Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Stick a fork in it— or don't

Attendees at the Republican National Convention may require special tools to fully enjoy their visit: toothpicks. At many parties, that's what they'll be eating with. Governmental party regulations have tightened since the days when lobbyists wooed politicians with champagne and caviar. For both 2012 conventions, the House Ethics Committee and the Senate Ethics Committee restrict the giving of "gifts" to elected officials in the form of lavish meals. What does this mean in real terms?

"I can sum it with this: no forks," says Maryann Ferenc, co-owner of Mise en Place and RNC host committee member. "A meal isn't a 'gift' if you're not sitting down with a plate and fork and knife."

That's right, one of Tampa's most celebrated restaurants is booked to serve 1,950 people at the restaurant and another 3,095 for off-site RNC events, largely without forks or knives.

Ybor City restaurateur Jason Fernandez has run into the same thing for parties he's booked at his Bernini, Carne Chophouse and other locations.

"They're all very strict on how you serve, what you serve: no forks or knives, all hors d'oeuvres style. And groups are very conscious about not doing lavish or extravagant parties, especially when they know there are going to be government officials in attendance. There's no alcohol at breakfasts or lunches."

Fine, convention attendees can forego that Bloody Mary at breakfast, but this raises questions about how local restaurants will shine with these restrictions.

"We're coming up with things," says Ferenc. "You're looking for things that either come in their own container, like a cucumber — things that aren't all bread. We're doing a tuna sandwich where the bread is the cucumber, and we've found other interesting carriers like a traditional patatas bravas that we're cooking in a french fry vat so they become crispy and portable."

Fernandez's list of goodies: "We are doing a bacon-wrapped date stuffed with manchego cheese, raspberry and brie en croute, mini beef Wellingtons, seared tuna wontons, Cuban sandwiches, mini deviled crab and things that have Ybor City flair to them. And for dessert it's cookies and bars, a lot of them being customized with logos."

Then, of course, there are loopholes. Chopsticks? Skewers? Filet mignon lollipops? Time will tell. Ferenc says that all menus have to go in front of the ethics committee for approval. Despite the paucity of cutlery, Ferenc says the process of menu selection has been exciting.

"While this restriction has been challenging, it's been really refreshing and fun to see (these groups) are concerned about sustainable fish, with a commitment to larger causes and health and quality. We have national clients who actively want to use Gulf seafood. There's a real corporate awareness about what's going on in the world."

Now how many ways can you eat Gulf seafood with your fingers?

Laura Reiley can be reached at lreiley@tampabay.com or (727) 892-2293.

>>the rules

Ethics manual

According to the House Ethics Manual, House members and staff may attend "receptions offering only 'food or refreshments of nominal value' that are not 'part of a meal' (e.g., light appetizers and drinks, or soda and cookies)" or at "widely attended events" where a sit-down meal is acceptable.

Stick a fork in it— or don't 08/26/12 [Last modified: Sunday, August 26, 2012 8:43am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Five reasons why Kentucky can beat Florida for the first time since 1986

    College

    By Matt Baker

    GAINESVILLE — Florida's 30-game winning streak over Kentucky is one of the most impressive feats in the country.

    Florida Gators offensive lineman Martez Ivey (73) celebrates Florida Gators running back Mark Thompson's  (24) touch down in the first quarter, putting Florida on the board 6-0 during the game between the University of Florida and the University of Kentucky in Ben Hill Griffin Stadium on Saturday, Sept. 10, 2016, in Gainesville, Fla. Florida defeated Kentucky 45-7. ANDRES LEIVA   |   Times

  2. Once targeted by the Bucs, Dalvin Cook thrills for the Vikings

    Bucs

    How good would the Bucs be with running back Dalvin Cook?

    Minnesota Vikings running back Dalvin Cook (33) slips a tackle by Steelers strong safety Sean Davis (28) to score a touchdown Sunday in Pittsburgh. [AP photo]
  3. Review: More than 20 years later, 'RENT' still matters

    Stage

    TAMPA — Two decades after Rent shook up Broadway with a starkly joyous musical that demanded to be recognized, a nostalgic tour is taking audiences back.

    The 20th anniversary tour of RENT, shown in 2016, comes to the David A. Straz Jr. Center for the Performing Arts Sept. 19-24, 2017. Photo by Carol Rosegg.
  4. Dennis Miller, headed to Tampa with Bill O'Reilly: 'We don't know each other that well'

    Events

    Dennis Miller often gets cast as the odd comic out these days.

    Dennis Miller will perform with Bill O'Reilly at the Spin Stops Here Tour at Amalie Arena in Tampa. [Spuffy Productions]
  5. Tampa Bay among top 25 metro areas with fastest growing economies

    Economic Development

    Tampa Bay had the 24th fastest growing economy among 382 metro areas in the country for 2016. According to an analysis by the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis, Tampa Bay's gross domestic product, or GDP, increased 4.2 percent from 2015 to 2016 to hit $126.2 billion.

    Tampa Bay had the 24th fastest growing economy in the country for 2016. Rentals were one of the areas that contributed to Tampa Bay's GDP growth. Pictured is attorney David Eaton in front of his rental home. 
[SCOTT KEELER | Times]