Best Dishes from Carmel

February 14, 2012

Over Christmas week, we spent four days in the Napa Valley and four days in Carmel. Carmel is our spiritual home, a place we often dream of living in, but sadly, could never afford.

Anyway, it is so fun to visit. And whenever we are there, we have our favorite restos we frequent time and again.

One of those is Grasing’s, chef-owned and operated and a favorite among locals and visitors alike with a great menu. We always begin with Kurt’s Crab-Stuffed Artichoke with Lemon Aïoli. It’s a taste of California that can’t be beat!

Next comes the chef’s signature California Red Abalone Doré. It’s served in the beautiful shells with a generous amount of both shellfish and salad. YUM!

This year marked our 30th wedding anniversary, so once our server found out, she gifted us with an Eggnog Crème Brülée. Since eggnog is one of my favorite flavors, and pudding is one of Spencer’s favorite foods, we were both in dessert heaven!

Another Carmel restaurant we’re always drawn to is La Bicyclette. You get a three-course meal ranging in price from 29 to 45 dollars and each dinner includes the same first and second course (Persimmon Tart Tatin with Midnight Moon Fondue and Chicken-Orzo Soup the evening we were there), plus the diner’s choice among four entrées (Pan-Roasted Filet Mignon with Foie Gras Wellington and Asparagus, Slow-Roasted Lamb Roulade, Smoked Serrano Honey-Lacquered Bobwhite Quail, or Pan-Seared Scallops, for example). You can also order à la carte items from the regular menu; dessert is extra, and worth it (more on that below).

Here are La Bicyclette’s amazing Escargots (ordered à la carte so we could stay somewhat on our low-carb lifestyle). What set these apart was the addition of chopped hazelnuts and bread crumbs along with the garlic-y good drawn butter. Ooh-la-la!

Scallops were fresh-off-the-boat, large, and perfectly cooked to still rare in the middle. Root veggies and asparagus, plus a parsnip purée and Chimay Beer sauce rounded out an extraordinary dish.

Dessert is a Chocolate Mousse made for sharing. Not only is it the perfect consistency but there is a generous sprinkling of chopped white, milk, and dark chocolate atop. Talk about gilding the lily!

At Pèpe’s Little Napoli, an Italian restaurant right across the street from La Bicyclette, Spencer and I enjoyed a unique appetizer–Meatballs on a Stick!

For lunch, we make a point to go to Forge in the Forest because (even in late December) we can often sit outside (if it isn’t rainy or windy) and stay warm (thanks to numerous heat lamps that stud the patio).

I always opt for the Balsamic-Grilled Castroville Artichoke with a Wholegrain Mustard Dip (not unlike a very rich aïoli). Artichoke heart is one of my favorite things in the world, that interesting cross between potato and asparagus.

Other places we like to eat in Carmel include A.W. Shucks Cocktail & Oyster Bar, Christopher’s, and Andre’s Bouchée. So many restos, so little time, alas.

From the sublime food in Carmel, here’s the Jack Daniel’s Chicken we had at the San Francisco Airport at TGI Friday’s. It was the best option for people such as us trying to live the low-carb lifestyle (especially after enjoying several desserts, as outlined above!). And actually, it wasn’t too bad, especially since we got to choose our own sides (two veggies). But I always wonder why a food city such as SF doesn’t have better restaurants at its international airport?


  1. Thanks Braiden,
    This couldn’t be better timing, we leave Saturday to visit my sister in Pebble Beach.When at SFO, we always go to the Yankee Pier, which has sustainable seafood.
    Hope to see you soon,


    Comment by Fiona Black Jackson — February 15, 2012 @ 1:51 pm

  2. Nice to have a sister to visit in Pebble Beach. J Also appreciate the resto recommend at SFO. Will try it next time, here’s hoping!

    Comment by Braiden — February 20, 2012 @ 10:54 am

  3. Did you try pizza at La Bicyclette? It’s so amazing… We reviewed it at: //
    Stop by!

    Comment by Still Served Warm — February 19, 2012 @ 9:27 am

  4. What a wonderful post and video. Thanks for making me aware of all!

    Comment by Braiden — February 20, 2012 @ 10:53 am

  5. We had a wonderful meal at Bicyclette, including those wonderful escargot-even better than any I have ever had in France! The owners of Bicyclette also have a restaurant “Corkscrew” out in Carmel Valley-that was yummy, too. Our good friends Mark Gaier and Clark Frasier were in town at the same time. (James Beard Best chefs, Northeast 2010.) We all went to a fun tapas restaurant they like in Carmel called “Mundaka”. After all that eating, I need to get exercising!

    Comment by Fiona Black Jackson — February 28, 2012 @ 11:25 am

  6. We didn’t have time for Mundaka, but had heard it was good. Next time! See you at the WAC, here’s hoping. J

    Comment by Braiden — March 1, 2012 @ 1:52 pm

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