Thursday, February 2, 2012
All the juicy Carmel Valley flavor dripping over this week’s Wine & Food issue borders on overwhelming. It can also feel a little unnerving, like something’s missing, à la El Mariachi Restaurante in Monterey (324-4953), where the mechanical bull has apparently made a recent move to more fertile fields.
Fortunately it turns out Diablo was merely out of commission for a minute. “He needed a vacation,” says manager Yvette Brown. And fortunately, there is a little bit of wine and food fun going on beyond Carmel Valley.
In Pacific Grove, Happy Girl Kitchen (373-GIRL) is unleashing a bundle of activity to help celebrate the oldest and largest conscious ag conference going, the 32nd EcoFarm at Asilomar (see story, p. 10; check out reports from the powwow at www.mcweekly.com/edible).
These HGK folks do it all with an exclamation point – whether it’s house-fermented kombuchas or lively beet pickling classes – so that makes the “EcoFarm dinners” ($55 each) they are doing Thursday and Friday, Feb. 2-3, with veteran Manresa Sous Chef Jacob Pilarski, worthy of several of these suckers!!!
If you’ve been living under a sauce pan for the last few seasons, Manresa’s the Los Gatos spot that teams with Love Apple Farms to taste make in a major way. Pilarski will spotlight two different local suppliers, Live Earth Farm and Serendipity Farm, respectively, over the two nights, with dishes like nettle-and-hominy-stuffed onions and salt-roasted beets with seaweed. Bluegrass music and beer tastings precede the dinners 5-6pm ($7), and a Saturday authors series follows: John Ivanko and Lisa Kvist on Farmstead Chef (10:30am-noon), Charlie Cascio tasting people on honey and goat cheese and talking Esalen Cookbook, and Rachel Kaplan exploring her Urban Homesteading.
On the cliffs of Carmel Highlands, meanwhile, Chef Matt Bolton, wine guru Paul Fried, manager Jacques Melac and Pacific’s Edge (622-5445) ease out the corks on a standout wine dinner series today (Thursday, Feb. 2), with Siduri ($95), followed by Hall/Roessler (March 15), Justin (April 19), Pride Mountain (May 3) and Farewell to Foie (June 21).
In Royal Oaks, Garden Variety Cheese (761-3630) is celebrating the cheese honors it earned at the 2012 Good Food Awards in San Francisco’s Ferry Building for its aged Black Eyed Susan raw sheep cheese and its extra-aged cousin, Hollyhock.
Finally, all over the county, Cupid is taking aim. The best Valentine’s Day events I’ve seen: V-Day on River Road ($30/winos, $15/DDs; 649-WINE) brings in tastings at all the wineries involved, 14 small-plot spots all-told, and discounts on rustic food pairings like Swiss sausage and lamb skewers. At oceanside Taste of Monterey they’re pairing their endless wines with Dory Ford food as the reception and three-course trip travel through artisan cheeses, wild mushroom strudel, pan-roasted halibut and tart au citron, among other treats ($80, 646-5446 x12). Then there’s Aubergine’s aphrodesiacs menu with oysters done “simple to complex,” Dungeness and avocado, ocean trout confit and more ($99-$125, 624 8578). Wild Thyme Deli (884-2414) empowers romantics to swoop up a “menu of love” to go – hors d’oeuvres like steak-wrapped grilled artichoke hearts and a three-course meal with items including seared Arctic char – for $58 a couple.
For my part, I’m in love with the annual Portuguese Crab Feed. It’s part Christmas, part Disneyland, part pig-out benefit and all flavor, with a football field’s worth of happy tables filling Portuguese Hall in Monterey, and piles of cioppinno crab, prawns, garlic bread, salad and cheap wine filling them. The crab cracks Saturday, Feb. 4, with 5pm and 7pm seatings. Get $45 tickets at the door or, to be safe, call 372-1913 between 2 and 5pm. First dancing happens on the taste buds, then it heads to the expansive dance floor for traditional and free-for-all boogying (for those who can still move). It’s a bucket-list deal of a meal, as much life experience as all-you-can-eat.
• How many places can you feed an appetite for spanakopita, salmon burgers and dancing between tables to oud music? It’s a daily discipline at Dametra Cafe (622-7766). Weekly video eye Joel Ede and I made a visit to to capture what it’s like to satisfy those appetites at once. The two-minute whirlwind is up at mcweekly.com/edible, and syncs with a review of co-owner Faisal Nimri’s brother’s place Athena’s (see p. 32).
• One of the few spots that compares to the Dametra groove is Amir’s Kabob House (642-0231) on bellydance nights like last Saturday, when the salmon kebobs and mantu were as light and flavorful as the flowing movements of Jamaica Sinclair and Weekly contributor Jessica Lyons Hardcastle. The hips don’t lie, and neither does the basmati rice: This place is tasty fun.
• Babaloo Cuban Food Truck (262-4150) is rolling big time. Its national television debut was earlier this week with an episode on the Cooking Channel show Eat Street. It also airs 8pm this Saturday, Feb. 4, and Feb. 16. In meantime, munch lunch with Gladys Parada and her peeps 11am-2am Thursday, Feb. 2, at Acme Coffee (393-9113), and at the Monterey farmers market on Tuesdays.
• Whole Foods Market (333-1600) has a pre-Super Bowl tailgate party going 11am-3pm Saturday, Feb. 4. Free beer tasting, bites from the grill, live blues and other tasty tailgate-style tastings on the front patio.
• Restaurant 1833 (643-1833) now has a “Social Hour,” offering half-price specialty cocktails, $6 wines by the glass and endless truffle popcorn 5-6:30pm weekdays.
• Show ID, park for free: Locals get two hours complimentary next to Fisherman’s Wharf Monday through Thursday.
• Mesa Del Sol (624-8527) is knocking a full fifth off its wine prices through spring, and the property itself is a pretty impressive deal at $5,000 for 10 rooms (which accommodate 20) for a week on the sunny and expansive estate. That’s 20 percent off too.
• “Take counsel in wine,” Ben Franklin said, “but resolve afterwards in water.”