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. Review: Guy Harvey RumFish Grill makes a big splash in St. Pete Beach

    Food & Dining

    ST. PETE BEACH — There are those stores that are like clubs. Bass Pro Shops, Ron Jon Surf Shops, even Apple stores — yes, they sell stuff, but it's more aspirational than that. These are lifestyles on offer.

    The new Guy Harvey store in St. Pete Beach is like that. Angler-explorer-artist Harvey is more ruggedly mysterious than the Dos Equis dude, his saltwater game fish art attracting gravelly voiced Hemingway types and those who wish they were. The new Guy Harvey Outpost seems perfectly paired with the TradeWinds Beach Resort, and its restaurant, the recently launched RumFish Grill & Bar, more perfect still. ...

    Grilled swordfish with leek puree, forbidden rice and charred tomato at RumFish Grill & Bar in St. Pete Beach.
  2. Local restaurants serve up sides of classes, paddleboarding, yoga

    Food & Dining

    you sit there, they bring you the food. Chew, swallow, pay, depart. Unless you're an exceptionally vigorous chewer, you're not breaking a sweat the whole evening. It's why most of us go out to eat: so we don't have to do the work. But when you think about it, it's a little passive. For you overachievers, what if I said there are restaurants out there where you can eat and learn to do something new, develop a skill, try out a fresh hobby? In a way, you could think about these restaurants as mini summer camps for grownups. But camp without the lanyardmaking or annoying color wars, and where the food is bound to be better....

    During a class on the patio at Love’s Artifacts Bar and Grille in Tampa, yoga instructor Leryda Vazquez, left, encourages “students” to focus on their breathing and rid themselves of negative thoughts. She teaches at 6 p.m. Tuesdays. She and many of the participants stay for a round of 7 p.m. trivia at the bar. “Love’s is working on making Tuesdays the new Fridays,” Vazquez said.
  3. Visit Tallahassee for fine and funky food and lodging (and football)

    Florida

    TALLAHASSEE — Boiled p-nuts. Sometimes "boiled" is spelled wrong, too. There are stands that dot the back roads of the rural Florida Panhandle, fronted by hand-lettered signs that tout the glories of the green peanut. The outskirts of Tallahassee are P-nut Central, the stands' proprietors hunkered over burners at the back of rattletrap trucks in the hot sun. So you stop.

    The fresh green nuts are boiled in the shell for several hours, then a huge amount of salt is added to the water and the whole mess is boiled some more. The peanuts sit in the brine until a customer pulls up, when they are drained and sold to enthusiasts by the quart at the road's shoulder. Soft, salty and a little greasy, they are the perfect foil for cheap light beer. You eat them warm, right away, as you pull out from the p-nut stand, the shells forming a pesky pile in the front seat....

    The Sweet Grass Dairy Cheese and Wine Shop is just a short ride away, in Thomasville, Ga. It offers many fine cheeses.
  4. Review: Farm-to-table food wows at Tampa Marriott's Waterside Grill

    Food & Dining

    TAMPA

    The Waterside Marriott closed its marquee restaurant, Il Terrazzo, in January. This moves its No. 2 restaurant, Waterside Grill, into the primary spot. The decor will underwhelm you, as will the service, but then the food comes and Kapow! you're shocked by how good it is. Longtime chef Rich Willerer is devoted to the farm-to-table idea, sourcing as much as he can locally and growing a whole lot more in a fairly elaborate rooftop garden. The restaurant will undergo a re-concepting this fall, but it seemed like a good time to go and check out what the Waterside has going on these days....

    Pistachio-crusted sea scallops ($16) with a lemon marmalade and bacon jam at the Waterside Grill.
  5. Rococo among Tampa Bay restaurants honored by Wine Spectator

    Bars & Spirits

    ST. PETERSBURG — Rococo Steak's efforts paid off.

    On Wednesday, the Wine Spectator announced its much-coveted restaurant awards, honoring places around the globe with the best wine selections. This year, 3,748 restaurants from all 50 states and 80 other countries and territories were award winners — including St. Petersburg's youngest steak house which took the coveted the Best of Award....

     From left Josh Fan, Chris Prachar and Joe Orsino stand in the temperature controlled cellar of Rococo Steak. [LARA CERRI  |   Times]
  6. Plenty of new dining choices on the Pinellas beaches

    Food & Dining

    You drag the pool noodles back to your towel, futilely attempt to dislodge the sand from the thigh band of your swimsuit and wonder idly if SPF 50 is really any better than the 30. And then this happens: You realize a day at the beach has made you powerfully hungry. And thirsty, very thirsty. In Pinellas County, there is a whole new crop of beach bars, restaurants and cafes to consider. Here are the highlights:...

    The new Hotel Zamora, at 3701 Gulf Blvd. in St. Pete Beach, is home to the Castile Restaurant & Rooftop Lounge. It opened in May after the Great Recession of 2008 stalled the project for years.
  7. Despite 'sighting,' Anthony Bourdain tweets he was not in St. Pete

    Food & Dining

    ST. PETERSBURG — A celebrity sighting in a downtown coffeehouse on Tuesday was eventually debunked by the celebrity himself.

     

     ...

    FILE - In this July 30, 2009 file photo, Anthony Bourdain attends the premiere of "Julie & Julia" at The Ziegfeld Theatre, in New York. The Travel Channel is home to popular shows such as Anthony Bourdain's "No Reservations," where the sharp-witted author and chef trots the globe in search of tasty local cuisine and color. (AP Photo/Peter Kramer, file)
  8. Bunga Raya is a great place to try authentic Malaysian

    Food & Dining

    PALM HARBOR

    You don't have to count chopsticks on McMullen-Booth Road to see it has serious density of Asian restaurants. From about Alderman Road down to Enterprise, there are enough pad Thai and dynamite rolls to throw a major party. One cuisine that has been heretofore lacking, though, is Malaysian. It's a shame because it's a humdinger, a cuisine that is at once spicy, homey, sweet, bright and sometimes a little kooky. Knock-your-socks-off shrimp paste, high notes of lemongrass and lime leaf, turmeric, ginger, smoldering curries, sweet-sour tamarind, and blistering little chiles — it's a swirl of heady flavors....

    Bunga Raya Restaurant & Sushi Bar, 4952 Ridgemoor Blvd., in Palm Harbor, is a rare spot for traditional Malaysian cuisine.
  9. St. Petersburg celebrity chef food festival won't happen this year

    Events

    With more than a dozen celebrity chefs, notable regional artists and some of Tampa Bay's own gastronomic stars, last year's food and arts festival was billed as the first annual, with organizers aiming to put the area on the culinary map with a destination event in the style of the Food Network's South Beach Wine & Food Festival and the Food & Wine Classic in Aspen, Colo.

    So what happened?...

    Chef Scott Conant does a seafood and pasta demonstration at the Mahaffey Theater during the  St. Pete & Bay Area Festival of Food, Wine & the Arts on Saturday,11/16/2013.
  10. Café Alma closes in downtown St. Petersburg, will reopen at John's Pass

    Food & Dining

    ST. PETERSBURG — Café Alma, one of downtown St. Petersburg's anchor restaurants for the past 12 years, will close on Sunday with a final brunch, reopening in mid July as the briefer "Alma" at 111 Boardwalk Place at John's Pass in Madeira Beach.

    The new beachside restaurant has been in the works for owners Scott and Thorn Vogel for some time, but the fate of the original location has just been decided....

    Café Alma, one of downtown St. Petersburg's anchor restaurants for the past 12 years, will close on Sunday with a final brunch, reopening in mid July as the briefer "Alma" at 111 Boardwalk Place at John's Pass in Madeira Beach. [Times (2005)]
  11. Review: Hometown St. Petersburg crowd has plenty to love at Harvey's

    Food & Dining

    ST. PETERSBURG

    In April, Harvey's on Fourth Street celebrated its 30th anniversary, something of a miracle in the restaurant world, especially if you consider its location, in an unglamorous strip mall north of bustling downtown. Seemed like a good time to sneak in and try to suss out its secret.

    Decor is a hint to what has given Harvey's legs. It's a flotsam and jetsam approach, with lots of time-mellowed wood and doodads assembled from historic St. Pete hotels like the Vinoy, Soreno and Albemarle. It's got the lived-in feeling of a favorite sweater that has gone a little wispy at the elbows. ...

    Patrons eat a late lunch on June 17 at Harvey’s Fourth Street Grill. The St. Petersburg business just celebrated its 30th anniversary.
  12. Review: Hong Kong House offers affordable dim sum and more

    Food & Dining

    TAMPA

    On a lazy weekend day in New York or Los Angeles or Orlando, a lot of people get the same idea: dim sum, with cart after cart of delicious, intricately folded dumplings, rolling around the room. Diners point and little plates are whisked onto their tables until they have the dawning awareness of their own overambition. Straining a little at the seams, they all depart with one thought: nap time. ...

    Sweet potato cakes at Hong Kong House in Tampa are stuffed with pineapple paste.
  13. A talk with Roy Yamaguchi about his vision and goals

    Food & Dining

    With his eponymous chain of Pacific Rim restaurants, Roy Yamaguchi did what nobody else had done: He went from making ripples in the tiny pond of Hawaiian restaurants to making giant waves across the nation. It was 1988 and the country, still swamped in stuffy, dark restaurants pushing "continental cuisine," was ready for Roy's vision of light, airy spaces trafficking in East-West fusion fare that rely on seasonal produce and fresh fish from Pacific waters....

    Times files (2000)
  14. Review: El Gallo Grande, Casita Taqueria offer good eats, drinks, eye candy

    Food & Dining

    St. Petersburg seems suddenly awash in chips and salsa. While we're waiting on Red Mesa Mercado to open in the increasingly restaurant-rich area west of downtown, Casita Taqueria moved into its new location there, vacating its former location on Fourth Street N that will soon be home to Trader Joe's. It joins established restaurants Red Mesa Cantina, Burrito Boarder and Taco Bus, while a few blocks south, El Gallo Grande has just put down roots on Fourth Street S where Basta's once was....

    The Tampiqueña steak dish, served with a Desperado, satisfies at El Gallo Grande.
  15. Chai cotton candy? New Wesley Chapel treat is no ordinary confection

    Food & Dining

    Say these words without cracking up a little: artisanal, fair-trade, organic, all-natural, hand-spun ... cotton candy.

    Yes, Coryn Enfinger, 28, and her cousin Ariana Rioseco, 22, have launched a company that makes cotton candy for grownups, even for grownups who eschew artificial dyes and want their sweet confections to be free range and cruelty free. Sink or Spin Cotton Candy debuted at the Tampa Etsy Craft Party on June 6, nearly selling out with flavors like chai, crème brûlée and lychee....

    Ariana Rioseco, left, and Coryn Enfinger.