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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. Calorie counts on menus may not change consumer behavior


    Does knowing a calorie count stop us from buying that Big Mac?

    Not likely, restaurant experts say.

    But the proof will be in the proverbial pudding.

    On Tuesday, the Food and Drug Administration released its long-awaited final regulations on menu labeling for restaurants. Called for under the Affordable Care Act, the regulations require chain restaurants with 20 or more locations under the same brand to include calorie counts on menus, menu boards and drive-through displays, and to provide other nutritional information to customers on demand....

    An official from a local group of McDonald’s restaurants says listing calories on menus hasn’t changed eating habits.
  2. With 11 kitchens, Locale Market unlike any gourmet market in bay area

    Food & Dining

    ST. PETERSBURG — When Locale Market opens mid-December in the newly launched Sundial complex, it will be a game changer.

    The scale — a fresh market and dining experience with 11 different full kitchens and legions of high-priced equipment — is hard to imagine. But what's more heady is that celebrity chefs Michael Mina and Don Pintabona, two savvy restaurateurs, calculated that St. Petersburg is the right place and this the right time for their ambitious vision....

Locale Market at SunDial in St. Petersburg open in mid-December. Final preparations are underway.
  3. 'Test kitchen' night reveals taste of upcoming Ava restaurant

    Food & Dining

    TAMPA —The Acunto wood-fired oven needed to cure slowly, a log loaded into its maw once in a while as the exterior wept moisture, rivulets pooling on Ava's floor. In all likelihood, the Italian-made pizza oven would weep for 14 days until it was ready for use.

    "If I slept here I could probably do it in 10," executive chef Joshua Hernández said to owner Michael Stewart.

    And so it went....

    Ava’s design, a study in textures, ups the ante in a city that has seen a tremendous year of restaurant debuts.
  4. How is the Beaujolais nouveau this year? We taste three

    Taste Test

    Every year, there are predictable things that are bad (taxes, death) and predictable things that are good (monarch butterflies return to the fir trees of Mexico; on the third Thursday of November, Beaujolais nouveau arrives). What is less predictable is just how this vin de l'année ("this year's wine") stacks up.

    The Beaujolais nouveau craze, which may have reached its frenzied acme in the 1980s, has long been considered more marketing razzle-dazzle than substance (nouveau = liquid Kardashian). ...

    The 2014 Georges Duboeuf Beaujolais Nouveau features rich black raspberry fruit with a peppery edge and a little licorice sass. Definitely the most sophisticated of the three we tasted. Keep it in consideration for your Thanksgiving table next week.
  5. After 16 years, St. Petersburg's Midtown Sundries closes

    Food & Dining

    ST. PETERSBURG — After 16 years, one of downtown St. Petersburg's longest-running restaurants closed its doors Tuesday, leaving employees, vendors and customers rattling the locked door at lunchtime Wednesday. Midtown Sundries at 200 First Ave. S posted a sign on the window, saying, in part, "It has been a great run, but our 16th year proved to be too much to overcome."

    The past few years have been tricky for Midtown. In 2011, difficult negotiations with landlord Echelon Urban Investors caused owner Charles L. Kott to consider a move to the then-vacated Paddy Burke spot (now home to World of Beer). Things were resolved and Midtown stayed put; Kott summarized the situation: "We were carrying on what might be called difficult negotiations. It's hard times for me, and it's hard times for them. Everybody handled it like ladies and gentlemen."...

    Midtown Sundries' distinctive sign was one of the more memorable parts of the bar.
  6. New Tampa Bay bakeries rise just in time for holidays

    Food & Dining

    In 2013 the real estate blog Movoto ranked St. Petersburg the seventh worst city in the United States for food lovers, citing a tremendous dearth of decent baked goods (it had the fewest bakeries per capita, with one for every 17,500 people). Since that time, Pinellas County has pulled together to clear its good name with a raft of new bakeries, and Tampa has even pitched in with a couple of its own. From bread to pies to artisanal doughnuts, it's a great time do some retail reconnoitering, many of these goodies perfect for the holiday table. ...

    Michael Ostrander, 62, owner and executive pastry chef, and Katie Capra, 30, assistant pastry chef, finish making coffee and almond biscotti before the Tastes of the Season open house at St. Pete Bakery.
  7. Pow to open in old Wood Fired Pizza space in St. Petersburg

    Food & Dining


    The space that was St. Petersburg Wood Fired Pizza will open in early December as Pow, a new pizza concept that takes advantage of collaborations with local sauce purveyors, bringing Asian, Hawaiian and other fusion elements to wood-oven pizzas and wings, announced owner Philippe Theodore on Monday.

    Theodore has a vested interest in the restaurant, since he owns World of Beer next door, as well as all the WOBs in Denver and Houston. He took over ownership of the large space in October....

  8. Review: Del Frisco's Grille is worthy addition to Tampa's upscale restaurant row

    Food & Dining


    I misspoke. When I did a preview story on Del Frisco's Grille, the newest upscale restaurant on Boy Scout Boulevard's tony restaurant row, I inaccurately characterized the restaurant's menu as having a "something for everyone approach." She shoots but doesn't score. Having worked my way through a fair bit of the menu now, it hangs together, far from a hodgepodge. But maybe my confusion was borne of a little identity ambiguity with the concept itself....

    Ahi Tacos, ahi tuna tartare and avocado topped with a spicy citrus mayo, are a signature dish at Del Frisco’s Grille.
  9. 'Walking Dead' Recap: Look both ways, Carol!


    Look both ways, Carol. She’s the character to whom we should never have to say that. But there it was at the end of “Consumed,” the sixth episode of The Walking Dead's fifth season, Carol hurdling out in front of traffic and getting gurneyed away as Daryl and Noah (Tyler James Williams) jaw about what next. It was a quiet episode, mostly “Caryl” (lacks that Brangelia titillation because heck, they barely shared a moment of bunk bed time in the hour) walking through a disquieting urban landscape. All that wide open space and concrete set the teeth on edge in a way that harkened back to season one of The Walking Dead....

  10. BellaBrava reveals details of new Beach Drive tavern

    Food & Dining

    ST. PETERSBURG — The partners of BellaBrava restaurant have revealed plans for their new Stillwaters Tavern, coming to 224 Beach Drive NE.

    The 4,600-square-foot space will open in the spring of 2015 and "will include items you'd expect to find at a tavern, as well as dishes that are inspired from my culinary travels," said chef Jeffrey Jew, a Washington, D.C., transplant and contender on Bravo's Top Chef who will oversee the kitchen....

    Stillwaters Tavern, set to open in the spring at 224 Beach Drive NE, will boast a white brick facade with a modern industrial warehouse look. Jeffrey Jew, who was a contender on Bravo’s Top Chef, will oversee the kitchen.
  11. Hosting a holiday party? A guide to private dining spots in Tampa Bay

    Food & Dining

    Halloween decorations back in the attic, thoughts turn to the holiday season before us. On many people's wish list is a holiday party venue — someplace intimate and memorable that's not going to break the bank. Most Tampa Bay area hotels eagerly court private parties with banquet rooms, in-house catering, event coordinators and preferred vendors. Hotels in Pinellas County may have the added benefit of beach access, but Tampa hotels often also offer water views with boats bobbing in the bay. Then there are cultural venues such as the Glazer Children's Museum or the Tampa Museum of Art and special event halls such as Nova 535 in St. Petersburg or A La Carte Event Pavilion in Tampa....

    Rococo Steak, 655 Second Ave. S, St. Petersburg, can host up to 150 seated guests in the dedicated private dining area upstairs. A private dining room on the main floor can accommodate 14.
  12. Bizou Brasserie at Le Méridien changes management, chef, decor

    Food & Dining

    TAMPA — Bizou Brasserie, the upscale restaurant in Le Méridien hotel, is undergoing some changes.

    For starters, it will now be managed in house, dropping its relationship with SoHo Hospitality, said Gary Prosterman, president and CEO of Development Services Group, on Tuesday.

    Chef Peter LaMontagna has been tapped as executive chef and food and beverage director. He most recently led store operations for Whole Foods Market in Tallahassee and served as regional chef for Whole Foods in the Midwest region and Canada. Under his leadership the menu will maintain its eclectic American-French-Italian sensibility, but will debut regular seasonal menus. Bizou, in response to diner feedback (as well as to a review in the Tampa Bay Times), has also added carpeting to the dining room and acoustical paneling to mitigate a noise problem....

    The Bizou Burger with a brioche bun, caramelized onion, goat cheese and brie at Bizou Brasserie at Le Méridien.
  13. Organic garden at Amalie Arena feeds Lightning players, fans

    Food & Dining


    While the Lightning's Tyler Johnson, Ondrej Palat and Nikita Kucherov battle foes on the ice, Amalie Arena staffers fight another menace: aphids.

    In addition to hockey and concerts, the arena also is home to a new 1-acre organic vegetable garden that helps feed players and fans — and those aphids. (The solution was releasing 15,000 murderous ladybugs.)

    The seed of the idea was planted this summer, when arena general manager Darryl Benge mused how to incorporate more "Tampa" flavor into menu offerings, following a national trend of ballparks and sports arenas showcasing regional delicacies and signature dishes....

    Lettuce, herbs and assorted veggies wait to be picked in the hydroponic garden at Amalie Arena. The harvest ends up in some of the restaurants in the arena. The garden is built on a deck in the back compound area where trucks are unloaded for events and deliveries are made.
  14. Review: Tampa's Sushi Ninja distinguishes itself with Korean fare

    Food & Dining


    It's definitely the long white pieces of paper and the little pencils that do it. You feel like you're scoring mini golf as you scroll down, adding little check marks along the way: Hmm, the devil roll sounds good. And we've got to try the Mt. Fuji roll with its special spicy sauce. Oh, and a South Tampa roll with the fried shrimp, natch. You don't realize you've gone completely off your rocker until the platters of sushi start materializing tableside. We're gonna need a bigger table....

    Mimi Kang, who owns another restaurant of the same name in Brandon, and Lee Son recently opened Sushi Ninja on W Kennedy Boulevard in Tampa. It is modern and attractive, with two private rooms that can hold large groups.
  15. Dunkin' Donuts debuts its version of the 'cronut'

    Food & Dining


    Dunkin' Donuts goes upper crust, debuting its new Croissant Donut on Monday. This is their version of the fabled cronut, offered for $2.13 including tax (a regular DD doughnut rings in at 99 cents plus tax).

    At the peak of the frenzy, black market cronut mules in New York offered to wait in line and deliver your half-croissant, half-doughnut pastry for $50. Each. Celebrities, politicians and the nation's foodie pilgrims cooled their heels in long lines for a chance to eat one. The inventor of the cronut, Dominique Ansel, has moved on to other cultish confections, but bakers around the country continue to tinker with the formula. Last year Piquant in Hyde Park Village was thronged for their guava- and nutella-filled croissant doughnuts....

    Dunkin Donuts debuts its version of the "cronut."