Wednesday, September 30, 2009

NorCal 2009, Day Three: or Yes, I Went to Monterey for Rosh Hashanah

The irony doesn’t escape me. I’d gone from the suburbs of Philadelphia to, well, the suburbs of Monterey to celebrate Rosh Hashanah. At least it seems ironic to me. Perhaps I’m just ignorant of the depth of Judaic culture in the Monterey bay area. In any event, it was pure coincidence that my trip happened to coincide with the beginning of the Jewish New Year. I’d gone for vacation, to relax, drink and eat of course, and, more importantly, to visit friends, some of whom just happen to take their high holidays pretty seriously.

While most of our day on Friday would be spent shopping and prepping for the evening’s feast, we did manage to keep the morning free to explore some of the natural beauty in the environs of Monterey. Images of the breathtaking vistas and windy roads of the California coastline tend to be conjured first when thinking of this part of the world, but there’s a different kind of beauty, perhaps even more pacific (yes, the pun’s intended), to the arid interior of the northern Central Coast. During a loping, two-hour hike that criss-crossed Fort Ord and adjoining acreage overseen by the US Bureau of Land Management, only a bobcat (far too quick for my camera yet very cool to spot), the occasional jay and scampering lizard, and a few other nature lovers shared the landscape with us.

Clockwise, from top left: California oaks more than dot the landscape, looking old and wise yet lacy and fragile, their beauty enhanced yet their health undermined by adornments of hanging moss. Recently abandoned cliff swallow nests, built under the eaves and ceiling of a decaying pagoda, part of an abandoned military picnic ground on Fort Ord. A playground of another type, built and showing the signs of regular use by the local BMX crowd. From flat and wide open to hilly and twisting, the trails here are great for both hiking and fast, relatively non-technical mountain biking.

Smart enough, at least I’d like to think so, not to shop hungry, we sated our hike-driven hunger with a lunch of fish tacos and shrimp burritos in downtown Monterey, followed by a stroll around the marina.

A classic local scene: California sea lions have made a permanent sun worshipping station of the breakwater along the Monterey pier. Less common were the swarms of jellyfish, not little guys, mind you, but big suckers, the size of basketballs and sporting waist-length dreadlocks of potential nastiness.

Lunching and tourism done for the day, we finally buckled down to the biz of preparing din-din. Dinner would start with a loaf of round challah (not raisin, all sold-out) served with honey, the shape of the loaf and sweetness of the accompaniment both symbolic of health and happiness in the new year to come. The rest of the meal would be less traditional, perhaps, but still very much in keeping with the spirit of the holiday and the observance of culinary customs.

My pals had gone off to visit Dashe Cellars after reading my interview with Michael Dashe a while back and had come back with a cache of 2008 L'Enfant Terrible, a bottle of which we happily dispatched while working in the kitchen.

As seriously as my pal Steve takes his holidays, his observance (happily) doesn’t extend to diving into the depths of Kosher wine, so we were able to put together a pretty decent little line-up to accompany the meal. In spite of my general distaste for grocery store wine shopping, I did find wine worth drinking at the local Whole Foods, including something I’d been meaning to try anyway, the Touraine Sauvignon from François Chidaine, one of the products of his recent expansion into the négociant end of the wine biz. Mind bending juice, no, but at $12 a bottle it’s a solid value and made for a nice pairing with roasted tomato and pecorino bruschetta. The star of the night, wine-wise that is, was undoubtedly the 2008 Bandol Rosé from Domaine de Terrebrune, one of the little gems I’d picked up at Kermit Lynch’s shop the day before. Firm and herbal, I’d love to check in on it a few years down the road but it was hard to say no to now. Spot on with Stevie’s orange-braised artichokes and the fillet of halibut I grilled up and topped with olive tapenade.

The evening's dead soldiers.

So, happy belated new year to those of you who observe. And stay tuned for more CA adventures to come.


TWG said...

Grocery store wine shopping is worse than the PLCB?

David McDuff said...

If grocery store wine shopping becomes a reality in PA on a more widespread basis than it already is, it will be even worse. All of the shortcomings of the state stores with an even narrower selection.

My point is more that in free states you're much more likely to get uniformly good product and staff that can back it up in an independent wine shop (not a generic liquor store, mind you) than in a super market. The attention can be focused on quality, with quantity allowed to follow naturally.

Who knows, maybe I'm just a bad capitalist... or too much of an idealist.

TWG said...

My issue with the PLCB is storage conditions, not price or selection at the retail level. The selection, even at the PLCB, seems to follow the market demand. There's no grocery stores with wine in Southern NJ, Wegman's in Cherry Hill acquired a license but hasn't been able to use it yet. Grocery stores that carry wine are convenient for travelers, but can't match a good independent for selection.

Blog Widget by LinkWithin