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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, October 26, 2010

Running the Game: Notes From the Wild Game Barbecue

As field scouts go, it's tough to top this dynamic duo, Weekly enviro reporter-Assistant Editor Kera Abraham and photographer-chef Hanif Panni. They've got more than an expansive appetite for good grub going on—they know how to document the deliciousness for the rest of us with aplomb. For the Wild Game Barbecue yesterday, they jotted notes and took pictures, respectively:

A gentle rain didn't intimidate the hardy fishermen, hunters and other supporters of the Carmel River Steelhead Association, who turned out in force for the Wild Game Barbecue on Sunday, Oct. 24, at the Carmel Valley Trail & Saddle Club. The crowd of 200 packed the family-style picnic tables in the dining hall and spilled onto tarp-sheltered tables outside, where the air smelled fresh and earthy in the drizzle.

Among our personal best in show: 1. "Cowboy-style" sea bass, cooked tender and smothered in a smoky, peppery barbecue sauce, by chef Horace Mercurio of Coffee Mia Brew Bar in Marina. Just as good was Mercurio's white sea bass with pesto sauce, lemony and basily in just the right proportions.

2. Wild boar bourgignon, by Bruce Brown of Otter Bay Restaurant & Catering. I'm guessing that it took hours of slow-cooking to tenderized the swine that in some other dishes was gristly and tough.

3. Hungarian Hunter's venison stew, by Roberta Campbell Brown of Two Chefs Catering. The deer was in its natural habitat in a thick brown sauce evocative of the valley floor in autumn: multi-layered and rich.

4. Oak-grilled Sicilian-style albacore, by Rose Di Girolamo of Carmel Valley Fish House. Not much needed to dress up this fresh-caught tuna: just a smoky, oaky essence wrapped protectively as a poncho around the flavorful white meat. Every half-hour the rubber-booted CRSA volunteers picked a lucky raffle winner, who got to select a prize from a table full of trinkets.

Meanwhile, Barry Brandt hawked the higher-stakes items in the silent auction, from a gorgeous pair of Big Sur jade earrings to a burly camp-kitchen set. And wine, lots of it, to keep the outdoorsfolk toasty.

Rival bidder Bob Perkins gracefully let us prevail on a set of vintage bottles from Roy Thomas' Monterey Peninsula Winery, dating back to 1974, 1975 and 1976.

A careful corking will reveal whether they're liquid gold or vinegar, but the local history—Thomas' own daughter tells us her 5-year-old feet were among the stompers back in those Carmel Valley flower-child days—makes them precious enough already.

All told, the event raised as much as $6,000 for CRSA's good work on behalf of the valley's most imperiled native fish: rescuing steelhead trapped in dried-up stretches of the river, building a new fish ladder and trap at Los Padres Dam, breeding captive steelhead to replenish the threatened gene pool, helping supplement the water in the Carmel River Lagoon and working to re-establish woody debris in the lower river.
Now we'll just have to wait for Cal Am to comply with state orders to stop sucking the Carmel River dry.