Archive for the ‘Food Reviews’ Category

*The following reviews were originally published in the Monterey County Weekly Best Of 2010 Awards issue in March, 2011.

Best Deli Sandwich

Compagno’s Market and Deli

2000 Prescott Ave., Monterey


Ten-hut! Listen up, you seaweed-sucking cuisinartistas: This is actionable intel! The people have spoken, and that means that only one deli can lead this ragtag outfit. Compagno’s Market and Deli, a dietary (term used very loosely in this case) staple of the adjacently interned armed forces and sandwich-loving locals, in large part due to the large parts that make up these tank-sized monster-pieces. A full-sized Marine Special (chicken breast, bacon, Caesar dressing, pepper jack cheese and a full arsenal of produce and condiments, on huge rolls) will stuff you goofy for two, maybe three meals. And that doesn’t include the mandatory explorations into the rarely seen regional chips (like Herr’s Heinz Catsup – usually seen only on the Eastern Seaboard) or rare sodas (Cheerwine – Carolina treat) and beers that effervescent, funny and friendly owner Bennett Compagno stocks to please his globe-hopping clientele.

Best Neighborhood Bar

English Ales

223 Reindollar Ave., Marina

883-3000 www.englishalesbrewery.com

English Ales, the unassuming, beloved brewpub tucked into the rolling dunes of Marina’s business district, once again takes home honors as Best Neighborhood Bar – a fact that ought to make the tightknit regulars there fairly pickled with justified pride. This is a true pub, with comfortable atmosphere, a ceiling covered in hundreds of personalized, numbered mugs, a welcoming bar, great service, a totally underrated, delicious and hearty menu of British grub and always interesting local beer-lovers on hand to entertain. Hard liquor is not an option, which never seems to matter with upwards of 10 hand-crafted brews to study.

Best Bar for Darts

Bulldog British Pub

611 Lighthouse Ave., Monterey


For years now, Central Coast dart buffs have flocked to the Bulldog for sharply played matches, and little wonder why. The pub has fostered a passionate community of cricket-chuckers by providing a bloody charming atmosphere (not to mention imbibement) and by hosting semi-monthly, 2-on-2 tournaments that have been dominated by a small, cagey band of legends. But most times the stately board is open to seasoned hustlers and gapers alike on a drop-in basis. A well-peppered American Dart Company board awaits your steady (or not) hand, and fronts a wall chock-full of bulldog-themed paraphernalia from around the globe. The “oche,” or official throwing line, is well-marked on the ornately woven carpet by the copious beers – and tears – spilled there during many a spirited game.

Best Restaurant – Marina

Kula Ranch Island Steakhouse

3295 Dunes Road, Marina (at Sanctuary Resort)

883-9479, www.kula-ranch.com

Consisting of equal parts all-American steakhouse, tropical Tiki lounge and destination sushi bar – a veritable mirror of mellow Marina – Kula Ranch is a culturally and geographically diverse chutney of presentation styles, flavors and olfactory senses. Kula’s burgeoning culinary rep – and this award, likely – comes from its consistently fresh and classily prepared array of steaks and seafood, and a boost from a loyal Otter following. Taco Tuesdays has become a staple of the CSUMB student lifestyle, with hundreds of starving students descending en masse to chow cheaply and live a little in the spacious, niftily adorned house of flavor.

Best Chinese

Tommy’s Wok

Mission between Ocean and Seventh, Carmel

624-8518, www.restauranteur.com/tommyswok/

When you are a small, rather stashed-away restaurant, your food simply has to be outrageously good to win this award, given the competition. Tommy’s, tucked away in one of those classic Carmel nooks – behind a house of fancy skivvies, and all of 600 square feet, with maybe 20 tables – does just that. Tommy’s Wok creates a stir week in and week out with savory, silky wonton soup, oh-my-God-these-are-good broccoli prawns and a full menu of similarly killer fare across the spectrum of Mandarin, Szechuan and Hunan. It’s not unusual to get a freshly made, hot meal in just five minutes. And not overlooked in locals’ vote making: the super-affordable lunch menu, which offers huge plates for generally under $20 for two, with soda and tea.

Best Local Beer/Brewery

English Ales

223 Reindollar Ave., Marina

883-3000, www.englishalesbrewery.com

When your thirst for a real beer in a real pub in a real town overwhelms, head to resurgent Marina and one of its real gems. English Ales serves up nine English-style ales, from the popular, hopped-up Fat Lip Amber, to a bitter and crisp Corkscrew Ale, plus other tastes from all across the brewing spectrum, with wheats, IPAs, lagers, pales and porters. Have a mug there, or take home a growler for later fresh from the taps, or procure yourself a nifty sixer at a local liqueur store. When in doubt, do yourself a favor and try a majestic, marble-smooth Monk Brown Ale. Mmm. Thirsty…

Best Hardware Store (tie)

Pacific Grove Ace Hardware

229 Forest Ave., Pacific Grove

646-9144, www.acehardware.com

Coast Ace Hardware

1136 Forest Ave., Pacific Grove

372-3284, www.acehardware.com

Not to throw the proverbial wrench into anyone’s sense of plurality in naming a clamp champ, but two separate, independently owned Aces share this crown molding. Pacific Grove Ace Hardware and Coast Ace Hardware, each on the opposite ends of Forest Avenue in Pacific Grove, are jam-packed with tools, materials and a billion doo-dads and whatchamadoogies for your every home improvement project. From augers to aerators, paints to plaster, keys to critter cages, it’s all there at the P.G. Aces, where “good service is always in stock.”

Best Place to Rent Videos/DVD’s

Blockbuster Video

1170 Forest Ave., Pacific Grove, 657-0292

2260 Fremont, Monterey, 655-5401

262 Reservation Road, Suite A, Marina, 384-1054

1988 N. Main St., Salinas, 442-3050

1594 N. Sanborn Road, Suite 100, Salinas, 754-0906


In what is perhaps the most likely category to go the way of buggy whips and the American middle class, Blockbuster Video wins hands down. Of course, due to unforeseen technological advancements, the competition has dwindled to a few robotic Red Boxes and a rather “blue” local video shop. But those of you who haven’t taken the occasion to walk the aisles of an actual movie rental store since the advent of the various couch-potato friendly digital content delivery services will likely be pleasantly surprised at just how refreshingly nostalgic and inspiring the experience is. The good news: The company that revolutionized the home entertainment industry is still here, with five local stores, and their shelves are stacked (thankfully, alphabetically, which is the natural form of how movie browsing should be presented) with current films, from the A-Team to Zoolander, as well as an interior sea of racks packed with classics that are a sensory hoot to peruse, pick up, turn over, read and consider for your evening’s entertainment.


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*This review was originally published at Dan Dunn’s Imbiber website in April, 2011.


Mount Nelson 2010 Sauvignon Blanc
Marlborough, NZ

Let’s face it, moving sucks. It is, to the best of this admitted optimist’s knowledge, the one fundamental exception to the pie-sky notion that life is all “about the journey, and not the destination.” My experiences have proven that when moving, it’s better to blow right past the enjoying the ride part and concentrate fully on getting the hell to ones destination. Moving day is no time for lollygagging or sentimental gaping. Not with extorting landlords demanding spic-spanness, over-eager new tenants streaming in, asking to stash their ratty couches in the garage, the utility dogs gnawing at your heels, and the promise of a glorious fresh start awaiting on the other side.

It was in these keyed up circumstances that our mild-mannered mailman Enrico happened to arrive at the front door with box in hand. Typically, a late-arriving package is the last thing anyone wants to see at their stoop when defying the laws of spatial physics by way  of shoehorning their junk into a rental truck, but this package was not just some misremembered EBay prize that we’d have to ferry along. No, it was a perfectly timed gift of liquid lubrication from the Lords of Relocation themselves: a refreshing bottle of Mount Nelson 2010 Sauvignon Blanc, sent along for a review which, in our haste to relocate back to our home in the mountains of Colorado after three years in the fallow flats of California, I had forgotten that I’d been assigned.

My wife, the Redhead, was quite excited about our random score, and insisted on chilling the bottle. Since our refrigerator had already been de-thawed, she set the bottle carefully in a rocky nook in the creek out back, which flowed heavy with spring runoff.  A half hour later she returned excitedly. We were in business, albeit ingloriously, due to our having already packed away the wine glasses. Improvising on the fly, we each poured a glass into our last two remaining unpacked vessels – a pair of plastic “Carbondale Mountain Fair” beer cups that I’ve saved and reused.

I clutched the lip of the cup with my teeth, grabbed a box from the stacks in the kitchen, and wobbled off to the truck outside. The wine splashed up and wetted my whistle as I jostled along, giving me my first sweet, tart tastes of the Sav Blanc. Startled by it’s crisp hold on my mouth, I quickly chucked the box I was carrying into the maw of the Uhaul and sat down for a second to further study the interesting Mount Nelson flavor bouquet.

“Moving is so much better with wine!” the Redhead exclaimed, joining me on the tailgate. We compared tastes. I noticed a strong, lime or tangerine-like citrus note, heavy on tannins. The young wine was surprisingly, pleasing unbalanced, morphing from sweet to tart on its meandering journey across the landscape of my tongue. My wife thought that she caught the scent of strawberries in the bouquet, and strangely, the tang of freshly picked field greens.

Feeling guilty about sitting down on the job under such duress, we ran back to the kitchen, filled our cups, and continued shuttling our earthly possessions out to our steel camel. Soon enough, we were down to the last two cups, and had moved everything but the couch, most recently a place of great comfort in our home, but now a piggish thing seemingly made of anvils and rail ties. The doorbell rang. It was the new people, wanting in. We clunked our plasticized cups together, downed the last of the Mount Nelson, capping what was an entirely undignified, but well-appreciated tasting, and hefted the couch out to the moving truck.

*Corby Anderson is a freelance writer based out of Emma, a small valley in Colorado’s Western Slope inhabited only by livestock, a few hearty skiers, and the occasional curious coyote.  His works have appeared in the Aspen Daily News, The Monterey County Weekly, Canyon Country Zephyr, and BEER Magazine. www.corbyanderson.wordpress.com

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