Carmel Crawl

Cozy B&Bs + equal ratio of dogs to people + Mediterranean eats = Carmel-by-the-sea. Given its sleepy atmosphere, we decided to shake things up for our Saturday night in Carmel by doing a foodie crawl of sorts through the quaint beach town.

First we stopped for a wine flight at Southern Latitudes Wines, where we enjoyed watching the resident beagle puppies nap in the window seat and play with their chew toys.

Out of the gentle Australian and Chilean wines we tasted, our clear favorites were the D’Arenberg Hermit Crab Marsanne/Viognier and NV Yalumba Antique Tawny Port. The viognier was buttery but light, and smooth on the tongue without the burning sensation of too much alcohol. The tawny port tasted like a swirl of brown sugar, and didn’t have the heavy syrup quality that can weigh down others. We picked up one of each for the road!

Next up, oysters and bubbly at Flaherty’s Oyster Bar & Seafood Grill (translation: sparkling wine for me, and beer for David). We chose to split our half shell dozen between the Chesapeake and British Columbia selections but in the end the Chesapeake oysters were much larger and flavorful.

Since the dominant cuisines in Carmel are Italian, French and seafood, we opted for Carmel Bistro Giovanni to replicate the “steakhouse” experience, as recommended by our friendly host at Briarwood Inn. We tried Giovanni’s own Zinfandel, and fought over my crab ravioli with scallops and champagne cream sauce. David’s choice didn’t meet his expectations, but fortunately I was too stuffed to finish my entree – leaving room for the surprise chocolate cake they treated us to. 😉

But the star of the show turned out to be the “Giovanni Insalatina Greca” (greek salad). Beyond the typical flavors of a greek salad (cucumbers, tomatoes, feta, kalamata olives), Giovanni adds dried cranberries (or dates, as listed on the menu). The combination of flavors – in complete balance since all ingredients are chopped to a similar size – was a surprising treat that would be very easy to replicate at home.

All in all, there are plenty of cozy, fireside restaurants to try. In fact, we had brunch at the Cottage Restaurant earlier in the day (they’re open all day for breakfast fanatics) and an afternoon coffee at Carmel Valley Coffee Roasting Company (the name speaks for itself). And if you have a friendly dog, they will be welcomed with open arms.

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