Sunday, June 17, 2018
Dining

Cooking show superstars put talent on display at inaugural St. Petersburg food festival

ST. PETERSBURG — Celebrity chefs Todd English, Ming Tsai and Curtis Stone strode through the crowd to have a word with Ace of Cakes reality show superstar Duff Goldman. In the deep blue light of the nighttime Dalí Museum, Goldman stood in front of his confection masterpiece, part Persistence of Memory, part The Elephants — all of it a jaw-dropping tribute to Salvador Dalí's work and the tremendous ambition of the first Enjoy Arts and Tastes St. Pete food, wine and arts festival.

Earlier Friday night, two Maseratis stretched like sleek sentinels in front of the Museum of Fine Arts, but most eyes were elsewhere at the sold-out Sense Immersion dinner hosted by chef English and artist Duncan McClellan. At the seated dinner for 250 in the museum's atrium, all eyes were on the plates as a procession of courses wowed the assembled foodies, each dish inspired by the work of a regional artist.

Still earlier in the evening at a VIP party at HSN headquarters, HSN CEO Mindy Grossman, in a stunning animal-print dress, spoke about the festival's beginning.

"I live downtown in St. Petersburg, so I see what's happening. What's unique here is arts and culture, and the recent obsession with food is compelling. So a whole group of us got together and started brainstorming."

HSN, the Edwards Group, Visit St. Pete Clearwater and local arts venues and restaurants collaborated to launch the three-day food and arts festival, which concludes today with a sold-out Battle of the 'Burg burger battle at the Club at Treasure Island hosted by restaurateur and frequent Iron Chef judge Donatella Arpaia. But even before the last burger is flipped, one thing is clear: This first-time event exceeded the expectations of organizers and attendees.

Former St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Baker says that the main challenge of an event of this scope is doing something new.

"We've done a lot of new things in St. Petersburg in the past 10 years. The key is helping people to understand what it's going to be."

Because, as Baker says, "St. Petersburg is such a walk-up market," the hair-raising part of executing a first-time event is anticipating attendance numbers. While total numbers are not yet tallied, most events, including seven cooking demos and a panel discussion, were nearly at capacity.

Hunky Australian chef Curtis Stone presided over a standing-room-only demonstration at the Mahaffey Saturday afternoon.

"I still get nervous in front of a group, so the first thing I'm going to do is make myself a cocktail," he began with a smirk, enlisting audience members in a Sangria Martini shakeoff.

Stone and many of the festival's other television chefs are no strangers to St. Petersburg. Many work frequently with HSN to promote their kitchen equipment, books and products. In conversation with attendees and demo audiences, nearly all of them expressed their affection for St. Petersburg.

"Everybody is really nice. I'm not used to nice," said chef Arpaia before demurring on the rumor that she's opening a St. Petersburg restaurant.

On a more intimate scale than the Food Network's South Beach Wine & Food Festival and the Food and Wine Classic in Aspen, Enjoy Arts and Tastes St. Pete allowed tremendous access to the celebs while providing a showcase for local chefs' talent (best bites: Datz bacon bar and Mazzaro's vitello tonnato at Saturday's Grand Tasting, William Dean chocolates and macarons at Friday's Dalí event).

At Saturday evening's Sip Savor and Swing dinner hosted by the Cooking Channel's Ingrid Hoffman at the Vinoy, local restaurants from Red Mesa Cantina to the Black Palm Restaurant offered Latin-inspired dishes before dancing got underway.

Attendee Nick Okeson, a family doctor in Largo, has been to South Beach Wine & Food Festival, where he says packed venues can mar the experience. Speaking of the first Enjoy Arts and Tastes St. Pete, he was succinct.

"It's great times and no pretensions."

Laura Reiley can be reached at [email protected]

 
Comments
From soft serve to ice pops, 12 places to get frozen treats

From soft serve to ice pops, 12 places to get frozen treats

I know we have three more months or so of hot-as-dog-breath Tampa Bay summer, but letís start things off on the right foot with some frozen treats. Ice cream is on my mind after a recent visit to Disney Springs, when I found love in a perfect scoop o...
Published: 06/13/18
Five restaurants worth checking out at Disney Springs in Orlando (w/video)

Five restaurants worth checking out at Disney Springs in Orlando (w/video)

LAKE BUENA VISTA Disney Springs has swiftly become a playground or trial balloon for the country?s celebrity chefs. Art Smith, Masaharu Morimoto, Rick Bayless, Guy Fieri, Tony Mantuano, Wolfgang Puck and others are already on board, with names like ...
Published: 06/13/18
A hook-to-table food experience in Tampa Bay

A hook-to-table food experience in Tampa Bay

Going fishing is like doing your taxes. If itís something you dive into just once a year you end up relearning the whole thing every time. Jake Whitfield eyed me, no judgment, and decided to cast for me the first time, my little wriggling greenback z...
Published: 06/11/18
Ceviche closing in South Tampa

Ceviche closing in South Tampa

TAMPA Ė The Ceviche restaurant at 2500 W Azeele St. is closing.Caledon Concepts, which operates Ceviche restaurants in Orlando, Tampa and St. Petersburg, said the restaurantís last day at that location will be June 16."The expiration of the lease for...
Published: 06/08/18
Deal alert: Hard Rock Cafe has 71 cent burgers for its birthday

Deal alert: Hard Rock Cafe has 71 cent burgers for its birthday

SAVE THE DATE: HARD ROCK B-DAYOn June 14, 1971, the founders opened their own American-style diner in an old Rolls-Royce dealership and called it Hard Rock Cafe. They had a vision to combine music, memorabilia and all-American fare. Hereís a tip: To ...
Published: 06/06/18
Restaurant review: El Chapo Taco fills a need with fun, friendly Mexican spot in Gulfport

Restaurant review: El Chapo Taco fills a need with fun, friendly Mexican spot in Gulfport

GULFPORTWhat do we know about El Chapo, a.k.a. Mexican drug lord JoaquŪn GuzmŠn? He ran the Sinaloa Cartel, even from prison, and first appeared on Forbesí billionaires list in 2009. Heís 5 feet 6. Heís the father of 12 or 13 children. He has a talen...
Published: 06/04/18
Updated: 06/07/18
National Doughnut Day is back. Where to get free doughnuts, doughnut beers and more

National Doughnut Day is back. Where to get free doughnuts, doughnut beers and more

Believe it or not, Friday is already June 1, which means National Doughnut Day is back with sweet deals.The day was created to celebrate the Salvation Armyís "Doughnut Lassies," who served the treats to American soldiers on the front lines during Wor...
Updated one month ago
A look at how Tampa steakhouse Ocean Prime keeps its menu fresh

A look at how Tampa steakhouse Ocean Prime keeps its menu fresh

TAMPAThe executive chefs all fly into Columbus, Ohio. Before they step into the kitchen, before they sharpen a knife, they sit down and have a meeting, an open dialogue. They examine the whole menu: Whatís working? What needs fixing? And then they ge...
Updated one month ago
Restaurant review: Bar Asia will have to raise the bar if it wants to thrive in South Tampa

Restaurant review: Bar Asia will have to raise the bar if it wants to thrive in South Tampa

TAMPALetís review our star system. One star is fair, two is good, three is great and four is mind-blowing. Iím going to start my review of Bar Asia by saying that one star for service is generous. Hereís why.On my first visit, the bartender was crabb...
Updated one month ago
Birchwood owner will open a three-story restaurant and bar at St. Petersburg pier

Birchwood owner will open a three-story restaurant and bar at St. Petersburg pier

ST. PETERSBURG ó Chuck Prather, owner of the Birchwood in St. Petersburg, returned from his daughterís Maine wedding this week with an exciting announcement of his own. On June 7 the St. Petersburg City Council is expected to sign off on him being on...
Updated one month ago