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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, November 30, 2010

Let's Get Festive: Five Notable December Events

Maybe you just wish—just once—Santa would drop a bowl of Cal Stamenov's white truffle risotto in your stocking. Or that Hanukah could be eight nights of fine añejo tequila tastings.

That may not happen, but some character rich holiday time activities will. They do make good gifts—after all, studies have shown experiences are much more rewarding than material things over time.

Here are a look at some upcoming events that caught my eye.

Thursday, Dec. 2: Intercontinental-Piper Champagne Dinner

Get in good with a great chef and you might be surprised how much he or she finds Champagne an under-appreciated power in food pairing—bubbly goes beautifully with far more than caviar and raspberries.

Tonight guests see what they mean. And with gusto, given the two parties doing the pairing, namely C Restaurant Executive Chef Jerry Regester and Piper-Heidsieck Champagne Ambassador John King. GM Sonny Petersson’s orchestrated another seductive one here.

A quick teaser: Nantucket scallop ceviche with Piper Sonoma Brut; lightly smoked arctic char with
Piper-Heidsieck Brut, NV; and thyme-roasted duck breast with Piper-Heidsieck Rosé Sauvage.
A taste of King of Cognacs in our Louis XIII Lounge follows the seriously celebratory affair. Seating goes 5:30-9:30pm, $95++, 375-4800.

Friday, Dec. 3: Aquarium Members' Holiday Dinner

The best 2010 Halloween costume of the county had to be my friend and local artist Amanda Burkman's homemade leafy sea dragon get-up. As she tires of me begging her to put it on, here comes a welcome work around: epicurean inspiration to get by the Aquarium to look at her little cousins while testing the new foodie waters astir with the arrival of fresh star "culinary partner"/food director Cindy Pawlcyn and exec chef Jeff Rogers.

The Aquarium hosts its Members' Holiday Dinner featuring Pawlcyn's farm-to-table style and Rogers' favorite food sources, with seatings at 6 and 7pm. $36/adult; $15/under 12, (866) 963-9645.

Saturday, Dec. 4: Beatles Tribute Day

Steve Jobs
ain't the only dude with the hots for the Beatles these days. Gary Ozuna's been goofy for 'em long before they reached iTunes, but he's celebrating the historic democratization of the Fab Four with a tribute day that includes a free "mop top topping"—25 all told—on ice cream orders at his Beatles and Classic Rock Museum and Memorabilia Ice Cream and Coffee Shoppe (642-9789) in P.G.

The day will feature a chance to hear alternate takes and special recordings from obscure sessions. Check out the old-school milkshake machines while you're there, maybe taste some egg nog ice cream, one of dozens of Lappert's Ice Cream flavors. 1-10pm, free admission.

Monday, Dec. 6: Lopez Restaurante Tequila Tasting Event

The family of brothers behind Lopez aren't going to win any regional awards for the ambiance at their windowless downtown Monterey destination, but their Mama Chela conjures some mean mole sauces and her kids know how to assemble a serious cavalry of nice tequilas—I think they have 100 at their bar already.

That makes this tasting a pretty good looking deal at $15 (in advance). Maestro Dobel, Donna Linda, 1800, Asombroso and Azcona Azul will roll out everything from diamond blends to expertly aged añejos, while Chela sends signature appetizers from the kitchen and the casual camaraderie that is a hallmark of the family presides. 6-10pm, $15/presale, $20/at the door, 324-4260.

(In other news, the Lopez dudes took over the former Casa Bodega just across Del Monte from Wharf Two, and are adding their tasty Mexican grub to the popular sandwich lineup. I went by the other day; more on that soon.)

Friday, Dec. 10: 14th Annual Truffle Dinner at Marinus
Bernardus revisits its seasonal sensation, the annual truffle dinner. The math on this one is easy: The world's most precious food-stuff + Cal Stamenov = sold out every year (despite the spendy sticker price), so get moving.

A 6:30pm cocktail reception with champagne and Sobieski-black truffle martinis precedes a six-course truffle tasting menu paired with wines hand plucked by Mark Jensen. (And the following Saturday there's a chocolates and desserts cooking demo and tasting 1-3pm with stud pastry guy Ben Spungin for $85 inclusive. Looks like an epic excuse to stay the night.) Friday, Dec. 10, $500++, 658-3550.