The food abides…

Restaurants

Post Hurricane Irma Eats @ Buttermilk Provisions

Post Irma, most retail locations were out of power, food or both. That’s why in addition to being incredibly grateful that we made it through the hurricane relatively unscathed (especially given the devastation it wrought on some of our neighbors to the south and east), I’m also very glad that one of my favorite local coffee and pastry shops, Buttermilk Provisions was up and running immediately following the storm.

The Spinach, Mushroom and Gruyere Quiche was a perfect dish of cheesy goodness. The Vegan Cinnamon and Sugar Donut was surprisingly moist. And I maintain that the Buddy Brew coffee kicks the crap out of anything you can get anywhere else.

The proprietor greeted us with a warm smile and a genuine concern for how we fared during the storm. Between that, and the food, it was a much needed bit of normal after what had been a crazy week leading up to Irma’s Florida landfall.

THIS is why I support local business as often as I can. You cannot get this kind of comfort at a Starbucks.

Hope everyone was as lucky as we were during the storm and if you weren’t that you can get your lives back to normal as soon as possible…

And remember Florida… the food abides… and so do we….

Advertisements

Review – Cask Social Kitchen

I had very fond memories in the late 90’s of Hospitality Night every Sunday at the old Mangroves on Howard Avenue. Perhaps it was the desire to not tarnish those memories that caused me to avoid any other establishment that was built on that location but I unconsciously steered clear of that area for far longer than I should have. It wasn’t until recently, when a good friend’s birthday dinner was planned there, that I ventured into that spot upon which now resides, Cask Social Kitchen.

While the soul of the old Mangroves is gone, it’s been replaced with a similar contemporary feeling accented with lots of barrels and exposed light bulbs. It has a relatively small parking lot for such a big building so the complementary valet was greatly appreciated especially in an area like SoHo where parking is usually brutal.

As if the name wasn’t any indication, Cask features wine and lots of signature whiskey-based (among other) cocktails, but I was impressed with the amount of local and craft beer they offered. Ordered the Spacegrass IPA from Angry Chair Brewing right down the road in Seminole Heights and it was a perfect starting brew.

They had a wide range of apps, some of which were rather unique. I went with the Buffalo Cauliflower and this dish was spectacular. I honestly couldn’t even tell I was eating cauliflower because it was breaded so well and had just the right amount of heat. I’m not quite sure why it was served with ranch dressing instead of bleu cheese and that’s the only thing I would change about the dish.

Some of my friends ordered the BBQ Short Rib Flatbread with Caramelized Onions, Fresh Mozzarella, Goat Cheese and Roasted Portabello Mushrooms. They could not stop raving about this and just looking at it made me sorry I don’t eat red meat

*      *      *      *      *

By now you’ve probably noticed the “Social Kitchen” moniker tagged onto their name. Cask has a their own take on “family style” serving that they call “social eating.” A good number of the menu items have two prices. One price is for a single serving and another is for a group serving intended to share.

You’ve no doubt read my thoughts on other places that try this concept and my disappointment when it doesn’t quite work out. To this day, I don’t understand how places like the Rooster and the Till can “encourage sharing” with such small portions.

But this is where Cask knocks it out of the park. A single serving is a full portion and a sharing portion is a serving and a half. This is the perfect amount of food and Cask nailed it; this spot-on structure truly encourages sharing. It also helped that the food was prepared extremely well and it had one of those across-the-board menus that has something for everyone, but we all took advantage of this and the passing around of plates felt like a bona-fide communal experience.

I went with the Rock Shrimp & Lobster Ravioli with Fire Roasted Plum Tomatoes and Sweet Basil. There was a ton of seafood jammed into this dish and the sauce was perfect.

One of my friends ordered the Citrus Scallops with Sauteed Spinach, Grilled Sweet Potato, Caramelized Grapefruit and a Citrus Brown Butter. The scallops were huge, the grapefruit was an interesting tropical take and the brown butter sauce was amazing.

Another member of our group ordered the Chicken & Waffles with Vanilla Cream, Orange Spiked Maple Syrup and Honey Butter. Right up there with Shrimp & Grits, Chicken & Waffles is another one of my favorite southern dishes and Cask did an amazing job with it. The orange maple syrup was a nice touch and added a little bit of Florida flair.

*      *      *      *      *      *

While they did have an extensive desert menu, since it was a birthday, we brought a cake and Cask had no problems with this.

The service was impeccable. Even though there were sixteen of us and we had only one server, he never flinched. He explained the serving/pricing structure in a clear way and didn’t hesitate when I asked him what current beer on tap he would recommend. Food came out on time and not a single order was messed up even though he didn’t write anything down.

I can’t think of a single negative thing to say about this establishment and I’d recommend Cask Social Kitchen to anyone especially if you’re in a larger group. It truly is a social experience, the way communal eating was meant to be.

 

Oh, and if you’re there, make sure you post a pic of what you’re noshing on. Vincent Jackson just might regram your photo. Thanks for exposure #83!!!

Tried Cask Social Kitchen? Leave a message in the comments section!

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


Capping off an evening with a blind goat…

Any evening that ends with brews at the Blind Goat after midnight can be considered a good one…


Boating Brews and Dockside Eats…

Ma Nature managed to give us one last blast of the dry season (I know I said that last time but the weather continues to surprise) with a cold front that stretched all the way down to us in the Bay Area which very rare in May. Being smart enough not to waste it, our crew headed for the high seas to enjoy some boating and kick-ass weather. Of course the day included some great food and craft beers.

I brought along two six packs for the day. The first was Uinta Brewing’s Baba Black Lager. This brew had the flavor notes of a porter but it was no where near as thick. This boasted some malty notes, some toasted barley and just a hit of hoppiness. For a dark beer this was remarkably smooth and wound up being a perfect brew to enjoy out on the water.

The second was 21st Amendment’s Brew Free! Or Die Blood Orange IPA. I absolutely loved this one. Of all the Blood Orange IPAs I’ve tried recently this was the sweetest. It honestly tasted like a hoppy, boozy Sunkist orange soda and this is a good thing.

The cooler air brought a lot of wind so we stuck to the inter-coastal waterway due to all the chop on the water. This afforded us the chance to hit the Seabreaze Island Grill and Raw Bar in Reddington Shores, probably one of the best dockside seafood eateries I’ve been to in quite a while.

Started with a round of drinks and discovered a much appreciated policy of a free beer if you arrive by boat.

Ordered a plate of Caribbean Island Wings for the table. They were cooked in a flavorful but not overpowering jerk seasoning and served with two dipping sauces.

I’m a sucker for good shellfish so I went with the Island Style Mussels. This was hands-down the largest bowl of mussels I’ve ever eaten and the red sauce it was served in was a perfect complement.

I actually had doubts that I could finish the whole thing but with a little help from my friends I’m able to share this photo of post mussel decimation…

We spent the rest of the day out on the water and then decided to hit the Candy Kitchen in Madeira Beach for some ice cream.

Not much of a sweet tooth but Ice Cream and Peanut Butter would definitely be considered my kryptonites so this Vanilla Peanut Butter Swirl was the one that got me.

Being a vintage candy shop, the Candy Kitchen also boasts what is probably the most distracting bathroom you’re ever likely to see.

 

I always feel a little sad when the dry season ends because I know once the humidity kicks in I will be barricading myself indoors where it’s air-conditioned for the next four months (or longer if the weather the last few years has been any indication). With good food, good beer, amazing weather and some great friends, this weekend was a great way to send the season off in a positive way.

Have some favorite boating brews or dockside eats? Leave a message in the comments section!

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


Fried Avocado @ Miguel’s Mexican Seafood and Grill

Had a late night at the office this week and decided to catch dinner with some co-workers. Ordered about four of these bad boys for the table…

fried-avocado

Pitted avocado stuffed with seafood and cheese then coated in bread crumbs and lightly fried. It’s a remarkably simple concept and I’m surprised that with everyone deep-frying everything from Oreos to lasagna to ice-cream no one has come up with it before now. Yes it was as good as it sounds…


Review – Cafe Ole

I’d been to Cafe Ole a couple of times in the past and I always remembered liking it. Through no fault of their own however, they just sort of fell off of my New Tampa radar as I turned my palette towards exploring some of the more culinarily-diverse locales in the Bay Area. The fact that they’re in such an off-the-beaten-path location on Cross Creek Blvd simply means I forget that they’re there. It wasn’t until they expanded their restaurant that I had started hearing a buzz about them again.

When my sister and brother-in-law came to town for a recent visit with their family, they had one kid-free evening but wanted to stick close-by. Having just heard of their expansion from yet another friend, I suggested Cafe Ole.

Cafe Ole easily falls into the “hidden gem” category. Tucked in a strip-center next to a Martial Arts studio and behind a gas station, what appears on the outside as nothing special belies a decidedly Spanish experience.

There is a bar side which is slightly more casual and the recently expanded dining room which is still casual albeit slightly more upscale. The decor is Spanish, through and through and we were fortunate enough to be there on a night a Latin jazz band was playing which was rather entertaining.

I’m a big fan of tapas. I love to try new things and the ability to order many small plates as opposed to one big one always resonates with me. Needless to say, we attempted to try as much as we could here.

Cafe Ole 2

Queso Y Aceitunas – Aged Manchego cheese served with marinated Spanish olives. Spanish authenticity at its finest. If I didn’t have to worry about fat and sodium, I could honestly eat olives and cheese all day long.

Cafe Ole 3

Patatas Alioli O Bravas – Deep fried diced potatoes finished in an alioli sauce. These were perfectly fried without being greasy at all and the alioli was a flavorful complement.

Cafe Ole 6

Salpicon di Mariscos – Mussels, clams, calamari, scallops, and shrimp, marinated with extra virgin olive oil and doused in a Spanish red vinaigrette. If you love shellfish, this was excellently prepared.

Cafe Ole 5

Croquetas de Atun – Tuna croquettes with a tomato pesto sauce. Really liked the breading on these; they were fried, but still tasted lighter.

Cafe Ole 4

Chicken Empanadas – The chicken filling inside these fried turnovers was warm and inviting, like a savory Pop-Tart.

Cafe Ole 7

Calamari Fritos – Fried Calamari with tomato pesto. With the biggest pieces of squid I’ve ever come across before, these things were like calamari onion rings!

Cafe Ole 8

Pumkpin Ravioli – Served in a savory cream sauce this may be the best pumpkin ravioli I’ve ever had. Note that this is a seasonal item which was still on the menu when we visited but is likely not available now.

All of the food was spot-on and the portion sizes were actually larger than what I was expecting for the price. If you’ve followed my epicurean adventures for any length of time, you know that the portion size/price correlation is a major sticking point of mine. Cafe Ole scored huge bonus points with me in this department. I left full and my wallet wasn’t empty and that’s ALWAYS a good thing.

Cafe Ole 1

Of course I’d be remiss as a zythophile if I didn’t mention the ice-cold Mahou Spanish Ale I ordered which is rather hard to find on draft. And while not pictured I also tried the Sangria which was nothing short of amazing.

The food was tasty and authentic, the service was great and the atmosphere was perfect for just a relaxing night. My sister and brother-in-law loved it and I was given a gentle reminder not to forget to give a little patronage love to the local eateries that may be right in my backyard.

If you’re in the New Tampa area, there aren’t a lot of non-chain options. So if you’re looking for something with a little more oomph than a Chili’s, keep Cafe Ole in mind.

Tried Cafe Ole? Leave a message in the comments section!

And remember… the food abides…


Mini-Deserts at Cape May

Had dinner with some friends at the Cape May Café at the Disney Yacht & Beach Club last night. In addition to the freshest seafood buffet I’ve ever eaten, they had a mini-desert section.

Cape May Deserts

Clockwise from the left, Flan, Lemon Chiffon Cake, Peanut Butter Walnut Blondie, Flourless Chocolate Cake and Pistachio Cheesecake. These were small enough to try everything without the guilt of eating five different deserts. I maintain I do not have much of a sweet-tooth but every one of these was amazing, especially the Pistachio Cheesecake.

Tried the Cape May Café? Leave a message in the comments section!

And remember… the food abides…