The food abides…

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Lunch at Acropolis Greek Taverna

Decided to hit up the New Tampa location of Acropolis Greek Taverna for lunch. My girlfriend had never tried it and I haven’t been there in quite a few years but having just recently ate at Hellas in Tarpon Springs, we weren’t expecting to be blown away. Turns out it was better than I remembered.

Saganaki Flaming Cheese – This has quickly become one of my favorite Greek staples regardless of the damage it is likely doing to my cholesterol levels.

Spread over fresh-baked pita or bread this makes for a good appetizer. The only disappointing part is it coagulates very fast so you have to work quick. That wasn’t a problem for us and I doubt that it would be for most.

Shrimp Tinos – This sauce on this shrimp was top-notch. I expected it to taste greasier but it wasn’t and the artisan bread was a good compliment to sop up what was left in the bowl.

Dolmades (Stuffed Grape Leaves) – As mentioned before, I’ve been out to Tarpon Springs and almost every Greek restaurant puts beef in their Dolmades. Since I do not eat red meat I usually have to bypass these. However Acropolis makes theirs vegan which turned out to be a plus for me. The lemon sauce is quite powerful and that’s a good thing.

Chicken Souvlaki – This dish was done well, however my sole complaint would be the use of thighs instead of white meat. Don’t get me wrong, I like the occasional dark piece of chicken and I understand it makes the texture closer to actual lamb souvlaki, but it just felt slightly off. Still enjoyed the flavor of this dish.

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Acropolis gets another round of praise for it’s service and its portion sizes. Our server was spot-on the entire meal and the portions left us with another two full meals to take home with us. Given that the price was more than reasonable, this deserves every bit of it. Acropolis is a worthy inclusion

Tried the New Tampa Acropolis Greek Taverna or one of its other locations? Leave a message in the comments section!

And remember… the food abides…


Super Bowl Penne…

Enjoy your greasy wings and clumpy nachos while you watch the Super Bowl. I’ll be over here eating my girlfriend’s incredible Parmesan Mascarpone Shrimp and Penne….


Happy New Year from the Tampa Food Dude!

Currently enjoying a little New Year’s Day charcuterie and an Einstock Icelandic Dopplebock. Nice, malty, holiday brew and I’m digging the viking bottle art with the reindeer antlers and red nose. Hope everyone is enjoying the last bit of the holidays before we all go back to the grind…


Turkey Sausage and Kale Italian Wedding Soup!

When you send your girlfriend’s mother home with the turkey carcass and she returns a week later with an incredible homemade Turkey Sausage and Kale Italian Wedding Soup…

Incidentally, this paired incredibly well with the aforementioned Triple-Smoked Gouda Beer Bread.


Post-Turkey Day Triple-Smoked Gouda Beer Bread!

I’ve mentioned my attempts at Alton Brown’s Cheddar Dill Beer Bread before. Decided to whip up a couple of loaves for my friends’ Post Turkey Day Bash again. However for my second loaf I experimented a little and came up with a something new.

Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you the Triple-Smoked Gouda Beer Bread. Basically the same format as the Cheddar Dill Beer Bread with three changes.

First, instead of a Pale Ale I used a Smoked Roggenbier. Any smoked beer will do but this is what I was able to get my hands on. Second I substituted a Smoked Gouda for the sharp cheddar. This added a warm and creamy depth to the bread. And last, instead of the dill weed, I just added a few drops of liquid smoke just to kick that smokey flavor up a notch.

I was really impressed by how this came out. That smokey undertone was present but not overpowering and when you toast this up and just add a little butter, it’s makes for a great breakfast. It’s also the perfect compliment to a hearty meal like a soup or a chili.

Have a favorite beer-bread recipe? Leave a message in the comments section!

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


Thanksgiving 2018!!!

This year we played host for the Thanksgiving feast. First time we’ve done Thanksgiving together and cooking for eight was a fun challenge but it turned out to be a hell of a meal.

 

My girlfriend cooked an amazing turkey this year using a compound butter with sage and thyme. It was an incredibly juicy bird and she really outdid herself.

I also tried my hand at carving the roast beast for the first time ever. I think I did a pretty good job with it, but I’d like to practice a little bit more for next year. Presentation is everything and a better carving job makes for a better look on the plate.

As if her turkey wasn’t enough, she made a decadent Asiago and Garlic Mashed Potato Bake. These may be the best mashed taters I’ve ever eaten.

We left our guests in charge of the veggies and they showed up with some sauteed Green Beans with Garlic and Toasted Almonds. I know green bean casserole is the tradition this time of year. However I’ve never been fond of such a rich veggie dish when everything else is as heavy as it is. Needless to say, I really appreciated these.

Another veggie, the baked Sweet Potatoes and Butternut Squash were simple and a perfect side dish for our meal.

Of course it wouldn’t be Thanksgiving without my Sage Turkey Sausage and Cranberry Stuffing. It’s a staple this time of year and I even froze a couple bags of cranberries in case I want to make it again over the holidays.

This is what I love. No frills, no weird tofurky substitutions and no wacky global sides. Just a simple, traditional Thanksgiving meal with great people.

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This has been a truly great year and I’m glad I got to set aside a day to show some gratitude for that. I hope everyone had plenty to be thankful for and is ready to enjoy the holiday season.

And remember… the food abides…


Road Trip!!! – Connecticut 2018

So I took a trip up to Connecticut with my girlfriend this month. Not only did I get to introduce her to my family but I also was afforded the chance to introduce her to some of the rather impressive food and beer that the state I grew up in currently has to offer.

The first morning after we arrived, my parents took a special trip to Gaetano’s Deli and brought back some stuffed breads. Here we have both their pepperoni and their eggplant. Biting into these is like a warm hug from an Italian grandmother.

Dinner that night with my family was at Ralph-n-Rich’s and I couldn’t resist getting the Zuppa di Pesce; it’s a rarity in Tampa, so if I see it on a menu I will almost always order it. I finished the entire plate.

Day two was one I’d been looking forward to for quite a while. Until I was three years old we grew up five minutes away from Zuppardi’s Apizza and eating their pies for the first time was a seminal experience. I wanted my girlfriend to be able to experience that for herself. And she did.

We started with the Plain Cheese…

Then moved onto the “Special” – Meatball and Onion…

And then a White Tomato…

And finally we finished it all off with my absolute favorite, the White Clam. Sweet fancy Moses, do I miss Zuppardi’s…

Day three was something special. We’ve had a long standing debate on what constitutes a “real” Lobster Roll. I maintained that if it’s hot lobster on a roll with just butter, it’s a Lobster Roll. If it’s cold with mayonnaise and lots of crunchy vegetables, that’s a Lobster Salad Sandwich. As my girlfriend had never experienced the former, we headed to Lenny & Joe’s so she could try one.

Hot lobster, on a roll, with just butter. Ladies and gentlemen, I present you with a “real” Lobster Roll.

And of course, I couldn’t have stopped at Lenny & Joe’s without also getting an order of another New England seafood staple, the Fried Clam Strips.

That evening we met some very old friends for a few drinks and a couple of apps at the Hub and Spoke. First up was the Burrata, which, interestingly enough, I had never tried before.

Second was the Bang-Bang Shrimp. This is not like the stuff you can get at a Bonefish Grill. This was pure fire. In a good way.

On our final day of the trip, my family headed to La Zingara in Bethel, which I maintain is one of the best Italian restaurants in the entire state of Connecticut. Their Lobster Risotto has to be the best version of Risotto I’ve ever tasted.

And of course Connecticut produces some dynamite craft beer. After years of never being up there during the fall, I was ecstatic that I had the opportunity to finally try Two Roads’ fall offerings. I really enjoyed their Ok2berfest Marzen and even though it was a little hoppier than I was expecting, I still found it topping my all-time lists.

My girlfriend opted for the Hanging Hills Brewing Company Dechtoberfest Lager which she really enjoyed.

Washed down that pizza at Zuppardi’s with a Festbier from Counterweight Brewing. This went really well with the pies, especially the White Clam.

While we were at Lenny & Joe’s we ordered the Thimble Island American Ale. This traditional Amber Ale was so off-the-charts amazing that we endevoured to do two things:

First, we made a point of finding Thimble Island’s Brewery which was only a short drive away from the restaurant so we could go in and try a flight. Every beer on the palate was incredible.

Second, we made a point of coming home with at least a sixer of the American Ale so we could enjoy it during the rest of our trip. The sweetness and the malt are just so perfectly balanced, I’m not joking when I say it’s one of the best beers I’ve ever had.

A quick lunch at Southport Brewing Company (which interestingly enough doesn’t brew its own beer) afforded me the change to try to Back East Brewery’s Octoberfest. This was a solid Marzen, and I dug the sweeter notes.

Next on our list was Tribus Beer Company. The offerings from this newer brewery were still summerish in nature but my girlfriend still enjoyed the smoked porter while I was impressed with the cherry sour.

For my final brew, I circled back to Two Roads with their Roadsmary’s Baby Pumpkin Ale. This one also tops my list of as one of the better pumpkin ales I’ve tried. Two Roads is the real deal.

 

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Ultimately it was a great trip and all the food and beer offerings made a simple trip to see my family really feel like a vacation. My girlfriend is already looking forward to the next trip and consequently I’ve started planning some more Connecticut food and beer-ventures in my head.

Been to any of the restaurants or tried any of the beers listed above? Leave a message in the comments section!

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


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…


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…


Afternoon Beer and Cigars featuring brews from Belhaven

Wee Heavy is red, Scottish Ale is blue. Poetry is hard, but I have Belhaven and cigars.


Double Feature Movie Night!

Enjoying a low key evening in with a couple of movies, some snacks and a little fermented goodness.

Watching: Thor Ragnarok and The Shape of Water. Munching: Matcha Pocky and some Chocolate Covered Pretzel Bites from Lindt. Drinking: Funky Buddha’s Nib Smuggler and Einstok’s Icelandic Toasted Porter.

Happy Friday!


New Beer Friday! – Captain Jack’s Stone Crab Stout from Coppertail Brewing Co.

I really dig when a brewery experiments and I’ll never pass up the chance to try a unique beer. When I heard that Coppertail was brewing a stout with 300 lbs. of Stone Crab claws tossed into the wort, I made a point of stopping in and picking up a couple bottles. So for today’s New Beer Friday, I present Captain Jack’s Stone Crab Stout.

Captain Jack’s pours the richest and darkest of browns with about a finger of foamy beige head (which unfortunately dissipated before I could get a good photo) and significant lacing on the glass. On the nose is a bit of mocha, a bit more roasted grains and just a hint of brine.

On the first pull are solid chocolate notes with some more roasted grains. Those carry through to combine with just a little bit of toasted biscuit before you get to the crab flavors on the back end. Mouthfeel is creamy and really coats your tongue. This tastes like a beer you’d want to enjoy on a waterfront and I’m surprised to be saying that about a stout.

I love this brew and probably could have downed the whole 750ml bottle in one go if I wasn’t being careful. Some people may be put off by the concept of beer and shellfish, but if you’re anything like me (i.e, you wholeheartedly believe oysters and a good lager are the food of the gods), you’ll have no complaints.

Even if you do, as long as you’re not allergic to shellfish, give this one a try anyway. It’s a solid stout that doesn’t sit at the bottom of your stomach like a rock, the crab is not overpowering in the least and the flavors mix in a really interesting way.

Tried Captain Jack’s Stone Crab Stout? Leave a message in the comments section below!

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


Breakfast Avocado Toast…

Somehow I found myself on the Avocado Toast-for-breakfast bandwagon and I have no earthly recollection of how that happened. By the way, try it with just a dash of smoked paprika. You’ll thank me later…


Epcot’s Holidays Around the World 2017

It’s getting to the point where there is no part of the year that Epcot isn’t hosting some kind of festival that is based around food or at least has some form of culinary component. Winter now sees the Festival of the Arts, Spring has the Flower & Garden Festival, The International Food and Wine Festival is their big one in the Fall and now they have introduced the Festival of the Holidays.

There are some who feel that all these festivals are a bit of overkill but I’m always in favor of more. Every festival is different and explores varied culinary themes. The Festival of the Holidays saw 11 Holiday Kitchens focused on presenting traditional seasonal fare from the participating countries.

In America, from the American Holiday Table, a full Roasted Turkey dinner with Stuffing, Mashed Potatoes, Cranberry Sauce and Green Beans.

For beverages they were slinging this incredible Eggnog White Porter from Shipyard Brewing Company. I don’t know where they located this because I’ve yet to see it anywhere else, but if you love beer and you love eggnog, this is a perfect holiday brew.

Also in America is BrewHub’s Pumpkin Spice Dunkelweiss. And since it was from the the Drum and Fife Tavern rather than a holiday kitchen this was available in a full size draft.

In Germany, from the Bavarian Holiday Kitchen a German Cheese Plate featuring a Butterkase w/Ham, Mushroom Brie w/Pretzel Crostini and a Tillamook Cheddar.

Also from the Bavarian Kitchen, Spiced Gluhwien. It was a somewhat chilly day when we were there and this was great for sipping while relaxing by the waterfront.

And again from the Bavarian Kitchen, the German Cheese Fondue in a Sourdough Bread Bowl with Steamed Baby Vegetables and Roasted Potatoes. This may have been my favorite dish from the event and the veggies were locally sourced to boot.

From the Alsace Holiday Kitchen in France was the Napoleon de Saumon Fume Brioche, a Smoked Salmon Napoleon on a Dill Brioche Roll.

Another from the Alsace Kitchen, the Petit Reveillon de Noel, a Turkey Breast stuffed with Mushrooms and Chestnuts with a Sweet Potato Puree. The Turkey Junkie in me loved this one.

From the Tarabaki Holiday Kitchen in Morocco was the Confit of Cheramoula Chicken Drum with Cinnamon Granny Smith Apples, Toasted Almonds, Brussels Sprouts and a Pinor Noir Syrup. This was a very unique dish and somehow the cinnamon apples and almonds made it feel very much like a holiday meal.

From the Tuscany Holiday Kitchen in Italy, the Panettone alla Milanese, a traditional warm Italian Fruitcake w/ Vanilla Sauce, Powdered Sugar and Cherry Syrup.

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And of course since it’s Disney the decorations and events are always done well.

Little touches like adding this “snow” man to the agricultural exhibit the Land make the ride festive without hitting you over the head with it.

One of the more interesting things they do is each country’s interpretation of Santa Claus. In France park-goers could visit with Pere Noel.

This Christmas tree in the American Adventure was huge…

…but paled in comparison to the World Tree in the center of the park.

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Disney does the holidays well. Epcot does these festivals well.  The big bonus is that since Epcot is the most “adult” of all the parks you get to enjoy things that aren’t geared around kids quite so much. When you put all of that together it makes for an excellent place to enjoy this time of year and it’s easily worth it.

Visited Epcot during the Festival of the Holidays? Leave a  message in the comments section!

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

 


2017 Holiday Wrap-Up!

Once again it was a hell of a busy season. I had made a conscious decision to get out and experience as many holiday events as possible and I made sure to take lots of photos.

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Putting up the Christmas tree at the beginning of the season saw the addition of a new beer-themed ornament and I’m really starting to appreciate these things.

After Christmas Tree decorating, we hit up Menchie’s to try their new holiday flavors. In the bowl is a swirl of Egg Nog and Gingerbread Cookie and it made me irritated to know I’ll clamor for this stuff for the next 11 months.

One evening we decided to catch the Christmas Light Display in North Straub Park. While the photo doesn’t do it justice, the City of St. Pete did a good job with it this year. And it afforded us the chance to grab dinner at 400 Beach Seafood & Taphouse where we ate outside and enjoyed a great park-side view as pictured above.

From 400 Beach Seafood & Taphouse, the Manchego Artichoke Fondue. I never thought of Manchego as a melty-cheese but they somehow altered the laws of physics to make it so.

Also from 400 Beach, Asian Seared Scallops on a Soba Noodle Salad with a Ginger Plum Sauce.

And a Rod Bender Red Ale from 3 Daughters Brewing Company hit the spot while we enjoyed the lights.

The night before Christmas Eve, we also managed to take in the Holiday Boat Parade from the Sail Pavilion in Downtown Tampa. I’ve never attended before, but dockside drinks and a really impressive display from the participants made this an event I’ll want to attend for years to come.

Entertained about eight guests for Christmas Eve Dinner this year which was a perfect size for my table. The Christmas Crackers are becoming a fun little holiday tradition.

Christmas Eve Dinner saw my first attempt in years to make Stuffed Mussels. These take a long time to prep which I usually can’t waste if I’m working during the day on Christmas Eve. But since it fell on a Sunday this year I took a shot. The entire batch was gone so it’s safe to say my guests loved them.

Christmas Morning always starts with leftover Linguine in White Clam Sauce eaten cold, right out of the container. It’s kind of like eating cold leftover Lo Mein but much more flavorful.

Christmas Day was spent at my at my friends’ house in Westchase and included lots of homemade Limoncello. There were literally bottles of this stuff everywhere and each sip was worth the calories.

This is the kind of thing that makes you really appreciate Christmas in Florida; a lakeside beer at sunset on Christmas Night.

And speaking of beer and Florida, Abita Brewing’s 2017 Christmas Ale was a really good brew this year and the Santa/Gator bottle art just seemed far too appropriate not to showcase.

The Christmas Toast. Can’t say enough about how much I love scenes like this.

I’m a Turkey Junkie and my friends did not disappoint. Christmas Turkey Dinner with Gruyere Scalloped Potatoes, Stuffing and Pear & Bleu Cheese Salad. Those potatoes were the highlight.

The day after Christmas saw a Boxing Day hike with the canine at Flatwoods Park as my attempt to burn off some of the holiday calories.

The hike was followed by a nice lobster roll at Prime Bar which kind of negated the calorie-burning but hey, I’m on vacation.

It’s not the holidays without a care package full of homemade baked goods from Mom which also arrived the day after Christmas. Spritz Cookies, Candied Pecans, Gingerbread Cookies, White Trash and Fool’s Toffee.

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Of course no holiday wrap-up is complete without the cataloging of some beer-themed loot and my friends are excellent gift-givers.

Homebrewed Beer Soap made with IPA! This isn’t going to be one of those fancy soaps you only put out for guests. I’m using this bad-boy.

Cenoscillicaphobia metal placard . It’s a fear I can relate to so I found this amusing.

Can’t go wrong with new glassware. I love my state. I love beer. These glasses scratch both itches.

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One of my friends visited California in December and was cool enough to pick me up a stainless steel pint glass from Black Plague Brewing.

I’m not a fan of Belgian beers but some of the holiday ones are able to mask the Belgian yeast funk with the correct blend of spices. Barrel of Monks Father Christmas Holiday Ale is something I wanted to try but couldn’t get my hands on. Fortunately my friends saved the day with this bottle.

By the time New Year’s Eve rolled around I was hovering on the brink of exhaustion so I had no complaints about a relaxing night with some Tuna Croquettes for dinner and a few good holiday brews to close out the season.

Tampa Bay Brewing Company’s Gingy Imperial Gingerbread Porter may have been my favorite seasonal beer this year. And it went great with the aforementioned cookies as a way to ring in the new year.

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Last but not least I leave you with the traditional but rare photo of the Tampa Food Dude in a funny Christmas hat. Because nothing says “Christmas Lunatic” like a guy in a shiny red fedora. Hope everyone enjoyed the holidays as much as I did this year and I wish you all a fond Merry Christmas and a Happy New Beer!

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


Wintertide and Winterbolt!!!

Halfway through December and I’m taking some downtime tonight. Drinking Sierra Nevada’s holiday spiced ale from their winter Snowpack and watching the exploits of the greatest villain ever to appear in a stop-motion holiday special.

I’m digging the brew. Sierra Nevada doesn’t really do malty beers (I think the holiday Snowpacks over the last few years have been all IPAs and Pale Ales with maybe a random stout thrown in for good measure), so this was a pleasant surprise. Wintertide is very similar to Samuel Adams’ Old Fezziwig but just a little less sweet and with a slightly heaver backbone of spices; the cinnamon, nutmeg and clove in this one are more bold and you can really taste them.

And yes I’m showing my age with my appreciation for Winterbolt, the evil ice wizard from Rudolph & Frosty’s Christmas in July. He’s still a badass.

Hope everyone is enjoying the holiday season so far because it will be over before we know it.

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


Dunedin Brewery Crawl!!!

Nestled between Clearwater and Palm Harbor, this small waterfront community with a rich Scottish/Celtic heritage has become something of a mini-Mecca for breweries in the last couple of years. Like the St. Pete Brewery Corridor, zythophiles can easily spend an entire day walking around Downtown Dunedin sampling beers from a number of different brewers and that is exactly what we did. Not everyone in our crew made it to the end of the night, but those of us dedicated enough were treated to some unique new locations and some stellar new brews.

Here’s a quick round-up:

Woodwright Brewing Co. – This may have been my favorite of all the new locations. The building, a portion of which still actively operates as a woodworking company, is gorgeous and the smell of fresh cut wood is lingers in the air. There is a spacious courtyard with lots of long tables and a firepit and it’s surprisingly dog friendly. At one point I even noticed that there were more dogs than people.

Highlight – Among a host of great malty beers like Scotch and Irish Ales, a hearty porter and a solid Dunkel, I enjoyed their Woodwright Amber Ale the most. Slightly sweet with just a touch of citrus on the back end, this makes for an excellent example of what the brewers at Woodwright can do.

7venth Sun Brewery – The second oldest brewery in Dunedin, 7venth Sun is another local craft beer staple. Located in a strip center and with only a few tables outside and a few chairs inside, you don’t really come to 7venth Sun for the atmosphere, you come for the beer.

Highlight – A collaboration with Terrapin Brewing, Real Men Wear Skirts, a Scotch Ale with rye, was sweet and full-bodied with a nice rounded caramel backbone. That rye note is just subtle enough to accent the flavors.

Halftime Eats – Hog Island Fish Camp – Around halfway though our day we decided we needed to stop and refuel. Being right on the water, there was no shortage of seafood restaurants in the immediate area, but on our way to the next brewery on our list we spotted Hog Island Fish Camp and decided to give it a shot.

Highlight – Our adventurousness paid off in spades and I was treated to this amazing Oyster Po’ Boy Sandwich. I’ve never had fried oysters this good before and this sandwich was quite large. This was a good thing as it gave me a solid base to continue beer sampling at the next locations.

Cueni Brewing Co. – Speaking of the next location, across the street was Cueni Brewing Co. A relative newcomer to the Dunedin area, this place was small and their modest taps were still plying a lot of summer brews. What they did have was well crafted and I enjoyed what I got to sample.

Highlight – The Moove Over, I’m Milk Stout was a delightful experience for the senses. Cocoa on the nose, a creamy mouthfeel with just a slight fizziness to it and milk chocolate flavors on the tongue lent itself to what I found to be a surprising brew. Highly drinkable, it didn’t sit at the bottom of my stomach like a rock as most stouts tend to do.

Caledonia Brewing – Our next stop was honestly the one I was the most excited for. Another newcomer to the Dunedin scene, Caledonia quite literally wears its Scottish heritage on its sleeve. This place operates like it’s been in business for 20 years. With blue lighting, lots of pub games and a jukebox, it was packed with clientele and felt like a Saturday night hangout. What impressed me the most was the beer list. Most new breweries start small with 4-6 core beers before they begin expanding their repertoire; however, Caledonia boasted close to 30 different styles and that is an impressive feat for a place that’s only been open for 7 months.

Highlight – When you’re in an area known for it’s Scottish roots and in a brewery named after what the Romans used to call Scotland, how can you not try the Scotch Ale before anything else? The Rat Arsed Scotch Ale was a legitimate offering with high caramel notes and a pleasant sweetness. This was a mellow brew and it was appreciated after the night started to wind down.

Soggy Bottom Brewery – Another new kid on the block as well as another location that had the feel of a Saturday night destination. With low ceilings, kitschy chairs made from old kegs and license plates and a mustachioed bartender in a vest and bow-tie, Soggy Bottom is a bit trendier than the other locations. That was reflected in their beer as there were some very unique offerings.

Highlight – While I wanted to try some of their more unique brews like the mint chocolate stout or blackberry wheat, they were still pouring an Oktoberfest. Given that we’re at the tail end of the Fall beer season I had to go with the Marzen.  As this will likely be my last Oktoberfest this year, I’m glad I went out with this one because it was worth it.

Dunedin Brewery – And of course none of the day’s adventures would have been possible without Dunedin Brewery.  As the Bay Area’s oldest microbrewery, DunBrew laid the ground work for twenty years and anchored Tampa as a craft beer destination. With old favorites always on the menu and new experimentations constantly coming down the pipe, you can never go wrong with coming to the area solely to visit this place.

Highlights – Went with a flight this time around and I sampled the Fear of Change Bavarian Amber, the Oktoberfest Marzen, the Al Grundy Red Lager and the Batten Down Berliner Weisse. The Fear of Change was easily my favorite of the bunch. Aged on Guatemalan cocoa nibs and cypress wood, this beer tasted simultaneously like Germany, South America and Florida all rolled into one fantastic brew.

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If you’re a beer enthusiast visiting the Tampa Bay Area, you’re going to have to pick and choose where you sample as no one can possibly hit all 40+ local breweries in one go. But if you want to take on a large chunk at once, Dunedin’s density of craft beer-makers, all within walking distance of one another, is very attractive to that notion. Especially if you have an appreciation for Celtic heritage and darker, maltier brews.

Visited Dunedin and tried any of the local beers? Leave a message in the comments section!

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


Happy Halloween from the Tampa Food Dude!

I have an annual Halloween tradition. After all the holiday’s activities are over, I kick back, crack a pumpkin beer and watch Tim Burton’s Sleepy Hollow. This year’s brew is actually one I had cellared from last year, Barley Mow Brewing Co.’s “Lord of the Gourd” Pumpkin Porter. With a nice spice and a malty backbone this was a perfect brew to compliment the time of year as well as Burton’s Halloween weirdness.

I’m starting to find that porters take to seasonal flavors like pumpkin or gingerbread very well and aren’t nearly as heavy as stouts, so I like it when I see brewers experiment with these more often.

Hope everyone has enjoyed their Halloween this year. Given that we’re going to blink and it will be January 2nd it’s always good to slow down and enjoy things when we can.

Tried Lord of the Gourd? Leave a message in the comments section!

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


Jalapeno Lingonberry Salmon

Here’s a tip. Whenever you’re at IKEA don’t forget to stop at the Swedish grocery they have just after the checkout area. They have some great stuff including this Jalapeno Lingonberry dry rub which I used on some fresh salmon I just bought from Land & Sea. May very well be the best piece of fish I’ve ever cooked…