Tis the season: Home decorating
This week, merchants in Hyde Park Village are creating and displaying some majorly impressive gingerbread houses (tiny homes, but with more icing and zero closet space). A final judging in the cutthroat and gumdropped competition takes place Friday. Guests are encouraged to "vote" for their favorite gingerbread house through a charitable donation (each participating merchant picks his or her own). From CineBistro to Goody Goody and Buddy Brew, the merchant with the most money raised on the last day wins. While judging, enjoy holiday carolers, princesses, a life-size gingerbread house for the kids to decorate, games and crafts. The winner will be announced at 5 p.m. in Village Circle at the Hyde Park Village Stage, 742 S Village Circle, Tampa. Admission is free. For more information, visit hydeparkvillage.com/event.
Your oyster: Jewelry with cause
In case you're still looking for the perfect Florida gift for the foodie on your list, here's one that gives back. New Orleans designer Ashley Porter has just launched a new collection of jewelry made with oyster tong teeth hand-forged by traditional blacksmith Rodney Richards of Apalachicola. Rolled out as a Kickstarter campaign, the Torchbearers Collection is a tribute to Gulf Coast oysters and the hard-working men and women who bring them from the ocean to our plates. Each piece is assembled by Porter in New Orleans using Richards' materials; the result is a combination of elegant, contemporary design and rugged, timeless craftsmanship.
For a pledge of $95 you get a men's or women's long pendant necklace featuring an oyster tong tooth as well as a hand-written thank you and an invitation to the collection launch party in New Orleans on Jan. 7. In addition to raising awareness about the plight of Gulf Coast oyster fisheries, the project raises money for the Apalachicola Riverkeeper organization. The Apalachicola River Basin is among the most ecologically diverse natural systems in the Southeast and supports a $7 billion seafood industry in the Gulf of Mexico. kickstarter.com, search for Torchbearers.
New eats: BREW BUS eatery
The Brew Bus Terminal, which houses a microbrewery and tasting room and serves as a hub for bus tours to local breweries, has opened an on-site kitchen called, wait for it, the Eatery. With the opening of the new casual dining concept, the brewery joins the ranks of microbreweries across the country that have asked that question: "What goes with beer? Hey, how about food?"
Newly retrofitted with a 400-square-foot kitchen, the venue now offers a menu by chef Kasia Lavigne, right, who crafted starters, sandwiches, sliders and flatbreads. Locally sourced ingredients and house brews like You're My Boy, Blue! Blueberry Wheat Ale and Last Stop IPA are used to create menu items, says Lavigne, a classically trained chef and graduate of the California Culinary Academy in San Francisco.
"I have always enjoyed wine, but beer offers some new opportunities and new flavors for pairing with food. I also love exotic flavors like those found in Indian and Thai foods and want to incorporate those spices and balance those flavors in the dishes I create."
Initially the kitchen schedule will coincide with the tasting room operating hours with lunch service added soon. The tasting room is open 4 to 10 p.m. Monday through Thursday, noon to midnight Fridays, 11 a.m. to midnight Saturdays and 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sundays. The Brew Bus Terminal is at 4101 N Florida Ave., Tampa. (813) 990-7310.