We just got back from a great extended weekend in the Carme/Monterey/PG area. The Concours d'elegance, the Concourso Italiano, and the Monterey Historic Races all followed up with really wonderful dinners (most of them anyway.)
We started off visiting Dorothy McNett's Place in Hollister. If you've never been, it's a must visit. Dorothy took over the building that used to house an auto dealership, approx 15,000 sq. ft of kitchen gadgets, imported italian cookwear, spanish pottery, a deli, wine shop, it just goes on and on..... She lined up a few visits to a winery or two in the San Benito hills and we tasted some really good wine, who knew?
After a nice picnic in the San Benito county park near the wineries, were headed to pacific Grove. Had dinner at Fifi's bistro. Pretty good dinner. I had the local sole and DH had the local sand dabs. Both came with the same sides, potato gratin and fresh veggies. Reasonable wine list, not too overpriced as can happen in that area.
Friday we went to the Italian Concourso, never saw so many Lambraginis in my life. Had to work hard not to drool all over them. Hundreds of Italian sports cars and millions of dollars, none of them mine :( It was held at Quail Lodge in Carmel Valley. Just walking through the parking lot was eye opening. As we were in the area, we made dinner resv at Marinus @ Benardus Lodge. turned out to be the worst dinner of the trip. The dining room was not very full, but many of the servers had been put into service waiting on the two events that were held in the outer courtyard, the Rolex party and the Lexis party, sad to say, we were not invited to either. We were seated in the corner, and routinely forgotten. The wine steward took our wine order and we were almost through with the first course when he finally brought it back and opened it for us. They don't leave the bottle on the table but take it to a 'wine station" and the server is to refill when needed, a policy we don't care much for. i had the local spot prawns with a garden salsa which was very good, and DH had the soft shell crab, we had quizzed the server about the crab, and she indicated that they were flown in live daily from Maine, but I think this one must have been on the bottom. We proceeded to the next course, Liberty Duck breast over summer veg ragout and Loin of veal with potatoes and a ratatoille that had a pretty distinctive "scorched" taste. Never did get to finish our half bottle of Sancerre that we ordered with the first course. Although the Pinot Noir with the main course was the hit of the evening. It was from Tally Vineyards but I don't remember the specific vineyard, somewhere near Greenville. All in all, we probably won't return to this resturant, there are too many good ones in the area to suffer through bad service and passable food.
Speaking of Good resturants; Saturday we returned to Pacific's Edge @ the Park Hyatt. Now thats dinner! We were just a little early for our resv and waited at the bar for our table. Our server, Bart, who has served us several times before, came by and made sure were staying for dinner, not just drinks, and let the hostess know to put us in his station. After we were seated, we were brought an 'amuse bouch' (sp) a small cup of salsify and truffle soup. I could have had a bowl for dinner and nothing else, It was that good. We followed the soup by four incredible courses: red and gold beet salad, pan seared scallops with pear and endive slaw, halibut on corn pudding, and the almost ledgendary short ribs. We paired each course with a suitable wine, and just when you think you can't eat another bite, Bart brought us a complimentary dessert, lemon sorbet over goat cheese cream with raspberry coulis, and the Wine steward wanted to play 'guess what this is" and brought us a late harvest reisling from Navarro Vinyards, a perfect match for the dessert, (we got close with the guess) I thought it was either a late harvest reisling or gewertz. Jim thought it might be a Sauterne but I figured that was too pricy to be giving away. We'll definately be going back here again. You don't get treated much better.
Sunday, we had real concerns over dinner, We had resv at Bouchee, the new resturant on Mission @ Ocean. But had been reading so many mixed reviews. The foodie at Talbot tasting room said thumbs down too. But Bart @ Pacific's Edge is friends with several of the wait staff and that owner, and he said he would call ahead and make sure that we were well treated. With that, we decided to give it a try. And boy, are we sure glad we did! This is kind of a noisy bistro, lots happening even on a Sunday. The chef has a steady hand with the food, except for the "amuse bouch" of tri color melon in a bacon jelly. (that's what I said too, bacon jelly?) didn't quite go together. But things got much better after that. I had the basil risotto, with parmsean and shrimp. DH had that crab ravioli in a lobster cream. mmmmm good. We followed that with that braised oxtail, and DH had the Liberty Duck Breast over forbidden rice. The sauce was intense, rich and flavored perfectly. No free dessert here, but we did have the peach clafouti, which was very good. i don't know if it was Bart's call ahead or just our good fortune but we had a great meal, good wine @ a fair price, (the other side of this build is their wine shop, and the wines in the resturant are priced barely above retail.)and great service. When our server got really busy, the Gen. Manager stepped in to help, clearing plates, pouring wine, whatever was needed. That's what it will take to make it down there in such a tough resturant market. Hope they do. We most certainly go back again.