La Crema - Simple Concept Carried Out With Style

August 4, 2010 by Joyce Owen

For a chocolate devotee, what’s not to love about a restaurant that puts that luscious flavor right in the name?

La Crema Tapas and Chocolate located in Rosemary Beach unites simple pleasures – small bites of intriguing foods and Spanish wines with scrumptious chocolate concoctions – and was based on an idea Kevin and Kim Neel discovered while traveling in Spain.

Tapas are served day in and day out in every bar and café in Spain, but it is a relatively new concept in this country. According to legend, tapas were small pieces of bread used to cover a glass of wine, reportedly to keep flies away. Small bites of food were added, and when clever barkeeps discovered it spurred beverage sales, the delicious tradition of tapas was born.

When the Neel’s returned to their home in Rosemary Beach they decided serving tapas was the perfect solution for what was missing in their neighborhood – a dining opportunity offering inexpensive food and drink options to the beach community.

The couple chose a spot for the restaurant that was near their home so they could walk there. The location was also similar, in both its proximity to the coast and with the same climate, which they enjoyed in Barcelona.

Originally they planned to hire someone to run the business, even though Kevin anticipated taking on many of the back-of-the-house chores. However, the challenges and stresses of his career in the mortgage industry led Kevin to the realization that he was ready for a change and Kim supported his decision.

The interior of the shop is inviting, but it’s the courtyard that grabs and holds visitor’s interest. It is reminiscent of dining experiences around the world where café owners have expanded tiny dining rooms by placing tables on the sidewalk.

The courtyard, with gentle sea breezes and some protection from the sun, allows diners the opportunity to settle down and sample the different flavors, textures and colors coming from the kitchen.

Sampling tapas is an integral part of life in Spain where people gather throughout the day to share the small treats, Kevin says. With La Crema located on Main Street just south of the post office, Kevin hopes guests will come by to relax with tapas and a glass of sangria after a day at the beach.

He also anticipates the atmosphere will change later in the evening as folks drop in for a bit of chocolate and Spanish wine to end the day. During warmer SoWal days, the menu has evolved with offerings that should tempt flagging appetites.

“We now have frozen sangria for the hot summer days and a nice lunch menu featuring freshly cut pineapple with drizzled molasses,” Kevin says.

La Crema Tapas and Chocolate Summer hours are 11 a.m. to midnight.

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