By Allison Hata | June 20, 2012 2:29 PM
Photos courtesy of Portola Hotel & Spa
The farm-to-table movement is taken to extraordinary heights in the coastal town of Monterey, a great weekend getaway for Orange County locals. Known for its history, culture and breathtaking natural environment, the city also boasts a rich—and interactive—culinary scene. Taste sensations abound with fresh, local ingredients used in dishes at restaurants around Monterey.
For visitors to the area, the eco-friendly Portola Hotel & Spa (portolahotel.com) is at the heart of Monterey’s delightful dining experiences, just steps away from some of the city’s freshest seafood and produce. The hotel stimulates your sense of taste immediately, offering guests a complimentary signature chocolate chip cookie upon arrival.
With two on-site restaurants of its own, guests and visitors at the hotel can also enjoy local California cuisine at Jack’s, which offers a Champagne breakfast plus lunch and dinner daily, or visit Monterey’s only craft brewery, Peter B’s. The brewpub features ales, blondes, wheats, ambers, seasonal beers and more, all made on site by resident brewer Kevin Clark. Chef Jason Giles prepares upscale pub food, ranging from seasoned popcorn to decadent entrees like smoked St. Louis ribs, that pair excellently with the hand-selected beers.
Peter B’s Brewpub
For fresh, organic ingredients, chef Jason has the Old Monterey Farmers Market (oldmonterey.org) at his fingertips. Located right outside the front doors of Portola Hotel on Alvarado Street between Del Monte and Pearl, visitors flock to this center for culinary treasures. The market runs year-round on Tuesday evenings, rain or shine, with produce vendors that sell certified and organic certified produce. Shop for your own colorful fruits and vegetables to bring home for your own cooking or browse the many arts and crafts, handmade jewelry, pastries and international foods
Moving out to the coast, the charming Fisherman’s Wharf (montereywharf.com) on the peninsula offers countless restaurants featuring succulent seafood dishes. Try Abalonetti Bar & Grill, one of the wharf’s original restaurants, or Domenico’s on the Wharf for wild sustainable local seafood.
Farm-to-table takes to the sea with a trip to the Monterey Abalone Co. (montereyabalone.com) located on Municipal Wharf No. 2. Considered a delicacy all around California because of its restrictive catch rules, this Monterey-based farm produces around 14 species of wild abalone for restaurants and chefs, wholesalers and individuals. Its retail space is open to the public, so stop by to view or buy one of the naturally formed mother-of-pearl shells and take a peek at your next farm-fresh meal.
While Monterey Abalone co-owner Trevor Fay suggests enjoying abalone raw with lemon and tabasco—a true farm-to-table experience—chef Jason is more ambitious in his preparation of this delicacy. An abalone chowder, with a hint of salt and a rich, aromatic flavor, is made with a light clam base, sautéed abalone and garlic, and serves as a starter course to one of his gourmet meals at Portola.
“We’re not creating a new type of cuisine, but we’re creating a whole new flavor profile with the ingredients were working with,” chef Jason says.
Whether your cup of tea is a fresh, healthy salad, handcrafted brews or savory seafood, Monterey has you covered with a dish for everyone.