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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. Restaurant review: Hog Island Fish Camp a rustic, welcoming addition to Dunedin

    Food & Dining


    Sam's Fresh Seafood was an Old Florida institution in Dunedin, the kind heavy on smoked mullet and hush puppies. Owners Sam and Phyllis Hart retired this summer and sold the rustic spot to Walt Wickman, a move that seems nearly poetic in its rightness.

    Wickman for a number of years had the fish-forward, ambitious Walt's Seasonal Cuisine on Main Street, for whatever reason a tough location that has subsequently cycled through a couple of other concepts. In the meantime, Wickman took over the space that for years had housed part of the retail/wholesale Dunedin Fish Co. and debuted Olde Bay Café in 2011, quickly a locals' go-to place for honest, super-fresh gulf seafood (hogfish, snapper, cobia, etc.)....

    Available at the Hog Island Fish Camp in Dunedin is a Watermelon Salad made with arugula, feta cheese, spiced pecans and a lemon vinaigrette.
  2. Dining Planner: Non-turkey Thanksgiving options and meals for the needy

    Food & Dining


    The houseguests were wonderful, thrilling, an utter joy around the holiday table. By Saturday you're feeling a little antsy, and by Sunday it's essential that you find someplace to hide out. Rooster & the Till saves the day, offering a one-day-only popup brunch from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday. They are accepting reservations and seating is limited. What are chef Ferrell Alvarez and co-owner Ty Rodriguez cooking up? A small menu of stuff you actually want to eat, they said, mimosas, wine, cocktails and pastries and bread from Jamison B. Breadhouse. In keeping with their local-whenever-possible credo, Breadhouse is an all-local artisan bakery with gorgeous loaves. Could this maiden brunch voyage be the first of many to come? We'll see. For reservations, call (813) 374-8940. 6500 N Florida Ave., Tampa....

    Bring a vegan dish to feed eight people to the annual ThanksVegan event in Tampa.
  3. At Tampa's Harvest Hope Center, a family gets Thanksgiving gift



    At the community center, they tried to hand her a turkey. After consulting with her three young daughters, Elizabeth Reyes declined. The girls' consensus: "Mami, you don't know how to cook that thing."

    Around them NFL players, volunteers and 1,200 residents of the area around the University of South Florida — often called Suitcase City — were finishing up a Nov. 17 pre-Thanksgiving feast provided by Metropolitan Ministries. Residents in need headed home with a box of donated food....

    Columbia Restaurant chef Geraldo Bayona teaches Mexican immigrant Elizabeth Reyes how to cook a traditional Thanksgiving dinner at the Harvest Hope Center in Tampa.
  4. Lonely Thanksgiving: Where to eat that doesn't involve turkey


    Editor's note: Thanksgiving. A time for the entire family to gather around the table, smiling and laughing over a golden turkey as if life is just one big Publix commercial. Fortunately, some people actually get that experience. But many others don't. Maybe you and your family live in totally different states. Maybe you just don't have a family. Maybe you have chosen a family of friends. Or maybe you just don't want to talk to your family at all.We got you covered. All week, we're bringing you our Guide to Lonely Thanksgiving. Our critics and writers have offered their best advice for going the holiday alone, from TV to reading to eating out. It doesn't have to be a pity party. If you do it right, you can be thankful for your solitude, too....

    Yummy House will take you in on Thanksgiving!
  5. No time to bake this Thanksgiving? Here are the best Tampa Bay spots to pick up dessert

    Food & Dining

    There are activities that gum up your well-laid plans. It's the peeling of the pearl onions and those pesky chestnuts. And frankly, the whole turkey brining process is adding too many extra steps to your game plan. This year, one key amendment to the Thanksgiving itinerary might be this: outsource. Dessert is the easiest element to leave to some of these Tampa Bay experts.


    Village Inn...

    La Casa Del Pane sells myriad doughy delights.
  6. Columbia's Cuban sandwich gets grilled on CBS News Sunday Morning

    Food & Dining

    After your house guests have fatigued of turkey next week, you need another culinary trick up your sleeve. Tune in to CBS News Sunday Morning at 9 a.m. Sunday to get the inside scoop on how to make the perfect Tampa-style Cuban sandwich.

    Correspondent Susan Spencer stopped into the 110-year-old Columbia in Ybor City recently to get a tutorial from fifth-generation owner Andrea Gonzmart Williams and her dad, Richard Gonzmart....

    Richard Gonzmart, president of the Columbia Restaurant, shows off the Cuban sandwich he’s reinvented since a newspaper article lamented the lack of a good one in Ybor.  The glazed ham, roasted pork and pepper corn salami are key to bringing back the flavor he remembers as a boy.  “It’s a recreation of the cuban my grandfather created,” said Gonzmart.
  7. Celebrity chef Marc Murphy takes us on a tour of Tampa's Grey Salt

    Food & Dining

    TAMPA — Tampa Bay restaurateurs could be sniffy. "Sure," they could say, "just as the area's red hot restaurant scene shifts into high gear and high season, Johnny-come-latelies from New York City go carpetbagging south to set up shop."

    Judging from the guest list at Wednesday evening's Grey Salt debut, they're bigger than that.

    The Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Tampa has partnered with New York celebrity chef Marc Murphy to debut a lovely 240-seat Mediterranean restaurant that takes the place of the Green Room. Sidling around the dense crowd at the VIP party, one could spot a who's who of Tampa Bay restaurant folks. There's Keith Sedita from Ulele, and over here stand Michael Stewart and Joe Maddon of Ava, and the list went on....

    Celebrity chef and Chopped judge Marc Murphy shows off Grey Salt, a Mediterranean restaurant he opened this week at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Tampa.
  8. Dining Planner: It's Beaujolais nouveau time, plus two new openings

    Food & Dining

    CHEERS: Beaujolais nouveau est arrivé!

    Today: Beaujolais nouveau est arrivé!

    Like clockwork, on the third Thursday of November, Beaujolais nouveau arrives. And just as reliably, the snarking begins. The Beaujolais nouveau craze, which may have reached its frenzied acme in the 1980s, has long been considered more marketing razzle-dazzle than substance. There are boat races, helicopter airlifts and a host of more romantic conveyances each year to disseminate nearly 70 million bottles of deep-purple wine across the globe (much of it tippled in Japan, the United States and Germany). It's not an age-old phenomenon — until World War II, it was a wine only for local consumption....

    The Seminole Hard Rock in Tampa has announced a new restaurant from celebrity chef Marc Murphy (he’s from Chopped) coming in November. The Mediterranean place will be “a calming oasis with a bright atmosphere and a restrained palette of warm neutral materials.” With the lackluster presence of the promised celeb chefs at Locale in St. Pete, this could be the area’s biggest name on a restaurant. 
Courtesy Seminole Hard Rock
  9. Thanksgiving safety tips: How to store leftovers, cook stuffing, refrigerate a turkey and more


    There is a reason that so many of us don't do our own taxes. With something we do only once a year, the details don't stick in our brains. So it goes with Thanksgiving turkey. Wait, is it 20 minutes per pound in a 350-degree oven? And when do I start basting?

    Along with turkey cooking particulars, it's good to be reminded of holiday food safety fundamentals. This is where Amy Simonne, a University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences food safety expert, comes in. ...

  10. Review: Kings Street Food Counter offers updated diner menu in a hip St. Pete spot

    Food & Dining


    It's like that old quote about not being able to define porn but knowing it when you see it: You walk into some brand new restaurants and feel certain that pros are behind it; others that they're the wobbly projects of amateurs. It's not any one thing, but the cumulative effect is unequivocal. I stopped by Everything Dolce last year in the spot that once housed Cafe Bohemia and thought, "Oh, honeys, this is never going to fly." A couple of weeks ago I wandered onto the beer garden of the new Kings Street Food Counter, which opened on Halloween in Dolce's place, and thought, "Stephen Schrutt knows what he's doing." ...

    Kings Street Food Counter opened recently in the EDGE District in downtown St. Petersburg.
  11. HCC Gourmet Room offers a meal deal for the public and lessons for culinary students

    Food & Dining

    TAMPA — It's just about the most exclusive dining room in town. The establishment serves just 75 lucky diners each week: 25 people per meal service, Wednesday and Thursday at noon for lunch and Thursday at 7 p.m. for dinner. And here's the kicker: The three-course prix-fixe meal is only $7.

    If you're paying attention, you'll see those in the know strolling across the Dale Mabry campus of Hillsborough Community College and zipping into the first floor of the Humanities Building. The Gourmet Room is a lab of sorts, a hands-on class for students enrolled in culinary management, dietary tech, restaurant management or hospitality and tourism management....

    Sous chef Malka Madkholkar instructs students in the kitchen of Hillsborough Community College’s Gourmet Room.
  12. Dining Planner: Heavy-hitting chefs at Food for Thought, Chowder Challenge and 'Dutch Weed Burger' screening

    Food & Dining


    As the second lecture in the Food for Thought series, four heavy-hitting Tampa Bay chefs and restaurateurs come together for the evening starting at 7 p.m. Monday at Studio@620 in St. Petersburg. The first one in the series with award-winning food photographer Penny De Los Santos was an amazing look at how food is a magnifying glass for examining cultures around the world....

    Chef Curtis Beebe 
of Pearl in the Grove 
in Dade City
  13. Restaurant reviews: Ichicoro Ramen and others bring authentic ramen to Tampa Bay

    Food & Dining

    Last Wednesday we arrived a little before 8 p.m., finally nabbing a table at 9:57. Using my feeble math skills that means we waited two hours for a bowl of soup we ate in 10 minutes. Was it worth it? Yep. Ichicoro Ramen's debut is clearly the most anticipated restaurant opening we've seen in ages. I suppose I've contributed to the hype (in May I went to New York to preview Noel Cruz's version of "Tampa-style" ramen at a popup), but it really seems like everyone in Seminole Heights is ready and willing to devote hours to the acquisition of lovely ceramic bowls of spicy abura soba or shoyu with perfect swaths of smoky, fatty pork belly riding high....

    The champon at Ichicoro Ramen on N Florida Avenue in Seminole Heights is a harmonious blend of corn niblets, shiitake mushrooms, pork and shrimp in a savory pork-chicken broth.
  14. Ramen 101: How to slurp your way through the broth and noodles

    Food & Dining

    Click here for Laura Reiley's reviews of three restaurants in the bay area that are specializing in ramen, including the new Ichicoro in Seminole Heights.

    First, there is the broth: This is the most important part of ramen — all the bells and whistles in the bowl can't cover up so-so broth. There are four styles you'll see most often: shoyu (soy sauce), miso (fermented bean paste), shio (salt) and tonkotsu (pork-bone soup). Shoyu is probably the most common, shio is a little more delicate, miso is often cloudy and very savory (in Sapporo, Japan, which is ramen central, you'll find this style topped with corn and butter), and tonkotsu tends to be rich and fatty. You'll often find combinations of these (miso tonkotsu, say) and sometimes you'll see a spicy version, a brothless style and hiyashi chuka, which is cold ramen....

    Ichicoro Ramen head chef Masa Takaru, 37, who grew up in Tokyo and New York, demonstrates the proper way to eat ramen. See the video at
  15. Could olives be Florida's next big crop? The proof is in the oil.



    In the little shed, he removes the twist-tie on a Publix baguette. I rip off a hunk and dip it in a plastic ramekin of emerald green liquid. Fruity and rich, it has a sharp pepperiness on the finish.

    It is Florida olive oil. And it's good.

    They said it couldn't be done. They said the climate wasn't right: too much humidity, not enough chill hours. There are bound to be pests; it's too rainy and olives don't like too much water....

    Olives might be the next big Florida crop. Americans are one of the biggest consumers of olive oil in the world, yet only 2 percent of olives are produced in the U.S.  Photo credit: Richard Williams