The food abides…


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…


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…

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.

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…

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.


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…

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…

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….

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.

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By now you’ve probably noticed the “Social Kitchen” moniker tagged onto their name. Cask has 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.

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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…


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…

Road Trip – 2015 Epcot International Food & Wine Festival 20th Anniversary Photo Round-up – Now with bonus swag!

With the holidays firmly in the rear-view mirror I once again have a little bit of time to give some credit where credit is due to the remarkable event and menu planners at Disney’s Epcot. They’ve pulled off another great International Food & Wine Festival for 2015 which also marked the event’s 20th Anniversary.

My friends and I managed to make it up there four times during the Festival season this year which afforded me the chance to try just as many dishes and drinks as last time if not more. So without further adieu, here’s a photo round-up of some of my favorite dishes and beverages from around the world.

New Dishes: These were either new to the 2015 menu or dishes I hadn’t had the opportunity to try before.

Brazilian Cheese Bread

Brazil – Pao de Queijo – Brazilian Cheese Bread paired with a Xingu Black Beer.

Bush Berry Shrimp

Australia – Grilled Sweet and Spicy Bush Berry Shrimp w/Pineapple Pepper, Onion and Snap Peas paired with a Cooper’s Brewery Extra Strong Vintage Ale.

Chilaquiles de Pollo

Mexico – Chilaquiles de Pollo – Layered Corn Tortilla and Chicken w/Queso Fresco, Sour Cream and Fresh Cilantro

Lobster Roll

USA – New England Lobster Roll paired with a Goose Island Honker’s Ale (Though I will maintain until my last dying breath that cold lobster with mayonnaise is Lobster Salad Sandwich; it HAS to be hot lobster with butter to be considered a Lobster Roll).

Poached Salmon

Chew Lab Pavilion – Olive Oil Poached Salmon with Fresh Corn and Pepper Jam

Beer Cheese Soup

Canada – Beer Cheese Soup paired with a Moosehead Lager

Teriyaki Gyoza Bun

Japan – Teriyaki Gyoza Bun – Steamed Rice Bun filled with Chicken, Vegetables and a Sweet Teriyaki sauce.

Ricotta and Zuchinni Ravioli

Sustainable Food Pavilion – Ricotta and Zucchini Ravioli with Rustic Tomato Sauce (presented on sustainable VerTerra Dinnerware!)

Cheese Tasting Platter

Cheese Studio Pavilion – Trio of Artisan Cheeses – Karst Cave-Aged Cheese with Honey, La Bonne Vie Goat Cheese with Craisin Bread and Rogue Creamery Oregon Blue Cheese with a Berry Port Compote.

Cheese Fondue

Cheese Studio Pavilion – Another from the Cheese Studio, a Cheese Fondue with Sourdough Bread

Old Favorites: Returning dishes which I’ve really enjoyed in the past.

Lobster and Seafood Fisherman's Pie

Ireland – Lobster and Seafood Fisherman’s Pie paired with a Kilkenny Cream Ale

Croissant aux Escargots

France – Croissant aux Escargots – Escargot Croissant w/ Garlic and Parsley paired with a Kronenbourg Blanc 1664 Ale

Tuna Poke

Hawaii – Tuna Poke w/ Seaweed Salad and Nori Strings paired with a Kona Big Wave Golden Ale.

Kung Fu Punch

China – Beijing Roasted Duck on a Steamed Rice Bun with Onions, Lemongrass and Hoisin Sauce paired with a Kung Fu Punch. Still my hands-down favorite dish three years in the running!


Wine and Cheese Sampler

Wine Studio Pavilion – A wine sampler consisting of a Robert Mondavi Fume Blanc, Still River Winery’s Apfel Eis (Apple Ice Wine) and a Sterling Vintner’s Cabernet Sauvignon paired with the above mentioned Cheese Trio from the Cheese Studio

Belgian Beer Flight

Belgium – Belgian Beer Flight – Hoegaarden, Leffe Blonde, Palm Speciale Beige Amber Ale and a Stella Artois Cidre

Craft Beer Flight

Craft Brew Pavilion – Florida Harvest Craft Beer Flight – Brew Hub’s Keybilly Island Ale, Two Henry’s Blueberry Vanilla American Wheat, Orlando Brewing’s Grateful Pumpkin and a Swamp Head’s Wild Night Honey Cream Ale.


Italy – A very blurry Limoncello in Italy . One of my favorite after-dinner cordials.


Germany – Because even though it’s available all year-round, no trip to Epcot is complete without a full-sized Altenmunster Oktoberfest enjoyed by the lagoon at sunset.


Creme Brulee

France – Crème Brulee Vanille Chocolat – Vanilla and Chocolate Crème Brulee with caramelized sugar.

Belgian Waffle

Belgium – Belgian Waffle with Berry Compote and Whipped Cream

Chocolate Covered Cannoli

Italy – Cannoli al Ciaccolato – Chocolate Covered Cannoli

Bonus Photos: Swag! – I walked away with a lot of extra stuff this year, some related to Food & Wine and some just purchased during the Festival. Most of it was worth noting.

Passholder Glass

Food & Wine 20th Anniversary Commemorative Passholder Wine Glass – The Passholder Wine Glass was awarded to Annual Passholders who attended the Food & Wine Festival at least three times during the season. There was a rigmarole you had to jump through with lines and stamps in order to verify your attendance each time, but you don’t go to theme parks if you’ve got a major problem with lines so it was worth the wait.

2015 Pint Glass

Brews Around the World 2015 20th Anniversary Pint Glass – I’ve been collecting the Brews Around the World pint glasses for quite a few years now. The 20th Anniversary glass is special because they’ve added a round blue glass disc to the bottom making it unique from past years’ glasses in more than just the graphic design.

2015 Pint Glass 2

Rear view of the pint glass with all participating countries.

Food Tray 2015

2015 Festival Sampling Tray – If you’re going to sample both food and alcohol (pairing as the festival menu designers intended) you’re going to need a tray. In the past these have just been plastic plates with a cutout for drinks, but this year they went above and beyond. These resin trays are sturdier than in the past with full-sized cup holders designed to accommodate any size beer, cocktail or wine glass.

Rose and Crown Hat

Rose & Crown Pub and Dining Room Distressed Ball Cap – Totally loved the look of this hat. It is now mine. Free advertising for the Rose & Crown Pub? Maybe. Still a great hat.

Bass Ale

England Souvenir Tall Beer Stein – And speaking of the Rose & Crown. Bought an ice-cold Bass Ale. Got to keep the glass.

And there you have it folks. This is the second year I’ve sung the praises of the Food & Wine Festival. If you haven’t gotten a chance to check it out, it’s expensive, but worth the money. If you’re an annual passholder and don’t have to pay for a ticket on top of the food, there’s little reason not to try it at least once.

My sole recommendation would be to avoid Saturdays. As the annual passholder numbers grow and as more and more people learn about this Festival, Saturdays tend to look like a Zombie herd from the Walking Dead at certain points during the day and the food lines get very long. You’re better off going on a Sunday which is much less crowded as it tends to be a travel day for vacationers, or better yet taking a day off during the week where occupancy is at its lowest. But no matter what day you go, just go.

Tried the Epcot International Food & Wine Festival? Leave a message in the comments section!

And remember… the food abides…

Kringla Bakeri @ Norway in the Epcot World Showcase

My Disney crew and I hit up Epcot this weekend for our second trip to the International Food & Wine Festival this season (will have plenty of blog fodder to write about after the fest ends).


While there were a ton of deserts everywhere because of the festival, we still took small detour to the Kringla Bakeri in Norway so a couple of my friends could grab an authentic Norwegian pastry or two. Bearing in mind I’m not much of a sweets-eater, the sweet almond pretzel and the rice cream still have to be my favorite deserts in the park, festival or not.

Totally worth the stop every time…

Tried the Kringla Bakeri? Leave a message in the comments.

And remember… the food abides…

Review – The Rooster & the Till

My friends and I have really enjoyed trying new places in Seminole Heights as of late. For our most recent outing we decided to give a shot to another farm-to-table joint, the Rooster & the Till. Located on North Florida Ave, the Rooster & the Till is a similar restaurant to the Refinery, one of the first restaurants I reviewed on this blog.

The Good:

The Rooster and the Till can definitely be considered a dining experience. The ambiance is hip and upscale which contrasts greatly with the neighborhood it’s located in; this is a good thing because you don’t expect it when walking in the door. Décor is interesting with lots of hardwood, open lighting fixtures, large slate boards and kitschy table decorations like twinkle lights in mason jars. They’ve recently expanded, almost doubling in size since they first opened, which means more seats for more people.

Rooster & Till 1

We started with drinks and they had a good selection of local craft beers on draft. I had a 7th Sun Orange Dreamsicle which turned out to be an excellent brew.

Our server, who was very knowledgeable explained the menu (Modern American cuisine locally sourced from nearby farms and gardens) and their serving style (smaller plates and they encourage sharing.) More on this later.

Rooster & Till 2

We started with an artisanal cheese slate which had some incredible flavors on it. A balanced tray, it included four styles, a sharp, a mild, a creamy and a hard. My favorite of the four was the Bay Bleu cheese, which was salty and sharp and paired very well with some fresh honeycomb. I also enjoyed the goat cheese which had a unique flavor.

Rooster & Till 3

After that we ordered some “small plates.” We started with the Falafel Spiced Tofu with Salted Plum, Fennel, Chickpeas and Cilantro Yogurt. This was interesting and the salted plum was something very different.

Rooster & Till 4

We also tried the Crispy Cobia Collar with Nuoc Cham and Sesame Turnip Salad. I’ve only had cobia once or twice before but it was never prepared like this. Skin-on, bone-in isn’t something I’ve had much experience with, but if you were willing to work for the meat, it was worth it. The Nuoc Cham, a kind of Vietnamese sauce, was a perfect complement.

My friends also did a selection of raw oysters which they said were spot-on.

Rooster & Till 6

For our “slightly larger” plates we tried the Fazzoletti which is a giant piece of pasta a little larger than lasagna folded over itself and stuffed with onion pistou, sous vide tomatoes, parmesan cheese and olives. For a dish that skewed Italian, it hit the mark.

Rooster & Till 5

We also tried the Mako Shark Steak. First time ever having Mako Shark and I may very well have a new favorite fish. My guess is the preparation had a good deal to do with that.

My friends also tried the Pork Jowl with Corn Pudding and Pickled Turnips and they were very impressed.

On a whole, the food was excellent. Lots of new tastes and intriguing flavor combinations which I’d never experienced. That just added to the whole atmosphere of the evening.

The Bad:

You may have noticed I’ve been putting portion sizes in quotations. I’ve stated this before: portion sizes HAVE to match prices if I’m going to enjoy myself. Small portions are fine if the prices are small as well. This is not money thing, its full stomach thing. I live relatively far from the city proper so if I want to enjoy a few drinks I need a base in my stomach. That being said, the Rooster & the Till’s portions failed at this.

I knew this was going to be an issue when our server had to “explain their serving style because people sometimes don’t understand, get angry and leave.” With that kind of warning, how can you not raise an eyebrow?

First off, I don’t understand how they can encourage sharing with such small plates. Perhaps it makes more mathematical sense if you’re dining for two instead of three, but that would only make the price-per-head even larger.

We ordered a cheese tray, individually had two drinks, a small plate and a large plate and each walked out paying over 80 dollars. 240 greenbacks for three people would have been fine if I had left the restaurant full, but I did not. To make matters worse I couldn’t really enjoy a full drink at the next bar we went to afterwards for fear of not being able to drive home.

It’s somewhat of a shame because the food is worth trying and it may prevent me from going back unless I don’t plan on enjoying a beverage at all that evening.

The Ugly:

Like anywhere else in Seminole Heights, the parking at the Rooster & the Till is atrocious. It’s a problem with most of the businesses in the area because there are residential properties right behind everything. I drove around for nearly 20 minutes trying to find a spot I wouldn’t get towed out of and managed to stumble upon a couple leaving a spot in an adjacent lot. Had I not made that, who knows how much longer I would have had to circle.

This is something Seminole Heights as a whole needs to address and come up with a solution for (I’ve attempted to go to the Independent on three separate occasions and all were a no-go because I could not find anywhere to park and I’m not walking half a mile on N. Florida Ave). As Seminole Heights expands, it’s only going to get worse.

The Bottom Line:

Regardless of the few things I took issue with, I will still say the Rooster & the Till is worth trying. The food alone is delicious and the atmosphere/presentation makes for a great dining experience. Just remember to go in with the mindset that it’s GOING to be pricey if you want to leave feeling full. And unless you get there early in the evening before all the parking is gone, bring your lucky rabbit’s foot; you’re going to need it.

Tried the Rooster & the Till? Leave a message in the comments section!

And remember… the food abides…

Review – Local Public House and Provisions

Local Public House 1

Let’s face it, there’s not really much of note in San Antonio, Florida, a small rural town far from the urban sprawl of Tampa Bay. So when my friends discovered this little known hideaway, I was very intrigued. I’d been looking forward to trying this place ever since they mentioned it and I finally got the chance last week.

The Local Public House and Provisions is exactly that… local. All beer and wine is brought in from local microbreweries and wineries and all food is locally sourced. As the farm-to-table movement grows, it’s a very positive thing to see it done well in almost every establishment it’s attempted in and the Local Public House can proudly add itself to that list.

Being that the location is so off the beaten path, it was surprising to find the inside as jazzed-up as it was. The architecture was an open ceiling plan with lots of wrought iron fixtures and soft lighting. A pretty talented band was playing a rocked-out version of a rather poppy Elton John song and the patrons suggested a good deal of people were willing to make long trips from more urban/suburban areas in order to experience the establishment.

In other words, this was my kind of place…

Local Public House 3

Starting with the beer, I ordered a flight, (the most unusual of which was Fox Meadery’s Pink Stuff, a pink lemonade mead). All of their beer comes from local breweries which rotate out on a constant basis. That night’s offerings included selections from Barley Mow, Coppertail, Cigar City, Big Storm and Motorworks.

.Local Public House 4

I liked the Barley Mow Americana Golden Ale the best of the bunch so I decided on a full glass. The Americana was a well-balanced, grassy, hoppy ale with a very refreshing citrus note on the back-end. Great beer for a hot summer night.

Our server was up front and honest with us that the kitchen was backed up so the food might take a little bit longer and she brought us an order of boiled peanuts as a recompense. The last time I had boiled peanuts was at a baseball game when I was 14 and I didn’t remember them being that good but they did a great job of tiding us over.

The menu, while somewhat small (a good thing when they do each dish very well), was a mix of typical pub fare and classic southern dishes but each with their own little twist. Pulled Pork Sandwiches, Chicken Liver Po’Boys, Catfish & Chips and Chicken & Dumplings are some of the dishes that can be found on their menus which are clipped to the back of a cedar plank.

Local Public House 5

For an app I went with the Beer Cheese Fondue and Fries, an original take on the classic pub favorite, cheese fries. I list the fries second because while they were just shoestring potatoes (still homemade of course), the star of the plate is definitely the fondue. This is not your average cheese sauce out of a can. It was creamy with a nice little savory flavor at the end.

Local Public House 6

One of my friends got the Andouille Corn Dogs for their app and loved them. Another original take on a classic pub dish.

Local Public House 7

Although the Chicken and Dumplings were screaming my name, given the beer and the fries, I opted for something a little lighter. Went with the aptly named Big Salad, a gigantic salad with shrimp, gorgonzola, fresh fruit and a rather flavorful kumquat Vidalia dressing. Neighboring Dade City is the kumquat capital of the country and I appreciated the fact that they managed to work it into their menu.

In addition to the standard menu there are also weekly specials that are only served on certain days of the week like Shrimp & Grits on Thursdays and Chicken & Waffles on Mondays. Chicken & Waffles alone are enough to bring me back to the Local Public House again but the entire experience is guaranteed to do that on its own and I intend to follow through with a few more friends in tow.

A little out of the way? Yes. Worth the trip? Definitely.

Local Public House 2

Tried the Local Public House? Leave a message in the comments section!

And remember… the food abides…

Road Trip – Jersey City – Vu, Zeppelin Hall, Porta Pizza and Barcade

Had to do a little traveling for work this past week and found myself in Jersey City. Not the first time I’ve been there but luckily I got to try quite a few places I’ve never been before.


The first night our Partner took us to dinner at Vu at the Hyatt Regency. A five-course meal in a private room with a view overlooking the Manhattan skyline was honestly a great way to cap off a day of both travel and work.

Crab Cake at Vu

One of the more notable courses was the Maryland-Style Crab Cake which was prepared very well.

Pike at Vu

For the main course I chose the fish, which was a Grilled Pike with a Quinoa Salad and Roasted Baby Heirloom Tomatoes. Pike is one of those fish I’ve just never gotten a chance to try before for one reason or another and I really enjoyed the flavor (likely enhanced by the excellent way it was prepared).


The next night I wanted to strike out and see a little more of what Jersey City had to offer. Fortunately my sister lives twenty minutes away so she served as my guide for the evening.

Zepplin Biergarten

We started out with a couple of beers at Zeppelin Hall, an authentic German biergarten. Draft selection didn’t quite compare to my local Tampa favorite, Mr. Dunderbak’s, but it got the job done. That’s a Hoeggarden and a Hacker Pschorr Oktoberfest.

After drinks we headed to an upscale pizza and pasta restaurant called Porta Pizza.

Gose at Porta

It’s important to note that Murphy’s Law of Rare Beers is not without a sense of irony; after trying Victory’s Kirsch Cherry Gose for the first time a few weeks ago, I’ve been searching Tampa high and low for a taphouse that has it on draft or a liquor store that sells it in bottle but to no avail. Funny that I find it again in a pizzeria in Jersey City of all places.

Olives at Porta

We ordered the olives to snack on while we had our drinks which were very good. They included among others, Castelvetrano olives, which is a particular variety that isn’t easy to find in Tampa.

Pizza and Ravioli at Porta

For dinner we split a Margherita Pizza and an order of Ravioli. Let’s be honest here; we could have taken the PATH into NYC and found a decent slice of pizza in ninety seconds by walking in any direction. But as with the biergarten, the pizza at Porta got the job done. I was slightly more impressed by the ravioli which was served with a really savory cream sauce, somewhat reminiscent of an Alfredo but with a distinct smokey flavor.

EVOO Ice Cream

Our server kept raving about a new desert they had just started serving so we gave it a shot and it wound up being the Piece de Resistance. The Dark Chocolate Covered Extra Virgin Olive Oil Gelato Bar with a Brown Butter Crumb was amazing. I’m not much of a desert guy but I do like some ice cream every now and then and this stuff was off the chain.

Rogue Hazelnut Ale at Barcade

We ended the evening with a couple more drinks at a really unique little joint called Barcade. As the name implies it purveyed an impressive selection of both craft beers and vintage arcade games. Every game I remember from arcades in my childhood was there; Donkey Kong, Ms. Pac Man, Mr. Do, Asteroids and many others. If you played it when you were a kid in the 80’s it was there and its apparent someone put a LOT of love into locating and/or restoring functioning cabinets of all these games. The draft selection was impressive and I went with Rogue’s Hazelnut Brown Ale which I had never tried before but really enjoyed.


While Jersey City may not be anyone’s first choice when it comes to food, especially with all the epicurean options of New York City right across the river, there were still some gems hidden away and I’m glad we took the time to explore a few.

Been to Jersey City? Have any favorite locations? Leave a message in the comments section below!

And remember… the food abides…

Review – 100 Montaditos

I tend to shy away from chain restaurants and their cookie-cutter menus but 100 Montaditos is an exception in almost every way possible. First, it’s a primarily European chain with only two other US locations, one in NYC and another in DC so it’s not exactly like a Chipotle. Second, their menu, is so huge you could eat there 1000 times and never get the same combination twice. Third, I’ve seen the menus for their other locations and there are definitely some variations. All of which, coupled with the incredible flavors of their food, garnered the need for a review…

100-montaditos sign

Literally translating to “100 small sandwiches,” I probably wouldn’t have attempted to seek out 100 Montaditos on my own (and if it wasn’t for the fact that it opened up right next door to the Wiregrass Brass Tap that I frequent every other weekend I might not have ever tried it). When explaining it to others, the best description I can give is “Spanish Sliders.” I love choice when it comes to menus and this place serves it up in droves.

With a decidedly Spanish décor, 100 Montaditos is another type of half-service location where you order at a counter and they bring you your food. Because the selection is so large, they give you a paper menu and a pencil and you check off what you’d like (as if you were ordering sushi). With a number of different kinds of breads, sauces, meats/fishes, cheeses and toppings, the flavor combinations are outstanding.

100 Montiditos 4

My first time there I tried the #15 (Baby Shrimp, Lettuce and Ali Oli), the #71 (Smoked Salmon, Cream Cheese and Arugula), and the #77 (Anchovies, Fresh Tomato, Mayo and Spanish pickles). On the side I just ordered some fries with their incredibly spicy Serrano Ketchup and a small bowl of their Spanish Olives.

You would think three tiny sandwiches wouldn’t be much, but once it’s on the plate it’s actually quite a lot of food. Everything was fresh, from the meat to the sauces to the bread. My favorite of the bunch was the # 77. The anchovies and the pepinillo pickles were extremely flavorful (and I don’t normally reach for mayo when I make a sandwich).

100 Montiditos 2

On my second shot, I tried the #25 (Tuna, Fresh Tomato, Arugula, Spanish Pickles and Ali Oli), the #66 (Manchego Cheese, Fresh Tomato, Green Pepper and Anchovies) and the #75 (Smoked Salmon, Blue Cheese, Arugula and Olive Oil). This time I tried the Bravas Potatoes instead of the fries and while I wanted to try to Ali Oli sauce as a side, the spice-o-holic in me couldn’t tear myself away from the Serrano Ketchup.

Again, nothing short of a flavor explosion. The #66 was my favorite in this bunch although the Tuna in the #25 held it’s own. The Bravas Potatoes were a little more robust than the fries and I will probably stick with those on future visits.

For those with a proclivity for red meat, there are plenty of options from traditional Spanish meats like Chorizo, Serrano Ham, Salchicho, Lomo and Christorra as well as more American fare like Philly Steak, Meatballs and BBQ Pulled Pork. If you’re looking for something other than a sandwich, they do have salads and a number of appetizers and small plates like Tortilla Espanola (a type of Spanish egg fritata), Crispy Calamares, and Croquetas.

If you want to have a drink, a selection of beer, wine and sangrias are available. While I was waiting, I did hear someone at the table next to me comment on how much they loved the sangria, so take from that what you will.

100 Mondatidos also has specials on Wednesdays and Sundays with Wednesdays being 1.00 sandwiches and Sundays a 2 for 1.


And while I don’t have much of a sweet tooth, their Chocolate Montaditos look kind of amazing. Chocolate bread with different combinations of fillings like Sweet Cream, Hazelnut Spread, Chocolate/White Chocolate, Spanish Almonds and Oreo Cookies look like they will win over desert lovers everywhere.

As you can probably tell from my above photos, I’ve preferred to take their food home rather than eat in-house and 100 Montaditos just might have become my Sunday night go-to, when I just don’t feel like cooking. Although at some point I’m pretty sure I will order takeout again, bring it the 10 steps next door to the Brass Tap and eat it there. Pairing this food with a spicy beer like 5 Rabbit’s 5 Vulture Oaxacan Dark Ale or Pair O’Dice’s Mexicali Jalapeno Lime Pale Ale would be nothing short of astounding.

Tried 100 Montaditos? Leave a message in the comments section!

And remember… the food abides…

Road Trip – Epcot International Food & Wine Festival Photo Round-up

Yes I’m quite aware this is about six weeks overdue, but with the holidays starting right after the end of the festival, this has literally been my first free weekend. Fear not though; the experience is still fresh in my mind. That’s the kind of impact Disney leaves. The chefs and event planners do a phenomenal job and I can’t stress enough how much this event is worth the cost, pricey though it may be.

So here’s a photo round-up of some of my favorite dishes and drinks gathered over three vists:

Steamed Green Lipped Mussels

New ZealandSteamed Green Lip Mussels with Garlic Butter and Toasted Bread Crumbs – The photo doesn’t quite show the scale, but these mussels were huge and packed with flavor.

Turkey and Mushroom Bobotie

AfricaSouth African Bobotie (Egg Quiche) with Turkey and Mushrooms. An interesting combination of flavors and textures and not at all something I would expect food from Africa to taste like.

Grueyre and Mushroom Wheat Pasta

FranceGratin de Crozets de Savoie – A semolina wheat pasta gratin with mushrooms and Gruyère cheese. Paired with a Kronenbourg Blanc 1664 beer. The wheatiness of both made for an excellent pairing.


FranceTartlette aux Escargots – Escargot tart with garlic, spinach, bacon and parmesan cheese (removed the bacon because I don’t eat red meat). Because what’s France without some snails?

Tuna Poke

Hawai’iTuna Poke – Marinated tuna with seaweed salad and fried lotus root chips. – I’ve never had Tuna prepared like this before and the lotus chips were particularly unique.

Fisherman's Lobster and Seafood Pie 2

IrelandLobster and Seafood Fisherman’s Pie – Lobster, scallops and other seafood with melted Irish cheddar and browned mashed potatoes. Paired with a cool Guinness Stout of course.

Veggie Haggis

ScotlandVeggie Haggis with Neaps and Tatties – A spiced vegetable cake with rutabaga and mashed potatoes. Always wanted to try haggis, but the red meat prohibition stopped that from happening until now. Paired with an Innis & Gunn Oak Aged Beer.

Potato Cake with Smoked Salmon

ScotlandPotato Pancake – Also from Scotland, a potato pancake with Scottish smoked salmon and herb cream cheese. No recommended pairing but the Innis & Gunn worked quite well with this one too.

Tilapia Coconut Lime Sauce

BrazilMosequa de Pescada – Fresh tilapia with a coconut lime sauce, hearts of palm and steamed rice. The hearts of palm were a particularly nice flavor enhancement. Not pictured, but I paired this with a Xingu Black Beer.

Lobster Mac and Cheese

USA – Baked Lobster Alfredo – Another shot of the lobster mac & cheese. The Samuel Adams Octoberfest with it couldn’t have been a more perfect pairing.

Hoisin Duck

ChinaBeijing Roasted Duck – A roasted duck sandwich with red onions and lemongrass with a hoisin sauce on a steamed rice bun. This may very well have been my favorite dish of the entire event. The duck was tender, the hoisin sauce was savory and the steamed rice bun was like biting into a sweet cloud.

Bear in mind this is just a small sampling of some of my favorite dishes. I do not eat red meat but there were plenty of dishes for those who live on the bloody side of being a carnivore. Some of the more appetizing dishes included, Beef Empanadas from Patagonia, Grilled Lamb Chops with Mint Pesto and Potato Crunchies from Australia, Kielbasa and Potato Pierogies from Poland and an interesting Kimchi Dog with Spicy Mustard from South Korea.


And of course this is the International Food and WINE festival so there was plenty to drink. It’s no secret that Disney prepared for the global wine shortage long before it had an impact, hence the appearance of beers in just about every country in addition to the wine. As the craft beer movement has exploded over the last few years this was a good move and much appreciated by a xythophile like me.

Hungarian Wine

PolandDonausonne Blaufrankisch – Being a beer aficionado I stuck mostly to brews but this Hungarian “bull’s blood” style wine was amazing.

German Flight

GermanyBeer Flight #2: Altenmunster Oktoberfest, and three beers from BraufactuM, the Roog, Darkon and Progusta IPA. There are two flight choices in the German Biergarten and I went with the darker of the two. The Roog was a smokey brown ale and was one of my favorites from the bunch.

Dogfish Head Punkin Ale

Craft Beer BuildingDogfish Head Punkin’ Ale –  They have an entire building dedicated to craft beers and since the festival takes place during my favorite beer season, I had to do at least one pumpkin ale.

Blood Orange Margarita

MexicoBlood Orange Margarita – Okay so technically this is not a Food & Wine festival item as it can be purchased all year-long at the Tequila shop inside the temple in Mexico. But this tart blood orange margarita with whipped cream and a cinnamon rim was so much like a desert I had to get one.


As you can see there’s a lot to taste at the Epcot International Food & Wine festival and there’s something for just about everyone. I recommend this to anyone who can swing the cost of it (Epcot Park Admission plus the cost of food and drink). It can get expensive but it’s worth it.

And speaking of worth it, you may also notice the plastic dish in most of the photos. They’re available for sale at a kiosk right as you’re walking into the World Showcase for about 4 bucks. I highly recommend picking one up as the thumb slot for stabilization and the drink holder that fits every beverage cup in the park makes it much easier to eat (and take photos if you’re THAT guy, like me 😉

Been to the Epcot International Food & Wine Festival? Leave a message in the comments!

And remember… the food abides…

Zuppa di Pesce @ Gratzzi

Caught a show down at Jannus Landing this past weekend and we decided to grab dinner at Gratzzi Italian Grille beforehand. Without a second thought, I went with the Zuppa di Pesce.

Gratzzi - Zuppa di Pesce

Zuppa di Pesce is one of my favorite Italian meals but for some reason it’s difficult to find down here (and that is surprising given how much of a seafood city the Tampa Bay area is) so I was thrilled to see it on the menu. It’s no secret that I’m overly critical of Italian cuisine given my upbringing, but Gratzzi has never disappointed me. Their Zuppa di Pesce is no exception and they knocked it out of the park. This dish was absolutely loaded with seafood and the sauce was nothing short of perfect. I can’t recommend it (or Gratzzi) enough.

A fan of Zuppa di Pesce? Tried Gratzzi? Leave a message in the comments!

And remember… the food abides…

Road Trip – NYC

Had to head up to New York City this week for a work conference and my coworkers and I were fortunate enough to be able to enjoy a few meals in the city. Apologies in advance for some of the the grainy photos, but NYC restaurants are very low light and flashes seemed inappropriate.


We started off with Eataly, Mario Batali’s Gourmet Italian Market, Wine Shop and Eatery.


Though the place was packed with Italian meats, cheeses, breads and pastries, I’m a big fan of gelato so I had to try it. Gave the Carmello al Sale a whirl and it was definitely a good choice.


Some of my coworkers and I are huge How I Met Your Mother fans so we had dinner at McGee’s, the inspiration for McLaren’s Pub on the show.


They sure as hell own it.


Right down to the HIMYM themed specials menu which, let’s be honest, is rather generic.


I stuck with the Buffalo Chicken Sliders, which were good but could have used a little more heat.


The following night our management took us to dinner at Sinigual, which boasts gourmet Mexican food. I tried the Mexican Duck Confit and was pleasantly surprised. A gigantic fire roasted pepper stuffed with pulled duck, Oaxaca cheese and dried cranberries with a thick chipotle sauce, this was an interesting and flavorful dish. Duck is not something I would associate with Mexican food but it worked well.


And of course leave it to me to find one of the biggest tap houses in the city. The Ginger Man was right around the corner from my house and boasted a 75 beer tapwall. Had a very British vibe to it; if I didn’t already know I was in NYC I would have sworn I was in the UK. The biggest benefit was that I was able to try some seasonal Pumpkin beers that are not available to me in Tampa.


Elysian Brewing’s The Great Pumpkin Ale.


Flying Dog’s The Fear.

I would have loved to have more time to explore but I did what I could in the little time that I had so I’d consider that a win.

Any favorite places in NYC? Leave a message in the comments section!

And remember… the food abides…

Oktoberfest @ Mr. Dunderbak’s Biergarten

So my two best friends came to Tampa for a visit and after picking them up from the airport we decided to hit up Mr. Dunderbak’s for a little Oktoberfest fare. As far as authentic German food goes, they always knock it out of the park.

Dunderbaks Apps

Started out with some apps and tried the Pomme Frittes, German Pretzel and Swabisch Spatzle with some Swamp Head Octoberfest Ale. And plenty of German Mustards for dipping.

Dunderbaks Dinner

Potato Stuffed Pierogies, German Cucumber and Onion Salad and what’s left of my Lichen Oktoberfest Ale. Harder to see in this photo but my friends got the Paprika Gulasch and the Jagerschnitzel respectively.

I’m never disappointed with Dunderbak’s but my friends enjoyed it immensely. They were thoroughly impressed not only with the food and the atmosphere, but also with our server who was incredibly well versed in his beer knowledge (right down to explaining the Purity Laws that have to be adhered to for certain brews). Doesn’t get more authentic than that…

Tried Dunderbak’s? Leave a message in the comments section!

And remember… the food abides…