Prior to attending Wine & Chocolate Perfectly Paired, Meghan and I enjoyed a truly classy happy hour at Carmel Cafe & Wine Bar in Winter Park. When we had our January Girls’ Night Out at Marlow’s Tavern, we drove past Carmel Cafe en route, noting we’d need to go there sometime soon. As luck would have it, Carmel Cafe was not only in the neighborhood of Quantum Leap Winery, but also has a great $4 Happy Hour special.
After settling down in a booth with a great view of the dining room, we played with the paperless menu (iPad) and the traditional paper one, trying to decide how we would start the evening off. CC’s After 4 at Carmel menu had a respectable selection of appetizers, wines, beers, and cocktails all at four dollars a piece. The featured specialty cocktail of the month was the Strawberry Rickey with Hendrick’s Gin, muddled strawberry, and lime. Be forewarned, it is very easy to drink, so keep that water handy! As the only thing I usually muddle is mint for my homemade mojitos, I think the Strawberry Rickey will become a welcomed addition to my practice list, especially with those luscious Plant City strawberries in season right now. (I also wished that I had know about the Florida Strawberry Festival before now, too!)
Our appetizers were outstanding. I know I use that word a lot recently, but I’ve eaten a heap of really good food as of late. We tackled two items from their Shareables Menu: the Chickpea Fries and the Mini Mezze Platter. The Fries had two great dipping sauces, a sweet & spicy tomato jam and a curry aioli with a nice bite. It was suggested that we try mixing them together next time! Challenge accepted! The MMP was incredible with Edamame hummus, Muhamarra, Nan’s Goat Cheese, roasted garlic, Kalamata olives, sun-dried tomatoes, and pita chips. These could have easily been all we dined on for the evening, but after a long drive and a bizarrely cold central Florida evening, I opted for adding a bowl of their butternut squash soup, and I am so glad I did! Rich and creamy, it warmed me up from the inside.
Naturally, when I find out a great restaurant has a frequent diner’s program, I am chomping at the bit to sign up. Club Carmel was a no-brainer, especially with the promise of a free flatbread with sign-up. Their modern Mediterranean cuisine has me unabashedly hooked, and I am looking forward to the opportunity to visit them again. Hopefully, it’ll be on a day with better weather, so I can truly enjoy the ambiance on their patio. I do love a great patio.