It’s here! The first Best Bites of 2013. Let’s see who made the cut for the new year?
Best bite: Truffle gnocchi in sage brown butter at Bistro Moulin (Monterey)
Chef Didier Dutertre’s signature spinach gnocchi has won the hearts and stomachs of foodies around the Monterey Peninsula. There’s really no need to tweak a recipe so perfect, but why rest on your laurels? Last year, Dutertre started experimenting with a truffle version of his signature gnocchi, wrapping truffles into the pate a choux and baking in a Parmesan cream sauce. The result was delicious and decadent. And for the new year, he’s trying yet another truffle twist—truffle gnocchi with sage brown butter ($12.75).
It’s still a Parisian preparation—flour pate a choux instead of potato—but the gnocchi aren’t baked in a cream sauce, just lightly sautéed in a sage brown butter sauce. The texture is a little denser and the flavors a little lighter without the heavy cream.
I loved the crispy sage leaves, pine nuts and earthy mushrooms—they gave the dish a nice hearty touch for a cold, rainy January evening.
Bistro Moulin is at 867 Wave Street in Monterey. 831-333-1200. www.bistromoulin.com.
Deviled eggs with crème fraiche and caviar at Crema Espresso and Wine Bar (Pacific Grove)
New-kid-in-town Crema Espresso and Wine Bar is quickly becoming a must-visit every week. You’ll usually find me at the bar with a glass of wine and a couple of tapas after work, ready to ring in the weekend.
One of the new additions to the menu are deviled eggs ($6). Deviled eggs were one of the big “it” foods for 2012—and a trend I could totally get behind. They may seem dated to some, but I love the simplicity of a little bite of hard-boiled egg with a twist.
The preparation at Crema eschews the trite seasonings—no paprika, no horseradish, no truffle. Instead, the yolks are whipped with crème fraiche and topped with caviar. The rich, creamy texture of the yolks was a delightful indulgence. And I loved the briny pop of caviar on top. Truly sublime simplicity!
Crema Espresso and Wine Bar is at 481 Lighthouse Avenue in Pacific Grove. 831-375-1300. lacrememonterey.com.
Curried chicken salad sandwich at Pastries and Petals (Carmel)
Don’t let the name deceive you, Pastries and Petals is so much more than a pastry shop. They offer a number of delicious savory soups and sandwiches for lunch, along with a number of specials, like quiche, macaroni and cheese or pasta.
When I visited for lunch the other day, I couldn’t resist the urge to order the curried chicken salad sandwich, with celery, currants, spiced pecans and mango chutney ($10.50).
The curry flavor was very mild—more sweet than spicy, really. It didn’t overpower the chicken, an all-too-common risk with curried chicken salads I’ve found. There was a generous amount of chicken in the sandwich. The chicken salad was studded with crispy celery and crunchy pecans, giving it a nice texture.
And don’t forget about their takeaway lunch special—a petite sandwich, cup of soup, piece of fruit and a cookie. It’s a steal at just $8 for lunch-on-the-run!
Pastries and Petals is on Mission Street, between Fifth and Sixth, in Carmel. 831-620-1400. www.facebook.com/pastriesandpetals.