Food + Drink Tampa Area Restaurants

A night of food and wine at Napa Flair

Last week, I was lucky enough to experience an awesome night of food and wine at a fabulous Tampa area establishment. Napa Flair is an amazing wine store in the Westchase area. The owner, LuAnn, is not only passionate and knowledgeable about wine (she has an Advanced Certified Wine Professional degree from the Culinary Institute of America – she knows her stuff!), but definitely has a love of introducing her customers to new varieties and helping them explore wine to the fullest. You have GOT to love that!

Napa Flair itself is absolutely beautiful – from the long, sturdy tasting bar where you can sip and chat to the rows of shelves with wine bottles beautifully displayed. Walking through Napa Flair was a little bit of wine wonderland for me!

That evening, Napa Flair was collaborating with Middleton Family Wines and Grille 54 to present a night of perfect wine and food pairings. I could NOT wait to get started…

We started with a sparkling wine cocktail of sorts – a Brut sparkling wine with a hibiscus flower (marinated in cane sugar). Not only was it beautiful to look at (and how perfect would this be to serve at the holidays?), but the hibiscus flower was edible…and a fun new taste treat to experience.

After our sparkling toast to start off the evening, we were presented with our first course of the night: a smoked salmon carpaccio…topped with a beautiful and light arugula salad. The smoked salmon carpaccio was paired with Buried Cane Chardonnay. It is an unoaked chardonnay – right up my alley! There are flavors of citrus and apples; it is a crisp and wonderful white! I’m officially a fan.

Next, an impressive presentation of sushi from Grille 54 was carried in: the hurricane rolls were set atop a wooden bridge with lights! Seriously – how cute is that?


The hurricane rolls contain krab, cream cheese, smelt roe, cucumber, and are topped with oven baked chopped shrimp, krabstick, spicy mayo, and sriracha. Can I say: YUM?!?! The flavor combinations were perfect, and I loved the spicy kick from the sriracha.

This sushi roll was paired with the Clayhouse Adobe White: a white blend of Viognier, Sauvignon Blanc, Grenache Blanc, and Princess. For me, it was a combination of floral and citrus in flavor, and was a great complement to the sushi. Plus: the price point on this bottle is quite affordable; I have a feeling this wine will become a regular in my rotation at home. YUM!

Following the hurricane rolls were Maryland crab cakes. Can I just say that Grille 54 does not fool around with their crab cakes? These little beauties had pretty much no filler whatsoever in them – they were pure crab meat, and pure deliciousness!

The wine pairing for this course could not have been better: the Cadaretta SBS (Sauvignon Blanc Semillon blend) was a notable wine from the evening. For me, there was a bit of a grassy flavor – there were fruit notes but also a lot of minerality. It was unlike any other white I’ve tasted before – it was beautiful!

I had already been impressed by Grille 54’s first sushi presentation, but the next roll, the sunburn roll, managed to make my jaw drop. The sushi was presented on a BOAT! A boat I tell you!

Ok, after I got over the excitement of a sushi boat, it was time to enjoy the sunburn rolls: they contained real lobster meat, asparagus, and avocado…then they were topped with seared tenderloin and a wasabi vinaigrette. Talk about surf and turf in a unique way!

The wine pairing for this sushi course was pretty unique: we had the Clayhouse Adobe Red – a blend of Zinfandel, Petit Sirah, Malbec, Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, and Petit Verdot. Normally, you would probably not pair red wine with sushi, but because of the tenderloin involved, it was a great match!

Slow roasted lamb shoulder was next on the menu for the evening. Grille 54 paired it with garlic mashed potatoes and a beautiful fresh cherry confetti. I want the recipe for this garnish, to be honest! It went perfectly with the lamb. The Clayhouse Malbec was the wine paired with this course. The tannins were soft, but it packed a bold flavor; it definitely could stand up to the intense flavors in the lamb dish.

Another course, you ask? Yep. We were presented with a huge tray of Kobe beef sliders on mini brioche buns…they also featured blue cheese and bacon. Have mercy. These little sliders were phenomenal, and they are a feature on Grille 54’s happy hour menu – and oh how happy they made me! The french fries were pretty great too – served “Lincoln Log” style underneath the sliders. How cute! The Cadaretta Cabernet Sauvignon was the wine pairing with the sliders, and it was a great way to end our meal portion of the evening. I tasted a lot of red fruit flavors with a hint of spice. It would be a great wine for me in the winter time – it definitely would warm you up on a chilly evening.

I thought we were done at this point in the evening, but Grille 54 surprised us with a dessert course: blueberry panna cotta! It was creamy, it was tangy…it was a perfect way to end a wonderful evening!

So – all I have to say this this – make sure you check out the entire collection of Middleton Family Wines – they are amazing and worth a try! If you are looking for some scrumptious food in the Tampa Bay area, check out Grille 54! And – if you live in the area and love wine, make sure you take some time to stop by Napa Flair – you will not be disappointed with your experience; I definitely wasn’t!

Do you have a favorite food and wine pairing? Tell me about it!

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