If you’re looking for an exciting culinary adventure, willing to indulge your palate with tastes from around the world, open to an incredible variety of wines, and eager to explore an impressive selection of craft beers, you’ll want to round up a few friends and head over to Royal Palm Village Wine & Tapas – a casual, comfortable, and completely enjoyable restaurant and bottle shop secreted away just off the main drag in Atlantic Beach.
For beer enthusiasts, Royal Palm stocks in excess of two-hundred craft beers including ciders, sours, gluten-free options, and just about every local and seasonal brew you can imagine. For lovers of the grape, whether you are looking to make a new discovery from foreign lands, expand your knowledge of a particular varietal, or simply wish to enjoy a well-crafted glass of vino, the options are considerable. Since most of their selections come from smaller producers, there’s always a certified sommelier on hand to help you understand and appreciate the attributes of these wines.
With so many interesting and intriguing choices, it’s no surprise that Royal Palm has been described as the best adult candy store in Northeast Florida.
From a culinary perspective, Executive Chef Chris Robert brings considerable history and well-honed experience to bear… and it shows in every dish. While tapas, typically Spanish in ethnic influence, are the mainstay of the menu, Chris is quick to explain: “Our menu extends a nod to Spanish influences for sure, including Country Olives with Garden Herbs as well as Spanish White Anchovies. That being said, our offerings are Americanized tapas – small plate interpretations using locally sourced ingredients and whatever else inspires us.”
Owner and Certified Sommelier Kori Blacker adds: “While we offer a variety of small plates, we also have more substantial offerings, some of which change seasonally. Ultimately, we are a full service restaurant. We go out of our way to make our customers, whether first-timers or regulars, find the right dish, the right drink, and have an enjoyable experience.”
The eclectic nature of the menu is obvious with house favorites including Macaroni & Cheese (pimiento cheese mornay, bacon crumbles), Springer Mountain Farms’ Jerk Chicken Confit (braised local greens, applewood bacon gravy), and House Ground Beef & Bacon Sliders (angus chuck, applewood bacon, herbed goat cheese, pepper jelly). There’s also the New Mexico Red Chile Empanadas (pulled pork, black bean purée, verde, salsa fresca, cilantro, queso fresco), Hickory Smoked Octopus (paprika new potatoes, applewood lardins, gremolata) and Togarashi Ahi Tuna Tataki (gochujang pickled vegetables, house ponzu, crispy wontons). Talk about esoteric ingredients and wide-ranging influences!
When it comes to freshness, the restaurant features herbs, fruits, vegetables and edible flowers grown in its own organic garden. Whether it’s fresh produce, eggs, meats or other pantry staples, if they don’t grow it themselves, and whenever possible, their ingredients are sourced locally from Alvarez Farms, Twinn Bridges Farm, Gyo Greens, and Son & Skye Mushrooms.
For this issue of Cinda’s Cellar, Kori and Chris paired a deliciously sophisticated yet completely approachable bottle of San Simeon Monterey Pinot Noir 2017 (not overwhelmingly fruit forward, with flavors of ripe strawberry and raspberry) with Royal Palm’s Za’atar Smoked Magret Duck Breast (coriander & cumin yogurt, pickled black currants, crispy avarez beet greens). If you enjoy duck, this dish is not to be missed. When it comes to pairings, this is a match made in heaven.
It’s important to note that the Moulard duck breasts (magrets) used in this dish are obtained from Rougie, a family farm recognized around the world for their exquisite gourmet products. Since these breasts come from ducks fattened for foie gras, they are more flavorful and noticeably larger than the more commonly known Pekin duck.
Since Royal Palm is both a restaurant and a beer and wine retailer, they open their doors at 11:00 a.m. for retail sales. The restaurant opens for dinner at 4:00 p.m. To help patrons better understand and enjoy their wines, Royal Palm conducts free wine tastings, usually a selection of four different wines, every Friday from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m.
One of the pleasantly surprising attributes of Royal Palm is that, as a beer and wine retailer, every bottle and can sold, whether taken home or enjoyed in the restaurant, is available at normal retail prices. This means that diners are able to enjoy a wine from the racks or beer from the fridge without paying markups that most restaurants impose.
Kori sums it up nicely: “We want to educate and introduce our customers to great wines and beers from all over the world. Coupled with the eclectic creations out of the kitchen, an evening here can be great fun.”
Royal Palm Village Wine & Tapas, 296 Royal Palm Drive, Atlantic Beach, (904) 372-0052, www.royalpalmwines.com.
Get the recipe for Royal Palm’s Za’atar Smoked Duck Breast with Coriander Yogurt and Fried Greens.
Pair it with:
San Simeon Pinot Noir 2017
Grapes: Pinot Noir
Description: San Simeon Pinot Noir is a rich, fruit-driven wine with ripe flavors of strawberry and raspberry. The mouth is soft and round with a lingering finish. Aromas of bright red fruit, cinnamon, and oak spice are revealed on the fragrant nose.
The Riboli Family farms estate vineyards in Monterey in order to ensure the ultimate level of grape quality. The Loma Vista and Sarmento Vineyards embody our family’s commitment to estate grown wines. Both vineyards share spectacular views of the Santa Lucia Highlands and were chosen for their well-drained, alluvial soils and cool, coastal microclimates.
This dedication to quality continues in the cellar, where winemakers Anthony Riboli and Arnaud Debons employ traditional techniques to preserve the individual flavors and terroir of each parcel of land. All vineyard lots are fermented separately in small, open-top tanks in which the cap is “punched down” in order to delicately extract color without creating excessive tannins. After fermentation, the wine is aged in French oak barrels for ten months.