Sunday, October 10, 2010

Where we eat: The Tasting Room in St. Augustine with small portions of the Maladies of Bellafontaine

(This Picture was taken from Trip Advisor's website. I did not take it).

For those who don't know: tapas are a variety of small Spanish dishes, appetizers or snacks meant to be shared. The goal of tapas are to emphasize conversation and fellowship because people aren't focused so much on a big meal but rather a collection of food types.

The Tasting Room in St. Augustine is an upscale tapas place. Ten of us decided to go there, during our weekend in Flagler Beach, to celebrate all the October birthdays that are taking place. I have a problem with tapas, usually. It isn't that the food isn't good, the few tapas places I've been have had outstanding food, it is more the sharing part. As a vegetarian it can be tough. But thankfully, we have a group of friends that are willing to cater to the diverse eating habits of everyone and that made the Tasting Room experience quite pleasurable.

The menu contains an assortment of tapas, salads, soups, sides, paellas and entrees. Our table, at one point or another, displayed the assorted Spanish olives, vegetable and seafood paella, garlic and sherry mushrooms, spinach empanadas, sauteed calamari, patatas bravas, pescadito frito, truffled french fries, manchego potatoes with chorizo, creamy polenta and a three artisanal Spanish cheese platter.

All the dishes that I tried were in the good to great range, nothing seemed lackluster (a sentiment that at least a few at the table echoed). The truffled french fries, spinach empanadas and garlic and sherry mushrooms were my favorite. The fries had a nice hint of truffle and were crispy on the outside. They were not too oily and melted when you put them in your mouth. The empanadas had the same sort of set up, crispy outside without overdoing it and a nice burst of spinach on the inside. There was an aioli with the empanadas which I didn't try because it wasn't necessary. The sherry gave the mushrooms a meaty taste causing J-Fur to suggest "I actually like these mushrooms."

The one disappointment was the paella. It was the last to come out and it didn't seem as special as everything else. It wasn't bad, it was just something that I felt could be easily reproduced in my kitchen. I didn't feel that way about most of the other items.

Our check (with all of these dishes, glasses of wine and beer, and a dessert) came to about 300 dollars. Certainly lavish and upscale, but a nice place for a birthday (or wedding or date night) celebration. If you like The Tasting Room and you are visiting Tampa you might want to check out Ceviche.

The Tasting Room is located at 25 Cuna Street, St. Augustine, FL.

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To go with the Truffled French Fries, I enjoyed the French Pop of the Maladies of Bellafontaine. Their song "Black Biro" is sweet, earthy and ethereal, crispy on the outside but meltingly pleasant on the inside. I have Eardrums Music to thank for this one.




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