Monday, February 29, 2016

Lucia Tops My List and My Foodie Crush on Chef Cal {Tasting Notes}


Several weeks ago, I spent an incredible Saturday morning with Chef Cal Stamenov at Bernardus. I was interviewing him for a Local Heroes story for Edible Monterey Bay. He received the honor of 'Best Chef' and Lucia 'Best Restaurant.'


The story finally came out in the Spring 2016 issue. Read it: in the digital version. And here are some of the photos I took that didn't make it into the publication.







I eagerly accepted Chef Cal’s generous invitation to return to Lucia for dinner. So, Jake and I dropped the boys off at my parents and we headed out to Carmel Valley for a dinner that - without hyperbole - is one of the best meals I've ever had.

 Lucia tops my list. And, admittedly, I have a little foodie crush on Chef Cal now.


Though the entire menu was appealing, I opted to indulge in the Chef’s Tasting Menu with wine pairings.


We began with Foie Blonde, where crisp chicory leaves were a fresh foil to the Hudson Valley foie gras atop toasted buttery brioche drizzled with black truffle vinaigrette. Sommelier Jeff Jung poured Teutonic Wine Company’s ‘Rust Bucket’ an Alsatian Blend from Oregon.


Next was a dish Stamenov had shown me earlier that day: Monterey Bay Red Abalone. Housemade spaghetti was swirled with pancetta and a soft egg to form a tight nest on which the abalone rested.


The wine that Jung selected - Château Crémade Rhône Blend, Provence 2008 – was a surprising delight. Vastly preferring red wines to white, I didn’t expect this Chenin Blanc to captivate me. But it was simultaneously creamy and floral, like a fine cheese.


The Colorado Lamb was paired with Madeleine’s Rue de Champs Cabernet Franc made by Damien Georis. Jake had ordered the venison and we passed the plates between ourselves. I think we had stopped talking at that point, lost in our own appreciation for the food in front of us.

The dessert course was a Meyer Lemon Soufflé Tart with Candied Buddha’s Hand Citron and Honey Ginger Ice Cream. I know Stamenov has a Buddha’s Hand Citron tree and surmised that those delicate ribbons were from his orchard. Accompanying the dessert was Bernardus’ Late Harvest Sauvignon Blanc 2009, a veritable dessert on its own.

True to his authentic generosity, and probably remembering that I admitted I much preferred a cheese course to dessert, Stamenov lavished us with additional courses, including a cheese course. We tried the Despearado, a raw cow’s milk cheese, from Cato Corner Farm in Connecticut. It has both a custard-like outside with a slightly chalky center. The rind is washed with fermented pear mash and pear eau de vie from Westford Hill Distillery.

They even sent us home with homemade truffles, artisan caramels, and sugar-crusted shortbread.


Without question, it was the one of the most sumptuous meals I’ve ever had. Is it pretentious to quote your own article?!? Well, I'm going to do it anyway. "Stamenov’s a pure artist. Generous mentor. Hero."

Lucia Restaurant & Bar
Chef Cal Stamenov
415 W. Carmel Valley Road
Carmel Valley, CA 93924
831.658.3595
bernarduslodge.com

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