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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, November 22, 2010

New Aquarium Exec Chef Is In

It was a day little girls dream of. Everything was perfect.

Only it didn't start that way. Rain came. Right at ceremony time. For an outdoor wedding.

But the bride's brief trembling was soothed enough to proceed. Umbrellas were assembled and trees lent shelter. A gathering came closer.

The adorable family dog and the tiny niece somehow made it down the aisle successfully. The first-time officiant spoke without stumbling more than once or twice—of themes big and small, laughter and love, family and friendship, rings on fingers and coffee in bed.

A collective breath was taken, and hearts thumped in unison at all the right moments. And even the clouds eventually parted long enough to let the dream day come completely in.

Then more magic: The food was transfixing. The dance floor might've done the food one better—I've never seen anything like that cross-generational freak out—but it couldn't have happened without fuel from one of the most pitch perfect wedding meals I've seen assembled al fresco, rain or no.

Jeff Rogers (above center) helmed the dinner as a special favor to his colleague and friend Courtney Porras, who worked with him at Quail Lodge.

It's good to have friends like "Chef," as Porras (now Ferrante) calls him: roast free-range rosemary chicken that tasted like he was mastering one grilled piece of chicken for the governor instead of scores for all of us. Tender grilled prime beef. Swank heirlooms in a killer, classic caprese. Blue Lake green beans with Marcona almonds. Yukon Gold potatoes roasted just crispy. Quince with spicy toasted pumpkin seeds. It was all served family style by lazy susan, chased by Layers cakes, mini milkshakes and Italian cookies.

As it so happens, that meal made Rogers' credentials that much fresher in my head when the announcement came last week that he's the new executive chef at Monterey Bay Aquarium.

New MBA supreme culinary commander Cindy Pawlcyn (Mustards Grill) will oversee menus and the various operations under the Aquarium umbrella—from myriad special events to representation at festivals to the Portola Restaurant approach—but Rogers will be our local play caller, applying the same knack for farm-fresh tastes that made his name at Quail Lodge and Highlands Inn.

The guy sources as well as he seasons. Looks like a great choice from here.

And congrats to Courtney and Vince.