ON THE MENU: SPECIAL DINNERS
There comes a time each summer in Tampa Bay when the weather starts to get you down. Maybe it's the afternoon gloom and storm. Maybe it's how many days in a row your steering wheel has caused you to hot-potato from fingertips to fingertips. If you can't board a plane this week to a more salubrious setting (Greenland? It can't be this humid in Greenland), have a little staycation while someone else makes you dinner and does all the dishes.
Villa Verde Café in Spring Hill hosts its first five-course wine dinner on Friday. Starting at 6 p.m., diners will try a trio of antipasti paired with Feudo di Morro Pecorino, followed by a choice of homemade agnolotti stuffed with rapini and cheese in a light tomato sauce (paired with Feudo di Morro Passerina), grilled salmon (Riello Delle Balze Vecchi Chianti), lamb chops in a light mushroom cream sauce served with patate duchessa (Riello Delle Balze Vino Nobile di Montepuciano) and finishing up with Neapolitan cake, tiramisu or chocolate mousse (Terre dei Roveri Terre Dolci Rosso). $59.99 and space is limited. 12634 U.S. 41, Spring Hill. (813) 929-6800.
Also on Friday, Fleming's Prime Steakhouse hosts a Coppertail Brewing beer dinner. Taste your way through five bottlings (Berliner Weisse, porter, IPA and others), matched up by chef/partner Brandon Mikulich with five courses. The menu includes a lobster stack with mango relish and smoked filet mignon. The honored guest of the evening is Casey Hughes, Coppertail head brewmaster. 6:30 p.m. $75. 4322 W Boy Scout Blvd., Tampa. (813) 874-9463.
And on Saturday, head to Tarpon Springs for Night in the Islands, an opportunity to enjoy dinner under the stars, dancing and live entertainment at the Sponge Docks. Participating restaurants include Costa's, Hellas and Mama's, and live music is provided by the groups Ellada and Odyssey. Free dance lessons are offered by Levendia Dancers from 6 to 7 p.m. The free event is held the first Saturday of each month from 6 to 11 p.m. along Dodecanese Boulevard between Hope and Athens streets. (727) 937-1130.
Tuesday you can take the whole family to something of a "bespoke experience." Il Ritorno, one of my favorite restaurants in St. Petersburg, has launched a new family night program. Chef David Benstock, who seems always in the mood for a little experimentation and self-reinvention, will prepare a family-style menu according to guest preferences. Starting at 5 p.m., guests can participate in the process of designing the evening's repast. $30 per person. 449 Central Ave., St. Petersburg. (727) 897-5900.
If you're feeling flush, Wednesday offers a swanky opportunity to tipple Scotches over dinner at Grey Salt at Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino. Following a cocktail reception, guests will be treated to four courses paired with Glenfiddich scotch whiskies, including 18-, 15- and 12-year-old varieties. The menu includes fig and prosciutto flatbread, foie gras and grouper. It is $175 per person, inclusive. 6:30 p.m. 5223 Orient Road, Tampa. (813) 627-6630.
CALLING ALL BARISTAS: LATTE ART THROWDOWN
Chocolate Pi has announced it will host a competition from 8 to 11 p.m. Aug. 30. It is open to 40 baristas; sign-up is currently live on their website (sweetchocolatepi.com). Baristas will want to sign up ahead of time to ensure a spot for the night. In the event that spots fill up, a waiting list will start. There is a $10 fee to compete, but the event is free to attend. DCE Productions will film the pouring along with a bird's-eye view of the finished drinks and live streaming on screens visible in multiple places around the store. The Barbecue Bus will provide free food and Cigar City Brewing will serve free craft beer throughout the night. Big prizes, and bragging rights, for winning baristas. 1205 S Howard Ave., Tampa. (813) 831-2195.