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. Florida Restaurant & Lodging Show displays hospitality products

    Consumer

    ORLANDO — The 43rd annual Florida Restaurant & Lodging Show held at the Orange County Convention Center last week in Orlando featured demos by celebrity chefs like Emeril Lagasse and dramatic daily American Culinary Federation team competitions. But the most entertaining part is wandering the more than 450 booths displaying tens of thousands of food service and hospitality products. Some of this is about snacking options, but much of the fun is imagining which products will find their way into Tampa Bay area restaurants soon. Here are my picks for coolest new products....

  2. Review: An '80s flashback, Shells will find a way

    Food & Dining

    ST. PETE BEACH

    In my family, the Land of Lionel Richie is the place where overexposed celebrities go when — blam — they disappear. They are everywhere, and then all at once nowhere. In 1986 Richie was everywhere, by 1987 he'd gone to the Land. What was confusing, then, was when Richie came back from the Land of Lionel Richie, maybe turning the keys over to Wesley Snipes....

    Once, there were 45 Shells Seafood spots. Then they fell on hard times. But now they’re back, including this one in St. Pete Beach.
  3. Review: Annata Wine Bar on Beach Drive offers superb sips, nibbles

    Food & Dining

    ST. PETERSBURG

    What makes a cheese board exceptional?

    Range is important. You've got to have different animal types (goat, sheep, cow), but also different rind types (bloomy rind cheeses like Brie, Camembert and triple creams; washed rind or stinky monastery-style cheeses; natural rinds) as well as different styles (a fresh cheese, a pressed cheese like Manchego, a cooked pressed cheese like a Gruyere, maybe a flavored cheese or a blue cheese). ...

    Sauteed Wild Mushrooms, Heirloom Tomatoes, Ricotta, Quail Egg and Truffle Oil is served on flatbread. You get four slices for $15 at Annata.
  4. Review: Ulele brings Old Florida style, substance to Tampa waterfront

    Food & Dining

    TAMPA

    It's the most expensive $1 Richard Gonzmart ever spent.

    In 2011, part of the agenda of newly elected Mayor Bob Buckhorn was to expand on the success of Curtis Hixon Park, to extend the Tampa Riverwalk, to revive the derelict historic Water Works Building. Gonzmart got the bid, leasing the 1906 serious fixer-upper from the city for $1 a year. To open a restaurant there? Maybe another $2 million....

    Florida-fresh cuisine is the new trend in restaurants like Ulele in Tampa Heights. In the foreground is a pan-seared pompano fillet, sun-dried tomato shallot cream and fried carrot ribbons.
  5. Emerging New Florida cuisine is like history on a plate

    Food & Dining

    The new star ingredient on Tampa Bay menus: Florida's rich history.

    It's there in the protein, it's there in the veggies and the sauces and the starches. Together, it might be described as a nascent New Florida cuisine.

    For the first time since the 1980s, a style is emerging that feels unique to the Sunshine State, distinct from the foods of the Deep South, Low Country or bayous of Louisiana. It's Southern-inflected, seafood-centric, with a reliance on Florida ingredients, nods to Spanish roots and down-home "Cracker" and American Indian ingenuity, topped off with a bit of Latin and even Caribbean flair....

    Alligator hush puppies at Ulele is one of the more audacious dishes in this New Florida cuisine, showcasing indigenous foods such as gator, fresh corn, country ham and duck bacon with a sauce made of St. Augustine’s famous datil peppers.
  6. Restaurants, breweries collaborate to offer signature beers

    Food & Dining

    Every restaurant worth its salt these days offers a selection of craft beers, often drilling down to showcase local and regional options. And now restaurants are taking it one step further, brewing their own beers or partnering with local breweries to develop signature suds. • These "bespoke beers" are one of the year's biggest national trends, and in the Tampa Bay area a number of these collaborations are available for local diners to sample. • Not surprisingly, Tampa's Cigar City, the grandfather of Florida craft brewing, was early to explore collaborations with restaurants. They have done two beers exclusively for Bern's Steak House, one in 2013 called Legacy One, a rich, dark barley wine-style beer made in a Four Roses single-barrel bourbon barrel, and one this year called Legacy Two, a Belgian dubbel made in a Mount Gay rum barrel....

    Beer ideas take flight when a chef starts noodling. “If you want to be relevant in this age you have to have a nod to craft beer,” says one.
The Vinoy
  7. Review: Explore rich flavors of Afghanistan at Anaar in Tampa

    Food & Dining

    TAMPA

    I am going to wager that most of you haven't eaten it. Yes, you've covered your knees with an afghan when you're a little chilly, you've watched those silky Afghan hounds prance at dog shows, but have you ever tried Afghan cuisine? Didn't think so. That's because there are so few restaurants in the United States (and even in Afghanistan, I'm told).

    One of the first in this country was Caravan Sarai in St. Paul, Minn., opened more than 40 years ago. There's a long-standing great one in Baltimore called the Helmand, which for a long time had a sister restaurant of the same name in San Francisco (which battled it out with competitor Kabul for top Afghan restaurant in that city). There are a couple in New York and in Boston, but overall, it's a dramatically underrepresented cuisine....

    Sabzi, a flatbread dish with a garlic base, is topped with spinach, feta and mozzarella cheese. It costs $8.
  8. Our food writer conquers Arby's Meat Mountain: Is it any good? (w/ video)

    Food & Dining

    TAMPA — I planted my flag on Meat Mountain, and it was good.

    You know the saying about why Sir Edmund Hillary climbed Mount Everest? "Because it was there." It's apropos.

    This summer Arby's hung posters showing a preposterous stack of different meats on a bun, largely to combat its reputation as a roast beef-only kind of place. But the story goes that people kept asking, "Um, can I have the sandwich on that poster?"...

     It's not on the menu, so when you go to Arby's you have to ask for the Meat Mountain.  It costs $10 and has pepper bacon, roast beef, cheddar cheese, angus beef, brisket, corned beef, swiss cheese, ham, turkey and a chicken tender. And, supposedly, it's only 1,275 calories. [JAMES BORCHUCK   |   Times]
  9. Trouble brewing at CopperFish over city fines, unpaid rent

    Retail

    TAMPA — A suit filed this week in Tampa may cause a ripple of fear among local foodies: South Tampa's CopperFish, one of the most exciting debuts of 2013, has hit a rocky patch.

    The plaintiff, Howard Park Properties, alleges that CopperFish has failed to pay rent since June.

    The connections between the landlord and tenant are snarly, though. Gordon Davis is the president of Howard Park and owner of the building, but he's also partners with Kevin Enderle, brothers Chas Bruck and Kyle Bruck and Michael Blesser in SoHo Hospitality Management Group, which oversees Boca, Ciro's, the new Bizou Brasserie in Le Meridien hotel and CopperFish (Samba Room Tampa LLC is an additional limited liability company for the CopperFish location)....

    EDMUND D. FOUNTAIN   |   Times  The CopperFish Platter, consisting of jumbo prawns, chef's choice oysters, Middle Neck clams, poached lobster, and crab cocktail.
  10. Galápagos, a natural selection for seeing all manner of wildlife

    Travel

    ECUADOR

    The flimsy sink was positioned right over the bucket, a few tiny leaves thrown into the clear water to demonstrate as the man in khaki pulled the plug. The water, the leaves: straight down. He moved the bucket and sink 2 feet to the north of the line painted on concrete, repeated the experiment and the water swirled clockwise. A couple of feet south of the line and the water sucked the leaves counterclockwise down into the bucket....

    The red-footed booby nests in low bushes, laying only one egg. There are thought to be 9,000 pairs of them on Genovesa Island, cohabiting with Nazca boobies and blue-footed boobies.
  11. Review: Steel City Brewhouse, New England Ale House offer comfort food

    Food & Dining

    ST. PETERSBURG AND PALM HARBOR

    Comfort food is idiosyncratic, often a reflection of where we were raised and what foods were on our holiday tables or what we remember Nana whipping up those times Mom and Dad absconded to Atlantic City or Aruba.

    For Lynn Marasco, who owns the new Steel City Brewhouse in St. Petersburg, comfort food means pierogies and stuffed cabbage, the foods of her Pittsburgh Polish-Russian-Italian roots. And for Tara and Randy Cook, owners of the new New England Ale House Grille in Palm Harbor, a little bit of home means chowder and lobster rolls and fried whole belly clams....

    The stuffed cabbage at Steel City is hand rolled and stuffed with ground beef and rice, baked in a sweet tomato sauce and served over mashed potatoes for $8.50. 
  12. Plenty of new places to eat at Universal's CityWalk

    Food & Dining

    ORLANDO

    Opened in 1999, Universal CityWalk sits at the entrance to both Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure, with a gorgeous 20-screen AMC movie theater and a real range of dining and imbibing possibilities open along a two-tiered promenade. But like the parks themselves, the dining-shopping-entertainment complex keeps retooling and rethinking its concepts, recently unveiling some huge new things. • All right, they're not as big as the Wizarding World of Harry Potter-Diagon Alley. But still. • I took a drive eastward a couple of weeks ago to check out the new noshes....

    Cold Stone Creamery is among the new offerings at Universal Orlando’s CityWalk. It’s next to Bubba Gump Shrimp Company.
  13. Enjoy prix fixe meals across Orlando for $33 during September

    Food & Dining

    In the early 1900s, hotels offered "table d'hote" or "prix fixe" menus to guests as a form of loss leader. Hotels didn't necessarily make money on these lower-priced, multicourse inclusive meals, often served at communal tables, but they made up for it on the booze. Prohibition may have contributed to a gradual shift toward a la carte pricing in American restaurants (no booze, thus no buoying booze sales), but surely this trend also reflects the dining public's insistence on choice. We want options, balking at being told, "You get this appetizer, followed by this entree and culminating in this dessert. Deal with it."...

    Visit Orlando's Magical Dining Month warrants heading east on Interstate 4 for dinner. More than 75 of the greater Orlando area's best restaurants offer three-course meals for $33, excluding beverage, tax and gratuity. [Luma on Park]
  14. Tampa Bay restaurateurs share tales of customers behaving badly

    Food & Dining

    The couple's first Match.com date was not going swimmingly. Sitting at the wine bar at Clearwater's Cuvée 103, the woman seemed exceptionally, er, thirsty. Eventually she stood up and wobbled her way onto the stage where a jazz trio was getting into full swing, Florida Orchestra bass player T.J. Glowacki plucking at his valuable 19th century German bass.

    "As they were starting a tune, the woman asked the bassist for lessons and strummed his instrument," remembers Cuvée 103 owner John Zias. "The drummer turned to her and said, 'You're kind of ruining the moment,' and she said, 'I AM the moment.' "...

  15. Southern Living names Tampa's Refinery one of top 100 restaurants in the South

    Food & Dining

    The hits just keep coming for Tampa's Refinery. It's had James Beard nods, Zagat honors and gushing praise from most publications around. This week Southern Living magazine weighed in, giving the Refinery a spot in the South's top 100 restaurants. Cities like New Orleans and Charleston featured heavily while Florida nabbed only three spots (two of them projects of Michael Schwartz in Miami). The magazine suggested ordering shishito and flageolet stew with oyster mushrooms, potatoes, Chianti, tomatoes, and saffron rice grits, or else hubbard squash hoe cakes with a muscadine-chile jam. Too bad chef Greg Baker reinvents the entire menu each week at the Refinery, so these menu items may be just fleeting memories for Southern Living's restaurant scout Jennifer V. Cole. About the honor, Refinery co-owner Michelle Baker says, "Once again, we are humbled and honored! I guess we are doing something right, huh? This is a big deal for Tampa Bay. People are watching our food scene explode and they are watching closely! We have some amazing culinary talent here. I hope to see a lot more Tampa on this list next year."...

    Michelle and Greg Baker, owners of The Refinery in Tampa.