Carmel Magazine

Carmel Magazine, Spring 2018

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160 C A R M E L M A G A Z I N E • S P R I N G / S U M M E R 2 0 1 8 At Bernardus, Quality is Written on the Wall A ny chef would have gladly traded his toque for the opportunity to cook for the legendary author of "The French Chef "and pioneering TV food maven Julia Child. Executive Chef Cal Stamenov of Bernardus Lodge and Spa had that distinct honor in 2001. "Julia came into the restaurant [then known as Marinus] and said to me, 'Cook me what- ever you'd like,'" Stamenov says. "It was an honor, and I thought, 'There's no way I'm going to let her go without signing something.' " He got his wish. That "something" turned out to be the wall above the chef 's table in the Bernardus kitchen. The table provides din- ers a front-row seat to the tightly-choreo- graphed ballet performed nightly in a world- class kitchen such as Stamenov's. Always gra- cious and accommodating, Ms. Child cheerful- ly penned her name on the plaster in a huge, looping script, becoming the progenitor of a tradition that continues to this day. Dozens of signatures followed, now lin- ing the three walls surrounding the table, looking like out-of-control tourist graffiti until one realizes just whose names are affixed there. Many show-biz luminaries are represented, including film stars Goldie Hawn, Bradley Cooper and Carmel's own Clint Eastwood. Following his experiences there, Leonardo DiCaprio repor tedly called Stamenov's food "the best in the world." French chefs other than Child have also graced the table, such as the famed Daniel Boulud. Former Vice President Al Gore represents the political realm. Two of the most recently-applied signa- tures were penned by superstar model Kate Upton and her husband, Houston Astros pitcher Justin Verlander. The couple were in town while filming a road trip video for the Golf Channel (viewable on YouTube), making a stay at Bernardus part of their experience. There's not much free space left on the wall these days, and some of the scribblings have been overwritten or faded, but the memories created at Chef Stamenov's table live on. Oh, and by the way, you don't have to be a movie star or supermodel to dine there, but reserve the table (it seats up to five diners) and Stamenov and staff will create a tasting menu—and experi- ence—that will make you feel like one. tasting rooms in the valley. One of the newest is The Wine House, owned by Charlotte Beshoff-Joyce and her sis- ter Rachel. Rather than showcase a single vint- ner, the sisters have chosen to present an ever- evolving offering of Carmel Valley and European wines, Monterey Bay-area beers on tap and small bites. The grounds are designed for fun and relaxation, with roomy seating areas, a bocce ball court and occasional mellow live music. Beshoff-Joyce's believes her concept is helping to skew a younger demographic to the Village. "There now seem to be tons of young people coming to the valley," she says. "Many are Monterey locals who used to think there's noth- ing going on out here." Another tasting room that puts out a playful vibe is the Cowgirl Winery, owned by Walter and Sylvia Georis. Located in a renovated-yet-rustic for- mer barn, tasters can relax under spreading oaks, dance to live music most weekends and sample Cowgirl's vintages while chickens peck underfoot. Those tasting rooms are spread throughout the Village, and while many choose to walk between them, there's another option. A color- ful character named "Cowboy Pete" operates Happy Trails Wagon Tours, an Old West wagon now pulled by a John Deere tractor. Pete can be seen ferrying grinning passengers up and down Carmel Valley Road just about every day, stop- ping at wine tasting rooms along the way. Another option for safely navigating the roads after wine tasting is the Wine Trolley. Leaving from Monterey, this company's two trolleys— buses that look like San Francisco cable cars— Chef Cal Stamenov sits at his chef's table in the kitchen of Bernardus Lodge & Spa. The wall is covered with famous autographs. Carmel Valley remained a rural ranching and agricul- tural region until the late 20th century.

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