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August 4, 2013

The Cuisine of Monterey County

As the food from the nearby Salinas Valley is so fresh and so is the seafood, Monterey County is a food-lover’s paradise. Furthermore the county is known for it’s ethical organic growers as well as its numerous vineyards along the coastline and in the hills near Salinas along Highway 101


There are scores of very highly Zagat rated restaurants along the coast of Big Sur that offer wonderful views of the ocean along with great seafood.  These cliff-sitting restaurants offer delicious fare such as artichoke ravioli, roasted rabbit, organic rib-eye stake and creamed Diver Scallops.


Pacific Grove is also known for it’s fine cuisine and in particular, it’s wonderful seafood restaurants.  Many of the restaurants in Pacific Grove are quite tony and cater to the rich and famous in the area. Food is prepared with calories, nutrition and creativity in mind.  Organic prime steaks, fowl and lamb shanks are on this type of menu along with creatively done vegetables like asparagus fries and oyster salad.

Carmel-by-the-Sea is also a food Mecca that used to be a bohemian paradise. The food here is more European inspired and features Italian, French and Mediterrean fare alongside Mexican and Spanish influenced foods.


Spa food is very popular in Carmel Valley, which is famous for it’s very healthy, calorie-wise Cal-French cuisine. These five star spas serve up such delights as sweet corn succotash served with black truffle vinaigrette, rabbit loin with onions and apple and lamb stew with morel mushrooms and garlic.

On the cheaper side, Carmel and the surrounding area is also very famous for it’s gourmet pizza made with fresh vegetarian ingredients.  There are also many affordable oyster and wine bars in the area.


Moss Landing is one of the most famous destinations for fresh seafood in the country. It is a favorite haunt of Iron Chef star Bobby Flay.  The place is actually an old wharf that combines restaurants and seafood shops with antique shops and art studios.  This old wharf has been around since 1866.


Salinas has one of the largest Chinese populations in the country so it is not surprising that it is home to so many wonderful Chinese restaurants.  Seafood prepared in black-bean and ginger sauces and loaded with plenty of garlic are a specialty in this city.


Wine tasting is also very much where it is at in this California County and you can find wine-tasting rooms in most malls, hotels and along shopping board-walks near the sea. You can also take scenic wine tours by bus to winery after winery in the hills and valleys near Salinas.

August 1, 2013

Golfing in Moneterey County

Monterey is an aging community, but it is also a rich and health-conscious community. Therefore it is not surprising that there are so many amazing golf courses in the area.


In the city of Monterey it there is a beautiful little 18 whole course with over 5,554 yards called the Monterey Pines Golf Course. You can pay golf right by the beautiful green waters of Monterey Bay. Another Oceanside course in Monterey is the Laguna Seca Golf Ranch that has 18 holes and boasts a par of 71.

Golfing in Monterey, Pebble Beach and Big Sur can be expensive because these are very wealthy communities. If you are looking for an affordable course near Monterey then the public goes to the Del Monte Golf Course.  Aside from being cheaper it also boasts the distinction of being the oldest golf-course to be established west of the Mississippi what with being founded in 1897.


A well-known 18-hole course on Pebble Beach is the Pebble Beach Golf Links course that is built on 6.828 of rye grass.  Jack Nicklaus, Douglas Grant and Jack Neville helped design this course which first opened in 1919. It is an incredible place filled with ponds and a spectacular view of both the ocean and the mountains. It is located just of the well-known  17-Mile Drive and is a favorite haunt of many celebrities.  The course is beautifully landscaped with natural rock forms, tall grass, short grasses and lone pine trees.


In Poppy Hills, a suburb of Pebble Beach there is a ritzy little 18 whole course that has many slopes and ponds. It is also a golf-ball’s throw away from the white sands of the beach.


Caramel is home to a very famous five star-rated golf course called The Preserve Golf Club Preserve Course that has 7,076 yards and 18 holes over bent grass.

Pacific Grove also has a very beautiful 18 whole golf course called the Pacific Grove Golf Course that has a high slope rating of 118 on Kikyu grass. It was designed by H. Chandler in 1932 and is one of those vintage celebrity golf courses that the county of Monterey is so famous for.


The city of Salinas has a rare shorter golf course with only 9 holes over 3,535 yards with a par of 31. If a quick game of golf is what you want then this is the course for you.  However if you a prefer a longer game there is the Salinas Fairways  Golf Course and the Salinas Golf and Country Club Course. Both are located about twenty miles outside of the city.

June 29, 2013

Castroville – The Artichoke Capital of the World

Castroville, the Artichoke Capital of the World, is located nine miles northwest of the city of Salinas.  It is called this because this small city, that only has a population of 6,742, supplies seventy-five percent of the artichokes sold in the United States.


One of the most notable events held every year in this pleasant rural town is the Castroville Artichoke Festival, which takes place on Memorial Day. Every year, the Festival crowns a King and a Queen.  In February of 1948, Marilyn Monroe was crowned Artichoke Queen and William Hung (the American Idol contestant) was  crowned  Artichoke King in 2006.


The Castroville Artichoke festival also features a parade and an art competition in which competitors make sculptures from artichokes and other vegetables.  Foodies also flock from miles around to sample the treats produced by the produce and wine vendors in the area. There are usually cooking demonstration, arts, crafts, theatrical and musical performances and visits by celebrities.  There is also an antique car show that takes place as a component of the festival as well.


This old town was founded by Juan Bautista Castro in 1863. Aside from artichokes it is known for it’s wonderful mix of Victorian and Spanish architecture. The original old school house and post office, both built in the 1860s, are still there.


A wonderful, eccentric landmark is The World’s Largest Artichoke which was a sculpture commissioned in 1963 for a road-side stand. The artichoke is twenty feet tall and twelve feet across and stands on Merrit Street in downtown Castroville.

Culinary-wise this town is known for its dishes and street food based on artichokes.


A specialty of restaurants in the area are deep-fried artichoke hearts. These are artichokes dipped in batter, fried in a vat and then served up with all kinds of delicious sauces.   Hot and cheesy artichoke dip is also a specialty of many local restaurants, especially when the artichoke is in season.  These types of treats go well with the wines that are grown in nearby vineyards along Highway 101 and just south of the hills of the city of Salinas.


As the town is so small there are not many hotels to stay in during the Artichoke Festival. However the towns of Salinas, Seaside, Marina, Watsonville and Monterey are not that far away and are home to many beautiful hotels that often run shuttle buses to and from the Artichoke festival.   This spares you the problem of driving along California highways inebriated from enjoying the many California wines that are often offered with the artichoke delights offered at the festival.

June 26, 2013

Visiting Salinas – America’s Salad Bowl

The Salinas Valley is just south of San Francisco in the county of Monterey and is home to many charming small cities and towns including Bradley, Castroville, Chualer, Gonzales, Greenfield, Jolon, King City, Lockwood, San Ardo, San Lucas, Soledad, Spreckles and Salinas which is the county seat. The word Salinas means “salt marsh” in Spanish but the water has been drained from these fertile fields. Now this area which is about ninety square miles running south-east from the ocean-side city of Salinas to King City.


Geologically the Salinas Valley is also very interesting because it is located on a geological terrain that lies right on top of the San Andreas Fault.  The land is on top of granite and it clashes with soft sedimentary soils to the west.  The area is known for having earthquakes that register 6 or higher on the Richter scale roughly every 22 years.


Fresh water from mountain springs in the surrounding mountain ranges help irrigate the mineral rich land.  The Salinas river that runs through the valley is also unusual because it is a “sand river” which means it only really shows a lot of water when it floods.  There are also two reservoirs in the mountains, the San Antonio Reservoir and Nacimiento that help prevent salt water from the ocean from intruding into the fields and occasionally water is released to fill the Salinas River.


The Salinas Valley is called “The Salad Bowl of the World” because of the large amounts of vegetables grown there including lettuce, peppers, strawberries, spinach, tomatoes, cauliflower, broccoli, celery, olives and plums.  It is also a designated American Viticultural Area which means that it has the sandy soils, temperate climate, foggy mornings and full sun that is perfect for growing grapes.


The salad bowl is also a great place to sample wines. If you want to cruise through beautiful countryside visiting winery after winery then traveling along Highway 101 and it’s side roads in central Monterey is a great idea. Famous wineries in the area include Paiso Vineyards, Ventana Vineyards, Smith and Hook Winery and Wrath wines. Most of the wineries are located between Soledad and Coburn on the 101 highway.


There are lots of interesting sites to see in the Salinas valley including the Agricultural and Rural Life Museum in King City which features exhibits from 19th and 20th century life in the area including an old blacksmith shop, schoolhouse and train depot.

June 23, 2013

Parkfield – The Earthquake Capital of the World

In the county of Monterey in California is a small town of 18 known as Parkside, which is often called The Earthquake Capital of the World.  The town experiences an earthquake above .6 on the Richter scale every 22 years. The motto of the town is “Be Here When It Happens”, possibly referring to the “Big One” that is supposed to devastate California.


The town is built directly on the San Andreas fault and is about 1500 feet above sea level in the TemblorHills. It used to be a thriving mining community and curious visitors can still visit some of these abandoned mines.  The town itself is very pretty and sits in a grove of very old oak trees.


The bridge across the creek in downtown Parkside has shifted more than five feet relative to it’s original position when it was built in 1936.If you have an interest in geology then Parkfield is definitely the place to visit. It is one of the most closely measured and watched earthquake zones in the world. Just North of Parkfield is the San Andreas Fault Observatory at Depth, which is a hole, drilled 2.5 miles into the earth’s crust that is meant to observe seismic activity.


The town is owned and run by a couple of families of ranchers and farmers and Parkfield is well known for its horse-shows, rodeos and equestrian-related events. It also holds an annual Bluegrass Festival. It is also the site of the Parkfield Classic, which is a collegiate bike race that has been held in the hills in the area since 1989.  This event typically takes place on the first or third weekend of October and consists of three courses: a 9, 16 and 24-mile challenge.


There are also many hiking trails and trails for equestrians to ride their horses high into the hills so they can enjoy some scenic views. There are beautiful valleys and rock outcroppings cloaked in fields of wildflowers; in fact there are over 200 species of wildflowers in the hills around Parkfield.


Parkfield is also a haven for bird-watchers, butterfly lovers and campers. There are both natural and paid campsites in the area so you can sleep outdoors at night under the stars.


There are also heritage style ranches in the area that also double as hotels and spas. The cuisine offered in the area tends to be the organic meat from grass-fed grazing cows in the area. This special meat from the area of Parkfield is free from antibiotics, pesticides and chemicals.

June 20, 2013

The Natural Landmarks of Moneterey

The county of Monterey, California is one of the most beautiful in the entire world and has many wonderful natural landmarks that distinguish it from other parts of the world.


One of the most important natural landmarks in the county is the Cypress tree on the Point Lobos State Reserve. This giant 300-year-old tree that has been eroded by salt and wind stands by itself out on a craggy rock in the ocean. It is the biggest of a rare breed of Cypress particular to the area known as the Monterey cypress. This tree is not found anywhere else in the entire world.


If you love sand dunes you will find many of them right on the coastline of the city of Monterey in Monterey County. The Del Monte beach is covered with sea grass and huge pink dunes.  A boardwalk offers you a pleasant walk near the city’s restaurants and other attractions.


Also in Monterey is Huntington Beach, which features a natural phenomenon, called The Grunion Run. These are small silver fish that jump completely out of the water and into your bare hands and buckets during spawning season.  This happens after a series of high tides every Spring.


The Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park is in Big Sur County and features the big 3000 foot sandy ridges that are a famous feature of the Monterey. You can view these beautiful natural cliffs with the surf crashing against them as you cruise along highway 1 which hugs the California coastline.


Limekin State Park features breathtaking redwood forests, limestone caves and beautiful views of the Big Sur coast.  This park is 56 miles south of Carmel.

The historic 260 floor concrete structure known as the Bixby Bridge on Highway 1 is located across Bixby Creek on Bixby Ranch and is surrounded by rolling hills and cresting surf.  The California Coastal Conservancy is currently trying to protect this large property from development, formerly owned by Allan Funt of Candid Camera fame.


However some of the steepest cliffs in Monterey County are found near Gorda where tall cliffs drop into deep waters. The rocks provide a sanctuary for elephant seals, birds and it is the perfect spot to watch migrating birds.


In the heart of the Salinas Valley is the famous Pinnacles National Monument that consists of acres of rounded rock outcroppings.  The rows of crops in the Salinas area are also landmarks in themselves with lines of produce continuing in the distance for miles as you drive across the county on Highway 101.