Coming Soon: Bastille Day at Bistro Moulin

140This weekend is the annual French fête of Bastille Day, celebrating the beginning of the French Revolution and the birth of modern France.

Bistro Moulin is getting in on the festivities, with chef Didier Dutertre preparing a special four-course menu. The Basille Day menu is $48 per person (plus tax and tip) and is available all weekend (July 12-14) in addition to the daily dinner menu. Take a peek at the mouthwatering menu:

First Course, choice
Heirloom Tomato Carpaccio
Basil pesto, balsamic reduction, goat cheese

Escargots au Beurre à l’Ail et aux Noisettes
Escargots with garlic & hazelnut butter

Gnocchi aux Epinards
Spinach gnocchi au gratin, parmesan cream sauce

Main Course, choice of:
Tagine de Gigot d’Agneau
Slow braised leg of lamb with lemon confit, almonds, plums, honey spice demi-glace and Farmer’s Market vegetable medley
(Available à la carte $30)

Steak Tartare
Filet mignon tartare with arugula salad and pommes frites
(Available à la carte $30)

Loup de Mer
Roasted sea bass coated with olive tapenade, Tarbais beans & tomato Cassoulet
(Available à la carte $29)

Dessert, choice of:
Chocolate Mousse

Crème Brûlée

Baies Melba
Fresh berries, vanilla bean ice cream, raspberry coulis & Chantilly

Chef Dutertre’s tomato carpaccio is a local favorite and if the weather’s nice out, there’s nothing better than a delicate steak tartare on a sunny summer Saturday. The little bistro is sure to fill up, so make sure to call early to snag a reservation this weekend!

Bistro Moulin is at 867 Wave Street in Monterey. 831-333-1200.

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Coming Soon: “Can I Live” dinner at Casanova

Casanova_LogoOn August 5, Carmel’s Casanova restaurant will be hosting a special dinner with chef David Baron and aspiring chef Klaus Georis. The duo is preparing a five-course dinner for the evening, with wines from Carmel Valley’s Talbott Vineyards. Take a peek at the menu for the evening:

Melon, Cucumber, Caviar, Almond
2011 Kali Hart Chardonnay

Salmon, Avocado, Chili
2012 Logan Chardonnay

2011 Sleepy Hollow Chardonnay

Squab, Mushroom, Nuts
2011 Sleepy Hollow Pinot Noir

Egg Whites, The Color Orange

Dinner is $120 per person, plus tax and tip. For reservations, contact Jessica Walsh—831-625-2727 or

Casanova is on Fifth Avenue, between Mission and San Carlos, in Carmel. 831-625-0501.

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Coming Soon: Ninkasi Beer Dinner at Point Pinos Grill

Point Pinos Grill_Ninaksi Brewing Company flyerPacific Grove’s Point Pinos Grill continues its successful series of beer-pairing dinners next week. On Thursday, July 18, the restaurant will host a dinner with Oregon’s Ninkasi Brewing Company.

The evening will start with a reception and passed hors d’oeuvres—Ninkasi’s Cream Ale will be paired with mini tuna rolls and beef tartare.

At 7:00, diners will take a seat for a four-course dinner. The menu will include:

Roasted Heirloom Tomato Tart
Béchamel, Tumalo Farms Pondhopper Goat Gouda, Dijon, Basil
Radiant Ale

Flash Broiled Salmon Involtini
Seabean Citrus Fennel Salad, Grilled Shrimp, Avocado Tarragon Mousse, Crispy Shallots
Total Dom IPA

“Sous Vide” Pork Mole Poblano
Solpe, Grilled Summer Squash, Bell Pepper Confetti
Believer Double Red Ale

Vanilla Semifreddo “Parfait”
Local Honey, Blackberries, Oatmeal “Tuile”, Oatmeal Clusters & Oatis Whipped Cream
Oatis Oatmeal Stout

Reservations for dinner are available for $70 per person, including tax, tip and beverages—it’s really a steal at that price! Vegetarian options are available too, if arranged in advance.

And if you’re looking to bring your DD along, Point Pinos Grill is taking “sober” reservations—sans beer—for $35 per person (plus tax and tip).

For reservations, call 831-648-5774.

Point Pinos Grill is at 79 Asilomar Boulevard in Pacific Grove. 831-648-5774.

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Coming Soon: Aubergine hosts a Day with Helmut Dönnhoff

Next Thursday, July 18, Aubergine—the fine-dining restaurant inside L’Auberge Carmel hotel helmed by Food and Wine magazine’s “Best New Chef” Justin Cogley—is hosting legendary Rieseling producer Helmut Dönnhoff. The occasion brings together powerhouses in food and wine—Aubergine’s chef Cogley and pastry chef Ron Mendoza team up with winemaker Helmut Dönnhoff and award-winning sommelier Markus Berlinghof.

Aubergine_helmutdonhoff flyerThe intimate gathering starts at 11:00 AM—Dönnhoff will taste renowned Weingut Hermann Dönnhoff wines. A reception will follow the tasting at 12:30 PM, then diners will enjoy a four-course dinner prepared by chef Cogley. Take a peek at the menu:

Carrots Cooked in Exotic Spices

2012 Weingut Dönnhoff Kreuznacher Krötenpfuhl Kabinett

John Dory, Emulsion of Lemongrass
2012 Weingut Dönnhoff Tonschiefer Trocken

Maine Lobster, Potato, Rau Ram

2011 Weingut Dönnhoff Hermannshöhle GG Trocken

“Peaches and Cream”
Vanilla Bean Bavarois, Peach Sorbet, Delicate Herbs, Meringue
2003 Weingut Dönnhoff Oberhäuser Brücke Auslese

In the evening, the restaurant will host a reception for Dönnhoff at 6:30 PM, followed by a six-course dinner at 7:00 prepared by chef Cogley and pastry chef Ron Mendoza. Take a peek at the menu for dinner:

Tomatoes, Shellfish Frost, Radish Flowers
2012 Weingut Dönnhoff Roxheimer Höllenpfad Trocken

Braised Peach, Yellow corn, Sunflower 
1994 Weingut Dönnhoff Oberhäuser Brücke Spätlese

Diver Scallop, Lemon Balm
2012 Weingut Dönnhoff Oberhäuser Leistenberg Kabinett

Turbot Cooked on the Bone, Wilted Turnip
2011 Weingut Dönnhoff Hermannshöhle GG Trocken

Guinea Fowl, Zucchini Cooked Smoked Butter
2003 Weingut Dönnhoff Niederhäuser Hermannshöhle Spätlese

Nectarine, Raspberry, Lemon Verbena
2011 Weingut Dönnhoff Niederhäuser Hermannshöhle Auslese

Lunch is available for $150 per person (plus tax and gratuity). Dinner is available for $250 per person (plus tax and gratuity). Pair the tasting, lunch and dinner together for $395 per person (plus tax and gratuity).

Space is limited for this special event—call Aubergine at 831-624-8578 for a reservation. L’Auberge is also offering special hotel packages for the occasion—call 831-622-5909 or email to book a room.

Aubergine is on Monte Verde at Seventh, inside L’Auberge Carmel Hotel, in Carmel. 831-624-8578.

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Savoring the summer harvest

Here on California’s central coast, we’re fortunate to have a great bounty of fruits and vegetables year-round, but it’s during the summer that the best come to harvest. Ripe red tomatoes and sweet summer corn, succulent strawberries and juicy stone fruits—the summertime harvest is hands-down my favorite on the Central Coast. And let’s not forget about the bounty from the bay this time of year—grilled salmon is a favorite of mine for summer barbecues.

All around town, restaurants are featuring the best of the summer harvest, like heirloom tomatoes.

All around town, restaurants are featuring the best of the summer harvest, like heirloom tomatoes.

It’s encouraging to see local chefs featuring the season’s bounty on their menus. Several restaurants wisely tweak their menus to feature the best local fruits, vegetables and seafoods during the summer harvest. Chef James Anderson at La Bicyclette (Carmel) is a regular fixture and local farmers markets, his menus at the bohemian bistro reflecting the seasonal bounty. Chef Brad Briske features the best local, seasonal and sustainable seafood on the menu at La Balena (Carmel). The farm-to-fork movement is picking up steam here on the Central Coast and diners get to reap the benefits.

Read on below for a look at some of the best bites I’ve enjoyed this summer . . .

Tomatoes and mozzarella at Mundaka (Carmel)

In these parts, tomatoes are the quintessential food of summer. I’ve enjoyed many great interpretations of the classic caprese combination around town, but there’s one that stands out of the pack—chef Brandon Miller’s “mozzarella” ($12.50) at Mundaka.

Nothing says summer like a plate of ripe, red heirloom tomatoes. The tomatoes and mozzarella at Mundaka takes the top spot on my list for best in town.

Nothing says summer like a plate of ripe, red heirloom tomatoes. The tomatoes and mozzarella at Mundaka takes the top spot on my list for best in town.

The dish started with tender mozzarella, with a meaty pull. The housemade cheese was paired with juicy tomatoes—heirlooms, of course, and sometimes cherry tomatoes too. But chef Miller’s secret weapon was a roasted Catalan “ugly” tomato. Don’t be fooled by the looks—burnt and bruised—these “ugly” tomatoes were superb! It was cooked whole, locking in all its juices. One cut into the wrinkly skin released the sweetest flavor I’ve ever had from a tomato.

A few torn leaves of basil garnished the dish, finished with a drizzle of saffron gastrique. The sweet gastrique reduction was a bit like saffron honey. Be sure to ask for some bread to sop up the last drops of saffron—I unabashedly did the other night, not wanting to waste a drop of the gastrique!

If you’re feeling adventurous, you can try you own hand at making chef Miller’s signature handmade mozzarella at home—visit his Facebook page for the recipe.

Mundaka is on San Carlos, between Ocean and Seventh, in Carmel. 831-624-7400.  

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Summertime showcase

Lilify's second pop-up dinner highlighted the summer's bounty.

Lilify’s second pop-up dinner highlighted the summer’s bounty.

Last weekend, Lilify—the adorable floral shop/home goods boutique on Lighthouse—hosted its second pop-up dinner. Amber Kirpes—kitchen manager at Sierra Mar at Big Sur’s Post Ranch Inn—prepared a menu that showcased the best of the summertime harvest here on the Central Coast. Her five-course menu highlighted both land and sea: juicy heirloom tomatoes and sweet summer corn, sweet peaches and buttery Monterey Bay salmon. Dinner, with wine pairings, was $97 per person.

Dinner was prepared in the apartment of Lilify owners Hanni Liliedahl and Jesse Silacci upstairs, with servers shuttling the food to the shop below. Josh Pierce poured tastes of Pierce Ranch wines, pairing two wines for every course.

We started with a round of passed appetizers and bubbles. The simple tastes of crostini with goat cheese and juicy cherry tomatoes and melon topped with prosciutto whetted the palate for what was in store later that evening. Taking sips of bubbles on the outdoor patio as the sun set made for a delightful send off for the weekend.

When the formal dinner began, we started with an amuse bouche—a shooter of chilled smoked asparagus soup with basil. Asparagus has been great this year and I’ve certainly had my fill this spring. I loved the balance of the asparagus with the herby hint of basil. It was a rich bite that made my palate stand up, ready for the savory courses ahead.

The first of the season's heirloom tomatoes were paired with fresh mozzarella and tangy balsamic.

The first of the season’s heirloom tomatoes were paired with fresh mozzarella and tangy balsamic.

After some small morsels to tease the palate, we settled in for the first course—a classic pairing of heirloom tomato, mozzarella and balsamic. Forget juicy watermelon—in my book, nothing says summer here on the Central Coast quite like a ripe, red heirloom tomato. The flavors were simple and classic, chef Kirpes wisely avoiding complex techniques and embellishments to let the ingredients speak on their own. The wine pairing—2010 GSM and 2011 Arinto—made sure winos of all sorts had something to enjoy. Betraying my red wine tendencies, I found the Arinto—an oaky Portuguese varietal—a nice pairing for the warm weekend weather.

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Coming Soon: Hashi Hotto Ramen pop-up

When it comes to Japanese cuisine, most diners think of delicate bites of sushi and sashimi. But for me, noodles really steal the spotlight of Japan’s culinary culture. My heart is particularly sold on ramen, with tender egg noodles in a rich broth topped with a plethora of proteins, often including a soft-poached egg and pork belly.

Delicious ramen from Momofuku Noodle Bar is a staple of late-night eats in NYC. Monterey is finally jumping onto the ramen trend too!

Delicious ramen from Momofuku Noodle Bar is a staple of late-night eats in NYC. Monterey is finally jumping onto the ramen trend too!

Ramen has enjoyed a storied history—documented in the debut issue of Lucky Peach, a fine read I highly recommend—and has matured past the college staple of instant ramen noodles. Nowadays, high-end Asian fusion restaurants offer bowls of gourmet ramen, following the lead of chef David Chang’s Momofuku restaurant empire.

But the ramen trend has made a pretty lackluster showing here on the Monterey Peninsula. Really just a couple of shops offer this hearty noodle soup: Ocean Sushi Deli (Monterey) offers traditional preparations of ramen, while chef-owner Brandi Lamb often features Momofuku-style pork ramen as a lunchtime special at Cafe Lumiere (Monterey).

Needless to say, when news hit my inbox last week of a ramen pop-up dinner gracing the Monterey Peninsula later this month, my mouth started salivating.

Yulanda Santos—the pastry chef at Sierra Mar at Post Ranch Inn in Big Sur—will be teaming up with Elizabeth Murray to debut a pop-up ramen shop. Hashi Hotto Ramen will dish up ramen after-hours inside Carmel Belle on Friday, July 26.

So far the menu will include handmade ramen noodles, served in either the traditional pork broth or an option for vegetarian broth for herbivores. Santos and Murray will serve into the wee hours of the evening—dinner will be offered from 7 PM to 1 AM to give chefs and others in the food service industry the chance to partake. What better way to cap off a busy night—of work or play—than with a bowl of hearty ramen and a cold beer? Let’s hope this trend keeps up and pops up around town more often!

Keep an eye out here on the blog for more details as we count down to the main event!

Hashi Hotto Ramen will open inside Carmel Belle, inside the Doud Craft Studios, at the corner of Ocean and San Carlos in Carmel.

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