12/12/17 Food & Dining
Noel Cruz seemed remarkably chill. As did his partner Kerem Koca. All around them in the Station House building in St. Petersburg, workers pounded the last nails, bartenders unpacked boxes of glassware and jewel-toned bottles of Amari, and the kitchen rolled through a final round of karaage and izakaya small plates. The floors of Ichicoro Ane remained a rough, unfinished concrete and rooms were essentially demarcated by slats of blonde wood, reminiscent of the flagship Ichicoro restaurant in Seminole Heights. Overall: clubby, spare and New York-hip....
Restaurant review: Let the food and outstanding cocktails at CW's Gin Joint transport you back to the 1920s12/11/17 Food & Dining
Maybe it's the twinkling chandeliers. All skajillion of them. Or maybe it is the rhythmic syncopation of ice cubes in shiny shakers. It could be the old-timey metal dessert cart with its silver cloches and chafing dishes, or else the chummy-but-menacing tuxedoed guy at the door who gives you the once-over before admitting you into the dimly lit dining room. Whatever the cause, the new CW's Gin Joint whisks you to about 1929, maybe not the day of Chicago's Valentine's Day Massacre, but not far off....
12/11/17 Food & Dining
Just a block away from CW's Gin Joint, the folks at Urban Juice Co. have retooled, taking the historic Franklin building, one of the city's oldest, erected in 1895, and re-envisioning it in September as 1895 Kitchen-Bar-Market, a "Southern comfort bar and kitchen" concept where the cocktails are fueled by wholesome cold-pressed goodies from Urban Juice.
I visited a couple times and am still scratching my head a bit. The food reads like straight-up sports bar fare, not a lot of Southern nuance in evidence. The space itself has insanely good bones with great old brick, but the overall effect is flotsam-and-jetsam messy, with two bars and a big 10-foot television. The front bar seems to be where cocktails are whipped up, the bartenders seldom putting back their bottles or mixers, giving the bar a slovenly, crowded feel. The dining room is overhung with what I suppose you'd call a chandelier with dozens of black cords looping around and ending in uncovered light bulbs, funky but kind of industrial-cold for the space....
James George, 49, executive chef aboard the Safari Endeavour, has the kind of resume that makes you double-take.
A graduate of Johnson & Wales in Miami, he went the hotel and country club route, spending eight years at the fabled Breakers in Palm Beach, then a season as executive chef at President Donald Trump's Mar-a-Lago Club followed by five years at the helm in the kitchen at the adjacent Trump National Golf Club. ...
Naturalist John Muir didn't have Patagonia waterproof Yulex gloves Amazon Primed to him. He did not have Gore-Tex or special wicking fabrics. His socks were probably wet the whole time.
These were my thoughts as I looked up from a cabin bunk on Day Three of a seven-night adventure cruise discovering the Alaska that inspired Muir to find "abounding beauty" in "all the cold darkness and glacial crushing." Above me dripped my rubber pants and jacket; a row of socks and gloves drooped forlornly from the shower rod, the commingling smells somewhere between wet dog and bog mud....
12/06/17 Food & Dining
You know that hour before people show up for a dinner party where you think, "Holy smokes, I'll never be ready in time. What was I thinking?"
Nearly every restaurant opening, or reopening, is like that. I scooted by Byblos, a long-standing South Tampa go-to for Lebanese/Mediterranean fare, in advance of its friends-and-family reopening Thursday. Whoa, still a lot to finish. But it's going to be gorgeous....
12/05/17 Food & Dining
Florida Trend's annual Golden Spoon awards were announced last week, honoring Florida's best restaurants.
Although Florida Trend serves the state's business community, the Golden Spoons are a valuable consumer tool. Because Florida restaurants seldom feature heavily in national evaluations such as Zagat, the James Beard Awards and the Michelin Guide, the Golden Spoon, celebrating its 50th anniversary this year, provides a chance to assess Florida's dining scene as a whole and to compare one region with another....
12/04/17 Food & Dining
All three of the Clear Sky restaurants read like the work of someone who's been paying attention to what folks want.
Co-owner Dan Shouvlin has got the proper curriculum vitae (a background in TGI Friday's, Chi Chi's, Olive Garden and then a few restaurants of his own), as does co-owner Michael "Frenchy" Preston (you know, Frenchy's). Their first one, Clear Sky Cafe, on Mandalay on Clearwater Beach was appropriately beachy and breakfast-centric. The second one, Clear Sky Draught Haus on Main Street in Dunedin, reflected that city's preoccupation with craft beer. ...
It's a stunt, never going to happen.
Every man, woman and child in the country would have to kick in $659 and change to come up with the $213 billion it would take to buy Anheuser-Busch InBev, the world's largest brewer. Nonetheless, the Brewers Association, a trade group that promotes small and independent American brewers, has launched a campaign to do just that. It's to raise awareness that craft beer, and ergo craft beer enthusiasts, are secretly under siege....
11/29/17 Food & Dining
HAPPY BIRTHDAY: GUPPY'S
Twenty-five years for a restaurant is a stupendous achievement in an industry with a two-thirds failure rate. So let's bake a cake for Guppy's on the Beach, or at least go there and eat cake. It opened its doors at 1701 Gulf Blvd. in Indian Rocks Beach in 1992.
"I really liked this location when it was a French restaurant back in 1990," said owner Eugen Fuhrmann. "When it became available, I quickly got my partners, Erwin and Scott, together and we all had the same vision as to what that little building could become."...
11/27/17 Food & Dining
So much charm packed into so little space.
Lolita's Wine Market is the latest in a string of endearing cheese-and-charcuterie-centric restaurants to open in St. Petersburg. It's a tiny, adorable thing. There are grape-purple flower boxes, gauzy white curtains, funky pendant lights and just a few tables including one long, communal high-top. You chalk your name on the board with the number in your party, and then you mill around, check out the cheeses in the case, peruse the wines on the shelves, maybe step outside to escape the hubbub, check your watch, throw yourself in a despond into one of the upholstered lounge chairs, and then your table is ready....
11/22/17 Food & Dining
FUNDRAISER: FROGMAN FEAST
Last year, the first celebrity chef charity event called Frogman Feast raised more than $12,000 for Navy SEALs and their Gold Star families. Ken Bowen is spearheading the effort again this year from 2 to 5 p.m. Sunday at 3 Daughters Brewing in St. Petersburg. This year's chef lineup includes Tyson Grant of Parkshore Grill; Jeffrey Hileman of Locale Market/FarmTable Cucina; Chad Johnson of Elevage/Epicurean Hotel/Haven; Jason Cline of Poke Rose; Chris Fernandez of Red Mesa; Ray "Dr. BBQ" Lampe; Joshua Breen of Annata Wine Bar; Justin Sells, an Emeril Lagasse alumnus currently of America Neat; Antonio Casamento of Beccofino; and Swah-rey Dessert Bar....
11/21/17 Food & Dining
The Red Mesa group has grown again.
It's been in the works for a while: downtown St. Petersburg's Red Mesa Cantina expanded vertically, annexing the space that belonged to Push Ultra Lounge and DeSanto before that. With no grand opening, not even a soft opening or an announcement, the Cantinita Bar, a second-floor balcony bar with a full range of craft beers and spirits, has opened.
It offers a different menu from Red Mesa Cantina below, small plate items that complement the space. And keep going upward: the DeSanto Rooftop Bar, a nod to the first restaurant in the space, has debuted with full bar service and a list of carefully curated cocktails and wine selections. Like the Cantinita Bar, DeSanto features its own menu with a range of small plates to go along with the cocktails. (Pro tip: There's a set of brand new bathrooms up there.)...
11/17/17 Bars & Spirits
In July 1746, John MacKinnon helped Bonnie Prince Charlie escape from the Isle of Skye in Scotland. In thanks, the prince gave MacKinnon the secret recipe to his personal liqueur, later known as Drambuie. An aged Scottish malt whiskey blended with heather honey and herbs — anise? nutmeg? saffron? It remains a secret — Drambuie had become a popular mixer by the end of Prohibition, the anchor to the famous Rusty Nail and a way to make cheap hooch more palatable....
11/16/17 Food & Dining
You realize Thanksgiving is just a week away, right? No pressure. If you don't have a holiday game plan for Nov. 23, let's do this thing. There are still a bunch of options, many traditional Thanksgiving repasts and some a little less conventional. Call ASAP for reservations, but here are some that as of this printing have availability.
All five Columbia Restaurants in Florida are open for Thanksgiving: Ybor City, St. Armands Circle in Sarasota, St. Augustine, Sand Key on Clearwater Beach and Celebration. The Gonzmart family spins it a little differently, with roast turkey and stuffing great-grandma-style (Italian sausage, ground beef, chopped chicken livers, apples, water chestnuts and raisins), with traditional sides like sauteed carrots and string beans, sweet potato pecan casserole, whipped potatoes, homemade cranberry sauce and giblet gravy — all for $21.95 for adults and $5.95 for children under 10. But then in a when-in-Rome move, you can add in a 1905 salad or a cup of Spanish bean, black bean soup or gazpacho ($2.95). Dessert choices include pumpkin pie, key lime pie, pumpkin flan or flan, and the complete dinner menu is available all day if you want to shun turkey altogether. Visit columbiarestaurant.com for reservations; walk-ins are accepted....