BRIDGING THE GAP: SKYWAY SOIREE
Let's meet in the middle. Or in this case, let's meat (and seafood) in the middle. June 12 will debut the Skyway Soiree, a collaboration between chefs from Sarasota, Bradenton and St. Petersburg — held at sunset on the North Skyway Bridge. Organized by Turtle Beach Natural Foods and overseen by Sarasota chef Paul Mattison, below, the evening entails a six-course wine-pairing benefit dinner, with six chefs each preparing a course with a land-and-sea theme.
"April Clinton, a sales rep at Turtle Beach, started putting the idea together; she has relationships with all these guys," Mattison said. "We had a meeting out on the bridge, looking at logistics and figuring out who is going to do what. I let everyone come up with what they wanted to do, and Jason Cline at the Birchwood said, 'Why not all seafood?' And someone else said, 'Why don't we make every course a surf and turf course?' "
Done and done. Poulet Rouge chorizo and Joe Island clams from Tyson Grant of Parkshore Grill; olive oil poached lamb and sous vide lobster tail brochette from Isaac Johnson of Lila/Pomona; and David Benstock of Il Ritorno coming up with an array of hors d'oeuvres (think charred Blue Point oysters with crispy guanciale pickled ramps, smoked creme and piave vecchio) for the cocktail reception. Mattison organized all the courses from lightest to heaviest.
Tickets are $125 per person and limited to 150 guests with proceeds donated to Sarasota's Mote Marine (World Oceans Day is June 8, after all) and St. Petersburg's Edible Peace Patch. Mattison says it's the first time he has collaborated with chefs on this side of the bridge, so it may be a hoot for guests to come out and cheer on the home team. This event will take place rain or shine (there is a covered dining area). (941) 921-3400. mattisons.com.
DINE AROUND: SARASOTA
And if that event whets your appetite for checking out restaurants to our south, now through June 14 diners can check out the annual Savor Sarasota. Choose from more than 60 participating restaurants, from elegant dining to casual eateries, each offering an affordable, fixed-price menu: $15 for lunch and $29 for dinner. Sarasota is known for having top-notch beaches, but it also has the highest concentration of Zagat-rated restaurants in Florida. At savorsarasota.com, diners can sort by chef name, menu, geographic area and cuisine. With a spread from Peruvian to French and a whole lot in between, you'll taste your way around the world pronto.
DRINK UP: BEER CAMP ACROSS AMERICA
Need more proof that the Tampa Bay area is nationally recognized as a hotbed of craft beer innovation? Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. kicks off its six-city Beer Camp Across America 2016 summer festival here.
Billed as the largest craft beer celebration, it brings together brewers from across the country to create one-time collaboration beers, in addition to staging huge one-day festivals for regional brewers and beer fans.
After the Tampa festival on Saturday in Curtis Hixon Park, it heads to Seattle, Milwaukee, San Francisco, Boston and Los Angeles.
Why was Tampa chosen as the kickoff city? According to Sierra Nevada public relations representative Natalie Colli, the choice had multiple factors. First, "Florida is a prominent place for craft beer." Full stop. Second, in each festival city Sierra Nevada partners with a regional brewer, and according to Colli, Funky Buddha Brewery in Oakland Park is a "favorite and innovative brand."
And then there's a logistical reason: With its second brewery built in Mills River, N.C., Sierra Nevada has a strong interest in bolstering relations with Southeastern breweries, and "Tampa provides a really good backyard backdrop to host this kind of event."
Tickets are $35-$70, it's 21 and older only and hours are 6 to 10 p.m. (530) 893-3520.
And even if local beer aficionados can't make it to the one-day festival, each of the six festival cities creates a "super group" of brewers to craft a regional beer that then is sold in limited-edition 12-packs across the country.