Allen Pierleoni / apierleoni@sacbee.com

From the menu at the Cypress Inn in Carmel: split pea soup, endive salad and grilled sand dabs.

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Counter Culture: Dig in during a delicious Doris Day trip to Carmel

Published: Friday, Aug. 24, 2012 - 12:00 am | Page 32TICKET

"That's the thing – cars mean cigars," said an expertly coiffed woman, making an "Eeew!" face and waving away a cloud of tobacco smoke.

The lady was referring to the nattily dressed gentlemen holding smoldering stogies as they milled around the manicured grounds of the Pebble Beach Golf Course. They and 15,000 other attendees were there to appreciate the spectacular autos-as-art on display at last Sunday's 62nd Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance.

This was the Monterey Peninsula's social event of the year, with attendees and participants from 15 countries and more than 30 states. Seemingly de rigueur were flutes of champagne, blue blazers, private parties on the balcony-patios of nearby mansions, picnics on the grass and an Easter parade's worth of women's hats, many of them adorned with bouquets of faux flowers. Outdoor vendors sold light fare (hot dogs, $9) and souvenirs (commemorative coffee mugs, $18).

We stood in line for 30 minutes for an early lunch inside the Gallery Cafe (www.pebblebeach.com). After an OK cheeseburger and fries ($16) and a cup of excellent clam chowder ($6), we stood on the cafe balcony overlooking the roped-off corral of concept cars. Wow! Maseratis, BMWs, Bugattis, Aston Martins, Bentleys and an amazing twin-turbo, 1,000-horsepower Hennessey-engineered Venom GT Spyder for $1.1 million. Guess who bought the first production version? Yep, Steven Tyler, of Aerosmith and late of "American Idol" (www.venomgt.com).

Best of show went to a 1928 Mercedes-Benz 680S Saoutchik Torpedo.

Afterward, we made camp for the night at the Mariposa Inn in Monterey (www. mariposamonterey.com), across Munras Avenue from the sprawling Del Monte Shopping Center. Guess who else was staying there? Yep, the Lamborghini Club of America, so the parking lot was well-populated with the Italian super-cars.

That evening, the lines at most of the bistros and restaurants in Carmel and Monterey were out the door. Hmmm, where to eat ... Then, an inspiration. After three years of trying to arrange some time with singer-actress Doris Day, we heard a rare interview with her in April, on National Public Radio. The occasion was the release of her CD compilation, "With a Smile and a Song."

Day had a legendary singing career and made 40 movies, remaining the top female box-office star in the history of Hollywood. She's 87, lives in Carmel Valley and owns the ultra-dog-friendly Cypress Inn in Carmel. Let's dine there, on the off chance of a Doris Day sighting.

Inside, we loved the hotel's vintage vibe, the Doris Day memorabilia and movie posters, and the comfy Living Room sitting area, which could have been a set in "The Man Who Knew Too Much," in which she immortalized the song "Que Sera, Sera." The room is just the place to sit in a cushy chair in front of the fireplace and read the latest edition of the Carmel Pinecone – with one eye on the doorway in case Doris Day walked by.

One room over, Terry's Restaurant & Lounge is named for Doris Day's late son, musician Terry Melcher, the gold record-winning producer (think Beach Boys). This night, the bar was two-deep as out-of-town visitors ordered from the list of classic cocktails, wittily described to "evoke the effortless style and sophistication of the movies in which they played a part." The cocktails menu includes a line from Humphrey Bogart: "The problem with the world is that everyone is a few drinks behind."

We sat at a table for two and scanned the room for Doris Day. Was that her in the corner? Uh, no. We ordered a bowl of lukewarm but perfectly textured split-pea soup ($5), tasty endive-blue cheese salad ($7) and crispy grilled sand dabs with tarragon sauce and veggies ($18). We passed on the "one ounce of California hackleback sturgeon caviar with buckwheat blini" for $68.

Cypress Inn, Lincoln and Seventh, Carmel; (831) 624-3871; www.cypress-inn.com.

The next day, an early lunch at the Mediterranean-Italian restaurant Nico set the mood. When you drop by, ask for a table on the back patio, dripping with vines of hot-pink and red bougainvillea. Doris Day likely has eaten there.

We spooned deeply flavored tapenade (sun-dried tomato, Parmesan, anchovy paste, garlic, olive oil) onto hot slices of crusty artisanal bread. Then segued to a plate of four cheeses (toma, feta, provolone and Pecorino Romano) with Kalamata olives and artichoke hearts ($13).

Nico, San Carlos Street near Ocean Avenue, Carmel; (831) 624-6545 or www.nicorestaurant.com.

Still on our quest, we drove south on Highway 1 and on to Carmel Valley Road, hoping to spot Doris Day in a scarf and movie-star sunglasses, being chauffeured in the back of a 1957 Cadillac convertible.

Instead, we saw a lot of pickup trucks, then acres of vineyards, where we pulled into the five-star Bernardus resort and winery. We peeked into the recently refurbished, award-winning Marinus restaurant (dinner only, jackets required), then sat outside on the breezy patio of the informal Wickets Bistro. It adjoins a grassy field set up for bocce ball and croquet.

The luscious Angus beef burger was delivered medium-rare on a multiseeded bun; the skinny fries were crispy-creamy. However, for the price ($16) and the venue, one would expect the tomato slices to come from the middle of the tomato, not the ends.

Bernardus Lodge, 415 W. Carmel Valley Road, Carmel Valley; (831) 658-3400, www.bernardus.com.

On the way back to Highway 1, look for the Earthbound Organic Farm sign on the left. We walked around the gorgeous grounds and gardens in back of the Farm Stand. We lingered over the pick 'n' eat red and golden raspberry hedges, and the cut-your-own-herbs garden.

Inside the Farm Stand were arrays of organic produce, prepared foods and cookbooks by Earthbound Farm co-founder Myra Goodman. The house-made raspberry yogurt was delicious. We wished we could have shared it with you-know-who.

© Copyright The Sacramento Bee. All rights reserved.

Read more articles by Allen Pierleoni



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