The long, winding road

In case you missed it, here’s my review of the epic Monday Night Dinner at the Cachagua General Store tucked away down in the valley that appeared in Thursday’s Go! section of the Monterey Herald. I’ll be reposting my reviews and stories from my weekly column for the Herald here on my blog along with extra photos that didn’t appear in print.

As the sun was setting on summer, my friends and I decided we’d go out with a bang, gathering our occasional supper club at the Cachagua General Store.

Alas, the culinary gods weren’t with us, so we didn’t actually participate in the unique food fete that is Mike Jones’ Monday Night Dinner until the calendar turned to fall. But the wait was well worth it.

After a long drive, we finally arrived at the famous Cachagua General Store.

The menu was extensive — two dozen choices for appetizers and almost as many choices for entrees too. We divided and conquered — we each ordered at least one appetizer plus an entrée, passing plates from one diner to the next to sample everything.

The pear salad with parsnip strips, Brie and a yuzu honey dressing ($7.50) was one of my favorites for the night — and one of the best salads I’ve had recently.

The pear salad was unique with a mix of delicious flavors and interesting textures.

I’ve never really thought about adding Brie to salads, but definitely will now. The creamy, salty cheese was a good counterpoint to the sweet pear and dressing.

Who says eggs are just for breakfast? This dinnertime poached egg appetizer was fantastic!

The poached egg with sorrel, black trumpets, greens and goatsmilk burrata ($7.50) was another favorite. The rich flavors of the egg and the complex herbs underneath were very unique.

And how could I pass up the General Store’s famous bone marrow bruschetta (with shiitake and parsley, $9)? A lot of local foodies are hailing the originality of the bone marrow appetizer at Restaurant 1833. Um, they must have missed the memo that bone marrow has been a staple at the General Store, where it’s cheaper and tastier.

Mmmm. Bone marrow.

The large bones were served with crisp crostini and mushrooms for a build-your-own bruschetta. The earthiness of the mushrooms was a good complement to the buttery marrow.

Of the entrees we sampled at our table, I’d have to say the double pork chop ($22) was the best. It was an enormous hunk of meat — I half expected to see a caveman running out of the kitchen after it!

An enormous pork chop was the talk of the table.

The pork was nicely cooked and well-seasoned. But the real stars were the accompanying peach confit and plum sauce — the sweet stonefruits were the perfect accents for the savory pork.

A rich chocolate mousse was the perfect way to finish dinner.

And desserts. Oh, the desserts! On the tip of a friend, we made sure to order the chocolate crema inglese (served with olive oil and sea salt, $6). This dessert was so velvety smooth, like a rich mousse.

The roasted stuffed apple (with white chocolate crema inglese and Jack Daniels caramel sauce, $6) was quite tasty. The sweetness of the white chocolate and the caramel were a good balance to the spiced apple.

Words can’t really begin to describe the full breadth of Monday Night Dinner — it’s really something that has to be experienced firsthand, not just read about in the newspaper.

Looking to take part in Monday Night Dinner yourself? Definitely go with a group — it’s the best way to sample the extensive menu. (But remember, split checks are a big no-no at Cachagua!)

Do expect a dinner full of character and one that’s pretty easy on the wallet, given the quality of the food.

Cachagua is pretty much in the middle of nowhere — it’s a long, winding road that’s a brutal one if you’re prone to carsickness — but at the end, you’ll find one of the best-kept secrets in our local food scene.

The Cachagua General Store hosts dinner Monday nights and brunch on Sundays. More information at 659-1857 or www.yelp.com/biz/cachagua-general-store-carmel-valley.

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