OVERWHELMED ON OCEAN: If you've ever sauntered down to the beach in Carmel-by-the-Sea, chances are good that you used Ocean Avenue to do so. And you found out what every visitor finds out to the jewel box of a city: The walk to the spectacular beach is pretty memorable in itself. This isn't always the case, of course, in beach cities. You might pass a bunch of nondescript buildings, or a couple of cute cafes, as you make your way to the sand. But in Carmel, the buildings are cottages worthy of a greeting card, and the visual treats of the humanmade city can rival the famous silky pale sand. Well, okay, nothing can rival a beach, really, but Carmel's picture-worthy structures come close. And several of them go beyond being cute, too: They're restaurants, and quite well known, and picking a spot for your lunchtime panini is almost as challenging as picking out your favorite Carmel-by-the-Sea cottage. The eateries, of course, extend beyond Ocean Avenue -- Terry's Lounge at the Cypress Inn, Hog's Breath Inn, and Il Grillo all sit just a short stroll off the main thoroughfare. But how to try a whole slew of Carmel tastes in one fell and flavorful swoop? You could stay in town for a week -- what a dream -- or you could make plans to be at Taste of Carmel.
OCT. 1 THROUGH 4... are the dates for this delish doing, which serves up "a sampling of bohemian culture" that covers "both local food and wine." There are Wine Walk-by-the-Sea Passports for purchase, assuring that you'll sip a range of pinots and cabs, there are Carmel-focused food tours, there's the Monterey movie tour, there's a Winemaker's Dinner, there's a bike tour of 17 Mile Drive. It's a fine and foodly way to soak up the area's vittles and vinos over a few hours or a day or two, without fretting, as you stroll Ocean Avenue, that by picking one restaurant you're missing out on a bunch more. Well, yes, you probably are, but that's why one returns to Carmel, if one can, to try all of those sweet cottage-bound bakeries and trattorias that one missed on the last visit. Ready to find your perfect food experience over the first weekend of October in the most by-the-sea-iest spot in California? Your cottage awaits.