06/19/13 Food & Dining
Two hundred items. That's two with two zeros. How many of those have to be great, or even edible, to make an Asian buffet a SUPER buffet? Teppanyaki Grill & Supreme Buffet opened in May in the former Social Security office in St. Petersburg: 18,000 square feet, 15 buffet lines, more than 200 items.
It's arms escalation. One buffet has 150 items, and the next one has 180. One buffet puts "Mega" in its name, and the next one is "Super Monster." To put it in perspective, the revamped $17 million buffet at Caesars Palace opened last year with 524 menu items. Let's say you chew and swallow a bite in 15 seconds. It would take over two hours to try all those, even with minions retrieving dishes and feeding you....
06/18/13 Food & Dining
There in the dining room is a man with a cowboy hat and the silky tresses. It's Beverly Hills celebrity stylist José Eber with a table of HSN folks. Glance out the front door to the line for the elevator to the Canopy Rooftop Lounge. Looks like maybe 70 people waiting, most of the women in kicky summer dresses and towering heels. • It's official: The long-awaited Birchwood has opened and it's the biggest scene in St. Petersburg. Wander from the white-curtained cabanas to the edge of the rooftop with its sweeping views of Tampa Bay and Straub Park and you'll hear people all saying the same thing: "Why doesn't every place on Beach Drive have a rooftop bar?"...
06/17/13 Food & Dining
For Tampa Bay area movers and shakers, a familiar mug can be a liability. There are those nights — after a long workday, when your sweat pants seem like two legs of heaven — when you just want a comforting meal, no hoopla, nothing fancy. You don't want to run into anyone you know, be forced to wear makeup or worry at all what your hair looks like. Or more likely, be concerned about ducking a conversation with a constituent, client or maybe even an adversary. • We grilled a handful of local luminaries on just where they go when they need their favorite dish and some peace and quiet. But in some cases, their ideas of secret dining seem very public....
06/11/13 Food & Dining
In both cases, they are so new, and so popular already, that their websites say "coming soon," as if the virtual world can't quite keep pace with what's going on in brick-and-mortar Oldsmar right now. In a city that has had several waves of new restaurants in recent years, something big is going on. On a Friday night, head along Tampa Road and keep your windows down — you'll hear it before you see it. Rumba was the anchor in the strip mall, but in May two newcomers opened shop to make this one of the area's most happening spots. ...
06/03/13 Food & Dining
"It's not that we're angry; we're just very disappointed." This was the most withering sentence of my childhood. Like my parents could stare into my soul and figure out the best they could expect of me and discern exactly how far from that my performance had strayed. In a way, this job is like that. Figure out what a restaurant could do given its ambition, talent and resources, and then assess how close it gets....
05/29/13 Food & Dining
By Laura Reiley
Times Food Critic
When Stann Cherniack left San Diego on his motorcycle in the summer of 1969 it was him and a couple of other guys. And by the time he got to Woodstock he was 400 strong (apologies to Joni Mitchell on the lyric tweak). Cherniack, by his own admission, was "without a doubt a hippie." Since that summer of love, he has collected Woodstock-obilia, pulling it all together for the launch, in March, of Woodstock on Fifth....
05/28/13 Food & Dining
At the end of April McDonald's launched its first new breakfast sandwich in a decade. The last one, the McGriddle, played to our weaker impulses, a sweet, salty, fatty early-morning train wreck that weighed in at more than 500 calories with as many as 31 fat grams. This newcomer is a little less self-indulgent: The Egg White Delight McMuffin slides in at 250 calories, with a whole grain muffin, grilled egg whites, Canadian bacon and white cheddar cheese, retailing for around $2.99....
05/28/13 Music & Concerts
By Laura Reiley
Times Food Critic
Hootie & the Blowfish started in 1986 at the University of South Carolina. Over the band's career, they recorded five studio albums, the best known of which was 1994's Cracked Rear View. Dean Felber still gets together with Darius Rucker and fellow bandmates for charity events and reunion gigs, but these days the band's bassist is playing a new tune, as restaurateur of Seminole's new Blowfish Bar and Grill. We caught up with him by phone to discuss his new venture....
05/27/13 Food & Dining
They go by a lot of names: fugu, pufferfish, globefish and blowfish. By any of its names, blowfish has drama. The toxins in some parts of the fish's flesh can cause tingling in the lips, rapid heart rate and a host of other more serious symptoms. For this reason, consumption of blowfish is outlawed or limited in many countries. The new Blowfish Bar and Grill at Bay Pines draws its drama from something else altogether....
05/24/13 Food & Dining
The thought of cockroaches in a restaurant's kitchen might make you queasy, but they may not be what should worry you most.
Despite the very strong "yuck factor," as Marion Nestle, a nationally known nutrition scientist and author of Food Politics, labels our visceral reaction to Florida's famed creepy-crawlies, there are far worse things that will actually, physically make us ill. These include foods stored at the wrong temperatures and the cross-contamination of foods....
05/21/13 Food & Dining
SARASOTA — This year has already been very generous to Sarasota diners. From a raucous blues club with Low Country fare launched in January, to another sultry Southern newcomer in March, to a chic New American brasserie debuted at the beginning of April, there are loads of reasons to head over the Sunshine Skyway or down I-75 in search of dinner.
The newest of the three is the brasserie on Palm Avenue, Louies Modern, one of a three-part complex owned by Jeff Greco and Steve, Joe and Pat Seidensticker, the family that also owns Libby's Café and Bar on Osprey Avenue and at one time ran the Gasparilla Inn. Adjacent to the glamorous 150-seat Louies is a barista bar for grab-and-go coffee and breakfast, and The Francis, a special-events space that is clearly gunning for Michael's on East Ballroom....
Concealed, the thieves bide their time. They know Bob Waldo's habits, they recognize his daughter, Nina Lewis, as she moves along the tidy rows in a bikini top and faded cutoffs. As one, the cedar waxwings take flight, dive bombing and knocking ripe blueberries off dozens of bushes.
Waldo, 66, has had enough. He reaches into a pocket and pulls out a handful of firecrackers. He lights a tiny fuse and tosses the pinkie-sized tube toward the tree line muttering, "Go back to Canada already." KABOOM, and about 100 pretty brown birds lift out of the trees, clearly not Canada-bound. They are barely perturbed, ready to wait out Waldo and his noisemakers for another crack at ripe berries....
The chew-and-tell food memoir has subgenres. One is the behind-the-kitchen-door romp, like Anthony Bourdain's excellent Kitchen Confidential or Gabrielle Hamilton's Blood, Bones & Butter, which proves every restaurant entree comes with a free side of crazy sauce.
Another subset is the restaurant-critic tell-all. Ruth Reichl's 2005 Garlic and Sapphires: The Secret Life of a Critic in Disguise was not the first, but it may be the most influential. Chronicling her gig as the wig-wearing New York Times restaurant critic starting in 1993, it's a lusty look at what it's like to eat for a living. (Reichl is all about TMI — her love life's culinary equivalent is the Vegas buffet: tawdry and a little tired, but there sure is a lot of it.)...
05/16/13 Food & Dining
Doors open Friday at the Birchwood hotel's restaurants, a soft opening with lunch at 11 a.m., dinner beginning at 5 p.m. and the rooftop lounge welcoming guests starting at 4 p.m.
Chuck Prather, owner of the 1920s Spanish Mission-style hotel at 340 Beach Drive NE on the downtown St. Petersburg waterfront, initially hoped to have the inn open by December but the $6 million renovation ran long. The newly renovated hotel was formerly called Grayl's and before that, Lantern Lane. ...
05/15/13 Food & Dining
At the beginning of 2010, BellaBrava cemented Beach Drive NE as the up-and-coming restaurant row of downtown St. Petersburg. Owners inked a deal to leave Central Avenue and move into the 200 block of Beach. A few months later, Cassis American Bistro opened its doors across the street. And the Birchwood Inn, formerly Grayl's Hotel, opens its glamorous Birch and Vine restaurant and Canopy, the rooftop lounge, a few blocks north on Friday...