42 MONTEREY COUNTY WEEKLY april 4-10, 2024 www.montereycountyweekly.com There’s a secret behind the success of tin can nachos at Hay’s Place in Pebble Beach. No, it’s not that you can order them with sweet and delicately briney chunks of lobster. Nor is it the way roasted jalapeño brings a smoldering layer of smoke over sullen black beans. The answer is in the queso blanco crafted by Chef Angela Herrera and her team. The chef is not content to shred cheese and allow it to melt over the dish. Instead she starts with wheels of fontina and Vermont white cheddar, prized for its sharp bite. After sauteing onions and chiles… Wait—are we still talking about cheese? “It’s a long process,” Herrera explains. The vegetables have to break down, milk and cream are added, the cheese blend stirred in slowly until a queso blanco as rich as fondue thickens in the pot. “It takes a lot to make the cheese.” Hay’s Place nachos are packed into a large tin can that is upended on the table, spilling out a gorgeous mess. At Sticks, also in Pebble Beach, Chef Anna Marie Bayonito approaches nachos from a more familiar perspective— chips with cheese melted throughout— except that the presentation is in an elegant serving boat and crumbles of chorizo bring a meaty flare. “I hate to say it, but I love our nachos,” Bayonito says, and plenty of others agree. With standout versions at Hay’s Place and Sticks, as well as options served by the Lodge’s Gallery Cafe, the posh Pebble Beach resort has become a destination for nachos. “We do sell a lot of them,” Herrera admits. “I’m not a big fan of nachos, but I like these.” If there’s a reluctance to the admiration of both chefs for their creations, it’s because Bayonito and Herrera are accomplished chefs of white tablecloth pedigree. Even chefs from Mexico are ready to dismiss the dish. Writing in the New York Times, celebrity chef Pati Jinich admitted that, “In my eyes, nachos equaled American entertainment.” The confusion is understandable. Even though there is general agreement that nachos are native to Piedras Negras, in Coahuila, Mexico, first served restaurant-style in the early 1940s, they gained popularity north of the border in ballpark form three decades later—bland chips doused with orange goo. No wonder chefs waver at praise of their nachos. Bayonito roasts chicken—organic, of course—with sumac and plates on a bed of saffron couscous and prepares other fine dishes, even a gourmet burger. “Don’t just come to Sticks for the nachos,” she urges. “Try the menu.” Hay’s Place has staked out casual, but upscale, Mexican-inspired cuisine. For Herrera that means skewers of shrimp grilled and kissed with fresh herbs and citrus butter or a salad where kale and pepitas are roasted and joined by pomegranate, yams and pineapple. Both chefs, however, understand they occupy a unique space. And they take full advantage of the creative freedom that affords. “We get the best of both worlds— that’s what I like about it,” Bayonito observes. So she can shape a menu that zigzags between bistro, pub, fine dining and sports bar, layering the nachos with al dente black beans and topping with a dollop of rich guacamole—familiar, but better. Guests can substitute other meats in place of the chorizo, or make it vegetarian. “I think nachos in a tin can was a fun idea,” Herrera adds. “Fine dining is beautiful, but guests are looking for a fun experience—especially at Hay’s.” Adding to the fun, Hay’s Place offers five nacho options. From the basic version, one can add chicken, short ribs, skirt steak or go full elevation with lobster. The latter pushes the price into nacho stratosphere at over $50. Again, however, the serving is enough for two to three people, making it a shellfish bargain. So despite their hesitation, both Herrera and Bayonito have come to embrace Pebble Beach as a nacho destination. “That’s cool—to be known for nachos,” Herrera says. As for Bayonito, the versatility of the dish has her thinking. “I should do something like that—make it crazy,” she says of the lobster nachos at Hay’s before checking herself. “What am I talking about?” First course The lobster nachos at Hay’s Place in Pebble Beach may not truly qualify as fine dining, but they bring sophistication to the fun of the sports bar snack. Pebble Power…If you’re not aware (and if you are reading these pages you certainly are aware) the posh Pebble Beach Food & Wine festival is back, April 4--7. There are many fine foods, wines and celebrity chefs, and tickets for some events may still be available. The grand Tasting Pavilion on SaturdaySunday is a must, from 1-4pm. And get this: Locals get a 25 percent discount on Sunday. pbfw.com. Patio Music…Twisted Roots Winery is welcoming spring by bringing back its music on the patio series. Sip wine in the sun—could happen—on the occasional Sunday while listening to live music from local artists from 1-4pm. The first of the series takes place on Sunday, April 7 with musician Casey Wickstrom. Del Fino Place, Carmel Valley. 594-8282, twistedrootsvineyard.com. Spring to It…Can’t get enough of cooking demonstrations? Everyone’s Harvest continues its series at noon on Sunday, April 7, guided by health coach Rondi Robison. On the menu are farmers market spring rolls, and the possibilities are staggering, thanks to the haul available at the Marina Farmers Market. 215 Reservation Road, Marina. 384-6961, everyonesharvest.org. Get Hooked…Folktale Winery will host a benefit dinner to support the Monterey Bay Fisheries Trust and the Monterey Bay Community Seafood Program on Wednesday, April 10. Dive in for an evening of live music, education and phenomenal food, all for a great cause. $85 per person. 8940 Carmel Valley Road, Carmel Valley. 293-7500, folktalewinery.com. Grazing in the Grove…Tickets for this year’s Great Taste of Pacific Grove are on sale for a discounted price of $85 before going up to $100 on April 15. Enjoy an evening wining and dining to support Pacific Grove schools. The event takes place Sunday, April 21 from 4-7pm. 884-8818, supportpgpride.com. Michelada Star…Sometimes you want a little tomato juice in your beer, but you don’t want to spend more than you do for tacos. Good news: Mission 19 Taqueria extended its MondayThursday happy hour from 1-6pm. In that time, micheladas (mimosas, too) are only $5. 598 Lighthouse Ave., Monterey. (925) 518-0402, mission19taqueriaca.com. By Jacqueline Weixel morsels Send a bite to eatanddrink@mcweekly.com “We get the best of both worlds.” Eat + DrinK Daniel Dreifuss Chip Shot Despite the resort fineries, a few restaurants have made Pebble Beach into a haven for nachos. By Dave Faries