First, allow me to introduce myself. My name is SeaSer, pronounced Caesar, as in the famous Roman general. My parents conceived the name while I was in ovo. Since I am a winged sea serpent, it’s not terribly original. But they felt it flexible if I were to have been female. They could have inverted the syllables and called me Circe, another star from Classical times. And, I should say, they were very particular about the pronunciation as they greatly admired Caesar. They had known him, you see. Dragons live a very long time.
I am fortunate to have a bit of notoriety, as a rendering of me serves as the logo for one of the local golf courses. And I do play golf. But that is another story. Suffice it to say I enjoy all, or most, things human. Especially food.
Interestingly, Pacific Grove has, bar none, one of the greatest collections of fine restaurants in the area. This is probably due to its proximity to the resorts on the Monterey Peninsula. It pains me to say this, but America, away from resorts and big cities, can be a culinary desert. So Pacific Grove is fortunate in its location.
Now I’d like to take you on a peripatetic overview of my favorite restaurants.
Soaring into P.G., as it is called by the locals, is uplifting and raises the spirits for a good meal. One gains a particularly arresting vantage, with all of the gaily-colored seaside cottages juxtaposed against the lovely blue waters of Monterey Bay. Homes are yellow with red trim, blue with green—well, the combinations boggle the mind.
Having worked up a great appetite on the flight in, I’ve decided to visit Passionfish first. And I do have quite an appetite! Some have called me a gourmand due to the great quantities of food I can consume; but I assure you nothing is further from the truth.
And I do have a passion for fish. In fact, the great schools of salmon and cod, following the Pacific currents, first attracted me to Monterey Bay. But of Passionfish I have two comments. First, you must sample the sturgeon. It is exceptional. And it’s right here in my backyard, rather than having to swim or fly the distance to the Columbia River. Sturgeon itself is interesting. It is a prehistoric fish and looks it, with small spikes sprouting all over its surface. Horny, I’d call it. But what else would one call a species that’s reproduced for 60 million years?
Sturgeon has a firm flesh and one of ‘pale’ flavors common to freshwater fish. And it remains firm on the fork. It is best paired with an orange wine from Jura or Slovenia, which takes its name from the color, resulting from exposure to the air and the resulting oxidation. And this is the real treasure! Passionfish has the most extensive and varied wine list on the Peninsula, so no matter what you chose for an entrée, there will be an excellent wine to accompany it.
Next, I’d like to stroll up the street to an Italian restaurant that used to be known as Joe Rombi’s and is now La Mia Cucina.
Despite what you may have heard, dragons are not strictly carnivores. My recommendation would be the eggplant parmesan, delicately fried and topped with a very light sauce that is sweet rather than bitter or acidic. But the best part is a big hug by Paula, co-owner and maîtresse d’! Her enthusiasm just puts one in a great mood, which is essential for a good appetite. Oh, and I would suggest a Montepulciano, made from the eponymous grape, moderately priced, and particularly rich in monoterpenes, giving it a white pepper finish.
Next, we’ll stroll across the street to Fandango. And since I’ve now had two meals, I do mean stroll.
The proprietors of Fandango are Pierre and his lovely wife, Marianne. You may recall that Pierre had been maître d’ for Club 19 at the Pebble Beach Lodge. Club 19 is no longer extant and has been replaced by The Bench, which serves the best plates of roasted vegetables you’ve ever tasted. As I said, I like vegetables and, as you might expect, am proficient at roasting. But we’re talking about Pacific Grove, not Pebble Beach.
Pierre will often greet you himself at the door. With his dark hair and moustache, and round, cheerful face, he looks as if he had been dropped in directly from Dijon.
At Fandango, they always give me a seat next to the wall so I can stretch out my tail. I would not want to put any of the diners or the wait staff at risk by having my tail lolling about in the middle of the floor.
The escargot are delightful, plump and juicy, and I usually have a dozen along with a baguette to sop up the garlic and butter sauce. For the main course, I would recommend the cassoulet: white beans, duck and sausage. It is especially appropriate on a cool, damp night, of which there are many in Pacific Grove! And of course, what would a French meal be without a soufflé for dessert? This particular evening I am offered both chocolate and Grand Marnier. Since I have the room, I decide on both. Oh, and the wine list offers something for every budget: Pierre has always priced his wines modestly above his original cost so there are some real bargains!
Leaving Fandango, I stretch my wings and decide to fly over to our last stop of the evening, Jeninni. Now, you may be wondering how I fit into these establishments. Well, we dragons always possess some sort of magic or other, and I am able to scale myself down to human size. There it is.
As I said, I decided to fly to Jeninni, which is not too far, but gives me a vantage of the main street, which dips down and rolls upward, almost a reflection of the sea swells hard by the town.
At Jeninni you are greeted by Thamin, who is less effusive than Paula but equally gracious and welcoming. He is recognizable by a distinct lack of hair, which is actually quite becoming on him.
Jeninni offers a variety of dishes in the Mediterranean style: Spanish, Italian and Middle Eastern. Seasoning is the magic of the food. Exotic spices such as Za’atar,sumac and urfa are used. Personally, I like the house-made sausages: Loukaniko, a Greek pork sausage with fennel and Merguez, a North African lamb sausage. Having just had a great dish of white beans, I need to be careful, since the volatile combination of my fiery breath and a touch of flatulence present a fire hazard. But a glass of pink Prosecco settles one’s stomach. And the wine list, though not as encyclopedic as Passionfish’s, is varied and reasonable.
For dessert, I decide on goat flan. I love goat. Usually roasted. A technique I’ve perfected myself, if I may brag a bit.
At last, I emerge and lift myself, with some effort, enjoying the quaint early 20thcentury stores on Lighthouse and the magnificent palms on Pine. They are not called Royal, but should be. The night air is sharp and I finally land at Point Joe and fall asleep to the sound of the surf breaking on Spanish Bay.