02/22/17 Food & Dining
What's the buzz: CoffeeFest
Florida has more than 70 coffee roasters and more than 200 coffee shops, even keeping Daddy Starbucks out of the mix. Two establishments in the state have been selected to participate in the cold-brew competition at CoffeeFest in Nashville, Tenn., March 17-19. Concord Coffee from Lakeland and Cattle Dog Coffee Roasters of Hernando in Citrus County are heading there to represent, competing against 22 other teams....
02/20/17 Food & Dining
When Eric Fralick first fell in love with Japan, it was with anime and video games. It was much later that other kinds of love settled in.
He moved to the country for five years after college, living in the city of Shizuoka and in Tokyo and learning the allures of izakaya, the casual pub-style restaurants frequently equipped with picture menus and a communal small-plate approach. Back stateside, he met his wife Adriana, a Tampa native, in New York. Together they started an iced tea company called Sweet Dispositions (it's huge in Switzerland and Germany), and later began bottling their tea via a company in Dade City. ...
ST. PETERSBURG — The would-be farmers bought three transoceanic refrigerated shipping containers, just a little dinged up, for $6,500 each.
Shannon O'Malley and Bradley Doyle had them hauled to a distressed property they purchased on Second Avenue S and painted them a vibrant green. The green of John Deere tractors and regimented rows of farm crops.
Because this is what they were building: a farm. Brick Street Farms....
02/15/17 Food & Dining
Chris Ponte, chef-owner of Cafe Ponte in Clearwater and On Swann in Tampa, was clearly recovering from Valentine's Day, a nightmare for chefs and the second busiest restaurant day of the year. (Mother's Day is first.) Ferrell Alvarez of Rooster & the Till in Tampa was coming off two weeks of 16-hour days thanks to some staffing changes.
But on Wednesday morning, their moods took a decided turn for the better: They learned that they had each been named Restaurant and Chef Award semifinalists for the 27th annual James Beard Foundation Awards....
02/15/17 Food & Dining
CELEB POWER: Suegra Tequila Cantina
In the mood for some good news? Big-name chefs from elsewhere in the country are mulling the idea of setting up shop in the Tampa Bay area. Marc Murphy fleetingly had Grey Salt in the Hard Rock. And Robert Irvine famously scouted downtown St. Petersburg. There have been rumors of Emeril, Donatella Arpaia and other HSN stars.
But here's one you can take to the bank: Todd Hall, a two-time James Beard honoree, finalist in the Bocuse d'Or and opening chef of La Hacienda at the Fairmont Scottsdale Princess resort (which for many years was the only four-star Mexican restaurant in the world), will open Suegra Tequila Cantina on Tampa Road in Oldsmar sometime in March....
Interview: Guy Fieri talks new projects, criticism and the Triple D effect at Disney Springs in Orlando02/13/17 Food & Dining
LAKE BUENA VISTA
It didn't go smoothly. Guy Fieri was visiting Disney Springs — the reimagined dining, retail and entertainment district at Walt Disney World Resort — for the relaunch of Planet Hollywood. The restaurant had been completely overhauled, transformed into a four-story stargazing observatory with a newly expanded outdoor terrace and bar, as well as a state-of-the-art, 4,500-square-foot interactive video wall. Fieri was on hand to introduce the media to the restaurant's "Big Bite Burgers" and signature sandwiches, a menu he has personally created for Planet Hollywood....
Restaurant reviews: Morimoto Asia, STK, Planet Hollywood and more create an adult vibe at Disney Springs02/13/17 Food & Dining
LAKE BUENA VISTA
Some years back I spent a weekend exploring all the allures of Downtown Disney's Pleasure Island for a book I was writing. As far as I could tell, it was Disney's version of Vegas, the place overrun with pharmaceutical conventioneers behaving badly. What happened in PI stayed in PI, largely because most folks had only a vague memory of what precisely had transpired. It was "adult" in the slightly salacious sense of the word, but also in the "we all know that we're really just tall children" sense....
TAMPA — By day, Tampa Bay realtor. But once a year, Lutz resident Jo Anne "Joni" Hartzler leaps into action in another way entirely. One that includes flour, sugar, butter and a whole lot of competitive zeal.
Hartzler started years ago as an exhibitor in the horticulture competitions at the Florida State Fair, which runs through Monday in Tampa. She clearly had a powerful green thumb, nabbing "best of show" with different entries of bonsai, orchids, succulents and dish gardens....
PLANT CITY — We count on them every February and March, big glossy berries, maybe with whipped cream and shortcake, maybe all by their lonesome, one frilly-capped stem at a time. Florida strawberries are a dependable harbinger of spring, but what they taste like, the price they command and just how competitive they are with strawberries from California and Mexico change dramatically year to year....
02/09/17 Food & Dining
I don't know precisely when state fair food became a game of shock-and-awe one-upsmanship. I'm going to speculate that it started with a corn dog. Followed by a bigger corn dog. And then some savvy entrepreneur started contemplating what else could be done with all those wooden sticks.
Or maybe there was a serendipitous deep-fryer accident.
"Whoa, look what happened to that Twinkie!"...
02/08/17 Food & Dining
TAKEOUT DATE: STAY IN
Long before Cosmo was writing stories on sexy foods, author M.F.K. Fisher explored "the almost vascular connection between love and lobster pate, between eating and romance." Whether it's the placebo effect or something legitimately scientific, some foods are just dang seductive. But who wants to get all dressed up and go out on the second-busiest restaurant day of the year? You want food to come to you....
ST. PETERSBURG — The dance is not complicated.
You go to your neighborhood Publix. You say, "One pound of Boar's Head tavern ham, sliced thin." The person in the hairnet unwraps the mighty pink hemisphere, hefts it bouncily onto the stainless steel slicer and cleaves 1 millimeter, the swath falling neatly onto a plastic deli sheet.
"Is this about right?" she asks. You take it into your palm, scrutinize. Maybe it's thin enough to read through, maybe it's just right. But if you're hungry, you say, "A little thinner."...
Restaurant review: Dunedin stalwart Sea Sea Riders continues to earn a solid reputation for seafood-driven fare02/06/17 Food & Dining
How do you last 30 years in the restaurant industry? It's a careful balance of staying the same and constantly changing. You want to maintain your identity, celebrate and showcase the things that make you special. And at the same time you want to stay fresh, updating your look and offerings to suit a shifting zeitgeist. • Sea Sea Riders opened in 1988, and Sylvia and Artie Tzekas bought it in 1990, long before Dunedin was awash in craft beer and hip, mid-priced dining options. • "Everybody is always changing," Sylvia said recently by phone. "We've been true to ourselves." • Yes, they have. But still, since my last review seven years ago, quite a bit has changed....
02/01/17 Food & Dining
Even the Incredible Hulk didn't have his own "signature smashing tool." Smashburger has one. Another contestant in the premium burger wars, this one debuted in Clearwater in December, with a Tampa location slated. What they preoccupy themselves with is this: the Maillard reaction. This is the chemical reaction between amino acids and reducing sugars that gives browned food its distinctive flavor. ...
02/01/17 Food & Dining
Inside scoop: Comings and goings
Cigar City Brewpub ceased operation on Jan. 1, leaving Northdale and Carrollwood customers addled. While their Facebook page says they are "currently scouting new locations and plan to reappear in 2017," one wonders if the sale of Cigar City Brewing to Colorado's Oskar Blues Brewery last March impacted locals' enthusiasm for the gastropub and beer that helped put Tampa Bay on the craft beer map. Additionally, the debut of Sacred Pepper last year in the space across the parking lot may have poached some of the customer base Cigar City Brewpub had built since its 2013 debut. Time will tell if this closure presages a diminution in Tampa Bay's craft beer fever....