Sunday, December 30, 2007

A Visitor in Tampa

Back from Colorado for the Holiday, was great to see all the family together, we missed our Aunt and Uncle who couldn't make the trip, and also an amazing White Christmas, snowed about a foot all day Christmas Morning!

Arriving back in Tampa at 730am Wednesday morning(took the red-eye back from Denver), my buddy Larry from LA came into Tampa for a few days. We went over to Mad Dogs and Englishmen for a nice long lunch outside on the patio, and as always great food(Curry Chicken Salad, large enough to split for two, and juicy chicken sandwich with sweet potato fries), our server Summer was not her typical happy self, but who wants to work the day after Christmas..Larry and I were able to put a smile on her face by the end of the meal. Afterwards we went across the street to The Junction for some coffee and home made ice cream. This evening we met up with some friends, all in town for the Holiday, in Ybor City. Dinner was outside at Tampa Bay Brewing Company in the courtyard of Centro Ybor. It was eerily quiet in Ybor this Wednesday evening, the food and service were once again excellent at the Brew Co. After dinner, a few of us went to show the out of towners the new area of Ybor that is emerging, and throw some darts at Lounge 7 at 14. Again, not many people out this evening, we even saw a popular spot that is usually open and busy in Wednesday's close their doors by 11pm. By this time they had all wanted to stop by and meet up with some other out of town guests at City Side, which was busy as usual...and then a last night stop at Green Iguana Westshore.

Thursday I bought everyone lunch from Lenny's Subs..these have to be the largest, and freshest subs around. They freshly slice your order, pile it high with meats and cheeses, and the bread is made fresh daily. The Red Hot special sauce is one of the best toppings.
The evening brought us to Malio's for dinner. We had a table reserved for us outside on the patio over looking the Hillsborough River and UT minarets. It was an awesome atmosphere. For my second time here, I was again overwhelmed by the professional service, quality of food(filets with blue cheese, I tried the Lamb Chops which was smaller than expected but very tasty, Salmon was delicious, but came out a bit more done then we would have liked-the manager came quickly to apologize profusely and provide dessert on the house if we liked, Tuna was cooked perfectly and my buddy exclaimed it was probably the best piece of Tuna he has ever had....our sides which are all a la carte included a very cheesy macaroni and cheese, onion rings piled high on the plate, spinach with garlic and asparagus)...we were all there for about three hours just enjoying the company, atmosphere, food, oh and drinks...LOTS of drinks(Dirty Martini's, Coffee with Bailey's)....after Malios(we were the last ones there), we left to see some live music downtown and some of us did not want to stop the dirty martini train, so we headed a few blocks to Fly Bar downtown. A few people were in the bar, the rooftop bar was closed. We got a nice big table outside on the patio, and watched a great Raggae/Rock group, Jafari, who often came outside to sing and interact with us. By 1am, it was time to head home, but a few of us stopped by the Green Iguana Westshore for some more late night live music and played a great interactive video game at the bar. Looks like the last of the renovations is almost complete.

Friday some of us were hurting from Thursday, and I had to take my buddy's car back to him up in Cheval. I stopped by Five Guys Burger and Fries on Kennedy Blvd, cause there is nothing better for a hangover than a HUGE greasy burger with LOTS of toppings, and a bag full of FRESH CUT potato fries! If its fresh huge burgers, with over 15 free toppings that you choose, this is the place. Friday evening we went to a Holiday Party in the Historic Neighborhood of Roser Park in St. Pete, and then checked out the new nightclub in St. Pete, PUSH. It was time this place had opened, very laid back attitude, but very upscale atmosphere. A restaurant is on the ground floor, my buddy Jason did all the landscaping for the courtyards and it looked great. The second floor was the main bar with a huge dance floor and stage for performances. An excellent "lounge/dance" style DJ was playing great tunes to a mostly 30+ crowd. There is an outside bar area on the second floor as well, but the best area was the rooftop deck and bar, overlooking all of downtown St. Pete. As we headed back home, it was yet again anther late night stop at the Green Iguana Westshore, where hard rock band "IPD" was entertaining the crowd.

Saturday was Larry's last day in town, he was heading back to LA this evening. We took the kids to the dog park at Picnic Island, it was a beautiful day, as was this whole week. One thing about Picnic Island is it's a hidden oasis on Tampa Bay. The dog park on the beach is HUGE, and not many people know about it, there are actually hills here overlooking the bay and downtown St. Pete makes for a great escape in South Tampa.
Before Larry's flight, we reserved a table for six of us on the outdoor upper balcony of CDB's south off Westshore. It was great to sit outside above Westshore Blvd, this was my forth time here, the service was good, our waiter had a bit of an attitude, almost like he just didnt want to be there. The Greek Salads were huge, a small is enough to share for at least three. The Pasta Fagoul was the worst I have ever had, the ear shaped pasta was over cooked and soggy, I hardly saw one bean in the soup. Meals came out and although this isn't the best italian food, it is good(the sauce is a bit thick and too sweet for my liking). The small Meatball Parm grinder was huge, almost a dozen homemade meatballs on large fresh italian bread.
After dropping Larry off at the airport it was either going to another Holiday Party, seeing my favorite band from the 90's, Tragic Rabbit-now called Three Green Windows-at Dave's Aqua Lounge, or just hunkering down with the Patriots/Giants game at home.....I stayed home!!

The looong weekend isn't over yet, my Aunt's 50th bday is today, tomorrow is the USF Bowl game from El Paso, and New Years Eve.

One of my buddy's with 'Jafari' lead singer at Fly Bar downtown Tampa.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Another Mad Dogs Evening and The Junction Ice Cream

Joe, John, Darin and I met up for dinner at Mad Dogs and Englishmen on MacDill Ave in South Tampa for a last evening dinner before I head out to Colorado to spend the Holidays with the family. (Maida, John and Lauren arrived a little later)....Again, I was very pleased with the service, we were promptly seated in their outdoor courtyard around 730(had reservations), and Summer professionally waited on us with a great smile. The Hummus for starters, very fresh with Hot Pita, and for meals we all had some kind of chicken, Chicken Skewers with Sweet Potato Fries, Spinach and Roasted Tomatoes, Chicken Curry, Mad Dogs Salad with Chicken Breast and Chicken Sandwhich..all very good as ususal. Afterwards we walked over the The Junction for some Home Made Old Meeting House Ice Cream and Joffrey's Coffee, was nice to sit and chat for a bit, they have board games and cool video displays, also outdoor seating areas...The Junction kind of reminds me of a 50's style soda fountain shop that is a bit retro...we then all walked back to Darin's condo tower on Bayshore, and then I headed back home across the 2 mile Peninsula in South Tampa to Westshore.

Denver and Colorado Springs here I come...i'm really looking forward to seeing my Nephews and Niece, and my two brothers and their families. My oldest bro from NY is also flying out there, Madre got there today. Be Back Wednesday!

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Happy One Year Anniversary "Tampa I Am"!'s been a year since I started to blog, just to keep some family and a few friends in touch, and keep track of things i've been doing in Tampa Bay area...a year later and I have corresponded with some other great bloggers(Sticks of Fire, Tampa Taxi Shots, Eating Tampa, St Petersblog, West Tampa Blog, Seminole Heights Blog, Tampa Heights Blog, and many more from TampaBlab), and Forums like City Data Tampa and Skyscraper City Tampa. I also have learned many new things about the area, and am now reaching about 3000 hits a month from people all over the world.

I decided to bring back my first post..."Why Tampa?" And as I read through, I can say that I dont have to make many changes to it. I look forward to seeing what the 2nd year of blogging will bring.

So many ask...why Tampa, why do you stay? What is it about Tampa?

Well in short, the Water, the Weather, the Progress, the Activities, the History, the People.

Water - everywhere, most of Tampa is situated on a Peninsula(called Interbay Peninsula), so there is water to the east(Hillsborough Bay) water to the West(Old Tampa Bay), and the South(Tampa Bay). The Main river through Tampa is the Hillsborough River which starts as a Spring 30 miles to the North, and runs through the city ending up in the Hillsborough Bay downtown. 20 miles to the West of Tampa is the pristine aqua blue water and beaches of the Gulf of Mexico. Throughout Tampa Bay area are numerous lakes, rivers, streams, estuary's, bays, intracostal waterways to explore. Plain and simple, if you like fresh water, salt water, streams, rivers, oceans, Tampa's got it! In addition 5 of the nations number one beaches are located in the Bay area(Fort DeSoto, Pass-a-Grille, Clearwater, Caledesi Island, Honeymoon Island).

Weather - with an average high temperature of 76 degrees from October to May, how could you not love the weather. While others are huddled up for the winter to the North, we are basking in low humidity, beautiful blue skies, and pleasant temperatures for 75% of the year. This means all outdoor activities, sports, festivals can be enjoyed year round in Tampa. And in the summer months, June through September, although it can get very warm, the average high temps are about 88 degrees, there is a almost always a constant breeze due to the coastal winds which trigger mighty Thunderstorms in summer late afternoons/evenings, in time to cool it off a bit, and provide a lightning and thunderous show like clock work most evenings. Since most of us have a pool, beach, and airconditioning nearby, we can handle 3 to 4 months of warmer than usual temps for paradise the the other 9 months of the year.

History - the Bay area has been home to several Indian Tribes for thousands of years. The Spanish came in the 15 and 16oo's, but the American's did not start to evaluate Florida and the Tampa area until the mid 1800's. We built Fort Brooke in what is now downtown Tampa during the Seminole Indian Wars, and later used it for soldiers being shipped off for the Spanish-American War. Vincente Martinez Ybor purchased 40 acres of land just east of downtown to start his Cigar Factories. Within 10 years and by the late 1800's until the depression in the 1920's, Tampa was known throughout the world as the Cigar Capital of the World. Immigrants came to Tampa from Italy, Spain, and Cuba to prosper in the Cigar Capital. Henry B Plant chose Tampa to expand his railroad from the North, and that led to many tourists to flock to the warm temperatures, and an increase in Trade. Many of the established neighborhoods from the early 20th century still exist(Hyde Park, Tampa Heights, West Tampa, Seminole Heights, Ybor City), and have numerous architectural buildings, homes, and landscapes. The area has a unique Cuban-Latin American flavor to it. A few interesting tid bits about Tampa include it has one of the largest Civil War largest Confederate grave sites(Oaklawn Cemetery), Ella Fistzgerald lived in Tampa and recorded some of her biggest hits here, Ray Charles made his first recording in Tampa and Tampa is where the "The Twist" dance craze was born, Rev. Billy Graham started his practice in downtown Tampa, and peolpe like Teddy Roosevelt, Elvis Presley, Thomas Edison, Mark Twain, John F Kennedy, James Brown, Babe Ruth, Jack Dempsey and more have all left footprints of some kind here in Tampa.

Progress - from the 1950's to present, Tampa has been growing by leaps and bounds. Many from the North came here to escape the brutal winters, and the ability to attain land and homes for far less than it would cost in the North. In addition, Tampa Bay's cost of living was considerably less, and there were far fewer taxes. Most transplants came from the MidWest(Ohio, Michigan, Illinios, Indiana), with the remainder coming from the Northeast(New York, Connecticutt, New Jersey). Things have changed quite a bit over the past 10 years(the 90's to present). The growth has been abundant, and the Tampa Bay area now has close to 2 million residents, with the city of Tampa having nearly 330,000. A Financial District was created in the 60's and 70's(current downtown), a Services Sector, Westshore Business District, which is now the largest business and services sector in the state, and 5th largest in the Nation. A National Historic Landmark area, Ybor City and Hyde Park. Tampa Bay is now the 12th largest media market in the Nation. In the 20 years I have called Tampa home, I have seen more skyscrapers built downtown, a national hockey team(Tampa Bay Lightning - Stanley Cup Champions) and Forum built, a professional baseball team(Tampa Bay Devil Rays) and Dome arena established, new Football stadium built for the SuperBowl champion Tampa Bay Bucaneers. Tampa is also looking forward to hosting it's 3rd SuperBowl in 2009. Downtown continues to expand its Arts Museums, Cultural Exhibits, and Parks and trails to accommodate the growth. Just in the past two years over 2000 new residents are calling downtown home in the areas like Channelside, Harbour Island, and the Central Core of downtown, with more new condo towers and residences being constructed and planned, there will be close to 10,000 residents in downtown by 2010. The Riverwalk is well on it's way to be completed by 2009, almost 3 miles of waterfront walking, jogging, blading throughout downtown with cafe's and events along the riverfront. One of the nations largest Aquariums was established in Tampa(Florida Aquarium). Two lane roads transversed into 4 lane highways. And progress just doesn't stop. It nice to live in an area where things change, and most of the progress and changes are for the better and for the people of the city. The moat efficient and modern airport continues it's growth, with a new terminal planned to be open by 2015, Interstates have all been expanded or are currently under construction to be expanded, and finally, Mass Transit is back on the board, with the first trains, light rail and BRT to be operational by 2012.

Activities - For a small city, Tampa has it all. And its nice to have it all in a small city.
Sports - Football, Baseball, Hockey, Arena Football, College Football, Soccer, Baseball and Basketball - all National teams, nationally recognized, and state of the art arenas and fields to play on.
Theater - Tampa Bay Perforing Arts Center is then largest Center for the arts in the Southeast, along with over a dozen other venues for broadway and local productions(Mahaffey, Ruth Eckerd Hall, Gorilla Theater, MAD Theater, and many more independents).
Museums - Dali, Fine Art, Art, Childrens, Holocaust, History, Natural, Fire, Police, Science and Industry, Explorations, International.
Concerts - every major concert act always makes a stop through Tampa performing at numerous venues(Forum, Bayfront Arena, Amphitheter, Tampa Stadium, USF Sundome, Jannus Landing, The Orpheum, Tampa Theater, among the other theaters listed above)
Festivals -ahhh, the numerous festivals year round, some of the biggest in the Nation, and lots of people watching, and of course food and BEER!(Gasparilla - month long celebration, Florida State Fair, Strawberry Festival, International and Gay and Lesbian Film Festival, Guavaween, numerous Art Festivals including the Gasparilla and Mainsail). Most of the smaller communities and neighborhoods have monthly festivals like Clearwater Jazz Fest, Hyde Park Music Series, St. Pete's RibFest, John's Pass Seafood Festival, St. Pete's Festival of States. ABout every weekend you can find some kind of festival or gathering throughout the Bay area.
Attractions - people come from all over the world to visit the area. It's nice to have these in my backyard - Busch Gardens theme park, Adventure Island water park, Lowry Park Zoo, Florida Aquarium, St. Pete Pier, Big Cat Rescue, Suncoast Bird Sanctuary, Florida Botanical Gardens, BEACHES, Heritage Village to name a few.
Recreation - what do you want to do today? Well you can do most everything here in Tampa. Biking Trails(on and off road), Kayaking/Canoeing, Wind Surfing, Fishing, Boating, Sunbathing, Skating, Hiking, Golf. There is a park almost every few miles throughout the city for the purpose of getting out and keeping active.
Shopping - well, some people consider this an activity, and for those that like it, any name brand store can be found in Tampa, whether its exclusive(International Plaza), outdoors(Hyde Park Village, Centro Ybor, BayWalk), Entertaining(BayStreet, Westshore Plaza) or Outlet(Ellenton), its here..from Funky(Ybor City) to mondane(University Square), Flea Markets(Big Top, Oldsmar, Wagon Wheel)'s here.
Nightlife - as if the above isn't enough, its great to know that there are many entertainment options. Ybor City is Tampa's French Quarter like area with a bar, club and entertainment venue for anyone. It is now going through yet another revitalization, with GLBT establishments on the West end of Ybor City(known now as Gaybor), to the newest entertainment type choices and smaller lounge type places. Then there is Channelside, SOHO, Hyde Park, Westshore, BayStreet. Downtown St. Pete holds it's own for numerous nightlife options, Central Ave and the waterfront bars and clubs.
Dining - As far as restaurants, Tampa is known as one of the Nations busiest places to eat out, because so many of us eat out, and this is because there are so many places and options to eat in the area. Its no wonder places like Hooters, Outback, Bonefish Grille, Hops all started here in Tampa. But its more than just the chains, some of my favs are : Berns, Malio's and Charley's for steaks, Yoko's and Samarai Blue for Sushi, Cappy's and Eddie&Sams for Pizza, Royal Palace for Thai, Kojaks and Jimbo's for BBQ, Oystercatchers and Crab Shack for seafood, Bernini, Bella's and Laughing Cat for Italian, Acropolis for Greek, Red Mesa and Algusto's for Mexican/Tex Mex.

One thing about Tampa, is it's not a Big Deal. What I mean is, it's not a big deal to do any of the above. Whether it's a sports game, day at the beach, trip to a museum or park, a festival, or going out for dinner, it's not a big deal as opposed to going out in a big city. You gotta love having it all in a small city. And I love to travel to visit the bigger cities around the country(NY, Chicago, Boston, LA), so having a World Class, convenient airport with numerous non-stop, inexpensive flights to most major cities is another plus!!

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Meatballs and Mojitos!

I had another Meatballs and Mojitos get together at my house, this time for the Holiday. About 25 of my good friends came by for my famous meatballs and yummy mojitos. The meatball thing is actually quite funny, I decided a few years back when having get together to just buy some frozen meatballs in the grocer and some Hunt's canned Garlic and Herb Sauce, put them in a pot for a bout 45 minutes to heat through, and I never received more raves over them...I missed them once, and everyone revolted "where are the meatballs??"..well, I'll never forget them again...the mojitos were great as usual...Kris brought over stuff to make French martini's, which were another big hit, almost more so than the mojitos(bastard)...
Afterwards, we left to head out to a Christmas Party in Hyde Park on S. Boulevard. This street from south of Swann Ave to Bayshore Blvd is all lit up, almost each historic house house has decorations, and the huge oaks lining the street are also all lit up. The party was huge, and just behind the house was another large Christmas party, across the alley to the house on Edison, another old historic house. The only thing missing was a chill in the was muggy and in the 60's this evening!

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

I Am Legend - Sneak Peak

I was invited to join a sneak peak at the new Will Smith movie "I Am Legend" that is opening this Friday in IMAX. It was a GREAT experience, and an excellent movie, some very tense moments, and jump in your seat action, great special effects of NYC. FUN!

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Tampa Guy goes to Orlando for the Weekend!

I headed up to Orlando Saturday morning with my buddy John, we had tickets for Universals Islands of Adventure and Cypress Gardens that we needed to use before the end of the year. It was a great weekend weather wise, temps around 80, blue skies. Islands of Adventure was great, but had a limited amount of rides/attractions I was interested in(Hulk Coaster, Dueling Dragons Coaster, a couple of water rides, and Spider Man). But the tix were free, so we made the most of it, and was able to finish the park within a bout 4 hours, and had an ok lunch at the Burger Digs. Leaving the park, we decided to see a movie at City Walk, great movie theaters connected to the parks, the movie "HitMan" was good, kept the adrenaline running.
Saturday evning we met up with an old college buddy of mine, who now owns 4 of some of the nicest and most happening restaurant/lounges in downtown Orlando. He was having a small party at his condo, we hung out overlooking all of downtown Orlando, it was a great evening.
Sunday, we got to Cypress Gardens, I was surprised at how much there is actually here to do, 4 small scale roller coasters, one was very decent, and a variety of lots of different types of other rides. The water ski show was ok, but they have some animal exhibits, and of course all the Gardens. There is a decent buffet where we had an early dinner there before heading back to Tampa.

Friday, December 7, 2007


Tampa's BEST sushi(YOKO'S) - Tampa's BEST Gelato(LA CASA DOLCE). Enuff Said!

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Ybor Eats and Ybor Comedy

John got free tickets to see Al Romas at the Improv Comedy Club in Ybor City, so we made an Ybor City night of it last evening. We grabbed a bite at the Tampa Bay Brewing Company, it was a cool evening, but the outdoor patio looked inviting, there were several empty tables at 7pm. The food was very good as usual, I handled the Greek Salad with Chicken, came in an oversized bowl, with half a chicken breast sliced on top...John devoured the Mojo Roast Pork, two very thick pieces of well marinated Pork, with some cuban sides. The dressings and marinade were made with some of their on-site brewed beer, as are nearly every dish on the menu. We finished just in time to head over to the Improv, it was a slow night, although most of the tables were filled by the time the headliner act came on.
I overheard a few new clubs were opening in Ybor soon, The Honey Pot, where the old Rubb/Twilight/Code was is supposed to be a new LA style club,with beautiful women dancing throughout the venue, LA style choreographed dancing, VIP section on the second level. The other venue is across the street, called Crossover Sport Bar and The Club, where the old Club Hedo was, and supposed to be a gay sports bar with a drag show club(???).

Driving back to South Tampa, it was great to see all the Christmas Decorations lit up in the beautiful mansions along Bayshore Blvd, we took a drive down South Boulevard from Swann Ave to Bayshore, as this is one of my favorite decorasted Christmas streets, each huge oak tree lining the street has lights, and nearly every house had a Christmas display..a MUST.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Channelside Eats and a Hockey Game

After touring the Tampa Riverwalk a few weeks back, the City of Tampa handed out free Lightning tickets for last nights game against the Ottawa Senators. We parked at Channelside garage(which is $10 for game nights unless you have your parking ticket validated by one of the establishments in Channelside, then it's .50 cents per hour). The group wanted to meet up at Bennigan's - not my choice! We waited about 5 minutes for a table for six, the place was VERY busy. Typical Bennigan's, but the views were incredible, floor to ceiling windows overlooking the waterfront, Harbour Island and the Port of Tampa. Besides the company, that was the best part of this Bennigan's experience. The chicken dishes were all rather dry and bland, my French Dip was very small, lacked any flavor but salt, the bowl the aus juice came in had mustard on it, the fries were all cold. Service was fine...but food quality was at it's worst. This is the second time I have been here(not on my decision), and will be the last. There are FAR better establishments in Channelside to grab some eats(Stumps, Splitsville, Thai Tani to name a few) for a quick bite before the game.

We walked over the the Forum, (About a 10 minute walk) was a nice chilly evening, temps in the lower 50's, hockey weather for Florida. Lightning won 4-3, after dominating the game 2-0 during the first two periods.

Monday, December 3, 2007

History in TAMPA!

Got out of my home office for lunch to partake in the Ground Breaking ceremony for the new Tampa Bay History Center today. The waterfront park downtown was hopping, close to one thousand showed up to view the artists renderings of the building, sign one of the beams to be used, get a free t-shirt, and enjoy some free lunch, compliments of the Columbia restaurant(chicken and rice, and cuban sandwich's). There was a high school band and chorus providing entertainment, and all the Tampa and Hillsborough politicians and dignitaries on hand. Weather couldn't be better, breezy, sunny skies, around 80 degrees. It's expected to be complete by this time next year. Another great perk for downtown and Tampa Bay residents and visitors.

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Tampa Steak and a Christmas Stroll: Malio's Prime/Plant Museum Christmas Stroll

Took madre out for her birthday with the Aunt and Uncle Saturday evening to Malio's Prime restaurant located in downtown Tampa's "beer can building" or 400 North Tower. We wanted an early eat to be able to walk over to the Plant Museum and check out the annual Christmas Stroll. Reservations were set for 5pm, parked with ease under the remnants of Kiley Park, just off Ashley Drive downtown, they also have valet. There were only a few occupied tables at this time, they sat us in a HUGE oval booth, perfect for the four of us(very large booths and tables throughout the restaurant, intimate tables for two along the upper tier with window views of the Hillsborough River and University of Tampa minarets..reminded me of a NYC type of place, where the famous and infamous would dine....there is also a large outdoor patio with excellent views of the river, and large bar area). Larry came promptly and greeted us, told us about the place, specials for the day and recommended some wines. Very professional. We started with madre and I splitting the Chop Salad..delicious flavor and presentation, came in a cylinder form, chopped veges with salami and cheese, but not enough for two. Aunt and Uncle split the Beefsteak Tomato and Onion salad, tangy dressing, a whole huge tomato sliced thick, on a bed of field greens, plenty to split. The orders came out very timely, enough time to chat, and savor the salads, and very fresh, steaming hot bread brought to each table. Finally to the steaks, which this place is to be known for...the 20 oz bone in NY Strip covered in Blue cheese was my choice, perfectly cooked, juicy and full of flavor. Uncle chowed down on one of the BEST 16 oz eating steak flavored butter..amazing, he exclaimed he found a new steak place(Ruth Chris' was his favorite)..Aunt and Madre both got the 8ox filet, perfectly cooked as well. Sides are all a la carte, huge portion of fresh Asparagus with Hollndaise sauce on the side, Large tower of Onion Rings, lightly battered, crispy and thin, great flavor, a collosal baked potato, and the Macaroni and Cheese, which came in a bowl and plenty for four people. Mr. Ivarone, one of the owners, came by to chat with us, Malio's is just one of a few great places owned by his family. The GM also came by to chat with us as well. Mr. Ivarone insisted that desert be on the house, we split the chocolate decadence, ooozing with chocolate of all kinds. We ate everything, as it was too tasty to leave ANYTHING behind or take home with us. With cocktails, salads, meals and coffee's it came to about $60 per person...not bad considering the professionalism, service, ambiance, and most of all the FOOD! Next time i'm going to grab a table outside if the weather cooperates.

We walked over to the University of Tampa's Plant Museum after dinner, a nice stroll across the Hillsborough River, beautiful views the minarets were all lit up, and the skyscrapers from downtown lit up nicely in the river. They were having their 26th annual Victorian Christmas Stroll, the museum and all the rooms are decorated for the holidays, with vintage holiday decorations(funny seeing things that I remembered as a kid growing up at home in NY), there were Christmas carolers, they gave out free cookies and hot apple cider. It was my first time in the museum, if you ever wanted to see stuff about the history of the area, this is yet another great place. Tampa really has a very rich and unique history for a Florida city, many are not aware of, dating back to the mid 1800's. Lots of old pictures, maps, videos detailing the culture and history, and some insteresting rooms featuring items from that era. One area that moved me was reading the actual letters from soldiers stationed at the Tampa during the Spanish American War, and artifacts on how Tampa was once one of the most popular tourist destinations in the country for the very wealthy in the winters. A MUST if you want to know more about the history and culture of this area.

After leaving the family, I had some friends over the house, we hung out on the patio for a bit, the weather was perfect, and then we walked over to the Green Iguana Westshore for some live music and socializing on the outdoor tiki deck.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Tampa Thanksgiving: Hockey, John's Pass, Dali, and Manatees!

A great Thanksgiving Day loooong weekend in Tampa!
Wednesday, John, Steve and I went to the Lightning game against the NY Rangers. My friend John used his military ID to get us tickets on the third level(great promotion on behalf of the Forum, comp seats for members of the military in a certain section). It was a good game, but we lost 2-1. Prior to the game we ate at Andreychuks across from the Forum. There was a great guitarist playing on the outside deck, we were able to get a seat inside 30 minutes before the game, and order some food and drinks. The Philly Cheesesteak was large, and full of very thinly sliced beef and lots of cheese, peppers and onions, it was a bit greasy, but delicious. It was served very fast. After the game we stopped by Dubliner in Hyde Park area, the place and all of Hyde Park was very crowded. Alot of people were home for the holidays. I noticed at the Dubliner they built a high wall where the upper deck used to be, now a band plays in front of the wall where the stairs used to lead to the upper deck, making for a smaller outside area to socialize.
Turkey Day morning I picked up my brother Steve at TIA, which was empty, parked on the 9th floor of short term, and just came up and met me, the first hour in parking lots are free, plus there are great views form this perch. We picked up the pups from my house and headed to madre's. Stuffed from Turkey and football all day with the family, we watched Fantastic 4 second flick on pay per view and called it a night.
Friday we all went to John's Pass in the afternoon, my buddy Rob was to be playing guitar at The Hut today. Rob was no where to be found, but we did munch on some tasty black n blue burgers, and the Hut's special salad topped with shrimps, scallops and chicken. It was a nice day to walk around on the boardwalk and through the village. VERY touristy area, I typically am only here if there is a good band playing at The Hut, or maybe take certain visitors who like the touristy shops.
Saturday was with the family yet again, this time we headed to St. Pete to the Dali museum. Prior to entering the museum we grabbed a bite on the water a few blocks south of the museum at a place called Fish Tales. It's in a marina, and site directly on the water, very large bar areas, all open air, the menu was mostly seafood for dinner, but had lunch sandwich's and burgers. We got some cheeseburgers which were very plain, and seemed pre-formed and frozen, but the menu said "Angus", the Hammerhead Club was very large with turkey, roast beef, ham and cheese. Madre got the Lobster Bisque, which came very thin and luke warm , yet the half dozen lobster chunks were warm. Just ok, I would probably just come back from drinks. It was nice to watch the USF vs Pitt game during lunch(USF won!). The Dali museum was great as usual, we arrived for one of the tours that took us through his masterpieces, and explained his works. Dali was quite an interesting fellow and artist, his paintings are amazing to the eye. It was left over turkey sandwich's for dinner this evening.
Sunday we met up with the family again for brunch at madre's house, then took everyone to see the Manatees at the TECO Big Bend power plant. They have a great observation deck overlooking the bay area where warm waters are discharged keeping these gentle creatures warm during the winters. There were about 20 of them in sight from the deck. There is also a great museum detailing the Mantatee's and also the Power Plant workings. They have a long nature walk out towards the bay that also explains the coasts nature, mangroves and different species that live in the area. Best of all, its FREE! We then drove downt to Little Harbor area off Shell Point Road, there is a nice tiki bar/restaurant that overlooks Tampa Bay, with great views of the Skyway Bridge and downtown St. Pete. We were able to catch the end of the winning Bucs game against Washington prior to taking my brother Stephen to the airport. The weekend ended with family at Cappy's Pizza on Bay to Bay. This place is still by far some of the BEST pizza, with the crispy crust of the NY Style, rich garlicky tomato sauce, gooey cheese, but kind of light on the toppings. And also the dressing on the Greek Salads should be bottled, we can never get enough of that great Greek Salad, full with feta, olives, etc. They do a great job, service was quick and friendly(thanks Amy!), and they have outdoor seating as well.

This week, work brings me to Atlanta!

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Tampa: Mad Dogs, Riverwalk, Cigars, Fly, Deborah Harry

It's only Sunday, and what a great weekend so far. Weather turned very cool on Friday, I had to pull out my Winter wool coat for Friday night with temps in the 40's..but we know that doesn't last long as temps during the day bounced back to the 70's on Saturday, clear blue skies, this must be 20 days in a row now.
Friday evening, Darin, Maida, Maggie and I met up at Mad Dog's and Englishmen restaurant, on MacDill Ave in South Tampa. This little neighborhood eatery is joined by many other establishments and shops in the area. It reminds me of an authentic English Pub, with a little bit of decorative style. We got there around 730pm, even though it was chilly, there were people eating and hanging out on the outside patio and bar area, the heaters were all on. We ventured in the restaurant to the bar where Summer quickly took our drink order while we waited for a table. The hostess kept coming by to update us and let us know about how much longer, a great personal touch, we didn't mind waiting. After about 20 minutes we were seated, and the very friendly Becky told us the specials, and made sure we had our drinks. We started with Appetisers of Hummus and Cucumber Salad. WOW, the hummus portion was large and sat on sliced red plumb tomatoes, with Greek olives, and plenty of very fresh, hot, pita triangles. This was so delicious, we didn't want it to stop. Their cucumber salad was very interesting, length wise sliced cucumbers, piled on top of each other crisscrossed in three layers, with the tangiest, delicious, vinaigrette dressing and yet again, we didn't want to stop. For our entrees, we did the Shepard's Pie, not one drop of grease, full with beef, veges, edamame, and creamy mashed potatoes with a very light layer of cheese, crispy yet creamy, and a very large portion; Mad Dog's salad with chicken came out on a large plate, crisp variety of greens, and very tangy, delicious house dressing, and crumbled cheese, with a large grilled breast of chicken, super moist and flavor full; and tempura fried shrimp, 6 HUGE shrimp, lightly battered, with two types of dipping sauces..again, another winner. We couldn't be happier, and demanded the Sous Chef (Tavis) come over to our table to compliment him on his and the Chef's culinary skills. He was wonderful, we chatted for a bit, and he surprised us with tow homeade treats he just made fresh that day, Oatmeal Cookie Ice Cream, and Peppermint Ice Cream..YUM!! A great ending to a perfect meal. After a two hour dinner with great friends and great was time to come home a relax with a fire in the backyard pit, enjoying the crisp air and clear skies.
Saturday morning, John and I decided to partake on the first ever City of Tampa Riverwalk walking tour. There were about 20 of us, most were from out of town, visiting and staying in one of the downtown hotels. Very knowledgeable associates from the city's parks department and also from the Mayor's Youth program went into the very interesting history of Tampa(Seminole Wars, Fort Brooke, Civil War, Spanish American War, Cigar Capital), and led us along the Riverwalk portion from the new Tampa History Center being built next to Channelside, to the Platt Street bridge area currently under construction. In all, the Riverwalk was beautiful, all along the downtown Tampa waterfront, huge yachts lined the channel between Harbour Island and downtown Marriott Waterside, some great views of the downtown skyline. When completed in 2009, it will be nearly a 2.5 mile walkway from Channelside to Tampa Heights area all along the Channel and Hillsborough River downtown. Cafes, Bikers, Joggers, entertainment are to be scattered along the waterfront. It was a great tour, and a perfect morning for it.
Afterwards, we walked over to First Watch restaurant downtown on Tampa Street for Brunch. There was no wait around 1130am, we were promptly seated. Our server was not very friendly, and never checked back with us, and forgot several things we asked for. We ordered one of their omelets, and the Al B Core tuna sandwich. Both orders came with First Watch potatoes, which it seems they could hardly spare as there were maybe a spoonful of diced potatoes on our plates(disappointing because they are tasty), my Tuna sandwich was drenched in mayo, and on what seemed like stale dark wheat bread(something you might feed seagulls with), I just ate the tuna, and left the bread, it also came with a salad which was literally a few shreds of lettuce leaf, with a teaspoon of diced cucumber, were they kidding? I've had some great meals here, and some not so great..I don't think I will be taking my chances again..poor service, poor food, and when we advised the cashier, she just said sorry, and exclaimed that our server always gets complaints(than do something about it!).
John and I then headed over to Ybor City for the annual Cigar Heritage Festival, and Saturday Morning Market. What a great crowd, and the smell of all kinds of cigars, people just relaxing, eating foods from the many vendors, enjoying the live bands, checking out Ybor and the arts and crafts on display, among the many merchants that come by Centennial Park each Saturday morning..there were alot of people milling around Ybor on this beautiful day, and they had a special tent set up for us to watch the college football games.
After a quick nap, Bryan and I went to Fly Bar for some eats and cocktails before heading to see Deborah harry(from Blondie) in concert at Tampa Theater downtown. Fly Bar was happening, it was nice having the outdoor tables, and all the windows wide opened in the very stylish and eclectic restaurant on Franklin Ave downtown. Plenty of microbrews and International beers on tap and bottled, great mixed cocktails menu as well. The place is known for sharing plates of different foods(kind of like tapas). We ordered the Kobe Sliders, Organic Chicken, Wild Mushroom Risotto, and Grilled Asparagus. At first you think "did we order enough food", but then you taste, and the flavors were bold and delicious in all our plates. The sliders were thick and juicy and beefy, the chicken was about a small portion including the little leg, cut up in a warm and delicately mild sauce with brocallini, the risotto was perfectly cooked, moist and tender, with wild mushrooms, and a creamy sauce, the asparagus was very lightly grilled with paper thin slices of cheese. PERFECT, we were very satisfied, but not stuffed. the menu is a little on the pricey side, but the atmosphere, and taste were well worth it. They had a nice high def tv at the bar, where the USF game was on(long story short, I had tickets to tonights last USF home game against Louisville, but by accident I thought the Deborah Harry concert was Friday night, but looked at the ticket and DAMN, it was tonight) After 10pm there is usually a live band or DJ, there is also a great rooftop patio with a bar and music.
It was off to Tampa Theater a few blocks down, we saw people standing around outside and were told the Deborah was not going on for another 40 minutes, so we headed into the Hub, for a stiff cocktail, and some great tunes on the jukebox. Always an interesting crowd at the Hub, and for the money, they best drinks poured in all of Tampa.
Tampa Theater is a one of kind, even for concerts, we had 11th row seats, it was almost like she was singing right to us. Deborah played most of her new songs, very Indie Pop/Alternative, and she gave some great acoustic renderings from her past Blondie tunes like "Heart of Glass". I was a little disappointed that she only played for an hour, and was hoping to hear more Blondie tunes, but it was a good time.
Bryan wanted to meet one of his friends at City Side, and alternative bar in South Tampa, as we walked in it was packed as they were celebrating their 17th anniversary.., very smokey, but they have an outdoor patio, and in the back area a pool table and darts with flat screen tv's showing the college game highlights....i'm not a big fan of the packed bars like this, but they were playing great tunes and had the videos to the tunes playing on the monitors throughout the club, Bryan never met up with his friend.

It's Sunday, and time to take advantage of this great weather today..biking, kayaking, hanging with the kids at the dog beach/park, a festiuval with the family, or maybe some yard work...just need to get out!

TAMPA RIVERWALK>Looking east towards Channelside, the Forum is on the left

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Downtown St. Pete - Definitely Alive!

Took the family to Downtown St. Pete Sunday, We left around 1130am from Tampa, wanted to get there early as the RibFest was happening and we wanted to beat the crowds for parking, etc. We went to Moon Under Water for lunch, it has lots of outdoor seating, facing North Straub Park and the waterfront in downtown St. Pete. Very friendly and efficient service, and the food was great, lots of beers on tap, and a huge drink menu. My uncle tried the Thai curry which was very good, madre had the fish n chips, a huge piece of cod, battered lightly, and thick cut french fries. The Aunt had the BLT, lots of crisp bacon, fresh tomato slices on a thick sweet whole grain bread..I settled for the cuban(love cubans), lots of meat, and salami pressed together made the juices from the pork and salami blend together. Nice to sit outside, people watch, and enjoy the great weather. Downtown St. Pete was bustling, lots of outdoor cafe lined Beach Drive, we walked around to Bay Walk and caught the Trolley, which runs every 15 minutes throughout downtown from the Renaissance Vinoy, to the Dali Museum. Interesting is on the trolley, they even give you some history and interesting facts about St. Pete. We were on our way to Roser Park Art Festival, right near the Dali museum. Roser Park is one of the most interesting neighborhoods in all of Florida, lots of steep hills, along a small creek, something you would never see, and very historic homes. The Art Fest was small, but great to walk around, there was live music, and just walking arounf the neighborhood is interesting. Taking the trolley back, we stopped for some great Gelato at Paciugo, and again sat outside people watching. The gelato was very good, but VERY expensive.

Another great weekend, glad USF finally won, albeit away against Syracuse , but it was a win, i'm looking forward to the Louisville game next week at home.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Downtown Tampa - A-Live after Five???

So there is all the advertising and marketing over the past several weeks and the bombardment of email from the Downtown Tampa Partnership, etc., and we headed to see what the "Live after Five" in downtown Tampa was all about. St. Pete does an amazing job with "First Friday", but how disappointing it was to get there around 6pm, and only see about two dozen people hanging out listening to a decent band on a 1 block section of Franklin Street downtown. We decided to have some stiff cocktails and see if maybe people would show up later, and The Hub was right up the street. Around 7pm, went back to the event, and now there were about three dozen people...not a good thing, I believe that people who work downtown just wanted to get the heck out of there after work and head home.
Anyways, we wanted some eats, and a band I knew of was playing downtown this evening. We met a bunch of friends at Gilligan's over on Morgan St near Jackson St. Very casual place, lots of tables and bar space, and outdoor deck overlooking the Forum. Besides us, there were maybe a dozen of so people in the place. The walls are painted with the characters from Gilligan's Island, there is a pool table in the back. The bartender/server was as kind as could be(thanks Cam), she made sure we were attended to in the back room while we were playing pool having some drinks. The food was very good, and typical bar food(sandwich's, burgers, appetizers)..the Cuban was huge and stuffed with meat, everyone else said their sandwich's were very good(burger, chicken Cesar wrap, chicken sandwich) which all come with a bag of chips, and the price is right at around 5-7 bucks.
After eats, we headed next door to Kelly's Pub to see the band 3 Green Windows. A very long time ago, in the college days, the singer and bassist are from a band called Tragic Rabbit, and we would follow them everywhere in Tampa they played, I was happy to hear that after all this time(since the early 90's) they were back as a new band, and upon walking into Kelly's they were still playing there Tragic Rabbit tunes("Black Velvet Elvis")...and I was amazed that Bo(the singer), and his wife recognized me from all that time......they do covers of many old rock favorites, and really keep the crowd entertained. Bo has probably on of the most amazing voices of any singer of seen live in Tampa. Through the night they played there own original music, Tragic Rabbit tunes(nice for Bo to dedicate one of them to me), and some favorite rock tunes, jamming to the best of them. Kelly's is a great small place, quite a few beers on tap and bottled(over three dozen)..and wine. I'm looking forward to seeing 3 Green Windows again at the end of December when they play at Dave's Aqua Lounge in St. Pete.
They ended around midnight, and one of our friends, Whitney, aka Karen, was meeting her friend at a huge alternative club called Chambers also downtown. This club is very interesting, mostly all gay, and young, the downtstairs as a large catwalk for dancers, and dance floor, pool tables, then upstairs is a huge ballroom like dance hall...they do country music line dancing till about midnight, then they bust out the dance tunes..I have to say, the club is actually very large with two separate floors, and packed them in with mostly guys...a drag show took place around 130am, very entertaining...LOL.
Lots going on this weekend, the Intl Auto Show is in town, RibFest in St. Pete, and the weather wont stop...beautiful, sunny, deep blue skies, temps in the 70's...ahhhhhh!

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Dinner and Dessert in Ybor City...on a Tuesday Evening

Flew in from a business trip, and was meeting Aunt and Uncle and Madre for dinner in Ybor. The trip from TIA to Ybor was not bad considering it was 430 Rush Hour, so many people complain about the traffic, but it was a slow moving ride on I-275 Northbound from the airport to about Dale Mabry Hwy, at least it was moving, then it opened up all the way to Ybor exit off I-4...what Rush Hour traffic? Cars were moving along on the other side of the interstate as well, albeit slow, but moving. Im sure if there was an accident, it would not look good.

In Ybor City, my uncle insisted on Spaghetti Warehouse in the Ybor Square section on the far West End of Ybor. As many great Italian places in Ybor(Laughing Cat is my fav), I had to go to the Warehouse. It's typical chain type place, but very authentic interior, and an actual streetcar in the restaurant that you can dine in. The meals all come with all you can eat salad or soup, the wedding soup had chunks of chicken and little meatballs and was quite tasty, the salads were plain lettuce with a few tomatoes. The meals we had were good, the sauce is a bit sweet and thick for my liking, we had eggplant parmigiana, great without the skin on the eggplant; spicy chicken and mushroom pasta, and spaghetti and meatballs. Again, good meal, great prices, but just good. After dinner, we decided to walk off the meal and walk down to 7th Avenue for dessert, we stopped at La Creperia, and enjoyed two different crepes and coffee. The first crepe had Nutella, fresh strawberries and banana slices in a warm fresh crepe drizzled with chocolate and powdered sugar, the other was a caramel and banana crepe. VERY good, we enjoyed each and every bite, what a great place for dessert.

I will still enjoy coming into Ybor for the great restaurants, and a nice historic setting, many of the shops, and smaller bars/pubs were open, the larger clubs, which are getting few and far between were closed, and are only open on the weekends. The area is going through major changes, innovative small companies are taking up office space, art galleries and smaller, independent retail, and unique restaurants and cafe's are opening up. Seems there are many cigar shops lining the avenue as well. It's time the BIG mega clubs said goodbye(which most already have), and the area grows up. It was sad though to see places like the Jazz Cellar and Cafe Creole closed, Ybor Square was actually a neat place to browse around, now it is offices.

Monday, November 5, 2007

Bike to Weedon Island Preserve and Brunch at Mimi's Cafe

Whats a beautiful day Sunday was, and for that matter, what a beautiful time to be in Florida, Deep Blue skies, temps in the upper 70's by day, 50's by night, welcome to Florida's Fall and Winter, enjoy the next 6 months of paradise!!

Took the Bike over to Debi's Sunday morning where we biked from her Riviera Bay neighborhood in St. Petersburg to Weedon Island Preserve. We biked through the waterfront neighborhood which have many canals, and as we approached the preserve, and rode to the Bay, there was alot of wildlife to be seen. Weedon Island is a great place for Kayaking, Biking, Hiking through the trails, and they have a Cultural Center as well.

Afterwards, me the family at MiMi's Cafe in Brandon near the Brandon Town Center Mall. It was my first visit to MiMi's, my aunt and uncle rave about it all the time. Very casual but comfortable separate dining rooms, in a bistro/cafe style. We were seated promptly in the 'Louisiana Room', and ordered some Arnold Palmer's(half iced tea/half lemonade), and saw Fried Pickles for an appetizer, so we decided to try them. Crispy fried pickle slices(dusted very lightly with flour and fried) with ranch and Thousand Island dressing to dip them with a side of homemade coleslaw..perfect. Then came our orders, Chicken Pot Pie was HUGE, big flaky pie crust covering a large bowl full of white meat chicken and veges. The Pot Roast was very tender, Teriyaki Salmon was cooked perfectly over steamed rice, and the Roast Turkey Platter looked just like a serving from Thanksgiving. Very well portioned meals, and we ate every bite, and took home some of the Turkey and Salmon. Lunches were all priced under $12. Now I know why people love this place.

Sunday, November 4, 2007

USF Homecoming

Another loss, 3rd week in a row, what a tough game. On another note though, it was great to see so many alumni at the game, and familiar faces. I noticed differently this year was the number of kids running around compared to years ago during i'm getting older! The stadium packed in about 58,000 for this years homecoming, but the loss to Cincy(38-33) did not make the crowd too happy as the fireworks went off behind the stadium.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Endoscopy completed!

Ive been having problems over the last several years with swallowing discomfort when eating, my throat would actually close, and I would not even be able to drink anything, sometimes it would last 10 minutes, sometimes a few hours..I never knew what it was, thought maybe I was eating too fast, or not chewing enough, but finally had the doc(actually a GI-gastrointerologist) tells me its acid reflux, I had silent heartburn,(casue I never feel heartburn pain) and over the years was causing my espohogus to sometimes close. It was so haphazard....soooo anyway, had the Endoscopy done today at the Tampa Bay Endoscopy Center, what a great experience, just need to get there very early, the place was jumping by 8am....the nurses, staff, doctors, all very friendly, explained everything two or three times, nice HOT blankets to keep ya warm while waiting, but I was in and out of there within 90 minutes, the procedure only takes like 5 minutes, they put you to sleep, and wake you back up when its over...That's it! Well, hope its nothing serious, the doc also dilated my throat, doesn't feel bigger, can't wait to eat!

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Halloween in Tampa

Well, it's that time of year...Tampa seems to have geared up for Halloween, this holiday as come a long now ranks up there with Christmas it seems, all the decorations inside and outside the homes, and the many parties and festivals for the occasion. This year I decided not to partake in Guavaween, the cities annual raucous festival of nearly 100,000 in Ybor City, and partake in the many Halloween parties. Friday it was up in the Carrollwood neighborhood, the Wendy's girl with the red hair and pig tails seemed to be very popular at that party. Then Saturday a few parties in South Tampa, the first house was decorated all out for the occasion, the second house we went to was a HUGE old Victorian just of Bayshore Blvd. Very wild characters, it's interesting to see people not only don the costumes, but play the characters as well(video below). After leaving the last party, I thought I was going to have to wait forever for a cab, but they were all over the South Tampa streets, running back and forth from Ybor City, so I was able to actually flag one down within minutes after leaving for the night.

My travels take me to NYC this week for work.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Stiff Drinks and a Film Festival Downtown Tampa

Im taking off for Chicago today, and wanted to at least participate in the Tampa International Gay and Lesbian Film Festival (TIGLFF)here in Tampa for two weeks until Sunday the 14th...i'm a HUGE fan of all kinds of movies, and there are usually some great independent movies that rarely make it to main stream, and it's a once a year festival. What I didn't know was that it's the 5th largest Gay and Lesbian Film Festival in the country, and this is the 18th year here in Tampa, and it takes place on both sides of the Bay(Tampa and St. Pete). There is also nothing like the experience of seeing a movie in Tampa Theater.

Prior to the start of the movie, we stopped by another Tampa icon next door to Tampa Theater, The Hub, for some of the stiffest, cheapest drinks in town. A mish-mosh of people in this dive lounge with a great juke box, a few video games and an attached package store, from lawyers and business people just getting off work to the true Hub drinker that had been there since opening to a few college students from nearby University of Tampa.

The movie we went to was "For the Bible Tells Me So"...I knew alot about the bible being raised Catholic, but watching this documentary was very eye opening, especially for those that seem to only choose which parts of the Bible they wish to read and interpret. All in all, it was well done, funny and enlightening and entertaining. A must for those who are closed minded and that believe that according to the Bible, homosexuality is an abomination(hmm, so is eating Shrimp, wearing linen and wool, mixing crops).....

Off to Chitown till next Wednesday!

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

A Great Channelside Addition - Zelda's Cafe and Deli

Finally went to see Transformers in IMAX at Channelside yesterday, what a great blockbuster of a movie, and to see it in IMAX was even more adrenaline rushing. Its out on DVD next week, so figured I should get to see in all its glory from an IMAX experience before it goes to DVD. Afterwards we went for a light dinner in the Channelside area, and wanted something different than what is offered in the Entertainment Complex, so we ventured a few blocks to Zelda's Cafe and Deli on the corner of Kennedy Blvd and Channelside Drive(behind the BP). AT 7:30pm there was no one there, a very nice, clean cafe, dimly lit with windows in front and back. A very friendly woman welcomed us and invited us to take a seat anywhere. They had just opened about three weeks ago, and mostly do a breakfast and lunch time crowd. They had three dinner specials, and the regular menu that had breakfast and lunch items(we were informed you could get breakfast all day). The dinner specials were Baked Chicken, Kielbasa, or Pork Ribs, each served with Vege of the day, a starch(fried rice, potatoes) and a dinner salad - all for $6.95. We decided to try one of the sandwhich's, the Italian Hoagie, and the Kielbasa dinner. A large portion of Kielbasa, grilled perfectly, moist and juicy w/ cooked onions, with a large side of green beans and I chose the Fried Rice which was ok. The dinner salad was a small plate of crisp cold iceberg lettuce, tomato slices and olives and onion. Very good meal, with a home cooked appeal. The Italian Hoagie was on an 8" Hoagie roll that was cold(like it was refrigerated), it would have been better on a fresh soft hoagie roll, but there was plenty of meats and toppings, and it came with a very generous portion of potato salad. The owner came over to talk with us, and advised us that they just finished the outdoor patio that overlooks onto Channelside condo complexes Ventana and Grand Central, along with the emerging studios and lofts that are taking over this area. He plans on having beer and wine license soon, with outdoor seating and live music some nights. Just another positive outlook for the Channelside neighborhood.

Sunday, October 7, 2007

Clearwater Beach by day to St. Pete Beach by night

Its been quite some time since I was over at Clearwater Beach, its typically a very busy beach, used to be the prime spot to go when I attended USF, and there are only a few great restaurants I like to visit there now(Frenchy's, Post Corner Pizza, Palm Pavilion, and Island Way Grille). Only about a 30 minute drive from my house in Tampa, I grabbed my bike and headed to the very northern end of Clearwater Beach, a small neighborhood of mixed homes, and private area at the very tip. Biking from one end to the other takes no time, but around the traffic circle you need to watch for novice drivers. I was amazed at the amount of construction on the beach front, towards the South end next to Spyglass there is a huge project, and a new Beachwalk being built. Seems Clearwater Beach is losing its mom and pop type places along the beach, but when riding back, there they all are a block or two away from the beach, some are closed, some in dire need of upgrading and repair. It would be nice to have a more upscale beach area(like a mini Fort Lauderdale Beachwalk) in the Tampa area. Clearwater Beach still seems very touristy and tacky at points, especially when you notice a huge difference going over the Sand Key bridge into Sand Key, with its High rise luxury condos along the beach front, and then Bel-Air. I'm glad I was able to make it back home to watch my Bulls for the USF-FAU game, was an aggravating game, but the Bulls pulled it out to go 5-0 so far for the season. I see them maintaining their #6 standing or possibly moving up one or two at most. GO BULLS!

Saturday evening we headed for a friends birthday get together at St. Pete Beach. He got a few rooms at the Travelodge on St. Pete Beach, which was nice so we did not have to drive back to Tampa after a few cocktails, even though its onyl about half hour ride back to my house in Tampa. The St. Pete Beach Travelodge was just what I had expected, no frills, paper thin towels and pillows, but it was clean. We had his birthday dinner in the attached Shells restaurant. Its been quite some time since I visited a Shells, and I wasnt too impressed. There were about a dozen of us, the service was great! Now for the food, we ordered Calamari, Buffalo Shrimp and Chicken and Onion Rings for starters. Calamari very breaded and crispy fried, Buffalo Shrimp and Chicken were sort of soggy, not as crisp as I thought it should be, the Onion Rings were winners. The bread they serve with dinner is amazing, veyr soft and doughy with alot of garlic butter. Now for the entree's, Shrimp and Scallop skewers on rice with veges consisted of three medium sized scallops and 7 medium shrimps, such a small amount for the price, and were just OK, the shrimp pasta, which they are known for, was very bland, and smaller shrimp than the ones on my skewer. Clam Chowder soup was full of onions, just not a good meal, but as far as service and the company we were with, things were good.

We then ventured to the Swigwam, which is the Tiki Bar behind the Travelodge located on the beach, the breezes were great, the drinks were cold, the crowd was a little less than desirable. It just seemed people had been drinking there all day and could hardly walk, and they just seemed a bit "laid back"..there was a very good raggae band playing, but the courtyard area was very brightly lit which seemed unusual for a beach tiki bar. The good news was that you can walk bar to bar along the beach, and we went next door to Jimi B's. I love this place, much better atmosphere and crowd, and the band playing tonight was Edge of Red, playing classic rock tunes, keeping the beach crowd on their feet and happy. Jimi B's is a grat large tiki area, with three bar area and different levels, and a nice boardwalk out to the water that is dimly lit. Great atmosphere, people and music, we spent most of the night here, before retiring back to Travelodge to sleep on the flimsy mattresses and pillows.

Its off the Madre's for dinner with the family, and watch the Bucs this afternoon!