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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.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Oh Clementine's. You're closed. And that sucks.

They never failed me. Every time I needed something thoughtful for a friend who likes food, cooking or just life itself (read: all of them), that was a go-to spot. There were cleverly engineered pans. Fancy plates. Mustards from France. Crazy tasty oils. Knives. Spices. Bamboo cutting boards. Atypical cookbooks. Cooking classes. Creatively curated wines. So many practical things with personality, interpreted by a classy and good-humored staff that might even have a wine tasting going on while you shop. Last visit there I tracked down an imported Chianti, a jar of sun-dried tomatoes in delicious oil and a elegant little kitchen contraption that diced, scooped and chopped—all for maybe $25. No fail there.

So perhaps it's fitting that, even as their business failed, the good folks at Clementine's didn't fail to make one thing clear: They wanted to thank the good people who frequented their spot next to Highway 68 and Tarpy's for eight mostly glorious years.

"That's the most important thing: "To really thank people." says Drew Chernoy, partner of owner David Babcock (above, with Bourdeaux, a rescue from Katrina and successor to Clementine, the dog the shop was named after).

Chernoy cites "a combination of things" that won't likely surprise. Local retailers are hit hard by economic slowdowns. The spot they enjoyed was not cheap to lease. Their business isn't must-haves—"it wasn't food, housing and gasoline," he says—but instead gifts bought from discretionary funds. Now he and Babcock can concentrate fully on Babcock's recovery from a stroke in March of '09 that continues to require rehab five days a week.

Now the good news: Clementine's allies-in-arms, Brinton's (624-8541), are still around for those who can make the drive. Closer to home, Lula's Chocolates (655-8527) addicts can swing by the Ryan Ranch factory to feed their fix and Parker-Lusseau (655-3030) lovers can find their third outpost in Ryan Ranch too. And the adorable ladies like whiz-chef Dorothy McNett, Becky Waters and Mary Panziera would all boost a short staff big time.

"It was definitely David's baby," Chernoy says. "It's heart-breaking. We are gonna miss customers as much as they missed the store."