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 food..it 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!