Intermezzo Coffee and Cocktails
A nice offering into the seasonal coffee world is this latte from Intermezzo, the craft coffee shop/cocktail bar in St. Petersburg’s EDGE District. Espresso and steamed milk are mixed with a housemade syrup that reflects all the warm notes of the holiday season, especially a pronounced ginger flavor. It’s a refreshing option. And it’s fun this time of year to sip it out of a mug at Intermezzo, which has been tricked out with Christmas decorations as part of its transformation into the popup bar Miracle at Mezzo. Oh, and the best part? The latte is served with a little spiced cookie, as all seasonal coffee beverages should be. — Michelle Stark, Times food and lifestyle editor
1111 Central Ave., St. Petersburg. (727) 873-6664. intermezzo.co.
I find it very hard to sway from my favorite dishes when I brunch at Noble Crust, because the standbys are just so dreamy: the ricotta gnocchi, the fried green tomatoes, the Bianca pizza. But I’m glad I branched out on my most recent visit, because I discovered the Southern Benny ($14), and now I can never go back. A classic eggs Benedict preparation with a Southern twist, it’s a buttermilk biscuit split in half and topped with poached eggs, country ham, fried green tomatoes (see, I didn’t even have to give them up) and brown butter hollandaise. It’s very rich, yes, but brunch at Noble Crust is not the time to worry about such things. I could eat that hollandaise on just about anything — creamy and smooth and just a touch nutty from that browned butter. Order it with one of their very good sides, like the smashed and fried potatoes. — Michelle Stark, Times food and lifestyle editor
Locations in St. Petersburg and Tampa. noble-crust.com.
Beef and pork noodle soup
Wat Mongkolratanaram Thai Temple
There is so much to love at this Buddhist Thai temple’s weekly Sunday morning feast, but the warming, spicy noodle soups feel particularly well suited to this time of year. The temple, which sits on the bank of the Palm River, runs from 8:30 a.m. to 1 p.m., but it’s a good idea to get there before 11 as the vendors tend to sell out fast. Take your pick of beef or pork and regular (flat) or angel-hair noodles and get ready to wait in line. It’s all worth it once the steaming bowls arrive: The beef version packs a deeper, earthier flavor rich with star anise, while the pork boasts a milder, almost milky broth that’s nonetheless very satisfying. Doctor up the bowls to your liking with chili flakes, sweet red chili paste, pickled jalapenos and fish sauce. — Helen Freund, Times food critic
5306 Palm River Road, Tampa. (813) 621-1669. wattampainenglish.com.
Jonesing for an iced coffee despite the cooler weather? The Cig-nature Drink at King State — a refreshing combination of single-origin espresso, grapefruit La Croix and vanilla — should hit the spot. All garnished with a little mint, the beverage is best enjoyed outside on the Tampa Heights hangout’s patio alongside your food item of choice. (I went for the house-made granola bowl, nixing milk for yogurt.) — Meaghan Habuda, Times staff writer
520 E Floribraska Ave., Tampa. (813) 221-2100. king-state.com.
Even though the old adage about not eating oysters during months without an “r” doesn’t really apply to the farmed versions we’ve grown accustomed to, there is something about the winter season that makes slurping down the briny bivalves feel extra special. Maybe it’s the festive atmosphere and the holidays around the corner, or maybe it’s the fact that during happy hour at Alto Mare, which runs daily from 4 to 6 p.m., I can get my hands on an excellent West and East Coast selection at $1.50 a pop. That certainly seems like something worth celebrating. — Helen Freund, Times food critic
300 Beach Drive NE, St. Petersburg. (727) 873-3427. altomarefishbar.com.
Chief’s Creole Cafe
There’s a saying in New Orleans for when the temperature dips below 70 degrees. “It’s gumbo weather,” we declare, defiantly pulling out our still unnecessary winter coats and running home to whip up a pot of the rich and warming stew. It makes sense, then, that when our temps plummeted to a cool 65 a few weeks ago here in Tampa Bay, I made a beeline for Elihu and Carolyn Brayboy’s Chief’s Creole Cafe restaurant in St. Petersburg. I was rewarded with a bowl of their thick and hearty Creole-style gumbo ($17). The version here comes bobbing with hunks of chicken, spicy coins of andouille sausage, shrimp and a lone crawfish that peeks out from atop. It’s a mild version that’s served over a mound of rice and packs little to no spice — but that’s what the Crystal hot sauce on the table is for. — Helen Freund, Times food critic
901 22nd St. S, St. Petersburg. (727) 498-8979. chiefscreolecafe.com.
Bandit Coffee Co.
When this charming coffee shop in St. Petersburg’s Grand Central district started serving food this summer, the parfait bowl was the first thing I tried. Currently available from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. Wednesdays through Sundays, it’s a hearty and not terribly indulgent way to start the day or get your snack on. Greek yogurt is topped with seasonal berries (mine had fresh raspberries), sliced banana, a unique and very welcome pine nut butter to cut through the sweetness of the fruit, golden toasty granola, sesame seeds, little strands of fresh mint and some lime zest to finish things off. It’s $8.50, with a smaller and more simplified snack version (love that) for $3.50. — Michelle Stark, Times food and lifestyle editor
2662 Central Ave., St. Petersburg. banditcoffee.co.
Chicken liver pate
Left Bank Bistro
I won’t ever say no to pate, and the chicken liver version at St. Petersburg’s Left Bank Bistro is no exception. Their creamy version is made by milk-soaking the livers overnight before blending them with an aromatic mix of marsala wine, herbs, butter and creme fraiche. Served with buttery toast points and a berry jam, it’s the perfect precursor to a meal or a simple snack shared over a glass of wine with a friend. — Helen Freund, Times food critic
1225 Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. St. N, St. Petersburg. (727) 256-1691. theleftbankbistro.com.
As food writers, we eat and drink around the Tampa Bay area a lot. Sometimes, we come across plates of food or a lineup of cocktails we love, but don’t have the time or space to write a longer story about. That’s where this new feature comes in. In What’s on our plate, we hope to bring you a taste of what we’re loving right now, and where you can find it.