Saturday, May 15, 2010

Monterey Trip 2010

We really love the Monterey area of California, and we are lucky enough to have an excuse to go to Monterey every year for the annual Sea Otter Classic bike race. The event takes place at the Laguna Seca raceway, about halfway between Salinas & Monterey, and the Platinum team has stayed in Carmel for the last several years at the Hofsas House. Hofsas House is a cheaper option for anyone wanting to stay in Carmel without paying exorbitant rates. We love that the team pretty much takes over this place when we are here, and it is rare that there isn't at least one person we know hanging out by the pool or cleaning their bikes in the parking lot. Here are some pictures of Hofsas House:
Driveway artwork - Right before the driveway drops off in a ridiculously steep grade that the team refers to as "Mr. Toad's Wild Ride." It is so silly the husband had to take a picture.
View from the upper level balcony. Weather was awesome while we were here.

This year, I managed to avoid going into the expo area at the race. This is the largest race expo in the country, and it is overwhelming at times for me. It costs $10 a day for spectators just to go in and walk around. I have found ways around this fee (usually involving picking up scraps of racer wristbands and cobbling them together to make my own) because I think it is ridiculous to charge the friends and family money just to get in to the area where you are able to spend MORE money for food & drinks. This year, I avoided the expo altogether and hung out at the hotel or went out with the other wives of the team. Here are just a couple of pics that the husband got (his entry was free as a racer) of the madness:

Before crossing the bridge over the racetrack into the insanity

Just one of the booths - We do love Specialized in this family!

I am rather proud of how well researched I was on this trip. I didn't take pictures at all the restaurants we ate at, but there were some that were worth mentioning even without the pictures. I used Yelp and Trip Advisor extensively to research the types of food we were interested in and to find the best options for our entire group. The first night there, I inadvertantly ended up planning the "team dinner" as more and more couples signed up to join the husband and me at our chosen dinner spot, Little Napoli. The husband is very particular about where/what he eats the night before a race, so I chose this place for its simplicity - Italian food in an American style where you know what you are getting when you order spaghetti & meatballs. We ended up with a table for 12, which was a great size, since everyone was able to interact and no one was left out. Everyone seemed to enjoy their meals, especially my husband, who got a spicy pasta with swordfish that he really enjoyed and was a perfect fit for his pre-race needs. The next night, the race was over and we were both exhausted after a long day (husband got 12th, see team website for all the team successes and photos by me!). We decided to celebrate with Mexican food and some margaritas. I found Club Jalapeno on Yelp and never would have found it otherwise, since it is tucked inside a business area courtyard. This place was fantastic. The sauces are unique combinations. I loved the Spicy Yellow Pepper sauce with my beef tamale (roasted yellow bell pepper with habaneros), and the husband thought the Oaxaca style Mole sauce was better than any other he had tasted. Several teammates went here the next night and loved it as well.
Now, onto the food that we DID take pictures of. We had eaten at Katy's Place for breakfast last year, and knew we wanted to go back again. The husband is a big fan of eating out for breakfast, and even my small breakfast eating self enjoyed Katy's Place enough to return. It is expensive, and cash only, but it is a fun environment and has very tasty food. Although they are known for their Benedict items, we have yet to try any of the benedict combos, since we aren't huge fans. The husband's banana chocolate chip pancakes did start a trend, however. After his plate was delivered, we saw several people ordering by saying: We want THAT! I got a delicious strawberry waffle and a hot chocolate:

We also ate at the Sardine Factory, which was our "fancy" meal of the weekend. We had a few recommendations for this location, so we made reservations and headed over to the Cannery Row area. We accidentally stole another couple's table (I swear they said "Moore!"), but thankfully, they were able to accomodate both parties in the lovely conservatory room. We dined on their famous abalone bisque, the albacore special (Husband) and Sole Americana (me - Sole with Diver Scallops and Lobster pieces over local greens, yum!) and finished with their Chocolate Marquis Cake, which was fantastic:

Of course, we also visited the aquarium. We don't visit every year, because it is expensive and doesn't always work into our schedule, but it is a really well run show here at Monterey Bay Aquarium. They are very passionate about saving the oceans and have become known across the U.S. for their sustainable fish consumption guide. I don't always abide by the guidelines while dining out, but I do try and choose sustainable options when buying fish to eat at home. Here are some of my favorite pics of the many I took at the aquarium (having an SLR at an aquarium makes picture taking much more fun!). We loved the sea dragons/horses and the jellyfish, and I think I'm in love with that little sardine with his mouth open!

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