The recent weekend was almost spoiled by a threatened hurricane, but my family and I ventured out to La Crema Tapas & Chocolate in Rosemary Beach. They don’t accept reservations, and the restaurant fronts on a well-traveled street on the Gulf side of Rosemary Beach, so we were prepared to wait.
La Crema has an outdoor patio with tables, some of which are under cover. There is also indoor seating. The sky was still grey and there were occasional drops, so we opted for indoors. We gave our name and phone number to a hostess and took a short stroll down to the beach to watch the red-flagged surf.
She had promised a 10 to 15 minute wait, and we were called within the predicted time. We sat just inside, next to a window that afforded a view of the patio and the gradually improving weather. The interior is clean and bright, with white, wood and beige accents and an intimate cafe feeling.
One half of La Crema’s menu offers tapas—Spanish-inspired small plates of savories, meant to be shared and consumed convivially. Listed are tapas plates, which correspond to appetizers in size, and “grande tapas,” which are more meal-sized. The other half of the menu offers chocolate.
The restaurant serves from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily, and the menu is the same all day, so you can dine light or more substantially. It’s okay to start with a little, then order more, like dim sum. There’s beer, wine and soft drinks, and a list of specialty coffees.
This was our first visit. My six-year-old daughter Grace recently told me it was okay to call her the Tiny Diner, having asked me not to several weeks ago. I think her mind was changed when someone “recognized” her at a recent social gathering. The seduction of Fame…
We were all pretty hungry, so we ordered two smaller tapas plates, and two grande tapas plates for lunch, reserving some room for the chocolate side of the menu. TD ordered a small cheese pizza. My wife and I chose marinated dried figs stuffed with honey goat cheese and wrapped in slices of Serrano ham, and crisp-fried Brussels sprouts tossed in a honey and sesame sauce.
Both figs and sprouts were beautiful to look at, and exceedingly good to eat. The figs were like fruit and meat candy, with sweet, chewy, creamy and salty all playing together. The sprouts were the small kind, sweet, with an addictive crisp caramelized finish on the leaves. TD, who generally pretends vegetables don’t exist, piled in. We could have eaten another serving.
Other tapas plates include a cheese plate with olives and almonds, Manchego fondue, honey goat cheese-stuffed piquillo peppers, assorted warm and cold salads, crispy fried potatoes with spicy aioli, and lobster - stuffed mushroom caps. The table next to us ordered the piquillos—they looked like a still-life painting.
For our grande tapas, my wife got steak with chimichurri sauce (tangy, cool chopped fresh herbs and seasonings) and I went large with lamb “lollipops” with rosemary and fried potatoes. I don’t often get lamb, but I’d seen photos of this, and could not resist.
Other grande tapas choices include Malaga shrimp, lobster tail with asparagus, crab cakes, fried spicy shrimp, blackened shrimp, seafood, country or vegetable paella, chili pork tacos, steak empanadas, and saffron scallops.
When the meats came, I was impressed at the serving sizes—this was not toy food. I got four small chops, with a medium-rare lump of juicy, chewy lamb at the end of each, and some gnawing bites down the bone “handles.” The potatoes were crisp and hot. I parted with one for my wife, in exchange for a bite of her steak. The chimichurri ably countered the richness of the beef. TD’s pizza was hot and bubbly; she took half home.
La Crema’s chocolate list offers chocolate soup, cinnamon churros with dipping chocolate, fondue, chocolate and peanut butter or hot chocolate molten cake, salted caramel ice cream, chocolate espresso cookies, chocolate chip cookies, chocolate-dipped bacon, and layered ice cream and chocolate mousse. There’s also sipping chocolate, with assorted infusions.
After consulting with TD, we chose the churros and the chocolate chip cookies. The crisp, beignet-like churros were fresh and hot, ridged to scrape up all the melted chocolate on the plate. The cookies were baked “rare,” and we all needed spoons to finish them.
Tropical storms are no match for the power of tapas and chocolate.
LA CREMA TAPAS & CHOCOLATE
38 Main StreetRosemary Beach
Hours: Open Daily, 11 a.m.-9 p.m.
Reservations: Not Accepted
Children’s Menu: Yes
Taste the power of tapas and chocolate at La Crema. Enjoy the cafe atmosphere, grazing or feasting on tapas and grande tapas plates, offering cheese, cured meats, lamb, steak, paella, shellfish, tacos and empanadas. You have to save room for the chocolate menu—served just about any way imaginable. Beer and wine, $6-28.