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Monterey – Post 1

July 29, 2009

Do you ever see people taking pictures of their food in a restaurant and think to yourself, “Why is that person taking a picture of their food?”? I don’t mean someone taking a picture of the person across the table, I mean camera pointed directly at plate.

I’ve wondered that, but last week I took a few pictures of food. It was slightly embarrassing, but I did it. And since I did it, I’m going to share some of the highlights with you, dear reader.

These will be in chronological order.

Day One:
I’m going to skip the breakfast at McDonald’s in LAX.
Lunch was at The Crow’s Nest in Santa Cruz – view was great, food was fine, but not really anything to write home (or a blog) about. We were pretty hungry by then, and would have pretty much scarfed down anything.
Dinner was at Esteban – and we just sat at the bar and had tapas. One that I enjoyed the presentation of was the Thai snapper ceviche with pear and potato chip (the menu said taro, but they changed that). I should have known by the way our server winced that we might want to pick something else, but we didn’t. The only two discernable flavors were vinegar and the slightly burnt chip:

I still liked the presentation, though. The winner there was the artichoke hearts and serrano ham with tomato relish. It was fresh, the textures of the silky artichoke and the dry ham were great counterpoints to each other. It was simple and rustic, but we enjoyed it quite a bit.

Day 2:
The food highlight of the day was dinner at The Sardine Factory. Now before you yell, “tourists!” in our general direction, I’d like to say that we ate small plates in the bar with some fairly colorful locals (including one woman who wanted to buy Kristine a glass of wine). We had a couple of great items, including the Baked Monterey Mushrooms (stuffed with crab and super-good), and the Bloody Mary Oyster shooters:

We also had some grilled shrimp on polenta in a red pepper coulis, which we had to send back because the bottom was badly burnt (you can even see it in the picture!). The second one to come out was great, though. The polenta had a perfect texture, and the shrimp were cooked perfectly.

Day Three:
Wow. There was some great food this day. I’m going to go up until dinner and then stop for the time being…

Ok, breakfast was the contintental buffet at the hotel. Look, it’s not great, but it’s cost effective.

Then we were off to Carmel-by-the-Sea for a fun day of sightseeing, beaching, shopping, and, of course, eating. There may or may not have been some wine involved as well. Ok, there was.

Lunch was at The Village Corner, and we had a spinach salad with grilled shrimp and mandarin oranges, and crab/ricotta ravioli in a tomato pesto sauce. The sauce on the ravioli was full of fresh tomato, basil and parmesan flavors, but it way overpowered the crab filling in the ravioli. That was too bad, because that’s what drew me to the dish in the first place.

We then hit a couple of places for wine: The Galante Winery tasting room where we tried some great local wines (I was very partial to the Blackjack Cab) and an argument with the proprietor over whether or not he could ship wines to Arizona. I said he couldn’t, but I was wrong. Turns out the laws have changed recently so that if we were to buy it in the store and have it shipped home it would be fine.

We stopped in a Vino Napoli, which just opened the week before. They had some kinks to work out but we got great service from Alana. They specialize in building flights of 2 oz. pours, and had probably 25 different wines to choose from.

Upon a local’s recommendation, we also went to the bar at The Cypress Inn for a glass. We discovered that it’s partially owned by none other than Doris Day – which explained the large collection of DD movie posters used as decoration. We knew we were in the presence of locals because everyone had a 10 lb. dog on their lap. Carmel is a VERY dog-friendly place.

Ok, this posting has gone on far too long! I’ll pick up with Day 3 dinner (teaser: at Christopher’s in Carmel) later on.

Thanks for making it this far!

-TFD

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