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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, January 3, 2011

Taking the Leap: An Inspiring 2010

The apparently sauced knucklehead in the Jimmy Buffet t-shirt jumping off Bixby Bridge in front of an objecting CHP officer has to rank among the most striking single moments of 2010 in Monterey County.

But it's a cumulative accomplishment from our culinary community that is much more striking, if not downright inspiring.

In an atmosphere where people can't go more than several syllables without bemoaning the state of the economy, a wave of inspired new restaurants jumped into the soup.

It's impossible to measure the boost that gave all of us. We can look back at some favorites that came to be and that we covered in the Weekly and in this space, with a blog that also found its start in 2010:

Happy Girl Farms (372-GIRL) is suddenly making preservation and pickling sexy again in P.G.

Seaside Farmers Market (3-8pm Mondays in University Plaza) got fresh across town.

In Marina, Noodle Bar number two (384-6225) built upon a fun family business that occupies a tiny coffee-bar-style spot in Seaside. Just up from the little Seaside Noodle Bar, their cousin Mikey Nguyen opened Asian fusion spot Chopstix (899-2622), packing enough people in to earn itself another outpost, coming very soon across from Del Monte Center.

Element Tasting Bar and Pizza Bistro (998-7045) made a name for itself on River Road.

Not far from there, Rancho Cielo, landmark vocational educational center for troubled kids who need a new take on troubled life, added Drummond Culinary Academy with the crucial aid of a number of excellent local chefs.

Bellagio Pizzeria (643-9500), Habanero’s (375-3700) and Luxe Lounge, meanwhile, filled in where Croce's and Doc's once reigned in downtown Monterey.

Sakana Sushi (375-7375) is newly doing clever maki around the corner from there.

number two (649-FROY) is bustling just up Alvarado.

Flanagan’s Irish-American Pub (625-5500) gives Carmel's Barnyard a much-needed watering hole (and the best fries this side of Maryland), Michael’s Taqueria (754-8917) is uplifting Oldtown Salinas, and much-ballyhooed Cannery Row Brewing Company gives Cannery Row and the wider Peninsula nothing less than a game-changer.

Miss Delish (612-1884) rode farmers market acclaim to a storefront on Lighthouse. Former Duffy Hunter's Tavern owners opened up Down Under Deli (625-DELI) in Mid-Valley.

Pastries and Petals (620-1400) does ambiance, style, savory and sweet on an off-beat street in Carmel while Babaloo Cuban Cuisine provides our first real food truck with pick-up.

The homegrown Bakery Station (783-1140) transformed a dilapidated gas station into a hub of fresh-daily creations.

KT’s Sweet Lunch (214-7465) now redefines the delivered business lunch as healthy, easy and affordable.

Even in a Valley with standouts like the Wagon Wheel, new French countryside-style Toast Carmel Valley (659-8500) can make a claim to best breakfast—and lunch and dinner ain't bad either.

Elsewhere in the Valley, Tim Wood is ushering in a new era of eating at Carmel Valley Ranch's Lodge (625-9500) and beyond.

The Otters Den (883-1227) is totally repimped in Marina, huge news for the college crew.

Monterey Bay Salt Company (760-6993) got grinding with help from Pebble Beach Food & Wine connections.

Tiny Viva La Crepe (601-4847) raised the bar for French flavor on the Wharf, of all places.

The inspiration also emanates from the vital rebirths happening in time-honored spots, with The Penny Farthing Tavern (422-5652), Pajaro Street Grill (783-1285) and Fresh Cream Restaurant (250-7943) ranking near the top. Terranova Fine Wines (333-1313) also enjoyed a second coming with upgraded technology and ambiance.

We're lucky to have them. Here's to all of 'em for taking the jump.