06/26/17 Food & Dining
Feather Sound's Tru Lounge, which was Flo Lounge before that, morphed into Grand Siam in 2012, a giant Thai restaurant owned by the folks who had Ban Thai restaurants in Tampa, Clearwater, Brandon and Lakeland. It was lavish with dramatic fluted chandeliers and a long, polished wood sushi bar, but it was so much open floor space that one envisioned line dancing classes or at least duckpin bowling....
06/21/17 Food & Dining
Deccan Spice has opened at 2325 Ulmerton Road, in what used to be the elegant and vast Grand Siam space in Feather Sound. It's getting high marks so far for its traditional Indian lunch buffet, and offers a range of southern Indian dishes (vadas and dosas and idlis, oh my) seldom seen in this area. (727) 623-4009.
FARMACY VEGAN KITCHEN & BAKERY
Inside the charming Duckweed Urban Market in downtown Tampa, Farmacy Vegan Kitchen & Bakery has opened. Some of the offerings are straight-up in the tempeh zone, but there are lots of decadent-looking doughnuts, sticky buns and the like, many of them gluten free. 803 N Tampa St., Tampa. (786) 214-0671....
06/21/17 Food & Dining
Thirst quench: Barley's Angels
Saturday night marks this year's beer-oriented major fundraiser for the historic Tampa Theatre. It's usually a good excuse to dress funny and drink overmuch, and this year is no exception. The theme is Barley's Angels, so get your Drew Barrymore or Lucy Liu on. Or, if you're old school like me, your Kate Jackson or Jaclyn Smith (but points off if you come as Shelley Hack). Guests enjoy craft and locally brewed beer samplings, snacks and tastes from top area restaurants, live music and themed food....
06/19/17 Food & Dining
Mike McNally started working in the kitchen as a dishwasher when he was 17. He's 37 now and the head cook. Pokey Wynn and Martie Sanchez have been cooking and expediting in the kitchen for 16 years each. Sara Fernandez has been handling the dining room for not quite that long. The mural by Gulfport muralist Keith Stillwagon has been preserved for two decades, the Florida flora and fauna faded but never painted over. And on the website, a plucky but amateurish organ rendition of that old chestnut La Bamba provides the nostalgic soundtrack....
06/19/17 Food & Dining
On the 20th anniversary of the opening of Gulfport's Habana Cafe, owner Jo Hastings, one of the few female restaurateurs in this market, chatted with us about the evolution of the local food scene.
How have things changed over the 20 years you've operated in Gulfport?
It's been a long transition. The first year I tried introducing things like tostones and ropa vieja and it just wasn't working. I'd put tostones in to-go orders and I'd get calls: "What is this little flying saucer?" In Tampa and Miami it was a totally different story, but 20 years ago in Gulfport, people just knew what a Cuban sandwich was. It has taken 20 years, but I don't have to explain it all anymore. Now we have people asking for tostones by name....
06/14/17 Food & Dining
Dad's Day: The expected and unexpected
Let me guess. Steak, right? Maybe with his favorite bourbon as a chaser?
You can go the traditional route this Father's Day at one of the area's top steak houses, Council Oak Steaks & Seafood at Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Tampa. They just unveiled a very substantial menu and cocktail list change last week, with a passel of new appetizers (calamari and lobster with smoked cherry peppers and red wine gastrique; local lionfish with Florida citrus and melted fennel), new steaks (a 21-ounce bone-in New York strip and prime rib on the weekends) and desserts like baked Alaska. Oh, daddy....
Restaurant review: At Olive the World Bistro, olive oils and vinegars enhance a small but smart menu06/12/17 Food & Dining
There is not a ton of consensus about the best way to taste olive oils. Some say put a small amount of each in opaque cups so you aren't swayed by the color, swirl them around, slurp while sucking in air, swish them in your mouth, swallow. Then cleanse the palate, but with what? Crackers, bread, maybe slices of apple. But what are you looking for precisely? Mildness or intensity, fruitiness or nuttiness, bitterness or pungency — there are all kinds of descriptors. Really, aren't you seeking an olive oil that meshes well with the things you like to eat and the way you like to cook?...
06/09/17 Food & Dining
Under a mossy live oak on farmer Will Crum's farm, chef Greg Baker thumped a watermelon. They both listened — a low tone, a little hollow-sounding.
"Can I get a little more reverb?" Baker joked, giving it another gentle rap.
It was ready. And on Thursday, a bit of Florida history was made. Together, Baker and Crum have brought back the Florida Favorite....
06/07/17 Food & Dining
Taken to new heights: Heights Public Market
Let's review. Slated to open this summer, the Heights Public Market is a repurposing of Tampa Heights' Armature Works building, a 70,000-square-foot former storage and maintenance facility for Tampa's streetcars. It will house multiple event spaces, a shared workspace, a rooftop social area and a whole bunch of exciting food concepts. Already announced are Ichicoro Ramen, (ramen shown top left), Union by Commune + Co (coffee), Fine and Dandy (cocktails), Butcher & BBQ (meat, charcuterie, etc.), Ava (pizza shown), Inside The Box Café, O Cocina Taqueria and Swami Juice. But wait, there's more. It was recently announced that Graze 1910 will be added to the mix. The idea here: Breakfast. All. Day. It will be a retro eatery serving an array of comfort food classics from Raymond Menendez, the managing partner who helped birth and spearhead Tampa's popular diner Daily Eats. Look forward to citrus glazed waffles, an array of signature toasts and classic egg dishes. Graze 1910 will be located at the south entrance of Armature Works along the Hillsborough River, with interior and exterior counter seating and two takeout stations....
If Gov. Rick Scott signs off on the legislation, starting July 1 sake can be sold by any retailer or restaurant licensed to sell wine.
Sushi is more popular than ever, ditto ramen, yakitori and a host of other formerly exotic Japanese foods. Yet fans of sake, the famed Japanese rice wine and the perfect accompanying quaff, have long had to contend with murky legal issues that sometimes make it impossible for Floridians to enjoy both at the same time....
06/06/17 Bars & Spirits
Kanpai! • If Gov. Rick Scott signs off on the legislation, starting July 1 sake can be sold by any retailer or restaurant licensed to sell wine. • Sushi is more popular than ever, ditto ramen, yakitori and a host of other formerly exotic Japanese foods. Yet fans of sake, the famed Japanese rice wine and the perfect accompanying quaff, have long had to contend with murky legal issues that sometimes make it impossible for Floridians to enjoy both at the same time. • That's because state law officially defines wine as a beverage fermented from grapes, berries or other fruit. Made from fermented rice, sake (pronounced "sah-kay," not "socky") often has been erroneously lumped with liquors, typically distilled from grains. Restaurants, grocery and convenience stores, and other places allowed to sell and serve wine and beer, but not liquor, have often shied away from sake, fearing legal problems....
Restaurant review: Food needs to catch up to appealing bar program and decor at Oldsmar's Suegra Tequila Cantina06/05/17 Food & Dining
In the Tampa Bay area we've had a fairly hefty influx of upscale, ambitious Mexican restaurants — O Cocina, Besito, Bartaco, Miguelito's, Red Mesa's growing empire. But it was some months back when I heard Boston celebrity chef Todd Hall was teaming up with City Fish Grill owners Craig and Matt Vario to do an upscale Mexican restaurant in that location that this trend seemed en fuego....
On June 1, Fudgie the Whale turns the big 4-0.
The Carvel cake was invented in 1977 as a Father's Day promotion — "to a whale of a dad" — and almost immediately became a punchline. The whale-shaped treat has since had cameos on David Letterman, The Colbert Report, The Daily Show; in the comedy sketches of Patton Oswalt, Kevin Smith and Billy Crystal; in the lyrics of ironic songsmith Jonathan Coulton ("expect a visit from Fudgie the Whale / Ice cream and crunchies in his fudgy tail"); and even as bizarre ammo in the years-long battle between President Donald Trump and Rosie O'Donnell....
Dining Planner: Tampa location announced for BetterByrd, Cider Press burger aims to convert omnivores05/31/17 Food & Dining
V FOR VEGAN VICTORY: BLENDED BURGER
The James Beard Foundation has brought back the Blended Burger Project, and St. Petersburg's Cider Press Cafe has entered the fray. Chefs from around the country join a movement that strives to make burgers healthier and more sustainable by blending ground meat with chopped mushrooms. Through July 31, voters cast their ballots on the burger's use of mushrooms, flavor profile and appetizing appearance....
Restaurant review: Features Gastropub in Riverview is fine as movie theater fare, but unimpressive otherwise05/29/17 Food & Dining
Movies aren't exactly dying. Despite all the sturm und drang of predictions that Netflix and streaming videos would kill the cinema, global box office receipts hit $38.6 billion in 2016, a 1 percent gain over the previous year. But that doesn't mean going to the cinema is precisely what it was a generation ago.
Eighteen- to 24-year-olds go the most these days, and the next-highest patronage is among 12- to 17-year-olds. Which brings me to this: Why have high-end, super-swanky restaurants-cum-theaters proliferated in recent years? I've written about Studio Movie Grill, CinéBistro and a raft of others alongside Times movie critic Steve Persall. These are places where ticket prices are $12 and $15, things ratchetting up quickly when you add in a couple beverages and a grilled salmon bowl....