Best Bites: March 29, 2012

For those of you who missed my column in Thursday’s Go! section of the Monterey Herald, I’m reposting the stories here on my blog. Check out this week’s Best Bite–a recap of the week’s tastiest treat! As an added bonus, check out some extra tasty bites I found this week dining around town.

Best bite: Ricotta cheesecake at Cantinetta Luca (Carmel)

Looking to try a delicious dessert closer to home? I enjoyed a mighty tasty ricotta cheesecake ($6) at Carmel’s Cantinetta Luca on Monday night.

The ricotta cheesecake was a pleasant surprise at Cantinetta Luca.

The ricotta gave this cheesecake a velvety smooth texture. Topping a dessert with fennel might sound strange to some, but cooking down the fennel brought out its sweet, licorice undertones, while keeping a little hint of something savory.

And the pairing with a light tangerine sorbet made the perfect sweet finish to a delightful dinner.

Cantinetta Luca is located on Dolores Street, between Ocean and Seventh, in Carmel. 625-6500. www.cantinettaluca.com.

Check out the honorable mentions below the fold . . .

Honorable Mentions:
Banderias pork tenderloin skewers at Mundaka (Carmel)

Looking for a late-night dinner before a midnight movie, there was little question in our mind where to go: Mundaka. We were treated to some delicious tapas, tasty sangria and the musical stylings of DJ Hanif Wondir.

The tastiest of the tapas had to be the banderias—skewers of lavender-brined pork tenderloin cooked medium rare.

The meat was so tender—thank god the FDA has relaxed standard for cooking pork so we can finally move away from overcooked, tough tenderloin and taste this delicious meat the way nature intended.

This photo doesn't do the dish nearly enough justice--the pork skewers were superb!

The flavors were subtle, but incredible. The hint of floral lavender, mixed with savory herbs was great.

The accompanying Scarlet Runner bean purée and toast paired nicely with the light herb touch of the pork.

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

Solomillo hanger steak at Mundaka (Carmel)

Dinner at Mundaka produced not one, but two best bites. The solomillo hanger steak was another tasty bite. The steak was perfectly cooked and seasoned nicely. The parsnip purée underneath was creamy without being heavy, and very smooth.

Three words: foie gras butter. Oh, yes!

But what sold me on the dish was the foie gras butter on top. Yes, you read that right: Foie. Gras. Butter. It was a decadent touch of something extra on top of the meat. The earthy flavors of the foie accent with salty butter.i wish they sold sticks of this butter—I’d buy it up in a heartbeat and put it on, um, everything!

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

Clam chowder at Loulou’s Griddle in the Middle (Monterey)

I’m always curious who makes the best clam chowder in town. Ironically, I’ve usually been disappointed in the clam chowder at most of the restaurants on the wharf. But I took a leap of faith at Loulou’s Griddle in the Middle the other day when we popped in for breakfast, only to find out breakfast service stopped 30 minutes earlier.

My leap of faith paid off—this was some mighty tasty clam chowder.

This was a mighty tasty bowl of clam chowder!

The chowder was very smooth, with the creamy chowder taking the spotlight. It was accented by bits of clam and potato. It’s made fresh each day, and we saw the chefs preparing another batch while we were sitting there at the counter enjoying lunch.

Loulou’s doesn’t look like much from the outside, but this divey diner serves up some great food.

Loulou’s Griddle in the Middle is located on Municipal Wharf No. 2 in Monterey. 831-372-0568. www.loulousgriddle.com

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