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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. A roundup of new picture books for children


    Goodnight Already!

    By Jory John and Benji Davies

    Harper, $17.99; ages 4-8

    "Hey, I'm bored. Want to hang out?" And so it begins, the push and pull between wide-awake Duck and time-to-(yawn)-hibernate Bear. It's an interspecies example of why fences make good neighbors. In Jory John's story, Duck (who looks a bit like the Aflac duck) wants to play cards, borrow a cup of sugar — anything to keep Bear from packing it in for the night. Illustrator Benji Davies renders Duck's pages in all sunny yellows and vibrant reds; Bear's are inky with bruise-colored shadows and soft blue sheets. It's all in good fun, a lively call-and-response book to read aloud to prereaders, with the most charming image of Duck sporting multiple Band-Aids: "I stubbed my beak." And in the end? Duck succumbs to the sandman while Bear is left baking insomniac cookies....

  2. For Earth Day, Tampa Bay food businesses that are doing their part

    Food & Dining

    When it started in 1970, Earth Day was part antiwar protest, part nascent environmental worries and part hippie woo-woo. As we near 7 billion people on the planet, April 22 for many people has become a day to step back and think about the impact all those lives have on the planet. The biggest piece of this metaphorical pie is our need to eat food: the animals we raise to eat, the transportation of foodstuffs and supplies, deforestation and the destruction of habitat in the name of agriculture. • A number of Tampa Bay restaurants and food businesses are adopting different strategies for being more environmentally cognizant. Some fit neatly into the "renew-reuse-recycle" paradigm and others entail novel collaborations with other businesses. In honor of Earth Day, here are a few notable examples....

    By-catch is often what’s for dinner at FarmTable Kitchen restaurant in St. Petersburg.
  3. Review: St. Petersburg's POW debuts pizza and wings next to World of Beer

    Food & Dining


    Look up, and vintage black-and-white episodes of Batman and Robin play on a sextet of old-timey television screens. Over there is an oversized pop art mural of Salvador Dalí as costumed superhero (that mustache is surprisingly intimidating when accompanied by a mask). The banquettes feature comic book pop art. In short, POW, the new project of Philippe Theodore, is a hoot to look at. Opened last month in the space vacated by Wood Fired Pizza in October, it hopes to do what Wood Fired didn't manage: establish a niche in the dense restaurant community of downtown St. Petersburg, working synergistically with the beer-no-food World of Beer next door....

    Boom Wings are made with a honey Sriracha. A number of POW’s wings bring the heat in a major way.
  4. Florida's crop of new craft distilleries stands ready to sell more liquor

    Bars & Spirits

    Feeling thirsty? It's looking as if Florida drinkers may have something to celebrate when a measure moving through the Legislature loosens purchase restrictions at craft breweries.

    But it's not just about beer. If the legislation passes, it will also help a growing number of Florida micro-distilleries, a new class of independent liquormakers popping up from St. Petersburg to Dunedin and beyond....

    St. Petersburg Distillery  will first unveil four products in the Old St. Pete line - vodka, gin, whiskey and rum - as well as Tippler's, an orange cordial liqueur made of the peel and juice of Florida temple oranges, said Daniel Undhammar, director of product development. [St. Petersburg Craft Distillery]
  5. Iconic Goody Goody restaurant to reopen in Hyde Park Village

    Food & Dining

    TAMPA — After months of speculation, the location of the soon-to-be-resurrected Goody Goody — the iconic restaurant known for its pies and bags of hamburgers "POX" with pickles, onions and the fabled secret sauce — has been announced.

    This fall, Goody Goody will rise in Hyde Park Village at 1601 W Swann Ave. on the corner of Swann and South Dakota avenues on the same block as CinéBistro....

    Richard Gonzmart in the driver seat of the Goody Goody truck.
  6. Review: Haven, in SideBern's old spot, sets high bar from the start

    Food & Dining


    David Laxer reached way back when naming Haven, alluding to his parents' long-ago Beer Haven in what is now the Bordeaux Room of Bern's Steak House. This homage to Gert and Bern Laxer makes one wonder what the family patriarch would think of this newcomer, which opened in March at the site of SideBern's. It's certainly less old-school fancy than Bern's, and less expensive than SideBern's, but I'm guessing Bern Laxer, who died in 2002, would be over-the-moon in love with the new project. As am I....

    Monkfish Bourguignon with mushroom, root vegetables, lardons, red wine emulsion served at Haven on Friday, April 10, 2015. Haven a new restaurant with a vast collection of 300 bourbons and over 40 wines both domestic and imported is located on 2208 West Morrison Avenue in Tampa, on April 9, 2015.
  7. Tampa's Haven debuts bay area's most ambitious cheese program

    Food & Dining

    Cheese and charcuterie plates have cropped up all over the Tampa Bay area recently, from Annata Wine Bar and Locale Market in St. Petersburg to Cru Cellars and Bianchi's Enoteca in Tampa. But Haven, which debuted in March in the spot vacated in June 2014 by SideBern's, represents the most ambitious cheese program in our area to date.

    While this new little sibling to Bern's Steak House is more casual, with a lower price point than SideBern's, its aspirations are huge. The restaurant, at 2208 W Morrison Ave., Tampa, boasts a 2,500-bottle wine cellar and a list of more than 300 bourbons. But perhaps its most impressive element is a powerful olfactory wallop: a cheese cave that can accommodate 120 different kinds of cheeses at various stages of ripeness. ...

    Haven, which opened in March in the former SideBern’s spot in Tampa, holds about 120 cheeses in its cheese cave. Haven also boasts a 2,500-bottle wine cellar and more than 300 bourbons.
  8. Food Network star Robert Irvine talks about his 'unique' live show coming to St. Petersburg


    ST. PETERSBURG — Food Network star Robert Irvine swoops into the Mahaffey on April 19 for one evening of his multimedia, multisensory cooking demo/boot camp.

    Part motivational speaker, part muscle-bound "fixer," the host of Dinner: Impossible, Worst Cooks in America, Restaurant: Impossible and Restaurant Express travels 345 days a year by his own count, touching down to save a failing restaurant or cook dinner for 1,000 using only Slim Jims and dented cans of tahini. That's hyperbole, but some of his challenges indeed seem to verge on the impossible. We spoke with him by phone from Las Vegas recently to discuss his upcoming live show....

    Robert Irvine is host of Dinner: Impossible, Worst Cooks in America, Restaurant: Impossible and Restaurant Express.
  9. Review: Queens Head continues its reign with refreshed menu

    Food & Dining


    Successful long-standing restaurants often don't get the ink they deserve. They continue to admirably orchestrate dozens of moving parts, keep up with trends and establish a coherent identity while food critics are gadflying about looking for the flavor of the week. About the only time they get a fresh review is if there's a shakeup in the kitchen.

    Well, my intention was to re-review the Queens Head before I even knew about new chef Stephen Montalvo and his menu revamping. I've been a fan of Darren Conner and Paul Smith's adorable, quirky Kenwood original since it debuted in 2009, stopping in for a couple of meals recently that were even better than I remembered from back in the days of original chef Chris Greer....

    The Queens Head burger comes on a brioche bun with lettuce, tomato, bacon, a fried egg and raspberry jam.
  10. Review: Bull Grill Brazilian Steakhouse is a carnivore's paradise

    Food & Dining


    You start out. Your tabletop paper medallion is on green: "Bring it on, let the meat parade begin." Soon, you get nervous. They're bringing around the lombinho again, the chicken hearts and the bacon-wrapped beef. You're getting sweaty, a meat fog clouding your judgment. That's it, you flip your medallion to red: "No, thanks. Make it stop. Não, as they say in Portuguese." And so it goes at a Brazilian churrascaria (that's shoo-HOSS-ka-REE-ah)....

    Natilla Catalana at Bull Grill Brazilian Steakhouse.
  11. 5 best places to get a hot dog in Tampa Bay

    Food & Dining

    The Godzilla vs. King Kong of dogs is Nathan's versus Vienna. But then you've got to get into the toppings. In New York? A proper dog comes with steamed onions and pale, deli-style yellow mustard. In Kansas City, it's melted Swiss and kraut; Atlanta dogs get a coleslaw mantle. Whatever your frankfurter fantasies, here are some of Tampa Bay's best hot dog spots.

    Mel's Hot Dogs...

    Bruce’s Chicago Grill & Dog House’s Chicago Dog loads a steamed poppy seed bun with a Vienna beef dog, mustard, relish, pickle, tomato, onion, “sport peppers” and more.
  12. Mac and cheese, bacon highlight new foods at Tropicana Field (w/video)

    Food & Dining

    ST. PETERSBURG — One thing is clear at Tropicana Field: Mac is king. And bacon is the crown prince.

    At a Wednesday preview of this year's new Trop foods, mac and cheese dominated, taking center stage in two of the marquee additions to the starting lineup: The 2015 signature half-pound Mac Dog ($15) and the Mac Bat ($8), an all-new adventure in portability that puts mac and cheese — topped with chili, bacon and what have you — inside an edible bread cone....

    Centerplate will offer the half-pound, footlong Mac Dog in the Rays’ 2015-16 season.
  13. Local restaurants have fun with April Fools' pranks

    Food & Dining

    Z Grille closing? Datz going Chinese? A Burger King perfume?

    Not so fast.

    We're talking April 1, people. And restaurants are notorious pranksters.

    Zack Gross, one of our area's few James Beard semifinalists, announced the 10th anniversary of his Z Grille in St. Petersburg — as well as its closure — in a Facebook post Monday evening.

    "After 10 years in the Burg, from Central Ave. to the Signature Building, we have decided to go in a different direction. From the Rowdies Den, Station House, Reno's Downtown Joint to the Sundial restaurants as competitors, we are forced to close our doors. Luckily you will be able to enjoy Zack's culinary skills at one of the mentioned restaurants … to be announced."...

    Z Grille owner and chef Zack Gross has a long history of playing April Fools’ pranks on his customers.
  14. Rowdies Den sports bar to debut in downtown St. Petersburg

    Food & Dining


    When Midtown Sundries closed abruptly in November, rumors began to swirl: It would become a steakhouse, a Tilted Kilt, Bill Edwards' next downtown project. This last rumor turned out to be true, and on Saturday the Rowdies Den debuts, just in time for his North American Soccer League team's first game of the season. It's an away game in San Antonio, Texas, but Tampa Bay Rowdies fever will run high at 200 First Ave. S, with members of Ralph's Mob and teammates who aren't in San Antonio in attendance....

    The new Rowdies Den restaurant in St. Petersburg, formerly Midtown Sundries, is one block west of Al Lang Field, where the team plays. The entire space has been retooled and will feature craft brews and Rowdies-themed food.
  15. Cook hack: a recipe for the perfect hard-boiled egg


    Hard-boiled eggs: It's as simple as boiling water, right? Couldn't be more wrong. The perfect hard-boiled egg requires meticulous attention to detail, otherwise you get that tough, rubbery white and pasty yolk with an ugly gray-green edge. Whether you're dyeing them or deviling them, place your eggs in a large saucepan in a single layer and cover with cool water by 1 inch. Slowly bring the water to a vigorous simmer (a rolling boil may crack your eggs, so don't get crazy here). Once you've achieved serious bubbles, put a cover on the pot and remove from heat. Time for 12 minutes, drain, then run the eggs under cold water to stop the cooking. The whites won't be tough, the yolk will be a picture-perfect yellow and nice and fluffy. Fresher eggs are easier to peel. If yours are recalcitrant, roll them in your palm back and forth on your counter, and peel them under running water. ...