Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Fisherman's Wharf

Over the years the character of Fisherman's Wharf in Monterey, CA, has changed to meet the needs of its users.

As early as the 1600s, the port of Monterey was selected as a harbor haven for Manila galleons that brought elegant goods from the Phillipines to the Pacific Coast.

And as we noted yesterday, the Monterey fishing and canning industry was the primary user of the Wharf's resources.

When the sardines began to disappear, the Wharf converted to a tourist-oriented business.

There is something about the presence of fog that seems to transform a port into a working port.

Ports with an abundance of sun are meant to be a home to sleek sailboats with polished decks.

So as we walked around Fisherman's Wharf in Monterey, CA early one foggy morning, we imagined fishing fleets heading out to sea.

The realist will look at these photos and point out the number of sailboats docked in the marina and anchored in the cove.

I, however, will discount the sailboat "fleet" and choose to see the harbor as being crowded with working boats, such as the ones in Photos #1 and #3 above.

History will disagree with my perception. When the sardine canning industry dis-appeared, Fisherman's Wharf, which had been built in 1845, turned its emphasis to the tourist industry.

Soon restaurants, gift and candy shops, snack bars, and boat tour operations began to pre-dominate on the Wharf.

As the sun broke through the fog, some of the other residents of the Wharf took advantage of the opportunity to bask in the sun. Pelcans and sea lions seemed to have established another function for the Wharf.

So, for me, seeing one working boat is enough to label to port a working port with the character of the fishermen and the boats--large and

small--shining through the rough exterior.

Our Plans Were to Eat Somewhere Else!

But the story is too long and too sad to go into here. Instead, we ended up at Bayside Deli & BBQ in Monterey.

I am sure that in-season, this small cafe by Otter Cove (also known as The Coast Guard Pier) and a marina is a hub of activity. But this was a weekday out of season, and we shared the small (twenty-one seats) cafe with a couple, who, judging from their accent, were from France. This was a true international experience, since the one person working in the cafe had a decidedly Eastern European accent. We assumed that she was the Valentina as referred to in this sign.

Speaking of signs, I am always taken somewhat aback when a restaurant advertises that it also sells bait and tackle.

Smoked meat and fish dominate the menu, and you can order salmon, tri-tip, ribs, pork, chicken, and turkey on either a sandwich ($8.50 regardless of meat/fish choice) or a platter with a choice of one side.

But Bayside Deli also claims to have the best New England clam chowder on the wharf. Really? Not as far as we were concerned. I found the chowder to be heavy on the potatoes, light on the clams, and in desperate need of seasoning. I kept adding salt to no avail. I did enjoy the chopped fresh dill garnish – even thought this is not true New England.

Chuck chose the Black Angus tri-tip sandwich which came on a white seeded roll, and the meat had been tossed with a liberal amount of a more tart than sweet BBQ sauce. This was a fine roll – crusty outside and airy inside – and it absorbed the sauce without getting soggy. The meat was gently smoked and was exceptionally moist and tender. If I were to have any complaint, it would be that there was too much sauce and the flavor of the good beef was masked.

I chose the smoked salmon sandwich, which came on the same seeded roll with red onion, lettuce, and tomato. Prior to smoking, the fish was cured with fresh herbs, brown sugar, and Kosher salt. I was surprised at the amount of very good salmon that came in a sandwich that only cost $8.50. Like Chuck’s beef, the smoke taste was delicate and let the flavor of the salmon stand out. After having eaten a cup of the heavy on the potatoes chowder, I decided to save half of the sandwich for dinner later that night. I then proceeded to help Chuck eat the last half of his meal. Aren’t I good to him?

I’m not going to lie and say this was the best lunch ever. But it was satisfying and earns a 3.5 Addie rating.

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