Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Adventures in Recipe Testing: Making Chef Jason Franey's Guajillo Chile-Crusted Baby Back Ribs {Edible Monterey Bay}

December 15, 2015 – this piece went live on the Edible Monterey Bay blog. Read it there.

Adventures in Recipe Testing: 
Making Chef Jason Franey's Guajillo Chile-Crusted Baby Back Ribs 
Story and Photos by Camilla M. Mann

Testing recipes is simultaneously exciting and nerve-wracking. It’s exciting because you are cooking someone else’s recipe that will be published somewhere. And it’s nerve-wracking for exactly that reason—you are cooking someone else’s recipe that will be published somewhere.

When I am tasked with testing a recipe, which I do from time to time for different publishers, I constantly repeat the following mantra in my head: follow the recipe, follow the recipe, follow the recipe.

I am notorious for making tweaks and substitutions when I cook. I’m all about using what I have; I don’t hesitate for a second to swap out one kind of mushroom for another or use a different herb than specified. But—in these instances—the results depend on me following the recipe exactly.

In this case, I was testing Chef Jason Franey’s recipe for Guajillo Chile-Crusted Baby Back Pork Ribs that would appear in the Winter 2015 issue of Edible Monterey Bay. I have to be honest: when I read the ingredient list, my eyes might have glazed over and I might have asked myself, “What did you just sign on to cook?”

 There are multiple steps and several items that are not common pantry items. His recipe is definitely not for the faint of heart or anyone who is easily deterred. There were times in the process that I actually declared aloud, “I think I would rather just go to 1833 and have him cook it for me!”

“What? Are we going to 1833?” asked my husband, excitedly.

“No, not tonight, but it would be easier,” I answered.

The adventure began when we needed to downsize the recipe. Chef Franey’s recipe serves 60. We modified the amounts to serve 12. And his recipe, as I know all real chefs do, is written in weight measurements. I know, I know—switching from volume to weight is an essential and fundamental step in becoming a better cook. But I’m not there yet. I have made the switch for baking sweets, but not for savories. So, for the home cook, we decided to provide both the volume and the weight measurements.

The recipe didn’t specify ‘boneless’ ribs; so the first time I went to the market, I picked up a rack of baby back ribs. Then I looked at the photo and suspected that maybe I should have purchased boneless. I went back to the store.

Then it began to get really interesting. Chef Franey called for “Yuzu Kosho” and “Feuilles de Brick.” I know what yuzu is and actually had just gotten about a dozen of them. I researched yuzu kosho and made a batch on my own.

 Yuzu kosho is a condiment that adds a bold citrusy kick to dishes. It’s a fresh paste made with the zest and juice of multiple citrus fruits. Mine included lemon, grapefruit, lime, and yuzu. It also has the added je ne sais quoi of a little heat, a little salt, and a little sweet. Click here for that recipe (http://culinary-adventures-with-cam.blogspot.com/2015/11/yuzu-kosho.html).
When I began to search for the Feuilles de Brick, I was less successful. I called supermarkets all over town, followed by all the speciality markets. No luck. Only one person was even familiar with it. She had one-up on me. I was scrambling to describe these sheets—they are sort of like a phyllo dough and sort of like a crêpe. I looked at making my own, but was running out of time.

Chef Franey offered to give me some, so I sent my husband to the restaurant. “What am I picking up?” he asked. “Feuilles de Brick.Just tell him you’re picking it up for Edible Monterey Bay,” I answered.

Because sourcing Feuilles de Brick was so tough, I talked to the publisher about providing readers with some local substitutes. We agreed on phyllo dough as that’s readily available in almost every market.

Once I had all the ingredients, I ended up making three versions because I wasn’t sure if the ribs were baby back or boneless. I made Baby Back Ribs in Feuilles de Brick, Boneless Ribs in Feuilles de Brick, and Boneless Ribs in Phyllo dough.

What an incredible dish. Truly. The finished ribs—which are first braised then crusted with a rub made of coriander, fried garlic, shallots, and guajillo peppers—were an amalgam of textures and a wild combination of flavors. Tender meat, crispy wrapper, tangy, zesty, and salty. The sauce. Let’s talk about that, too. Teeming with Asian flavors, it includes the yuzu kosho, soy sauce, mirin, and more fish sauce than I have seen used in a single dish ever. The garlic, shallots, and cilantro add even more depth and layers of flavor. It was a delicious, finger-licking surprise. Wow!

But it was a complicated recipe. My husband and two boys were torn on which version they liked the best. I still think I would prefer to go to 1833 and just order it. And now, my appreciation of the dish will be heightened by the knowledge of how much work goes into the dish.

Note: Feuilles de Brick can be ordered on amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Brick-Doughs-Feuilles-sheets-Pack/dp/B0001217R2

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Eating at Il Tegamino Feels Like You're Dining in the Panzuto Family Kitchen {Edible Monterey Bay}

October 12, 2015 – this piece went live on the Edible Monterey Bay blog. Read it there.

Eating at Il Tegamino Feels Like You're Dining in the Panzuto Family Kitchen 
Story and Photos by Camilla M. Mann

October  12, 2015 – Several months ago, I spoke to Giuseppe Panzuto about his passion project: opening Il Tegamino with his older brother Salvatore. They had owned and operated a wine bar in their hometown of Naples, Italy when they were just sixteen and twenty years old. Now, more than two decades later, in their new hometown of Carmel, their restaurant features Neopolitan comfort food using recipes inspired by their childhood.

“I’m very excited to have something that is all our own,” said Giuseppe, the former GM and partner in Cantinetta Luca. Salvatore has cooked locally at Cantinetta Luca, as well as at Sierra Mar at the Post Ranch Inn and La Balena in Carmel.

The Panzuto brothers hosted a preview dinner ahead of their soft opening last Thursday. Tucked into the Courtyard of the Golden Bough, it was like being invited into their home for dinner. Their mother, Rita, collected cooking pots, including the classical Italian pot il tegame which is a short, flat-bottomed pot with two handles. Il tegamino is a smaller version of the pot and several of their dishes are served in the restaurant’s namesake vessel.

The tasting menu Salvatore shared included a little bit of everything, from their antipasti and insalate offerings to primi, secondi, and contorni plates and from the polpette bar to the desserts. There was so much food to try, I was grateful that Giuseppe warned us ahead of time to pace ourselves.

Served with thin slices of bread, we started off with Zucchine alla Scapece, a traditional summertime dish from Naples that makes use of a bounty of summer squash. Zucchini is fried, then marinated overnight. Il Tegamino’s version had some zing from the combination of balsamic vinegar, oil, mint, and chili flakes.

The antipasti, included a riff on eggplant parmesan made with zucchini instead. Salvatore presented a trio of frittura all’Italiana, serving arancini, which are risotto balls stuffed with cheese, meat, and peas; crocchette di patate, potato croquettes with mozzarella; and a fried dough that had been blended with sea lettuce. While our table was debating on a favorite, Giuseppe shared that he had collected the sea lettuce that morning. An avid free-diver, he plans to include daily specials that he has spearfished.

Their salad, a plating of romaine leaves, shaved, parmesan, and croutons, was elevated from simple to sublime with the tonnata dressing, a creamy, tangy sauce made with anchovies, capers, and tuna.

The primi and secondi plates were hearty, solid dishes, but we were all awaiting their much buzzed about polpette bar. Have you ever heard of a restaurant with a meatball bar? I hadn’t, but I anticipate an avid cult following for that reason alone. Everyone loves a good meatball!

Salvatore has six meatballs on the menu that should satisfy everyone from the omnivore to the vegetarian. He serves polpette de manzo, beef meatballs with pine nuts, raisins, garlic, bread, parsley, and parmesan cheese; polpette di maiale, pork meatballs with onions, bread, thyme, sage, and pecorino cheese; polpette di tonno, fresh tuna balls with capers, mint, potato, and caciocavallo cheese; polpette di granchio, crab meat balls with chives, bread, celery, and bell peppers; polpette di cavolo, a meatless ball formed from cauliflower, black olives, bread, and parmesan cheese; and polpette di funghi, made with Portobello and Porcini mushrooms, ricotta cheese, thyme, bread, and parmesan cheese. Three housemade sauces accompanied the meatballs and complemented all of the flavors. With the choice of meat, seafood, and vegetarian meatballs, there is definitely something for every palate.

Verging on the precipice between satiated and stuffed, two desserts were brought out and we simply couldn’t resist. They had prepared two tiramisù, one traditional and one that was new to me. When you see tiramisù on the menu, it’s usually tiramisù al caffè, made with espresso. Tiramisù al Limone, made with limoncello-soaked ladyfingers, was a delightful surprise.

The thing about having a great meal at a friend’s house: you have to politely wait for a repeat invitation. At Il Tegamino, you feel as if you’re eating in a friend’s kitchen, but you don’t have to wait to return. Just be sure to make a reservation because they only have 24 seats inside.

By next week, when the soft opening phase is finished, Il Tegamino will open up 28 more dining spots in the lovely outdoor patio at the Court of the Golden Bough. For the time being they are only open for dinner, but the brothers plan to add lunch service by the beginning of next year.

Monday, September 28, 2015

Local Libations: Field to Glass {Edible Monterey Bay}

This piece appeared, in print, in the Fall 2015 issue of Edible Monterey Bay. Click to read it: there.

Local Libations: Field to Glass
Bar Cart Cocktail Co.’s Katie Blandin Shea distills the seasons with foraged ingredients
Story by Camilla M. Mann

The setting was a Carmel flower shop closed for the night. Ten young women circled a rustic table, leaning in to learn Katie Blandin Shea’s secrets for using foraged plants like juniper and chamomile to create cocktails that each tells a story. Really, really good stories.

Her premise: a good drink begins with fresh flavors. To that end, she sources seasonal ingredients from farmers’ markets, estate gardens, and wild fields and forests.

Blandin Shea officially launched her Bar Cart Cocktail Co. last spring, offering workshops such as the one in the flower shop, Burst + Bloom, as well as her main business—designing and serving custom cocktails at public or private events. But everything in her career seems to have led up to this moment, and it’s no wonder that her personal passion for cocktail experimentation has long since won an ardent following among her friends.

Blandin Shea studied agribusiness at California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo and has worked on organic farms and in the food and beverage industry ever since. She managed Cal Poly’s Swanton Pacific Ranch heirloom apple orchard and herb garden in Davenport before overseeing Serendipity Farms’ market stands and sales distribution. More recently, she has worked with a local ginger company.

At the inaugural session in March of Flowers & Gin, her workshop series, Blandin Shea provided seasonal ingredients including juniper bark, jasmine and chamomile. While guests sniffed, crushed and swirled, to infuse spirits and syrups to bottle the flavors of spring, she poured her cocktails. For the namesake libation, Flowers & Gin, she blended gin, honey, chamomile, tangerine and strawberry, topping it with spring blooms. In a nod to winter’s departure, Blandin Shea created a drink called Cashmere, which featured foraged juniper, jasmine, almond milk and gin.

“I would say I’m a cocktail craftsman, creating a drink the way a chef would create a dish,” she says. “I aim for a sense of place and story with each sip.”

She fashions nonalcoholic versions of cocktails when the occasion calls for it.

For example, she developed a mock negroni for a fundraising dinner hosted by MEarth, a food and environment education nonprofit organization located on the Carmel Middle School campus. As a standin for the classic cocktail’s campari, she made a grapefruit peel and amaranth syrup; to replace the gin, she brewed a juniper, bay, sage and pine tea. With the richness of flavors, you didn’t miss the alcohol. She’s also game to interpret any theme.

For a private luxury watch release party, she used kale-cucumber juice to mirror the green face of Rolex’s Datejust Pearlmaster 39 and added garnishes that echoed the timepiece’s variegated sapphires. Blandin Shea also makes her own infusions, bitters, shrubs, tinctures, juices and other ingredients for her regular cocktail line, and carefully selects spirits to match them.

“I look at the desired outcomes of flavors and choose a spirit with the same notes or complementary notes to enhance the ingredients,” she says.

About her kaffir lime-bay leaf bitters, she says, “The cachaça sugar cane spirit is sweet and vanilla-like and works well with the astringent, woody notes in the bay and the tropical notes of kaffir lime.”

If you find yourself planning a wedding or other event with a budget for handing your bartending to an artist, but kaffir lime and bay aren’t your thing, no matter. Blandin Shea specializes in custom drink menus and offers complimentary tastings to make sure they’re what you have in mind. And she’ll even bring her own handmade bar.

Camilla M. Mann is a freelance writer, photographer and foodie blogger based in Seaside.

Bar Cart Cocktail Co. • www.barcartcocktailco.com

EXPLORE: Bar Cart Cocktail Co. will pair drinks with Big Sur Roadhouse’s entrant in the Carmel Valley Annual Chili Cook-off on Sept. 17 in Carmel Valley and will serve its nonalcoholic creations at The Party with Alton Brown on Oct. 3 at the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Make It Sustainable Weekend.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Chef Cesario Ruiz of My Mom’s Mole Unlocks the Sauce’s Mysteries {Edible Monterey Bay}

September 15, 2015 – this piece went live on the Edible Monterey Bay blog. Read it there.

Chef Cesario Ruiz of My Mom’s Mole Unlocks the Sauce’s Mysteries
Story by Camilla M. Mann

This Saturday, Friends of Santa Cruz Parks—a not-for-profit organization devoted to sustaining local state parks and beaches—hosts its third annual Mole & Mariachi Festival in downtown Santa Cruz. Six competitors will prepare their versions of mole, vying for two honors: Peoples’ Choice and Judges’ Choice. Mole, for those unfamiliar, is “like a Mexican curry,” explains Cesario Ruiz, the chef behind My Mom’s Mole and one of the festival’s contestants.

Mole, pronounced MOH-lay, is a general designation for a number of sauces used in Mexican cuisine. In the Aztec language Nahuatl, mōlli simply means “sauce.”

“Every region, and really every cook, has its own version,” says Ruiz. “It’s just a blend of spices and different ingredients.”

Mole is so versatile, in fact, that one region in Mexico boasts more than half a dozen different kinds, including mole negro, colorado, amarillo, verde, chichilo, and coloradito. Each of the six varieties has different colors and flavors based on their traditional combinations of distinctive chilis and herbs. The best known of Oaxaca’s moles is mole negro, named for its inky hue. It often includes chocolate in addition to its chili peppers, onions, garlic, and more.

But, for all its variations, all mole begins in the same way: with dried chili peppers. “Some chilis,” Ruiz says, “only grow in certain parts of Mexico. It’s the chilis that make mole unique.” Oaxaca, a region renowned for its moles, is large and mountainous, and, Ruiz continues, its climate is ideal for growing several different kinds of chili peppers.

Ruiz hails from Guanajuato, a region just to the east of Jalisco. “It’s a hot region,” he says, “so hot peppers are important to my mole.” The recipe he plans to enter on Saturday includes more than two-dozen ingredients and is more spicy than sweet. It was inspired by his mom’s recipe but he has added specific flavors and twists to make it his own.

In addition to tasting Ruiz’s signature mole at this weekend’s festivities, mole-lovers can spend an afternoon making the sauce with him at his new monthly classes at the El Pájaro CDC Commercial Kitchen Incubator in Watsonville. After partnering with Friends of Santa Cruz State parks for two mole classes this summer, Ruiz decided to continue sharing how to make one of Mexico’s culinary gems. His class, titled Mysteries of Mole Unlocked!, will be held the second Saturday of every month. 

When asked about his favorite way to use mole, Ruiz answers without a moment’s hesitation. “Tacos,” he says. “I like to take roasted chicken, pull it, and simmer it in mole until it’s thickened.” That meal takes only 30 minutes to assemble, but the mole takes longer to prepare. For the first four hours of his class, attendees will use locally sourced produce and experience how the complex ingredients come together to become mole. During the final hour of the class, they will sit down for a communal feast featuring the mole they’ve helped make.

“People will learn a lot, but more importantly, the environment is relaxed and fun,” he says. “People have a lot of time to explore and enjoy.”

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

The Lunchroom Renaissance

September 8, 2015 – this piece went live on the Edible Monterey Bay blog. Read it there.

The Lunchroom Renaissance
Story by Camilla M. Mann

September 8, 2015 – The beginning of the school year, at least in my household, launches what I, only partially in jest, call ‘The Lunchbox Wars.” Through the years, my boys and I have battled about their reusable containers—some were difficult for little hands to open, some leaked like crazy, and some were banned after ‘the glass incident’ in the cafeteria; now only plastic containers are allowed at our school. We argued about whether or not curry egg salad would get them teased at the lunch table.

School lunches, that is to say cafeteria lunches,  were mostly off the table because the food did not meet my requirements for quality and choices. That is changing. School lunches are enjoying a renaissance thanks to new programs being implemented in local districts around the Monterey peninsula.

Based on the philosophies and practices of Chef Ann Cooper who completely revamped the lunches in Berkeley public schools, Carmel Unified School District (CUSD) adopted a new food services program this school year.

Over the course of a decade, Cooper eliminated almost all processed foods and introduced organic fruits and vegetables to the daily menus in Berkeley schools. Cooper also founded what is now the Chef Ann Foundation, a not-for-profit organization dedicated to helping schools ensure that every student has access to fresh, healthy food each and every day. One of her programs The Lunch Box provides schools with free step-by-step guides, tools, and recipes to improve their food programs. CUSD is also utilizing Nutrislice, a new software product, that allows families to look at the lunch menus and see nutritional information on the choices.

One CUSD parent who has students at both Tularcitos Elementary School and Carmel Middle School shared, “We’re excited for the new lunches. They are hoping the portions are bigger this year. I’m just glad they’ll be getting more locally-sourced produce and have more organic options.” Looking through the menus with her, we agreed that we wouldn’t mind trying the lunches. Gone are the days when “pizza” and “corn dogs” are choices. Students are getting “whole wheat pasta with choice of housemade marinara or fresh made meat sauce, roasted zucchini, and a banana.” Also, the menu boasts: “Fresh garden salad made with local produce will be served daily.”

Real Good Fish, formerly Local Catch Monterey Bay, has partnered with Monterey Peninsula Unified School District (MPUSD) through their Bay2Tray program.  Maria Finn, Director of Marketing and Member Services for Real Good Fish, explains, “We are sourcing local seafood that normally doesn’t have a market and putting it into school lunches.” Bay2Tray encourages schools to embrace serving fish that traditionally would have been wasted because they are by-catch species that are less familiar to consumers. Or, in the case of our local Pacific grenadier, the fish is not pretty. But once it’s filleted and prepped, no one would ever know the fish has a bulbous head, bulging eyes, and oddly tapered tail.

Finn also explains the educational aspect to their program. “We also send fishermen into the schools to talk with kids and answer their questions about the ocean and seafood.” She recounted when fisherman and chef Kevin Butler recently visited Ord Grove Elementary in Seaside. “The students had a lot of questions. Some were easy and some a little tougher. Along with sparking their passion for the ocean, we hope they start healthy eating habits for life.”

Both programs – CUSD’s version of the lunchbox and MPUSD’s Bay2Tray – are making significant headway to combat the Lunchbox Wars and provide local students and families with some great new food options.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Belgian Brewery Set for Cannery Row {Edible Monterey Bay}

August 11, 2015 – this piece went live on the Edible Monterey Bay blog. Read it there.

Belgian Brewery Set for Cannery Row
Story by Camilla M. Mann

Belgian Pacific is “just three Belgian guys who want to share the beer culture of Belgium with Monterey,” explains Fabrice Rondia—one of the three. Along with partners Damien Georis and Jonathan Geisler, Rondia is creating a beer tasting room and brewery on Cannery Row where visitors can learn about, experience, and appreciate the quality of Belgian beer.

The three guys are all originally from Belgium though they have been living on the Monterey Peninsula for varying lengths of time. Rondia has been here more than half his life. Having met through mutual friends, the three talked about introducing Belgian beer here and, on a trip back to Belgium, Georis found Leopold 7.

Leopold 7 is brewed by the Brasserie de Marsinne in the small village of Couthuin, Belgium, near to where Rondia’s family lives. “It’s only five minutes away from my grandparents’ house, but my dad and all my family were not aware of it. It was kind of fun for me to let them know about something so close to them.” In the three years since, Leopold 7’s momentum has picked up and their production has doubled.

Rondia, Georis, and Geisler knew that Leopold 7 was selling in Africa, so they began to research the company and considered a Beligum-style craft brewery here to be more sustainable, since no shipping would be needed.

Rondia penned a letter to the brewers, pitching his idea: “I’m passionate, not just to import the beer, but eventually brew it here.” When he and his wife flew to Belgium, the goal of the trip was to ask—can we make your beer? And, after meeting, they put numbers together. “It’s a wonderful match,” Rondia admits.

The name of their brewery/tasting room—Belgian Pacific—is based on the idea of introducing Belgian beer culture to the Pacific coast. They are in the process of opening an eco-brewery on Cannery Row. The concept aligns with what the brewers want. “They are the real craftsman, real artists. They brew just one beer and it takes a lot of patience.” Rondia continued, “It’s a bit like Grandma’s cooking. She has one special dish. You know, if you love her spaghetti and meatballs, she doesn’t need to make anything else.”

It took the Leopold brewers two years to come up with their recipe. Once Belgian Pacific is ready, they will be sending their brewers to Europe to learn directly from Leopold 7. Georis—a winemaker at Georis and Madeleine Wines—says, “My role is to import the beer from Belgium, until the brewery gets going here in Monterey in partnership with the Belgian brewers.”

Leopold 7 was introduced to the California public at the California Beer Fest in Santa Cruz last weekend. Beer lovers raved about its refreshing and unique taste. Rondia thinks that the sunny-hued brew mirrors the essence of Belgium, a façade of tradition but with a contemporary flair. And he embraces the brewery’s practices that make them more sustainable. “It’s pretty remarkable for Belgium,” he explains. “The logo used to have a lot of red and yellow, but those colors contained toxic pigments, so they changed the look to more greens and blues which don’t have the toxins.” Also, there are no paper labels on the bottles, the spent grains are used in compost program, and they are coming up with innovative ways to use less water.

Belgian Pacific will be located at 419 Wave Street—it’s the lot right next to the sculpture of Ed Ricketts. Rondia shares, “I’ve been running on that trail for twenty years and always said, ‘one day, if I could have that place….’ Now I do!” Rondia, Georis, and Geisler acquired the property earlier this year after nine months of negotiation. It’s almost a hundred years old with a lot of Cannery Row era personality and a surprising ocean view since it’s not on the waterfront. “It’s a weird oasis,” he says.

When Belgian Pacific begins brewing, they will proudly advertise their brew as “Belgian-born, but brewed right here.”

An opening date has not yet been set, so for now, you can find Leopold 7 at the Corkscrew Café in Carmel Valley Village, at Casanova restaurant in Carmel, and Rondia just dropped off shipments at Monte Vista Wine & Spirits in Monterey and Surf and Sand in Carmel.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

ON THE VINE: The San Benito Wine Trail {Edible Monterey Bay}

This piece was published in the Summer 2015 issue of Edible Monterey Bay. You may read it on their website: here. Or below...

ON THE VINE: The San Benito Wine Trail
One of the Monterey Bay’s best-kept secrets is there for the exploring
Story by Camilla M. Mann

Highway 156 is a road well traveled by people heading between the coast and the Central Valley, where Interstate 5 provides an artery the length of the state. For years, I’ve driven the road without looking beyond the patchwork of fields along the often-congested, yet picturesque two-lane road.

But venturing off 156 onto Union Road just south of Hollister, I’ve made several recent detours onto the San Benito County Wine Trail, which is less of a straight path than a lattice crisscrossing the valley between the Gavilan and the Quien Sabe Ranges. The vineyards that dot the region include both some of California’s oldest and youngest grapevines, grown by some of its most intrepid vintners, such as Calera Wine’s Josh Jensen and Bonny Doon’s Randall Grahm, and a number of lesser known yet equally interesting personalities.

What San Benito’s dozens of viticulturists and winemakers have in common is an attraction to the limestone-rich soils and moderating ocean breezes that make the area an extremely favorable one for growing wine grapes. But the similarities end there. Like the fault lines that interlace the area—the San Andreas Fault that flanks it to the west, the Quien Sabe Fault to the east, and the Sargent, Calaveras and Tres Pinos fault lines that it straddles—the group’s members like to shake things up. And because of that, they offer a diverse array of unique wines that make their tasting rooms well worth the trip.

Turning from Union onto Cienega Road, where most of the tasting rooms are situated, you enter a world of bucolic hills, hardy wildflowers and not much else. Especially—until now—there was not much in the way of food to match the fine local wines.

But that will likely change soon, when exciting, seasonal, farm-to- table foods prepared by exceptional chefs are expected to be offered at both DeRose Vineyards and Bonny Doon’s Popelouchum.

When I first started exploring San Benito’s wines, I contacted Ian Brand, a vintner known for his Salinas-based Le P’tit Paysan label. One of Wine Enthusiast magazine’s “40 Under 40: American Tastemakers” in 2013, Brand has broad experience with grapes from across our region through making wine for more than a dozen other Central Coast winery owners.

We discussed Napa and Cabernets, Paso Robles and Syrahs, and Sonoma Pinot Noirs. When I observed that there didn’t seem to be a definitive varietal coming out of San Benito, Brand concurred.
“San Benito is a younger region, so folks are planting a wide variety of grapes to see what works. The area is a county full of possibilities.” In essence, he says, the wines coming out of San Benito are a mixture of heritage and discovery.

On the heritage side of things you have DeRose Vineyards, which occupies a site established by French immigrant Theophile Vaché in the 1850s, making its vines some of the oldest in the state. The winery has changed hands several times and, for a spell, its vineyards—like others in much of the county—were almost the exclusive domain of former wine industry giant, Almaden.

“There’s a lot of great history here,” says vintner Pat DeRose, whose family in 1988 took over the winery after a period of neglect and rescued some 100 acres of abandoned vines from the clutches of weeds and thistles.

The winery now offers a handful of unique wines, and I was instantly enamored by the exotic, century-old Négrette, whose name means “little black one.” Called Pinot St. George before 1997, legend says Négrette, descended from Mavro rootstock, was transported to France by Knights Templar returning from Cyprus. DeRose’s Négrette is inky and aromatic with stone fruit bursting out of the glass and some spicy nuance.

Just down the road is another vineyard that dates back to the 1850s, the stunning red-brick Pietra Santa Winery. Pietra Santa means “sacred stone” in Italian, a reference to its limestone-laden soil, which has helped its Cabernet Sauvignon and Sangiovese win numerous medals in the San Francisco Chronicle wine competition.

The 450-acre estate also produces organic and infused olive oils from its five varieties of trees, and offers picnic tables next to its vineyards. Further into the valley is Josh Jensen’s Calera Wine. The best known of the region’s established wineries, its pinot noirs, chardonnays and viogniers are perennial award winners.

Randall Grahm and his Bonny Doon Vineyards are most often associated with Santa Cruz County, where Grahm lives and established his first vineyard. His current tasting room is also in Davenport.
But early in his career, Grahm borrowed winemaking space at Calera, and in 2011 he returned to San Benito County to embark on what is arguably the most daring move of his career.

He purchased a 280-acre ranch in San Juan Bautista, which he calls Popelouchum, the native Mutsun word for “paradise,” and launched an effort to hybridize from seed 10,000 entirely new vinifera grape varietals. The ultimate aim: to make a true vin de terroir, a unique American wine that offers the fullest expression of place possible.

Thus far, just three-quarters of an acre of the estate is planted with well-established vines, and Grahm admits it may take many years to see the project through. “There’s a possibility I may not be around to know if it’s a success or failure,” Grahm says.

But the continuing drought and quickening climate change have made the need for new grape varieties better suited to the region— and to changed weather patterns in general—all the more urgent.

So as this issue of EMB was going to press, Grahm was preparing to launch a multi-platform crowdfunding campaign to raise $750,000 or more to finish the research needed to create the rest of the vines. He was expecting to offer to the campaign’s donors wine, naming rights and even early access to the plants.

Grahm is encouraged by the barrel of wine he made from Grenache harvested from the estate last year.
“I’m extremely happy with it,” says Grahm, noting that he “lives” for minerality in wines, and the deep-colored Grenache’s qualities include “really intense perfume, wonderful acidity, great body, this wonderful, earthy mineral aspect.”

Popelouchum is only open to the public during special events, of which Grahm plans a few for this fall.

Also engaged in notable new discoveries in San Benito’s wine country are two young winemakers—Ryan Kobza, founder of Kobza Wines, and Nicole Walsh, who has made wine for Bonny Doon for 14 years, and just last year bottled wine for the first time under her own Ser Wine Co. label.

Both are using an old-vine grape from the Wirz Vineyard in Cienega Valley called Cabernet Pfeffer.
Kobza and Walsh admit they were intrigued by the grape because it’s different.

“I love this wine. It’s distinctive and unique, layered with floral, fruit and spice. It’s delicate, but has structured tannin,” Walsh says. Walsh knows of less 10 acres of this extremely rare grape in the entire state of California—all of them in San Benito County.

Adding to the intrigue, the grape’s origin had been a matter of controversy until last year. A DNA study of the Wirz grapes conducted by UC Davis solved the mystery, finding that they are the French Mourtaou, which in France is sometimes called Pfeffer. The term “Cabernet Pfeffer” is used only in California, for both Mourtaou and Gros Verdot.

If there is a commonality I found in my travels to San Benito County’s tasting rooms and my encounters with its winemakers, it’s that the area’s vintners tend to be mavericks. They’re a highly varied group, but together they create a body of wines that honor the area’s heritage with distinct and delicious expressions of the region’s terroir. In short, it’s just what you’d want from a new wine discovery.

Camilla M. Mann is a food writer, photographer, adventurer and passionate cook. She blogs at culinary-adventures-with-cam.blogspot.com and lives in Seaside.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Il Grillo Delights in Carmel {Edible Monterey Bay}

June 23, 2015 – this piece went live on the Edible Monterey Bay blog. Read it there.

Il Grillo Delights in Carmel
Story and Photos by Camilla M. Mann

June 23, 2015 – Late last week, Il Grillo—the cricket in Italian—opened its doors and called friends and family to preview what is to come from the new restaurant owned by Emanuele and Anna Bartolini, of Carmel’s wildly popular La Balena. Friday evening, we answered the cricket’s call and headed over to enjoy the summer evening on Il Grillo’s patio and taste some of the dishes that will be on the menu.

As we settled into the cozy table and chatted with the couple next to us, Anna brought us glasses of
red wine to start and showed us the impromptu menu for the evening. Chef Brad Briske had handwritten his offerings on a thick piece of white cardboard. There were five carpaccio plates from which to choose. Carpaccio dishes are Italian appetizers featuring pounded or thinly sliced or meats and fish topped with a sauce or garnish.

“I thought the idea for Il Grillo was casual dining,” I joked with her, as I eyed the tantalizing and seemingly complicated combinations.

The handwritten list read: Octopus with squid ink-chickpea flan, chili oil, lemon, herbs. Yellowfin tuna, cucumber puttanesca, chili oil, olive, anchovy, capers. House-cured bresaola, gorgonzola-mascarpone terrine, walnuts, balsamic. Beef tenderloin, shaved porcini, parmesan, arugula, lemon, olive oil. Porchetta, pardon pepper, anchovy, capers, Spring onions, watercress, anchovy aioli.

“This is Brad-casual,” Anna countered. Fair enough, after all he was voted Edible Monterey Bay’s local hero as best chef in 2014.

We ordered one of each. Then we re-ordered the octopus plate later in the evening. The first time we asked for it without the squid ink-chickpea flan because my younger son is sensitive to chickpeas. But we ordered it as written the second time because I couldn’t resist getting the dish the way Briske intended.

 A good carpaccio practically melts in your mouth with each bite exploding with flavor. Each plate offered various textures and tastes that simultaneously complemented and contrasted. Imagine the creaminess of a gorgonzola-mascarpone terrine combined with the saltiness of bresaola topped with the nutty tannins of walnuts and the agrodolce of a reduced balsamic. We jokingly argued about which plate was the best and, truth be told, we could not come to a consensus. Briske nailed them all.

Briske will be at the helm for both Il Grillo and La Balena. Between pounding beef tenderloin and plating his beef carpaccio, Briske spoke excitedly about the addition: “Because La Balena will be closed for lunch during the week now, I’ll be able to do my butchering there in the afternoons.”

Although we didn’t sample it, the second part of Il Grillo’s menu is a collection of Briske’s homemade fresh pastas with mix-and-match sauces, for eating there and for take-out.

Il Grillo opens to the public on Thursday, June 25 with lunches and a special five-night Dinner Launch Series. The menu includes an appetizer, pasta, dessert and a glass of house wine for $40. Reservations for the tiny dining room are available online at www.ilgrillocarmel.com

Next week, they’ll add an Italian-style breakfast—in the form of coffee and pastries made by Emily Garcia, formerly of Emi’s Biscotteria in Pacific Grove—beginning at 8am. Then, starting on Monday, June 29, days and hours will be Monday through Friday 8am to 9pm; Saturday dinner from 4pm to 9pm. Closed on Sundays.

Monday, June 1, 2015

Flavor Meets Aethetics in Your Backyard {Edible Monterey Bay}

May 19, 2015 – this piece went live on the Edible Monterey Bay blog. Read it there.

Flavor Meets Aethetics in Your Backyard
Story and Photos by Camilla M. Mann

May 19, 2015 – Sharing some crazy pastry wizard techniques, executive pastry chef Ron Mendoza of Aubergine in Carmel and EMB’s Pastry Chef of the Year defined fine dining and convinced us we need to switch to metric measurements at the fifth installment of the In Your Backyard series sponsored by Edible Monterey Bay and Holman Ranch.

“Making pastries requires technique,” Mendoza said. “You manipulate ingredients to make something out of nothing.” Mendoza demonstrated a microwave sponge cake that was pioneered by Albert Adrià of El Bulli in Spain. Instead of using a whisk or a leavening agent, Mendoza used nitrous oxide—in a whipped cream charger—to aerate the cake batter. He popped the batter into the microwave for forty seconds and out came a nicely risen, airy cake. We ooooed and ahhhed, Mendoza laughed: “Oh, good! I never know if you’ll see it as a trendy parlor trick or as a brilliant dessert.” 

Discussing the science of baking, we learned that the butter and sugar were the flavor, eggs provide the rise, and the flour is what sets the eggs. An attendee commented that Mendoza’s recipes were metric. He took the opportunity to exhort us to switch to metric measurements. “Sixty grams of flour is sixty grams of flour no matter if you’re using almond flour or cake flour. Metric is more consistent,” he explained.

The conversation moved to Aubergine and the experience of fine dining. With only nine tables, Mendoza strives to make creative pastries that inspire awe. “It’s a balance of flavor and aesthetics.”

His cake was infused with green tea, making a verdant sponge that he broke into craggy pieces to resemble moss. In this dessert, he mirrored our environment, plating a speculoos cookie butter-covered ice cream rock with the mossy cake pieces. He secured the rock to the plate with a dollop of lemon curd and dusted the entire thing with a mixture of green tea and shiso powder. Nasturtium and radish blossoms added some floral flair.

A portion of the evening’s proceeds benefitted Everyone’s Harvest, co-founded by Iris Peppard who launched the organization as part of her capstone project from California State University Monterey Bay (CSUMB) for her degree in Integrated Studies with an emphasis on Community Organizing. The vision: every community needs access to reasonably priced fresh, organic produce in weekly community setting.

Over the past thirteen years, Everyone’s Harvest has grown to include two year-round markets—in Pacific Grove and Marina—and two seasonal markets in Salinas. More than half of Everyone’s Harvest Certified Farmers’ Markets farmers are certified organic and come from within a 100-mile radius of Monterey County. Everyone’s Harvest is piloting partnerships between healthcare providers and farmers’ markets through its Fresh Produce Prescription Program. In the spirit of collaboration, the markets offer free space to other nonprofits organizations, community groups, and government entities for public outreach. Additionally, the nonprofit manages five community projects in its mission to give more people access to fresh, local, affordable food.

There is only one more In Your Backyard event before the series finale, a picnic on July 15th at the historic Holman Ranch. Attendees will enjoy spectacular views, Holman Ranch wines, music, and food while supporting six worthy causes—Ag Against Hunger, Everyone’s Harvest, Food Bank of Monterey County, MEarth, Nancy’s Project, and Seafood Watch.

On June 16th, executive chef Ken MacDonald from Edgars at Quail Lodge in Carmel Valley and Serendipity Farms’ Jamie Collins will guide people from garden to table, sharing how to plant your garden with your menus in mind and offering tips for cooking your bounty.

To reserve your tickets, call the Holman tasting room at 831.659.2640 or email info@holmanranch.com. Tickets are $10 for wine club members and $25 for others; seating is very limited.

The Holman tasting room is located at 19 East Carmel Valley Rd. in Carmel Valley Village.

For information on the entire In Your Backyard program, go to www.ediblemontereybay.com and click on the events tab.

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Italian Comfort Food Coming to Carmel {Edible Monterey Bay}

May 5, 2015 – this piece went live on the Edible Monterey Bay blog. Read it there.

Italian Comfort Food Coming to Carmel
Story by Camilla M. Mann
Accompanying Photos were Provided by Il Tegamino
(see the EMB blogpost to view those)

May 5, 2015 – The former GM of Cantinetta Luca is getting ready to open a home-style Italian restaurant of his own called Il Tegamino in the picturesque Court of the Golden Bough in Carmel. Giuseppe Panzuto and his brother Salvatore previewed their new restaurant Saturday as part of the 23rd Annual Winemakers’ Celebration. “It will be homey,” said Giuseppe, who plans to open the doors in July and feature Neapolitan comfort food using family recipes. 

Hailing from Naples, Italy, the Panzuto brothers named the restaurant as a tribute to their mother, Rita, who collected cooking pots. Il tegame is one of the most classical Italian pots, characterized by a flat bottom, short sides, and two handles. Il tegamino is a smaller version of the pot. With fond memories of growing up in Rita’s cozy kitchen, Giuseppe and Salvatore hope to create the atmosphere of being in a genuine Italian kitchen. 

Though the menu is not yet set, they are exploring favorite recipes that their mother made. Giuseppe waxed nostalgic about her eggplant parmesan and her lasagna di carnevale. “You have these little meatballs and eggs. You know it’s not like what Americans think of as lasagna,” he said. 
Carnevale falls just before Lent, when Christians abstain from indulging in rich foods. And, sometimes, meat is avoided altogether. Carnevale derives from two Latin words—carne (meat) and vale (farewell); so it’s literally ‘Farewell, meat!’ Lasagna di Carnevale is a classic Neapolitan dish filled with meat and cheese. Some versions include salami and hard-boiled eggs. The idea behind the dish is to use up whatever meat you have in the house before Lent. 

The small bite they served at Saturday’s preview was another traditional Neopolitan dish, Sformato di Patate, creamy potatoes mixed with Italian meats and cheese and baked under a blanket of butter and bread crumbs.

Giuseppe resigned from his most recent post as GM of Schooner’s Coastal Kitchen at the Monterey Plaza Hotel in March to focus on the new endeavor.

Il Tegamino will be located in the Court of the Golden Bough in Carmel-by-the-Sea, in the courtyard behind the Cottage of Sweets. It’s part of a reinvigoration effort that includes opening the Alexander Smith tasting room and the addition of new fountains through the efforts of Denny LeVett. Like their recipes, the Court of the Golden Bough holds a bit of old Europe. ‘The Golden Bough’ refers to the Roman poet Virgil’s Aeneid. The titular hero, Aeneas, bearing a tree branch with golden leaves was allowed to travel through the underworld unscathed. 

The courtyard used to house a restaurant that, for four decades, served as a meeting place for locals and visitors and fed City Hall employees, something the brothers hope to replicate with Il Tegamino.
The menu at the new eatery will be largely influenced by Southern Italian traditions, featuring easy and simple recipes. “Many of the dishes will have as few as three ingredients but will be full of freshness and flavor,” Giuseppe said. “It will be like inviting people into our house—into our family kitchen.”

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Flavors of the Ocean in Your Backyard {Edible Monterey Bay}

April 28, 2015 – this piece went live on the Edible Monterey Bay blog. Read it there.

Flavors of the Ocean in Your Backyard
Story and Photos by Camilla M. Mann

April 28, 2015 – Famous for his fabulous nine-course Big Sur tasting menu, executive chef John Cox of Sierra Mar restaurant at the Post Ranch Inn shared his seafood secrets with appreciative foodies at the fourth session of EMB’s In Your Backyard series last week at Holman Ranch tasting room. Cox joined forces with Art Seavey of Monterey Abalone Company for the event called “Cooking the Big Sur Coast.” The chef shared ways to prepare foraged sea vegetables and seafood while Seavey talked about growing his business amid initial resistance to aquaculture.

From his restaurant perched 1500 feet above the Pacific Ocean, John heaped praise on the kelp forest. “It’s an important natural resource. Algae is responsible for something like eighty-percent of the oxygen we breathe,” he said. “Additionally, it’s a versatile ingredient.”

The first bites he showcased were jokingly called “beach flotsam and jetsam,” dishes of dehydrated giant kelp, pickled sea grapes, and brined chain-bladder kelp. Cox also offered thin slices of Hamachi belly dried on giant kelp blades. “You can do this with any fatty fish,” he instructed.

Sea urchins were cleaned and dressed simply with lemon, garlic, and olive oil. He served them alongside ebony-hued squid ink baguette slices. “I’m lucky to have three sous chefs with whom I can collaborate and innovate,” he admitted. “I aim to take diners on a journey with foods that epitomize the flavor of the ocean.”

Cox advised us to be informed consumers, to eat what’s abundant, and to know where our food comes from. Regarding recipes and how to prepare foods, he urged: “improvise with simple, good products.”

Seavey discussed the difference between abalone fed pelletized rations and those nourished with kelp. “Kelp is a natural food of wild abalone. So it results in a farmed product that tastes like it comes from the wild, using the nutrients in the water.” The process reduces impact on water quality. As a result, farmed abalone is listed—by the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch Program—as a ‘Best Choice.’

A portion of the evening’s proceeds benefitted Nancy’s Project, a charitable nonprofit organization founded by Nancy Costello that distributes food, clothing, and other necessities to farm labor families throughout Monterey County. Project coordinator and shepherd Betty Kasson described the focus of the organization and shared that Nancy’s spirit still guides the mission. “There are now approximately seventy volunteers continuing the work of one tireless 95-year-old woman,” she said. Six days a week, fifty one weeks of the year, drivers load and deliver donations to the families in need.

There are two more In Your Backyard events before the series finale on July 15th at the historic Holman Ranch. Attendees will enjoy spectacular views, food from the area’s best chefs, Holman Ranch wines, and music, while supporting six worthy causes—Ag Against Hunger, Everyone’s Harvest, Food Bank of Monterey County, MEarth, Nancy’s Project, and Seafood Watch.

The May 13th IYB event with Aubergine pastry chef Ron Mendoza is sold out, but there are still tickets for the evening of June 16th, when executive chef Ken MacDonald from Edgars at Quail Lodge in Carmel Valley and Serendipity Farms’s Jamie Collins will guide people from garden to table, sharing how to plant your garden with your menus in mind and offering tips for cooking your bounty.Tickets are $10 for wine club members and $25 for others; seating is very limited.

There are also plenty of tickets left for the season finale, a farm-to-table picnic with live music, Holman’s award-winning wines and several exciting chefs at Holman Ranch’s stunning, historic vineyard, just beyond Carmel Valley.

The chefs at the July event Chefs will inlcude La Balena’s Brad Briske, Sierra Mar’s John Cox, Porter’s in the Forest’s Johnny De Vivo, Edgars’ Ken MacDonald, Aubergine’s Ron Mendoza, Wills Fargo Steakhouse + Bar’s Jerome Viel, the Beach House’s Evan Lite and Monterey Meringue’s Lee Zimmerman and Domenick Allen. Purveyors will include Tassajara Natural Meats and Monterey Abalone Co.

To reserve your tickets for either event, call the Holman tasting room at 831.659.2640 or email info@holmanranch.com.

Tickets for the July 15 farm-to-table may also be purchased on eventbrite at:

The Holman tasting room is located at 19 East Carmel Valley Rd. in Carmel Valley Village and the Ranch address is 60 Holman Rd., Carmel Valley.

For information on the entire In Your Backyard program, go to www.ediblemontereybay.com and click on the events tab. 

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Community, Local Produce and Talented Foodsmiths Help Carmel Valley Market Take Off

April 14, 2015 – this piece went live on the Edible Monterey Bay blog. Read it there.

Community, Local Produce and Talented Foodsmiths Help Carmel Valley Market Take Off
Story and Photos by Camilla M. Mann

April 14, 2015 – Farmers’ markets have evolved in recent years. No longer are they simply venues where farmers bring their fruits and vegetables. Certainly there is no dearth of farmers showcasing their freshest, in-season produce, but market stalls now also house artisanal foods, crafts, and services. The fledgling market in Carmel Valley’s Village is no exception. There are things to buy, things to try, and things that make you pause and squeal in delight. Yes, literally squeal.

Friday afternoons from 2pm to 6pm, the parking lot at the Carmel Valley Community Center is crowded with vendors and customers—some familiar faces and some new ones—for example, sixth-grader Jake Reisdorf, who runs Carmel Honey Company.

Jake excitedly explained how his business evolved from an assignment when one of his teachers at Carmel River School tasked the students with creating a website. Instead of setting up a fictional business, Reisdorf decided to pursue beekeeping. Now a student at Carmel Middle School, he has nurtured a school project into a successful entrepreneurial venture.

Reisdorf started with two hives last year. In addition to selling honey, he’s now at the point where he can deliver hives to people who want the pollination services of his bees. His eyes lit up when he proudly shared, “I don’t filter my honey. When you filter your honey, you’re taking out the pollen. The pollen causes the honey to crystallize—so honey-bee guys don’t like it—but it’s the pollen that can help with allergies.”

Farmers travel from just around the corner—such as Carmel Valley’s own Serendipity Farms –and from further afield. Cipponeri Farms drives from Turlock to peddle colorful tubs of dried fruits and almonds. Medina Berry Farm and Rodriguez Ranch come from Watsonville in Santa Cruz County and Avila Farms, out of Hollister, represents San Benito County.

The prepared items are just as varied and intriguing. Sharing a booth with Central Coast Juicery’s Mark Kaltenbacher is Shiho Fukushima whose food-related ventures include managing her family’s Ocean Sushi Deli, critiquing restaurants for Monterey County Weekly, and running a gluten-free catering company. Fukushima, under the umbrella of Gluten-Free Shiho, has recently launched Bone Dashi. Dashi means ‘broth’ in Japanese.

Her bone broth takes two days to make and she’s a devotee of its benefits. Suffering from leaky gut syndrome, Fukushima explains, “Bone broth—rich in collagen, gelatin, and amino acids—calms my gut.” So, along with Kaltenbacher’s raw, cold-pressed juices, Fukushima offers jars of her bone dashi, made with Fogline Farms chicken bones and beef bones from Morris Grassfed. One sip of her warmed, calming brew and I was convinced of its restorative power.

Another fun addition to the market community is the husband-wife team of Monterey Meringues. Leigh Zimmerman and Domenick Allen are making multi-hued meringues whose trademarked names pay homage to classic rock legends, including Oreo® Speedwagon, Nuts ‘N Roses™, Black-berry Sabbath™, and The Almond Brothers™.

Zimmerman studied the art of baking meringues and macarons at Le Cordon Bleu in London before relocating to Monterey with her family. Together Zimmerman, Allen, and their teenage daughter have added some flair and panache to the usually austere, white teardrop-shaped treat. Monterey Meringues’ morsels have crunchy exteriors around a billowy center. And, surprisingly, the cheerful colors are achieved with all-natural vegetable and fruit powders.

Along with Reisdorf, Fukushima, Zimmerman and Allen, market organizer Jerry Lami has curated a talented crew of vendors. You can purchase wood-fired pizza from Tricycle Pizza, infused vinegars from OMG Vinegars, Middle Eastern spread and dips from Hummus Heaven, and eco-friendly screened bags and totes from Bee, Bark, and Moss. In its infancy—last Friday was market number four—Carmel Valley’s Friday Farmers’ Market is already a veritable celebration of community, local produce, and talented foodsmiths.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Photos from the Big Sur Foragers' Festival 2015

I was able to attend the cooking demonstration yesterday afternoon at the Big Sur Foragers' Festival. Here's the post I wrote for my own kitchen blog: Cooking Foraged Foods with Incredible Local Chefs.

Turns that the festival didn't have a photographer assigned to the event themselves, so they used mine. Sweet!

Top Chefs Dish on Cooking with Foraged Foods {PHOTOS, Edible Monterey Bay}

Edible Monterey Bay's Debby Luhrman wrote this piece about the foraged foods cooking class at the Big Sur Foragers' Festival: Top Chefs Dish on Cooking with Foraged Foods. It hit the EMB blog today.

Two of my photos accompany the piece...

Chef Brad Briske making his stinging nettle gnocchi

Chef Jacob Burrell's Composed Plate Cooked with Foraged Sea Water

Passionfish's Ted and Cindy Walter Share Their Love at Holman Ranch {Edible Monterey Bay}

January 20, 2015 – this piece went live on the Edible Monterey Bay blog. Read it there.

Story by Camilla M. Mann
Photo courtesy Ted and Cindy Walter 

January 20, 2015 – February’s “In Your Backyard” event at Holman Ranch’s tasting room will showcase the passion thatTed and Cindy Walter, proprietors of Passionfish in Pacific Grove, have for sea life and for serving it in delicious, sustainable ways.

The series, hosted by Holman Ranch and sponsored by Edible Monterey Bay, gives food producers and food artisans a place to share expertise in a casual, conversational format. Each demonstration also offers recommendations for the best wine to pair with the featured culinary item.

On Wednesday, Feb. 11 at 6pm, Ted, Passionfish’s chef, plans to demonstrate three different ways of preparing a local fin fish. He’ll show how to do a raw fish crudo, a ceviche, and one other method that allows the flavors of the fish to shine. Guests will get to enjoy small bites of these dishes while sipping Holman’s award-winning estate wines and learning wine-pairing tips from Holman’s experts.

Cindy, who comes from a fishing family and is known equally for activism on behalf of ocean life and for creating a spectacular, green-certified setting for serving it, will share tips and techniques for sourcing and choosing sustainable seafood.

“We aim to give people the information about the easiest way to select sustainable seafood,” Cindy explains, “and to empower them to ask the right questions.”

A portion of the evening’s proceeds will benefit the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch program, which since the late 1990s has helped home cooks, restaurant goers and chefs choose seafood that’s harvested in ways that protect fisheries and ensure the longevity of habitats. Seafood Watch has been a key partner in the Walters’ efforts since its inception—and they have been key supporters of the program.

“It all started with swordfish,” says Ted. Swordfish was in danger of going completely extinct because there was so much money in the market. However, nearly a dozen chefs began to boycott it, removing it from their menus and inspiring a ripple that moved across the country. “Once the fishermen had no market for swordfish, they stopped fishing it. The species recovered in less than five years.”

Seafood Watch had proved its power, and it went on to use its research and communications muscle to issue sustainability ratings of fishing methods and fisheries around the world.

“Once the Aquarium established Seafood Watch,” remembers Cindy, “we were really excited. This program helps us find sustainable seafood, something we were always trying to do on our own.”

Cindy urges consumers to carry the Seafood Watch guidelines—either in printed wallet card form or through the new phone app,—so they can easily identify whether seafood items are rated as a “Best Choice,” “Good Alternative” or “Avoid.”

She also cautions restaurant goers and shoppers to educate themselves.

“As consumers have grown more savvy, the industry has employed marketing experts. Consumers have to constantly stay ahead of the corporate world,” she says.

As an example, she notes that it used to be enough to see that something was “line-caught.” But while it’s not a technically a lie to call a pelagic long-line caught fish “line-caught,” it’s certainly flouting the intention of the designation, because long-line methods trap sea life indiscriminately. So the question has necessarily evolved from “is it line caught?” to “is it hand-line caught?”

To take advantage of this special opportunity and reserve your tickets before they sell out, call the Holman tasting room at 831.659.2640 or email info@holmanranch.com.

Tickets are $10 for wine club members and $25 for others; seating is very limited.

The Holman tasting room is located at 19 East Carmel Valley Rd. in Carmel Valley Village.