Monday, December 03, 2007

Weekend in Monterey

This weekend I went down to Monterey, on the central coast. It's picture postcard beautiful with dramatic wispy Cypress pines, a rocky shoreline and plenty of sea birds and seals. The aquarium is a must-see. It was one of the first aquariums to focus on the local habitat which is rich and colorful, especially the undulating transparent jelly fish that glow in picture window tanks.

As far as dining goes, Monterey is not quite a destination, but there is some good food to be found in the area. Staying as a guest of the Hyatt Regency Monterey, I got to check out the relatively new restaurant TusCA. I'm not crazy about the name, which is meant to highlight the Tuscan influenced California cuisine, but I did like the food. The duck breast I tried was a huge portion that had been cooked in a wood-fired oven. It was crisp on the outside and juicy medium rare on the inside and served over a bed of wild rice, mushrooms and hazelnuts. At around $20 it was a terrific value. I also tried the Pacific sea bass which was served with roasted vegetables. Wines were a bit less of a bargain, I'm afraid and some were marked up around four times retail.

While the menu featured primarily local and sustainable seafood, the chef told me about his hopes to make the entire menu fit within the sustainable seafood guidelines put forth by the aquarium. Imagine if the whole Hyatt chain did that. They could help set the standard for hotels everywhere.

Do you have an updated version of the Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch card? There is a 2007 version available on the website that you can download for free. In addition to West Coast, there are Northeast, Hawaii, National, Southeast, Central US and Southwest versions available, each tell you the best choices for sustainable "ocean-friendly" seafood. If you'd like a nice wallet-sized fold out West Coast guide, be one of the first 10 people to leave a comment on this post, and I will email you for your address and send you one.