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Monday, April 9, 2012

Easter Brunch at Wimauma

Wimauma
Tampa, Florida
Easter 2012


Warning! Their "Wimosa" is addicting. A wonderful tall glass of orange juice, grapefruit sorbet, fresh basil and Bertrand Cremant. I just had to dip my fork in to grab a mouthful of the sorbet by itself...ohhhh it was so refreshing and perfect. I have been a grapefruit freak since I was just a little tyke. I even use grapefruit shower gel, and my fave perfume has grapefruit notes (Dolce & Gabana's "Light Blue"). So this drink was right up my alley. Hard to stop at two, but I had a long drive home.



I'm not a big fan of grits, and not a big shrimp fan either. So of course I had to have the Shrimp & Grits with Poached Duck Eggs; Sauteed Florida Shrimp with White Wine, Tomato, Basil and Pork Bark. I just had to see if Chef Gary would make a believer out of me. The dish was marvelous. The shrimp were cooked perfectly, with just the right amount of bounce on the outside, tender on the inside. At first I thought poached eggs with no toast? What's going to sop up my egg yolks? Answer: grits! The whole dish worked really well. Have to say it was not a pretty dish, the color was kind of "eh". But extra points for taste, for sure.


I was disappointed that they were out of Biscuits with Caramel Butter, and also out of Key Lime Pie with Burnt Ginger Meringue served with Banana Ice Cream and Sweet Chili-Lime Caramel. My fault for making a reservation one hour before the end of service.

I had the Pickled Peach & Cornmeal Upside Down Cake with Bourbon Peach Sauce. It was supposed to come with Fresh Banana Ice Cream but arrived with Butter Pecan instead. Sorry to say it didn't ring my chimes. The cake was okay, the peaches tasted nice at first but quickly became too sweet...and I couldn't taste any bourbon.




New artwork on the walls really gave the place a nice colorful look. It's really started to come together visually. 




Happy Easter! And I'd like another Wimosa, please ;)





Wimauma on Urbanspoon

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Mixed Feelings


Grille One Nine
New Port Richey, FL
April, 2012



I'd heard from a few that this place was good. Finally walked in today. Walking from the bright sunlight into a black room I felt like I had walked into the Spook House at a theme park. Took the eyes a while to adjust.
I usually prefer to sit at a sushi bar, especially when I'm alone, but only if the seats are regular chairs, not high chairs. So I sat at a table alone. I don't like the dangling-feet thing. Staff was warm and friendly. I ordered just green tea and looked at the menu. It was the middle of the day, I was not about to order sake, so I thought tea was a normal option in a sushi place. Usually you get a pot and a little cup at no charge. What I got was a big white mug with a handle and a tea bag. Okay. I ordered yellowtail sushi and wasabi tobiko with quail eggs, and a rainbow roll (which is not your normal rainbow roll; this one was crawfish salad and avocado topped with different kinds of fish, and something that gave it crunch, can't remember if it was tobiko or tempura flakes). I asked if "sweet prawns" came with tempura fried heads, and was told yes. I was surprised since it's usually baby shrimp that is served that way, but sure, I'll try it, sounds good. Waitress came back, sorry, all out of prawns. Okay. I didn't see uni on the menu, do you have uni? Sorry, no. No uni?? is this a serious sushi bar, without uni? Hmmmm.
So I'm waiting for my food and I'm looking around. The place is seriously high tech and tries hard to be very uber cool. Everything is ultra modern and black, except for flashing multicolor lights under the lip of the sushi bar. My ears are assaulted by too-loud techno-rap-rave music. Over the sushi bar is the center of attention, a HUGE flat screen TV which has the show "COPS" on. Okay so for me, sushi is an experience. Calming, a joy to the senses. But here...not sure what they were going for. Maybe looking for the hipster crowd. Oh yeah there's such a hipster crowd in New Port Richey, everyone dolled up in 6" stilletto heels out for a night of disco dancing and munching on faux sushi.
The food came, I have to admit it was good. Nice and clean and fresh. The roll was great. But between my eyeballs being assaulted by COPS dragging around drunks in their underwear, and blaring commercials on the radio....I won't go back. I'm wondering if maybe the choice of music and the choice of TV station were decisions made by the young staff, and the owner was not on premises? Okay, spend a few bucks and buy a few CD's, for crying out loud. A radio station blaring commercials as I'm trying to dine? And MUST I be watching COPS? Why that tremendous TV? This isn't a sports bar. A giant fish tank would be much more appropriate. Grille One Nine on Urbanspoon

Friday, April 6, 2012

I've Got a New Favorite Place!



Wimauma
Tampa, Florida
March 2012

Had a very late dinner at Wimauma last Friday night. I have to say I was really impressed; was expecting to be disappointed and I was shocked outta my shoes at how delish everything was. Every single thing.
First, I enjoy having a bunch of small plates; who wants to commit to a lot of something when you could have small plate after small plate of a lot of wonderful little bites? (sigh). Started out with a couple of glasses of Stella while nibbling on those super-wet boiled peanuts and looking at the menu.
Ordered a few small dishes that had been recommended...first was Fried Green Tomatoes w/crispy country ham, watercress & buttermilk ranch vinaigrette. Hellllo, Lovah. I loved that the tomatoes were cut in big chunks instead of slices. This dish was delish. Amy (who was quite lovely, by the way; we were the last table, she had a sense of humor about her "reputation in the media") recommended the Salt & Pepper Fried Okra w/ cilantro, jalapeno, fried garlic and shallot (an homage to Yummy House) which was wonderful. Then, of course, HAD to have the Crispy Fried Florida Oysters w/Guacamole, cilantro and smoked tomato jam. Mama Mia, I'll have what SHE's having. The fried oysters go surprisingly well with the soft guacamole, and oooh that nice sweet little dollop of jam pulled the whole thing together into one perfect bite. We actually had to order a second plate of the oysters. By the way, my guy hates seafood (and cheese, and ALL dairy, and anything mousse-like or pudding-like in texture, etc etc). He's a real meat-n-potatoes guy, but he loved the oysters, I still can't get over it. It's all he talks about, he wants to go back.


We added a wonderful bottle of Chilean Savignon Blanc, and ordered the Country Mac n Cheese with English Peas, Cheddar, Benton's Bacon & Scallion. Really, really nice. My guy had the Southern Style Fried Chicken Bucket w/ French Fries, hushpuppies and honey mustard sauce. The chicken was really tasty, crust was panko. One small piece of chicken was dry, most were moist and fine. French fries were good, had some kind of batter or light coating on them. I found the hushpuppies to be a bit dry and tasteless; it was really the only thing i didn't LOVE.
Wait...dessert!!! He had the Key Lime Pie (fabulous) with fresh banana ice cream (delish) and Basil Chantilly (mind-boggling). And now, three days later, he's still talking about how good it was.
I had the Grits Creme Brulee with Champagne Sorbet. I have never liked grits, but they gave the creme brulee a wonderful texture, almost like little tapioca pearls or soft rice, a nice contrast to creme brulee's nothing-but-smooth consistency. I just loved it. The champagne sorbet alone would have been a wonderful dessert, but on top of the creme brulee, it was heaven.

Chef Gary came out and made some small talk about places he worked in New York, and we laughed about how basil can taste a bit like marijuana. By that time, we were the only ones in the place, but no one made us feel rushed. The staff obviously loves working there, and that's something else in their favor.
Very, very, very nice and good. Warm staff who were surprisingly helpful and well-versed in all components of all dishes (despite critiques i've read). I was very pleased and wish the Morans well in this venture. I even like the fact that they feature local artists' canvases on the walls (for sale, too. very cool). Really impressed. :)

Wimauma on Urbanspoon

Huge Disappointment



Three Birds Tavern
St Petersburg, FL
March 2012

Finally made it to Three Birds Tavern for my first time. It was on a Thursday. It has been one of those places "on my list" that I've wanted to go to for a while.. I have to say it was a MAJOR disappointment. Sorry to say that, since I'd heard such great things about Chef Donnie. I bought the $12 for $25 worth of food deal from Creative Loafing, , thinking okay, good. I mean, it's a tavern, right? not Armani's. Shouldn't cost too much. Wrong, wrong, wrong.


We wouldn't sit outside on this beautiful day since there were about 5 tables of people chain-smoking.
We walked inside and were shocked to find that the place smelled like urine. After a few minutes, we adjusted to the smell, we weren't going to leave because we had driven about an hour and a half to get there, and we had the CL Deal.


2 of us went. I ordered Chimay (my fave ale). Okay so they get points for having Chimay, but instantly lost points since both the waitress AND the bartender did not know which Chimay (I actually prefer red cap) they had, and even after locating a bottle, had to show it to me since they didn't know the difference. Then...it was served in a tall beer glass. Chimay should be served in a wide-mouthed goblet (sigh). My dinner partner had Spaten and was happy with that. We both ordered one starter and one sandwich.
I ordered the short rib egg rolls with gorgonzola sauce, since I had been hearing about them since they opened. Eh. Gorgonzola sauce? First, it was hot, and it was peach colored and I didn't taste any gorgonzola. I kept tasting the sauce and tasting the sauce by itself, and could not determine what flavors were in it. I think with the hot short rib egg roll, a cold (or cool) sauce that tasted like gorgonzola would have been nice. This was....I don't know, like McDonald's special sauce from the Big Macs? I didn't really get a taste of anything from the short ribs, it was just some kind of unseasoned shredded meat. My dinner partner had the vegetable risotto, which was asparagus. He liked it. I tasted, it was good, but overly spiced. Too many flavors going on.


Then our sandwiches came. He had the meat loaf sandwich with frites. He loved the frites, I wasn't particular impressed. I was disappointed in the mushy meat loaf. Damn, no one makes meat loaf like my mama!! I had the bratwurst, it was good....but the bun immediately fell apart. I ended up having to eat it with a fork and knife. I have to say my side dish was positively delicious, it was baby spinach very lightly sauted in lemon and garlic. The star of the meal, absolutely.


We decided on one dessert, had the chunky monkey bread pudding. I have to say this was not bread pudding , to me. It was banana bread. No "pudding" at all, it was completely dry,  with chocolate chips and chocolate sauce. Parts of it were warm, parts were ice cold. Didn't finish it. It was positively awful.


Then the surprise! Bill for lunch for the 2 of us...over $70...with tip would have been $85. For two starters, two sandwiches, and one dessert...yeah, and four beers. But still. All in all, I loved the spinach, he really liked the risotto. Thank goodness I had the $25 off, so the lunch actually cost us about $75 including tip.


We were assured that  Chef Donnie (Domenica) was in house, and was preparing our food for us. Since I told the waitress to tell Donnie that we were friends of friends of hers, and that it was my birthday, and that I had been dying to come to Three Birds for so long, I kind of expected her to make an appearance at our table, if just to say hello. Jeannie Pierola does that for me at the super-crowded KitchenBars. But nope, they just said that Donnie would like us to fill out the comment card. Well, okay then.


There were only maybe 8 or 10 tables occupied, so for sure it wasn't that she was super busy.


The $75 would have been better spent at a myriad of other places. I finally ate at Three Birds, and I won't go back. :(

Three Birds Tavern on Urbanspoon

Quantity, Not Quality



Shephard's Beach Resort
Clearwater Beach, Florida
November 2010
Spent Thanksgiving here for their buffet in 2010. Everything looked great. Lines were impossibly horrendously long as dawdlers and older folks tried to decide what to have. Too many choices for some, obviously. Sushi was like cardboard, seriously don't bother, even the packaged sushi at Publix is better. There was a massive amount of food....but nothing really good. Nothing that made me say oh this is delish. Nothing that I wanted more of. Just too much mediocre food. If quantity is more important than quality, then this is the place for you. If you're a foodie with a discerning palate, don't waste your time or your money.
Shephard's Beach Resort on Urbanspoon

Exquisite Sushi





Mike's Sushi & Sake Bar
Palm Harbor, Florida
2010

Okay, this is it. I am a sushi fanatic, and have found some pretty good sushi places here in Florida...but Mike's is absolutely the best around. I keep telling Mike that he is the only reason I won't move back to NY! His fish is so fresh, it's still quivering. First, there's the atmosphere. What's not to love about a sushi bar with blues playing on the stereo system?



Most of the regulars sit at the sushi bar, where it's not unusual to pass tastes of dishes or shots of sake up and down the bar. Strangers become friends immediately. I usually start with Pokki, which is served in a martini glass, succulent bites of perfect tuna with macadamia nuts, cucumber and hot sauce. Then maybe a small plate of that fabulous marinated sea bass...can't pass up Mike's incredible dynamite roll, the special scallops, incredible sweet shrimp with tempura fried heads (and they're really baby shrimp, the way they're supposed to be), but the best is when all the regulars are sitting at the bar awaiting the Uni Man. When the delivery of sea urchin arrives, you can hear a pin drop. We're all too busy salivating to say a word. Then he serves it up, plain and simple, the perfect bite. Mike taught me to really appreciate uni, not even to have it sushi, but just plain sashimi, perfectly perfect.

 And then, the last perfect bite, is Mike's Wasabi Tobiko. Flying fish roe marinated in wasabi, a gorgeous emerald green, topped with a quail egg. That wasabi rush will bring tears to your eyes, and you will instantly crave your next ride. Ahhhh, Mike's. Mike and his son Sean or his sidekick Tony are behind the bar. Mike's lovely wife is in the kitchen. Staff is warm and friendly. The sake selection can't be beat. I've got a giant bottle with my name on it in the fridge, and chopsticks with my pic at the front of the place. Ahhhh, Mike's. Nothing better, anywhere.

Mike's Sushi & Sake Bar on Urbanspoon

Yucky House is More Like It.



Yummy House, Carrollwood, Tampa   2008

Most of my friends are crazy about this place, and they talk about the salt & pepper calimari. My first and only time there, the big dining room was practically empty and we were met with a snotty host who implied that since we did not have reservations, he might not be able to seat us. He finally gave us a table right by the front door. From which, of course, we could hear him go through the same exact routine with every other party who dared to darken his doorstep. What, no reservations??? Oh, i don't know if we can fit you in...but by some miracle, everyone was seated. Not one party had a reservation. Wonder what happened to all the people with reservations.
Okay, then, guess who comes to our table to take our order? Snotty door guy. I order the S&P calamari, he tells me No, don't have that, you won't like it. Hello? I've never laid eyes on you before, how the heck do you know what I'll like? He says it isn't any good. Okay. So I choose something else and we wait for our food...trying to ignore the THREE DEAD FLIES laying on our table. Then I notice tables around me ordering the S&P calimari...no one is telling them it's not good, not to order it. It comes, and people seem to be enjoying it. It looked pretty good. Maybe since I had never been there before the snotty door guy didn't want to waste one of their best dishes on me, maybe he was saving it for their regulars, I don't know. But it sure didn't make me happy.
Can't even remember the dishes we did have. Food was okay, not particulary memorable.
Using the restroom was a big mistake. It almost made me lose my meal.
I don't care how much my friends like this place, never again. seriously. never again. Yummy House on Urbanspoon

OUCH!





Ichiban
Trinity, Florida
2009


This was my favorite sushi place for a long time, fabulous rolls, including my very favorite "Stormin' Norman", with mango and kiwi and eel and avocado and I can't even remember what else...it was sensational...until one night when I went with a friend. She ordered a couple of pieces of shrimp (not one of my faves, i usually go for sweet shrimp, raw, with tempura fried heads YUM). She took one bite and raced off to the bathroom to spit it out. When she returned to the table she said "Oh, I don't like the shrimp, it's got too much ginger or something." I said "Shrimp sushi doesn't have ginger, maybe it has a dot of wasabi but no ginger." She said to me, "taste it". As I brought it up to my mouth I was overwhelmed by the smell of disinfectant. The waitress came running over when she saw me sniffing the shrimp. I told her it smelled like bleach. She just grabbed the one piece that was left and said she'd take it off the bill.
Then I remembered reading articles about sushi restaurants trying to cover the smell of not-so-fresh fish going bad by dipping it in bleach or disinfectant. I was horrified when I read that article online, and was horrified that my favorite sushi place was apparently doing just that.
I have not been able to bring myself to go back...they've expanded and redecorated, so they must be doing well. But with other great sushi places out there, there isn't a need to go back. I can live without the Stormin' Norman. I just can't live with a mouthful of bleach. Ichiban on Urbanspoon

I Love This Place!






The Refinery
Seminole Heights, Tampa, Florida
September 25, 2010

I've been a fan of The Refinery since they first opened. I worked nearby, and would often go in alone for dinner. Staff was always warm, Chef Greg came out to say hi on several occasions. Not all of their dishes hit it out of the park, but they get points for creativity, and since they have a different menu every week, it stands to reason that not every dish is going to shine for everyone.  Nice inexpensive bottles of wine, cool vibe, some seriously delicious mouthfuls of great quality food. They're all about sustainable, LOCAL foods, and promoting the neighborhood. Well deserving of the James Beard nod.

 A few weeks ago I had their roast beef/peppers/onion Poutine. Fabulous flavor, I was diggin' it but Chef Greg came out, apologized that there wasn't enough beef in it for his liking, and he took it off my bill. Wow. I loved it anyway, and didn't even notice a lack of beef. I also had the monkfish liver. It was slightly crisp and sweetish on the outside, from the port wine reduction, but smooth as silk on the inside. Vaguely reminiscent of uni (sea urchin) if you're a sushi fan. One dish of this was not enough. I had to go back a few days later and have it again, with 2 glasses of fabulous cabernet savignon. Now THAT was perfection.

Last night I stopped in for dinner after reading about those ding dongs on Facebook. I had the chilled butternut squash soup, the memory of which still lingers on my tongue. That peppery bite of a finish, ahhh the masala,  it was just too good. I have to return on Tuesday and do it again. For the first time I had a burger...with gruyere, granny smith apples and horseradish. Had to eat it with a napkin in one hand because the juices kept rolling down my chinny chin chin. A burger that doesn't need ketchup? Unheard of! But true. And those yukon fries, crisp and firm. For dessert....the ding dong. I am speechless at the ding dong. Mere words cannot do it justice. I am begging Sous Chef Eddie to marry me and make me ding dongs every day for the rest of my life. I don't care if I need to buy my clothes at Omar the Tentmaker's. Just make me ding dongs. please? I'm beggin' ya.


photo by "Mild Bill" Leon

The Refinery on Urbanspoon

Noche Buena at KitchenBar, Tampa, Florida December 24, 2011



I just returned from my Christmas Eve dinner at KitchenBar, held at Knife & Co.

I am a control freak and usually order several dishes, I like to chose my own. I had heard about the Lobster Risotto, and the poutine, and the chicory and peanut butter milkshake...but i decided to trust Chef Jeannie and order the Noche Buena "Naughty/Nice" tasting menu without even looking at the menu.

The meal was just exquisite. I also had the wine pairing. I have a tendency to pick a little bite of each component so i can experience the taste and texture of each before assembling the one "perfect" bite to see how it all comes together. Not only was each blended bite perfection but the meal itself was a perfect progression.

My meal started with Chef Jeannie Pierola coming to my table herself with an offering of Lavendar Sugared Marcona Almonds. I'm not worthy! I'm not worthy!

The duck, apricot and caper empanada in the appetizer course ("Tapas Tasting") was so delicious I savored each bite as slowly as I could. The yellowfin tuna conserva was a bit bland for my taste. Wild mushrooms ceviche with pan con tomate completed this course. This was paired with a Gramona Imperial Cava, Penedes, Spain 2006.

Next, the "2012 Seventh Avenue Salad"...composed of heirloom tomato carpaccio, romaine ice, serrano crisp, gruyere snow, liquid olives, olive oil powder and amontillado worcester emulsion.  The gruyere snow and liquid olives of the salad course were ingenious. The snow was just a hint, it disappeared on my tongue like magic, just like you'd remember catching snowflakes on your tongue when you were little. A quick rush of ice cold snow that melted so quickly leaving a hint of a taste of gruyere. Left me wanting more more more. And the liquid olive, how to explain this? It looked like an olive. It tasted like an olive. But when you set it on your tongue, it jiggled for a moment and then burst into wonderful olive liquid, like a sexy kiss. This incredible Salad course was paired with Acustic Blac (Garnacha Blanca, Macabeu, Pansal) Montsant, Spain 2009.

The Zarzuela de Mariscos (lobster, diver scallop, hog fish, little neck clam, mussel, grilled croutons and 'allie's allioli') was heavenly, I finished all the sauce using my spoon. Wouldn't leave a drop in my bowl. No way. This was paired with Pena das Donas Verdes Matas (Mencia), Ribera Sacra, Spain 2009.

The Christmas Pork Three Ways...oy oy oy. Pork tenderloin, pork belly, pork cheek, served with moros y christianos, yucca gratinee, aguacate ensalad, plaintain pave and 'lena's mojo pork jus'.  Pork cheek. Pork cheek, I love you. Come kiss me. Can food be sexy? Hell yeah. (sigh). The entree was paired with a Villacreces Pruno (Tempranillo/Cabernet Sauvignon/Merlot) Ribera del Duero, Spain 2008.

Cheese Course was lovely. Lenora (goat), malvarosa (sheep) and calbrales (cow), with marcona almond, medjool dates and truffle honey. Paired with Almansenas La Huella de Adares (Garnacha Tintorera, Almansa, Spain 2006.

The dessert...("Brazo Gitano")...well the dessert was just not fair. Dark chocolate sponge with pistachio mousse was dense but not too heavy and just wonderful...until I added a little mouthful of that blood orange sorbet with chocolate soil. That pushed me over the edge. Foodgasm. I'll have what she's having. Uh huh. Oh, mama. Can it be possible that something is just TOO good? This incredible course was paired with a Capcanes Pansal del Calas, Monsant, Spain 2008.

Followed by a perfect little glass of cortadito, not too sweet, just right.

Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night.

Honeymoon in St. Pete, July 18, 2008



hello fellow foodies!

back from our honeymoon in st pete, here's the food review:

first, after our ceremony (just the 2 of us at the beautiful Inn at the Bay), after our incredible bottle of Cristal and the chocolate and cherry cake (yum), we had dinner next door at Chateau France. Our second time there, and this restaurant continues to amaze me.



We started with appetizers, he had the Shrimp Marseille (luscious huge shrimp in a "gentle spicy rose sauce D'Anjou", it was delish. I had the Pate de Fois Gras. After reading about how it's made (force feeding the poor geese) I felt badly and probably will avoid it on general principle) but omg it was an orgasmic experience in my pretty heart-shaped mouth (tee hee). Really, truly. Wow. I'd never had it before. It was incredible.
We both had the Filet Mignon entree with Black Truffle sauce. Okay I'm serious, we didn't even get steak knives. The butter knives slid right through the filets. (my mouth is watering just remembering...). By far the best steak of my long steak-eating life. Accompanied by a lovely sweet spaghetti squash, totally wonderful potatoes au gratin, and an okay puff pastry with steamed fresh veggies.

Dessert was the Grand Marnier Souffle. Oh. Oh. Oh, yes. :)
We also had champagne with dinner (Mumm's) and a nice B&B (Benedictine and Brandy) after the espresso.
Then we waddled back next door to our suite! Chateau France on Urbanspoon

The next day after a lovely breakfast at the Inn, after spending the day shopping and sight seeing, we decided to do tapas at Ceviche. We arrived before they opened, so we started at Pincho y Pincho, which is a little version of Ceviche which is open for lunch with a "limited menu" just a few doors down.


 We had the Cava Sangria (mmmmm) We had never had tapas before; we started with Banderillas Mixtas (beef, chicken, chorizo and grilled veggies, wonderful), Piquillos Rellenos (roasted red peppers stuffed with ground veal and chorizo in a sherry sauce, yum yum yum) and Huevos Rellenos (devilled eggs, just ok). Once Ceviche opened, we reconvened next door; bigger, busier, but missing that little hole-in-the-wall insider kind of ohhh i found a cool place kind of vibe. And to tell you the truth, both of us can't remember what we had at Ceviche. Guess the Cava Sangria really kicked in by that point.


Sunday we tried our best to have lunch ... first we went to ABC Chinese...still closed, we were too early. Then we tried Umberto's of Long Island in Dunedin, same thing. :( We tried to call Red Fish Blue Fish in Palm Harbor to see if they were open (I was craving lobster) but no answer, still too early...we ended up at Kelly's in Dunedin. MY HUSBAND (i love saying that) had a burger, and i had the seafood chowder and a grilled brie sandwich. And lots of Mimosas.


I drank more champagne that weekend than I ever did in my life! Giggled all the way through. :)
All in all, a wonderful weekend.
I gained 8 pounds!!!!!