Wednesday, April 25, 2018
Restaurants

School's out for summer, but Tampa Bay restaurants are still stuck on peanut butter and jelly

The end of the school year is the perfect time to reconsider a cafeteria classic: The peanut butter and jelly sandwich.

Bread. Peanut Butter. Grape, strawberry, raspberry, name it. Crusts on, crusts off: Your call.

It's so simple, so perfect, so synonymous with the innocence of youth. So it's no surprise countless restaurants have attempted to reclaim the PB&J for adults.

Take, for example, Moxie's in downtown Tampa, which has a full menu of "Classic Peanut Butter Sandwiches," thick with hefty waves of fresh, nutty butter. Look past all their overly sugary fluff (er, Fluffernutters) and you'll find the Classic PB&J, offered with strawberry or grape jam or raspberry or apricot preserves, served between thick, pillowy slices of bread. For an autumnal twist, try the Health Nut, which replaces the jelly with apple butter and wheat germ.

Once you move outside the sandwichsphere, however, things get dicey. Case in point: The Brewers Tasting Room, a popular Pinellas hangout for craft beer geeks. They have a modest food menu, including 10 varieties of wings. But from 5 to 8 p.m. on "Wing Wednesdays," the list of flavors grows to 30, including Cheesy Taco, Creamy Sriracha and, you guessed it, PB&J.

Served bone-in or boneless, they come slathered in thick peanut butter and striped with a red jelly drizzle. Honestly, they don't taste as bad as they sound, but they are incredibly messy, even by wing standards. This might be a case where the craft beer community's penchant for creative flavor experimentation has overstepped its boundaries.

Speaking of beer, Oakland Park's Funky Buddha Brewery has earned raves for its limited-release No Crusts PB&J Brown Ale, though its availability in the Tampa Bay area has been spotty at best. That might change when Funky Buddha starts bottling its beer this fall.

Until then, a handful of bars have experimented with PB&J cocktails, though it's tough to find a recipe that's more than just a novelty. Kelly's Chic-a-Boom Room in Dunedin, however, is all about silly martinis, and they have one called The Elvis. Now, technically it was the peanut butter and banana sandwich that Elvis Aaron Presley loved, but this one strikes a fair (if decadent) balance: PB&J-flavored vodka, crème de banana and vanilla liqueur, garnished with a peanut butter rim and (why not?) a slice of bacon. Once you get past the garishly pale yellow color, it's not half bad, and the sweet rim lingers on the tongue. Plus, bacon!

Outside the lunchbox, the PB&J might work best on dessert menus. And wouldn't you know it: Through June 21, Tampa's Burger 21 is serving a PB&J Shake. For $5.50, you get vanilla ice cream blended with peanut butter, strawberry, raspberry and blackberry puree, topped with whipped cream, berry puree and chopped peanut butter cups. That's an ambitious recipe, but it mostly works.

Most of Tampa Bay's upscale cupcakeries offer some version of the PB&J (though frequently only by special request). For a more consistent cakelike treat, try St. Pete Bagel Co., which makes a mean PB&J doughnut on the regular. Pretty genius, when you think about it — slap a little peanut butter on a jelly doughnut, and voila. But St. Pete Bagel deserves credit for getting the topping just right — it's not thick, gooey or overly sweet; it's more like a thin glaze with just a few tiny peanut chunks for texture. At just 99 cents, it's a steal.

High-end eateries do right by the PB&J, too. For example, William Dean Chocolates, which makes museum-quality chocolates for the Hunger Games film franchise, is a veritable PB&J lover's paradise, serving both a gorgeous PB&J chocolate (impossibly creamy peanut butter and blackberry, boysenberry, grape and black raspberry jams in a snappy dark chocolate shell) and a PB&J macaron (pretty, with both brown and purple shells, but hard to discern much flavor). Best of all, one of their signature creations is a PB&J Bar, featuring a layer of deep chocolate nougat sprinkled with crispy bits of peanut brittle, topped with a blend of jellies, wrapped in chocolate and decorated with William Dean's signature bold artwork.

If any restaurant can challenge William Dean's claim to the PB&J throne, it has to be Edison Food and Drink Lab in Tampa. At the end of a jargon-rich, occasionally overwhelming menu, you'll find a simple list of ice cream flavors, including peanut butter and jelly. The presentation alone is exquisite: Three spheres of sweet vanilla ice cream with gobs of thick peanut butter and small swirls of rose-colored jelly, sitting atop a bed of barely perceptible crumbs. The piece de resistance: An actual, miniature open-faced PB&J sandwich, no larger than a Saltine, garnishing your bowl.

At $5, Edison's PB&J ice cream is a relative bargain (especially considering some of their cocktails can run north of $15). And it's more than enough of a PB&J treat to get us to the next school year.

Comments
We tried the new restaurants at Tampa International Airport, and we're full

We tried the new restaurants at Tampa International Airport, and we're full

When Tampa International Airport debuted in 1971, each terminal had a newsstand and a snack bar, called something kicky like Snack Bar.
Updated: 1 hour ago
Four new restaurants in Tampa Bay: Brazilian steakhouse, Chinese, juice bar and more

Four new restaurants in Tampa Bay: Brazilian steakhouse, Chinese, juice bar and more

TERRA GAUCHATerra Gaucha Brazilian Steakhouse, a classic churrascaria-style Brazilian meatery — you know, where the guys in South American cowboy attire walk around with the swords of meat until you capitulate in a carnivorous haze — has opened a loc...
Published: 04/18/18
Updated: 04/24/18
Tampa’s 60-year-old Housewife Bake Shop may not be closing after all

Tampa’s 60-year-old Housewife Bake Shop may not be closing after all

For nearly 60 years it was breads, cakes and pastries, up before dawn for the Perrone family in Armenia Garden Estates. For a minute it looked like Tampa’s Housewife Bake Shop was going to close, but third-generation owner Tena Perrone said on Wednes...
Published: 04/19/18
Food events this weekend: Blueberry Festival, Whiskey Obsession, Taste of Carrollwood and more

Food events this weekend: Blueberry Festival, Whiskey Obsession, Taste of Carrollwood and more

WORTH THE DRIVE: Ocala Culinary FestivalThe Ocala Culinary Festival runs through Sunday with dozens of food and educational events throughout Ocala and Marion County. The list is impressive, tickets for events priced individually. Here is a sampler: ...
Published: 04/12/18
Tampa restaurant Steelbach’s Florida-raised beef program could be a model for true farm-to-table dining

Tampa restaurant Steelbach’s Florida-raised beef program could be a model for true farm-to-table dining

TAMPATrust me, this will be a restaurant review. In a couple of minutes. First, we need to dive into something the new Steelbach at Armature Works is doing that is ground-breaking, disruptive, way-outside-the-box. It’s so forward-thinking that Commis...
Published: 04/09/18
Updated: 04/12/18
10 questions with Molly Schuyler, the competitive eater who won $2,500 for eating a big Taco Bus burrito

10 questions with Molly Schuyler, the competitive eater who won $2,500 for eating a big Taco Bus burrito

When it comes to competitive eating, Molly Schuyler is one of the best in the world. Last weekend she dominated her competition at Tampa’s Taco Bus Burrito Eating Championship by taking down a 2.5-pound "El Jefe" in just over a minute to win $...
Published: 04/10/18
Caddy’s At the Pointe apologizes for putting diner’s race on their receipt

Caddy’s At the Pointe apologizes for putting diner’s race on their receipt

A Bradenton restaurant has publicly apologized for a server who described a table by including the diners’ race. A photograph of a Caddy’s At the Pointe receipt posted to Facebook shows the table was entered into the restaurant’s p...
Published: 04/09/18
Updated: 04/10/18
Maple Street Biscuits now open, bringing much-needed biscuits to St. Pete

Maple Street Biscuits now open, bringing much-needed biscuits to St. Pete

ST. PETERSBURG — I was prepared. I’d been to the Maple Street Biscuit location in Tallahassee in our circuitous escape from Hurricane Irma. The woman behind the counter was going to ask me my favorite childhood television show so it could...
Updated one month ago
This weekend’s food festivals: Celebrate wine, craft soda, shrimp and crawfish

This weekend’s food festivals: Celebrate wine, craft soda, shrimp and crawfish

CHEERS: TO DALÍRaise a glass or two to welcome spring as the Dalí hosts its seventh annual signature wine and food tasting, Los Vinos de Dalí, on Sunday from 3-7 p.m. Both Old World and New World wines are paired with tapas tastings from area restaur...
Updated one month ago
Florida chef Jeanie Roland talks competing on ‘Iron Chef Gauntlet’ and the time she beat Bobby Flay

Florida chef Jeanie Roland talks competing on ‘Iron Chef Gauntlet’ and the time she beat Bobby Flay

In August 2015, Punta Gorda chef Jeanie Roland beat world-famous Bobby Flay with her signature moules-frites (that’s mussels and fries). Let’s say Flay got filleted by a petite, now 51-year-old chef in a fairly sleepy waterside Florida town not known...
Updated one month ago