Sunday, May 1, 2016

Monterey’s Fish House (Monterey)

For our 50th Wedding Anniversary dinner, I took the wife to Monterey’s Fish House, which had been recommended by a good friend I knew when I was teaching at the University of Hawaii.

We’d been touring Monterey all day. We didn’t want to go back to the Carmel Valley Ranch because of the traffic construction that delayed us when we left the resort, would delay us if we returned, would delay us when we drove back to Monterey, and possibly delay us again when we returned to the resort after dinner.

Consequently, we arrived at the restaurant around 4:30 in the afternoon; it didn’t open for dinner until 5 p.m. So, we parked at the adjacent tile company lot, thought twice and moved to street parking around the corner. Had to respect the business, y’know.

After waiting 30 minutes, we walked back to the entrance, only to discover a long line of about 40 people who had parked in the tile company lot. Damn, that’s what I get for being considerate.

Of course, we stood at end of line, and just barely got seats at the oyster bar after being told a wait for a table would be about an hour. Most of those in front of (and behind) us had reservations, so the alternate choice was the best bet.

Our oyster shucker/waiter was Chris, and he was a helluva whiz at what he did. He took our orders in turn, in between shucking oysters for the packed house. Friendly! Efficient! Excellent! Fast! Personable! There aren’t enough words to describe him.

The wife had some seafood mix and I forgot to take a picture of her entrée because mine arrived at the same time.

Chris laid a plate of Calamari Steak before me, sautéed in butter, along with a plate of penne and veggies, all of which he sprinkled with grated Parmesan cheese.

It was a tastiest, most tender and deeply flavorful calamari I’ve had in a long, long time. Certainly, I’ve never had anything like it in Hawaii.

I can’t have Italian food without having a dessert. The wife and I split a tiramisu, which actually could have been dessert for four, it was so big. It was accompanied by a huge scoop of pistachio-flavored gelato, and was one of the better tiramisus I’ve ever had. If I were still rating tiramisu in my now-defunct Heavenly Tiramisu website, I’d give it a 10.

I need to go back and try other dishes there. But next time, I’ll know to make reservations ahead of time, get there early, and park in the tile company’s parking lot.

Monterey’s Fish House, 2114 Del Monte Ave., Monterey, CA 93940. Phone (831) 373-4647. Lunch 11:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m.; Dinner: 5 p.m.-9:30 p.m.

Friday, April 29, 2016

Monterey Fisherman's Wharf

A smaller version of San Francisco's Pier 39, Monterey Fisherman's Wharf attracts a lot of tourists to its shops and restaurants. Everything is packed into one pier.

View of Yachts from Municipal Wharf II
Although, there is another pier close by: Municipal Wharf II, where locals gather to drop their lines along the Fishing Promenade.

We strolled along the main commercial pier, peering into the shops, touching collectibles, buying t-shirts, and reminiscing how things hadn't changed much since the last time we were there. The sights and sounds were the same; the smell of the ocean permeated the air.

I meandered around shooting pictures of anything interesting that caught my eye. Here are a few:

Extra-Added Attraction

Oh, and always on the lookout for wildlife wherever I go, I did see a seagull sitting on a rock, contemplating what he was going to do next ... maybe fly to Salt Lake City for the weekend? Who knows?

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Monterey Coastline: Spanish Bay

Click on Image for a Larger Picture
Situated along the west coast of Monterey’s Pebble Beach, Spanish Bay is actually a public beach. It can be accessed via Sunset Drive in Pacific Grove for free, but since we were doing a nice automobile meander, we paid our entry fee to the 17-Mile drive into Pebble Beach property.

As usual, there were a few swimmers and surfers at the southern end of the coast, at Moss Beach. On a previous visit there, we walked along the wooden boardwalk to the Inn at Spanish Bay.

This time, we just parked and I got out to take some photographs of the beach. It was chilly and windy, so the wife stayed in the car.

My pictures:

Monday, April 25, 2016

Point Pinos Lighthouse

On the Wednesday before our wedding anniversary, we did a drive around in Pacific Grove (where the Monarch butterflies assemble in the winter) to avoid the traffic jam to and from Carmel Valley Ranch, where we were staying.

One of the things I always wanted to do was visit Point Pinos Lighthouse, where I could wander the grounds, take pictures of the historic lighthouse, and visit the little museum it houses.

The lighthouse has been in operation since 1855, and sits at Asilomar Boulevard, near the northwest terminus of Lighthouse Avenue in Pacific Grove.

As usual, I forgot to do some research on Google. Guess what. Remember when the Pacific Coast Air Museum in Santa Rosa was closed during our visit there last year? Remember when the Sonoma County Museum in Santa Rosa was closed as well?

Well, I did it again. Point Pinos Lighthouse is closed to the public on Tuesday and Wednesday.

All I could do was take a picture between the links of the fence barring our entry and commiserate with the elderly couple that also was stymied by the closure.


Now I have to wait until the next time we take an overnight trip to the Monterey Peninsula area and expose ourselves to the constant traffic jams in the area.

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Pacific Grove Natural History Museum

I'm a sucker for museums, natural history museums in particular.

So it's no surprise that one of the places I wanted to see on my next trip to the Monterey Peninsula was the Pacific Grove Natural History Museum.

Pacific Grove, aka "Butterfly Town USA," is the little city (population 15,500 or so) where Monarch butterflies gather en masse during their annual winter migration down south. Like by the millions.

It was the wrong time of year to see them, but that’s okay. Two places I’d had on a “To See” bucket list were the Point Pinos Lighthouse and the Pacific Gove Natural History Museum. I finally got a chance to see them last month.

Built in 1883, the museum is about the same size as the Las Vegas Natural History Museum. Most of its display area consists of birds, more than 400 specimens are displayed, including the formidable-looking California condor, and an extinct passenger pigeon.

‘Nuff talk. It’s time for photographs, a few of the many I took.

The Back Yard

It’s also got a back yard with more than 100 plants native to Monterey County, and a huge piece of jade:

Cross this one off my bucket list!

Thursday, April 21, 2016

The Perfect End to a Frustrating Restaurant Safari

Our first full day at Carmel Valley Ranch, I figured we’d do Carmel, starting with breakfast. Little did I know that it would turn out to be a day full of frustration.

Do you know you can’t find street parking in Carmel? But I’m getting ahead of myself.

I’d searched Yelp and found a little restaurant called “Katy’s Place,” but for the life of me, I couldn’t find it. So we started driving around the area looking for another café to patronize. We saw a few little restaurants, but there was no nearby parking. Plus, none of these places had parking lots.

We crisscrossed Carmel looking for parking lots (I know they have them because we’d been there before), but I couldn’t find one convenient enough. Come to find out much too late, there was a parking lot about two blocks from where Katy’s is supposed to be.

I gave up, and headed on to Pacific Grove. When we got to the Carmel-Pacific Grove turnoff, we encountered – guess what, no surprise – a traffic jam with a long line of cars. I see where Pacific Grove got the “Stall Craig” memorandum as well.

By this time, I was starving, but we eventually entered the Pacific Grove commercial area full of cafes and Italian ristorantes. Unfortunately, the one we picked was closed on that particular day.

Just down the street, we found a little barbecue place with an oil drum smoker outside just pouring smoke into the air. That’s where we went – the Little Chicken House.

The place is small – a couple of guys handling the chores, a couple of tables, and chickens roasting right in front of a small three-seat counter. Everything was clean, and it smelled great in there.

It was the best move I’d made all day. Copious amounts of mouth-watering, facial-smearing, finger-licking food.

The wife had a pulled pork sandwich (which she couldn’t finish) and a side of cole slaw. I had a two-meat plate (chicken and pork ribs) with a side of amazing baked beans.

I don’t want to say it was the best barbecue lunch I ever had, but if I had a better one, I sure don’t remember it.

Sometimes our frustrations get paid off in the end, no?

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Carmel Valley Ranch

Front Entrance
Checking in at the Carmel Valley Resort, I was reminded of a sign that hung in a photography shop I used to frequent during my early working days in Hawaii: “This is a class joint. Act respectable.”

Registration Fire Place
The resort is as classy as one can imagine. Once we found the registration area, check-in was a breeze. No long counter with semi-impersonal personnel waving you over. Nope. None of that. We were invited to sit in comfy chairs at a desk with the representative as she did the necessary paperwork.

I had to use the restroom after our hours-long journey (see previous post), and by the time I returned, everything was completed and the wife had our keys. With map in hand showing how we get to the bungalow suite, we jumped in the car and found our way there.

Only one thing: You gotta walk long curvy, paved paths to get to the suite. My legs got tired.

But, the room is very nice, very classy, and well appointed. It had a fireplace with wall controls, a comfy sitting room with amenity shelves and cupboards, a big easy chair in the bedroom with a huge posh ultra-soft bed. We spent a few minutes trying out all the light switches.

Here, let me show you:

Valley Kitchen

That night, we had dinner at their Valley Kitchen restaurant.

We shared a brisket-wild arugula with asparagus salad, flavored with a feta cheese spread and a mild vinaigrette.

We each got our own plate (they called it “Let’s Share.”)


For my entrée, I had the most tender medium-rare pork chop I’ve had in a long time.

It was accompanied by a smoked, encrusted thick slice of bacon.

The meats were all nestled over grilled asparagus, which themselves were arranged on creamy, buttery mashed potatoes.

Shame on me, I forgot to take a picture of the wife’s meal; I even forgot what she ordered.

Extra Added Attractions

Wandering around the cabins and golfing green were deer and turkeys:

I couldn’t help thinking: Venison and Roast Turkey.

Many thanks to my son and his wife for this elegant 50th Wedding Anniversary treat.