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Fandango: An Epicurean Tango in Pacific Grove

by Laura Ness - HerVineNess on February 28, 2012

Fandango A Tango of Rich Traditions

From the moment you step off the sidewalk onto the grassy cobble-dotted path, you know you have entered a haven of European-style hospitality.lunchFish

pierre_and_mariettaOwners Pierre and Marietta Bain have been serving up sumptuous Mediterranean cuisine here since 1983, with largely the same menu and dedicated staff. You feel like family immediately as you enter, and the quaint frescoes on the walls beckon you to relax and let your imagination transport you to all the magic places, whose images have been rendered in the plaster. If you, like me, find reading the wine list one of the greatest pleasures of a fine meal, then you will be quickly drawn into the plot. You will take a global journey through all the wine regions, with special attention paid to the south of France, Pierre’s original home. Hermitages, Gigondas, Guigal – all here. But here, too, are a comely selection of local talent, including Bernardus, Talbott and Chalone.Fanwines-header

This place was hopping on Valentine’s Day, with many an elderly couple festooned in red and pink, the ladies wearing their hearts on their ears, the scent of old perfume heavy in the fresh ocean air.  Having arrived a tad late, I was surprised, but shouldn’t have been, to find the table already groaning with food. If you’ve ever eaten lunch with Marci Bracco, you know what you’re in for. Spread amongst the baskets of bread were two kinds of pate, a deep dish of escargot with snails bathing in hot tubs of butter, and sumptuous mounds of shrimp basking on a beach of romaines topped with shaved parm.

2010ChardonnaySleepyHollowAlready deep into the bottle of 2010 Talbott  Sleepy Hollow chardonnay, Marci bid me to “Eat up! We’ve ordered lunch!” I shot my friend Ann Hougham from Mesa del Sol a look of panic as Marci rattled off what was on the way from the kitchen. Soon, our charming banter-maestro waiter, Dino, arrived to deliver a steaming pan of paella, heaping with shellfish of every kind, with spicy sausage and richly chewy rice. The chardonnay stepped up to it, thankfully endowed with sufficient acid in the 2010

Setting the pan down, Dino asked did we want the Croque Monsieur soufflé before or after the Couscous Algerois, a decadent dish containing both lamb shank and lamb sausage? In self defense, I did what anyone faced with an onslaught of calorically preposterous proportions would do: I ordered pinot noir. How could one possibly contemplate consumption of highly saturated fats without this beverage? Dino suggested a Chalone 2010 pinot, which was a divine match with the lamb dish, and almost cut through the Croque Monsieur.ChalEstPinotNoircrop

We chastised Ann for not having her syrah: that would have been a divine way to conquer the croissant crammed with ham and cheese, egg dipped and then deep fried to crispy, cheesey-goey perfection. Accompanied by no less than a small mountain range of pomme frites, this dish is a heart attack on a plate. My husband scored the leftovers and barely said a word as he savored every calorie-laden bite.

You might think we would have called it a day after the rich lamb stew, but no, Marci insisted on dessert and cappuccino, and just as I was about to fall into a high cholesterol coma, out came a plate piled high with profiteroles, pastry shells stuffed with coffee ice cream, snowed under with several inches of whipped cream and laced like a lava flow with dark chocolate.

You might think at this point we would have been calling 911. Oh, but no, instead, we tucked our spoons into an eggy rich crème brulee with a perfect ice skating rink of torched sugar. It made that hallmark sound of breaking glass that sets genuine crème brulee apart from inferior attempts best billed as 07PNCInTyreMRcustard. The cups of cappuccino were mounded high with igloos of pillowy foam that reminded me of the meringue on top of my mother’s lemon pie. Seriously, I did not think I would eat another thing for a week, but there I was later that evening, reliving the luncheon remnants, with just one more French fry. Ok, one more. No, you have it. No, you have it. We drank a lot of pinot that night: thank goodness we had some 07 McIntyre Mission Ranch, as it served as a backhoe to dig through the decadence.

The only downside to a lovely luncheon in Pacific Grove is the Nazi like enforcement of the 90 minute parking ordinance. Seriously? 90 minutes? Who can eat lunch at a place like Fandango in 90 minutes? The guy is brutal, too. As I left, several Valentine-clad ladies were bemoaning their excessive $30 plus parking fines. Nothing like a parking citation to ruin your day. Really, Pacific Grove should rethink this inhospitable revenue generation scheme.

Fandango is at 223 17th Street in Pacific Grove, and is open for lunch Mon- Sat 11:30 to 2:30pm, Brunch on Sunday from 11:30 til 2:30, and every day for Dinner, from 5pm til closing. For reservations, call 831-372-3456.