Friday, June 10, 2016

Day at Monterey Bay

One motto in paradise is Lucky To Live Hawai`i.  Although I am not lucky enough to live Hawai`i, I am pretty lucky living in the Bay Area as most destinations are less than 2 hours away and therefore a great day trip, saving on accommodations.  I found myself down in Monterey Bay twice within the last month, once as a day trip and once just for dinner on the way back from San Luis Obispo.  Adding both together gave me a full day experience that is perfect for overnighters as well. 

Carmel-by-the-Sea is usually my first stop for brunch but my usual brunch place for over 10 years severely disappointed last year that I found myself looking for a replacement.  We originally planned on La Bicyclette only to discover they have an hour break between their breakfast and lunch menu and we had just missed the cutoff.  With my heart set on brunch, like I am sure many La Bicyclette rejects, we ended up at Carmel Belle and getting turned away has never been more rewarding. 
It is nothing fancy and no table service (you order at the counter, get your number, scout out a table and they bring you your food), however their food makes up for it.  With so many great choices, it was hard to choose so we compromised with 1 breakfast (poached eggs with Fra`mani sausage) and 1 lunch item (Slow cooked Berkshire pork sandwich) and went home to replicate two other dishes from the menu I did not get a chance to try -  Lady luck was on our side and we were able to get what I feel is one of the best and most interesting tables in the house right in front of the fire pit for a cozy brunch on a slightly chilly late morning. 


After brunch, take a leisurely walk along Ocean Avenue and its side streets lined with shops and galleries and/or stroll down to Carmel Beach to people and dog watch.  Ironically, late spring and summer months often finds Carmel-by-the-Sea overcast with the sunnier days in January and February. 

No visit for us is complete without biking or driving along Pacific Grove’s Sunset Drive which turns into Ocean View Blvd on the way to Monterey, rivaling the 17 Mile Drive and aptly named the Poor Man’s 17 Mile Drive.  The Asilomar area is perfect to pull over, grab your binoculars, and start scanning for sea otters in the kelp beds.  Although the erratic unfamiliar arm motions alarmed me initially, thinking they were struggling, for the first time, I got to witness them breaking open their shellfish against a rock on their stomach and not their cute abs of steel. 


Over the years, Monterey had gotten way too crowded for my taste similar to San Francisco’s Fisherman’s Wharf so it became a town we drove through on our way to or from more preferred stops like Carmel-by-the-Sea and Pacific Grove.  Visiting on a Sunday last month during off peak, I found Monterey pleasantly quiet by the early evening reminding me why I did love it so much back in the day, so we decided to stop by the Monterey location of Ghirardelli for a sweet treat.  Sundaes are pretty consistent among the different shops but what makes this location a 5 star is the beautiful ocean view at one of the outdoor seating areas.  The only downside is the birds that fly by tends “to nest” in certain crevices above you so pay attention to avoid any extra unwanted “toppings”!


If you are still in the area at dinner time, my favorite place is Dametra back at Carmel-by-the-Sea.  Family owned with service on par with the great food, it is a winner all around.  Just be warned that without reservations even on a Monday evening will mean you need to eat at 3:30 or 8. 


But never fear, La Bicyclette which we went to last year

or the relatively new Il Tegamino which was our consolation prize this past week are both solid choices and a prize in itself. 


So although I cannot say I’m lucky to live Hawai`i, I found myself my own slice of paradise closer to home. 


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