I mean, do squid around… cause there’s gonna be oceans of family fun at Monterey’s first annual Clam Chowder and Calamari Festival, May 26-28.
Clam Chowder and Calamari?
Yep. Let it never be said that the city of Monterey has trouble finding excuses to celebrate. This free festival at the Custom House Plaza at Fisherman’s Wharf will feature music and entertainment, arts and crafts, marine exhibits, cooking demos, and plenty of food and drink. (Besides soup and squid, there will be fish and chips, pasta, sandwiches, strawberry shortcake, caramel apples, cookies, ice cream and more.)
Beer, wine and margaritas will be available, and three live bands will play each day, including John “Broadway” Tucker, the Cachugua Playboys and Red Beans and Rice.
Hours are 11am – 7pm Saturday and Sunday and 11am – 6pm Monday.
Let’s Go Truckin’! Just in case you haven’t heard, Food Trucks are in.
In, in, in… yes, mobile munchies are the latest rage, and on May 12, the first ever “Monterey Street Food Fest” will take place at the Fairgrounds from noon to 6pm.
From cupcakes to Cuban cuisine, there’ll be something for every palate. But if the thought of yummy gourmet and international street food isn’t enough to get you to the Monterey Fairgrounds… go for the music.
Because “The Money Band” will play from noon to 2pm, followed by “Triple Threat” until 6pm. (The Money Band has a fair number of groupies at Monterey Bay Property Management, and they guarantee that from “Love Shack” to “What I Say?”—this band will get the crowd rocking.)
The Fairgrounds are located at 2004 Fairground Road, Monterey. Admission to the Street Food Fest is free.
The Breakfast Club tabletop
I asked the gang for a list of their favorite breakfast spots, and they scrambled to answer:
Rhiannon McCraner said everything is good at Holly’s Lighthouse Cafe in Pacific Grove, and Chris Navarro recommended “the huevos rancheros at Rondita’s.” After fruitlessly searching Google, I realized that his wife is named Rhonda. Very funny, Chris.
Then our faithful property inspector Howard Hartman chimed in. Now, Howard knows a lot about breakfast spots (playing golf or racquet ball five mornings a week, the man needs his nourishment!).
Here are a few of his favorites:
- Wagon Wheel Coffee Shop, Carmel Valley: “The steel cut oatmeal.”
- First Awakenings, Pacific Grove: “Huge blue germ pancake with blueberry compote.” I told him I thought “blue germ” sounded a bit unsavory, and in between forwarding funny emails on his iPhone (how else would we know that rubber bands last longer when refrigerated?) he responded, “U have to try new things!”
- Best Western Hotel, Del Monte Beach, Monterey: “Best breakfast views on the Peninsula. The potato skillet with vegetables—but no cheese, please.” (Howard is vegan-ish.)
- Porter’s Grill, Poppy Hills Golf Course, Pebble Beach: “Good food and great golf course views.”
- The Breakfast Club, Seaside: “Omelet with fruit on the side.”
He said he had more, but he had to go to breakfast.
Property manager Frank Gallagher (our version of Don Draper, but without the martinis and cigarettes), seconds Howard’s vote for The Breakfast Club, adding that the coffee is good—and that his kids love the Mickey Mouse pancakes.
Visitors to the Monterey Peninsula can’t help but notice that the area is blessed with an extremely high number of fine bakeries.
In the words of one Yelper: “Okay, teeny, tiny Monterey has at LEAST four fabulous bakeries. How come in Newport Beach we have zero???”
We don’t know why, and we’re certainly not about to question our good fortune. Here are just a few of our favorites:
Parker-Lusseau Pastries • 539 Hartnell, Monterey
This weathered white adobe with a petite porch looks as if it were transported from another era… and the savories, croissants, and pastries are as delectable as any you will find in the finest Parisian patisserie.
Paris Bakery Cafe • 271 Bonifacio, Monterey
A downtown tradition, the almond croissants (especially if you’re lucky to get one warm from the oven) are to die for. But you will have a mighty difficult time stopping there when faced with an extensive display of pastries pretty enough to paint.
Pavel’s Backerei • 219 Forest Ave., Pacific Grove
Pavel’s is yummy and reasonable – check out the Texas-sized glazed donuts for only $2.50. (And oh, those apple fritters and the gigantic cinnamon rolls… and don’t get me started on the bombolinis!)
Patisserie Bechler • 1225 Forest Ave., Pacific Grove
You’ll swoon from the sugary aroma when you walk in the door. Locals rave about the quiches and the French macarons (colorful little bites of heaven in flavors like caramel sea salt and pistachio). And the adjoining cafe is a good spot for breakfast or lunch.
Pastries and Petals • Mission & 5th Ave., Carmel
Hard to find but definitely worth the search. Surrender to their scrumptious cheesecake and red velvet cupcakes, lemony treats, breakfast muffins and warm cinnamon pull-aparts… accompanied by a delicious latte or cafe mocha, of course.
Wonder who makes the best burger on the Monterey Peninsula? I asked the staff at Monterey Rentals – and they must’ve been hungry – because I was inundated with responses.
Ashley: R.G. Burgers in Monterey and Carmel has the BEST burgers.
Frank: R.G. Burgers, Monterey and Carmel!
Jo: R.G. Burgers. I like the way they taste.
Michelle: Sorry, I went to R.G.’s about a month ago and my burger was supposed to be turkey but they gave me beef that was red in the middle. I like the one in the mall way better… Islands Burger?
Frank: Sacrilegious!!! Scandalous!!! Do NOT listen to Michelle. She must have gotten Mad Cow disease at the “other” place.
Michelle: Ha, ha… probably!
Patricia: Edgar’s Restaurant at Quail Lodge: ½ pound char-grilled beef patty with hickory-smoked bacon, sharp cheddar, red onions, tomato, lettuce, and pickles on a brioche bun…. well, yum!
Rhiannon: Wow, 11 emails about burgers?
• Quail Lodge Golf Club: 8000 Valley Greens Drive, Carmel
• Islands Restaurant: 300 Del Monte Center, Monterey
• R.G. Burgers: 570 Munras Ave. #30, Monterey, and 201 Carmel Crossroads Shopping Center
Monterey Vacation Rental reservationists Ashley Magallanes and Rhonda Navarro turned me on to Sushi Heaven in Carmel. “The combinations really are heavenly,” Rhonda said.
A person would be foolish not to follow up on a recommendation like that, right?
Sometimes “hole in the wall” is a good thing, like this super cozy sushi bar tucked away on Dolores Street, two blocks east of Ocean Avenue.
Whoever wrote the menu really had some fun, and the chefs back up all the writer’s promises. Try their nigiri/sashimi/roll combos: the “Fantasia,” the “Love Boat” – or, for big eaters – the “Titanic.”
I couldn’t help ordering the “Mama’s Boy” roll – crab, green onions and nuts – because it reminded me of a boss I once had, but the sushi roll combinations go on for pages: from “Crunch” (a California Roll topped with shrimp tempura) to the alarming “911” and the intriguing “007.” Golfers might enjoy the “Whole Nine Yards” or the “Grand Slam” – while honeymooners will probably lean toward “Sensual Pleasure”… or go straight for the “Climax.”
Speaking of cozy, why stay in a hotel when you can rent a two bedroom cottage just a few blocks away? Reminiscent of times gone by, Las Ardillas is lovingly furnished in old-style Carmel with antiques and knickknacks.
Snuggle next to the stone fireplace, or share the outdoor patio with an ardilla (squirrel) or two, under Carmel’s legendary bluebell skies.
Cinco de Mayo is right around the corner, and that always puts me in the mood for Mexican food.
But then again, I’m always in the mood for Mexican food.
So I took a poll among Monterey Vacation Rental agents, because this team is all about having fun on the Monterey Peninsula – and here are the results:
Sarah Borgomini gives Michael’s Taqueria in Pacific Grove three (!!!) exclamation points. “But it’s not authentic refried beans,” she warns, “it’s more black beans and grilled blackened shrimp.” Sounds good to me.
Agent Rhiannon McCraner swears by Lopez Mexican Restaurant in Monterey because, well, “it’s “yummy.” Matt Collins recommends Jose’s and El Palomar in Monterey, while Lindsay Napoli loves La Tortuga in Seaside and Peppers in Pacific Grove.
But when agent Frank Gallagher heard the above he told me not to pay any attention. “Go to Island Taco at the Crossroads Shopping Center in Carmel for the best fish tacos,” he commanded. (A motion that was seconded by Howard Hartman, who calls their chicken rice bowls “muy bueno.”)
After dinner and drinks – or heck, even a shot or two of Patron – you might consider heading upstairs to El Mariachi on Cannery Row. Because after a few margaritas, riding a mechanical bull might suddenly seem like a great idea.