Crema featured in the San Francisco Chronicle!

Crema featured in the San Francisco Chronicle!

Down-home cooking gets an upscale twist in Monterey County

Behold the delicious paradox: Upscale contemporary restaurants are mastering down-home dishes to make their balance sheets and diners’ hearts whole. Many of their best offerings satisfy both bellies and minds. Heart, history, home cooking (without dish washing or house guests), happening on a single plate.

In Monterey County, contemporary and comfort are goose-down-pillow bedfellows — in that rich, slow-cooked and high-calorie reality, taste buds (and nap time) win.

Comfort food is not a trend. It’s the furthest and most-fattening thing from it. It’s how tradition, reinterpreted thoughtfully, works best: Foods are familiar but different, basic but brilliant, like Grandma’s best while still something she wouldn’t expect.

Here are some great ways to navigate that duality on the Monterey Peninsula.

Crema Pacific Grove

Behind the soft-on-the-eyes Victorian facade in Pacific Grove hides one of Monterey County’s heaviest comfort-food hitters. Chef-owner Tami Aceves stacks the menu with rib-stickers like bacon-cheddar biscuits and gravy and chicken-fried steak and eggs, and the biggest slugger is the buttermilk-fried chicken and Belgian waffle with gravy. Aceves has been perfecting the slow-simmered spicy sausage gravy for 20 years. Her team worked on the chicken recipe for months. The uber-light waffle took a few more. “We want people to crave,” she says. “That’s what we’re striving for.”

481 Lighthouse Ave., Pacific Grove, (831) 324-0347, http://cremapg.com . Coffee shop: 7 a.m -4 p.m. daily; restaurant: 9 a.m-noon brunch, noon-3 p.m. lunch Monday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, 8 a.m.-3 p.m. weekends, closed Tuesdays.

Article source: San Francisco Chronicle