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. Restaurants, breweries collaborate to offer signature beers

    Food & Dining

    Every restaurant worth its salt these days offers a selection of craft beers, often drilling down to showcase local and regional options. And now restaurants are taking it one step further, brewing their own beers or partnering with local breweries to develop signature suds. • These "bespoke beers" are one of the year's biggest national trends, and in the Tampa Bay area a number of these collaborations are available for local diners to sample. • Not surprisingly, Tampa's Cigar City, the grandfather of Florida craft brewing, was early to explore collaborations with restaurants. They have done two beers exclusively for Bern's Steak House, one in 2013 called Legacy One, a rich, dark barley wine-style beer made in a Four Roses single-barrel bourbon barrel, and one this year called Legacy Two, a Belgian dubbel made in a Mount Gay rum barrel....

    Beer ideas take flight when a chef starts noodling. “If you want to be relevant in this age you have to have a nod to craft beer,” says one.
The Vinoy
  2. Review: Explore rich flavors of Afghanistan at Anaar in Tampa

    Food & Dining

    TAMPA

    I am going to wager that most of you haven't eaten it. Yes, you've covered your knees with an afghan when you're a little chilly, you've watched those silky Afghan hounds prance at dog shows, but have you ever tried Afghan cuisine? Didn't think so. That's because there are so few restaurants in the United States (and even in Afghanistan, I'm told).

    One of the first in this country was Caravan Sarai in St. Paul, Minn., opened more than 40 years ago. There's a long-standing great one in Baltimore called the Helmand, which for a long time had a sister restaurant of the same name in San Francisco (which battled it out with competitor Kabul for top Afghan restaurant in that city). There are a couple in New York and in Boston, but overall, it's a dramatically underrepresented cuisine....

    Chicken Carahi, an entree of curried chicken with a tomato yogurt base dish served with rice, costs $14.
  3. Our food writer conquers Arby's Meat Mountain: Is it any good? (w/ video)

    Food & Dining

    TAMPA — I planted my flag on Meat Mountain, and it was good.

    You know the saying about why Sir Edmund Hillary climbed Mount Everest? "Because it was there." It's apropos.

    This summer Arby's hung posters showing a preposterous stack of different meats on a bun, largely to combat its reputation as a roast beef-only kind of place. But the story goes that people kept asking, "Um, can I have the sandwich on that poster?"...

     It's not on the menu, so when you go to Arby's you have to ask for the Meat Mountain.  It costs $10 and has pepper bacon, roast beef, cheddar cheese, angus beef, brisket, corned beef, swiss cheese, ham, turkey and a chicken tender. And, supposedly, it's only 1,275 calories. [JAMES BORCHUCK   |   Times]
  4. Trouble brewing at CopperFish over city fines, unpaid rent

    Retail

    TAMPA — A suit filed this week in Tampa may cause a ripple of fear among local foodies: South Tampa's CopperFish, one of the most exciting debuts of 2013, has hit a rocky patch.

    The plaintiff, Howard Park Properties, alleges that CopperFish has failed to pay rent since June.

    The connections between the landlord and tenant are snarly, though. Gordon Davis is the president of Howard Park and owner of the building, but he's also partners with Kevin Enderle, brothers Chas Bruck and Kyle Bruck and Michael Blesser in SoHo Hospitality Management Group, which oversees Boca, Ciro's, the new Bizou Brasserie in Le Meridien hotel and CopperFish (Samba Room Tampa LLC is an additional limited liability company for the CopperFish location)....

    EDMUND D. FOUNTAIN   |   Times  The CopperFish Platter, consisting of jumbo prawns, chef's choice oysters, Middle Neck clams, poached lobster, and crab cocktail.
  5. Galápagos, a natural selection for seeing all manner of wildlife (w/video)

    Travel

    ECUADOR

    The flimsy sink was positioned right over the bucket, a few tiny leaves thrown into the clear water to demonstrate as the man in khaki pulled the plug. The water, the leaves: straight down. He moved the bucket and sink 2 feet to the north of the line painted on concrete, repeated the experiment and the water swirled clockwise. A couple of feet south of the line and the water sucked the leaves counterclockwise down into the bucket....

    Metal pieces left over from when American forces sank several barges at the end of World War II poke out of the sand at Las Bachas on Santa Cruz Island. The beach is named for a mispronunciation of “barges.” Visitors saw marine iguanas, Sally Lightfoot crabs, hermit crabs, turtle nests and small reef sharks on their beach walk.
  6. Review: Steel City Brewhouse, New England Ale House offer comfort food

    Food & Dining

    ST. PETERSBURG AND PALM HARBOR

    Comfort food is idiosyncratic, often a reflection of where we were raised and what foods were on our holiday tables or what we remember Nana whipping up those times Mom and Dad absconded to Atlantic City or Aruba.

    For Lynn Marasco, who owns the new Steel City Brewhouse in St. Petersburg, comfort food means pierogies and stuffed cabbage, the foods of her Pittsburgh Polish-Russian-Italian roots. And for Tara and Randy Cook, owners of the new New England Ale House Grille in Palm Harbor, a little bit of home means chowder and lobster rolls and fried whole belly clams....

    At New England Ale House Grille, there are solid seafood dishes, such as fish and chips, crispy white fish with fresh cut fries, lemon, coleslaw and house-made tartar.
  7. Plenty of new places to eat at Universal's CityWalk

    Food & Dining

    ORLANDO

    Opened in 1999, Universal CityWalk sits at the entrance to both Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure, with a gorgeous 20-screen AMC movie theater and a real range of dining and imbibing possibilities open along a two-tiered promenade. But like the parks themselves, the dining-shopping-entertainment complex keeps retooling and rethinking its concepts, recently unveiling some huge new things. • All right, they're not as big as the Wizarding World of Harry Potter-Diagon Alley. But still. • I took a drive eastward a couple of weeks ago to check out the new noshes....

    Cold Stone Creamery is among the new offerings at Universal Orlando’s CityWalk. It’s next to Bubba Gump Shrimp Company.
  8. Enjoy prix fixe meals across Orlando for $33 during September

    Food & Dining

    In the early 1900s, hotels offered "table d'hote" or "prix fixe" menus to guests as a form of loss leader. Hotels didn't necessarily make money on these lower-priced, multicourse inclusive meals, often served at communal tables, but they made up for it on the booze. Prohibition may have contributed to a gradual shift toward a la carte pricing in American restaurants (no booze, thus no buoying booze sales), but surely this trend also reflects the dining public's insistence on choice. We want options, balking at being told, "You get this appetizer, followed by this entree and culminating in this dessert. Deal with it."...

    Visit Orlando's Magical Dining Month warrants heading east on Interstate 4 for dinner. More than 75 of the greater Orlando area's best restaurants offer three-course meals for $33, excluding beverage, tax and gratuity. [Luma on Park]
  9. Tampa Bay restaurateurs share tales of customers behaving badly

    Food & Dining

    The couple's first Match.com date was not going swimmingly. Sitting at the wine bar at Clearwater's Cuvée 103, the woman seemed exceptionally, er, thirsty. Eventually she stood up and wobbled her way onto the stage where a jazz trio was getting into full swing, Florida Orchestra bass player T.J. Glowacki plucking at his valuable 19th century German bass.

    "As they were starting a tune, the woman asked the bassist for lessons and strummed his instrument," remembers Cuvée 103 owner John Zias. "The drummer turned to her and said, 'You're kind of ruining the moment,' and she said, 'I AM the moment.' "...

  10. Southern Living names Tampa's Refinery one of top 100 restaurants in the South

    Food & Dining

    The hits just keep coming for Tampa's Refinery. It's had James Beard nods, Zagat honors and gushing praise from most publications around. This week Southern Living magazine weighed in, giving the Refinery a spot in the South's top 100 restaurants. Cities like New Orleans and Charleston featured heavily while Florida nabbed only three spots (two of them projects of Michael Schwartz in Miami). The magazine suggested ordering shishito and flageolet stew with oyster mushrooms, potatoes, Chianti, tomatoes, and saffron rice grits, or else hubbard squash hoe cakes with a muscadine-chile jam. Too bad chef Greg Baker reinvents the entire menu each week at the Refinery, so these menu items may be just fleeting memories for Southern Living's restaurant scout Jennifer V. Cole. About the honor, Refinery co-owner Michelle Baker says, "Once again, we are humbled and honored! I guess we are doing something right, huh? This is a big deal for Tampa Bay. People are watching our food scene explode and they are watching closely! We have some amazing culinary talent here. I hope to see a lot more Tampa on this list next year."...

    Michelle and Greg Baker, owners of The Refinery in Tampa.
  11. Bucs fans can look forward to better food at Ray Jay (with video)

    Food & Dining

    TAMPA — From fresh uniforms and a new logo to new coach Lovie Smith and exciting free agent signings, Bucs fans' hopes are soaring for this season. At a media event Wednesday, even more new goodies were unveiled at Raymond James Stadium. As part of a collaboration between the Tampa Sports Authority and concessioneer Aramark, new menu items debuted, many of them inspired by the unique tastes of Tampa....

    Pam and Paul Crawford sample some of the new menu items Wednesday at Raymond James Stadium. She was particularly enamored of the burger, which she called “seriously gourmet.”
  12. Review: Local Public House is a new pearl in little San Antonio

    Food & Dining

    SAN ANTONIO

    Restaurant people spend their evenings watching other people have a good time. On their own nights off, usually a Monday or a Tuesday, they venture out for some good times of their own. Restaurants that are open those nights slap a little hospitality discount on food or drink, and eventually, they become informal clubhouses of off-duty restaurant folk. Curtis and Rebecca Beebe sallied forth on their nights off from Pearl in the Grove in Dade City, failing to find a clubhouse that met their specifications: a good burger, a great wine and beer list, smart snackies, and someplace casual that's just plain fun to hang out. So they built one....

    The regional cheese and charcuterie platter includes housemade pickles and pecan brittle, both noteworthy.
  13. Ulele to debut beers, local menu at Aug. 26 launch in Tampa (w/video)

    Food & Dining

    TAMPA

    On Aug. 26 one of the year's most anticipated restaurants opens its doors as Keith Sedita and the Columbia's Richard Gonzmart launch Ulele Native-Inspired Food and Spirits at the site of Tampa Heights' historic steam-powered pump house.

    Much has been made of what its $5 million budget has managed to pack in: a sprawling restaurant, rooftop bar, a beer garden and microbrewery with a beer room all adjacent to the city's new Water Works Park and recently restored Ulele Spring, one of Tampa's first sources of drinking water....

     Ulele Executive Chef Eric Lackey has helped create one of the year's most anticipated restaurants with his native inspired menu.  [JAMES BORCHUCK   |   Times]
  14. Review: The Oyster Bar in St. Pete is improved but true to its past

    Food & Dining

    ST. PETERSBURG

    There are three components to describing an oyster: saltiness (as a rule, the colder the water, the saltier the oyster), texture (delicate, firm, etc.) and its sweetness or finish (descriptions range from metallic to cucumbery, grassy and watermelony). Kumamoto is a Pacific oyster, quite small, with a deep cup, a frilly fluted shell, buttery texture and a smooth, fruity flavor. The bigger Malpeques is an Atlantic species with a brinier, almost cucumbery flavor. Still, Florida consumers tend to prize size, having been weaned on brawny Eastern oysters from Apalachicola and elsewhere in the Gulf of Mexico....

    A good lunch bet: mahi mahi tacos with cabbage slaw, red chili sauce and a lime aioli, with a side of fries, for $12.
  15. Reno restaurant to open in downtown St. Petersburg next month

    Food & Dining

    ST. PETERSBURG — St. Petersburg native Jon La Budde is getting back into the restaurant business. Just after Labor Day he will open Reno at 27 Fourth St. N, the former home of Primi Urban Cafe.

    "I've been in hospitality for most of my life as an owner/operator and investor, mostly with nightclubs. I had Johnny Reno's at the Pier and we had good success the first year, but then when the mayor announced he was closing it that put a nail in the coffin," he said....

    Reno, with a nod to sophisticated nostalgia, will settle into the former Primi Urban Cafe space in downtown St. Petersburg.