Thursday, May 19, 2011
Call it an epicurean eruption: Rich Pepe’s new Vesuvio Trattoria Bar and Pizzeria in the former Piatti opens just as this issue hits streets – Wednesday night, May 18.
At this weekend’s soft opening the pizzas were on point, the arancini were cheesy and flavorful, the big downstairs bar, fireside lounge and wider dining room (next to the open kitchen) were all sparkling, and Pepe was in full welcoming effect… but it’s the roof – the roof – the roof that’s on fire.
Loungy couches, firepits, a compact but complete bar, heat lamps and small stage make it the only real topside destination this side of Santa Cruz. With help from, say, a smoky mescal cocktail by Assistant GM Adam Olthof, this place is set to explode, and help Carmel get a touch younger.
More good news: Post No Bills, the craft beer house-to-be in Sand City’s Design Center, opens Monday, June 6, at 3pm – hallelujah – which means it will serve as Monterey Bay Beer Festival’s official pre-, post – and all-purpose auxiliary party place. It’ll be open 3pm-midnight Monday through Thursday week one, then 11am-2am for a Brewers Party Friday, June 10, before June 11’s 12:30-5pm festival, staying open to receive the after-party peeps until 2am.
Festival tickets ($35), meanwhile, are going quick, with a new VIP oppo ($55) to help celebrate the “10th Year of Great Beer.” Get tickets and purchase locations at www.nightthatneverends.com.
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The first time I made it to what was then called the Hilton Bialek Habitat – to observe a Carmel Middle School “ecoliteracy” class – it quickly became clear this was a different place.
From the rich, organic dirt of raised beds – interspersed with spiky artichoke and tangles of pink sweet pea blooms – students unearthed onions and kale they had grown themselves. They proceeded to rinse the veggies, simmer up the goods in the outdoor kitchen (complete with big wood-fired pizza oven) and study the label of the pita bread the stir-fry would land on.
Elsewhere in the habitat, which has been re-branded MEarth (“a place to connect me to the Earth”), students study birds and native plants, track native bees, and, with the help of living lettuces and a diverse orchard, understand subjects like plant biology and horticulture in ways previous schoolkids could not. They even delve into everything from history (by raising fava beans, which the first agrarians in Mesopotamia cultivated) to French (by prepping crepes with seasonal organic fruit fillings).
Students from underserved areas of Monterey County visit to learn environmental science, gardening and sustainability. Community workshops for adults, on things like composting and ornithology, take place regularly. Last month, students and staff harvested salads for the school cafeteria.
In other words, as a learning lab, MEarth’s possibilities approach endless. But now its possibilities are widening with a new garden kitchen classroom, the first LEED-certified public school facility in the county outside CSUMB. And a coming kitchen fundraiser with longtime collaborator Cal Stamenov looks as promising as the kitchen it’ll boost.
He will take lush MEarth edible flowers, microgreens, basil, radishes, heirloom carrots and squash and – together with a spread of all-within-150-miles sustainably raised meats and cheeses – compose a symphony of passed appetizers, fresh tastes and indulgent pairings. While people fill Bernardus’ rose garden, wineries like Silvestri, Parsonage, Heller Estate and Joullian will pour.
A landslide of cherry auction items – a 10-day trip for two to the Galapagos, a native plant shopping spree, a six-person raw food dinner – means giving could equal getting away with a nice score.
The event blooms 5:30-10pm Friday, June 10. Tickets are $150 (tax deductible), available at 624-1032 or the Dinner in the Vineyard website.
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Dan Karlsen’s Chock Rock Vineyards (659-4725) has a new tasting room next to Toast Carmel Valley (659-8500). In other valley news, sources say they are thrilled with the return of Jenn and Nelson Foreman at the helm of the Running Iron (659-4633), and digging what former Rocky Point chef Danny Locklard is doing. And Saturday, June 11, the village rallies for the free-admission 7th Annual Art & Wine Celebration in Carmel Valley (al fresco wine tasting is $15)… St. Angela’s Children’s Center celebrates 25 years with a Louisiana lobster boil. It bubbles up 6:30-10:30pm Saturday, May 21. For $65 guests grub a 1.5-pound Maine lobster, plus prawns, sausages, corn and artichokes and a DJ spins Zydeco. 521-5932… Alberto Bonatelli’s Italian represents some artful flavor by the bay. Now he has a full-on art studio just a few doors down, where Medusa’s Emporium (655-3325) hosts an open house 3-7pm Saturday, May 21… Across the street at Fifi’s (372-5325), Chef Janet Melac pairs four courses with seven Burgundy wines for just $75++ Wednesday, May 25, 5-8:30pm… Same day, two miles away, Bistro Moulin (333-1200) teams with Michael Browne of Kosta Browne… Fear the Beard party for the A’s-Giants game Friday, May 20, at Peter B’s (649-2699): Malibu Girls and a prize for the best beard… “How fair is a garden,” Benjamin Disraeli said, “amid the trials and passions of existence.”