Monday, May 01, 2006

Eating Elsewhere: Carmel, CA

We drove down the coast to Carmel this weekend to celebrate my nephew turning five. Carmel is one of those destinations where we don't do much except relax, eat, shop, hit the spa, eat some more. So here were some of the food highlights and lowlights:

  • On Friday night, Jon and I went to the aptly named Pacific's Edge -- which sits right along the coastline. We were lucky enough to get a table by the floor-to-ceiling windows, overlooking the Pacific Ocean. Whenever a restaurant boasts such breathtaking views, you have to wonder if the food is going to live up to the beauty of the natural surroundings... or if the menu is relying on the view to win people over.

    We had dined at Pacific's Edge a year or two ago with Jon's parents, and everyone enjoyed a wonderful meal. This time around, however, the food didn't quite live up to my expectations.

    Jon and I decided to go with the three-item dinner; you can select three, four or five dishes from the main menu. Soon after ordering, we were treated to a delicious amuse bouche of yellow squash soup with parsley oil.

    Next came our first course: "steak and eggs" (beef carpaccio and a leek-gruyere quiche) for me, and marinated brussel sprouts for Jon. The carpaccio in my dish was great, but the quiche -- which may have been better if it was at least warm -- was underwhelming. The bland crust was filled with a layer of egg custard, then a layer of gruyere. I didn't taste any of the promised leeks in the quiche. Jon's plate looked (and tasted) phenomenal though -- with grapes, dry ricotta and bacon vinaigrette served with his brussel sprouts.

    Fortunately, my second course was awesome. I opted for the Monterey Bay abalones, which consisted of four pieces that were pan-fried to perfection. The abalones came with a side of garlic flan. I love garlic and I love flan, but I did not love that garlic flan. Jon's second plate was the kampachi, which is a sashimi-grade version of yellowtail. I didn't get a chance to sample it, so I'm guessing it was REALLY good.

    For our final dinner dish, I had the quail breast and Jon had the rack of lamb -- both of which were superb. And maybe we should have stopped there... Because the desserts were a disappointment.

    I ordered the Chocolate, Chocolate, Chocolate. As its name implies, it consisted of three chocolate preparations. The chocolate and caramel bombe was yummy, as was the capuccino ice cream served on a layer of chocolate. The warm chocolate tart was not warm and, like the quiche, suffered from a so-so crust. Jon hardly ate any of his Apple Tart Tatine. The five-spice ice cream was good, but the tart itself and the sauce it was drowning in tasted like burnt sugar. Terrible. Perhaps the best sweet treat of the evening was brought to the table after our meal was complete: the complimentary miniature strawberry shortcakes were excellent.

    So, although we got a better table this time around than on our first visit, the food wasn't as good as I remembered. On a scale of 1-10, I'd give it a 7.

  • Since Saturday was rather chilly and it even rained a bit, it seemed like a good day for Afternoon Tea. We had been to the Tuck Box a few years ago and decided to make a repeat visit. We shouldn't have. From what we could gather, there was only one tea option (ceylon black). And there were no traditional tea offerings -- except scones, that weren't even very good! Jon ordered an omelet, while I went with a deviled egg sandwich. It's a bit of a misnomer since the egg salad inside the sandwich had no kick to it (as deviled eggs should). And there were olives in it. Huh. I was still hungry after we walked out of the Tuck Box (good thing we had a plethora of snacks waiting for us in our hotel room).

  • On our way home on Sunday, we made a stop in Santa Cruz for lunch. One of our favorite places on Pacific Avenue is Zoccoli's Italian Delicatessen. The sandwiches are fantastic -- a great way to end our weekend getaway, especially after a few other food missteps!