Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Manresa vs. Rio Grill vs. Gourmet Magazine

Last February Brendan and I reported for duty at The Masters of Food and Wine, as normal. The previous year we met and worked with Andoni Aduriz and a whole passel of three-star frogs.....Brendan wound up working for Andoni at Mugaritz in Spain. We had high expectations....but.....

This year the talent was thin on the ground: some random Hungarian who did dumplings; a good lobster guy from New England, but not blessed; a strange black Swedish guy from Aqavit in New York, not blessed either.

We prepped like dogs for the lobster guy in our normal corner of the kitchen. Next to us was a crew of quiet white guys: young Americans, what a change! They were working on diver scallops....which, typically of Monterey seafood.....sucked. They were flown in from Mars on the Voyager, and suffered in the translation.

All was normal, and boring. We were working on a lobster consommée for our guy, precisely chopping bits of veg. Micah was doing something grotesque with duck tongues for the Hungarian or the Swede while the kids bitched about the scallops, but continued gamely cleaning them. Then, their main guy.....David Kinch....took all the trash from cleaning the scallops: the guts, reproductive parts, etc. and went to work. He tossed the sexy parts and heaved the scallop tripe into a big bowl with a couple of pounds of kosher salt and started kneading this funky grey mass. He did this for a while, with a big smile...and talked about the place in the south of France where he got the recipe, and about working in San Sebastian (at Akelaré, as it turns out.....(we stole Akelaré's bonito/roasted tomato broth preparation after Brendan visited during his Mugaritz tour)).

The tripe were kneaded, rinsed, and kneaded again until they were clean. Then they were sautéed up in a straight-forward kind of sauce to garnish the scallops. The people never knew that the amazing part of the dish they were served was not the slice of truffle under the diver scallop on the big beautiful shell....but the scallop tripe that provided the pizzazz.....and cost all the work.

David Kinch is the chef of Manresa, right near us in Los Gatos. Our first day off, we bundled up and went to visit.

Manresa is located a block off the main drag in The Cats. The building is completely unprepossessing: it might have been a dental lab or a furniture store, and it takes a while to find. Even the Mexicans working in the restaurant across the street were vague about the location. The ladies at Williams Sonoma let us use the phone, but had no ideas either.

Amanda and I had been at a meeting with a bride in Los Altos, and made our reservation for the Geek Hour: 5:30.

So....we are in a square, concrete room at 5:30 for dinner, in a place no one in town knows about or can find. Not propitious.

Yeah, well.....fuck all y'all. The meal that followed was the best I have had in America since......uh. OK, well......Ever. It started out with red bell pepper Jucy Fruits and black olive madeleines and wound along through ten or fifteen courses that managed to walk the fine line between adventurous and weird. Throughout all, they were technically perfect, and perfectly realized. Our waiter was the backup guy to the Star Waiter: he was Avis to the Hertz, but he, too walked the thin line between familiar and formal......and I have to admit to being the Fine Dining Nightmare Customer from Hell: lots of knowlege, utterly picky, missing important neuro-transmitters and impulse control, passive-agressive, Post Traumatic Restaurant Stress Disorder....the whole hideous ball of wax. The back-up guy was perfect. He was Reggie Jackson in the '77 World Series.

We bought the wine pairing as well as the tasting menu, and the wines were the same balance of adventurous and technically tight. Saké, for instance. Our best moment was when the wine geek brought over Chesebro Rousanne and started to tell us about it........Dude, don't start. All the people that successfully edit my more outrageous posts are either Chesebros or colleagues of Chesebros.

The signature dishes among the fifteen or so: a perfectly cut soft boiled egg with maple syrup, sherry, caviar....whatever. A sweet Monterey Bay abalone. Good butter, good sea salt and a breakfast radish. Great bread......and four or five kinds.

Manresa is a thoughtful place.....Colors, flavors, ingredients, textures.....mixed and matched in ways that are sometimes disarmingly simple and other times brutally technical. Throughout it all, even the nightmare diner can discern the personality of the chef.....the same way my dad can tell the difference between conductors of a given piece of classical music. There are abalone, and there are David Kinch abalone: obsessive, brilliant, perfect.....at the same time humble, under-stated, organic (in the sense of roots-related cuisine) and technically superbly polished.

Manresa is without doubt the best food restaurant I have been to in America.....and better than all but maybe three anywhere in the world.

Then came the bill......for two, with the obligatory multi-champagne-Mikey-is-here start, plus the winetastings: $400 with tip. Five hours, fifteen courses, tour of kitchen, polite visit with chef; profound sense of relief that despite my hard work as the reserve right-fielder on the Single A farm team, Reggie Jackson still moves about the earth in at least one California kitchen, and his name is David Kinch.

Two nights later, we had an improbable Friday off. We had actually defended it so that we could all go to see Robert Earl Keene at Sunset Center: Brendan, Amanda, Conall and I. It was and 8pm show, so we did the Geek Hour thing again: 5:45 reservations.

The Rio is far and away the most successful restaurant in Carmel/Monterey....now or ever. The owner is obsessive-compulsive and grinds his staff hard....but has almost zero turnover. Many have been there for 20 years. All the super-snotty, demanding Carmel Monterey food nazis dine there regularly and are pleased as punch.

I am a loyal enough client that my portrait is painted on the wall of the bar, and upon my arrival the champagne is always already being poured. We come in late in aprons and chef coats, or early in soccer cleats and muddy bloody jerseys and no one bats an eye. When Chloe worked there she brought home smoked chicken every night for dinners at The Casa......The Rio is like our living room.

We had an actual table in the restaurant, as opposed to our normal spot in the bar. We ate actual entrées instead of vegetarian sandwiches and salads with calamari apps and the smoked chicken. The waitress talked us into their rib-eye steak, and away from a couple of different ideas we were toying with: "No....this is really great. Trust me......"

We still had some apps: the roasted garlic, the calamare, the crab cake, some salades.

The entrées arrived: grey vegetable, mound of fries, commercial grade sweaty rib-eye buried under a viscous slather of garlic mashed potatoes. It was so appalling that my appetite congealed like the flop-sweat gristle grease clinging to the spuds. The steak was maybe 12z of straight IBP feed-lot commercial shite. And thirty some-odd dollars!!

With a couple of bottles of wine, and the glasses of champagne, our bill came to $350.....plus tip, we were in Manresa territory. The next week, when I was posting the expenses for the two meals, I got just a nauseous all over again. It is the same feeling I get when I accidentally am exposed to Bill O'Reilly or Hannity: what planet are these people from? How can they not run out and get guns and shoot people for so obviously insulting their intelligence? On the one hand, we had a life-affirming experience that allowed us a glimpse into a hugely competent, creative soul....that gave us a new outlook and insight into the bounty of wonderful ingredients we have on our local restaurant palette..... a meal that was beautifully, subtlely, and competently served; on the other hand, we had a slab of random commercial shite flung on a plate as if everyone involved in the operation was ashamed of the food and their participation.


It was a further irony that the concert following this debacle was Robert Earl Keene. Robert Earl's band was utterly, perfectly tight; understated, quietly competent and diamond crystal clean. The music itself is humble, organic, from our cultural roots but heavily laced with the kind of dry humor that is seived through hard, hard work and sparkling intelligence. The perfect compliment to Manresa in my mind.

To be continued: we have to deal with this whole Gourmet Magazine thing.......

But meanwhile......There is a god: Manresa was just given two stars by Michelin in their first-ever California restaurant guide, just released.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

The Most Offensive Post Ever.....

Really. Read no further.

This is coming from the guy who mocked his son's, best friend's, best worker's, best winemaker's, and best step-child's boss as a tiny-dicked, abusive Texan fuckhead......until the above-mentioned made me delete the post.

Anyway....this is worse. Even Amanda gasped at first.......and Amanda has been both a North Hollywood fag-hag AND a Temple-Invite Mormon supplicant.

So.....if you are a bride catching up on your caterer's food blog.....tune out. If you are someone that wants to come to the Cachagua Store and partake of happiness on Mondays.....come back next week.

If you are my new African friends who are checking in to see what I wrote about you being shit-canned at the door of David Fink's new restaurant, just because you are black.......Tuesday.....I promise. It is complicated: Carmel was put on the map by people from Oakland who were also despised by the locals: Jack...uh, named for a capital city in Europe......uh, Jack Paris? Jack Berlin? Oh, no! Jack London........He of the working class background and the loose morals, and weird artistic friends......So, don't feel bad that some over-hyped, over-priced, piece of crap faux-Italian dive built on the ashes of the enduring Carmel coke-whore restaurant of all time should turn you away.......Really.

Chris Rock's mom just got shit-slammed at Cracker Barrel in South Carolina.......The first question that pops into MY mind: "Why is Chris Rock's MOM eating at a place called CRACKER BARREL?" Cantinetta, by modus ponens is the Carmel equivalent of Cracker Barrel.


I don't abide homophobes lightly. I don't want to go to far into it, but.....as a father of four, and as a four or five time failed husband....I swear to you I would be happy if any of my kids curled up in a lasting relationship with........a man, a woman, a cat, a horse, a dog......or a fucking computer. Whatever blows your dress up.

This outlook is independent of, but re-inforced by, the reality that both my dearly beloved ex-brother, Rob (gone to lung cancer), and my not so dearly beloved Dad, Roger, are/were gay. There are enough problems in life without trying to regulate sexuality.

There is this guy Rick Santorum, who is a Senator from Pennsylvania......a state (actually a Commonwealth) originally settled by folks who basically wanted to not be fucked with. Senator Santorum has recently and repeatedly equated gay sexual activity with "man on dog" and "dog on woman" (which tell you all you need to know about his attitudes towards women). And dogs......"Here, Sparky! Wanna treat?"

Santorum is also the kind of guy who insisted on bringing home the "tissue" involved in his wife's miscarriage......to pray over it with his family, you see...before burial. He also charged his home state for his kids internet home-schooling in another state....well, nevermind.

So.....on to the offensive part.

Our new intern, Sam.....a fugitive from Stanford Sophomore College......let me know tonight that his gay friends in the East are trying to equate the word "santorum" with the (here comes the offensive part): "frothy brown substance that consists of equal parts feces, semen and lube........"

By the rules of the Oxford English Dictionary.....to become part of our ever-changing language, a term of usage must be used in a publicly available medium......possibly only two or three times. Something like........say, a blog.

So.....here goes: I am a great admirer of Robert Mapplethorpe's photography. I much perfer his work with flowers, and I am eternally grateful that in his more graphic sexual images he allowed his models to wipe of the santorum from their bodies before he seized the image.

Peace. Love. Tie-dye. Have a nice day, Sen. Santorum. Love you, Rob. You, too, Pops.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Back in black.......

Sorry to be gone so long.......actual physical labor reared its ugly head. And since all the brides read the blog, I couldn't bear to spend time writing when I should be stressing about weddings! That and working 38 consecutive 16-20 hour days. But there is a catch up coming: Falling down the stairs at 13th in mid ceremony; Democrats suck, too; The Worst SoCo Class Ever (and The Last!); Rio Grill vs. Manresa; Never Hire a Wedding Consultant (That is Why You Used to Have Friends!!); Methadone: Suicide by Duh; Christians Really Suck (Who Would Jesus Stiff?); and more.

Meanwhile, my daughter (captured by Christians and spirited off to Wisconsin years ago) started middle school. New school, new kids, a locker, walking to classes......you remember. She didn't know how to use a padlock. Asked for help from some boys. Got spotted by the vice principal. Turns out this is a Homeland Security issue: other people knowing your combination could put weapons, drugs, explosives in your locker and.....and......and. Sixth Grade Terrorists! They all got called down to the office and yelled at and Jocelyn was issued a new combination.

Well, she still didn't know how to use a padlock, and was now really rattled. She got the two combinations mixed up and had to go back to the office.

Where they decided she was neurologically damaged because she couldn't remember her combination. Oh, and she had lost a homework assignment. (Proving paternity conclusively, as well as direct descendency from Grandma Pat, Brother Dylan, and Uncle Rob). No.....in Wisconsin she is brain-dead, and is scheduled for extensive tests, EEG, CAT scans, etc.

Speaking of relations, we must include Brother Conall. In HIS sixth grade year, he was quietly eating his lunch when Resident Seagull swooped down and stole his lunchbag. Conall picked up his apple and, despite never having played baseball, football or basketball, rifled a shot right into the spine of the seagull......snapping it.

The yard duty ran over, dialled 911 and a rescue attempt commenced. They rushed the bird to the SPCA and operated. Conall was detained by the Sheriff and questioned in detail: "If another child had stolen your lunch would you have broken his back, too?"

Conall was suspended and I was given the bill for the surgery. By some quirk, since he was only 11, I was able to dodge the bullet. Conall was later suspended again for wearing sexually explicit clothing to school, proving his sociopathic nature. The clothing was, of course, a Barcelona jersey given him by his host family in Barcelona. Barcelona is sponsored by Kappa, whose logo shows the silhouette of a man and woman back to back. Third or fourth largest sportswear company in the world......but too racy for Carmel.

The vice principal in the above cases is now the vice principal at Carmel High. I submit the following email exchange today.....the day of The World Can't Wait.....as a reminder that there are other things more crucial than even Iraq, gay pages, corrupt Republicans, etc. Our children for instance.....who seem to be in the hands of idiots.

Background: The Rose is 17, and has worked for us for three years.....her only job ever. She is a competitive endurance horsewoman.....She routinely runs the kitchen at major, complicated events.....with her chronological, academic, etc seniors scurrying around doing her bidding.

Hey Mike,

Guess What.....my parents are the evilest people ever!!!!!!!! I got in a huge fight with those people that call themselves my parents…over grades…I have a D- in writing class because I can’t pass this spelling and usage test with words like weather wheather whitch witch to too two…like retarded words…so it’s a pass fail thing ither u get 100 on it or 0 an I’ve taken it like 15 times and can’t pass…so my report card said D- an they freaked…the rest were A’s and B’s…but they flipped out an said I can’t work an stuff….

We were screaming and yelling at each other and ship was flying bac and forth so I grabbed a knife an I held it to my wrist in front of them an I was like “fine I’ll fuckin kill myself and u’r sory asses will fuckin have to clean up the mess” then they were like fine were sorry balh balh balh don’t do it…obviously I didn’t kill myself haha…

I went to school the next day and told my friends about our lil fight an I think they told the school next thing I know I’m in mr pallastrinis office (the REAL principle…I even got escorted to his office..as if I didn’t know where it was haha) then when I got there miss salmon was there and two school councilors and a sheriff…they were like “we heard you tried to kill yourself last night…that’s very bad balh blah blah…”

So I got escorted out of the office by a cop and left school in front of a ton of people in a cop car hahaha the back seat was so hard there was no padding an no leg room…I kinda wanted to like take a shit or piss in the car g=to make a statement but I didn’t have to go hahaha…its not like they couldn’t hose it off the seat haha the cop was an ass wipe anyways…I was giving him the 3rd degree trying to drive him crazy u know….so I was like y did u become a cop? Was it to boos your ego? Make up for your lack there of? He kinda grunted and didn’t answer…hahaha

then the cop took me to chomp and that’s when I text’d u that I couldn’t work…(they didn’t kno I had my phone cuz I asked 4 a blanket and texted u without looking from under the blanket cuz I’m that skilled haha) I stashed my cell in my pants so they wouldn’t take it haha but then u called me an blew my cover hahaha but its ok…then they took my phone (so I just got ur voicemail about catering sat today…)

But then my mom came to chomp and it was a big load of bull shit…I made her leave cuz I’m a bitch like that…I got put on a 5150 (which is a 72 hour suicide watch) and sent to St. Marries adolescent psychiatric ward in San Francisco (Last time it was Mt. Diablo in Concord) (kinda ironic how I went from Diablo which is DEVIL in Spanish to St. Marries which is like religious haha)

I got to wate at chomp 12 hours (from 3;00 after school to 3am) then I fot put in an ambulance and taken to the nutt house basically…my ambulance got lost so we got a nice lil tour around the city…
When I got there they like strip searched me…I was gonna be a bitch and make them take off my cloths but then they pulled out a huge needle to calm me down s I decided to cooperate cuz I’m terrified of needles…

My roommate was a def skitzo lesbian and wanted to like make out with me…she had hearing aids…an she was a midget…it was scarry…there was only 2 bathrooms and they were always locked…you had to ask to take a shit basically…during the day they had groups and crap they tried to make me go to…I mostly laid in my plastic bed and chucked shit at people when they came in…

After a while they were like “u can’t be in bed anymore” so they tried to take my mattress from me but they weren’t allowed to touch me so I just laid there and they dragged the mattress off the bed an on the floor and down the hall in the doorway with me still on it…It pissed them off so much when I decided to just lay there three hours and sing in forgin languages hahaha…

I went on a hunger strike,,,didn’t eat for 6 days…I told them I wouldn’t eat until I left that place to push up my discharge…haha it worked…after my shower strike they we5re glad to get rid of me…

The groups I did go to I was negative and picked fights with the doctors…when asked to drawl my fav animal I drew a horny toad and got an hour time out hahaha time out was the best…the walls were padded so it didn’t hurt when I ran in to them haha

I got my mom to bring me cloths an blinkets and my pink horse stuffed animal(with a stash of stuff in its butthole…no joke…I’m that clever haha) so she did…and I had visine stashed in the stuffed animal along with a ton of other naughty stuff…

so I snuck out of my room at night and crawled on the floor with a sheet over me…and “accidently” spilled an entire bottle of visine in the jug of lemonade the staff was drinking….5 nurses went home sick the next day an they had to get pp,l to cover…an no one knows y hahahahaha…it was sweet revenge…if only I had access to nair haha….

They wanted to keep me 30 days cuz they thought they could help me…and that I was just “angry at the world” as they put it…but I started a rebellion…I got a buncha crazy ppl together and we tried to pull the fire alarm all at once so we’d get to evacuate and have an opportunity to make a break 4 it…but the fire alarm was locked…u need a key to pull it…I got another sweet time out…

After a while no one would participate in groups cuz of me…we were all rebelling…so I got kicked out for starting it…no 30 day hold thank god…hahaha…they MADE my mom come get me…it was sweet…I taught those fuckers never to mess with me…hahaha…so now I not only got kicked out of a religious school…but a psyc ward to hahaha…

I’m alive…my mom got me last night…I got home at 1;30 am this morning…no school 4 me 2day…I don’t even think I legally have to make up most of the work I missed at school hahaha I got arrested Thursday…

I can do Monday night this week…I also have break all week but I’m going to the lake…my parents are way sorry…or maybe just scared to bitch at me…considering I’m hard core enough to get kicked out of a nutt house hahaha I learned cop cars are small and hard and ambulances are cool…(I also just got my cell bac last night…)

So I really wanna work Monday…I miss it SOOO much!!! U have NO idea!!! That is…If I’m not like replaced already… I think this is the longest email EVER… well write me bac if u get it an actually have time to read it k

~The Trouble Maker
The Rose

Michael Jones wrote:
THANK GOD!! Some day these guys will realize how smart and valuable you are.

Christ! Brendan got the same run around, with less drama. They wouldn't give him college prep classes because of his spelling....only sewing and jewelry and dance. So he quit and went to Ireland and did independent study. They begged him back to kick for the football fags his senior year, and he walked with his buddies.

I was filling in his resumé for a job at Manresa just now. He has six jobs: running our business, foreman for building a zillion dollar vineyard, foreman at another vineyard during crush, Monday Night, drilling wells, the bar in Prague and his vodka importing business……He still can’t spell.

I knew something weird was up when your mom freaked that I already knew you couldn't work from a text. April wouldn't say anything.....give her props....but we were ready to break you out.

I have experience in that. My brother got depressed in college and went to their shrink.....and they put him in lockup on a 5150 for answering the suicide question wrong. Then they pumped him full of drugs he was allergic to and completely fucked him up. Then they wouldn't let him out AMA (against medical advice) without us paying his whole bill in cash.......tens of thousands of dollars that the school would pay under student insurance otherwise.

So.......I put on two sets of clothes and a baseball hat and went to visit on visiting day. He was a zombie.....drooling even. I took him in the bathroom stall and we switched clothes.....I shoved down the hat over his face and led him right out the front door.

It took two weeks for him to come down off the drugs. He lived here for a couple years, wrote a book, and moved to New York. He became editor in chief of HarperCollins books and was making $700,000 a year when he got lung cancer and croaked.

Not bad for a crazy guy!!

Speaking of crazy people too dumb for high school…….I don't suppose we could kidnap you this weekend? We are so screwed. Twenty bucks an hour? Saturday is Conway's in Carmel, then SF for a wedding on Sunday......plus a drop off for 75 and a wake for a Carmel High kid who accidentally died of an overdose after his wife committed suicide. You can run the dropoffs and run the wedding in SF. Drop by St. Mary’s for a visit? I’ll give you lots of UC Santa Cruz and UCSF grad students to boss around and teach how to act.

Hey!! When is your eighteenth birthday?

SOOOOOOOO GLAD you are out.


Mike, Brendan, Ray and your other admirers

From The Rose:

wow crazzy ppl are awsome! i took all the pills they tried to give me and pretended to take them...put them in my cheek when they checked.....then hid them in my bra...sold and traded them with other patients haha...so the staff were like wow shes on so many drugs how can she still be walking basically haha...

but anyways i can do sat...i don't think my parents have the balls to say no anymore hahaha...what time in the morning? where am i going? what slaves do i get?

Gay Ray...my bestest buddy in the world...i'm sure that guys had sum experiences in a mental institution haha...we should compare notes for next time haha...do i get any college guys? ooo i want Amanda...shes fun...(NOT April...but don't tell her i said that...)
so just let me know the time and stuff...

The Rose