Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Spring-Inspired Dishes at Carmel Cafe

El Verano. Le Printemps. La Primavera. Spring! Foodie friends, Carmel Cafe has sounded the siren call of springtime.  Cue the birds singing, flowers blooming and tiny lambs grazing in the grassy knoll. Or doing whatever it is lambs like to do when winter ends.  I digress. Let's focus. Last week I was invited along with a group of food bloggers to sample the flavors of the season, as served by Carmel Cafe's South Tampa location on Swann Ave. Here is a taste of their Spring Menu 2013:

The Appetizers:

Spring Pea Bruschetta: Garden peas layered with mint pesto and fresh mozzarella on toasted ciabatta.  The single best word to describe the taste of this dish is "fresh" - the flavors are as bright as the vibrant green on the plate. The wine pairing was Segura-Viudas Cava. What better way to start the dinner than with a glass of bubbles?

Cod Bruschetta: Escabeche-style citrus zataar marinade, capers, tomato and olives on toasted ciabatta. The saltiness and minerality of the cod goes well with the zesty Mediterranean spices and basil. The wine pairing here was a Swanson Pinot Grigio from Napa Valley.

The Entrees:

Ravioli Verde: Spinach and Ricotta ravioli topped with fresh peas, portabello mushrooms, green beans and pea shoots, finished with shaved Parmesan and a truffle-infused sauceFriends, I LOVED this dish. If anything contains truffle, you can always count me in. But it's the combination of all the ingredients here that made this the best dish of the night for me. The earthiness of the mushrooms left me wanting more after every bite. And the fresh green veggies made me feel a tad less guilty about eating forkfuls of creamy buerre blanc. We enjoyed this dish with Vega Sindoa Chardonnay Navarra from Spain.

Grilled Mahi Mahi  
Fresh, locally-sourced Mahi Mahi topped with blood orange-infused cherries, toasted California almonds and balsamic glaze, served with seasoned haricot verts. The pairing was Acrobat King Estate Pinot Noir from Oregon which had black cherry flavors, which accompanied the rich balsamic glaze nicely.

Tunisian Chicken  
Roasted and grilled chicken breast glazed with a special blend of 14 spices. Served with fingerling potatoes and Tunisian dipping sauce. This was paired with Sledgehammer Red Zinfandel. The seasonings of the chicken dish came together nicely with the black pepper spice of the Zin. Everyone raved about the flavorful Tunisian dipping sauce and the bonus about this dish was how amazing it smelled coming out of the kitchen!

Cocktails & Wine:

We also sampled a couple of Carmel Cafe's new spring cocktails. This one, the Spring Tea, was fresh and fruity, and a favorite of the table. I prefer cocktails that are not on the sweet side of the spectrum,  but I could see how this one would be a hit, either as a pre-dinner cocktail, or an accompaniment to Sunday brunch. 

Carmel Cafe has an extensive wine list where you order on an iPad.

I recently heard that Carmel Cafe is opening up in Winter Park. I've already told my Orlando foodie friends that they will love it! I lived in Orlando for about 8 years, and I am a Rollins College grad, so the Winter Park area is my old stomping ground, and I think Carmel Cafe will be a welcome addition to the restaurant scene there.

One of the great deals to be had at Carmel Cafe is the Prix Fixe Dinner for Two. It used to be available only on Sunday but they recently added it to Monday as well.  Be sure to check out their Sunday Brunch Menu -- they are open Easter Sunday so make your reservation now. Cheers to the fresh flavors of springtime!

  Carmel CafĂ© & Wine Bar on Urbanspoon


  1. What a great night! I am still thinking about that Pea bruschetta!

  2. Okay so I don't like peas, but I did like the Pea Bruschetta. It was so different and I think paired with the pesto and cheese, it wasn't such a traditional pea flavor. Then again, I've only tried canned peas, so maybe that's my issue, haha.

    My favorite dish of the night was the Ravioli Verde, hands down. I love me some pasta.

    1. Agree - I've been dreaming about that ravioli ever since!