Meanwhile, general contemplation in Carmel and Big Sur

Sunset in Big Sur

Because I’ve been doing plenty of that. Off to Nepenthe for dinner last night, today being down on the beach in the mid-morning…it’s a nice trip home. General photos are going to be added here, while below is a video of last night from Nepenthe on their observation deck followed by being down on the beach seeing one of the area’s truest citizens — a happy dog — making merry in heaven on earth.

So a post for the car nuts among you

Which really I’m not, aside from general appreciation of random aesthetics. However, the reason why I visit Carmel around this time each here is a bit of a family reunion as my uncle Bob comes out for the Concours d’Elegance, which I know I’ve mentioned on here in previous Augusts. It’s another August, Bob and my mom’s sis Cheryl are out, family get-togethers and good times are being had and so forth. So yesterday was one of the related events, the Pebble Beach Tour d’Elegance, and in keeping with past practice that meant a number of us went down to La Playa for lunch and, as noted above, there was a rather fancy car out front. The first of many seen on the day, it’s a 1926 Hudson Super Six, which featured in the movie version of The Grapes of Wrath.

My batch of car photos can be found here, while here’s the three videos I took of them all revving up and heading out after lunch in Devendorf Park was over:

“36 Hours in Carmel-by-the-Sea”

Well, this was amusing to note. It should of course be said that Carmel, like any number of places that rely on the tourist trade to one extent or another, gets plenty of attention like this in travel sections and magazines, so seeing another Carmel story isn’t a surprise, and of course this can’t be the first Carmel story in the NY Times. Nor will it be the last — the whole idea is to go back, revisit and update from time to time, each time talking about finding ‘the real Carmel’ or whatever place is being talked about.

As per such time-specific pieces there’s too much about trying to cram everything in and too little about, you know, enjoying your time. So I get to look at something like this and try and square it with my own experience of Carmel, which for me means going home, sleeping in, wandering about as desired and enjoying everything about the place at leisure. If I miss something one time back, I’ll catch it the next time through. But then again anybody who lives in a place that gets the tourists will recognize that phenomenon, where the tour buses go past the monuments that to you are just the regular everyday skyline and mental geography.

Further, and utterly unsurprisingly, the whole idea is ‘yeah, please come here…preferably if you’re made of a lot of money.’ The accompanying slide show underscores this a bit — the photos are all great but also made me wonder if I was viewing a high end clothes catalog instead. (Not too surprising, really — have I ever mentioned the couple of times I’ve seen Ralph Lauren around down on Ocean Avenue?) Such is image, luxury, conspicuous consumption — whereas if I had written a piece like this I would have mentioned RG Burgers, low-key, relaxed and a favorite of the whole family’s, and where old students and athletes who my dad taught or coached almost always seem to run into him whenever we’re there.

Still, there’s plenty of crossover between Carmel as I know it and as it’s described in the piece, and many spots are singled out that I would always recommend to visitors — the Mission Ranch is a bit of a no-brainer, and my sis, my cousin George, his wife Pilar and I all had drinks there one night during the holidays. Similarly I loved the mentions of Bruno’s and the Cheese Shop, and Point Lobos, the Mission and the 17-Mile Drive are certainly all that. (And I did have to appreciate a piece on Carmel that acknowledges Pebble Beach but didn’t dwell on the various hotels and restaurants and things there — though I almost wonder if they felt that in this economy that might be one step too far in terms of what to focus on.)

In all, as mentioned, an amusement. But it does make me glad that I can call it home.

Enjoying mai tais at the Volcano Grill

So the other night I got to indulge in the kind of fun thing that one gets to do when one goes home to a spot like Carmel to hang around with family, namely try one of the many great restaurants in the area. Hey, it’s an indulgence, and Carmel is good for that, believe me.

The Volcano Grill

This particular indulgence, the Volcano Grill is the latest effort by a local legend, Bill Lee aka Billy Quon, who has opened up past restaurants like Bahama Billy’s that are still chugging along. My parents know him as they do many local folks and as I hear it, he decided to take it a bit easier and open up a new spot deep in the Carmel Valley, which is the new frontier of development of sorts in the area (you can only develop the Carmel Highlands so much). The Valley is an area I’m not too familiar with, only been down that way a few times over the years, so I enjoyed the drive along, as the fog began to fade away:

In the Carmel Valley

The Grill itself is located in Carmel Valley Village, an unincorporated spot that is more or less the ‘center of town’ in a general sense. It’s a nice location and in the sunset, a picture will always say more:

Outside the Volcano Grill

The theme of the place’s design can be described as arty tiki, definitely not on the trashy side of it (which of course has its many virtues). It reflects the feeling of Carmel in general, higher end where possible — hey, the place has the money — and it’s seen easily in these following shots:

Into the ceiling

Wine, anyone?

Hustle and bustle

Bill himself is a very friendly fellow — a gladhander in the best sense, wanting to make sure everyone is having not merely a great time but the best possible time — and his wife no less so. Great service staff and the food, well, let me start with the mai tais…

*hic*

Smooth, VERY smooth, but very strong. Was tempted to go for a second one but that might well have wiped me out. For appetizers the four of us split an excellent batch of calamari:

'Is calamari!'

Not too heavy and the sauce had a good spice burn to it without being overpowering — still, the cumulative effect might have been a bit much had I eaten it all on my own.

My choice for the main dish was one of the specials that evening, a Dungeness crab cake with a caprese salad variant along with greens:

*drool*

Almost ridiculously delicious, a savory combination of the crab cake’s crispy shell and the meat itself, the bite of the greens and the excellence of the local tomato and mozzarella combination. Basically as stellar as one could want from such a preparation.

And dessert, well, I will never say no to a good molten chocolate cake:

Ah yes, chocolate

Had to steer away from the ice cream due to dietary restrictions but I indulged in a small bit — kinda had to.

So this isn’t a formal restaurant review or anything but, you know, find yourself in the area — I’d say you should check it out. And who knows who’s reading this who will be there? Just come at the right time of day so you can catch this kind of view on the way back to Carmel:

Sunset views in the Valley...

Life, it’s good.

Meantime, when Carmel becomes a Jesu album cover art shot

As taken by me earlier this evening:

Glooooooom....

And more glooooooom...

And yet it was a lovely summer day. Albeit with fog.

More tomorrow, including what I think might be my first full on restaurant review on here. I think. Could be wrong.

Here are some cars, they feel safest of all

So if you go over here you’ll see a few images like this, if you are so inclined:

A Bentley!

A Mercedes Benz!

A Ferrari!

And then there was dessert earlier today. Very nice:

Yum!

Christmas in photos

Or at least some:

San Francisco on Christmas Eve morning

Merry merry

A Christmas walk on the beach

My dream home

More photos here and here.