WHEN YOU PONDER MONTEREY... you're apt to think of sardines and Cannery Row and of the aquarium and otters and jazz and John Steinbeck. Titans all, in their musical, artistic, science-minded, nature-beautiful ways, and absolutely emblematic of the Bay-snug burg. But salmon has a stake in the city's history, too, with dozens of salmon fishing boats dotting the bay in the early years of the 20th century. To honor Monterey's ties with the fish, and to spotlight the opening of salmon-fishing season -- April 4 for recreational lines and May 1 for those fishing commercially -- a number of restaurants are hosting a Salmon Stravaganza throughout the coming weeks.
ANYTHING WITH "STRAVAGANZA"... in its name sounds mighty hefty indeed, and this culinary happening shall be. Look for spotlights on salmon offerings around Old Fisherman's Wharf, from a fresh Pacific salmon at Crab Louie's Bistro (that's pesto shrimp sauce as the topper) to almond wood-grilled salmon served with basil cream sauce. As for your lunch or dinner conversation with your salmon-craving companions? Pondering the wharf's beginnings and the early stories of fishing and boats and the establishment of a full-on, out-to-the-ocean, catching-today's-haul industry is an interesting thing to do when one is in a storied place. "Old Fisherman's Wharf," after all, isn't just a catchy name meant to draw tourists: It has roots. Find out what those are, and some of the characters who made Monterey a fishing draw way back when, on a Wharf Walk. The walks cover many aspects of the town's history, but the theme on May 2 is tied to the Salmon Stravaganza: How salmon fishing was established and grew in the town.