Catch a taste of Carmel Valley along California’s Central Coast.
In July, we headed to the Golden State for our annual travel issue, which covered everything from Humboldt County and the redwoods to Coronado in San Diego County. Along the way we made myriad stops, including the Central Coast wine region, where we uncorked the rich diversity and vintages of Santa Barbara, San Luis Obispo, and Monterey counties. The latter is home to Carmel Valley Ranch, where Tim Wood is executive chef. He shared a couple of recipes with us, including a cocktail and a fish dish (naturally).
"At t Carmel Valley Ranch," Wood says, "we are fortunate enough to have our own fisherman, Jerry Whettle, and his fleet of well-trained professionals, who supply us twice a week with fish almost too fresh to cook day-of. I met Jerry on a fishing boat here in Monterey 13 years ago, and we have been in glorious business ever since. Jerry is featured on our menu at the Lodge Restaurant with our line-caught fish-of-the-day that rotates based on seasonal availability.
"My advice for purchasing fresh fish would be to seek out a good fish market or to inquire at a favorite restaurant where you feel the quality is above par and to simply ask where they would recommend in the area. Note: Not all chefs are willing to give up their secrets, but asking is a great start. As with many things in life, it can be trial and error, but when you find an exceptional fishmonger it can make all the difference."
The Rose Garden (Summer Cocktail)
4 ounces Carmel Valley Ranch “Swing” Reserve Rosé of Pinot Noir
1 ounce California-made Hangar One Buddha’s Hand Citron Vodka
½ ounce honey syrup (combine 1 part hot water and 1 part honey; then chill)
2 – 3 big leaves of fresh basil
Lemon wedge, for garnish
Tear basil leaves into 3 – 4 larger pieces each (to release aromas and flavors) and place in the bottom of a glass. Top with ice, vodka, and rosé. Add honey syrup last. Stir to mix thoroughly. Garnish with lemon wedge.
Line-Caught White Sea Bass With Tomato Fennel Fondue and Rainbow Swiss Chard
(Serves 6 – 8)
Tomato Fennel Fondue
2 ounces olive oil, plus extra
8 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1 fennel bulb, thinly sliced
1 onion, thinly sliced
10 extra-ripe tomatoes
Monterey Bay Sea Salt, for garnish (if it's unavailable to you, I recommend using Diamond Crystal Coastal Kosher Salt)
In a large heavy-bottomed saucepan, add 2 ounces olive oil. Let warm slowly over medium heat. Add sliced garlic and cook for 5 minutes. Stir so as not to burn. Add fennel and onions. Cook on low heat for 30 – 40 minutes. Add fresh, overripe tomatoes and allow the mix to simmer for 20 minutes. Set aside until ready to plate sea bass. Garnish with Monterey Bay Sea Salt and a drizzle of olive oil.
Rainbow Swiss Chard With Garlic and Sherry Vinegar
1 bunch Swiss chard
2 ounces olive oil
2 garlic cloves
Salt and black pepper to taste
One splash sherry vinegar (about 1 ounce, to taste)
Clean Swiss chard by soaking in cool water. When ready, pull chard out of water and let sit until pan is ready. In a large heavy-bottomed pan, heat a generous amount of olive oil. Add garlic after 1 minute. Add the Swiss chard; season with salt and pepper. Cook until wilted or to your desired doneness; then add a splash of sherry vinegar.
6 (7-ounce) line-caught sea bass filets
1 sprig of thyme
1 teaspoon butter
Salt and black pepper to taste
In a large heavy-bottomed sauté pan, add olive oil, salt, and pepper. Bring to medium/medium-high heat. Sprinkle salt and pepper on fish. Add fish to the pan in batches to allow it to cook evenly and not overcrowd. Cook for 4 minutes on each side. Remove fish from pan and place in an ovenproof dish with a sprig of thyme and teaspoon of butter. Baste and cook till desired doneness. Roast for 3 – 6 minutes depending on thickness of fish.
For more California food and travel options, see the July 2015 issue. Recipes courtesy Chef Tim Wood, Carmel Valley Ranch.