MADE IN MONTEREY

Looking for specialty products that are made in Monterey County? You'll find a host of locally grown produce and seafood here, supremely evident when you visit Monterey County restaurants. But which are considered truly local?

Produce

Artichokes: Nearly two-thirds of the world's artichokes are grown in Monterey County. As the "Artichoke Center of the World," Monterey County hosts the annual Artichoke Festival at the Monterey County Fair & Event Center that is held towards the end of May.

Your first experience with an artichoke may be intimidating but don't let the unusual exterior fool you. The heart of the artichoke is incredibly tender and juicy when prepared correctly. 

In spring and winter, look for artichokes with a soft green color and tightly-packed leaves. During summer, artichokes tend to be flared and conical in shape. Fall and winter artichokes may be darker or bronze-tipped, or have a whitish blistered appearance due to frost. Many consider these "winter-kissed" artichokes to be the most tender and flavorful. Appreciation of their seasonal variation in size, shape and color raises artichokes to a whole new "art" form. For more information and tips on artichokes click here.

Local chefs find dozens of ways to prepare the tasty veggie. You'll find it in everything from loaves of bread to your breakfast omelet. A few special menu items:

  • Haute Enchilada serves a unique twist on breakfast with a savory artichoke and cheese tamale. This hearty concoction is topped with salsa and served with two eggs, apple wood bacon and black beans or potatoes.
  • The Crown and Anchor in downtown Monterey has a deep fried artichoke heart to die for!
  • For a different spin on the thorny thistle, head to Kula Ranch Island Steakhouse in Marina for the fire roasted artichoke served with lemon cilantro aioli.
  • Montrio Bistro even infuses baby artichoke hearts into raviolis served with bacon bits and peas in a creamy Italian parsley sauce.

Mixed Greens: Salinas Valley isn't called the "Salad Bowl of the World" for nothing. Approximately 80% of the nation's lettuce is grown right here in Monterey County. Iceberg lettuce, spinach, leaf lettuce and other varieties are available at local farmers' markets and eateries. While greens may be available everywhere, most of them are grown right here.

  • The Steinbeck House in Salinas uses these leafy greens in almost every meal. Their mixed green salads, and shrimp Caesar salads and are fresh from the fields!
  • In Monterey, Old Fisherman's Grotto uses local baby spinach for their spinach and prawn salad. It's served up with a special bacon-brandy vinaigrette dressing and tossed with red onion, grilled prawns and hardboiled egg.
  • Schooners at the Monterey Plaza Hotel and Spa serves an organic baby greens salad with fresh fruit and a honey lemon poppy seed dressing. The lettuce is so fresh and buttery it melts in your mouth!

Seafood

Abalone: At one time, abalone grew to dinner plate size and were as common as clams. Now, Monterey County's two abalone farms produce some of the only fresh, ocean-reared abalone in the U.S. This uncommon shellfish is pricey, but succulent.

  • Pacific's Edge Restaurant in Carmel Highlands serves Monterey Bay abalone as a starter dish. This shellfish is served with mushroom, fava beans, mussel-saffron emulsion and shallot confit.
  • The Sardine Factory offers grilled abalone medallions as a main dish. The center cut steaks are lightly breaded with fresh herbs and served with oyster mushrooms, asparagus and lemon-butter sauce.

Sanddabs: The sanddab is a small, sweet and tender flatfish unique to the West Coast of the United States and hard to find elsewhere. They're especially popular fried.

  • The Grill on Ocean Avenue in Carmel-by-the-Sea serves their lightly breaded sanddabs with delectable lemon-caper butter. Serve with a Monterey County Chardonnay for a perfect pairing!
  • The Fish Hopper on Cannery Row delicately breads and grills their sanddab fillets. Once they're cooked to perfection they are topped with freshly diced tomatoes and a light basil sauce.
  • The Restaurant at Los Laureles in Carmel Valley spins their version of sanddabs with Asian influences. Their sanddab tempura is prepared with Basmati rice and Asian vegetables with sesame vinaigrette.
  • Carmel's Mediterranean Bistro, Village Corner, grills Monterey Bay sanddabs with Japanese panko. This starter dish is served with potato galette and a savory seafood beurre-blanc.

Sardines: The silver little fish that gave Cannery Row its name is not as abundant as it was in the early 1900's but can still be enjoyed locally.

  • The Sardine Factory in Monterey is an obvious choice to enjoy this fish. Their Wild California Sardines are lightly smoked in olive oil and served with chopped egg, lemon and capers.

Wine

With over 40,000 acres of wine grapes planted in Monterey County, numerous varieties and styles of wine are easily found here. An astonishing 42 varietals are planted in Monterey County with Chardonnay and Pinot Noir being some of the most popular.

Specialty wine shops like A Taste of Monterey, as well as many wine tasting rooms, offer a taste of what makes Monterey County so special. See our section on Wine in Monterey County for more information, including maps and tasting room itineraries for Carmel Valley and Salinas Valley.

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