Food, Wine, Margaritas & Touring Carmel’s Passageways Of Surprises
We went along the main streets, past the expensive art galleries and familiar wine tasting rooms, into tiny squares you’ll likely barely notice on your own and through narrow passageways, one that included a bookstore I never even knew existed here.
Carmel, CA, can be as confusing as it is charming.
Fortunately I was on the Carmel Food Tours and all I – and the other dozen people on the tour – had to do was keep up with the guide.
And believe me, you don’t want to lose her because the Carmel Food Tours is a walking tour into some of Carmel’s best restaurants and through the town’s cute nooks and crannies that provides you not only with spectacular food, but also wine (and, much to my pleasant surprise, a margarita!) and an introduction to this European-style real-life gingerbread village on the California coast.
For three kvery happy hours, you nibble and sip your way through some of Carmel’s best restaurants and foodie places (ladies, one involves a chocolate store!) on a casual and easy stroll. Sometimes you’ll go into a little plaza and other times you’ll go down one of its narrow alleys, only to discover more cute shops, restaurants and other neat surprises.
While the tour stops vary – which keeps it as fresh as the baked goods at Cafe Carmel – our first place was the elegant Anton & Michael restaurant. I knew I would like this place from the start when I saw bottles of wine lined up practically the entire length of a wall. The dining room looked out onto a sunny courtyard with a fountain. To eat, we had a pulled BBQ with a sauce poured on polenta, served with a glass of white wine. Awesome.
Next it was Cultura Comida y Bebida, an upscale Mexican restaurant where we had two good-sized tacos on fantastic homemade tortillas. This is where the margarita came into play. It was made with mezcal which gave it a kind of woody, oaky flavor.
It was also here that I had my Andrew Bourdain moment – I ate a fried cricket. Tip: be sure the margarita is within easy reach.
Next it was onto Affina, a cool restaurant with a white piano where we went back to wine, accompanied by a very thick and tasty tomato soup, topped with a delicious piece of toast ideally suited for dipping into the soup.
Next was the scariest part of the tour for me. We went into Scratch, a wine tasting room that’s attached to an art gallery with a room full of very expensive statues and sculptures. I’m always nervous around these places to begin with, figuring one misstep will topple an expensive piece and start a chain reaction as if Inspector Clouseau were in the room.
So especially with wine being involved, I spent my time here leaning against the bar, where I had my two excellent glasses, one white and one red.
From there, the rest of the stops were really just about soaking in the atmosphere. We stopped for pumpkin cheesecake at Cafe Carmel, chocolate at Lula’s Chocolates and honey at Carmel Honey Company, but since I don’t eat sweets I simply enjoyed being on the tour and chatting with the others on it, including a lively group of ladies from my home state of Tennessee.
This was actually my second time taking the tour, and it’s so good I’m looking to doing a third, fourth and fifth time. This tour went to different places than my first one, for it keeps evolving and changing, so it provides a different experience each time.
It has also grown quite a bit; the first tour had maybe seven or eight of us and this time there were about a dozen, plus there was a tour that departed just prior to ours. From the original one guide – owner Staci – there are now four guides. It’s great to see it doing so well and if you take it you will quickly discover why it’s so popular.
Maybe I’ll see you on the next one!
Carmel Food Tours Details
Cost: $79 for the three-hour tour
Included: All food and drinks, plus gratuity at participating businesses. The tour guide does accept tips.
Things To Know: The tour is a slow walk through this compact town. There are no hills and stops are just a few blocks from one another…Tours sell out; it’s advisable to book at least three weeks in advance…Everything is all set up for you when you arrive at each destination; there’s no need to worry about anything…There are usually seven stops…The tour is rain or shine, tho with a lot of sunshine in Carmel rain is rarely an issue…No pets are allowed on the tour.
Website/Book A Tour: www.carmelfoodtour.com
Phone: (831) 256-3007