Editor's note: We will return to the St. Armands Circle area again to continue the culinary tour and hit the restaurants we didn’t profile this time.
1. DRINK & APPETIZER
Even though it was a chilly night, St. Armands Circle was still full of people shopping and, luckily, one step into Hemingway’s Retreat and you feel like you’re on vacation. Although Hemingway’s seems to entertain more of the early-bird crowd, the bar life was hopping when we arrived. At the recommendation of our waiter, my dining companion and I order the appetizer titled “A Hemingway’s Favorite,” lahvosh ($9.95). We didn’t know what to expect from this oversized Armenian cracker with melted Havarti cheese, which we ordered with tomatoes, mushrooms and guacamole as additional toppings, but it was delicious! The thin, crisp bread native to Armenia is like a flatbread or crunchy pita. The melted Havarti was the perfect addition — we could not stop ourselves from eating the entire pizza-sized appetizer. To add to the vacation feeling, we washed down the lahvosh with Hemingway’s popular Rum Runner ($9) and Mojito ($8).
325 John Ringling Blvd. 388-3948.
Open 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. (bar open until 11 p.m.) Sunday through Thursday and 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. (bar open until midnight) Friday and Saturday.
The Bottle Shop, which is Cork’s downstairs, contemporary bistro, is always a great option, but when you’re in the mood for a more upscale meal, the modern dining option upstairs is the way to go. The space is simple but chic and proved to be extremely cozy on our visit. The hangar steak ($24) was the highlight on our entrée stop of this progressive dinner. The choice steak, marinated in olive oil, garlic, chilies and cumin, with potato risotto, was cooked perfectly and melted in the mouth. The comfort of Cork made it hard to leave, because the atmosphere lends itself to sitting back and savoring a meal and a glass of wine at a leisurely pace.
29 N. Blvd. of the Presidents. 388-2675.
Open 6 to 10 p.m. seven days a week (upstairs dining).
Le Macaron French Pastries
This little gem has intrigued me since its opening four months ago. Although it targets a specialized customer, offering only gourmet macarons, Norman Love designer chocolates and pastries, Le Macaron is an adorable spot, featuring hot-pink walls, chandeliers and sugar galore. French owner Bernard Guillem (who owns the shop with his wife, Rosalie, and daughter, Audrey) was so gracious in informing us about their homemade treat — he even doled out samples to try. Not to be confused with macaroons, the American coconut cookie, macarons have a long history in Europe and are created from ground almonds and soft meringue and, boy, are they tasty. On our visit, Le Macaron featured flavors such as lemon, ginger, chocolate, raspberry and coffee. This was the perfect stop for a light dessert and a cup of coffee — not to mention successful, because we purchased sampler boxes for gifts, as well.
Le Macaron French Pastries
328 St. Armands Circle. 552-8872.
Open 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday.
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