Thursday, May 24, 2018
News Roundup

Monday's Quick Hits: Bengals, bad barbecue and Brooksville's best biscuits

I drove three hours to Jacksonville on Sunday to see the Jaguars play my Cincinnati Bengals (and you Bucs fans think you've suffered) and was pleasantly surprised to find that the city was not the armpit I remembered from my only previous visit, nearly 30 years ago.

The infamous paper mill stench, which on that long-ago visit hit me at exactly the same time as the first sight of the skyline, has been thoroughly eradicated. And from the cheap seats (cheaper and easier to come by because the Jags, like a lot of teams these days, are having a hard time selling out) we could look out and see a vast bend in the St. Johns River. Also got to see a Bengals win, another unexpectedly nice view.

•••

On the other hand, the stretch of U.S. 301 between Ocala and Interstate 10 is every bit as unpleasant as I remembered — easily the most charmless stretch of rural highway in the state.

Thought we'd stop at a small, independently owned barbecue place in Waldo to soak up little local color, and, unfortunately, we did. The place was nasty and soulless. The ribs my son ordered were gray, the restaurant's walls were bare, and the waitress arrived at our table after sucking down too much cigarette on too short a break; smoke practically oozed out of her pores.

A question for Brooksville to think about as it mines the easy money of red-light cameras: Do towns sell a bit of their soul when they turn to shortcuts like turning speeding tickets into a revenue-generating machine, as Waldo has reputedly done?

Kind of seems that way.

•••

If Sunday was a bad food day, Saturday was a great one, as I hit the best of Brooksville and Tampa in a time span of just more than six hours.

Lunch at Farmer John's Key West Cafe was the shrimp omelet with avocado. It's tricky loading omelets full of good stuff and still getting them to turn out eggy and moist — like an omelet, in other words, and not a dried-up, flavorless ingredient delivery system. Farmer John's pulled it off, as usual, and served it up with great sides: home fries, a biscuit that itself was a perfect ingredient delivery system for honey and butter and french fries that lived up to their name. Their outsides were actually glossy, as though they'd been covered with some delicious enamel Farmer John's invented.

People tell me this is what happens in France: So much care and thought goes into cranking out ordinary food that it comes off as unself-conscious art.

Nothing was unself-conscious about our dinner at Edison: Food + Drink Lab, the highly touted new restaurant on Kennedy Boulevard in Tampa.

Our server, Cody, referred to the chef as a "genius, literally," and started listing all sorts ingredients I'd never heard of, getting me all prepared to hate every pretentious, overpriced bite.

But she let me down in a way, the famous chef did, because everything placed before us was amazing and impossible to hate or even not to love. There was standard stuff, such as caprese salad, reinvented to the point that it was a revelation. My plate (along with some perfectly cooked, gorgeous and plump sea scallops) included what I previously thought of as dog food: the marrow of a beef bone.

I felt like a sucker, thinking about how little the place had paid for it and how much they were charging, but I don't think I've ever tasted anything that blended quite so lusciously with a forkful of mashed potato. (So, yeah, there were a couple of ordinary ingredients.)

The one issue I have with the reviews I've read: praise for the supposedly reasonable prices.

Maybe by Tampa standards. But this was the first time in my life I passed the unwelcome milestone of paying $200 for a meal for two, with tip. It was my wife's birthday present, a once-a-year deal. And at these prices, that's all it can be.

But, it sure would be nice to have a little pretentiousness (and competence) in restaurants, open at night, in downtown Brooksville — to be able to have two great meals in one day right here in town.

Follow Dan DeWitt at [email protected]

Comments
Graham Rahal: Indy 500 could be one of the ‘trickiest races’ in years

Graham Rahal: Indy 500 could be one of the ‘trickiest races’ in years

ST. PETERSBURG — The increased competition in the IndyCar Series was on display during qualifying for Sunday's Indianapolis 500.Two fan favorites (Pippa Mann and 2013 Grand Prix of St. Petersburg winner James Hinchcliffe) couldn't crack th...
Updated: 1 hour ago
The Daystarter: Lightning’s season ends in Game 7 loss; Rays lose two straight; and get ready for a wet Memorial Day weekend.

The Daystarter: Lightning’s season ends in Game 7 loss; Rays lose two straight; and get ready for a wet Memorial Day weekend.

Catching you up on overnight happenings, and what to know today.• The rain is back, and it won’t let up through the Memorial Day weekend. Blame Invest 90L, the low-pressure system brewing in the Caribbean Sea. The National Hurricane Center predicted...
Updated: 5 hours ago
Rays journal: Could Sergio Romo be looking at pitching 3 straight games?

Rays journal: Could Sergio Romo be looking at pitching 3 straight games?

ST. PETERSBURG — The Rays' pitching rotation for the weekend series against the Orioles could have a familiar look: Romo, Romo, Romo.Manager Kevin Cash said using veteran right-handed reliever Sergio Romo as the "opener" in all three upcoming g...
Updated: 5 hours ago
Rookie’s error in 9th helps doom Rays against Red Sox

Rookie’s error in 9th helps doom Rays against Red Sox

ST. PETERSBURG — Willy Adames was so excited to be in the big leagues, even if was for just a three-day cameo callup. So thrilled to make a smashing debut with a homer on Tuesday. So proud to have his parents and sister fly in from the Dom...
Updated: 5 hours ago
Three arrested for street racing after mother fatally struck pushing stroller on Bayshore Boulevard

Three arrested for street racing after mother fatally struck pushing stroller on Bayshore Boulevard

TAMPA — The two cars raced each other along Bayshore Boulevard just before noon, witnesses told police. One was a black 2018 Mustang. The other a gold Nissan. They sped side-by-side, trading the lead, police said, despite the traffic and pedest...
Updated: 18 minutes ago
‘This looks bleak.’ Game 7 loss short circuits Lightning fans

‘This looks bleak.’ Game 7 loss short circuits Lightning fans

TAMPA — Nick Genovese was anxious.The 21-year-old from Land O’Lakes had come to Thunder Alley outside Amalie Arena hoping to see the Tampa Bay Lightning triumph over the Washington Capitals in Wednesday night’s Eastern Conference winner-take-all Game...
Updated: 5 hours ago
Lightning’s season ends one win short of Stanley Cup final with 4-0 loss to Capitals

Lightning’s season ends one win short of Stanley Cup final with 4-0 loss to Capitals

TAMPA — The Lightning's dream season ended late Wednesday with the final horn, or, if you prefer, early in the second period of Game 5, when it scored its last goal of the Eastern Conference final.How about that? The team with the most regular-...
Updated: 6 hours ago
Lightning-Capitals: Tampa Bay had its chances. Here are the best ones

Lightning-Capitals: Tampa Bay had its chances. Here are the best ones

TAMPA — Yanni Gourde said he will have to see a replay to know just how it got away, but even in a lopsided 4-0 loss like Wednesday night, he'll remember the puck in front of an empty net, and the missed opportunity that encapsulated a frustrat...
Updated: 6 hours ago
Marc Topkin’s takeaways from Wednesday’s Rays-Red Sox game

Marc Topkin’s takeaways from Wednesday’s Rays-Red Sox game

In a way, the timing of RHP Jake Faria's oblique injury seemed manageable in that RHP Nathan Eovaldi is close to coming off the disabled list and can step in. But on the other hand, the Rays finally could have four regular starters. Imagine that.Ther...
Updated: 6 hours ago
Lightning-Capitals: A hurt that could last forever

Lightning-Capitals: A hurt that could last forever

TAMPA — This one stings. And it will ache for a long time. Maybe forever in these parts.Another chance for a Stanley Cup. Another disappointment. As the Lightning skated off the ice after losing Wednesday night's Game 7 of the Eastern Conferenc...
Updated: 6 hours ago