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A busy weekend for any appetite

The fire hasn't gone out under our pot. The Tampa Bay bouillabaisse continues to bubble away:

Another uptown taste of the Orient, Polynesian with a French accent, comes to mid-Pinellas. Owner David Dao said Hawaiian Breeze Cafe (4505 Park Blvd.; 545-5678) emphasizes seafood and steak but with vegetable sautees and other vegetarian entrees. Dao's restaurant combines tropical ingredients, Vietnamese techniques and gourmet garnish and presentation. Lunches are $5 with dinner from $11 to $19.95.

Peg Leg Pete's, a rustic waterside fishhouse in Oldsmar (1011 St. Petersburg Drive, 855-6614) marks its 14th anniversary with an enlarged menu, lots of corny jokes -_ and lots of food. Most noteworthy to the Nibbler, it goes beyond boiled-broiled-and-fried to include smoked (mullet, salmon, amberjack and mackerel) and chargrilled (a dozen varieties including three stripes of tuna). Prices run from $5.95 to $19.95 for surf-n-monster-T-bone.

BEST BITES

Must be a culinary convergence. Not only is it Oktoberfest, but Columbus Day gives folks of Italian and Spanish descent something to celebrate and the rest of us find the welcome return of a cool breeze gets the digestive juices going. You've got a full plate to choose from this weekend:

The biggest spread will be at the second Taste of Tampa. (To keep your tastings straight, this is the fall one in Plant Park under the shadow of the minarets). The menu will be specialties from 40 restaurants on both sides of the bay and all price ranges, from CK's, Bon Appetit and Mise En Place to Mel's Hot Dog's and Munch's (with unusual treats like Saffron's, Little Saigon and Lemon Grass in between). Food will be sold in portions from 50 cents to $3. Booths will operate from 3 to 10 p.m. today, 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sat. and 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sun.

The grandest Columbus feast will be a private five-course banquet of Spanish delicacies at the Columbia in Ybor City for the Chaine des Rotisseurs tonight. They're serving the foods Cristobal's crew dreamed of: Serrano ham, Manchego cheese and other tapas, red snapper verde, veal Seville, asparagus from Aranjues and brazo gitano.

More modest but equally authentic tastes of Hispanic heritage can be had in Cuban breakfasts of cafe con leche and pan con mantequilla. Drop by La Union Marti-Maceo (1226 E Seventh Ave., Ybor City) at 8:30 a.m. for good coffee and conversation. Or sample the same goodies at the Social Security Office (2203 N Lois Ave., Tampa) at 8 a.m. Oct. 15.

Also to celebrate Columbus Day, the Italian American Club of Greater Clearwater will hold a three-day festival in Coachman Park on the bayfront downtown. There'll be Italian pizza and pasta and Spanish food from the Columbia, noon to 9 p.m. Sat.-Sun. and 4 to 9 p.m. Mon.

Up the shore, Dunedin is dropping its Scots accent and putting on an Oktoberfest. Beer, bands, brats and more German food from 3 p.m. to midnight today and 7 p.m. to midnight Saturday at Grant Field (373 Douglas Ave.)

IN THE FAST LANE

They're changing some of the chow on the chain gang:

T.G.I. Friday's, the seminal singles bar that ate Manhattan, Dallas and most of America, is almost 30 and still sniffing out the trends; now they've taken hot caramel apple pie from our Betty Crocker dreams, spinach and artichoke dip from our cocktail parties and huge fried onion from, well I wonder where they got such a bloomin' idea? The Nibbler's more impressed by two other entries to the cuisine I call Fern Bar Fusion: Thai chicken with peppers and cashews on buckwheat noodles and a South American filet mignon with chimichurri and black beans. Ole!

Pizza Hut joins buffet-mania, but the company says it's not the same ol' same ol'. New improved buffet has pasta, salads and breadsticks as well as pizza.

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