Recently I was invited to try out the new Spring menu at The Candy Apple Café, which is adjacent to Sweet Pete’s candy shop in the heart of Jacksonville’s Urban Core. Featuring farm-to-table French and Southern fusion cuisine and a full bar with craft cocktails and beer, The Candy Apple Café offers a unique dining experience for First Coast foodies.
I have to admit that I was over-the-moon to be invited to this event. The Candy Apple Café is known for their swanky events and gourmet menu. Having only been to Sweet Pete’s, I couldn’t wait to try out The Candy Apple Café for myself. And this event did not disappoint. I have to say, it ranks as my favorite foodie event to date. Between the delicious foods and the company from fellow bloggers and local media, I had a really, really great time.
We kicked the event off with cocktail hour where we sampled three craft cocktails off the bar menu. I tried the Verdict’s In which features mezcal, pressed lemon juice, blackberry-raspberry puree, and housemade jalapeño syrup. This sweet and spicy option had my name written all over it. I also sampled the Blueberry Provençal, a mix of Ketel One vodka, pressed lemon juice, fresh blueberries, and housemade lavender syrup. Of the two, the Verdict’s In was my favorite.
Once we’d had a change to mingle and try the cocktails, we moved inside to taste the menu. I absolutely love the whimsical decor of both The Candy Apple Café and Sweet Pete’s. The oversized and brightly colored French provincial theme is as inviting as it is fun.
Appetizers & Starters
Our first round of appetizers featured Housemade Chips with Smoked Bacon Dip and Beef Tenderloin Tartare with Housemade Chips and Soft Boiled Egg. The dip was simple yet tasty, a dish that would certainly please everyone at the table. The Beef Tartare requires a more refined palette (read: not my favorite) but was beautifully presented with the housemade chips and soft boiled egg.
The lackluster feelings that I had for the tartare were quickly compensated by my love of the next round of dishes. The Buffalo Chicken Croquettes feature housemade blue cheese dressing, Franks Red Hot (a fav in my house!), and shaved celery slaw and was a delightful take on buffalo chicken. The star of the entire night for me (really, these things are good!) was the Pork Belly and Cheddar Waffle with mustard glaze and apricot preserve off the Brunch menu. A table favorite, I would go back and order a full dish for myself.
We were given two starter options – Wedge Caesar Salad or French Onion Soup. I ordered the salad, which is a traditional Caesar meaning it has anchovies. (Ick.) The soup, which I regretfully did not get to taste, looked like a much better option. (Adam probably would have loved the soup considering he’s a French Onion connoisseur.) But my tablemates assured me it was very good.
A couple of my favorite dishes ever are risotto and shrimp with grits which meant the next two dishes were a delight. I wanted to (and tried) to eat this entire bowl of Wild Mushroom Risotto. The risotto was warm and creamy with tender mushrooms, as comforting as it was tasteful. It probably would have been tacky to ask for a to-go container to take the rest home but I contemplated it. The Shrimp and Grits are also off the Brunch menu and feature cream Greenway Farms Stone-Ground Grips with sautéed Mayport Shrimp and tomato relish. Another really, really good dish that I would order again.
Two beef dishes came out next – Char Grilled Filet Mignon with savory brioche bread pudding and Short Rib Pot-Au-Feu oxtail with bone marrow and cornichon. The filet was tender and juicy while the savory bread pudding was a different but complimentary side. By this time, I was feeling pretty full and wanting to save room for dessert so I skipped the Short Rib.
Night Caps & Dessert
Meanwhile, our table made it a mission to taste ALL THE COCKTAILS and I was introduced to the Popsicle Mimosa, a frozen St. Germain popsicle with raspberry orange juice and blueberries served with a glass of Bolla Prosecco. Um, yes please may I have another!
We finished off the night with dessert. And somehow Nate sweet-talked the kitchen into serving us a s’mores candy apple because you can’t go to The Candy Apple Café without having a candy apple, right? This thing was DELISH and a great way to end the night of good food and great company.
The Candy Apple Café is open 7 days a week and offers dining as well as event planning. For more information, visit candyapplecafeandcocktails.com.