Saturday, July 20, 2013

Cuisineist Editors on the road with Iconic Restaurants in Monterey and Carmel California .

 After arriving in the Monterey Area, we had the opportunity to enjoy dinner at several of the local restaurants that are considered to be legends amongst travelers and locals alike.  Fandango and the Sardine Factory have stood the test of economic times and continue to bring enjoyment to generations of restaurant goers.
Fandango , Pacific Grove 
Our first stop along our culinary memory lane is Fandango located in Pacific Grove California.  Fandango has been going strong since the 1980’s and is it a story of” Two Guys who wanted to Own a Restaurant’, Alan  F. Shugart  and Pierre Bain. We do want to mention that their book “Fandago” is available at their restaurant and through their website.   Alan F.Shugart spent years in the Tech business and is known for his company Seagate Technologies  while his partner Pierre Bain hails from generations of hoteliers and cooks  since the 1700’s.

Pierre grew up in the hospitality business at his family’s Hotel Bain in Comps-sur-Artuby in France and then went on to prestigious positions in the restaurant industry, including his well known residence at Club X1X.  The two working together with the love, help and support of their families and a skilled and dedicated staff have been instrumental in creating and sustaining a restaurant that has stood the test of time, economic downturns, and other problems that often beset the hospitality industry.  We were fortunate enough to be able to enjoy a lovely meal in this local favorite’s eatery.
Fandango began as a residence and was converted into the restaurant in 1982, and has been opened since 1983 and was acquired by Shugart and Bain in 1986. The Fandango refers to a “lively dance, a little rambunctious.”  Fandango is a place that is alive with colorful flowers, décor, and lovely food.  However, we did not see any rambunctiousness the night we visited; in fact we had a very relaxed and enjoyable meal at this local legend.
We walked through the doors of this large rustic French Basque cottage decorated in warm yellows, with accents of contrasting blues, and oranges.  Yellow sunflowers and other country faire décor accented the walls, exuding a warm and inviting welcome. We were escorted to a small table that was positioned next to the fireplace that was ablaze on this cold and foggy evening.
Sand Dabs with a brown butter sauce.
Sand Dabs with a brown butter sauce.
We were ready to be warmed not only by the hearth by also by the food that has satisfied many locals and travelers alike for several generations.  We ordered several local dishes, the first one being the locally caught Sand Dabs with a brown butter sauce.
The fresh fish was delicate, flakey, kissed with the brown butter sauce and a true tribute to the Fresh local seafood that is available and served in many of the best restaurants in the area.  Our next entrée was a special for evening, Fresh Salmon with pasta and a decadent cream sauce to accent yet another perfect dish.    While we were in the area, the local Salmon was being harvested and this dish highlighted the amazingly fresh fare that is available right from the waters of the Monterey Bay.
Fresh Salmon with pasta and a decadent cream sauce
Fresh Salmon with pasta and a decadent cream sauce
The homemade pasta was brimming with lovely pink-hued Salmon that not only melted in your mouth but was another meal that spoke volumes of the goodness that only fresh Sustainable seafood can bring to a diners palate.  We paired each dish with a 2009 Chenin Blanc from local Carmel- Valley Heller Estates that complimented our dish with hints of tropical fruits, and a creamy finish.
Our satisfied taste buds rejoiced in the fact that not only does this restaurant bring the goodness of local fare to its guests; it has stood the test of time in quality, care and ambience that keeps locals and tourist coming again year after year.  Our wish is for continued success for generations to come.
While visiting the area make sure to plan a dinner at this local legend.
The Sardine Factory, Monterey’s  Cannery Row
Just the name brings visions of dignitaries, presidents, politicians, movie stars and even the couple that is celebrating a birthday or anniversary.  Sardine Factory is another historic local’s restaurant that has continued to charm and woo restaurant goers for generations.  This restaurant Bastian that has endured the test of time is truly the the love-child of two friends that had a dream but had to save and borrow a few “dimes” to get it up and running in 1968.
Bert Cutino and Ted  Balestreri, two friends that rolled the dice on a property that once housed a cafeteria for sardine canning workers and came up winning over the house odds.  The famous Cannery row is one that fills the books of famed writer and once local John Steinbeck.  Steinbeck relayed the lives of the common person that lived and worked in the area, and if he were still here with us, he may have written a story of the cosmic rise of Cutino
and Balestreri ‘s Sardine Factory into restaurant history.
The culture and history of the Monterey area in the early 1900’s was booming but with time and overfishing, the Cannery went bust.  As the Sardine businesses dried up along the famed Cannery Row, buildings were left behind as a decaying reminder of what was.  Fast forward to future, where Monterey California is the one of the busiest tourist destinations in the country with world class hotels, an array of award winning restaurants,  and numerous attractions including the famous Monterey Bay Aquarium.  What put this location on the map? There may be several reasons, but the advent of the Sardine Factory was indeed the catalyst for transformation in the restaurant industry on the Peninsula.
Cuisineist Editor-In-Chief Elaine Harris
Cuisineist Editor-In-Chief Elaine Harris

Perhaps the quote from Mr. Balestreri sums up the “how” of their success, “We want your experience to be nothing like what you experience at home.  We want it be so special that you will never forget it.” With humble beginnings and a great penchant for superb service, first class wines and food, and the best staff on the Central Coast, Balestreri and Cutino have created a restaurant icon that has with stood the rough seas of change.
As we climbed the brick staircase under the famous Sardine Factory red awning, we knew that we were going to share an extravagant meal at an Iconic Grand Dame of restaurant history.   As we meandered through the dark wood and historic photo lined walls of Steinbeck Room and through the elegant Captains Room we made our way to the famed “Conservatory” with the round domed windows, verdant foliage and the graceful Venus-like statue adorning the middle of this light and airy setting that has created countless magical meal memories that have shaped dining history.  The Sardine Factory engages the diner with true ambiance and caring that only their Well-trained staff can give.
Sardine Factory Atrium
Sardine Factory Atrium
Again and again, the staff continues to hone their skills of top-notch customer service, and it is reflected in a past that as Balestreri states, “Every customer who walks through the door has to be treated like he or she is the most important person on the earth.”   As we engaged with our Waite staff we indeed were treated with caring respect and attention to detail.
Sardine Factory has been lauded as having one of the best wine-cellars on the Central Coast, perhaps the country, and when our Sommelier handed us a wine-list that reveled a Bible, we knew we were in for a wine pairing experience par-excellence.
  Local Heirloom tomatoes mozzarella salad
Local Heirloom tomatoes mozzarella salad
Having the history it does, we decided to indulge and stay awhile and feel the legend come to life. And that we did!  Local Heirloom tomatoes and mozzarella salad was just what we needed to get our palates prepared for going back in culinary time.
Moving the dinner along, we searched the large menu for some classics.  You can’t get much more classic than Oysters Rockefeller. This dish stirred up memories and taste buds from its inception in 1840 created at the New Orleans restaurant Antoine's.

Fresh Oysters literally right out of the bay with the one and only sauce consisting of parsley, pureed and strained celery, scallions, olive oil, and capers was the only way to start off this parade of dishes for the evening.
Oysters Rockefeller
Oysters Rockefeller

Keeping our experience true to the classics, Escargot was delivered by our very impressive, well dressed server with real elegance.  The Escargot, buried in freshly baked French bread, dripping in garlic sauce a topped with a rich cream sauce was a tasty delight and the first time we have seen Escargot prepared in this way.  
Escargot en Toscani
Escargot en Toscani

You really can’t enjoy a dinner where, Presidents, film stars and dignitaries have dined without a nice wine.  The Sardine Factory has one of the largest wine lists we have seen. It is so big it could be mistaken for a phone book with a leather binder.  The region is known to produce some very lovely wines so we stayed “local” and asked our Sommelier for Longoria Pinot Noir 2007 Fe Ciega Vineyard Pinot Noir.

The adventure continued with multiple house specialties starting with Abalone cream bisque followed in quick succession by a juicy Petite Filet.  Very, Very classic , perfectly cooked Petite Filet topped with cream sauce  , fresh mushrooms, potatoes  and crispy onion rings .
Petite Filet topped with cream sauce  , fresh mushrooms, potatoes  and crispy onion rings .
Petite Filet topped with cream sauce , fresh mushrooms, potatoes and crispy onion rings .
The Sea has always been a part of Cannery Row and This world renowned restaurant, tonight would be no different.  The “king “in a shell arrived in full glory, and rightfully so, it was simply impressive and quite large, all 1 ½ pounds of it.  Having enjoyed lobster many times in the past, This 1 ½ beauty served with asparagus spears, creamy mashed potatoes brimming with lots of rich butter was as classic and decadent as it gets.
Once again we dove into the wine list and came up with Beckmen Vineyards Purisma Mountain Vineyards 2007 Grenache to finish off our evening with a dessert of vanilla ice-cream, warm homemade brownie topped with cream.

 The Sardine Factory has been called one of the “Great Restaurants of The World”. After experiencing the ambiance, service and cuisine we could not agree more.  From the intermezzo palate cleanser carved Ice swan and house made sorbet to the last sip and bite, The Sardine Factory was exceptional in every way.  And yes they do have Sardines!
1 1/2 pound Lobster with asparagus spears, creamy mashed potatoes rich butter

1 1/2 pound Lobster with asparagus spears, creamy mashed potatoes rich butter

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