Thursday, December 01, 2016

Butterfly Wings....

I firmly believe in the "butterfly wing" aspect of chaos theory.....If a butterfly in Vietnam flaps its wings in a slightly different way, a tsunami hits Honolulu.
What is going on in your brain right now is also going on in the brains of all your friends, co-workers, family, people you bump into at Costco, Scott at the Chevron, etc.
If you live in super liberal Carmel and decide "fuck it, we're safe" and don't vote on 8 November because you are bitterly hungover from Monday Night will 250,000 other folks in Wisconsin. Hungover or not....Though....Wisconsin. Probably hungover.
It really is important to try to constantly use your decisions for good things....even when it is only slightly hard.
Get out of bed. Vote in your pajamas. There will be coffee at the polls.
This week is far and away the slowest week in local restaurant life. Post Thanksgiving....overstuffed and over socialized. Pre Christmas....Fuck, I have to buy presents for all these people I don't even like?
And...the start of the Christmas party season. I am told by a major social dynamo that this weekend is one of the two key weekends for Christmas parties. Because blah blah.
The guys on the Wharf are one is buying fish. The Farmers Market guys are could shoot a cannon through the market and not hit a single annoying Carmel lady.
The meat guys are depressed....our new driver is so stupid I actually was momentarily grateful that 55% of eligible voters did not vote on 8 November. Trump is bad enough....this guy would have voted for Pretty Colors and Hot Chicks.
Long story short.....go out to eat in a restaurant this weekend and week. Lunch. A couple of apps and a glass of wine. Brunch on Sunday.
I am not chasing ambulances here....we are busy because we are caterers on the "second best weekend" of the season....
Butterfly flaps, tsunami. Cocktails and apps in a local joint, healthy restaurants and social life the rest of the year.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Rumors of our death......

......are just rumors.  We have been open continually since before the most recent fire.  We were even open when we were inside the mandatory evacuation area.  Sunday Brunch from10am, Monday Night Dinner from 6pm.  Same phone number: 831-659-1857...with the added convenience that it is now a cellphone, and you can text us with questions or reservations.

However......we have moved from Cachagua!  We are located at 13762 Center Street in Carmel Valley Village.....Lokal Restaurant.  Same menu, same longtime staff.....closer to town for those of you who tell me that Cachagua is too far to drive.

The sad part is that our local locals now have to drive to see us.  We orginally started as a local restaurant...a place for guys without girlfriends to get a meal or two a week that did not come from a microwave.  The guys (and girls) turned out to be farmers, gardeners, hunters and fisherfolk, so they pushed our menu into the adventurous shape that it is today.

Why did we move?  "The rent is too damn high!"  We were victims of our own success and longevity at The Store.  The rent kept climbing implacably to Carmel and Carmel Valley Village levels over our thirteen plus years, and the 75 year old building was becoming increasingly senile.  Our absentee landlord did not want to participate in repairs and maintenance, adjust our rent.....or even give us a new lease next year.  Nothing to be done.

We all look forward to seeing you at Lokal!  One of the brightest spots of our move is that Chef Brendan Jones from Lokal lives on the premises and once again you have the father-son combo working the hot side of the kitchen.  As much fun as you can have with your clothes on!

Saturday, May 28, 2016

The Diet Diet....

That's a joke, see.  The Diet was/is the parliament in Rome, Japan, Germany, etc that legislated.....never mind.

Back in the day we used to work/teach a Stanford University Sophomore College class: 16 incoming sophomores for 20 days in Monterey, Cachagua, Tassajara, Big Sur, etc.  We did the cooking, so I had to send out a dietary request so I could plan the forty or so meals.  Over 17 years we came up with categories:

Omnivore: don’t care, living, dead, animal, vegetable or mineral. Yay for that!
White meat omni:  pork and chicken are fine.
Carnivore:  Meat!  Things grown in the ground….why?  Nothing green, please.
Vegetarians were divided into subgroups:
Standard Ovo-lactic: Eggs or dairy are OK.
Kurt Cobain: “It’s OK to eat fish cuz they don’t have any feeeeelings…”
Sorority: Fish are icky….and bloody stuff, too.  Chicken is great. It’s white!
Proto-vegan: No meats, no eggs, no dairy.  Butter is somehow not dairy, and honey is fine.
Straight Edge Vegan: nothing from the animal world.  Honey oppresses the bees.
And, of course religious folk….no pork, shellfish, etc.  No meat on Friday.
Real allergies: shellfish, scallops, celiac folk, etc.
Snowflakes: some combo of lactose, gluten, seed, oils, fruits, etc intolerance.  “I am allergic to mushrooms….”  (No….you just never got over learning that jock itch and porcini are both fungi).

We got fired by Stanford a few years ago….Oh, not fired.  They just went in a different direction, so we could spend more time with our families or something.

No worries…..Cal hired us immediately and we do lots of sciency retreats at Hastings Reserve….and all around the state.  Same list applies, with new gluteny wrinkles..

Today I experienced a new iteration of food weirdness while working at Lokal. (Lokal is 30 minutes closer to town, so they get lots!)

A couple wanted to know all about the vegan soup, and were tying up the waitress when we were slammed.  She asked me to go out and talk.

“What’s in the vegan soup?” Vegetables.  “Which vegetables?” Uh, stuff Brendan’s mom grows 300 meters from here in her organic garden. “Broccoli?” No. “Cauliflower?” No, we don’t use crucifers unless it is a crucifer only soup like cream of cauliflower or cream of broccoli. “So which vegetables are in the soup then?”  Uh….(trying to remember)….mirepoix, fennel, leeks, some garlic a few mushrooms at the end, a little tomato in the broth. “What is mirepoix?”  Carrots, celery and onion. We have a few different kinds of onions.  “Is there dairy?” Uh, no.  It is a vegan soup. There is not even honey, honey.

I am dismissed.

They order a pear salad (with blue cheese and the parsnips that I forgot were in the soup, too) and the crab cake.  The couple is clearly Jewish and older….but there are as many different kinds of Jews as there are vegetarians.  For instance my good friend Richard Rosenthal is the go-to guy for ribs anywhere within a hundred miles of here, with a sub-specialty in San Jose and San Leandro ribs. And bacon is the gateway meat for all vegetarians, vegans, Jews, Muslims…and Catholics on Friday..

I once had Rabbi Frankel from The City (an OG rabbi, complete with the tattoo from the camps) follow me around at a bris, yelling at me for serving the remake the host had ordered….filling the house and ceremony with bacon smoke.  “Rrr-andy, wouldn’t do that!   Rrrrandy is a good Jew and a good boy!”  Sorry, Rabbi…don’t shoot the messenger.
These folks before me were Jewish vegans.  Cheese is OK.  Crab…apparently OK, too.  God bless you.
The menu says clearly that Brendan’s crab roll is roasted in bacon fat….but butter is an option if one wants.  

 No one said a word about cooking techniques…

And they sent back the bacon roasted crab….and stomped out…. to go back to the hotel and write nasty stuff on yelp! About Lokal.

A vegan that is OK with cheese, but not butter….but won’t tell the waitress or the chef.  A Jew that is OK with crab, but not bacon…..ditto.  Even though choices are right there on the menu.   
We are supposed to know somehow....the Cloud?
My spreadsheet of dietary stuff has now spread out into three dimensions!

Did I mention that crops have failed again in Somalia......

Sunday, April 10, 2016

The Hell of regrets....

With all the flap about North Carolina and Mississippi legislatures taking a Jesus stand against LGBT folks…and completely missing the irony of the fact that they have already been serially on the wrong side of history for generations….I give props to PayPal and Bruce Springsteen and Charles Barkley for drawing a line in the sand, pulling up stakes and moving on to more rainbow pastures.

What I object to in this whole deal is the term “homophobe”.

Today we had a black guy come in and share what life is really like in the Carolinas.  As a musician he is used to moving in all kinds of circles.  In the Carolinas there are many, many restaurants and bars that he still can’t go into with his white friends.  Still.  This is not just racism... it is race hatred.  

“Homophobe” means “afraid of homosexuals or homosexuality”.  I submit to you that the folks in Mississippi and North Carolina have gone way past fear and are into full on hatred.  Not sure the Latin term for “hatred of homosexuality” is.

My dear departed brother, Rob (whose 62nd birthday we just didn’t celebrate) was gay My dad, Roger was gay, it turns out. .  Good on them.  They were originals way back before it was “OK” to be gay.  I mean, my dad was a NYC banker.  I remember the day he wore a blue striped Brooks Brothers shirt to work. He was shitting himself with worry.  Rob was the first secretary of ActUp in New York, etc.

Funny how Rob always had the hot, smart girlfriends in high school.

Anyway….based on my genetics….I have a little homophobia.  Lurking fear that….well?  

I am also kind of scared of depression, alcoholism and anger related issues that have popped up for generations in our family.

Locally we have very little actual race hatred…and a declining amount of actual LGBT hatred.  We still have homophobia.

Lots of the local general pop are afraid of homosexuality.  Unsure, worried, not understanding…..but not hateful.

I feel sorry for the Miss/Carolina folk.  I think they will live to regret their hatred and their actions.  Jesus actually always in all situations loved all his people…..and all his critters and plants, for that matter.  Anyone have a count of the gay, hermaphroditic, etc plants and critters around us?

Our local folks I worry more about.  I don’t’ see hatred.  I see fear. Still, there is a curse to come for these folks, too.  And Jesus has nothing to do with it.

When you turn your back on your beautiful, hard-working daughter…and her love choice (who is also gorgeous, genrous and hard working to a fault) when they choose to expose their love to public scrutiny by getting married….you are going to cursed.

Not by Jesus.  By your own self, and your regrets as the world passes you by, and you lose track of the best people in your life.

In twenty years, when you are sharing a room with your buddy Jim in the Heavy Equipment Operators Rest Home (for some reason, none of the available women are into you anymore) and your grandchildren are confused and scared by your attitude to their moms…..

You will be boiling in a hell of your own regrets.  I promise.

Guys….women:  don’t be afraid!  It’s OK.  These are great, great girls….and if they have a connection and want to make a life together… them. 

Heroes are made not born.  You can do it. .  

Go with hope…and faith.  Duh, love.

Jesus would approve. That’s what he did.

Tuesday, April 05, 2016

Single Payer is not the Devil......

Folks who rail against single payer health care have clearly never actually experienced it.
There are two ways of looking at single payer. As a recovering multi-generation Republican (my people go back before Abe Lincoln, so shut up) the practical aspects of Single Payer are the first things I think of.
As I go through my day-to-day life, driving, shopping here and there, selling beer and cigarettes at my Store, making sandwiches and potato salad for sale there, catering in people’s houses, carrying around my iPhone, plugging in my Fire thingy into my plasma TV, toasting myself a bagel and smearing it with butter stored in my Kenmore fridge, grabbing a quick bite at Ocean Sushi……I am covered by literally dozens of insurance policies to guarantee my health and safety….and care, even long-term.... if everything goes pear shaped.
Fridge supports a black mold because the subcontractor fucked up the gasket that seals it, or the other sub-contractor fucked up the frost-free fan….or the sub-contractor of the sub-contractor fucked up the bearings in the frost-free fan. Safeway, Valero, and Ocean Sushi have slip and fall insurance…and product liability. All of the folks who sell all of the things that are for sale at Safeway, Valero and Ocean Sushi have product liability insurance. As do all of the folks down to the seed supplier for the farmer that grew the onions that wind up in your Sarah Lee frozen dinner.
Forget dozens….I am insured by hundreds of policies every time I leave my bed….which is also insured….manufacturer, subs, etc….plus by homeowners in case the ceiling falls in. No worries, the Ingram’s who did the sheet rock work had liability insurance 35 years ago, as did Adrian the electrician from Prunedale who put in the lights, and Phillips Eindhoven with the bulbs, etc, etc.
If there is single payer….ALL of these costs go away. One guy pays if and only if someone gets hurt by something somewhere.from the giant cascade of products and services that surround us.
Car and homeowners insurance only covers negligence and malicious damage….and then only for “pain and suffering.” Good luck with that.
All of all these insurances go away……Product costs drop, service costs drop, rents drop….It is such a no-brainer that even the most economically conservative magazine in the world…The Economist from London…agrees.
All that money that was not given to lawyers and insurance companies can go to actual people, services, investment.....
Open your eyes!  Bernie is not Stalin.  

Tuesday, February 16, 2016


Journalism….actual journalism….is really boring.
Like being a cop, or a spy….it requires a ton of work 95% of it really boring.  For cops and spies it means filling out endless paperwork or sitting with cold coffee and full piss-bottles on a stakeout for hours and hours….that will mostly end in meaningless nothing.
Journalism is like that….you have to talk to multiple people, get everything right that they say, spend hours and hours on-line or in musty libraries….or bars, or on boats or in pilates courses verifying that what you are about to put into print is true.
If you give a shit that is.
I started working for newspapers when I was 14.  I was a stringer for the New Jersey Star Ledger covering sports and I had a sports column in the local Chatham Herald.  I also worked in production and delivery in Chatham.
I got paid 35 cents a column inch at both papers.  For the Ledger, I would scout basketball and football games and call in my copy from pay phones.  I had a weekly column in the Chatham paper….so I made maybe $3-4 from Chatham, and I’d get about a buck for each game I could cover for the Ledger.
Back in the day in Monterey I had a job as a food writer for a local coffee table magazine: The Pacific Monthly.  I wrote about food and food related stuff in general.  I demanded $9 an hour for my work, which made me very unpopular at the magazine…but they liked my stuff….and it worked out to be about the same pay scale as in New Jersey,
There was constant pressure from the struggling monthly for me to write nice things about advertisers.  I understood.  Money talks, bullshit walks. $.35 a column inch.
Except in critic lands.  I was trying to build a brand of actual facts…so that people could read my material, trust it, have a good experience based on that trust…and buy the magazine next month.
My $9 an hour did not include any budget for the cost of the meals I would incur.  That was on me.
After a few months, everyone knew who I was and what I was doing (along with running my own restaurant, catering company, soccer league, etc)…so it was not like Ruth Reichl from the New York Times disguised in a wig, etc. . Everyone knew me, knew what I was about, and why I was there in their place.
I would never ding a hardworking, owner-operated place….unless it was a clear and present danger to public health. 
I am still proud about having written a puff piece about two local bakers who used to deliver to me at 4am at Silver Jones….and who got together, got married, and had wonderful kids.  My article is still up on the wall at their place…..Paris Bakery.
But, I was not for sale…..If something sucked, with the owners, waiters, cooks, etc knowing that I was a food writer there to write about them…….sorry, guys.  No amount of advertising pressure from the editors would make me say nice things.  The integrity of my writing and the integrity of the magazine depended on honesty….and hard work.  I knew my shit.
Integrity in journalism!...What an idiot.
My last article for those folks was about a major advertiser.  Great new restaurant in a new space…the manager was a friend, the wife of another dear friend.  I knew many of the wait staff, and all of the dishwashers.
I went there for lunch, and my friend was obviously so coked out (this was the 80’s) that she had no clue.  I ordered a calamari steak. It arrived, beautifully browned on the properly floured, egged and panko-ed outside……..still frozen solid in the middle.
The start of my review:
“Watching the staff at The Ryan Ranch Rotisserie is like watching a monkey fuck a football.  This lunch spot’s apparent popularity is proof positive that Salinas produce brokers will crawl through broken glass to have their Tanqueray and Tonics delivered by a pretty face, no matter the devastation happening all around them.”
I got fired.  Thirty years later, though….people know that I don’t lie.
Back to “Raising The Bar In Carmel Valley”…..
If you are an actual journalist writing an actual critique of a restaurant you talk to the owners, the chef…maybe the DR manager or wine guy.  Also, you ask around: the Mission Linen guy, the fish guys you have relationships with…because you are a pro.  The meat guys, the high end produce guys….and the low end produce guys.
The top ingredients available locally are in very short supply to our 500+ restaurants.  Those of us who plan, drive, bargain and overpay all know who each other is.  Our suppliers of one thing know the suppliers of the other thing.  Our competing chefs and managers know all of this.
The neighbors also know what you are up to…..They watch your delivery trucks. Eighty footers full of frozen food?  Extra time while the driver has to go on and hunt down a COD check?  Does the guy receiving look like he has a clue….or is he a Craigslist temp?  Is the chef constantly unloading stuff from his or her own car after competing for ingredients?  What kind of vehicle is he/she driving that they are willing to get soaked in fish, blood, poop, raw milk, etc. What kind of cars are the workers drivng?
Who is the chef?  Where is he from?  Do we know him?  Where did he train?  Who is his sous?  What is his team like?  Is he getting paid….or is he a “partner”. How many chefs have been there before and for who long?
It is like baseball…..It is fun, and intensely competitive.  And, like baseball…everyone knows what is going on.
How much are the waiters making in tips?  Which wineries are they supporting…and how much are they buying.  How much linen are they using?  How big is their dumpster…and how much re-cycle do they go through, and how do they handle it?  How much empty wine and beer bottles are there, really?  Are they paying their bills?  Who is on COD, which winery is carrying them because the wine/vintage sucks and they have to move it no matter.
This info is readily available to every single worker in every restaurant in every town in town, including the girls at the pet store, the veterinarian, and the clothing outlet workers 50 feet away. Let’s not even talk about social media.
If a professional journalist can’t do better…. Yipes.
Supposedly in our modern world….money is speech, as said recently departed Judge Scalia.
 Much less recently departed Abe Lincoln said: “You can fool some of the people some of the time, and all of the people some of the time….but you can’t fool all of the people all of the time.”
Money maybe speech, but speech is not necessarily truth. Journalists are supposed to be the ones that arbitrate this fine line.
Good luck with that in the Herald….enjoy your commercial Rykoff salad dressing in your sulfite soaked lettuce at the place that is “raising the standards in Carmel Valley”.
No, really….it’s great!  It said so in the newspaper!