Media Event – Dinner at 95 Cordova and a Night at the Casa Monica


Oh what a night! Come along with me as I experience a magical evening at Saint Augustine’s world famous hotel, the Casa Monica.

Casa Monica Hotel, Saint Augustine, Florida

Casa Monica Hotel, St Augustine, Photo Courtesy of the Zimmerman agency

St Augustine is the nation’s oldest city –established in 1565 by Spanish explorer Admiral Pedro Menendez de Aviles.

The Casa Monica is St Augustine’s only AAA Four Diamond resort with an almost 125 year history dating back to when the hotel first opened its doors in January of 1888. The hotel was built by Franklin W Smith who later sold the hotel to Henry Flagler for $325, 000 – who named it Hotel Cordova. He later closed its doors in 1932 and later sold it in 1962 for $250,000 where is served as county courthouse for over 30 years until being purchased by Richard Kessler in 1997. Kessler made 10 million dollars in renovations and re-opened the hotel in 1999. As it stands today, it features 138 Spanish-style guest rooms and a unique dining experience at their signature restaurant, 95 Cordova, featuring an eclectic, seasonally-inspired menu.

Casa Monica Hotel, Saint Augustine, Florida

Main Lobby, Casa Monica Hotel, St Augustine, Photo Courtesy of the Zimmerman agency

My husband, Chris, and I had the privilege of attending their media dinner to taste and review their summer menu as well as a stay overnight in the luxurious hotel.

We’ve stayed at the Casa Monica many times in the past, but this room was the best!

Our room at the Casa Monica Hotel, Saint Augustine, Florida

Our room at the Casa Monica Hotel, St Augustine

Casa Monica Hotel, Saint Augustine, Florida

Casa Monica Hotel, Saint Augustine, Florida

Casa Monica Hotel, Saint Augustine, Florida

After arriving at the hotel and settling into our room, our first stop for the event was the reception/cocktail hour at the Grand Bohemian Art Gallery to meet the group.

Included in this festive bunch was the organizer’s of the event, Nicole and Mycah from the Zimmermn agency (the Casa Monica’s PR firm), the General Manager of the Casa Monica, Anthony Lazzara and other bloggers and media from the local area – Jacksonville Magazine, George Singeltary from examiner.com, Jacksonville Wine Guide, Nancy White from Nourish The Beast, Allie Olsen from Simply St Augustine and Jessica from First Bite.

Me and Chris at the Gallery Next to the Casa Monica Hotel, Saint Augustine, Florida

Me and Chris

Jellyfish lights at the gallery in the Casa Monica Hotel, Saint Augustine, Florida

After a cocktail or two and a browse around the gallery we walked back to the lobby for a guided tour from Anthony – he discussed the rich history of the Casa Monica Hotel, Kessler’s extensive art collection and attention to detail in the decor.

Anthony Lazzara, GM at Casa Monica Hotel, Saint Augustine, Florida

All the details on the archways in the Casa Monica are stenciled by hand

Casa Monica Hotel, Saint Augustine, Florida

Each of the 138 rooms in the Casa Monica are unique. This particular one was a two story suite.

Casa Monica Hotel, Saint Augustine, Florida

Hand painted gold leaf details at the Casa Monica Hotel

Casa Monica Hotel, Saint Augustine, Florida

Chris, enjoying the tour

After our tour was complete we migrated to a private room in the beautiful dining room to begin our meal – complete with wine pairings for each course.

95 Cordova at Casa Monica Hotel, Saint Augustine, Florida

95 Cordova, Photo Courtesy of the Zimmerman agency

95 Cordova at Casa Monica Hotel, Saint Augustine, Florida

Executive Chef Harlan Walden and Executive Sous Chef Tim Haire speaking about their menu selections

**Before I get started – I notated what I thought was gluten free, vegan or vegetarian. If you have food allergies, always check with your server to ensure there are no hidden allergens. I’d asked for a vegan meal and was offered a pescatarian meal.

95 Cordova at Casa Monica Hotel, Saint Augustine, Florida

95 Cordova at Casa Monica Hotel, Saint Augustine, Florida

Ceretto Moscato di Asti

Appetizer

The Kessler Calamari is a favorite on the menu at 95 Cordova and I could see why – it was perfectly crispy with fresh cilantro, olives and a Moroccan aioli that blend together to form a perfect medley of flavor and texture.

95 Cordova at Casa Monica Hotel, Saint Augustine, Florida

Kessler Calamari

Course I

For the first course I received a tuna tartare. The fish was soft and mild with aromatic cilantro and creamy avocado. On the side was a few dabs of spicy Asian hot sauce. I would definitely order this option if it were on the regular menu and I ate seafood regularly.

Gluten Free

95 Cordova at Casa Monica Hotel, Saint Augustine, Florida

Tuna Tartare

The first course was accompanied by a Ceretto Moscato di Asti with Chambord added in. I thought that was a fun mix of flavors – sweet and rich.

95 Cordova, Saint Augustine

Ceretto Moscato di Asti with Chambord

95 Cordova

Their fresh bread is typically accompanied by butter with sea salt – so the accommodating the wait staff brought out some thick, sweet-tart balsamic reduction and basil oil for me. I do believe everyone was eyeing my serving in jealousy.

The balsamic reduction and oil is vegan and gluten free options but the bread may have eggs and/or dairy.

95 Cordova

Fresh bread with balsamic reduction

While I enjoyed the tuna, the rest of the group tasted a crispy seared duck breast with blackberry compote. The presentation was lovely and I like the idea of a crispy, rich protein with the sweet blackberry sauce. I’d love to recreate the textures and flavors in a vegan dish.

95 Cordova

Chris’s seared duck breast with blackberry compote and crispy Yukon gold hash

Course II

This pineapple, cucumber and fresh cilantro salad was a refreshing and simple -a nice break between the heavier protein based dishes. (And a great reminder that simple can be delicious.)

Vegan and Gluten Free

95 Cordova

Pineapple cucumber salad with cilantro

Course III

The third course was a summery and fun watermelon granita with sea salt – reminiscent of the hot days of childhood with sweet watermelon, enhanced only by a sprinkle of salt.

Vegan and Gluten free

95 Cordova

Watermelon granita with sea salt

Course IV

Two meaty sea scallops crusted with coriander over a bed of smooth and filling, whipped black beans and a bright, clean corn salsa with cilantro. I LOVED this dish – each flavor shone through and complemented the next.

For a vegan and gluten free option – ask for the black beans, salsa and cilantro only and forgo the scallops.

95 Cordova

Coriander crusted sea scallops with whipped black beans, roasted corn salsa, citrus chili aioli and cilantro oil

Course V

Pork Osso Bucco was the dish served to the rest of the group. It was accompanied by truffled sweet mashed potatoes, roasted Brussels and parsnips.
My fellow diners gave this dish rave reviews – it was my husband Chris’s favorite of the night.

95 Cordova

Chris’s braised pork osso bucco with truffled sweet mashed potatoes, roasted Brussels sprouts and parsnips

I was served a seafood pasta dish with fresh peas, arugula and sun dried tomatoes.
For a vegetarian option ask to hold the seafood, there may be eggs in the pasta. If you are vegan, ask your server for options.

95 Cordova

My seafood pasta with fresh peas, sun dried tomato and arugula

95 Cordova

Chris’s Earl Grey panna cotta with tea cookie and fresh berries

Dessert

For the grand finale I got a fruit compote with mint and tea cookies – a light ending to a fairy tale meal.
95 Cordova

Overall, the meal and atmosphere were both perfect for a special occasion, yet simple enough for a weeknight meal. I could see myself ordering the pineapple and cucumber salad with the scallop dish on a regular occasion. It was hard to pick a favorite, as each was delicious in its own way – but if I had to pick one it would be the tuna. It was a large portion and I loved the texture and citrus-avocado flavor.

After dinner, Chris and I wanted to walk off some of the meal so we hit the town, visiting A1A Ale Works, Scarlett O’Hara’s and Cellar 6.

Casa Monica Saint Augustine and Cellar 6

Chris and Me at Cellar 6, St Augustine

The next morning I was up early as usual, so I made a fresh batch of the Starbucks coffee offered in the room and walked out to relax in the hot tub….

Casa Monica Saint Augustine

Up the next morning at the pool.

Casa Monica Saint Augustine

  Casa Monica Hotel, Saint Augustine, Florida
….and take a dip in the pool.

MANY thanks to the Casa Monica Hotel, 95 Cordova and the Zimmerman agency for putting this event together. Until next time….
95 Cordova on Urbanspoon


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About DHCooks

Dawn Hutchins is a health & wellness entrepreneur that specializes in helping busy moms kick processed food addiction, such as sugar and food dyes, to the curb. She's a published author, wife, and mother of one sweet little girl. When she's not crusading for the advancement of plant-based nutrition, she's camping, stretching in yoga and paddle boarding on her SUP.

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