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  • Estevan Jimenez Named Chef of the Year

    March 19, 2019 - Rancho Cielo executive chef Estevan Jimenez will receive the prestigious Chef of the Year award from the Monterey Bay Chapter of the American Culinary Federation at its annual gala in May.

    Jimenez—who formerly worked at Aqua Terra Culinary, Ventana Big Sur and the Monterey Bay Aquarium—was selected because of his professionalism and expertise, and for his dedication to community service—both in his work with at-risk youth at Rancho Cielo and within the chapter.

    The talented chef attended the California School of Culinary Arts, Le Cordon Bleu program and moved to Monterey shortly afterwards as a chef for Bon Appetit Management, which at that time handled the aquarium restaurants and events. He was promoted to chef de cuisine in 2007 and then moved on to the position of executive sous chef at Ventana Inn in Big Sur.

    Returning to the Monterey Peninsula he worked with Dory Ford as corporate chef de cuisine at Aqua Terra Culinary for seven years, before taking his current position at Rancho Cielo's Drummond Culinary Academy in Salinas.

    As executive chef at Rancho Cielo, Jimenez oversees all the culinary education programs and acts as a mentor to underserved and disconnected youth—helping ... Read More

  • Insights From GourmetFest 2019

    March 19, 2019 - At the Ment’or Cooking Demo on a brilliant Saturday morning at Gourmet Fest, organizer David Fink introduced chef Walter Manzke of République in LA as having been his original chef at Bouchée in Carmel. Fink then purchased the L’Auberge property, where Walter became the first executive chef.  The dish Manzke prepared for us was beef short ribs, something David said he ate three times a week while he owned Bouchée. Manzke mentioned the Meatery in Seaside as a good source for meats.

    Among the things we learned: reduce the red wine to remove all the alcohol before putting in with the meat, cook the mirepoix separately until all the vegetables are translucent—which can be like watching grass grow—and finally, before launching them into a 325 degree oven, put the seared short ribs into a cast iron pot and cover them with parchment paper before putting the lid on. This prevents them from becoming too dark, which can render them bitter. Never let the mixture boil.

    Chef Manzke likes to serve this dish, which includes blanched baby carrots and fresh peas, atop something creamy like mashed potatoes, wild mushrooms or sunchoke purée.

    Read More
  • Kick Off the Season with Soif’s New Spring Cocktails

    March 19, 2019 - Spring begins this week. And now that we have an extra hour of daylight “saved” for the end of the day, how best to spend it? 

    Few things fortify better than a 5pm cocktail and the creative team at Soif are debuting a few new libations this week that are truly dedicated to the season. The beloved downtown Santa Cruz restaurant is known for its local and seasonal fare and these new cocktails are similarly inspired. 

    “We’re fortunate to have really great ingredients here, so we absolutely use everything in the kitchen,” says Soif bar manager Matt Barron. 

    Like chef Tom McNary in the kitchen, Barron sees himself as an environmental steward. He carefully uses “leftover” trimmings from ingredients in the kitchen’s dishes—this week, everything from mushrooms and citrus, to lavender and butterfly pea flowers—and transforms them into infusions, waters, bitters, and shrubs (drinkable vinegars). As a result, every drink on the menu is utterly new right now: multi-layered, complex and fresh, and in unexpected and delightful ways. They’re like spring candy, for adults.

    “If we’re using oranges in a recipe, we’ll be reserving and drying the peels, and then infusing them in ... Read More

  • Beer Mule Opens at The Hangar

    March 12, 2019 - The first of several food and drink businesses has opened in The Hangar complex across the street from Watsonville Airport. The Beer Mule, operated by the same folks behind the Beer Thirty in Soquel, is now pouring a selection of local craft beers from 40 taps and serving a menu of light lunch and dinner items. Children and dogs are welcome in an outdoor beer garden and the whole operation is open daily from 11am to 10 or 11pm.

    The refurbished WWII-era aircraft hangar—surrounded by four shipping containers, picnic tables and fire pits—aims to become a new hot spot in Watsonville.

    "There has been a tremendous response in just the first two days, we are so excited to finally begin seeing our dream become reality," says Brian Dueck, developer of The Hangar project with his brother Kevin.

    In addition to the Beer Mule, the 6,400 square foot building and adjacent gardens will be home to three new eating places—Mr. Z's, Zameen Mediterranean Food and Aloha Hola. Developers are still looking for a coffee shop/dessert tenant as well as retailers for two of the shipping containers.

    Mr. Z's, which is ... Read More

  • Sangria Wine and Tapas Bar Serves Up Wine Your Way

    March 12, 2019 - As we announced last week, Sangria Wine and Tapas Bar is now open at 5 Del Fino Place, next to Trailside Café at the west end of Carmel Valley Village. Owned by Robert and Colleen Mann, she of Jamaica, and he of the Central Valley, Sangria is making its mark by giving wine drinkers a choice of how they want their wine dispensed. 

    Says Robert, “Sangria offers three different ways for fulfilling a customer’s wish for wine: traditional pours by the glass from bottles, glasses poured from our premium keg wines and ‘self-service’ from our 12-bottle Napa Tech wine station.  The customer purchases a debit card and simply inserts it into the machine slot, pushes a button for a taste, half glass, or full glass.  The customer has full freedom to sample twelve select wines on their own timing—totally fun!”

    What makes a couple open a wine bar with such long hours (6:30am to 9pm)? And why tapas? Mann explains the two met at an underwhelming restaurant in Watsonville. But, he goes on to say, “It was at a wine and tapas party in the Monterey area that we clicked, and all else is history.” They currently live in Las ... Read More

  • Best of Monterey Goes to Ghost Hull Cabernet at Monterey Wine Competition

    March 12, 2019 - The 26th annual Monterey International Wine Competition gave the crown for Best of Monterey County to Ghost Hull 2016 Cabernet Sauvignon from San Lucas Vineyard, $42.99, with 96 points. This wine, produced by Scheid Family Wines at their Greenfield winery, impressed the judging panel as well as the Chief Judge, Rich Cook, who runs the competition.

    It’s yet another confirmation of the winemaking prowess of this once grower-only company, that began planting vineyards as tax writeoffs back in the early days of Monterey wine country. Who knew? It’s from the San Lucas Vineyard, in the San Lucas AVA, about 20 miles south of the Scheid winery facility. With over 1k cases made, it is currently sold in Kroger stores all over the country.

    It looks the part of a high-end Cabernet, with a classic label featuring sailing ships in a harbor that pays homage to the inspiration and influence of the Monterey Bay. The elegant packaging is topped off with a soft red wax capsule with a pull-tab, that is both practical and handsome. Nicely done! 

    Halter Ranch Named Winery of the Year At Monterey Wine Competition

    Indeed, the winemaking team at ... Read More

  • Two New Wine Bars Open in Carmel Valley

    March 5, 2019 - All of a sudden, there are two new wine bars in Carmel Valley Village. Just like that. Neither one has a kitchen, (neither does Wine House), so the emphasis is big on wine and small on food. 

    Village Wine & Tap Room, formerly “The Tasting Experience,” is owned by Jessica and Michael Trask, who aim to showcase local winemakers who don’t have tasting rooms. They carry an array of limited production wines that are exclusive and hard to find. The place is at 19 E Carmel Valley Road suite G, next door to Windy Oaks at the east end of the Carmel Valley Village. It’s in the same block as Parsonage, Chesebro, Rexford and Ian Brand. 

    Their soft opening is scheduled for this Friday, March 8, from 12—7pm, with a Grand Opening planned on Saturday, March 30. Their hours will be Thursday through Monday, from noon to 7pm; closed Tuesday and Wednesday. 

    Jessica explains that among the winemakers they’ll be featuring are Miguel Lepe of Lepe Cellars, Sam Smith, assistant winemaker at Morgan, who has his own private label, Samuel Smith Wines, and Ryan Kobza, winemaker for Big Sur Vineyards and assistant winemaker to Ian Brand, whose ... Read More

  • Monterey Area to be Included in New Michelin Guide

    March 5, 2019 - Michelin Guide inspectors have been secretly visiting Monterey County restaurants for the past year in preparation for a new guidebook due out this summer, which goes beyond San Francisco to include six other areas of California. "We're just thrilled, we're over the moon," says Rob O'Keefe, marketing director of the Monterey County Convention and Visitor's Bureau. "While it will be very good for restaurants that make it into the book, it will also put Monterey County on the culinary map for discerning travelers."

    The new California guidebook was announced today at a joint news conference with Michelin and Visit California in Sacramento, attended by MCCVB CEO Tammy Blount-Canavan. New areas covered in the Michelin California guide include Monterey, Sacramento, Santa Barbara, Los Angeles, Orange County and San Diego. San Francisco and the Wine Country have been included in Michelin Guides for years.

    "Michelin is very good at keeping secrets, but since they were working with Visit California on this, we've known that inspectors have been taking a look at our area for the past year or so," says O'Keefe, adding that he doesn't know whether they are finished yet.

    "This is an enormous opportunity to promote Monterey County ... Read More

  • Local Food Artisans and Food Tours, Bring Historic Adobe to Life

    February 26, 2019 - In a boon for both local makers and the shop itself, the historic Joseph Boston Store—Monterey’s first general store—has over the last year become a showcase for a large and vibrant array of local artisans including Happy Girl Kitchen, Big Sur Salts, Carmel Berry Co., 43 Ranch and Edison and Melrose Tea.

    The change in direction of the store—which most recently sold Victorian-era memorabilia—towards artisanal foods happened after a chance meeting between the store’s buyer, Anne Banta, and the proprietor of Monterey Bay Food Tours, Casey Aguilar.

    Banta had recently taken over the buying position as a volunteer for the Historic Garden League, which runs the store and uses the proceeds to care for and restore the historic gardens that form the heart of the adobe buildings that comprise Monterey State Historic Park.

    Banta’s aim was to help ensure a vibrant future for the store and the gardens it supports with products that would draw in new customers—locals as well as tourists—and make them want to return. She also wanted to support local artisans and to help bring alive the time period when the store was first open—roughly from 1850 to 1862. The store opened at the outset of the Gold Rush to provide a safe for prospectors’ gold and all manner of supplies for residents of the ... Read More

  • ROAR Moves to Castroville

    February 26, 2019 - In a decidedly clean-looking industrial area off Blackie Road in Castroville, the sight of that magnificent wrought iron gate with the gleaming gold lion emblazoned upon it, stops you in your tracks. This isn’t just another boxy warehouse building: this is an edifice with purpose as well as class. Walk up to the imposing wooden front door, and you feel like you have arrived at a nobleman’s castle. You just hope he’s the welcoming type. I thoroughly expected to be greeted by an 8-foot tall knight clad in armor and fronting a spear. In fact, when ROAR winemaker Scott Shapley opened the massive door, I tucked carefully behind it, just in case. I needn’t have worried, but admittedly, the entire structure is incredibly imposing. Only the grape-themed fresco on the floor in front of the door provides a clue that this is a winery.

    The castle theme continues throughout the entryway, with a beautiful rendition of the ROAR logo label painted on the rich cognac colored concrete. It feels awkward to walk on it. Shapley says he’s still not used to stepping on what appears to be a work of art. In fact, the entire place is a work of art, mostly thanks to Rosella Franscioni, the woman for whom the vineyard on River Road ... Read More

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