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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.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Seven Things That Totally Rule

1. More Sprinkles

Mochi and maraschino cherries. Butterfinger, Heath Bar, Snickers and Twix. Yogurt chips and chocolate chips, brownie bites, caramel cups and Captain Crunch. Yogurt covered pretzels, chocolate-covered espresso beans, pecans, peanuts and walnuts.

MYO Yogurt (649-FROYO) is doubling its ability to pile those ingredients and an avalanche more—including fresh fruit delivered daily (blackberries, raspberries, blueberries!) and seductive sauces (marshmellow cream, white chocolate, kiwi!)—on froyo flavors like cup cake batter, red velvet and rootbeer float. (Those are just a dozen of the topping tubes alone pictured in the background above.)

The new spot opens this Thursday, May 13, at 491 Alvarado St. in the former Baskin Robbins in Monterey; the original rocks on at 685 Cannery Row underneath Blue Fin.

This addition is a very good thing. The locally-owned joint—with the locals discount—does such a good job with their range of indulgent and sugar free/probiotic yogurts that they won Best Local Ice Cream/Frozen Yogurt Shop from Weekly readers in March. (Check out why MYO won and other winners here. For a look at our review of the Cannery Row MYO in 2009, click here.)

Top that.

2. Tasty Bargain Beer in a Coffee Shop

It's dark like coffee, and this is one of the premiere coffee joints west of the San Andreas Fault, but this is something better than even above-average joe: A Black Butte draft for just $3.

That's one of the many things to recommend East Village Coffee Lounge in downtown Monterey (373-5601). Many of these are well-established—the diverse teas, the organic wines, the tasty quiches, the patio, the cool art, the fair-trade coffee—new elements are not, like the flatbreads (including the fresh artichoke-asparagus I had, above, $4.95), with earthy-tasty spreads and a nice thickness and texture, and the draft beer deal, starting at 6pm. And since they go through kegs quickly the Black Butte's already tapped. But that's not too painful, really: Green Flash IPA's now in the spout.

3. Wild Salmon Steamer and House Baked Bread

Gary Obligacion, restaurants mastermind for Coastal Luxury Management, is opening two ambitious Monterey eateries in the coming weeks (as profiled in the May 6-12 cover story), challenged me to point out a good sit down restaurant in the downtown area. Point taken: There aren't many for a business lunch style, tablecloth undertaking. But there is my favorite breakfast lunch spot of the moment, the still semi-secret, tucked-away-on-a-side-street Wild Plum Café and Bakery (646-3190).

The fresh flower arrangements in mason jars work as a colorful metaphor for what makes the Plum so juicy: The place is fresh, colorful and thoughtful.

The ingredients are crucial, with the breads and pastries baked there and the salads, soups and sandwiches built on things like hormone free Diestel turkey roasted on site and free-range, grass fed beef.

I love the grilled four cheese (provolone, jack, cheddar and moz on house-baked foccacia), which come with a potato, pasta or house salad for $7.95; salads like the super natural, greek, sesame chicken or the house treatment (organic greens with baby tomatoes, parmesan, roasted onions and peppers and their own vinagrette) are a hit at $6.50-$9.75 for a small and $7.75-$10.75 for a big one. There are awesome omelets, whole grain waffles, BLTs, a basil burger and box lunches to go.

The place is dripping with character beyond the plate: The spot enjoys a cool (and young) staff, inventive specials crop up constantly and a quote wall filled with staff and visitor offerings ranges from irreverent to inspiring. And the "Pacific steamers" plate I had, pictured above, with smoked salmon, scallions, cream cheese, parmesan and tomato caponata, with country potatoes and toasted house bread, is a fluffy wonder. Look at those big pink chunks of wild fish.

I'll get Gary O. there soon.

4. Four-Hour Happy Hours

Hula's (655-4852) happy hour is an area record four hours, 2-6pm, Tuesday-Saturday (it's 4:30-6pm Sunday and Monday). All appetizers—like the seared ahi won ton and the coconut shrimp rolls—are $5. Drink specials including $3 pink martinis, Red Stripes and lilikoi bellinis, $5 mai tais, painkillers, mango-and-lilikoi margaritas and "Hawaii 5.0s" (and all glasses of wine just a five spot too).

Mondays there are still "Mahalo," with a chunk of the month's Monday checks going to area nonprofits, including the following lineup:

May Marine Life Studies
June My Museum
July Central Coast HIV/AIDS Services (CCHAS)
August Big Brothers, Big Sisters
September Suicide Prevention Services

5. $4.99 All-You-Can-Eat Pancakes

That normally happens at fundraisers which, bless their heart, are chef'd by people whose day job is not cooking pancakes. For their Thursday-Sunday breakfast deal, Woody's Bayview Grill (649-6800) in the American Tin Cannery in Pacific Grove has a veteran cook, HD televisions (ideally tuned to the Lakers), an ocean view, mimosas and bloody marys. Stacked lineup.

6. Almighty Winemasters Who Don't Drink a Drop

By virtue of his rarer-than-an-albino-tiger certification as a Master of Wine, Tim Hanni was already a man apart. But he's moved further into the realm of rarity by maintaining that wine should be the property of all people and palates, revamping wine lists the world over in his "progressive" style, and generally speaking fiestily and articulately on grape juice wherever he goes—despite being cold sober for well over a decade.
The Wall Street Journal recently profiled the guy. Now he's coming to town to anchor an International School fundraiser at the Intercontinental 5pm Saturday, May 15. More on the International Extravaganza here.
7. One Cent Sake

Yama Sushi in Del Monte Center (646-9262) made its name with a standing 50 percent off all rolls. (Though the drum to hit when you get there is cute—and remains that way because it's outside.) Now they pour this deal Monday through Thursday. Sake quality sargeants suggest you get sake that affordable hot (and fast).