The food abides…

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Trader Joe’s Garlic Chicken Pesto w/Cauliflower Gnocchi

Made a run to Trader Joe’s this past weekend and among some other great items (cough, cough… Cookie Butter… cough, cough…) it turns out that their Cauliflower Gnocchi combined with their Garlic Pesto Chicken makes for a pretty badass meal…

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New Tampa/Wesley Chapel/South Pasco Summer Food Highlights!

I’ve been out of commission for the majority of the summer with a foot injury but that hasn’t stopped my girlfriend and I from continuing to enjoy our epicurean adventures; we’ve just been spending more time close to home in order to limit my walking. It’s been nice because I’ve gotten to experience some new dishes, some old favorites and few new places I’d never tried before and I’ve managed to snap a photo of just about everything. Here are some highlights…

Roasted Brussel Sprouts w/Honey Sriracha Aioli from BJ’s Brewhouse – Of all the new restaurants going up in the new outlet area on SR56, I think I like BJ’s the best because of the beer selection and house brews and I don’t hold the fact that it is a chain against them. These sprouts are another good reason to stop in. The Honey Sriracha Aioli expertly toes the line between sweet and heat.

Gypsy Cab Burrito from Capital Tacos – Capital Tacos has one of the best burritos around in my opinion (second only to Taco Bus). The pickled jalapenos give the gypsy cab some really nice depth and quite a bit of fire if you like that kind of thing.

Loaded Tots at the Fat Rabbit – This was my first visit to the Fat Rabbit and I love having a non-chain pub like this in our immediate area. The wings were stellar and a great alternative to the local franchises like Hooters or Beef O’Brady’s, but the Loaded Tots stole the show. Crispy and smothered in warm cheese and gravy, these went down easy with a good beer.

Fire-Grilled Artichoke from Flamestone American Grill – Another first, I enjoyed Flamestone and found it to be a nice bridge between casual and upscale dining. Their menu impressed me to begin with but the inclusion of this Fire-Grilled Artichoke with a Kalamata Aioli ensures that I will return multiple times. I love a good artichoke and it’s difficult to find these on local menus.

Seared Ahi-Tuna Salad from Flamestone American Grill – Also from Flamestone, my girlfriend ordered this Seared Ahi-Tuna Salad and loved it so much, I was kind of jealous (and slightly regretted that I went with the Salmon Kale Salad). She was nice enough to let me try some of hers and the ponzu-peanut dressing along with the perfectly seared tuna impressed me.

Fried Gator Tail w/Jalapeno Cheddar Hush Puppies from Prime Bar – Located in the Shoppes @ Wiregrass, Prime Bar is another Wesley Chapel staple and they have an extensive enough menu for someone to try new things upon each visit. We decided to give the Fried Gator a shot for our appetizer and did not regret it. Not chewy or gamy which means it was prepared well and the Jalapeno Cheddar Hugh Puppies soaked up beer like a champ.

Garlic Lime Edamame from Ciccio Cali – You want great Edamame? Go to Ciccio Cali. Perfectly roasted and just the right amount of salt, they take an excellently prepared Edamame and kick it up a notch with the garlic and lime. We loved these and devoured the plate.

Hot and Crunchy Tuna Bowl from Ciccio Cali – My girlfriend loves her Ahi Tuna and again she proved to be a better entree-picker. She dug this Hot and Crunchy Ahi Tuna Bowl, also from Ciccio Cali. The tempura battered onions, jicama and black sesame seeds gave this dish a great crunch and the Sriracha Aioli added a nice depth of flavor.

Thai Chicken Bowl from Ciccio Cali – Yet another dish from Ciccio Cali. I love a good Thai sauce and this Peanut Aioli was perfect. The mango and carrots rounded out the flavor of the dish well and the crispy fried wontons added a pleasing texture.

Blackened Cod Fish Tacos and Fried Plantains from Zim Zari California Coastal Grill – Another stellar selection from my special lady friend. She’s a woman after my own heart and if there are fish tacos on the menu, they have to be tried. These tacos from Zim Zari are probably the best in Trinity and the fried plantains were a great side dish.

Chicken Marsala from Noble Crust – Inaugural visit to Noble Crust finally gave me a chance to experience their style of Italian/Southern fusion which admittedly, I didn’t understand until I tried it. Their Chicken Marsala with Chicken Sausage, Four Cheese Grits and Roasted Mushrooms was absolutely decadent and I’ve never used that word to describe a non-dessert before.

Shrimp and Grits from Noble Crust – Also from Noble Crust, my girl ordered the Shrimp and Grits. These were delicious as well, most notably, because of the addition of the blistered Shishito Peppers which gave the dish a nice smokey flavor and a bit of uniqueness to boot.

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It’s funny how often you can ignore what’s in your own backyard while seeking greener pastures until something happens that forces you to open your eyes a bit. I am on the mend and will likely be striking out for farther locales again soon, but I intend to revisit some of these nearby places because they do warrant it. Consider this your reminder from the Food Dude to try and pay attention to what’s closer to home… You might be surprised by what you find.

Tried any of the above restaurants or have a suggestion for the New Tampa/Wesley Chapel/South Pasco area? Leave a message in the comments section!

And remember… the food abides…


Hopped Grapefruit Kombucha from Humm!

Anyone ever tried Kombucha before?

So I’m a little late to board the Kombucha train, mostly because I don’t really like to drink tea in any form and I was a bit hesitant about the whole fermented-beverage-that-isn’t-beer thing to begin with. However I have to give credit where credit is due, this hopped grapefruit flavor from Humm is incredible.

With grapefruit juice and hops added to the fermentation, this kombucha tastes like a beer. That’s not an exaggeration; I drink this stuff in the morning and it’s like I’m imbibing a Session IPA with my eggs. The naturally occuring probiotics in the kombucha are a nice added bonus.

It encouraged me to try their other flavors. I’m also really digging the Blueberry Mint and the Strawberry Lemonade flavors.

If you like beer, but you’re on the fence about Kombucha, this is a great springboard.

Tried Humm’s or any other brand of Kombucha before? Leave a message in the comments section!

And remember… the food abides…


Growlers from Big Storm…

Enjoying some of Big Storm’s Swinging Stone Scotch Ale and Wavemaker Amber Ale in the comfort of my own home this weekend. When your special lady friend is all kinds of awesome and shows up at your door with growlers from one of your favorite breweries, you bust out the good Chipotle Gouda from the specialty market.


Tavern Shooters from District Tavern

The Tavern Shooters from District Tavern are unreal. Smoked Gouda, Gruyere, Brie, Arugula and Caramelized Onions on Toasted Ciabatta Bread with Tomato Bisque shots. This is the ultimate comfort food.


Wild Blackberries!

Even though I live in a town home, I am on a conservation lot. I’m lucky enough to have a ton of wild blackberry bushes right in my backyard. It’s that time of year for them to start bearing fruit and bearing they are…

These things are amazing and the cultivated stuff that the supermarkets bring in from Mexico or Guatemala just pales in comparison…


Review – Green Door on 8th

If you’re willing to look, the outlying areas of the greater Tampa Bay Area can be home to some surprising culinary locales. Places like Tarpon Springs, Zephyrhills and San Antonio contain some of my recent favorite purveyors of food and craft beer such as Currents, Zephyrhills Brewing Company and the Local Public House (which sadly closed not long ago but the sentiment is still there).

Two of my closest friends are intrepid explorers who always manage to find these hidden gems and their latest suggestion was Green Door on 8th. With the exception of Roux in South Tampa and a kick-ass food truck called Cajun on the Geaux which occasionally pops up at some of my favorite breweries, there aren’t a lot of restaurants around that serve Cajun/Louisiana style cuisine.

Located in a small non-descript building that indeed sports a green door, Green Door on 8th is a small 20-or-so-table operation just off the main road in Downtown Dade City. The decor is decidedly New Orleans with brass chandeliers, lots of wood paneling and old bed headboards adorning the walls. The owner recognized my friends and greeted us almost immediately and we took note of how good someone’s memory has to be to recall people by face who dined almost a month ago. It contributed to the small town charm of both the Green Door and the Dade City area in general.

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We started off with drinks and what restaurant could serve Cajun food without beers from Louisiana’s premiere micro-brewery, Abita? They had more of a selection of Abita’s styles than I’ve ever seen in one place before and since they’ve been one of my favorite breweries for years now, this was a welcome choice.

Turbodog has always been a favorite of mine. This Brown Ale has some nice toffee notes and had I known about the bread pudding ahead of time (see below) I would have ordered it with desert.

The ladies in our group enjoyed some sizable (and apparently strong!) goblets of both Red and White Sangria.

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Started with some apps for the table and among the highlights were the Voodoo Shrimp and the Fried Green Tomatoes.

The Voodoo Shrimp was perfect. It had just the right amount of heat which was more of a flavor-heat than a hot-heat if that makes any sense. It brought out the taste of the shrimp which was cooked to perfection (i.e, not overdone and rubbery which happens a lot with shrimp).

I tend to shy away from fried foods but I had to try the Fried Green Tomatoes and I’m glad I did. Not greasy or mushy in the slightest, these were dressed with fresh basil, feta cheese and a balsamic glaze.

I’m a sucker for crawfish and whether it be in a boil, a Po’boy, or a chowder; I will almost always gravitate towards it and Green Door’s Etouffee was executed well.

This hearty bowl of goodness showcased a large amount of the diminutive crustacean meat and still maintained the balance of the dish. I could have used a bit more heat but that’s just me (and in hindsight I never asked for any hot sauce so it must not have bothered me much at all).

To be honest, by the time desert came around I was stuffed but when I saw (and smelled) the bread pudding as it was carried to a nearby table it was really hard to say no. This dish was warm and inviting and the cinnamon and vanilla notes were comforting; exactly what you want in a bread pudding.

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The service was spot-on and our server was on top of her game, from never missing a glance or failing to fill a water glass to providing us with her own recommendations of what she felt were the best dishes on the menu for everyone’s taste. The owner came to the table at the end of the meal to ensure we enjoyed ourselves and this is something I appreciate. The portion sizes-to price ratio was exactly where I expected it to be and the fact that I was almost full before desert backed that up.

With the understanding that Dade City is a bit of a haul from city proper, I still give this a high recommendation if you don’t mind a mini-road-trip and you love Cajun/Louisiana style food. I almost feel guilty writing about Green Door on 8th. I don’t want the secret to get out…

Tried Green Door on 8th? Leave a message in the comments section!

And remember… beer is freedom… and the food abides…