NATIONAL HOLIDAY: PEKING DUCK DAY
Whaaa? There's a day for that? Yes, there is, on Monday, and you are duty-bound to find and eat some Peking duck. Best places to go: Yummy House China Bistro (2620 E Hillsborough Ave., Tampa, (813) 237-3838) is fancier than the flagship Yummy House, ergo a better place for this show-stopper dish. In a beautiful, airy dining room suitable for big parties, there are stylish bamboo sculptures, a long central bar and a hip red and black color scheme. It's festive, lending itself to a splurge of Peking duck ($32) with its burnished skin, sumptuous layer of fat and rich meat, all tucked into sturdy pancakes with a dab of hoisin and some scallion curls. After that, you can keep up the high living with steamed lobster in ginger sauce, or take it down a notch with salt and pepper tofu.
And then there's China Yuan (8502 N Armenia Ave., Tampa, (813) 936-7388), where you can have your duck with all the bells and whistles, or not. This duck (caramel-colored and hanging sadly by the neck) with the bones, Cantonese style, is just $19.99. But the whole two-course Peking style, first the little pancakes or buns (they do both) with hoisin and scallion, crisp-skinned boned-out duck, then a second course of the bones in soup, is $39.99 and feeds a bunch.
TASTE TEST: SAFETY HARBOR
Celebrating its 10th year, the Taste of Safety Harbor revs up Monday from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. at Safety Harbor Resort and Spa (105 N Bayshore Drive). Festivalgoers sample a wide array of appetizers, main courses, desserts, wines and beers from more than 20 area food and beverage establishments, while live music, a silent auction, raffle and an art exhibit of the artists of TESA round out the evening's activities. $35 in advance, $40 at the door, and raffle proceeds benefit Florida Sheriff's Youth Ranch. (727) 726-2890. safetyharborchamber.com.
ROAD TRIP: BEACH HOUSE
On Monday at 6:30 p.m., Beach House Restaurant (200 Gulf Drive N, Bradenton Beach) hosts Darwin Brewing Co. for an inaugural Evolution Beer Dinner. Darwin's Jorge Rosabal and Matt Cornelius present craft beers that include Pirata Pils, Aguanile, Llama Mama and others, paired with four courses from fried local oysters with house-pickled Gamble Creek zucchini to gulf shrimp with housemade candied bacon. The Beach House and the Chiles Group have consistently been ahead of the curve in supporting locally produced and sustainable food and the vendors and farmers who provide it. Working with local craft brewers like Darwin is an extension of this mission. Price for dinner is $60. For reservations, call (941) 779-2222.
RESOLVED: COOK MORE
If you're looking to hone your skills in 2016, this is a week rife with possibilities. At 6:30 p.m. Sunday at Rolling Pin Kitchen Emporium (2080 Badlands Drive, Brandon), students celebrate the culinary legend that was Paul Prudhomme in a class that re-creates some of his favorite recipes, from barbecued shrimp to Cajun dirty rice and sweet potato pie. Class is $55; book in advance at (813) 653-2418.
At 9 a.m. Sunday, chef Michael Ostrander puts pastry students through their paces in an Italian pastry class at Michael's Extraordinary Desserts and Baking Academy at St. Pete Bakery (1961 Fourth St. N, St. Petersburg). In this $100 hands-on, full-day class, Ostrander shares his secrets as an executive pastry chef. Register online at chefmichaelostrander.com.
If Mediterranean flavors are more your bag, the Sur la Table store in Hyde Park Village (711 S Dakota Ave., Tampa) offers a Sunday class at 2 p.m. It will teach a number of recipes: flatbread with rosemary, garlic olives and Parmesan, chicken souvlaki skewers, polenta olive oil cake. Class is $69; register at surlatable.com.
And at 7 p.m. Wednesday at the Epicurean Theatre at the Epicurean Hotel (1207 S Howard Ave., Tampa), drop in for a Pirate Fest. What's that? Participants bake up bacon- and rum-infused cupcakes in a class that pairs them with cocktails crafted by the Epicurean bartenders. The class is $50 and everyone takes home six cupcakes. To book, call (813) 999-8700.