Edible Monterey Bay

Monterey Bay Reggaefest 2012

DSC_1975There are good vibes to be had at the 17th annual Monterey Bay Reggaefest this weekend. There is also a lot of food. While a lot of it is typical fairgrounds fare, we found a very special Jamaican cook named Leonie McDonald whose food is strictly vegan and very delicious. She also has music cred, as her husband, Lloyd “Bread” McDonald was a friend of Bob Marley growing up together in Jamaica, and he is in the band Wailing Souls. DSC_1978We got a combo plate with fried plantains, rice, mango, avocado, tofu, and other good things. My favorite were the black beans. I can’t remember having any this good in a long time, and I asked Leonie how she made them. She said: “They are not from the can! They are black beans that we soak, wash, and cook with garlic, onions, ginger, thyme, coconut milk, and a little bit of ginger. They’re good for you.” Look for the stand that says Strictly Vegan.

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Eating Big Sur

New Post Ranch Chef Pioneers Environmental Cuisine

278_bChef John Cox saw piles of giant kelp as he was walking down the beach at Big Sur, not far from the Post Ranch Inn’s Sierra Mar restaurant where he was just hired as executive Chef. Most of us would have just ignored it and continued walking, but he started wondering how he could use kelp in the new dishes he is developing for the spectacular cliff-top dining spot.

The otherworldly and creative result: thin-sliced Monterey Bay red abalone wrapped in kelp and smoked over driftwood, accompanied by pickled kelp stems with wild fennel.

And that’s just one of the inventive creations on Chef Cox’s exciting new 8-course Big Sur Menu.

dandelion_root_elk“Adventurous, explorative fine dining,” is the way Cox describes the changes he is making at Big Sur’s most influential restaurant. “I want Sierra Mar’s cuisine to be about the Big Sur environment, something you can’t find anywhere else—to have a sense of place or as they say in winemaking, terroir.”

This is Cox’s second stint at the Post Ranch. He worked there as chef de cuisine from 2001-2003, then became corporate executive chef at the Hotel Hana Maui and others in the Passport Resorts family. He returned to our area three years ago and has been Executive Chef at Carmel’s acclaimed Casanova restaurant and La Bicyclette restaurants since 2009.

nasturtium_soup“Coming back to the Post Ranch Inn, I am seeing it with different eyes,” he says. “I am more mature and have a more established philosophy. Now I know exactly what I want to do.”

Since beginning his new job as executive chef at Sierra Mar earlier this month, Cox has been taking some time to explore the historic 100-acre Post Ranch property.

“Post Ranch is an amazing place. There’s so much more than just the beautiful chef’s garden. I walk around the property and see all sorts of inspiration, like wild sorrel growing under the redwood trees” says Cox, an avid and experienced forager.

There are also heirloom apple trees planted by the original homesteaders and a Spanish variety of quince that he will combine with rose hips and rose petals to make Rose-Quince Membrillo.

photov4Cox, who has written and photographed articles on seafood, foraged herbs and other topics for Edible Monterey Bay, admits to being something of a geek when it comes to exotic ingredients.

“You can see from my articles that I am gung ho about researching things. For instance, I was interested in the bay laurel trees on the property and found out that Spanish settlers used to grind up the leaves and use them like pepper to season their food,” he said, adding that tender baby bay leaves have a delicate flavor and may be appearing in some of his dishes.

In addition to its cuisine, the Post Ranch Inn is known for its extraordinary “organic” architecture. Sierra Mar’s glass-walled dining room seems to float in the air over the cliffs, providing views up and down the wild Big Sur coast. Guest rooms are built of natural materials, some on stilts, some curving around old growth trees.

“The architect Mickey Muennig tried to create buildings that would complement the cliffs, that have a symbiotic relation to the landscape,” said Cox. “Like him, I want the menu at Sierra Mar to reflect what you are looking at and have a connection with that view.”

“You can go to fine restaurants in Sydney or Paris and eat the same foie gras or truffles, but none of those restaurants are going to serve you baby bay leaves,” he laughs.

biscuitsCox is getting ready for the LA Food and Wine Festival in August. One of his appearances will be at the $500 a person “Delicacy Dinner” at the Montage Hotel in Beverly Hills. While other chefs will be preparing caviar and lobster, Cox revealed that he is planning a dish using sea grapes harvested from the Big Sur coast—a delicacy indeed.

For more on Cox’s discoveries and the new dishes that he’s introducing at Sierra Mar, see his blog, “The Post Ranch Kitchen,” at http://www.postranchkitchen.blogspot.com.

For a story on Chef Cox’s new plans for Sierra Mar, visit our article, “Passing the torch at Big Sur’s Post Ranch’s Sierra Mar Restaurant.

Read moreEating Big Sur

Passing the torch at Big Sur's Post Ranch's Sierra Mar Restaurant

IMG_6415-1Post Ranch Inn’s Executive Chef Craig Von Foerster bid a teary goodbye to friends and co-workers last month at a sendoff held in the hotel’s vegetable gardens.  And then a week later, a group of local chefs held a potluck—which takes on a whole new meaning when your friends are high-end chefs—on the patio of Bernardus’ Marinus restaurant.

Von Foerster and his wife, Tamara, are returning to their midwestern roots to work a 65-acre family farm in southern Missouri and someday hope to open their own restaurant, serving only home-grown produce, meats and cheeses.

“It’s been the best 18 years of my life—and 18 years is 100 in chef years,” he joked. “But we are moving forward to something we’ve dreamed of for years.”

PAT_2191-2Von Foerster is not the kind of chef who seeks the limelight, but under his leadership the Post Ranch’s Sierra Mar restaurant received many accolades, including number 1 ranked hotel restaurant in California in Zagat Surveys. Its cliff-top location with floor to ceiling windows overlooking the rugged Big Sur coast inspires another type of reverence.

“He epitomizes the kind of chef that puts his soul into his food,” said Post Ranch Managing Partner Michael Freed. “But it’s not surprising that he is moving back to the farm. Craig loves farming.”

PAT_2136
The farm in Rogersville, Missouri—near Springfield—was once a dairy farm. So Craig and Tamara plan to raise cows, pigs and chickens in addition to growing vegetables. They’ve been spending vacations over the past seven years remodeling the century-old farmhouse and putting in a new kitchen that conserves original bead board walls and ceiling. There’s no timetable yet for opening the new restaurant.

“You know it’s every chef’s dream to have a small place of his own,” said Executive Sous Chef Matt Millea, who organized the send off.

Millea said seeing his friend and mentor go has been harder than expected. “I’ve been blubbering like a baby,” he said. “I have a reputation of being a ball-busting bastard, so this is really damaging to my image!”

278_bTaking the reins at Sierra Mar will be John Cox, Executive Chef at La Bicyclette and Casanova in Carmel. John is also a favorite contributor to Edible Monterey Bay.

He previously worked as sous chef at Post Ranch from 2000-2003 and as head chef at one of the Inn’s sister properties in Maui. “John will be a great addition to Post Ranch,” said Freed. “He is a very creative guy and in the same mold as Craig in the way he treats people.”

“Every chef has his own style, so there will be some changes, but it will be just as great,” he added.

Read morePassing the torch at Big Sur's Post Ranch's Sierra Mar Restaurant

Farm-to-Breakfast

Fennel-Molasses sausage, Harley Farms chevre, local salmon and Salty-Caramel Sticky Buns with house-made raw honey butter will be on the menu at our Pop-up breakfast with Local FATT and the Westside Farmers’ Market.

sc_eastside_fm-30We are in the thick of food event season. Warm weather, bursting produce and abundant al fresco dining options make summer and fall here on Monterey Bay prime time for special food parties. Even right here in the Edible sphere, we have mentioned countless opportunities to partake. But generally speaking, the majority of those revolve around dinner. What ever happened to breakfast?

Well, that is what Nesh Dhillon, Director of the Santa Cruz Community Farmers Markets, is wondering.

“Everybody loves breakfast, right?” he asks. He’s putting that question to the test on Saturday August 25th at 10am, when the Westside Farmer’s Market is teaming up with Kevin Koebel of Local FATT and a bevy of Westside market vendors to bring us the first of  hopefully many pop-up breakfasts. “It’s an idea I’ve had for quite a few years, wanting to do an ongoing event surrounding breakfast. Everyone does dinner, but no one does breakfast.”

So when Edible Monterey Bay approached him with the opportunity to partner in some kind of pop-up event, he thought it would be the perfect chance to put the idea into action. However, just putting together a meal for people isn’t the goal. 

“Education needs to be a counterpoint to these events, to take it to another level,” Dhillon adds, because when you really think about it, just wining and dining and enjoying our local goods is great, but what does that really achieve?

That’s where Chef Koebel comes in. His organization, Local FATT (Food Awareness Through Teaching), aims to bring together food professionals, consumers and farmers through community-based networks. He seeks to create “Full Circle Food Systems” that are educational and collaborative while promoting environmental and consumer health and sustainability. “He really inspires people to think about what they’re doing around food,” Dhillon says.

LocalFATT-DIG-AsIs-31The rest of the team contributing to this grand breakfast are the producers themselves, the majority of which participate in the Saturday morning Westside Farmers Market each week. Integral to the meal will be Roland Konicke (of Uncie Ro’s Pizza) and his new pizza oven, which will be a focal point for the space and will be used to cook much of the menu. Konicke is not only volunteering his valuable oven, but will also tend it with care throughout the event.

Produce will be provided by Live Earth Farm, Twin Girl, New Natives, Happy Boy, Route 1 and Everett Family Farms. Eggs will come from Fiesta Farms, flour from Pie Ranch, coffee from Lulu’s and cream, (for making butter!) from Clarevale Dairy.

Without giving too much away—Dhillon says there are some surprises in the mix—the menu will include incredibly tempting examples of local culinary collaboration: Salty-Caramel Sticky Buns with house-made raw honey butter, created in part by Companion Bakeshop; House Ground Fennel-Molasses Sausage with a little bit of El Salchichero’s magic behind it; pizza topped with the fennel sausage, Harley Farms chevre and wilted greens, then wood fire-baked and served with scrambled eggs. Local salmon, bacon, more eggs and seasonal fruit will also share the limelight. A breakfast not to be missed.

Where: At long tables set up especially for the event at the Saturday Westside Santa Cruz Farmers Market; diners are requested to bring their own plate and cutlery.  The market is at 2801 Mission St. at Western Drive.

When: Saturday Aug. 25 at 10am

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Carmel's Casanova lures new chefs from Santa Cruz and Monterey

Following the departure of Executive Chef John Cox to head Post Ranch Inn’s kitchen, Carmel’s beloved Casanova and La Bicyclette restaurants are reorganizing the top tiers of talent in their kitchens.

Johnny DeVivoAs executive chef, Casanova has tapped John DeVivo from TusCA restaurant in Monterey’s Hyatt Regency Hotel. DeVivo comes from a family of cooks, and ran Scaldoni, his family’s restaurant, in St. George, Utah. He also served as sous chef at the one-Michelin-star Alize at the Palms Hotel in Las Vegas.

Brad Briske

Joining him as sous chef at Casanova is Santa Cruz’s Brad Briske, who gained an ardent following among devotees of locally sourced, artisanal foods when he headed the kitchen at Main Street Garden Café in Soquel. The young chef is also known for his time as sous chef at Santa Cruz’s popular Gabriella Café, which has emphasized local and organic ingredients since opening 20 years ago.

Meantime, Casanova and La Bicyclette veteran James Anderson will stay on as chef de cuisine at Casanova, while former Casanova chef Christophe Bonywill move over to be chef de cuisine at the less formal and equally popular and European-inflected La Bicyclette.

“This gives us a chance to renew ourselves,” says owner Gaston Georis, addingthat Casanova—which is known for its romantic Mediterranean atmosphere as well as its food and wine—will continue to serve rustic French and Italian cuisine based primarily on fresh ingredients available in our area.

“John is a delightful addition to a fine mix of talent that we have at our restaurants,” he says. “He’s an energetic person, he comes from that close Italian family tradition and he has operated his own restaurant—so that’s very important for us.”

DeVivo, who starts July 16th, has been in Monterey at the Hyatt Regency since October 2010.

“I didn’t really expect to get this job,” says DeVivo. “I wrote a tasting menu formy tryout two weeks ago, but when I saw what was in the refrigerator I tore it up. There were so many incredible ingredients, like porcini mushrooms, morels and giant fresh figs—it was a chef’s dream!”

He ended up preparing, among other things: a roasted beet and fig salad; a risotto with mascarpone, lobster, porcini and black truffles; and a roast branzino with pancetta and artichoke sauce.

“It’s really exciting for me,” he says of his new gig at Casanova. “The chefs there are really talented, passionate guys, so I hope to complement their strengths and make a super power.”

Briske, who began work at Casanova on July 1, is best known for his mouth-watering charcuterie and was actually hired by John Cox before he left last month.

“John came into the Main Street Garden Bistro one quiet night last October and asked me to prepare whatever I thought was best,” recalls Briske, who evidently impressed Cox, who is an extremely creative and skilled chef himself, with his homemade artisan charcuterie and a whole fried rock cod. “After the meal we started talking and he told me he was also a chef and that I could have a job with him whenever I wanted.”

While awaiting the arrival of the new executive chef, Briske says he’s already started putting some of his signature touches on the dishes at Casanova, like making brines for the chicken and using salt rubs on grilled meats. He will also be preparing charcuterie for both Casanova and La Bicyclette.

He says a big challenge of the new position is to adapt to the huge volume of meals that Casanova serves up every day and the big staff in the kitchen. “It’s a good opportunity for me—the number of restaurants that support local foods in Santa Cruz is very small and they already have great, young chefs, so going to Carmel is a step in the right direction for me,” he says.

For now, Briske will continue to live in Santa Cruz and make the commute to Carmel, which he says gives him quiet time to dream up new dishes.

Gaston Georis and his brother Walter, both originally from Belgium, have built a highly regarded gastronomic empire over the past thirty years that includes, Casanova and La Bicyclette restaurants in Carmel, as well as the Georis Winery and Corkscrew Café in Carmel Valley. Gaston’s son Gabe Georis owns Mundaka, a popular Carmel tapas restaurant that emphasizes local and sustainable ingredients.

As an avid supporter of sustainably produced local foods, Gaston is a member of the advisory board of the new outdoor Carmel Market, which will feature the bounty of local farmers and chefs and is set to launch in September.

Read moreCarmel's Casanova lures new chefs from Santa Cruz and Monterey

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