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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. New chef at Tampa's Roux makes things more Cajun, less Creole

    Food & Dining

    TAMPA — She won them over from the stomach up.

    Bonnie Breaux was competing in the World Championship Gumbo Cook-Off in New Iberia, La. Suzanne and Roger Perry, owners of Datz, Dough and Roux in Tampa, were in town to check it out. The night before the big event they made reservations at Clementine Café, executive chef Breaux taking the call.

    "When you come in call me out and I'll do some samples of our food," she told them. "I did étouffée, seafood gumbo and shrimp and grits, I remember."...

    Bonnie Breaux says she got her “culinary training at the institute of life.”
  2. Dining Planner: Best smoked cocktails, a secret menu at Il Ritorno and a place for fresh bread

    Food & Dining


    Ready your extinguisher. They're everywhere. Bartenders all over the Tampa Bay area are turning to new tools to up their game. One of those is smoke, which comes in many forms.

    At Craft Street Kitchen (3216 Little Road, Trinity; (727) 372-9491), brothers Jason, Jimmy and Johnny Rehm head up a booming indoor-outdoor gastropub that is equal parts big-time fun and serious gastronomic ambition. There's a stupendous chalkboard of craft beers (oh, the flirty lusciousness of Cigar City Maduro vanilla on a nitro tap, nitrogen beers creamier than their prickly CO2 counterparts), but really, your attentions should be turned elsewhere. Such as to the smoked Old Fashioned: A cedar plank is lit on fire, its smoke captured in an overturned glass into which Buffalo Trace bourbon, walnut bitters and demerara sugar are assembled and capped off with one of those big, fancy ice cubes....

    The Tahona cocktail at the Mill in St. Petersburg mixes Milagro reposado tequila, St-Germain, cactus pear juice, smoked-jalapeno-infused agave and lime juice.
  3. Four Seasons offers Orlando's most luxe hotel experience



    Until last year, one still could ponder: In the 450 hotels with more than 116,000 rooms in Orlando, why is there no true luxury hotel with the cushy robes and fancy little shampoos that make you want to put down roots like Eloise at the Plaza?

    Yes, there was the Grand Floridian, the Ritz-Carlton Orlando Great Lakes and Villas of Grand Cypress, but it wasn't until August 2014, when Four Seasons Resort Orlando at Walt Disney World Resort opened (I know, the name is cumbersome), that super fancy travelers had somewhere to rest their heads on skajillion-thread-count pillowcases....

From a transcendent resort spa inspired by the Everglades to a rooftop steakhouse with views of fireworks spectaculars over the skyline, no one brings dreams to life quite like Four Seasons and the magic of Disney. At Four Seasons Resort Orlando at Walt Disney World?, find all this and more nestled in a tranquil, Floridian landscape within the gates of the Golden Oak community at Walt Disney World?.
Four Seasons Resort Orlando at Walt Disney World? Resort 
10100 Dream Tree Blvd 
Lake Buena Vista 
Florida 32836
  4. Yelp heavy hitters talk about company's growing clout and struggles


    ST. PETERSBURG — Walter Palmer may have killed Cecil the lion, but it was Yelp that offed Palmer's dental practice.

    Since the crowdsourced review site's debut in 2004 it has experienced a meteoric rise among consumer websites, now boasting an average of 83 million unique monthly mobile visitors and 79 million desktop visitors. Consumers can read and write Yelp reviews in 31 countries and counting....

    Datz is now the most-evaluated Tampa Bay area restaurant on Yelp with more than 1,100 reviews.
  5. Review: St. Petersburg's the Mill wows with decor, thoughtfully prepared food and drinks

    Food & Dining


    Burlap and chicken wire create a textural backdrop for a mounted pitchfork over the bar. One wall is the lustrous tooled leather of a rodeo star's lucky saddle, another is an installation of rust-freckled gears and cogs and wheels and pipes. A repurposed footed bathtub becomes the ladies' room sink; the men's room features a wash basin inset in a wide-wale tractor tire. At the hostess stand there's a vintage hand pump, behind that a huge waterwheel-turned-wine rack....

    The sweet pea hummus at the Mill in St. Petersburg is served with pear chutney, housemade lavash and dukkah. The Mill took over the former JoJo’s in Citta space.
  6. American Social and Thai Prime to join the Tampa restaurant roster

    Food & Dining

    TAMPA — With a view of the Tampa Bay Convention Center, Amalie Arena, Tampa General Hospital and all of Jeff Vinik's highly anticipated Channelside construction, Harbour Island is looking like prime restaurant territory.

    At least it seems that way based on the announcement Wednesday that it will be the site of American Social's third location.

    Paul Greenberg, Rick Mijares and Mijares' parents, Tony and Laurie Mijares, debuted their first high-profile upscale sports bar and "farm-to-table" restaurant in 2012 on Las Olas Boulevard in Fort Lauderdale and expanded with a second location last year in the tony Brickell area of downtown Miami....

    Chairman   American Social restaurant going into Harbour Island  credit: American Social
  7. Dining planner: Best places to get cheese and charcuterie around Tampa Bay

    Food & Dining


    I know you've noticed this. It's there on the menu, usually after the appetizers and before the entrees, with its own little section devoted to things that are hard to pronounce but delicious to eat: robiola due latte, tartufotto, caciocavallo. Cheese and charcuterie boards are popping up all over the place. I'm in the midst of getting chummy with that at Ted Dorsey's the Mill in downtown St. Petersburg (look for that review in Taste on Wednesday), but here are others of the species that are worthy of some swooning. ...

    Available at Cuv?e 103 in Clearwater is a charcuterie plate of meats, cheeses and olives.
  8. St. Petersburg food truck owner to compete on Food Network's 'Cutthroat Kitchen'

    Food & Dining

    Longtime married folks say pick a spouse who has the power to surprise you. Newlywed Mee Ae Wolney hit paydirt. Last October she and Dan Wolney started the Mmm Bap Korean food truck, which mostly motors the streets of St. Petersburg. Unbeknownst to Mee Ae, Dan submitted her name as a contestant on the Food Network show Cutthroat Kitchen, hosted by Alton Brown and featuring four chefs competing in a three-round elimination cooking competition....

    Mee Ae Wolney is owner of Mmm Bap Korean food truck in St. Petersburg.
  9. Celebrity chef Marc Murphy to open a restaurant at the Seminole Hard Rock

    Food & Dining

    TAMPA — The Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Tampa announced Monday it will partner with New York celebrity chef Marc Murphy to debut a new as-yet-unnamed Mediterranean restaurant to take the place of the Green Room, with a target opening date in November.

    Murphy has been a regular judge on Food Network's Chopped, with frequent appearances on other hit series such as Guy's Grocery Games, Beat Bobby Flay and Worst Cooks in America. His debut cookbook, Season With Authority, was released in April. But it is his work as the head of Benchmarc Restaurants by Marc Murphy, with hot New York destinations such as Landmarc in Tribeca, Landmarc at the Time Warner Center and Kingside at the Viceroy New York, that excited the Hard Rock team....

    The Seminole Hard Rock in Tampa has announced a new restaurant from celebrity chef Mark 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
  10. Review: Chop Chop Shop needs refinement, but its Korean fusion flavors are worth seeking out

    Food & Dining


    Last month I wrote about a new trend in the food truck business. Folks are taking the wheels off, starting with a truck in order to pave the way for a brick-and-mortar restaurant. Steve Sera and his wife, Olivia, were among the examples I gave. On June 27 they debuted Chop Chop Shop in Seminole Heights after having built a following with their Korean-fusion build-a-bowl truck called Kind Grinds....

     The best dishes at Chop Chop Shop in Tampa include the Karage bowl, with chicken marinated in soy, sweet rice wine and roasted sesame, drizzled with a sauce and accessorized by water spinach and pickled daikon.
  11. Sunray Venus clams could be Florida's next big aquaculture crop


    ANNA MARIA ISLAND — As labs go, it's not half bad. A blue heron tilts fixedly at the shoreline; dolphin splashes are a brief distraction. Bruce Barber, professor of marine science at Eckerd College, has to squat down to run a blunt knife through the soft, sandy bottom at low tide.

    A few assays and it's pay dirt: He pulls up an ovoid 3-inch bivalve, its shell highly polished and radiating with pretty crisscrossed stripes of brown, pink-gray, lavender and gold....

    Bruce Barber received an $82,000 grant to assess the reproductive habits of clams.
  12. Dining Planner: Changes at Rococo Steak and a BellaBrava birthday

    Food & Dining


    St. Petersburg's Rococo Steak has just completed a major expansion into the space that previously housed the Brass Tap. The project brings the restaurant footprint, set in the 1926 YWCA building, to 14,000 square feet and adds 50 new seats. An impressive glass-enclosed, climate-controlled wine room allows Rococo Steak, which, in 2015, was the only downtown St. Petersburg restaurant to be awarded the prestigious Wine Spectator "Best of Award of Excellence," to further broaden its wine offering. The wine room displays an additional 3,000 bottles to diners. Along with these changes comes a new executive chef: Matthew Rainey, right, was most recently executive chef at STK Atlanta, where he was named Atlanta's "Best New Chef" by Jezebel magazine in 2014....

    St. Petersburg’s BellaBrava will celebrate its 10th anniversary with a “throwback” prix-fixe dinner Sunday.
  13. Essential cookbooks for a college student's first apartment kitchen


    Children leave you by degrees. There's preschool, the first sleepover, all that stuff. But the biggie is when they peel their favorite posters from their bedroom, corral the soccer trophies into a box in the attic (where they will live forever) and head off to college.

    Or so I thought.

    In a way, last year I could think of my freshman in her dorm room with a certain amount of maternal sanguinity. Someone would expect her home at night. Someone would, on occasion, clean her hall bathroom. Someone would be feeding her regularly. It might be chicken frisbees and bean burritos, but they would occur three times a day and would sustain life....

  14. Review: Bartaco in Hyde Park buzzes with good vibes, affordable eats, solid cocktails

    Food & Dining


    Pardon me while I do a little math. Carry the two; now add these two together. Okay, I've got it: I've reviewed approximately 3,604 restaurants.

    So when I'm sitting at a new place and my eyebrows hike high and I find myself saying, "Well, haven't seen that before," I get a little excited. Bartaco: eyebrows way up. Opened at the beginning of July in Hyde Park Village, the eighth location of this Connecticut-based chain is doing so many interesting things simultaneously....

    Bartaco, a laid-back Mexican restaurant at 1601 West Snow Ave. in Hyde Park Village, just opened their only Florida location in July.  It’s casual, with a beachy west coast vibe featuring California style tacos that range from $2.50 to $3.50 and come in 13 varieties.  Pictured is the grilled corn ($2.5) and the chopped salad ($6).
  15. Project aims to halt mullet waste, build sustainable seafood industry


    ANNA MARIA ISLAND — It usually happens Christmas week. Near the fishing village of Cortez, the gray striped mullet move off the flats, balling up by the thousands for their annual spawning, the water rolling in black waves of fish frenzy.

    The frenzy echoed by the commercial fishermen, nearly 150 boats surround the school and throw cast nets in what restaurateur-activist Ed Chiles calls "a killing field."...

    Fried mullet fingers after being prepared in the kitchen at the Anna Maria Island Sandbar Restaurant.