Some days I have to pinch myself. I live just a short 35 minutes away from one of the most beautiful spots in California, Carmel-by-the-Sea! People from around the world visit this amazing area in the Monterey Bay each year as it’s know for it’s delicious food, fabulous wine, world class golf, art, culture, and of course the Pacific Ocean. I was born and raised locally and have explored the beaches and tidepools, come fishing with my dad, and have toured the nearby Monterey Bay Aquarium, the area is wonderful for children.
It’s exciting to know as an adult I can enjoy Carmel in a whole new way as my husband and I were excited to make a day trip over to the coast and enjoy Carmel Food Tours with our lovely tour guide Staci! Staci started this fun and rewarding culinary and cultural adventure for herself in 2012 and has made it one of the top excursions in the area for tourists!
We met Stacy at the Carmel Plaza at Junipero and Ocean streets. The plaza itself hosts shops, dining, and wine tasting along with beautiful landscaping. The cool winter morning was warmed by Stacy’s smile as we met our group for our 3 hour tour. So our first stop was right there in the plaza, The Cheese Shop Carmel offered us up some Monterey county Edam, an English Cheddar, and an Argentinian Parmigiano Reggiano. The shop’s motto is Eat Cheese, Drink Wine, Live Life Happy and we hear that if you go in there you can wine taste, sample all the cheeses your heart desires and you’ll also get some fun chatter, jokes, and an overall good time! Our appetites whet, we began our stroll down Mission Street making our way to the next stop.
Staci chatted with us about the architecture of the city, the fact that there are no street lights, and also that you need a permit to walk in town with heels. We arrive at Casanova Restaurant next, known to locals as Carmel’s most romantic dining destination. European cottage from the outside, inside you’ll find a maze of rooms and nooks that would be perfect for any couple looking for a hideaway to enjoy eachother’s company. You can dine at the very table that Vincent Van Gogh had his last meal, or outside among the trees. Here we sampled the restaurant’s spinach gnocchi, a treat that is like eating a bit of heaven. Not made from traditional potatoes each bite was light and luscious and we vowed to return to explore more of the menu and well as tour their hand-dug wine cellar. Over the course of the tour, you get enough bites to satisfy a nice lunch and to honestly leaving you are determined to come back for a full meal, it’s win-win for both customer and clients Staci works with. Our next stop had us at a familiar location, Mundaka for Spanish Tapas. My husband and I visited this restaurant once before and enjoyed it’s eclectic menu of little bites. Remembering the lamb burger we both loved, we sipped some amazing red wine sangria and enjoyed a bite of crostini with manchego cheese with pequillo peppers. Since we visited last, they opened up the building next door to the restaurant as a cafe.
Look up and see the beauty of decor, look down at the beautiful tiles mixed into the staircases. Carmel is abundant with beauty.With a plate of gelato in hand from Salumeria Luca, Staci leads us into Trio Carmel, a specialty oil and vinegar shop that includes beautiful art and wine.We’re encouraged to add different flavored oils and vinegar to our gelato and to believe this is indeed a sundae of sorts, the combination is amazing. We enjoy some local Monterey County wines like Pelerin and Le P’tit Paysan. I don’t dare take seconds or over do it on the wine, I am pacing myself and we have 3 stops yet. On the corner of Dolores and 7th, you’ll find a little French Cafe called La Bicyclette, owned by the same family as Casanova. A majority of this restaurant’s food comes from within 10 miles of it’s downtown Carmel location, talk about fresh and sustainable! We enjoyed two mouth-watering pizzas including the Local Champignon with portabella, cremini, oyster mushrooms, caramelized onion purée, thyme, and truffle pecorino. It was a flavor explosion in my mouth as I’m a die hard pepperoni pizza lover. The second was a Butternut Squash pizza with gruyere, arugula, speck ham, and sage, I’m claiming this my ultimate favorite. As Staci is gluten free, La Bicyclette can offer a gluten free pizza with some time notice, I’ve heard you’d never know the difference in flavor!The menu changes daily, the pizzas are a staple. We will return again when we visit Carmel-by-the-Sea for sure! Next up was visiting the art gallery and wine tasting room of Figge Cellars. We were in for a huge treat as there was a Rolling Stones art exhibit in house and the photography was simply stunning. While we sampled the Pelio Chard and Pelio Pinot Noir, we strolled about the gallery admiring the artwork. We’ve been to Figge once before, but this tasting showcased two entirely different wines than before, so we were excited.
Rounding out 7 locations in under 3 hours, we finished our tour at Lula’s Chocolates. I mean was this tour made for me or what? Decked out for the holidays, we enjoyed salted caramels in chocolate and I have to admit, I’ve already been back to this place since our tour!
For $69 per person, this tour gets you outside in the fresh coastal air, has you walking, eating, drinking, and sampling some of Carmel’s best culinary and cultural experiences. That price is a steal and Staci’s knowledge, her smile, and her passion for the area she lives in is contagious. This would be fun for couples, a girl’s getaway, or bring your parents. I think this is one of the best ways to get to know a town during your visit, I’ll be looking these up more often as I travel!
Don’t forget your walking shoes too! To check out the dates or reserve your own private tour, visit http://www.carmelfoodtour.com/.
Our tour was hosted, though gratuity was on our own.