Ralph Anderson

Tender calamari sheds its tough-guy image.

By Denise Gee

Surely it was a hungry soul who first thought to eat a squid,but blessed are the epicurious. Nowadays, diners readily indulge inthe slightly sweet, slightly chewy opalescent gems. It's easyenough to overlook squid's, shall we say, less attractiveattributes. And folks also avoid that name, preferring instead themore glamorous Italian "calamari." Cooked properly--fast andhot--the dish moves beyond its rubber band reputation.

Newcomers usually approach calamari as they would onion rings,and after one bite of the fried loops, they're hooked. Seasonedfans enjoy these distant cousins to the mollusk in rarer forms, asseviche and such; they know fresh equals fabulous.

Squid is harvested from both the Atlantic and Pacific oceans,but California leads the way, sending out 50 million tons annually.So it's only natural that the main export city, Monterey, wouldhold Calamari Fest. "Unfortunately, 'squid' conjures up somethingscary-- 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea scary," says festival managerBob Massaro. "But man, when it's on a plate and done right, it's aglorious thing." Here's how to do it right.

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