors that wrote each entry, ferreting out the compelling details of why MMA (mixed martial arts) is fighting its way into the county’s collective consciousness and why Anthony Vitacca’s master mixology (including making his own syrups, bitters and infusions) behind the bar at Montrio Bistro keeps the thirsty enraptured.
By curating what our neighbors care about, by reading about what we’re all eating, drinking, seeing, thinking and doing, we may get closer to one another. In these pages you’ll probably find people, things and places you didn’t know existed, making The Best of Monterey County integral to the experience of building your community. Right now, those ties seem more important than ever.
MARY DUAN is editor of the Monterey County Weekly. Reach her at email@example.com.