Every once in a while it’s good to get out of San Diego to see what the rest of the world is eating. Recently, Buzz tripped up to the Monterey Peninsula.
In the Monterey/Pacific Grove area…great, fabulous coffee at Acme, in Seaside, two minutes north of Monterey. Owner Larry Thurman opened this tiny place four years ago in a garage with the motto “Resist Corporate Coffee”. Here you won’t find those over-the-top concoctions that mask the taste of good coffee. You will find small batches of beans from small growers, roasted in-house, ground to order and made into espresso–properly, as shots–or as regular coffee made in a simple contraption called a drip bar that allows for the coffee to made fresh in the cup–with the coffee of your choice. No stale canister coffee here. Thurman cleverly names his blends: Motor City Espresso, Valve Job Blend, Road Dog Blend, you get the picture. Try the natural Ethiopian as espresso, it’s rich, not burned and almost sweet but very satisfying. Barista Chris and Larry both know how to make very good coffee. Located just off Broadway on Contra Costa and Palm, Seaside, 831-393-9113, Monday-Friday 6:30am to 5pm, Saturday 7am to 3pm, closed Sunday.
Down in Pacific Grove, two minutes south of Monterey, you’ll find a walkable town with many historic Victorian homes and friendly people who acknowledge you with a smile or a good morning as you wander the streets to the ocean. At the corner of Lighthouse and 18th you”ll find Fournier’s Bakery Café. Owner/chef Kevin Fournier turns out featherlight focaccia for sandwiches and panini, not too sweet dense cocoa brownies, almond paste bear claws and lots more including custom wedding and specialty cakes. 650 Lighthouse Avenue, Pacific Grove, 831-655-1447. Open daily 8am to 5pm.
Just a few blocks away on Lighthouse, is Mélange, one of the very few places with small bar–if you don’t want to sit at a table. Open for dinner only, the small menu changes with the whim of chef/owner David Frappiea and the seasons. David describes his menu as world fusion (and I would add, without, thankfully any confusion). He resists overdoing flavors but isn’t afraid to tempt the palate with an offbeat take on a dish. Always great is the house-made fettuccine with wild mushrooms, simple and very flavorful with a mélange of seasonal ‘shrooms in a light butter sauce with tomato and fresh basil. A lovely shrimp risotto and even veal sweetbreads and braised rabbit starters appear on this small and well-priced (mostly mid $20’s) menu. A thoughtful and interesting wine list pairs with the food and David’s fiancée Dorothy has a terrific palate for wine/food pairings. For my taste, however, I prefer to have my reds not at room temp (usually 65 or 70 degrees), but slightly cooler, as if they came directly from the cellar, to enhance the wine’s flavors. Dinner only from 5:30pm to 10:00pm, Closed Sunday, 542 Lighthouse Ave., Pacific Grove, 831-333-0301.