July 3, 2012
One of my original visits to Cachagua General Store Monday night dinners told me much about what was coming within the first line on the menu: "No Home Remedies Roadhouse," it said.
Or at least gave me the initial clue. "Duct-taped dog balls inspired tonight's menu," Chef Michael Jones explained (as my mom's eyes widened to the size of chef's flan), detailing how a bizarre choice in canine care led to a freaked-out dog and the most recent iteration of the ever-changing title line at the cult foodie deep-country outpost.
That was just one of the many stories he told me that—along with incredible food and admirable sourcing ethics—which led to a "Spit-Fire Flavor" piece that earned the Weekly national recognition from the Association of Alternative Media.
The latest excitement on the CGA menu came Monday.
From the entrée section:
"Black Tar Heroin with Cherry/Fig Balsamic Reduction and Heroin Mousse."
Jones' accompanying commentary: "Penalties for selling heroin [are] often less than those proposed for foie gras…to be clear, we only served the 'heroin' to those who had pre-purchased it before the ban…."
There is other excitement from the local oven. Here's a taste:
Chef Brandon Miller of Mundaka Carmel (624-7400) has placed a burger on his menu inspired by a vague disgust with competing options.
"Whenever there's something substandard I can make better," he says, "within a week I have to make it.”
And the "fuerte" burg (pictured above) does come strong with 25 percent pork buttplus natural Angus sirloin (for flavor) and chuck (for texture), a mustard-and-thyme marinade Valdeón Spanish blue cheese, caramelized sweet onions, roasted paquillo peppers, heirloom tomato slices and arugula. With skinny, truffle-salted fries, house-preserved bread-and-butter pickles and fresh-made ketchup elevated by clove, onion, molasses, olive oil, salt, tomato and herbs de provence, it's excellent. And it won't be on the menu long—and the $11.25 sticker is $5 below what most comparable spots would be comfortable charging—so pounce as soon as appropriate.
More deals: The one-and-only Alberto Bonatelli of Alberto's (373-3993) serves no small amount of memorable and authentic Hollywood stories, and same goes for his Italian fare—things like the boneless braised pork rib marinara, linguine puttanesca with anchovies and magical chicken marsala merit enthusiastic revisiting.
With the right timing—meaning 5-7pm Monday, Wednesday and Thursday—those plates and everything on the dinner menu is $13.95 (not $6 more), with soup or salad and a side of pasta included.
Another bargain: Morro Bay oysters are only $1.50 5-7pm Thursdays at Schooners (372-2628). That means you can have 15 and still have just enough scratch left for a $4 champagne (normally $7) as part of the six-times-a-week locals deals.
And another: Dinner for two 4-6pm Tuesday, July 10, at Wild Thyme in Marina (884-2414) means a choice of four spreads for just $10, to celebrate 10 years of business. The Ginger People (800-551-5284), the world's leading purveyors of the healthy root who are headquartered in Marina, join in 5-7pm as they demo a special ginger drink.
A final deal: Tastes of roughly 20 chilis for $10, as a long-loved legend is back in the valley with the return of the rodeo week Oldtown Salinas Chili Cook-off. Heavyweights like Monterey Coast Brewing Company (758-2337), XL Grindhouse (422-5500), Casa Sorrento (757-2720) and the Bakery Station (783-1140)-Fluff Cupcakery (975-5598) dream team compete for $500 top prize ($125 to enter if you want). Plus it's only $25 for chili and four kinds of beer ($20 a la carte for the suds). There's also live music and a kids zone from Maya Cinemas thrown in. Happens 11am-5pm Saturday, July 14, 776-0763, www.oldtownsalinas.com.>
Three words on the eve of the Fourth: Deal me in.