Mike Jones was responsible for some of my most memorable local dinner experiences. Years ago, running his infamous Cachagua General Store, we would journey over an hour out into the wilds of Carmel Valley to Cachagua for a Monday-night-only dinner spot in an old storefront building which had become his regular pop-up dinner location. It was common to see both lifted pickups and Ferraris in the parking lot, as people from all over the peninsula made the pilgrimage.
The highlights were varied, and changed weekly depending on what was fresh and local. Most notable for me was the wine list which featured some amazing older vintages from local favorites, as well as Napa and French staples.
When some recent clients asked me to find a spot for dinner for them that was out of the ordinary, I immediately thought of Mike. Coincidentally, he had just recently reached out to me about his new location just past the Carmel Valley Village up at the site of an old youth camp. Bingo. Hopefully the clients would want something really different, not just in a superficial way.
When I pitched it to him, he was pretty excited. I was a bit worried, as I often am when things are new and out of my control.
The tour itself had a few small bumps that I quickly ironed out, and then it went very smoothly. Our guests thought it was the perfect afternoon, as we visited a private vineyard and then churned through the Carmel Valley Village with pinpoint accuracy, finding them exactly the sorts of wines they were looking for. Throughout the tour we joked about our upcoming dinner adventure, as I assured them it was neither Eyes Wide Shut nor Hills Have Eyes. No one would force them to wear a hat, as they had on one of their Central American trips.
We arrived at the dinner on time at 6:45 and were greeted by the chef. Passed appetizers soon appeared, and we worked our way through four courses standing so everyone could walk around and take in the property. An old youth camp, there is a lot of history there contained in site-sourced adobe brick walls and other rustic charm. Some local deer joined the fun briefly. In total, the night was 8 courses and the wine pairing was suggested by the chef but left up to the guests.
Then, the wine came out and the group chose around six older bottles and two bottles of champagne to share for the evening, to the tune of $350. For those keeping track, one of those bottles was an ’85 Silver Oak, which may have accounted for the entire price at a “normal” restaurant. Aside from that was an ’87 Mount Eden, ’88 Sinsky (someone had a brother who worked for Robert Sinsky Vineyards which just randomly was on the table), and two amazing older Rieslings. One of those Rieslings may have been the highlight of the night for these folks, but all were in great shape.
Dinner was also exceptional and changes day to day depending on what is fresh and local at the market. Our guests were unwilling to relinquish their view of Cypress Point as the best experience of their Monterey trip, but the wives got dinner too (no golf for them) and regardless I don’t mind being second best to a bucket list golf outing. Oh, and at less than $100 per person for dinner, it’s also a bit more affordable.
We returned them to their rental in Pebble Beach around 10:30 and after around 12 hours on the go with Cane and Spur, they were pretty much done for the day.
If this sort of thing seems like your speed, let’s talk about how Cane and Spur can coordinate a dinner like this and stay on site to get you back safely.