Monterey County Leaves No Fork Forlorn, From Digging into New Restaurants to Dicing it Up with 100+ Chefs at the annual Pebble Beach Food & Wine
Artichokes to Abalone, Sardines to Big Sur Sea Salt, the County’s Bounty is Unsurpassed
MONTEREY COUNTY, CALIF. — It’s the perfect recipe for an epicurean adventure: a well-stocked national marine sanctuary, cache of local specialty purveyors, tapestry of microclimates and fertile valleys – all backed with enough haute restaurants and loco-vore events to turn a town sideways. Whether simmered or savored, foodies will find Monterey County to be a haven of epicurean high art. Culinary Events: www.seemonterey.com.
The minds behind Pebble Beach Food & Wine have stepped up with a new venture, Restaurant 1833 in Monterey’s historic Stokes Adobe. Under the helm of chef Levi Mezick, the 164-seat restaurant features rare antique lighting fixtures, period floor lamps, lounge-friendly furniture and seven rooms each unique in design. Mixology is king here, with a sexy entrance bar/lounge taking on an apothecary twist with lab bottles and custom botanicals including Pain Killers, Elixirs and a flashy tableside absinthe cart. Menu showstoppers include family-style whole lobe of roasted fois gras ($200), whole roasted truffled chicken and a seasonal lineup of locally-sourced fish.
Vesuvio & Starlight Lounge 65⁰
Vesuvio heats things up in Carmel with a hot new rooftop Starlight Lounge 65⁰ complete with fire pits and a bird’s-eye view of the village by the sea. The100-seat eatery is an elegant take on all things Italian, from the wild boar Bolognese paparadelle to the “1944” meat lasagna, lobster ravioli “Sophia Loren” or sinful limoncello mousse cake. Chef Richard Pepe, a mainstay in the region with three restaurants under his toque, is known for delivering the goods and this outpost may just be his biggest rock star.
Salumeria Luca takes dried meats to an ethereal state in an authentic European-style deli setting. This new outpost under the auspices of executive chef/partner Jason Balestrieri steps up with artisanal house-made and imported salumi, prosciutto, baked breads, local cheeses and home-made pasta. Indulge in a classic salumi plate, Panini sandwiches, picnics to go or cache of drool-worthy pies including the “Fungi,” sporting crimini mushrooms, gorgonzola cheese and spinach.
Carmel Wine Walk by the Sea
Wine lovers take heart, the new Carmel Wine Walk by-the-Sea combines the pleasures of the Pacific with a tight combo of 12 wine tasting options laced within four tasty blocks. New venues include Wrath Wines in a sleek setting comparable to its single vineyard tasting from the Santa Luca Highlands (SLH) $20; Caraccioli Cellars raises the bar with a stellar selection of SLH sparkling wines and evening hours in a salon-like setting while Figge Cellars sports top-flight tastings inside one of Carmel’s 100+ galleries. Additional new tasting rooms: Holman Ranch Vineyards in Carmel Valley and McIntyre Vineyards at the Hyatt Regency Monterey Hotel & Spa.
Zagat Survey’s 2012 newcomer – Aubergine at L’Auberge Carmel – raises the bar under the deft direction of chef de cuisine Justin Cogley and executive pastry chef Ron Mendoza. Located in the intimate European-style L’Auberge Carmel, the 42-seat Aubergine takes the #5 coveted spot for San Francisco Bay Area dining joining kingpins Gary Danko, the French Laundry and Cyrus. Foodies on a true forage can opt for the eight-course spontaneous menu focused on single ingredients to construct the plates (sea urchin, Wagyu beef) paired with wines from the 4,500+ deep cellar ($125).
Leave it to Doris Day’s vibrant venue, Terry’s Lounge, inside the Cypress Inn – where Yappy Hour delivers a colorful round-up from mutts to gorgeous Standard Poodles – and recently launched a new Classic Cocktail Menu playing off the actor’s favorite costars: Ronald Regan, Kirk Douglas and Cary Grant. Veteran bartender Drago stands ready with a new spin on such vintage drinks as the Ramos Fizz, Sidecar and lesser known starlets like the Widow’s Kiss, Clover Club and the Zombie.
Carmel Valley village kicks up the heat this February/2012 with LokaL (Czech for local) under the helm of chef Brendan Jones. Modeled after David Chang’s Momofuku Noodle Bar in New York with polished concrete floors, a reclaimed 29-ft. wood bar and alfresco beer garden serving locally made Czech-style brews, LokaL will deliver “reasonably priced food, a hip setting and infusion of new blood to Carmel Valley,” according to Jones (30). His salute to hyper-local farmers (Tassajara Meats, Coke Farms) with a Spanish twist (following a stint at Spain’s Michelin three-starred Mugaritz) will include shared dishes with a regional riff including orange-cardamom paella, sardine bocadillo with mojito aioli and fresh oysters with poblano mignonette sauce. 831.659.5886 or get the LokaL status on Facebook
ANNUAL EPICUREAN EVENTS
For a first class forage skirting the Pacific, the annual Pebble Beach Food & Wine is the ticket. Foodies can tee up at Pebble Beach Golf Links for the celebrity chef golf tournament, attend a litany of vertical tasting seminars and graze on creations culled from top local and international toques. The four-day event, set in one of the largest and most pristine marine sanctuaries in the world, also showcases some of the region’s top talent from Craig von Foerster (Sierra Mar), to Levi Mezick (Restaurant 1833) to Cal Stamenov (Marinus). (April).
Leading the national charge for healthy oceans, Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch program and annual sustainable seafood celebration – Cooking for Solutions – is a perfect springboard into the bounty of Monterey County. Sign on for a variety of events and “Food & Wine Adventures” — pairing top chefs/producers with local wines and cuisine. The kick-off Gala located at the aquarium showcases 75 top restaurants, 60 organic and sustainable wineries and the ever clever sushi lounge. (May).
The annual Harvest Farm-to-Table event at Quail Lodge in Carmel Valley is the stop for an inside scoop on all things edible. Barbeque seminars, wine and artisanal cheese tastings, gardening classes and a kids’ kitchen round out the event, which includes 50+ rock star chefs and some 100+ wine producers. (Sept.).
In the mood for a seasonal black truffle martini? Cash in on the 15th Annual Truffle Dinner at Bernardus Lodge under the helm of award-winning chef Cal Stamenov. The six-course food and wine pairing salutes the long-anticipated arrival of truffle season with a careful combination of locally culled ingredients. One of the world’s most expensive culinary gems – truffles can fetch more than $2400 per pound. (Dec.). The lodge also hosts an annual Lavender Harvest Celebration, kicking up the olfactory quotient with lunches and lavender walks (1,000+ plants on the premises). (July).
The annual Big Sur Food & Wine Festival is a two-day taste trove spanning the kitchens of Big Sur. From “Hiking with Stemware” forays to a tasty line-up of winemaker dinners, this celebration delivers access to some of the region’s most coveted spots including Esalen Institute, Deetjen’s Big Sur Inn, Sierra Mar, Nepenthe, Big Sur Bakery and the Restaurant at Ventana Inn. (Nov.).
A wealth of culinary events and festivals round out the year. Try the Castroville Artichoke Festival, Jewish Food Festival, Turkish Festival, Annual Great Taste of Pacific Grove, Festa Italia-Santa Rosalia Festival and Taste of Carmel.
March 27, 2012 – Annual Great Taste of Pacific Grove: The fabulous food and wine event showcases the area’s finest restaurants and wineries along with a silent auction. Inn at Spanish Bay, Pebble Beach, CA. 831.642.4943; www.pacificgrove.org
April 12-15, 2012 – Pebble Beach Food & Wine Festival: Marking its 5th anniversary, this four-day soiree is quickly becoming the West Coast’s premiere lifestyle event mixing celebrity chef golf tournaments with tasting seminars and galas sporting 100+ world-class toques. Pebble Beach, CA. 866.907.3663; www.pebblebeachfoodandwine.com
May 18-20, 2012 – Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Cooking for Solutions: Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch program and annual sustainable seafood conference is a perfect springboard into the bounty of Monterey County. The kick-off gala, located within the aquarium, showcases top restaurants, organic and sustainable wineries and the ever-clever sushi lounge. Monterey, CA. 831.648.4800; www.montereybayaquarium.org
May 19-20, 2012 – Castroville Artichoke Festival: Now in its 53rd year, the festival features three-dimensional “AGRO” art, wine-tasting, music, food, and a parade for the whole family. Castroville, CA. 831.633.2465; www.artichoke-festival.org
June 29, 2012 – Concours de Fromage Cheese Tasting: The 3rd Annual Concours de Fromage includes cheesemakers from across California for an unparalleled tasting of all things fromage paired with top flight California wines. Monterey, CA. 323.461.4795; www.refuelraces.com/cheesetasting
July 14, 2012 – Lavender Harvest Celebration: Celebrate the season with lunch and lavender walks at Carmel Valley’s Bernardus Lodge, home to a 1,000+ fragrant lavender forest. Carmel Valley, CA. 831.658.3400; www.bernardus.com
August 25-26, 2012 – Turkish Festival: A celebration of Turkish culture, cuisine and arts with live music, dancing and a full array of children’s activities. Monterey, CA. 831.277.2258; www.turkfestca.org
August 29, 2012 – Jewish Food Festival: A celebration of traditional Jewish foods, culture, Klezmer music, crafts, folk dancing and more. Carmel Valley, CA. 831.624.2015; www.carmelbethisrael.org/calendar/events/jewish_food_festival
September 7-9, 2012 – Festa Italia-Santa Rosalia Festival: Honoring Monterey fishermen past and present, this tasty event features music, bocce competitions, arts and crafts and Italian cuisine. The festival concludes with a procession to the waterfront for the blessing of the fleet. Monterey, CA. 831.238.6740; www.festaitaliamonterey.com
September 1-3, 2012 – Monterey Bay Greek Festival: Greek cuisine, live music, dancing and more. Custom House Plaza, Monterey, CA. 831.424.4434; www.montereybaygreekfestival.com
September/tbd, 2012 – Harvest Farm-to-Table: Graze on incredible edibles crafted by some 50+ rock star chefs backed with a cache of world-class wines at Carmel Valley’s classic Quail Lodge Golf Course, Carmel, CA. 866.907.3663; www.harvestcarmel.com.
October 4, 2012 – 24th Annual Taste of Carmel: Celebrate the regional cuisine and bounty of the sea at this annual event showcasing the area’s top chefs and wineries. Carmel-by-the-Sea, CA. 831.624.2522; www.tasteofcarmel.com
November 1-3, 2012 – Big Sur Food & Wine Festival: Celebrating its 4th anniversary, this event delivers the essence of Big Sur with forays in the forests, a wine & swine cookout and special foodie events at top outposts including Post Ranch Inn and the Restaurant at Ventana Inn. Big Sur, CA. 831.869.1341; www.bigsurfoodandwine.org
December 7, 2012 – 15th Annual Truffle Dinner: A celebration without match, combining the culinary excellence of chef Cal Stamenov and the rare diamonds of Italy and France. Six course meal including Cuvee Champagne and truffle martinis. Carmel Valley, CA. 831.658.3400; www.bernardus.com.
Monterey County is located 120 miles/192 km south of San Francisco and 345 miles/552 km north of Los Angeles along the classic California corridor. The region boasts 99 miles of prime Pacific Coastline, the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary, three historic missions, 45,000 acres of premium vineyards, 28 golf courses and over 250 lodging properties. Monterey County includes the Monterey Peninsula, Big Sur, North County and the Salinas Valley. The Monterey Peninsula Airport (MRY), just three miles from historic downtown Monterey and minutes from the area's major attractions, is served by non-stop flights to and from Denver (DIA), Las Vegas (LAS), Phoenix (PHX), Los Angeles (LAX) and San Francisco (SFO). Visitor info: www.SeeMonterey.com