Best Bites: June 22-28

For those of you who missed my column in Thursday’s Go! section of the Monterey Herald, I’m reposting the stories here on my blog. But wait–there’s more! That’s right, you’ve read about the best thing I ate all week, but what about some of the best bites that didn’t make the cut? Thank god for the internets–now you can see the top three foods I ate this week, complete with mouth-watering photos! Check back each weekend for a recap of the week’s tastiest treats!

Best Bite: Open-faced mushroom melt at Carmel Belle

The lunchtime open-faced mushroom melt is one of my all-time favorites at Carmel Belle, but it was extra tasty this week!

When my friend asked if I’d accompany her to Carmel Belle this weekend to help spend her recent Groupon, it didn’t take much arm-twisting for me to say yes.

I couldn’t pass up the lunchtime open-faced mushroom melt. The succulent mushrooms sat atop crispy bread and gooey Gouda. A touch of freshly cracked pepper on top accentuated the earthy flavor of the mushrooms and truffle oil. Yum!

Better Bite: Caprese at Pastries and Petals

The caprese special was surprisingly delicious with fresh, juicy, sweet tomatoes.

So this week’s “Best Bite” was a really tough decision for me. I loved the mushroom melt at Carmel Belle, but the caprese at Pastries and Petals was very, very close behind for the title this week.

I don’t normally order caprese plates–as my friends will attest, I’m so particular about raw tomatoes. But when I heard about the burrata on the caprese special at Pastries and Petals, I figured, why not.

Wow, that was seriously the best plate of tomatoes I’ve had in a very, very long time. The tomatoes were so juicy and so sweet. Topped with rich burrata, a light touch of basil and a smooth balsamic vinaigrette, it was delicious. I gobbled up that plate of tomatoes in mere minutes!

What was their secret? The special was prepared by a real Italian–Salvatore Panzuto, who cooks up Pastries and Petals’ Saturday night Italian dinners–and I think that made it all the more authentic!

Good Bite: Famous Mauro pizza at La Piccola Casa

The Famous Mauro is famously delicious!

La Piccola Casa seems to fly under the radar of local foodies, but it’s a great shop serving up tasty pizzas. Sure, true pizza-aholics might not appreciate the unconventional, foccacia-like crust at La Piccola Casa, but I think the crispy crust really helps the toppings shine.

And do they ever in the Famous Mauro pizza. Thinly sliced prosciutto, red onions and fresh arugula come together in a nice dance of salty, savory, sweet and bitter.

Honorable Mention: Grilled Nutella sandwich at Carmel Belle

The grilled Nutella sandwich makes for a great lunchtime dessert--or an indulgent breakfast.

Carmel Belle is hands-down my favorite spot to grab lunch, but I so rarely sample much off their breakfast menu. But this weekend, I decided to try their Nutella sandwich for “dessert” after my mushroom melt.

The thick bread was grilled nice and crispy, cradling gooey Nutella inside–LOTS of Nutella. Mmmm. And topped with three bright red strawberries, it was beautifully presented.

It was a bit decadent, but perfect for a lazy Saturday morning.

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