Quote of the Day

Monday, April 16, 2012

A Food Blogger's Summit Meeting

Sweet Polly
Be still my beating heart, for a spectacular convergence occurred this past Saturday at the Carmel Cafe and Wine Bar in Carrollwood. The charming and talented creator of the Epicurean Perils of Sweet Polly and her dashing super hero, Underdog, shared their table with the Belle of Ballast Point and myself where we enjoyed an evening of wine, food, and camaraderie.

Said Virginia Woolf, "One cannot think well, love well, sleep well, if one has not dined well," and dine well we did at the Carmel.

Our evening began with a greeting at the front door by a very pleasant hostess who led us to our table. Alex, our professional and efficient server for the evening, presented us with iPads. Seriously? Yes, and then he patiently explained what we could do with them - no double entendre intended.

With the iPad the diner could order food and drink by touching the pictures; view the bill; pay the bill, and have the statement emailed to you. No, they will not email the bill to you - I asked.

My bride and I started our evening with a couple of glasses of wine. We chose 'by the glass' so that we could wander about the extensive wine menu. The Carmel serves 3 oz (novice), 6 oz (journeyman), and 9 oz (master imbiber) pours. For her a red, Chateau St. Jean, and for me a white wine, Pionero Maccerato Albarino. The Albarino was so good and paired so well with many of our food choices, that I stayed with it for the duration.

The menu is divided into small and large plates. The four of us decided to share the small plates, with a few large ones tossed in where needed, so that we could graze through as many of the food choices as our tummies could hold.

We started with the charcuterie Shared Platter and Warm Marinated Olives - both excellent choices to begin our shared dining journey. The honey comb was a nice, sweet touch.

From there we moved on to the large plate of Prince Edward Island Mussels with a broth of fennel, paprika, and tomato. In the photo of Sweet Polly it looks as though she was hog-doggin' the mussels, but she did share.

More wine Alex, s'il vous plaƮt!

Next came the Four Cheese Satchels, ricotta, mozzarella, aged Parmesan, imported Pecorino Romano, organic tomatoes, pomodoro sauce, crispy pancetta, arugula. A cheesy delight!

The Grilled Lamb & Veal Sliders, I believe, tickled the taste buds of all at the table.

UD spearing an escaping gnocchi

After the sliders came another plate with mussels that had received a good review on Urbanspoon by a previous visitor to the Carmel, the Spinach Gnocchi Marseilles - shrimp, scallops, mussels, fennel, roasted peppers, bouillabaisse broth, rouille crouton.

I love a good bouillbaise, and this one was good. The shrimp were a bit overcooked for me, but other than that I agree with the Urbanspoon reviewer.

I also must agree with Sweet Polly's Underdog that the lamb lollipops, while tasty enough, were a bit overcooked leaning more to medium well than rare to medium rare as requested.

Next up was a dish that was one of the big surprises for me that evening, the Calamari Frites.

When I think of fried calamari, I think of the ubiquitous plate of calamari rings served in area restaurants.

This was totally different! Alex had mentioned earlier that these were calamari steaks, not rings, and that the head and testi...I mean, tentacles had been removed before they were battered and deep fried.

Mas vino Alex, por favor.

These calamari steaks were so tender and tasty they practically melted in my mouth, and with the enhancing crunch from the coating they were one of my favorites of the evening.

From the calamari we moved on toward dessert and just possibly another glass of wine.

Even professional little piglets get full eventually, and we four finally did. We split the bill down the middle and our share, with 20% gratuity, came to $196.62.

Obviously, we won't be doing this on a weekly basis, but for a special occasion, the Carmel Cafe and Wine Bar is a great choice. A diner could also come away with a fatter wallet if said diner used a little restraint when ordering.

To that I say to heck with restraint - we are professionals.

A couple of last thoughts: Good food and wine aside, undoubtably the best part of the evening was meeting and dining with one of the most talented food bloggers on Urbanspoon and the Tampa Bay area, Sweet Polly and her Underdog. 

Many moons ago one of the regular contributors to Urbanspoon, Chon Nguyen, suggested we give the Carmel Cafe and Wine Bar a try, and to Chon I say, "Thanks for the suggestion, the Carmel was a great choice."

Carmel Cafe and Wine Bar on Urbanspoon 

Carmel Cafe and Wine Bar on Foodio54


  1. Awesome post! A great time was certainly had by all. :)

  2. Thank you Sweet Polly. Coming from you that is an extreme compliment.

    Do you think our readers and those on Urbanspoon might get the impression that we like each other? I hope so.

    You and your super hero are wonderful people and great company.

    That comes from me and the BOBP (she of the great hair).