DINING FOR A CAUSE: FROGMEN
Local mediator Ken Bowen has masterminded a charity celebrity chef event on Sunday at the new 10,000-square-foot warehouse behind 3 Daughters Brewing in St. Petersburg. Coming together to raise money for U.S. Navy SEALs and their Gold Star families when they don't make it home, a group of popular local chefs have volunteered their time and skills. Tyson Grant of Parkshore Grill, Jeffrey Hileman of Locale Market and FarmTable Kitchen, Chad Johnson of Elevage and Haven, and Jason Cline of Poke Rose join together with Jeremy Ford, last season's Top Chef winner for the evening.
The food for the Frogman Feast is sponsored by Niman Ranch, Chateau Ste. Michelle is providing wines, 3 Daughters Brewing is on tap for beer, and dessert will be provided by Swah-Rey Dessert Bar as a collaboration with Kill Cliff Cold Brewed Coffee. Open to the public (it's a $60 donation), the event features eight chefs manning eight food stations. There will be Gold Star families in attendance, as well as some Navy SEALs, an Olympic gold medalist and a world champion shooter. A casual, family-friendly event, from 4 to 7 p.m., it will also include an auction and raffle as well as Top Chef-inspired cooking challenges.
The menu includes duck confit salad; whole smoked grouper with crunchy polenta; lemongrass and green curry sausage with papaya salad; game bird burgoo; Okeechobee frog legs; and whiskey barrel smoked St. Louis ribs with root beer baked beans. facebook.com/frogmanfeast.
HOLIDAY PARTY? HERE'S WHERE
On many people's wish list is a holiday party venue — someplace intimate and memorable that's not going to break the bank. Most Tampa Bay area hotels eagerly court private parties with banquet rooms, in-house catering, event coordinators and preferred vendors. Hotels in Pinellas County may have the added benefit of beach access, but Tampa hotels often also offer water views with boats bobbing in the bay. Then there are cultural venues such as the Glazer Children's Museum or the Tampa Museum of Art and special event halls such as Nova 535 in St. Petersburg or A La Carte Event Pavilion in Tampa.
But many of these are most appropriate for large-scale affairs. What about for the smaller gathering, somewhere between 12 and 40 people?
A number of restaurants offer private dining space, some with a straightforward room rental fee and others that rely upon your food and wine orders to pay for the space. Many restaurants are willing to work with you on the details, but you need to have your ducks in a row: How many people; what's your budget; what's your target date (with a backup, just in case)? Do you envision a sit-down dinner, a buffet or even a standup, passed-hors d'oeuvres cocktail party?
Here are Tampa Bay venues that offer nice spaces for smallish holiday gatherings:
• Parkshore Grill has annexed the space just to the west for a 100-seat private dining and catering. 300 Beach Drive NE, St. Petersburg; (727) 896-3463.
• Rococo Steak, having taken over the Brass Tap space next door, has expanded its private dining, much of it with come-hither views of the restaurant's massive wine collection. 655 Second Ave. S, St. Petersburg; (727) 822-0999.
• Villa Bellini, built in 1928, has lots of options: There are two upstairs dining rooms that seat 40 and 25, then a sumptuously appointed downstairs room near the main entrance that seats 20, and the wine room seats a cozy 10. 2930 Gulf-to-Bay Blvd., Clearwater; (727) 754-9848.
• Eddie V's Prime Seafood, purveyor of high-end seafood and steaks, has a range private dining spaces, from the Speakeasy Room that seats up to 18 to the Manhattan Room that seats up to 50. 4400 W Boy Scout Blvd., Tampa; (813) 877-7290.
• LAB916, next door to Edison: Food+Drink Lab, couldn't be much more private. There's a flat room rental fee and it can accommodate 40 people seated and 70 standing. There are four long tables that can seat 10 each, but tables can be separated or put together in one large square or in an L-shape. 912 W Kennedy Blvd., Tampa; (813) 254-7111.
• Ulele Native-Inspired Foods & Spirits uses the mezzanine level for private parties, seating up to 80 people, but parties have also been set up on the terrace outside, as well as in the beer garden (with great tenting options). 1810 N Highland Ave., Tampa; (813) 999-4952.