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A pinch of Portugal adds zest in Gulfport

A look into our stewpot turns up some unusual ingredients that promise some new flavors for our Tampa Bay bouillabaisse.

+ By day it still seems like the old Gulfport Bakery, a place to read the Gabber and eat sticky buns, but the careful eye will spot rarities, such as cod cakes on greens, on the menu. The curious palate will discover as delicate a confection as can be made from dried cod and dive into a side of tart fava beans for a genuine taste of Portugal.

The bakery, now Adega Cafe and Wine Bar (3121 Beach Blvd., Gulfport; 727-343-4755), has slowly expanded to give a fuller taste of Alfredo Martins' heritage. After tantalizing Gulfport's art walkers, Adega now has a full Portuguese dinner menu of tapas and entrees Thursday through Saturday: codfish, grilled sardines, flaming linguica, pork and clams, fish stews and poignant fado in the background and Portuguese wines on the bar. Prices run $12 to $14.

+ Update your Sarasota short list with a new address for Zoria, a Nibbler favorite that is one of the state's best at cooking what's new and American without being fussy. After a few years in a tiny lemony boite in Southside Village, chefs Ryan Boeve and Arthur Lopes have moved to big, splashy digs in a former steakhouse downtown (1991 Main St., Sarasota; 941-955-4457). The space is dark and polished, and adds a big bar, sofa seating and classy sidewalk tables.

Expansion has servers winded, but the cooking hasn't faded. Boeve and Lopes make fine, classic foods look easy _ and hearty.

This is the best duck breast I've had in the States, with a crisp crust, lush pink flesh and no gobs of fat, served with perfect little parsnips. Sweetbreads are a crunchy luxury atop perfect veal tenderloin, and the risotto with green favas is more than acceptable to Italians. Add the sauces, slick and deep, and this is good eating for anyone.

If the entree somehow goes astray, Lopes' berry cobbler in a personal skillet will make up for it.

You'll understand the food _ prime steaks, veal chops, striped bass and shrimp _ but the name will stump you: Belly Timbers Grill (2900 U.S. 19 N, Clearwater; 727-781-1720). That's what lumberjacks called their restaurants long ago, according to Alfie Crescentini, formerly of Grattzi and Bob Willie's. Crescentini and Bob Dickerson have opened Belly Timbers in the former St. Andrew's Steak House. Prices run $14 to $25.

+ Reiner Heimann, who brought modern Continental cooking to downtown St. Petersburg, is returning after a sad absence. Heimann closed the doors almost two years ago after the death of his wife and partner, Ruth.

Heimann plans to reopen with a new name, Bayfront Tower Grille (1 Beach Drive, St. Petersburg; 727-551-2001), in the same spot with larger space, a full bar and possibly outdoor seating. Menu will be seafood steaks and pasta, with an executive chef imported from Germany.

Foodie date book

Mark up your food and wine calendar. Spring is full of goodies, starting this weekend, when you can go uptown or get down in St. Petersburg.

+ Tampa Bay's original monster wine tasting will pour hundreds of labels for thousands at the annual Abilities wine tasting at Tropicana Field on Saturday. More than 50 restaurants will be on hand with solid food to match the wines. The grand tasting is at 7 p.m., and tickets are $60 in advance, $70 at the door. Call (727) 538-7370, ext. 345, or go to www.abilitiesfoundation.com.

+ Good times with a Louisiana accent will roll at the Cajun Zydeco Crawfish festival behind the the Bayfront Center in St. Petersburg all weekend. The likes of Geno Delafose will be onstage, and 10,000 pounds of mudbugs will be in the pot. Gates open at 5 p.m. Friday and noon Saturday and Sunday. Tickets are $10 to $25 for a three-day pass. Call (727) 892-5767.

+ The next weekend, March 21 through 23, the St. Petersburg International Folk Fair Society will set its smorgasbord of ethnic music and fare from Haiti, Laos, Serbia and dozens of other countries at the Bayfront Center. Tickets are $4.50 to $8. Call (727) 551-3365 for more information. The Nibbler always likes to see how many countries make dumplings.

+ The final batch of food and wine is offered a month later, but now's the time to get tickets. The Florida Winefest spills over April 24 through 27 with tastings, dinners and an auction at the Ritz Carlton in Sarasota, as well as seminars of third-growth Bordeaux, Beaulieu's George de La Tour and Sterling's single-vineyard reserves. Contact floridawinefest.com or toll-free 1-877-352-9463.

Bern's big wine festival has grown to four days, with dinners, seminars and tastings April 25 through 28. Featured guests will be winemakers from Garretson in Santa Barbara, St. Francis in Sonoma and Penfold's of Australia. Contact bernssteakhouse.com or (813) 250-9463.

Food critic Chris Sherman writes about dining and restaurant news in the Nibbler. He can be reached at (727) 893-8585 or by e-mail at shermansptimes.com.

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