Food on California's Central Coast

A long line to order at Phil's Fish Market

We enjoyed our recent trip and ate our way through Monterey County. On the drive down we passed through Gilroy, known as the "Garlic Capital",  Salinas, the "Salad Bowl of the World", and nearby Castroville, which is known as the "Artichoke Capital". I presume there aren't any lesser artichoke/salad/garlic towns, it seems you're either a capital or you have nothing to declare. Clearly someone in the Chambers of Commerce down here thinks it's important to be marked as the best/or the largest  of anything. As you drive down toward the coast, the land flattens out and you can see the wealth of Californian agricultural production; strawberries, raspberries, artichokes, leafy greens and other crops abound.  

Marinated grilled artichoke

It's a great place to eat fresh veggie, fruit and of course seafood although not everything is healthy. We stopped in at Phil's Fish Market in the  fishing town of Moss beach where the small harbor is busy with commercial fishing boats. The line was long and the tables were crowded. This is simple dining, fresh and straightforward with large portions and no frills. We ate outside and had marinated grilled artichoke which was great and a serviceable fish and chips.

Fish and chips at Phil's

We opted for a casual meal in the evening, sitting outside with the pooch on the terrace at the Monterey Intercontinental, also known as the Clement. It's a lovely rather stylish spot right on the water. It was a typical summer evening in Monterey, brisk or realistically cold! We sat around the open fire  and they did everything to keep us warm, firing  up the heaters and bringing me a blanket. The service was great and we loved the drinks as well as some of the appetizers.  However, the clam chowder was all creme fraiche and very little clam flavor, not to be recommended.

At the "C" restaurant  in the Clement intercontinental Monterey

The next night we tried a higher end options for dinner. PassionFish in Pacific Grove is one of the best fish restaurants on the coast and has long been recognized for their focus on sustainable fishing and education. They have a great web page on why we should eat sustainable seafood with a comprehensive list of links if you are interested in this subject. With the bill they give out a pocket  guide to sustainable seafood choices, which you can download at Seafoodwatch, a project of the Monterey Bay Aquarium. What is great, is that these are regional guides that take into account where you live and what local options are available to you. 

On my last trip to PassionFish I ate fresh Monterey spot prawns which were magnificent but they are not currently in season (and even when they are) they're only on the menu when the fisherman brings them by. When the food is truly local there are no guarantees and no substitutions. We loved our meal on this trip. We started with the shared  appetizers pictured below, which were delicious! I loved the carrot ginger granita on the oysters. I had halibut with spring vegetables as a main and we loved the large desserts. Sorry no pictures, at that point I was thinking about the food more than the blog, sacrilege I know!

Smoked trout tostadita with a spicy squid, mango appetizer

Oysters with granita at PassionFish

On Sunday morning I was craving the crab benedict at Cafe Kevah in Big Sur and we decided to indulge the urge, why not, we're on holiday! Eggs benedict with crab and avocado, what more could we want? Well, perhaps a side of bacon, not necessary but delicious nonetheless. 

I love Cafe Kevah at Big Sur

Cafe Kevah is directly below the famous Nepenthe and like its upstairs neighbor it boasts fabulous views along the coast. Even the birds seem to be admiring the view. This is not a place to come when you're counting either calories or pennies, but it's one of my favorites. The tea is loose leaf, the water is really hot and they serve it in a pot, which makes me happy. I'm a simple girl, really!

These guys will steal your food!

Tips: Cafe Kevah in Big Sur and PassionFish in Pacific Grove are highly recommended. Check out the dog friendly terrace at the Intercontinental for drinks and a lovely view.