Tuesday, January 23, 2018
Restaurants

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
This year’s Florida State Fair food oddities include catfish ‘sundae’ and chicken and waffles pizza

This year’s Florida State Fair food oddities include catfish ‘sundae’ and chicken and waffles pizza

Being the first in the country on the fair-going calendar, the Florida State Fair is also the first to roll out the outrageous, deep-fried, bacon-wrapped, cheese-covered foods on a stick that perfume the midway. While cotton candy, corn dogs and funn...
Updated: 9 hours ago
Shake Shack, Momofuku and more: Please come to Tampa Bay

Shake Shack, Momofuku and more: Please come to Tampa Bay

Fabio is coming! Not the Fabio on your romance novel, with the billowing hair and large quantities of artificial butter. This Fabio, in all likelihood, uses real butter. And olive oil. Fabio Viviani, the charming Top Chef alum known for appearances...
Published: 01/17/18
Time to carbo load: Three new bakeries include an Australian bakery, second La Segunda

Time to carbo load: Three new bakeries include an Australian bakery, second La Segunda

LA SEGUNDAA Tampa Bay giant has stirred and is on the move. La Segunda Central Bakery, a family-owned Ybor City institution for nearly 103 years (they celebrated that birthday Jan. 15) and the largest producer of Cuban bread in the world, will open a...
Published: 01/17/18
Restaurant review: Byblos Cafe has busted out of its mold with a broader Mediterranean menu, and that’s good

Restaurant review: Byblos Cafe has busted out of its mold with a broader Mediterranean menu, and that’s good

TAMPASeldom have I paid such close attention to a restaurant closure, remodeling and reopening. Byblos Cafe began a major renovation last year, keeping the restaurant open as long as possible during the summer with some nifty temporary walls to shiel...
Published: 01/16/18
Restaurant review: Ichicoro Ane brings ramen, Japanese small plates and a whole lot of fun to St. Petersburg

Restaurant review: Ichicoro Ane brings ramen, Japanese small plates and a whole lot of fun to St. Petersburg

ST. PETERSBURGWhen Station House restaurant opened on Christmas Eve 2014 it was a totally reinvented space, Steve Gianfilippo’s vision for the basement level of a 104-year-old, five-story, 30,000-square-foot building he’d bought for $3 million. For y...
Published: 01/12/18
Updated: 01/13/18
Top Chef’s Fabio Viviani will open a restaurant in downtown Tampa

Top Chef’s Fabio Viviani will open a restaurant in downtown Tampa

The Tampa Bay restaurant scene has hit a certain kind of critical mass. For several years, rumors have swirled that the nation’s celebrity chefs were considering this part of the Florida peninsula as "the next big thing," a place to colonize and set ...
Published: 01/12/18
The future of food includes insect cuisine, edible packaging, sea vegetables and more

The future of food includes insect cuisine, edible packaging, sea vegetables and more

Insect cuisine. Edible packaging. High-tech rooftop gardens. The future of food is around the corner. With a current world population of 7.2 billion, the United Nations is projecting an increase of 1 billion people over the next 12 years, and 9.6 bi...
Published: 01/10/18
La Segunda Bakery to open new South Tampa location — with seats

La Segunda Bakery to open new South Tampa location — with seats

A Tampa Bay giant has stirred and is on the move. La Segunda Central Bakery, a family-owned Ybor City institution for nearly 103 years (they celebrate that birthday Jan. 15) and the largest producer of Cuban bread in the world, will open a second loc...
Published: 01/09/18
Tijuana Flats now sells a ‘take-home burrito meal kit’ and Rattle N Hum offers BOGO shots

Tijuana Flats now sells a ‘take-home burrito meal kit’ and Rattle N Hum offers BOGO shots

THE TWO B’S: BEER AND BACONFor the second year, Patrick Green is putting on the St. Pete Beer and Bacon Festival at Vinoy Park from 1 to 6 p.m. Jan. 20. Last year more than 5,000 people showed up to celebrate both B’s. Why this particular dynamic duo...
Published: 01/04/18
Updated: 01/10/18
Our food critic’s tips for eating out and not gaining weight in 2018

Our food critic’s tips for eating out and not gaining weight in 2018

There’s a three-panel comic circulating on social media right now. In the first panel is a stick figure with a Santa hat, the caption, "festive." In the second panel a pudgier stick figure is wandering, confused, with a wedge of cheese in his hand. I...
Updated one month ago