Monterey Peninsula Food and Wine

Monterey Peninsula

The Monterey Peninsula is located on the central California coast. Monterey, Seaside, Carmel, Marina, and Pacific Grove, and Pebble Beach are all on this peninsula. It is a beautiful area with great restaurants and wineries, in addition to hiking and beautiful scenery.

We have visited many restaurants here over the last decade. Although we don’t expect to find many that stack up to those of San Francisco, we typically find fresh, well-prepared food (always with Monterey Bay Aquarium-approved sustainable seafood), nice wine selections, good service, and, often, appealing atmosphere. This trip was no exception.

Although our time on the Peninsula was short, we did manage to squeeze in two dinners, three lunches, and four wineries.

Monterey Peninsula Restaurants

Restaurant 1833(now closed) is located in a beautifully restored, and greatly expanded, beautifully furnished 1833 adobe building with a wonderful courtyard. Since we managed to overindulge in too many universally unimpressive clam chowder samples from restaurants along Cannery Row and Fisherman’s Wharf, we did 1833 a disservice by not being able to try as many of 1833’s dishes as we would have liked during our dinner. In fact, we had to pass on the entrees altogether, in favor of three appetizers (grilled octopus, a crispy, deep-fried hens egg wrapped in prosciutto and panko, and bone marrow on toasted brioche). Although we enjoyed them, with a bottle of Talbot’s Sleepy Hollow Vineyard Santa Lucia Highlands Pinot (some of which we had already bought at the vineyard), we would have liked to have given the lovely restaurant more of a chance—as with its entrees. Next time.

Edgars, at Quail Lodge in Carmel Valley, was one of the few upscale restaurants in the Valley at which we had not already eaten. Given that we had previously been to Marinus and Wickets at the Bernardus resort and the Lodge Restaurant at Carmel Valley Ranch, we chose someplace new for dinner. Although the menu was somewhat limited and appeared to be less than inspired, we fully enjoyed our food (flat iron steak, pan-seared salmon, and onion rings), appreciated the reasonable wine list and liked our server. Overall, a very pleasant meal.

C Restaurant, with its great bay views and extensive seafood selection, provided our favorite dinner of the trip (grilled swordfish and arctic char). Although service was disappointing (due largely to a table of 14 which the kitchen and our server had to accommodate), the manager, hearing of our disappointment, accommodated us nicely. While we were primarily there for the dinner, we could not help but to be intrigued by the courtyard—intrigued enough that we decided to have a drink, warming ourselves next to one of the fire pits, being seduced by the flickering lights surrounding the bay and being serenaded by the gentle waves.

Monterey Bay Aquarium Restaurant. Although the totally sustainable food was certainly passable for a lunch, it is less than we have come to expect from a Cindy Pawlycn restaurant. The manila clams (which we asked to be substituted for mussels) steamed in Thai coconut curry sauce were good—and certainly much better than the rather uninspired fish and chips (which was highly recommended by our server). But, while we were less than thrilled by the food, the setting just about made up for it. We were given a window table, in a bit of an alcove, surrounded on three sides by windows over the bay. The table came with its own set of binoculars and a wildlife identification chart that kept us occupied through much of the meal.

Café Fina. Although we seldom visit and seldom ever eat at any city’s “Fisherman’s Wharf,” we decided to make an exception on this one trip to Monterey for lunch. We, after all, decided it was the time and place to get our periodic abalone fix and since every other restaurant on the wharf had the mollusk on the menu, along with a free appetizer, we decided to break our longstanding rule. The two orders, each consisting of the steak from one small abalone, satisfied our taste for the delicacy, and Fina’s champagne butter sauce complimented it nicely. This, combined with our free fried calamari appetizers (not to speak of too many samples of starch-laden, generally artificial tasting clam chowder samples handed out all along Cannery Row and Fisherman’s Wharf) were even enough to hold us to dinner.

Rio Grill was our only real lunch disappointment of the trip. Although the pumpkin seed-crusted salmon was pretty good, the baby back ribs were undercooked and tough and the bread did not come until we requested it—twice. While we planned to drink ice tea, we have never quite developed a taste for pre-flavored teas. Although Tom managed to “suffer” through an IPA, Joyce ended up with water. Perhaps worth a try, but certainly not memorable.

Monterey Peninsula Wines

Since we had a date with an aquarium (see our post), we had to limit our Carmel Valley tastings to four wine tasting rooms–Talbot, Bernardus, Boeokenoogen and Morgan. Each offered nice selections of Chardonnays and Pinots from one of our favorite regions, Santa Lucia Highlands (or SLH), and a few more robust reds (Syrah and Petite Syrah at Talbot and Boeokenoogen and Merlot and Bordeaux blends at Bernardus). As usual, we enjoyed some of the Pinot Noirs (especially some of the single-vineyard SLHs), Morgan’s Pinot Gris and Unoaked Chardonnay and Bernadus’s 2005 Marinus Bordeaux blend and 2004 Swan’s Block Merlot.

Monterey Peninsula Nightlife

We are not exactly night people. And even when we do stay out late, we are much more likely to finish our night at a restaurant or a theater, than at a bar. But, our very pleasant drink at the C Restaurant courtyard (see above) left us looking for more.

While we only had drinks at one other nightspot, we were caught up in the fun and entertainment at a few others. These included:

  • Sly McFly’s Jazz and Blues Club, with its entertainment and number of very well-practiced dancers;
  • Cannery Row Brewing Company, (now closed) with its selection of hand-crafted beers and ales, its fun, young crowd and its outdoor lounge; and
  • Blue Fin Billiards and Nightclub, (now closed) for its atmosphere, well-spaced pool tables, and, the night we were there, exuberant Latin music and packed dancing floor.

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