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Let's eat.

From Big Sur's killer cliff-clinging eateries to Salinas' unparalleled produce, this blog aims to sniff out all things Monterey County can stomach, via picture and prose, curiosity and appetite, hand and mouth.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Bike for Free Food and Adventures in Crab

This Thursday, May 13, is a great day for bellies on bicycles, in part because it's the 16th Annual Monterey County Bike Week's Bike to Work/School Day. (The simple-but-beautiful motto is money: "Healthier. Greener. Cheaper. Smarter." And tough to deny.)

From 7-9am that means free breakfast—a mixed medley of fresh fruit, pastries, bagels, muffins, orange juice, coffee and tea—at a bunch of strategically placed pitstops around town:

Recreational Equipment, Inc, 8th Street and Beach Range Road, Marina
Joselyn's Bicycles, 398 E. Franklin Street, Monterey
Light and Motion, 300 Cannery Row, on the Coastal Trail, Monterey
The Haute Enchilada Café & Gallery, 7902-A Moss Landing Road, Moss Landing
CycleAware, 2000 Sunset Dr., a quarter mile before Asilomar State Beach, Pacific Grove
HSBC, 1441 Schilling Place, Salinas
Salinas Valley Memorial Healthcare System, 450 East Romie Lane, Salinas
Embassy Suites, 1441 Canyon Del Rey, Seaside

Schools are getting into it too. Bike to School food is going around at:

Aromas Elementary School, Aromas
La Mesa Elementary School, Monterey
Monterey Bay Charter School, Pacific Grove
Kammann Elementary School, McKinnon Elementary School, Frank Paul, Mission Park, New Republic, Bardin and Oasis Charter Elementary School, Salinas
Frank Ledesma Elementary School, Soledad

Meanwhile, all Thursdays mean food deals all over the county thanks to HER Helmet Thursdays, where an army of hotels, entertainment/educational venues and restaurants kick down discounts for those rolling vehicles with kickstands (or just spokes).

Just a smattering of spots: National Steinbeck Center in Salinas, the Cannery Row IMAX, MY Museum, Doris Day’s Cypress Inn, Scheid Winery, Wickets at Bernardus, Taqueria del Mar. There are literally hundreds, with restaurants very well represented.

Learn more at Bicycling Monterey.

I actually biked to Moss Landing with local artist-athlete Amanda Burkman the other day. (The distance remains a career high; the whole pastoral artichoke field feel is neat, but the two-hour-plus-round-trip trek ain't for everyone.)

We had time and ample wobbly leg motivation for a little pause, so it was into the sun-splashed, flowering patio at Haute Enchilada Café (633-5843) for us, which is only open Friday and Saturday, but packs 'em in on nice days. The crab taco was the perfect light bite. Words get in the way with this baby—fresh, spiced right by a mellow and smoky house salsa, wow. Actually worth the $6ish tag.

Besides, we knew we were in a good spot when we spied Didiere Dutertre and Colleen Manni, the (engaged) talented duo behind Bistro Moulin (333-1200). They're celebrating their third birthday next month with $3 champagne and $3 frites (with homemade aioli) for the entire month. Just ask for it (and perhaps tell them happy b-day).

More incredible crab action: Dangerous Catch Captain Johnathan Hillstrand (above left) from the F/V Time Bandit (above right)—the guy that braves graveyard-cold winds and murderous seas on Discovery Channel—will be docked Domenico's (372-3655) on Fisherman's Wharf 5-6:30pm Friday, May 14, signing copies of the portrait pictured.

A three course meal of soup or salad, Alaskan king crab or Alaskan salmon, and an individual sized baked Alaskan for dessert will honor the occasion (at $50 plus tax and tip). All dinners will include signed photo and mini meet-'n'-greet with the cap'n. Should be enough time to ask him why he's such a badass. (Overflow will go to neighboring Café Fina.)

Captain Johnathan will also sign an additional 100 photos during his Friday visit that Domenico's on the Wharf will give to its first 100 diners after 4pm Saturday, May 15.

Another crustacean encore is occuring in Carmel. It's there that Chef Christopher Caul's thoughts are drifting east. The seasonal smile on the native New Yorker's face, though, isn't going anywhere. I'll let him tell you why.

"Mid May is when [soft shell crab season] starts and we will receive them from the East Coast three times a week through the end of September," the main man at Christopher's on Lincoln (626-8000) wrote in an e-mail. "I like to bread them in panko crumbs, fry them crispy and serve them on a bed of jicama slaw that also has red and yellow peppers, carrots, red onion and baby arugula, lemon-lime and a little extra virgin olive oil. Then they are topped with a black bean and avocado salsa. Yummy!"

He continued from there (and later told me the crab's just $14.75 a la carte/as an appetizer). "We also get a few requests for more of a classic recipe, with just a little lemon caper butter," he said. "They go great with the Cima Collina SB we are serving by the glass."

In a word: Crackin'.