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Laura Reiley, Times Food Critic

Laura Reiley

Laura Reiley is the Tampa Bay Times' restaurant critic and a former critic for the San Francisco Chronicle and the Baltimore Sun. She is the author of four books in the Moon Handbook series: Florida Gulf Coast; Walt Disney World and Orlando; Tampa and St. Petersburg; and the Paradise Coast. She has cooked professionally and is a graduate of the California Culinary Academy.

Phone: (727) 892-2293


Twitter: @LReiley

  1. Publix's beloved, and seasonal, Hula Hula Macadamia Ice Cream back in stores

    Taste Test

    OMG, it's back. Last year, our Taster's Choice panel slogged through dozens of punishing blind taste tests (we double-dog dare you to sample ten cold chicken broths or Worcestershires without getting a little tetchy), and one glorious day we set our sights on a limited-edition Publix Premium ice cream called Hula Hula Macadamia Ice Cream as part of a "new products" roundup. The panel scooped, the panel swooned, the panel scooped again....

    The Hula Hula Macadamia Ice Cream, purchased Monday at a Publix in St. Petersburg. [Photo by Michelle Stark]
  2. Review: Fodder & Shine is a faithful re-creation of Florida Cracker food

    Food & Dining


    Recipe for world domination: Start a successful restaurant. Once that's up and running, launch No. 2, often something more affordable and accessible so it builds customer base without stealing thunder from the flagship. Eventually, Vegas, Dubai and frozen entrees.

    Greg and Michelle Baker did that first part with the Refinery, but with Fodder & Shine, opened in December, they debuted something every bit as cerebral as their first place and at a slightly higher price point. That's because they're rebels (when Greg showed up for cooking school in Oregon, he had long rocker hair, a Sons of Liberty leather jacket and was, gulp, vegetarian), and also because they are guided by something that falls between a hobby and a messianic mission, depending on the day....

    Luney and Vincent Parr peruse the menu during their first visit to Fodder & Shine in Tampa. 
  3. Tampa restaurant news: Fusion Bowl, a French bakery, relocated chocolate and more

    Food & Dining

    Downtown Tampa is starting the year with a heap of restaurant news. Fusion Bowl just opened at 504 E Jackson St., owned by Michelle Vuu, whose family has been in the restaurant business in St. Petersburg for years (currently Edo Japanese Steakhouse). As one might expect, the menu is an Asian-fusion concept that deftly scoots between Japanese (udon, sushi), Vietnamese (bun, pho, banh mi) and other cuisines. A new French bakery has started construction across from Aloft in the old Florida Museum of Photographic Arts space, with the aim of making the best croissants in the area. Ashworth Artisan Chocolate has departed Hyde Park Village, relocating a couple of weeks ago to 212 E Cass St. Guy Revelle is opening an urban-chic Mexican restaurant called Hablo Taco at Channelside Bay Plaza, with a grand opening Feb. 4. Si-am Thai at 713 N Franklin St. has been purchased by a couple who has changed the name to Siam Thaimerican and will serve Thai and American cuisine. Yeoman's Road Pub (Davis Islands) is coming downtown in the old Gilligan's space at 202 N Morgan St., some kind of pizza place is going in at 513 E Jackson St. where Lonnie's used to be (which has relocated to 206 N Morgan St.) and Ferg's Live will open any day. Whew....

  4. Review: Cocktails inspire menu at Station House in St. Petersburg

    Food & Dining


    Beach Drive restaurants garnered most of the hubbub in 2014, but 2015 might be the year of First Avenue S. Construction is going great guns on Hofbrauhaus (which has other locations in Chicago, Pittsburgh, Las Vegas and Munich), World of Beer folks are working on opening pizza restaurant POW (WOB to POW, a near anagram), things are happening at the Midtown Sundries space, and on Christmas Eve, Station House opened quietly at the old site of Cafe Alma....

    Chef Justin Sells, who has worked extensively with Emeril Lagasse, heads the Station House kitchen, which turns out sophisticated “cocktail cuisine” like this Radicchio Salad, with bacon lardons and a softly poached egg.
  5. Yard of Ale Gastro Pub in Feather Sound closes its doors

    Food & Dining

    CLEARWATER — Monday drink specials were posted on social media, but by night Yard of Ale Gastro Pub in Feather Sound had closed its doors for good. What happened?

    According to event coordinator Chris Rivera, "The same thing that has happened to every business here: It's a beast of a building. It was a multitude of things that added up, so the owners decided to pull the plug before it got out of hand."...

    Yard of Ale Gastro Pub in Feather Sound fell victim to the same trouble of the earlier Venue: a large space that always felt empty.
  6. Tampa's Ava now open for lunch

    Food & Dining

    TAMPA — Michael Stewart and Joe Maddon's hot restaurant Ava, which debuted in November, quietly began lunch service Monday.

    On Monday night, Stewart said the restaurant was trying to limit the number of diners for both lunch and dinner in order to maintain a high level of service and proper flow in the kitchen.

    Chef J. Ward said that while the first lunch service wasn't packed, it was more than $600 in business. With most items between $12 and $15, the menu features smaller versions of evening fare, from the La Bestia pizza ($16) with spicy sausage, San Marzano tomatoes, mozzarella and arugula; to crispy pork belly with warm lentils and a softly poached egg ($12). ...

    The interior of Ava.
  7. Review: 4 Rivers Smokehouse piles the barbecue on high

    Food & Dining

    Passing through Winter Park on Fairbanks Avenue with the windows down can be dangerous. There it is, the smell of barbecue, causing involuntary turn-signaling and braking. John Rivers, 4 Rivers Smokehouse owner, has been a regional barbecue rock star, opening seven spots in a short number of years. In December that number rose to eight, with the first Tampa location debuting in the 6,000-square-foot space previously occupied by Arigato Japanese Steak House in Carrollwood....

     Some of the offerings at Orlando based 4 Rivers Smokehouse, Tampa, include Signature Angus Brisket, left, with sides of Baked Beans, Coleslaw, and Fired Okra, 12/31/14.
  8. App ranks Tampa Bay's most-Instagrammed restaurants

    Food & Dining

    Foodstagramming was not among the Oxford English Dictionary's words of the year. (The big prize went to "vaping." Eh.)

    But 2014 was definitely the year Instagram-bragging about your entree was taken to a whole new level. More than 6 million people shared Instagram photos of food from restaurants in the United States.

    There was backlash, especially from the nation's chefs who kvetched about all that time hot dishes were getting cold and cold dishes were getting warm while you fiddled with your Lo-Fi filter....

    Hey, it’s a celeb-stagram! Keyboardist and youngest sister in the Grammy-nominated indie rock trio Haim Alana Haim snapped this at Hogan’s Beach.
  9. Reviews: Orlando's Trattoria al Forno goes rustic; the Cowfish goes bold

    Food & Dining


    The gifts are unwrapped, but your guests are still camped out and hogging the hot water. Give them an extra stocking stuffer by guiding them to some of Orlando's many allures, including a couple of brand new dining spots, one at Disney's BoardWalk and the other at Universal's CityWalk. Equip them with the keys and a map, and the hot water's all yours.

    Replacing Kouzzina by Cat Cora, Trattoria al Forno is one of the surprisingly few rustic Italian restaurants in all of Disney's properties. It has blistery Naples-style pizzas, housemade mozzarella and pastas, imported charcuterie and cheese and a 100 percent Italian wine list. Debuted on Dec. 18, this reconcepted restaurant is gorgeous, divided up into smaller spaces that lend a more intimate feel. As with all Disney restaurants, there's a story behind it, a collaboration between Walt Disney Imagineering and their food folks....

    Trattoria al Forno’s menu includes Braised Beef Bolognese with house-made cavatelli.
  10. Review: Tampa's Café Martí gets to the heart of Cuban food

    Food & Dining


    Rodney Rodriguez was a professor of Spanish at Manhattan College. But in September he and his brother, Ricky, launched Café Martí at the site of a former Papa John's on Gandy Boulevard. As second acts go, it's a pretty big flying leap. But for this Tampa native, it made its own kind of sense.

    "We'd always like the foods of our heritage and we felt that a lot of Cuban food here was from exiled Cubans. It was food in a time warp, very different from the food that developed later in Cuba. We're using the recipes of our grandparents, who were all born in Tampa and of Spanish heritage."...

    Brothers Rodney and Ricky Rodriguez opened Café Martí in September.
  11. Review: Red Mesa Mercado is a solid addition to St. Petersburg's taco scene

    Food & Dining


    It's a growing menace. Without vigilance, St. Petersburg may soon be overrun. The peril? Tacos. And burritos. Also, very solid salsa and chips. St. Petersburg already had Tijuana Flats, Chipotle, Burrito Boarder, Nitally's, Red Mesa and its Cantina, and then Casita Taqueria and Taco Bus crowded in, along with El Gallo Grande. California Tacos is on the horizon, and in November, Red Mesa Mercado debuted in the EDGE District. The interesting thing is that each of these fills a slightly different niche, from the spicy Thai-Mex combos at Nitally's to the San Diego-style fish tacos of Cali Tacos. ...

    Lunch choices at Red Mesa Mercado, 1100 First Ave. N, include, clockwise from top left, taquitos with guacamole, a ground beef empanada, a chicken chimichanga and a Cali burrito stuffed with ground beef, french fries, beans, cheese and more.
  12. Locale Market opens to gaga shoppers at St. Petersburg's Sundial



    On the opening day of Locale Market, a Pop Craft artisanal popsicle stand offered free samples to the more than 200 people waiting in line Wednesday. Most of the would-be shoppers were saving their calories for what lay inside. A good call.

    The two-story, 20,000-square-foot collaboration between celebrity chefs Michael Mina and Don Pintabona was a smorgasbord of sights and smells, with 11 different kitchens going full tilt to offer an experience unprecedented in St. Petersburg....

    Celebrity chefs Michael Mina, left, and Don Pintabona pose in front of their new Locale Market on Tuesday in St. Petersburg. [BOYZELL HOSEY   |   Times]
  13. Anna Maria Island excels at ecotourism



    Reach out and grab a leaf. Go on. Now pop it in your mouth. It's the moringa plant, ounce for ounce one of the most nutritious plants on earth, which tastes like a cross between a bean and a pea.

    Now look over there. It's a Seminole pumpkin. You can pick that, too, and tuck it into your handbag before you walk into this boutique. Perfectly legal, in fact encouraged. ...

    Pink & Navy is the island’s most fashion-forward boutique.
  14. Tampa's Ulele a winner in OpenTable's Top 100 Best Restaurants in America award

    Food & Dining

    From more than 5 million reviews submitted to OpenTable for more than 20,000 restaurants nationwide, Tampa's Ulele has been named a winner of OpenTable Diners' Choice Awards for the Top 100 Best Restaurants in America. Since its August debut (so hey, it only had half a year to make the cut), this Tampa Heights newcomer has been thronged, partly because of its stunning reinvention of the 1906 Water Works Building, partly because of brewmaster Tim Shackton's housemade beers and partly because of chef Eric Lackey's "native-inspired food and spirits." The vision of Richard Gonzmart, fourth generation co-owner and president of the Columbia Restaurant Group, and managing partner Keith Sedita, Ulele made the cut by scoring among the 100 highest reviews on the online reservation site. New York has the largest number of winners (12), followed by California and Florida with eight each. Ulele is the only Tampa honoree. — Laura Reiley, Times Food Critic...

    Photo by CHERIE DIEZ   |   Times
  15. Gourmet Locale Market set for afternoon opening at St. Petersburg's Sundial


    At 3 p.m. Wednesday, Locale Market opens its doors in the new Sundial St. Pete.

    The much-anticipated collaboration between celebrity chefs Michael Mina and Don Pintabona represents a quantum leap for gourmet markets in Tampa Bay, with 11 different full kitchens, 15 professionally trained chefs and legions of high-priced equipment that together will blend the shopping experience with dine-in options. ...

    Former St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Baker, right, snaps a photo of celebrity chefs Michael Mina, left, and Don Pintabona on Tuesday as they snap a photo of their new Locale Market. [BOYZELL HOSEY   |   Times]