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Epicurean Hotel adds to the urban vibe

HYDE PARK — Learn to make a souffle, pick up a cream puff pastry, learn more about merlot.

Unwind with a massage, meet the girls for lunch, come back for a beer at the rooftop bar.

All that and more is in store at the Epicurean Hotel and retail center rising at 1207 S Howard Ave., developed by Mainsail Lodging & Development in collaboration with Bern's Steak House in Hyde Park.

"We're packing so much into this," said Joe Collier, president of Mainsail, sharing his vision of the 137-room hotel to be completed by December. The four-story complex is Marriott International's first new-construction Autograph Collection property in the United States.

A look at the hotel layout shows a 2,000-square-foot ballroom/meeting space with seating for about 100 guests on the first floor. A open terrace area on the second floor will hold up to 300 people. An outdoor bar offers a view of Hillsborough Bay on the rooftop.

Five businesses will occupy the ground level: a restaurant; culinary classroom; bakery, retail and wholesale; a spa; and Bern's Fine Wines & Spirits.

"It's really going to help make south Howard as urban as it is by pushing so many uses for people walking or driving by," added Brian Hammond of Urban Studio Architects, the project's design firm.

General manager Tom Haines anticipates cooking demonstrations, wine exhibitions and a stew of visiting celebrity chefs.

"The culinary classroom will define us a destination for food and wine educators at every level," Haines said.

Haines may be a familiar face to Tampa residents. During his 20-year career with Hyatt Hotels, he worked in food and beverage positions at the Grand Hyatt Tampa Bay and the former Hyatt Regency Tampa. For the past nine years, he held a variety of positions with Loews Hotels at Universal Orlando.

SideBern's executive chef Chad Johnson will be moving into the hotel kitchen management. He has been instrumental in designing the menu. Breakfast, lunch, dinner and weekend brunch will be offered, plus room service.

"This will be a bit more casual than Bern's or SideBern's, but still very high-end," Johnson said.

"A little less formality, a little more neighborhood-friendly so locals can come by for a hamburger and beer."

Collier and David Laxer, owner of Bern's Steak House, hosted a "topping out" ceremony on a rainy May 1. A laurel sweet bay tree, intended for the top of the last exterior beam, was moved into the parking garage. City and county officials, investors and guests signed their names in a cement slab that will become a cornerstone of the property.

Mayor Bob Buckhorn eyed a model guest room built in the corner of the garage, featuring king-size bed, spacious stall shower, mini bar and large-screen television.

"I want to be the first one in that bed," said Buckhorn, as traffic thundered by on the Lee Roy Selmon Expressway.

County Commissioner Ken Hagen expects nothing less than full occupancy.

"I'm looking forward to a staycation here one day," he said. "If I can get in."

For more information, visit epicureanhotel.com or call (813) 243-2613.

Amy Scherzer | Times

Woot woot! Here comes Wawa

The sixth Tampa Bay area Wawa convenience store opened at 401 N Dale Mabry with a check presentation Tuesday championing community partnerships, said store manager Dan Wilkerson, center. West Tampa Elementary principal Gloria Waite, left, and guidance counselor Sandy Odell accepted a $10,000 check, as did representatives of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Tampa Bay.

Wawa customers are known to be passionate about the 200-year-old family business offering food and gas 24 hours a day, seven days a week. There is never a surcharge to use the ATM. A touch-screen display manages high-volume, customized kitchen orders accurately. To order a hoagie, for example, pick pepperoni, pickles or parmesan, push print and pay.

Wawa will open 14 more locations in Florida this year, including at U.S. 301 and Bloomingdale in Riverview and U.S. 301 and Dr. Martin Luther King Boulevard in East Tampa. More than $6 million and dozens of jobs are invested in each store.

Epicurean Hotel adds to the urban vibe 05/09/13 [Last modified: Wednesday, May 8, 2013 5:47pm]
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