Carmel Café & Wine Bar is a little taste of California wine country right in the middle of Winter Park, Florida. With a broad selection of fine California wines and a modern, yet relaxed ambiance, Carmel has become a hot gathering place for happy hour and dinner. Carmel is part of a small restaurant group with four locations in Tampa Bay and one outside Philadelphia, besides the Winter Park location.
They recently introduced a Sunday brunch menu, featuring their signature blend of California and Mediterranean-inspired flavors. Silicon Valley also inspired the restaurant owners- they incorporate the latest technology, with iPad’s at each table. Guests use the iPads to view photos and in-depth descriptions of menu items, to call the waiter for assistance, and to place their orders, which are sent via wi-fi directly to the kitchen. It’s fun to browse the menu, and I really appreciate seeing photos of each item. It makes the selection process fun, even though it everything looked so good that I wanted to order one of each!
Any good Sunday brunch must start with an amazing cocktail, and Carmel does not disappoint. Our server, Enrique, brought us their signature Bloody Mary, which gets a nice bold kick from Carmel’s house-made pepper infused vodka. The brunch-perfect mimosa is made with Cuvée Jean-Louis, Blanc de Blancs Brut, which is a chardonnay-based sparkling wine, paired with freshly squeezed orange juice. I was blown away by the tropical Passionfruit Bellini Martini, with passionfruit puree, white grapefruit juice, Segura Viudas Aria Brut Cava and Sobieski Vodka. This is the best brunch drink I have ever experienced… the flavors meld perfectly and it’s so refreshing.
The traditional eggs benedict is perfectly made, with a nice smooth hollandaise sauce and nicely poached eggs. Carmel’s twist on this classic brunch item is the crab cake eggs benedict. The crab cake is made of lump crab with just a light panko breading.
My favorite brunch item had to be the French Toast L’ orange. It’s made with ciabatta bread soaked in an egg batter that’s enhanced with Grand Marnier, orange juice, and vanilla. It is served with warm maple syrup, powdered sugar, and center-cut bacon.
Brunch sides were similarly creative and Mediterranean-inspired. I loved the pistachio apricot quinoa, it’s light and the flavors and textures offer a nice contrast. Many brunch items came with the brunch potatoes, which are crunchy on the outside and soft and creamy inside. Carmel upgrades the classic fried potato with a mélange of Mediterranean flavors, including Syrian and Lebanese spices and Gruyere cheese. They pair nicely with the Steak and Eggs entrée, which also comes with a Meyer Natural Angus sirloin, béarnaise aioli, and poached egg.
When visiting Carmel Café, don’t miss out on their desserts. The Pound Cake With Strawberries sounds deceptively simple, but Carmel puts a lot of thought and care into making it truly exceptional. The cake is served warm and tender, with a crystallized lemon glaze on the top. Macerated limes enhance the berries, and it’s all topped with house-made almond scented whipped cream. The Dessert Trio includes intensely flavored almond and cappucino chocolate truffles. The velvety crème anglaise custard is topped with Italian amarena cherries, and is a nice palate cleanser between bites of the Callebaut Belgian Chocolate truffles. Carmel Café and Wine Bar is an elegant, comfortable Sunday Brunch spot, and I’ll definitely be returning to share it with my friends and family!
Carmel Cafe Café and Wine Bar Details:
140 N. Orlando Ave.
Winter Park, Florida 32789