April 15, 2022 – Every once in a while it hits, gripping me like a crisis: the dreaded menu decision-making crisis.
So many elements speak to my soul so suddenly and so deeply that irregular heartbeats begin to hiccup and any further choices will be made in a state of panic. (Or, luckily, the table shares plates.)
Maybe you’ve experienced it too.
Then there is the opposite phenomenon: the release of decision-making from the menu. A dish stands out so clearly that a glowing beam of light descends upon it and a choir of angels sings a soaring note.
Typically, at Kathy’s Little Kitchen, I experience the former. They do a collection of classics with consistent solidity – jumbo pancake plates, burritos, taco wraps, burgers – so I’m tempted to go six ways at once.
They also open early and go until 8 p.m. and take out some really good deals (a hearty breakfast burrito is $7.75).
These factors make the humble, no-frills spot — with just a few small patio tables and no website — Jenga’s No. 1 piece of the Carmel Valley food landscape, as many locals will attest. Without it, things would fall apart.
But on my last visit, I was struck by the deliverance of decision-making. Maybe I forgot it before. But there it was, bathed in celestial light: chile relleno quesadilla.
Admittedly, it’s almost overwhelming to combine two superpowers like this.
In the world of food, it reminds me of the fusion tastes I’ve tried recently, like the cinnamon pancakes at Miracle Mile Cafe in San Rafael (even better than they look) or the bacon lumpia cheeseburger from The Lumpia Company in Oakland (I smell you e40).
These are gourmet, dynamic and delicious combinations, like the quesadilla chili relleno and its layers of texture and cheese. The quesadilla is rich in flavor and mild in spice, and benefits from the harmonious house green sauce.
In the sports world, it reminds me of the pairing of Steph Curry and Draymond Green, or (back) Mark McGuire and Jose Canseco. Not fair.
In the world of tasting, it evokes the wines of Chesebro.
Which may seem surprising. But here’s why.
Carmel Valley is blessed with an overabundance of exceptional winery tasting rooms doing some truly memorable things. Of the dozens that populate the village, my favorites are too numerous to list here but include Albatross Ridge, Boekenoogen, Bernardus, Joyce and I Brand and Family. (Laura Ness says her newest addition, Corral Wines, which sits next to Chesebro, is very worthy herself).
If I had to choose one and only one to visit, it would be Chesebro.
Owner and winemaker Mark Chesebro has a knack for expressing the local terroir with crisp yet elegant mineral blends, like his remarkable Piedras Blancas Roussanne-style white and his Las Arenas Southern Rhone-style red made from Grenache and Syrah.
Chesebro could charge a lot more for his vino, but Mark Chesebro chooses to keep his prices at $30 or less — and around $16 to $24 for club members — because he wants more people to be able to try good stuff. wine, namely his own.
But the odd combination here isn’t great winemaking and value, it’s wine and art. Chesebro covers the walls and corners of the airy East End space with rotating and diverse multimedia creations.
During our visit, monotypes and lithographs by Pamela Takigawa, science-style illustrations of the natural world by Erin E. Hunter, stunning black-and-white fine art photographs by Jerry Takigawa, and several other artists provided images. as stimulating as vino.
We left inspired, with several bottles of excellent but affordable wine, three works of art, and a hunger for a certain quesadilla down the street.
About the Author