Ladies nights. Birthday celebrations. Business meeting happy hours. Romantic evenings for dates #1 or #50. South Tampa’s Cru Cellars has got you covered. This wine and tapas bar is darn near perfect for all of the above and more. Easy to miss, the new-ish Tampa jewel is located on South Macdill Avenue with Datz as their friendly neighbor. You may have driven right past the nondescript sign once. I beg of you-do not make this mistake again. Many of my readers may remember a blog post I wrote about Cru a while back. After wining and dining on a few lovely occasions, I praised their culinary efforts as well as their extensive (and superb) wine list. Consistency is crucial for big city restaurant survival and Cru is proving their greatness time and time again.
|Photo courtesy of Cru Cellars|
A few awesome additions have taken place at this wino and foodie hot spot in recent months. Cru built their very own wine garden- a charming and refreshing outdoor nook for those of us who enjoying sipping on our whites, reds and pinks al fresco. Market lights, fancy foliage, and chic table/umbrella set-ups create a unique ambiance. Nice touch Cru; for I am one who will always opt for outdoor seating when Tampa miraculously has a breeze in the air. Cru has also added Saturday and Sunday brunches. Salmon Flat bread…Steak and Eggs Benedict with a Pesto Hollandaise….Blueberry Waffles with Ricotta and Lemon zest…need I say more? With all the great changes, Cru has maintained some of their excellent weekday “pick-me-up” perks too. Tuesday nights are still free corkage nights and Wine Wednesdays have continued on with those stellar $15 wine tastings.
|Photos courtesy of Cru Cellars|
Just a few nights ago, I was invited back to Cru to try my hand (and palate) at their newest…and coolest wine flights as well as some of their always-tasty tapas offerings. With friends and fellow bloggers, Megan (I Run for Wine) and Lauren (Tampa Uncorked), we had a fun evening of flights and food that insisted we return to Cru for another girls' evening soon. I feel inclined to begin with our most interesting dish of the night. Having never eaten bone marrow in it’s original, straight from the bone form; it was time. Scared? Nope. We are females who are as adventurous as we are carnivorous. Roasted Bone marrow came ironically elegant in its plating. Topped with tomatoes, capers, shallots, and parsley sitting in a pool of wine reduction, this plate was definitely eye-catching. This was serious business, friends. Fantastically fatty, the marrow was removed from its “casing” with the slight push of a knife and then spread on the adorning crostini. With the veggies as garnish, I almost felt fancy eating this caveman-like concoction. Bone marrow is a food trend these days and now I know why. This stuff is absolutely divine.
A break from meat-eaters paradise and onto something a bit “lighter.” I order this dish every time I dine at Cru. The Roasted Mushroom Orzo topped with grape tomatoes and parmigiano reggiano is earthy with its abundance of fresh herbs and delectably rich with its creamy consistency. Prepared much like risotto, this orzo is without question, the best I’ve ever had. Yes, it is that good.
|Photo courtesy I Run For Wine|
Another plate I’ve yet to resist with a Cru visit- the Fig jam, Procuitto, Bleu Cheese and arugula flatbread. The diverse flavors of savory and sweet play one awesomely bold arrangement on my tongue. Not your ordinary flatbread. This flatbread is one made from the gardens and farms of heaven.
For the last dish…Spiced rubbed lamb over a parsnip and Yukon Gold puree and topped with chimichurri and fresh mint and parsley. Served in lollipop form (I detest calling it that), these meaty finger foods were flawlessly cooked. So tender, so juicy and with a world of varying flavors, I was devouring some expertly prepared protein.
Just when I thought we had concluded our killer evening of relaxing ambiance, delicious fare and fantastic wines, one of us did a very bad thing. Dessert was ordered. As if we had not gorged on enough richness, a Glazed donut tres leche bread pudding with vanilla bean ice cream was officially upon us. When Megan took one bite, Lauren and I weren’t sure whether she was laughing or crying. Not your usual sweet-tooth kind of ladies, a magical switch was turned on with this over-the-top, decadent donut dessert.
During all of this glorious feasting, we were drinking some delicious wines. Cru’s wine director is a smart man. After speaking to us about our wine preferences, he chose three different and perfectly paired wine flights for each one of us. With a hatred of my pearly whites turning red (though I do love a good Cab) and my love for crisp and fruity Whites, I was presented with “50 Shades of White.” Love the name…loved the wine even more. Beginning with the Tuscan Moris Farms Vermintino, an aromatic wine with flavors of citrus, peaches and vanilla. Next on my flight was the Lange Pinot Gris OR, with its crisp and well balanced acidity. Last enjoyed on this flight was a burgundy white-Bouchard Macon Chardonnay, FR with flavors of apples, pear and little spice (to make all things nice). All three wines were very refreshing, very uncomplicated and extremely enjoyable to every last sip.
Megan indulged in the Pinot Envy which included Ca‘Montebello Pinot Nero Rosé, IT, Sean Minor Pinot Noir and Carneros Anne Amie Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley. Normally a white wine enthusiast, she was head over heels. Based on her taste profile, this selection was a match made in heaven.
Lauren also had a flight of whites- The Spanish Road Trip which came with Ameztoi Txakolina, Spain, Valdemonxes Albariano, Spain and Valdesil Montenovo Godello, Spain. She too, was in “la-la land” which each glass.
Cru Cellars is unlike anywhere else in Tampa. An upscale wine store with great deals doubles as a hip and gourmet wine and tapas bar. Open for dinner Tuesday-Saturday, Cru needs to be on all food and/or wine lovers to-do list.