'Tis the season: Calorie crush
We're into the holiday season, big time. You're going to have to work deep this week. First up is Bella Vino's annual Tiny Bubbles and Big Reds event at 5:30 p.m. Friday. They're pulling out all the corks at the Belleair Country Club, with more than 100 wines, from light and sparkling to big, bold reds from California, France, Italy and Spain, along with 30 artisan cheese varieties and an hors d'oeuvres station. $95. 1 Country Club Lane, Belleair. (727) 584-5552
That same night at 7, head to the Central Park Performing Arts Center in Largo to expire via Death by Chocolate. Chocolatiers and local restaurants serve up treats in a chocolate heaven with live holiday music in an annual fundraiser of the Rotary Club of Largo that raises more than $20,000 for local youth programs. Patrons enjoy sinful creations in the beautiful setting of Largo's Central Park with an annual holiday light display. The event includes live entertainment, a silent auction and complimentary champagne and coffee. $25. 105 Central Park Drive, Largo. largorotary.com/death-by-chocolate.
You may have to let the belt out one more notch for this year's Crafts and Drafts event, but you'll get some of your gift list squared away at the same time. Held at the St. Pete Shuffleboard Club, it features more than 50 of Tampa Bay's best local artisan craft vendors, a beer garden with a variety of craft beer favorites, food stations, do-it-yourself tie dye, pet zones with treats and water, complimentary activities and shuffleboard. This family- and pet-friendly event benefits the Humane Society of Tampa Bay. The first 250 people in the door get a complimentary commemorative tote bag. $5, $25 for VIP. 11 a.m. Saturday, 559 Mirror Lake Drive N, St. Petersburg. cltampa.com/craftsanddrafts for a list of crafters and craft beer providers.
Sunday at 9 a.m., pastry chef and educator Michael Ostrander will put bakers through their paces for a Cookies and More Cookies class. The chef will be familiar to folks from years at the Saturday Morning Market and from his baking academy in Largo. A couple years ago, he opened his gorgeous St. Pete Bakery, above, on Fourth Street, which gets nuts during the holiday season (think chocolate bourbon pecan tarts, Southern pecan pie, chocolate cream pie, lemon meringue pie, etc.). But Ostrander also devotes time to what amounts to baking boot camps: a hands-on class with lunch, recipe book and personalized training. $100 includes lunch and the recipe book. 1961 Fourth St. N, St. Petersburg. (727) 954-8837.
Coming Soon: The Galley
Two local leaders in the increasingly dense St. Petersburg hospitality scene have joined forces to open what they're calling a St. Petersburg-themed restaurant in December in the old Howard Johnson hotel space. At 27 Fourth St. N, the Galley will be near Williams Park, the open-air post office and Snell Arcade. Nearby are the to-be-developed 400 block, BB&T First Central Tower and the ONE condo-hotel development, soon to be St. Petersburg's tallest building.
"I've always been bullish on St. Pete (and) we've wanted to do this for a long time," co-owner Pete Boland said. "This opportunity was worth the wait."
The two-story, 2,000-square-foot space will have an oversized kitchen from which will emanate, Boland says, "grouper sandwiches, Cuban sandwiches, stone crabs, Florida-inspired desserts with fresh Florida fruits … Beach Drive quality, Central Avenue fun. … Chef Ian Carmichael is captain of the kitchen. He understands good food doesn't have to be stuffy."
The restaurant's name — a kitchen on a ship is known as the galley — and nautical theme were inspired by co-owner Ian Taylor's time in the Navy. Taylor and Boland have family members who are U.S. Navy and U.S. Coast Guard veterans. Plus, of course, the waterfront/water in general is a major component of St. Petersburg's identity. Emphasizing the local roots and theme, Taylor said, "Our vision is to become one of the must-stop spots of the St. Pete experience."