California is a Magical Land Pt. 2

    Day 2 in Monterey I awoke to the smell of bacon!  That’s my favorite way to wake up.Good morning Martine Inn!  We headed downstairs for breakfast in the dining room that overlooked the Monterey Bay. And guess what was on the menu?  Artichokes!  Yay!  Poached eggs on an english muffin topped with an artichoke cream sauce.  I realized that artichokes are like bacon for me.  I can eat them morning, noon and night.  Yum!
    And there was this warm apricot cobbler like dish. Love the silver, china and crystal!
    The Martine conveniently sold tickets to the aquarium and charged it to our room.  (I love this place!)  We decided to walk there.  Here’s what we saw.Seals!  Aren’t they just precious?!  The Stanford University Marine Station has the beach fenced off for these guys.  They’re cute, but they smell.  I’m glad we kept our distance.
    On to the Monterey Aquarium!  The place was packed.
    My favorite exhibit…. the jellies!After 2.5 hours we successfully toured each exhibit and felt that we got our $30 per ticket worth of the aquarium.  It was time to nourish our bodies.  It was time to head down Cannery Row.

    Normally, having lunch in such a tourist trap goes against everything I believe in when it comes to dining.  It’s rare to find a good one in the midst of tee-shirt shops and candy stores.  But I was trying this new thing called “going with the flow” and I knew my husband would be seriously irritated if I made him walk all the way back to the B&B, get in the car and drive to the place I really wanted to go.  He was starving, so I sucked it up, but not without my limits.  I refused to step foot into Bubba Gump Shrimp Co. and there was no way I was going to eat in a place called Louie Linguine’s.  After about 20 minutes of walking around Cannery Row, looking for a decent place to eat, we came to Paradiso Trattoria were a gentleman was passing out coupons for free calamari with the purchase of an entrée.  Grrrrrrrrr……. places that pass out free shit are desperate.  I wanted to run, but I kept my cool, for my husband’s sake.  We were seated at a table with a bay view that was yes, gorgeous.  

    I ordered a cocktail, trying to numb the pain of course, and to not be such a bitch.  It didn’t work.  My husband noticed right away that I wanted to run.  He said I was “being a snob” and that he could tell I wanted to leave.  I lied.  “No! I’m fine, I’m just hungry, this place is fine, just fine.”  So we ordered and no, I wanted nothing to do with the free calamari in exchange for ordering an entrée.  I got the lunch special, rockfish.  And shockingly…….. It was pretty good!

    It was lightly battered and pan-fried, with just the right amount of crisp, and extremely buttery.  It was definitely fresh.  And who doesn’t love capers?!  I’ll say it, the fish was delicious.  The green beans were good too, crisp, light and fresh.  (The side of spaghetti can kiss my ass, like noodles in catsup for crying out loud.  Why even bother?)  

    My husband ordered the seafood ciopinno.  That too!  Delicious!  I was stunned!

    I figured we better quit while we were ahead, so there was no dessert, although I had my eye on the chocolate mousse.  Our room at the Martine Inn was calling us through its screenless/bugless windows.  It was nap time.

    We decided to hit the happy hour at the Inn for a snack and some wine before we went to our restaurant pic of the night in Pacific Grove.   It was nice, but we were late, so I missed out on the spanikopita!  I love spanikopita!  We enjoyed a few drinks and watched a pair of otters play in the bay, then jumped in the car for the 1 mile drive to  Passionfish.Photo Credit

    Holy crap! Holy Crap! Holy Crap!  I cannot say enough about this place.  Superb!  I chose Passionfish because of the great reviews on Trip Advisor (please ignore Lotto1’s review, this guy is just an asshole who lacks common courtesy).  This is the place I was talking about in Pt. 1 that is not listed on Open Table.  Trip Advisor people, use it, it’s freaking great.  Anywho… I LOVED this restaurant.  The decor is simple and clean yet welcoming.  The service was good and friendlier than normal (hence Lotto1’s rant).  Passionfish is known for their wine list and their very knowledgeable sommelier.  The list intimidated me, there wasn’t a single wine I had even heard of, so I went for a by-the-glass white that our server suggested based on my taste.  (Delish!)  Here, I decided to give Dungeness crab another shot, so we ordered the crab cake appetizer.  It was pretty, and probably fabulous for those who love the Dungeness (scroll all the way down and you’ll see a picture of it.) Sorry!  Still not a fan.  I can’t even describe what I don’t like about it.  The crab on the East is sweeter, I guess, not as pungent.  I don’t know….  But then, I ordered the Duck Confit (honey reduction/smoked chili-potato cake/braised fennel).  “Excellent choice” our server said.  And when I was served, the Dungeness faded from my mind and culinary ecstasy pulsed through my body.  When I went to pierce the meat with my fork, it gracefully fell off the bone.  It was exquisite.  The honey reduction was a perfect complement to the meat.  I could have done without the fennel, but the potato cake was awesome.   My husband chose the Asian inspired grilled Mahi (ginger vinaigrette/wasabi relish/baby bok choy/green onion rice).  Gorgeous.  Just beautiful.  Dessert (only $6!!!) was the Banana Bread Pudding with a Chocolate Whiskey Sauce and was truly decadent.  Passionfish.  I love you.

    Again, sorry for no pictures!  It’s completely ridiculous that I have a food blog with no pictures of the food I ate.  That night,  we had every intention of visiting the Scheid Vineyards Wine Lounge on Cannery Row.  It looked so hip and chic when we walked past it earlier in the day and the huge fireplace was so inviting!  But the Banana Bread Pudding was over the top and put us right back into a food coma, sending us back to the Inn for another evening of peaceful sleep with the windows wide open.  Ahhhhhh……. I did not want to leave Monterey.

    Day 3 was sad.

    Here I am at the Red House Cafe, the place I wanted to go for lunch on Day 2, but instead, taking one for the team my husband and eating at the Trattoria.  We were in a hurry and did not have time to enjoy our last meal here at this darling little cafe.  But we did go in and took our food to go!  It was not a good idea.  The service again was so weird!  They’re so cold!  They were all women, running around like they were in the weeds with 4 or 5 tables.  And loud, they were so loud!  We could hear everything going on in that kitchen.  When I managed a restaurant, it used to drive me INSANE when I was in the dining room and could hear employees in the kitchen.  I was the volume nazi.  Keep it down!  Customers don’t want to hear your crap!  They want to eat and feel that this establishment has it all under control.  Good grief.  To Red House’s credit, the place is adorable.  It’s very shabby chic and its menu emulates its style.  I had the grilled cheese which was good, but I scarfed it down in the car and I was a little too late.  It was no longer warm 😦  I hate Day 3 in Monterey. 

    In conclusion:  California is indeed a Magical Land.  The service is strange, yes, but I think the food makes up for it.  Monterey is so beautiful, even if it was overcast 90% of our visit.

    My suggestions for visiting Monterey: 1) Stay in a B & B on the bay.  It’s the best bang for your buck.  Waterfront hotels are pricier and they don’t have a happy hour.   2) Cannery Row is okay and you should take a stroll, but don’t spend all of your time there.  I couldn’t find any great shops, the American Tin Outlets is a joke, and the restaurants, well, you know how I feel about those.  Eat there if it’s for convenience sake.  There is a wine tasting room that would have been fun, but we didn’t find the time.  3)  Definitely visit the Aquarium.  You can’t go to Monterey without seeing this place.  4)  Check out Pacific Grove!  The downtown is totally cute and there are lots of great dining and shopping options. I wish we had spent more time there for hiking nature trails, hitting a beach and the butterfly sanctuary.   5)  Use Trip Advisor and go to Passionfish.   6) If you’re coming from the east, eat as many artichoke dishes as you can find.  Yay artichokes!


2 thoughts on “California is a Magical Land Pt. 2

  1. Not a fan of Dungeness either. It always tastes a little dirty to me. I don’t know how else to say it.

    And “culinary ecstasy pulsed through my body” may be the best food line ever.

  2. Too funny! Just this morning I was going to post on your FB ..”Where’s part 2 ?”…Funny in Cannery Row Tony calling you a snob & you say ” No it’s fine, just fine” You know he knew you were lying!! And the pic of his dish…Him with fork in hand!! Can hear him..”just take the fucking pic Jenn, I’m hungry”…LOL
    Love the pouty face too!!!
    Looks like you found some good weird food!! Ha!
    We have plans on visting there since we are so close……
    Good job Jenn!

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