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Michelle Stark, Times Food Editor

Michelle Stark

Michelle Stark is the Food Editor for the Tampa Bay Times, overseeing the food content online and in print, including cooking and restaurants. She also manages social media accounts for the Entertainment department, including food. Previously, she was part of the Things to Do crew and co-host of Play Tampa Bay. She has designed and edited the Times' daily entertainment page, and wrote weekly about television at The Feed blog. Stark joined the Times after graduating from the University of South Florida in 2010 with degrees in mass communications and international relations.

Phone: (727) 893-8829

Email: mstark@tampabay.com

Twitter: @MStark17

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  1. Here is where you should make reservations for Valentine's Day in Tampa Bay

    Food & Dining

    Now is the time to shore up your Valentine's Day plans.

    With the holiday on a Sunday this year, restaurants are likely be packed all weekend. This could be a good thing, though. If you don't mind clinking glasses with your sweetie on Feb. 12 or 13, you have three chances to try to get a reservation.

    If that's the kind of date night you're after, check out our food critic's annual list of the top 50 restaurants in Tampa Bay. We'd recommend staying in Top 10 territory for a more romantic Tampa Bay food experience: Edison: Food+Drink Lab and Rooster and the Till are adventurous date-night options because they encourage small plates and that means lots of sharing, while Mise en Place, Cafe Ponte and the Black Pearl are top-notch upscale spots. The list is full of more fancy and casual gems that won't disappoint your date. Bonus: You can narrow the 50 restaurants down by cuisine. ...

    A dessert at Piquant  in Tampa. [Photo by CHERIE DIEZ   |   Times]
  2. Five ways to cook chicken wings — and sauces to dip them in — for the Super Bowl

    Cooking

    You don't need to outsource your chicken wing supply for this year's Super Bowl feast, set for Sunday when the Panthers and the Broncos face off in California. Making them at home is easy. What isn't as easy is choosing how to make them, as there are a handful of cooking methods for turning the poultry into an irresistible snack. Here are five ideas for ways to cook chicken wings, and a bonus list of five sauces that go with just about any of them. ...

    Luckily for us Floridians, it’s never the wrong season to grill wings.
  3. From the food editor: Quick ideas for your Super Bowl spread

    Cooking

    There are certain national events and holidays we celebrate where food easily upstages what's really going on. Your love of football may be greater than mine, but I think we can all agree that without a mighty spread full of hearty finger foods, Super Bowl Sunday wouldn't be nearly as much fun.

    This week's 5 Ideas feature is dedicated to different ways to cook and sauce a Super Bowl staple: chicken wings. But if you need more ideas for noshables to make this weekend, here are a couple of easy-to-prepare options. (And one that's a bit more involved for this week's recipe suggestion.)...

  4. Cook Hack: Use a cast-iron skillet to keep food warm

    Cooking

    Use cast-iron skillet to keep your food warm: Cooking something this Super Bowl weekend that you want to keep warm while it's resting on the table until kick-off? A cast-iron skillet can help get the job done. Start by heating a large skillet over a burner until it's warm — warm enough that you can't touch the handle without oven mitts but not so hot that it starts to smoke. Remove the skillet from the heat and place on a dish towel or trivet. Then, if you're trying to keep something warm that was previously cooked in a pot or saucepan, like sauce or mashed potatoes, place the pot directly into the cast-iron skillet. It will heat the bottom of the pot without burning it. If you're trying to keep loose objects like chicken wings or pigs in a blanket or quesadillas warm, simply wrap them loosely in aluminum foil and place in the cast-iron skillet. When you're ready to serve, remove everything from the skillet and place on plates, or leave in the skillet and warn your guests to be careful when touching it. ...

  5. Why was 'Grease Live' so good? Here are three reasons

    Blog

    There is a reason every high school on the planet stages Grease the Musical. The Broadway show created in 1971 that later became the John Travolta-Olivia Newton John movie you know and love contains intensely likeable material, simple yet subversive stuff that when executed properly can send beams of joy out into the audience. Such it was with Sunday night's production of Grease Live, Fox's first foray into the live TV musical field....

    Hough and Tveit as Sandy and Danny.
  6. PSA: Gap stores are closing, there are sales to be had

    Blog

    Gap is closing 70 stores across the country today, including the stores at Tyrone Square Mall in St. Petersburg and Citrus Park Town Center in Tampa (and a store in Melbourne, the only other Florida closure). Ace Times biz reporter Justine Griffin has more details:...

    Bye, Felicia.
  7. From the food editor: A soup recipe for cold Florida nights

    Cooking

    This always happens in January.

    We endure (or celebrate, depending on who you are) 80-degree Christmases then watch as temperatures fall. As I write this, we're facing another weekend of high temperatures only in the 50s — balmy for the rest of the country, uncomfortably cold for this native Floridian.

    One thing reliably helps kick-start the thawing process: warm foods. ...

  8. Cook Hack: Freeze single servings of soup in a muffin tin

    Cooking

    Freeze single servings of soup: Soup is a great make-ahead meal. Whip some up on a Sunday for dinner, freeze the leftovers, eat it again later in the week. But sometimes we want to eat a smaller portion of leftovers, like for lunch or another single-serving meal. Here is a trick for freezing the soup in those smaller servings, so you're not stuck trying to defrost a large bowl-shaped block of soup. Once soup is cool from the initial cooking, ladle it into the sections of a muffin tin. Try separating out most of the broth first, then the rest of the soup goodies — veggies, meats, etc. Freeze the entire muffin tin until sections are frozen, then run a bit of hot water along the bottom of the tin and pop out the sections. Store in a large zip-top bag in the freezer and, when you're ready to eat, pop out a broth disc and a veggie-meat disc; this should be enough for one serving of soup. ...

  9. Trying on wedding dresses: Lessons from a first-timer

    Blog

    I'm engaged! Which means I'm getting married! Which means the past month of my life has been consumed with the wild, untamed world of wedding planning! 

    Divas readers, this is no joke. Planning a wedding is cray. Even more so when you deign to have an 11-month engagement, which is my fiancee and I are attempting to pull off. Having been together for 5-plus years, we didn't want to push a wedding into 2017 territory, so that means less than a year to plan. I assumed that was PLENTY of time (and really, it is), but one Pinterest search will tell you that year-and-a-half to two-year engagements are common and even advised. (That explains why half the venues I called last month had zero availability left for 2016.)...

    With these tips, wedding dress shopping can be as effortless as this model looks.
  10. Preview: Laura Reiley's annual list of Tampa Bay's top 50 restaurants debuts Thursday

    Food & Dining

    Every year since 2007, Times food critic Laura Reiley has chosen the best restaurants in Tampa Bay. One year, it was the 25 best place to grab a meal under $25. In past years, the area's top 50 grouped by geographic location. This year, Laura has come up with a list of 50 places (okay, technically it's 52), divided by cuisine type. In our interactive multimedia presentation debuting Jan. 21, you can browse everything from the Best Burgers and Best Pizza to the Best American Upscale and Best Asian Fusion. Ten spots take the list's top honors. Which restaurants made the cut? Venture over to tampabay.com/top50restaurants beginning Thursday to find out....

    Edison Food + Drink Lab in Tampa. [EVE EDELHEIT   |   Times]
  11. Here are a week's worth of make-ahead meals to help simplify weeknight dinner

    Cooking

    This is a good time of year to regroup and think about ways to simplify your cooking habits. And when it comes to de-stressing weeknight dinners, there is a trick put-together cooks share: They prep. • There's really no getting around this, no matter what Rachael Ray says. In order to truly put together a meal in less than 30 minutes, you need a plan. • It also helps if you do some of the cooking in advance. • To help, we've put together a week's worth of dinners that are a cinch to make if you put in a little front-end work when you're less busy. They're essentially make-ahead meals that lend themselves well to reheating, and that only need slight cooking or last-minute fiddling on the night of the meal. • Aside from taking one or two days out of the week and devoting them to prep, another thing that's crucial to keeping weeknight dinners simple is using shared ingredients between different meals. So ground beef gets used in both enchiladas on Monday and Shepherd's Pie on Thursday; carrots and onions get diced for chicken noodle soup early in the week then form the mirepoix for a pork ragu. You get the idea. • Some other rules for making meals ahead of time: Nothing pan- or deep-fried, because the crisp factor won't translate well after a reheating. Stay away from recipes with tons of ingredients. And don't opt for a dish that's excessively soggy or something that will taste worse when its flavors mingle in the fridge for a few days. ...

    Pork Roast With Potatoes is simple to make and savory, but wait, there’s more. You can repurpose the leftover pork roast and potatoes later in the week rather than tossing them out.
  12. From the food editor: Nachos nurture at an unsettled time

    Cooking

    There are few things in life more annoying than moving. Even once the back-breaking work of physically moving all of your stuff into a new place is finished, the giant task of unpacking begins.

    And in the interim, you don't know where the heck anything is.

    Can you tell I have some firsthand experience with the topic? After moving into a new place about a week ago, my kitchen is still in disarray, with cleaning to be done before the bulk of the unloading even begins....

  13. Cook Hack: Make vegetable chips in the microwave

    Cooking

    Make vegetable chips in the microwave: This is one of those ideas that I never thought really worked until I tried it — multiple times — with great success. Turning raw vegetables into crunchy "chips" by zapping them in the microwave for a few minutes is an easy way to jazz up your late-night snacking and save yourself the fat that comes with added oils. (Hint: If you compare the fat and calorie contents of regular potato chips and the sweet potato/beet variety at the grocery store, they often come out to be the same.) Kale and sweet potato work especially well using this technique. To make kale chips, tear some kale (about 2 cups) into 2-inch pieces and remove the stems. Wash the pieces and then make sure they are thoroughly dried. In a bowl, toss kale with 4 teaspoons canola or vegetable oil, then sprinkle with salt. Place in a single layer on a microwavable plate (you might have to do this in a couple of batches) and microwave for 3 minutes. If leaves aren't quite crispy, keep microwaving in 30-second increments until crispy. To make sweet potato chips, slice one sweet potato very thin (a mandoline would work great here) then arrange slices in a single layer on a microwavable plate. Drizzle with olive oil and season with salt and pepper, then microwave for 4 minutes. Again, check for crispiness. If they're not crispy enough, microwave for 30 seconds at a time until done. Michelle Stark, Times food editor...

  14. From the food editor: There's much to look forward to in 2016

    Cooking

    Whew, we made it to the second week of 2016. It seems most of us (or is it just me?) are not quite prepared for that first week, when resolutions are supposed to begin and our eating habits should start anew. At that point, I usually don't even have my Christmas decorations put away.

    So it's during this second week of the new year that I feel energized for the next 12 months. And this is a good opportunity to reflect on what has been on this website over the previous 12....

  15. Five ideas for sandwiches you can bring to work

    Cooking

    Even if the postholiday malaise still lingers in your heart, it is time to start making smart food choices again. That includes packing your lunch for work, instead of ducking into the nearest overpriced sandwich shop every time noon rolls around. Bringing your own stuff to nosh on is cheaper and usually more healthy. It can also be fun. Here are five ideas for sandwiches suitable for packing in a sophisticated lunch box. These recipes stay away from the standard cold cuts and instead rely on creamy salads and protein-packed fillings to create substantial 'wiches that will keep you full until the clock strikes Time to Go Home. ...

    Avocado chicken salad can be made ahead of time, then stuffed into bread, or on an English muffin, when you’re ready for lunch.