April 15, 2011
Fog Mountain and its excellent soups are no longer

Harnish.JPGFog Mountain Café, which opened three years ago on the corner of 10th and I streets downtown, has closed its doors for good.

The news is a blow to its many fans, myself included, who considered owner/chef Eric Harnish's soups to be the best in the city. Grilled asparagus with applewood smoked bacon. French onion soup. Mushroom with fresh thyme and shaved asiago. Split pea. He even nailed Muligatawny years ago when I requested it.

Harnish was an artist and improviser in the kitchen. He had over 100 soup recipes in his head and never wrote any of them down. He tried new things and wasn't afraid to fail.

His palate, intuition and sense of balance were extraordinary. All of his stocks were made from scratch and usually thickened with vegetables, meaning they were not only delicious but very healthy.

Alas, it was the recession followed by the state-mandated "furlough Fridays" that apparently doomed this café, which closed nearly two weeks ago.

I couldn't get in touch with the chef, but I reached his dad, urban planner Jim Harnish. He confirmed that the café, which served only breakfast and lunch, had a loyal following but never quite bounced back from the economic downturn.

Eric has landed a temporary gig at the upcoming Pebble Beach Food & Wine event, and will likely look for a chef's job in the Monterey area, according to his father.

As a longtime admirer of these inventive and delicious soups, I would describe the closing of Fog Mountain as a huge loss. The sandwiches, including the meatloaf and grilled cheese, were also first rate. There were several longtime employees, out front and in the kitchen, who made Fog Mountain work so well.

The restaurant business, as many of you know, is a very tough racket. You can have great food and fine service and still not make it. The numbers simply have to add up.

In the case of Fog Mountain, Harnish was a low-key kind of restaurateur. He didn't boast. He seemingly wasn't comfortable with self-promotion. He let the food do the talking.

It was a three-year run downtown preceded by another three years at a tiny space on Q Street near The Bee. While I will mourn this loss for sometime, I also want to applaud this chef, whose passion for cooking and creating was an inspiration.

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