By LAURA REILEY
Times Food Critic
ST. PETERSBURG — It's as reliable as summer's thunderstorms. It's more longstanding than most Hollywood marriages. It's Taste of Pinellas, the 23rd annual event unveiling a range of tasty musical stylings and even more flavorsome treats from 40 of the bay area's notable restaurants and food purveyors.
And let's not forget what the Taste of Pinellas is really about: raising money for All Children's Hospital (this annual event has raised more than $3 million for the hospital, which is undergoing a major expansion).
Oh, and it's about eating way too much food, one small plate at a time.
I took a look at this year's menu, each restaurant offering up a small, portable version of one or more of their most popular dishes. And I've planned my strategy accordingly.
Perhaps I'll start light with one of the spicy tuna rolls from the Venue in St. Petersburg or king crab from Parkshore Grill's new big brother, 400 Beach Seafood & Tap House (it's not open yet, but Tyson Grant and Steve Westphal don't miss an opportunity to help out the community).
If no one is looking, I may mosey over and grab an order of Five Guys fries and some of St. Pete Beach's Snappers fried clams (again, owner Dan Casey is a longtime supporter of Taste of Pinellas).
I can't miss out on the garlic rosemary lamb chops from Tangerine at the Hilton in St. Petersburg, but Mrs. B's Doe Al's oatmeal cookies are calling, as is a refreshing boba tea from Ha Long Bay in St. Petersburg. And then to finish, totally sport-eating at this point, a funnel cake from Alessi.
Laura Reiley can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 892-2293. Her blog, the Mouth of Tampa Bay, is at www.blogs.tampabay.com/dining.
Here's a sampling:
• 400 Beach Drive Seafood & Tap House
• Alessi Concessionaires
• Brady's Backyard BBQ
• Empanada World
• Five Guys
• Fresco's Restaurant
• Gratzzi/ Ammazza
• Ha Long Bay
• The Hurricane
• Island Flavor & 'Tings
• La Fogata & Bellini's
• Mrs. B's Doe Al
• Old Northeast Tavern
• Pacific Wave
• Parkshore Grill
• Red Mesa
• Tangerine @ the Hilton
• The Venue
Friday: Festivities kick off with two lovable locals: sax man Ronnie Dee (5 p.m.) and rocker Greg Billings (5:45). Headliners Lita Ford (Kiss Me Deadly, 7 p.m.) and Night Ranger (Sister Christian, 8:30 p.m.) recall the era of your favorite rock excesses — multiple bass drums, double-neck guitars, big hair.
Saturday: Things get battered and fried with music from cowpunk/rockabilly act the Dive Bar Stalkers (3:30 p.m.) and platinum-selling country artist Travis Tritt (8 p.m.). There's also young Suite Caroline (6:15), Jessica Harp (7) and then fireworks at 9:45.
Sunday: It's a mixed bag beginning with the Sublime-influenced stylings of Josh Magwood (1 p.m.) and culminating with the always groovin' KC and the Sunshine Band (5:30). In between you'll get Holes and Hearts (2:15) and Adam 812 (4:30), both young bands with stories to tell. Tampa metal act Holes and Hearts includes 11-year-old Riley, who sings and writes about the challenges of his congenital heart condition. Bradenton-based girl band Adam 812 includes 17-year-old Castille, who has been treated four times at All Children's Hospital.
. Fast Facts
Taste of Pinellas
Runs from 5 to 10 p.m. Friday, noon to 10 p.m. Saturday and noon to 7 p.m. Sunday in Vinoy Park, downtown St. Petersburg. Admission is free. Food tickets are $5 for eight; most tastes require 6 to 12 tickets ($3.75 to $7.50). There's also a beer garden, kid zone, Frisbee Dogs Disc-Connected K-9's, drum circles and more. Visit allkids.org, tasteofpinellas.com or call (727) 767-2001.