Finding sweets for your sweetheart
For Valentine's weekend, sweets for your sweetheart are a must. If chocolate is your thing, you pretty much can't beat Week 2 of the Bay Area Renaissance Festival, which is a "Chocolate Fantasy" with wine and chocolate tastings, a gingerbread house building competition, fencing, children's cookie decorating, whirlwind wedding wars and mural competition voting. It runs 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Saturday-Sunday at the Museum of Science and Industry, 4801 E Fowler Ave., Tampa. $17.95 advance, $20.95 day of; $9.95 advance, $12.95 day of (ages 5-12); $16.95 seniors/students; $10 dogs. Toll-free 1-800-966-8215. But we also thought it would be fun to look at some of the Tampa Bay chefs and bakers who make an assortment of sweet temptations. In the kitchens of the bay area, some of our favorites include:
2602 S MacDill Ave., Tampa; (813) 902-1979
Opened right next door to Datz in 2013, Dough is doing the baking for Datz (1,000 hamburger buns a week), but it's also grab-and-go pastries and breakfast in the morning; ladies-who-lunch staples like chicken salad on mixed greens at lunch; and swanky date-night desserts and dessert wines in the evening. It all goes on in a building that is pure whimsy, part MacKenzie-Childs fanciful design, part Alice in Wonderland, with trays of doughnuts, delicate tartines of smoked salmon. Oh, and bacon lattes, bacon eclairs, bacon cheesecake, duck fat fries, house-infused vodkas and craft beers.
Frida's Cafe & Bakery
9700 Ulmerton Road, Largo; (727) 587-7077
An ambitious bakery that has slowly added a menu of laudable hot panini, cold sandwiches and salads. Dishes come with a cakey wedge of coconut bread, sweet enough to sub for dessert, but with a nice nutmeg kick that goes equally well with a cup of bacon-studded potato soup or a delightful winter salad of mixed greens, toasted pecans, dried cherries and little fluffs of goat cheese all in a nice raspberry vinaigrette. The pastry options are high-flying, with petit fours that look like mice, mousses swirled into tulip-shaped chocolate shells, fancy little European cookies and birthday cakes so pretty one hesitates to mar their surface with candles.
William Dean Chocolates
2790 West Bay Drive, Belleair Bluffs; (727) 593-0656
Handmade, artisan chocolates and confections, crafted on site.
St. Pete Bakery
1961 Fourth St. N, St. Petersburg; (727) 954-8837
Home to baking and pastry classes led by chef Michael Ostrander, this bakery also offers made-from-scratch cakes, pies, pastries, desserts, ice cream, chocolates and coffee.
Sweet Divas Chocolates
400 Beach Drive NE, St. Petersburg; (727) 379-4567
Chocolates, cupcakes, muffins and sweets, plus gelato, specialty coffees, champagne and wines.
Schakolad Chocolate Factory
401 Central Ave., St. Petersburg, (727) 892-2400; 408 S Howard Ave., Tampa, (813) 259-1099
Custom retail chocolate "boutique," with wide array of European-style chocolates and truffles made fresh on-site, chocolate gifts and gift boxes.
An Afternoon, or Evening, in Paris
Couples choose from a five course French dinner with DJ dancing (Saturday) and a five course French brunch with jazz (Sunday). Both include an intimate cabana, free drink and a photo. $125 couple. The Loft Event Lounge, 709 W Lumsden Road, Brandon. (813) 685-8777. 7-10 p.m. Saturday, 1-4 p.m. Sunday.
These Yacht StarShip cruises book up fast, but there's a variety of romantic cruises all weekend long to choose from with prix fixed menus, DJ entertainment, long stemmed roses and champagne. Yacht StarShip, 603 Channelside Drive, Tampa. (813) 223-7999. Weekend Dinner Cruise: $69.95, $49.95 children. 7-10 p.m. Friday; Weekend Lunch Cruise: $59.95, $44.95 children. 11:30 a.m.-2 p.m. Saturday; Weekend Early Dinner Cruise: $79.95, $59.95 children. 4:30-7:30 p.m. Saturday; Weekend VIP Dinner Cruise: $119.95. Adults only. 8:30 p.m.-midnight Saturday; Lunch Cruise: $69.95, $44.95 children. 11:30 a.m.-2 p.m. Sunday; Early Dinner Cruise: $129.95, $89.95 children. 3:30-6:30 p.m. Sunday; Late VIP Dinner Cruise: $149.95. Adults only. 7-10:30 p.m. Sunday; Late Dinner Cruise: $129.95, $89.95 children. 7:30 p.m. Sunday.
A Beau-Tea-Ful Romance is Brewing
The Paris themed Valentines High Tea features candlelit tables, music and carriage rides ($10). $26.95. Tilted Teacup Tea Room, 103 S Saxon Ave., Brooksville. (352) 593-4111. Seatings at 4, 5, 6 and 7 p.m. Saturday.
A Touch of Red
A formal dinner and dance party with open bar, full buffet, DJ music, entertainment and prizes. $100. The Birchwood, 340 Beach Drive NE, St. Petersburg. (727) 896-1080. 7 p.m. Saturday.