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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

Email: lreiley@tampabay.com

Twitter: @LReiley

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  1. Farm to Fable: Florida Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam ponders curbing food misrepresentation

    Agriculture

    TAMPA — Florida's agriculture commissioner Wednesday said the state needs to better understand the definition of "Fresh from Florida" and more thoroughly police the claims restaurateurs make to customers.

    Adam Putnam's comments were spurred by the Tampa Bay Times' investigative series, called Farm to Fable, which published in April and exposed food misrepresentations at Florida's so-called farm-to-table restaurants and farmers markets....

    Florida's Commissioner of Agriculture Adam H. Putnam gives the keynote address at the Fresh from Florida Summit held at the Port Tampa Bay in Tampa's Channelside on Wednesday, April 27, 2016. OCTAVIO JONES   |   Times
  2. Restaurant review: Lithuanian spot Drama Burger delivers funky but solid burgers, eclectic atmosphere

    Food & Dining

    TAMPA

    It's nearly the best scene in Pulp Fiction. Vincent asks Jules if he knows what they call a quarter pounder with cheese in Paris. Jules says, "They don't call it a quarter pounder with cheese?" Vincent: "No, man, they got the metric system. ... They call it a royale with cheese."

    Living in Europe as kids, my little brother would go limp with hunger, practically expiring until we could shovel his boneless form into an American-style burger joint called Wimpy's. It was familiar but just different enough that it caused an odd sense of vertigo. In fact, one of the more unsettling parts of travel is checking out American fast-food innovations in foreign lands: McDonald's filet-o-shrimp burger in Japan; their taro pie in China; the Toblerone McFlurry in Denmark....

    The Pastrami Burger at Drama Burger in Tampa is well worth the $12.99. The Angus beef patty on brioche is topped with homemade pastrami, red onions, pickles and homemade mustard-mayo.
  3. What food critic Laura Reiley learned by not dining out for two months

    Food & Dining

    I went cold turkey.

    I took two months off of reviewing restaurants so that I could work on the Tampa Bay Times' Farm to Fable series. (Look for the second part in Sunday's paper; it's all online now at tampabay.com/farmtofable.)

    I'd done it before. Over the years there have been other reasons to step away from that particular credit card, to desist in making reservations under funny names. And it's always illuminating....

    iStockphoto.com
  4. 2016 James Beard semifinalist nods go to chef Greg Baker, Bern's Steak House in Tampa

    Food & Dining

    Greg Baker, chef and co-owner of Tampa's Refinery and Fodder & Shine, seemed hardly to break stride Wednesday when he learned he had once again been named a semifinalist in this year's James Beard awards.

    Putting finishing touches on some menu changes, followed by a finance meeting, it scarcely seemed like the day plan of someone just nominated to what is widely thought of as the Academy Awards of food....

    Bern’s Steak House is nominated for Best Wine Program, 
an honor for which it went to the finalist round in 2015.
  5. Restaurant review: New Boca Kitchen Bar Market is a hip, locally sourced treasure in Brandon-Riverview area

    Food & Dining

    RIVERVIEW

    When Boca Kitchen Bar Market debuted in South Tampa at the beginning of 2012 there wasn't much like it in these parts. A joint project of Gordon Davis and Kevin Enderle, it sourced veggies from Davis' Lake Hiawatha Farm in Odessa, pork from Nature Delivered in Brooksville, chicken and duck eggs from Lake Meadows Natural in Ocoee and Suncoast Food Alliance traipsed all over Manatee and surrounding counties filling in other farm-fresh produce several times a week, all of this listed on a chalkboard. It was among the first glimmers of real farm-to-table effort in our area....

    Fried green tomatoes topped with pimiento cheese, tomato jam and bacon are served at Boca Kitchen Bar Market in Riverview.
  6. Dining planner: Outstanding in the Field, Forks and Corks in Sarasota and learning from a master

    Food & Dining

    ALFRESCO: BEST IN THE FIELD

    At the first Outstanding in the Field dinner I went to, there was a 30-pound jackfruit, spiky and menacing like the pods in Invasion of the Body Snatchers, perched center stage under a gazebo. We assembled at long tables and passed platters heaped with homemade organic ricotta cheese, caramel-colored squares of local honeycomb, walnut raisin toasts and vast piles of that lemon-yellow jackfruit flesh. During it all, California-based Jim Denevan explicated precisely what was occurring at his 107th Outstanding in the Field dinner, the first in Florida. With many more under his belt now, he and his performance art troupe/roving band of dinner hosts come back to Florida for a single meal Friday at Beasley Farm, 10137 Preston Road in Brooksville. Diners sit in a makeshift dining room at the center of the farm, with the fields all around, to enjoy local foods produced by local farmers, all crafted into a multi-course, family-style meal by chef Ferrell Alvarez of Tampa's Rooster & The Till. Alvarez is one of the area's most rigorous proponents of farm-to-table cooking, so it's bound to be a thrilling showcase of what Florida farmers are up to in 2016. Price is $190 per person. Start time is 3 p.m. (352) 799-6752. outstandinginthefield.com. ...

    Joann Beasley carries an armload of fresh-cut collard greens at Beasley Farm in Brooksville.
  7. More than 40 new Tampa Bay restaurants opening in spring 2016

    Food & Dining

    Fasten your seat belts and ready the MasterCard. The Tampa Bay area is poised for a serious avalanche of notable new restaurants this spring. Already 2016 is heating up with fresh concepts that bring novelty to area tables (in St. Petersburg, the Lure on Central Avenue is making grasshopper tacos, and I'm hearing Joli Pizzeria and Market on Roosevelt Boulevard serves pizza pops and has a cannoli bar with toppings). Given the vicissitudes of construction, permitting and staffing, opening dates are as accurate as possible....

    Lithuania-based Drama Burger will launch its first U.S. location in Tampa.
  8. Restaurant review: Pericos in north St. Petersburg needs some work

    Food & Dining

    ST. PETERSBURG

    In the bar area is a row of saddles — tooled leather fenders, fleece-lined cantles, fringy horse tails behind and tall pommels in front — that serves as a metaphor. Although cool-looking, they go largely unused as bar stools because they are too far from the bar for easy beverage consumption. So close, but yet so far, which about sums up Pericos Restaurant, a new entry in the Gateway area of Fourth Street N. ...

    Chicken and beef fajitas at Pericos in St. Petersburg. The owner, Enrique Rebolledo, had a sprawling restaurant in Cancun for more than 30 years and decided to take his concept stateside.
  9. Dining Planner: Seafood in Sarasota, veggies in Tampa and pie in Zephyrhills

    Events

     

    MINI ROAD TRIP: SARASOTA EATS

     

    Go fish at the Sarasota Seafood and Music Festival, an inaugural fete that celebrates Sarasota's local seafood and entertainment. Expect seafood vendors, menu items from local restaurants made from indigenous and sustainable foods, cooking demonstrations, fishing workshops, arts and crafts, exhibits and live music by regional and national artists including Holey Miss Moley, Aland Music, Kettle of Fish, Sarasota Steel Pan and others. It's free, but food and drink (the main event, of course) are extra. Selby Five Points Park, 1331 First St., Sarasota. 10 a.m.-7 p.m. Saturday, 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Sunday. srqseafoodfestival.com....

    Finding a good bowl of seafood chowder shouldn’t be a problem at the Sarasota Seafood and Music Festival this weekend.
  10. Changes coming to company that operates Ceviche and Rococo Steak

    Retail

    Caledon Concepts, which operates four upscale restaurants in Tampa, St. Petersburg and Orlando, has announced the addition of three top-level restaurant professionals to its management team. Lee Karlins, most recently of 2BHospitality (BellaBrava, Stillwaters Tavern) has been named president. And two notable locals have been tapped as directors of development: Dave Madera, former general manager of Mise En Place, and Ro Patel, a partner in Anise Global Gastrobar and architect of the bar program at restaurants such as Station House and Ciro's Speakeasy and Supper Club....

  11. IRB Sushi in Indian Rocks Beach closes to make way for expanded Crabby Bill's

    Retail

    IRB Sushi in Indian Rocks Beach has closed in order to make way for an expanded Crabby Bill's Fish Market, according to owner Matt Loder, Sr. The market will jump from 300 square feet to 2,700 square feet, creating room for exhibition kitchen and butchery, with a target opening date in the next six to eight weeks.

    "We've owned the building in that north corner of the block for more than 20 years. IRB Sushi was at a crossroads and we needed the additional space for better presentation and more product."...

  12. Dining Planner: Peking Duck Day, Evolution Beer Dinner and a slew of cooking classes

    Food & Dining

    NATIONAL HOLIDAY: PEKING DUCK DAY

    Whaaa? There's a day for that? Yes, there is, on Monday, and you are duty-bound to find and eat some Peking duck. Best places to go: Yummy House China Bistro (2620 E Hillsborough Ave., Tampa, (813) 237-3838) is fancier than the flagship Yummy House, ergo a better place for this show-stopper dish. In a beautiful, airy dining room suitable for big parties, there are stylish bamboo sculptures, a long central bar and a hip red and black color scheme. It's festive, lending itself to a splurge of Peking duck ($32) with its burnished skin, sumptuous layer of fat and rich meat, all tucked into sturdy pancakes with a dab of hoisin and some scallion curls. After that, you can keep up the high living with steamed lobster in ginger sauce, or take it down a notch with salt and pepper tofu. ...

    Beach House hosts Darwin Brewing Co. at the Evolution Beer Dinner.
  13. The Lure opens on Central Avenue with pool tables, sushi and … grasshoppers?

    Food & Dining

    ST. PETERSBURG — Downtown St. Petersburg is poised to welcome another big handful of restaurants and food businesses. But let's wager that only one of them will be selling this: grasshoppers.

    The Lure, which opens officially today at 661 Central Ave. in the space formerly occupied by Octave, will be serving them atop the Kwai Chang tacos, one of six taco options. Corn tortillas, sliced avocado, spicy jicama slaw and — drum roll — jerk seasoned and deeply sauteed "chapulines."...

    Orange maple dijon marinated petite filet mignon with garlic basil mashed potatoes and maple bacon black-eyed peas at the Lure. [LARA CERRI | Times] 
  14. Restaurant review: Osaka Sushi & Thai's stellar sushi draws crowds to Seminole

    Food & Dining

    SEMINOLE

    The text said, "Two hour wait for sushi in Seminole!" It was from Taster's Choice columnist Kathy Saunders. It must have been a fluke, I thought. In Seminole? But the woman speaks truth. A longtime favorite Pinellas County sushi spot called Osaka closed last year in Madeira Beach, reopening Oct. 14 in Seminole after many months of sushi fans fogging up the windows in anticipation. • This place is jamming. And with good reason. The vast lineup of specialty rolls benefits from vibrantly fresh fish, meticulously rolled, sauced and plated. These can be accompanied by traditional sashimi, tamaki and Japanese appetizers from seaweed salad to grilled whole squid and a range of greaseless tempura dishes. Then add to this an ethnically confusing but very competent menu of Thai classics, from panang curry to deep bowls of steaming tom kha gai....

    Chicken Volcano ($12.95) at Osaka Sushi & Thai in Seminole is grilled chicken with steamed mixed vegetables topped with Thai chili sauce.
  15. Dining Planner: New pizza and burger joints, a home brew competition, TooJay's lightens up

    Food & Dining

    NEXT UP: NEW PIZZA AND BURGERS

    Extreme Pizza, a California-based franchise, is set to enter the Florida market, opening its first location at Coral Landings on U.S. 19 in Palm Harbor next week. With the tagline "Extreme. Not Mainstream," this is for pizza enthusiasts who want to push their daredevil taste buds to the limit, mixing flavors from North and South America, Europe, Asia and the Middle East. Franchisee Sean Parkinson and partner Richard Blanc have recruited George Yudell, the original Extreme Pizza director of operations, who brings two decades of pizza experience to the table. A second, larger location opens Feb. 4 on Mandalay Avenue in Clearwater Beach. At either location, look for a week of grand opening events and special deals. extremepizza.com....

    Extreme Pizza opens in Palm Harbor next week, with a second location opening in Clearwater Beach in February. These are the first of the chain in Florida.