I love pizza, but my love for it goes beyond a mere affection. Love simply cannot define the strong attraction I have for this comfort food. With my deep, rooted emotion for gooey cheese, bright tangy tomato sauce and thin hand-tossed crust, I have developed into quite the pizza snob.
When California Pizza Kitchen invited the Tampa Bay Bloggers and me to sample to taste CPK’s next chapter of its new reimagined menu, I was skeptical. Since California Pizza Kitchen claimed it be “embracing its roots in culinary originality and authenticity which made it so famous”, I let down my pizza snob guard to sample its newest recipes.
When we entered the newly refurbished restaurant, the bloggers and I were greeted by hand-crafted cocktails. Clearly this was going to be more than just pizza and before I even tasted a slice of anything, CPK already won me over. Crafted with Svedka Vodka, fresh avocado, mint, fresh Agave Sour with a fennel salt rim makes California Roots the perfect recovery cocktail and a runner’s delight.
Next, I sipped the Blueberry Ginger Smash, made with Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Whiskey, Monin Organic Agave Nectar, Domaine de Canton Ginger liqueur, fresh blueberries, lime and cranberry juice.
For the non-alcoholic types would find the Strawberry Mango Cooler quite refreshing.
As we sipped on our cocktails, we noshed on pizza and flatbread that would please the bacon lovers. The Sunny Side Up Bacon + Potato Pizza topped with shaved fingerling potatoes, Nueske’s applewood-smoked bacon, caramelized leeks, Parmesan, Mozzarella and fresh cracked black pepper and two sunny-side-up eggs.
I could probably convince my family to finally eat their greens with CPK’s Brussels and Bacon Flatbread. The crisp flatbread and bacon would convert any Brussels sprouts hater.
After mingling and noshing with my blogger friends, we were seated to sample CPK’s newest seasonally inspired starters and entrées starting with the Harvest Kale Salad, baby kale tossed with toasted farro, heirloom carrots, napa cabbage, red grapes, marinated cranberries, almonds and goat cheese tossed with housemade citrus vinaigrette. (CPK graciously accommodated my nut allergy by making my own nut-free Harvest Kale Salad.)
Crispy-skin chicken breast in lemon-garlic sauce, with hearth-roasted cauliflower, fingerling potatoes and Mediterranean herbs made the Roasted Garlic Chicken + Seasonal Vegetables a winner dinner for me.
Despite already feeling full from the amazing appetizers and cocktails, CPK served us three outstanding main plates.
A Fire-Grilled Ribeye offers a 12oz choice ribeye topped with Pinot Noir salt charred to perfection and finished with creamy bleu cheese butter. The hearty meal is served with fingerling potatoes and lemon-garlic arugula salad.
When the Hearth-Roasted Halibut made its way to our tables, I knew my husband would enjoy this wild caught Halibut roasted on a cedar plank, although he would happily share the butternut squash faro, baby kale and grilled asparagus with me.
Another dish for the fish lovers, CPK served a North Atlantic Salmon roasted on a cedar plank with smoked paprika and lime. A white corn and spinach succotash topped with Feta accompanies the salmon.
Between dinner and desserts, CPK slipped another surprise cocktail under our noses, Seasonal Harvest Sangria, another winner for me.
But the seasonal desserts were certainly a crowd-pleaser. Each one was better than the next: S’mores with Belgian chocolate pudding, dark chocolate chunks, graham crackers and toasted marshmallows,
Salted Caramel Pudding with layers black cocoa cookies crumbs, homemade whipped cream craramel sauce and natural flaked sea salt,
Butter Cake topped with whipped cream,
and Pumpkin Cheesecake.
I don’t think I could even pick a favorite and each one was definitely worth the calories. With more than a spoonful of each splendid dessert, it was a good thing I ran the Chicago Marathon that only a few days later!
Coming into CPK as a self-proclaimed, bonafide pizza and foodie snob, I was truly blown away by freshness and variety of foods. My taste buds were not prepared for the combination of flavors and exciting ingredients. CPK is more than just original pizzas. With the launch of its “Recipe for Reimagination”, CPK has reinvented itself which will be a true treat for its regulars as well as those who forgotten this quaint little family-friendly spot tucked in the corner of International Plaza near Nordstroms.