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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.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Flavor Phenomena to Flag

Styrofoam getting whacked.

Old Fisherman's Grotto took Best Chowder in Monterey County from our readers this spring; a couple of months back the old Fisherman's Wharf institution claimed the People's Choice at Monterey Wine Festival's Chowder Cook-off. But their greatest recent victory was a decision visible this Saturday: No more little Styrofoam sample cups that will outlive all of us, often breaking down so small that marine life ingests the particles and passes the poison back up the food chain.

Not only does the chowder taste better in the metal vessels; tasters must linger closer to the tempting smells coming from the Grotto kitchen while they slurp, upping the possibility they may be drawn inside for more.

That's what I'm talking about.

Avocado becoming unstoppable.

Chopstix on Fremont (899-2622) now slangs an avocado boba smoothie ($3.75). "Does it taste like drinking guacamole?" one colleague asked.

Not so much, but it does taste authentically avo. And while I certainly like a little honey (and hot sauce) with fresh avocado/tomato/onion/tropical fruit salsa on home-fried tortillas, this drink doesn't interact with the sweet so naturally...let's say it was more interesting than tasty. The cantelope came off superior for $.50 less. Yum.

Sources tell me Bagel Bakery (various locations, including Monterey [372-5242] and Sand City [392-1581]) is also advertising avocado smoothies. And they're adding boba too.

I have glimpsed the future. It's a steady showers of green fruit and gooey tapioca balls.

Pepe acting saucy.

Carmel restauranteur Rich Pepe is doing something cool with his high school buddy Joe Pantoliano of Matrix and Sopranos fame.

As Pepe writes in an e-mail, they've been teaming up for a while.

"Joey, known as Joey Pants and an Emmy Award winning actor, was my original partner in my food ventures over 20 years ago," Pepe says. "But even back in our youth, whether it was delivering newspapers or bussing tables in the high school cafeteria, we like to say we've been in business since the 60s."

Now they're starting a new venture, a response to all the requests Pepe has gotten for sauce recipes over the years. The pair is calling it the "Newman's Own" of pasta sauces—all profits will support No Kidding Me Too, Pantoliano's foundation that brings awareness to mental illness.

Buy the sauces at the Pepe and Pants website.

Here's a recipe with one of the signature sauces.

"Legend has it that Jackie O. ordered Penne alla Vodka whenever she visited Italian restaurants in America and in Europe," the intro reads, "helping make it all the rage in fashion-conscious circles by the mid 70’s. Pepe’s version is to poach large prawns in the heated vodka sauce, then serve over penne and garnish with crispy chopped pancetta and peas creating his famous 'JFK.'"

Penne alla Vodka “Jackie O” Recipe

INGREDIENTS (serves 4-6)
- 1 jar Pèpe & Pants Vodka Sauce
- ½ cup diced pancetta
- ½ cup cooked large peas
- Small bunch of pea sprouts
- Pinch of crushed red pepper (optional)
- Parmesan or Percorino cheese for grating or shaving
- Italian parsley for garnish (chopped or pulled leaves)
- Basil infused olive oil for garnish (or high quality extra-virgin olive oil)
- 1 pound penne pasta (or other cut pasta your choice)
- one shot high quality vodka (optional)
- 1 ½ pounds large prawns (optional to create the “JFK”)

Heat a large flat bottom sauté pan over medium heat. Sauté pancetta until caramelized and crispy, stirring often. Remove pancetta and hold on side. Pre-cook peas and hold on side. Add 1 jar Pèpe & Pants Vodka Sauce and heat gently on low. If adding additional vodka, add now. Add red pepper flakes if desired. If using prawns, add now and cook gently about 3 minutes.
Cook the pasta in 4 quarts of boiling salted water, approximately 8-10 minutes until firm but not overcooked. Drain lightly and add cooked pasta to sauce pan. Add one half of the crispy pancetta and peas and toss together, coating evenly.

Place pasta on a large serving platter or individual plates and top with remaining crispy pancetta and peas. Sprinkle on pea sprouts (if you can find them) or parsley, drizzle with basil-infused olive oil and add grated or shaved cheese.

And, by adding prawns and red pepper, you get the "JFK."