Wednesday, December 31, 2008

A Broadway Musical in Downtown Tampa...

Last evening, I scored a few tickets to the 2008 Tony Award winning Broadway musical "Spring Awakening" playing at the Tampa Bay Performing Arts Center downtown.
Prior to the play, we stopped by Fly Bar, which was not very crowded on this Tuesday eve, getting a table that was inside, but beside the large glass doors which were all wide open to the outside, was nice, and gave an open, airy feeling to this very nice, eclectic place in downtown. Service was very friendly, and for eats, since it is mostly all small plates, we munched on Goat Cheese balls in a Panko Crust, 3 large cheese balls, hot and with a nice clean tomato sauce; next was the Fish Tacos, two large fried white fish soft tacos, with some toppings, again very good; then came out the Butter Nut Mac n Cheese, a bowl full of cheesy pasta with Butter Nut squash, different and tasty; and finally ended with the Kobe Beef sliders, three large meatball looking burgers cooked medium rare for a taste of the full flavor of this Kobe Beef on French Bread. Washing it all down with a nice bottle of wine made for a great start to the thing I will mention is it is a bit expensive for such small plates...we mentioned that instead of having three of everything, they should add a forth, and keep the prices the same(a forth cheese ball, a forth slider, etc.)...
We left the car at Fly Bar, and walked a few blocks over to the Performing Arts Center...great seats in the Balcony Box we shared with only 4 others...the musical was awesome, and now I see why it received all the awards it did, music very meaningful and uplifting at times to emotional...the story is about teenagers coming of age and everything that goes along with it...and true to what they advised, there is definitely mature situations, nudity and adult language...but all done in an artsy and cultural way that did not offend(except the one lady in the almost sold out crowd of over 2000 that gasped when two of the guys on stage kissed each other...)

Now on to New Years...2008 was GREAT for me, and i'm looking forward to a FINE 2009!!


Monday, December 29, 2008

Happy Holidays Tampa!

A great long holiday weekend has concluded, only to be followed by another short week and long weekend this week for New Years.
Tuesday evening a bunch of us went to a buddies annual Holiday Party in the Seminole Heights neighborhood...lots of food, drinks, and laughs...over 60 friends and acquaintances showed up through the night.....and we couldn't end the night without a stop by the Green Iguana Westshore near my house..good times!!
Wednesday was Christmas Eve, easily picked my brother up at TIA to head to Madre's house outside of Sun City Center for the annual Italian 'Feast of the 7 Fishes' Christmas Eve dinner with family.
Christmas Day was nice and warm, near 80, sunny skies. We met up with my Aunt and Uncle at Centro Ybor in Ybor City to see the opening of the movie "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button". This was a very different routine for us on Christmas, but discovered that ALOT of people actually go to the movies on Christmas Day, the theaters were busy. Ybor City itself was a ghost town, with most shops and bars/restaurants closed during the daytime hours this Holiday. The movie was EXCELLENT.
Friday, decided to venture out to International Plaza with a buddy and grab some eats at BayStreet's Bar Louie. We got a great table outside, perfect for enjoying the warmer than ususal temps this December day, and people watching. Bar Louie's food was good, started with a Hummus Platter, which unfortunately had more taboule than hummus, and I decided to get the Friday Lunch Special, 3 Baja Fish Tacos served with Guac, Salsa and Black Beans and Rice, very filling and good; my buddy enjoyed the Buffalo Chicken Sandwich, which was Buffalo Chicken bites on a soft roll with Lettuce and Tomato...fries on the side....there wasn't as many people walking around the Bay Street area, but once we entered the Plaza, it seemed a bit busier this day after Christmas.
Saturday, took the bikes up to Wilderness Parks off road biking trails, we biked a few of the more than 15 different trails, through all kinds of terrain and topography, the only wildlife we saw today was a few Armadillos. After that biking, we went over to Lenny's down the road off Fletcher Avenue for great sandwich's(there are a few Lenny's throughout Tampa), sitting outside an relaxing...then it was a bike tour of the USF campus, where I reminisced about the good old days, and couldn't believe the amount of construction and new buildings all over campus, it was a busy campus when I went to school there from '87-'92, and continues to grow to this day. A few hours of rest, and it was off to the Tampa Bay Lightning v Florida panthers Hockey game, and again our tickets included the Champions sports Lounge where we noshed on White Castle burgers, Parmesan Meatballs, Clam Strips and Roasted Turkey being carved, along with the all you can drink drafts and wines, and excellent view of the game...we pulled a third straight win, 6-4. A short 10 minute walk to a friends Clubhouse in the Seaport Apartments in Channelside area of downtown, and it was another Holiday Party for all of us to enjoy.
Sunday was a disappointing loss for the Bucs against Oakland, and we are officially done with the season. I met up with my family at AMC Westshore for another blockbuster movie, Valkyrie. There is just something about these true stories concerning Hitler's Germany that are very chilling and emotional to say the least...very good movie, I will probably see this one a second time, it was that good.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

A December Tampa Bay Weekend

The weekend kinda got started on Thursday, with tickets to the Lightning game against Colorado, our tickets included a trip to the Champion Club..all you can eat and all you can drink, great views of the game from a private Lounge...unfortunately, the game ended in a shootout, and we lost.

Friday, even though I was supposed to be on vacation, I worked most of the day, but took the kayak out for a few hours down the street at Picnic Island, it let me get out some stress from end of the year, and dealing with my new promotion..all is good!! Later Friday evening, we went up to Hyde Park neighborhood for some eats, and grabbed some excellent Burritos and Quesadillas at Taqueria Burrito Joint on Howard Avenue...lots of outdoor seating, great to watch people getting out and about in Hyde Park going from bar to bar, getting their Friday's on....we then met some people at Dubliner across the street, and decided to check out a new Wine/Beer Lounge called Cork, across the street from MacDintons....GREAT place, they re-did the old Gelato place, and made into a swanky, loungy wine bar, very good selection, not expensive..we did a few bottles of Kim Crawford Savigone Blanc, perfect, and also decided on some late night munchies(some of us had not eatin'), so they had some pizza's, and garlic bread appetizer with different dipping sauces....VERY GOOD!! Service was excellent, i look forward to when they get the outside tables and chairs. A short two block walk to Mangrove's for some DJ tunes....and then it was a cab ride back home.

Saturday, we went up to Wrights Gourmet Deli for some early usual this place never disappoints..grab a menu, get on line, and order away...large sandwich's, fresh homemade soups, and tables outside for taking advantage of this perfect December Florida weather.
Then headed over to St. Petersburg for the Inaugural St. Peterburg Bowl, my alma mater USF Bulls, vs the Univ of Memphis Tigers....was interesting seeing a football game in Tropicana Field, we had great seats, but watching the game was kind of addition there were so many commercial breaks, it made the game very slow moving, and on top of that, USF killed U of Memphis...41-14. Taking one of my buddies back home after the game was a treat, he lives with his family in the Roser Park neighborhood of downtown St. Petersburg...very old historic area, they were having the Holiday Neighborhood Party, there were luminaries lit up all along the creek. We stopped by Georgie's Alibi for a few appetizers(never will be eating in that place, just the greasiest of fried is a bar afterall).....

Sunday was a great day to watch the Bucs at home, but they lost to San Diego..before the game we went over to Nina O's for their Sunday Brunch was good, service was Extremely slow.

Im looking forward to spending Christmas in town with some family this week.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Tampa I Am blog - 2 years old today!!

Well, two years of blogging, and now averaging about 200 hits each day from all over the world. I have met so many new people on line; interacted with tons of groups, and learned so much more about what makes the Tampa Bay area so special.

And I bring back my very first post:

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 air conditioning 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 people 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, Illinois, Indiana), with the remainder coming from the Northeast(New York, Connecticut, New Jersey). Things have changed quite a bit over the past 20 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 340,000. 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 21 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 winning the National League Championship(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 2012. The Riverwalk is well on it's way to be completed by 2010, 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 most 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 Performing 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, Lee Roy Selmon's 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!!

Monday, December 15, 2008

Christmas Partytime....

Saturday was a cool, beautiful day in the Bay area, took the kids to the park/beach at Picnic Island in South Tampa, seems to be getting a bit busier, I am now seeing the same people and thier dogs each weekend, some from MacDill AFB, which is nice. The beach area is so large, I doubt it could ever get too busy.
Saturday evening was a friend of mine annual Christmas Party in Port Tampa City, s small little city neighborhood a few miles south of Gandy Blvd off Westshore Blvd, at the tip of Interbay Peninsula. It was great to see so many people I havent seen since last year, afterwards it was a late night stop at the Green Iguana Westshore, and a quick trip over to the other side of South Tampa to another friends place in Bayshore Towers along Bayshore Blvd.

Sunday, I found out one of my favorite middle eastern eateries does a brunch buffet starting at noon, so we went over to Genghis Khan, and at 12:30, we were only one of two tables in the entire place, and had the fresh buffet to ourselves, lots of middle eastern cold salads(like fresh hummus, taboule, chopped with feta, etc....), and for hot entrees fresh beef kabobs, rice, two different middle eastern chicken dishes. Fresh, warm pita was also served. It was good.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

NO Bonefish Grill!

I typically don't write about chains, and also don't frequent them that much, there is just something more special about a mom and pop eatery, retail, and knowing you are supporting the local economy than huge corporate giants that sometimes don't contribute to the local area(sometimes)...

Anyway, we decided on some eats, and Bonefish Grille was a place we hadn't been in a while(Bonefish was developed in the Tampa Bay area). The south tampa Bonefish off Henderson Blvd has literally no parking for the size of the restaurant, but luckily we found a spot right next to the front door after circling a few times when someone pulled out. They do offer valet.

Being told it was a 35 min wait was ok, we could also grab a table in the bar area...the place was redone, giving it more of a swanky uptown vibe, dim lighting, and 'Cafe del Mar' type lounge music in the chic it has become. We found a few open chairs at one of the tables in the bar and started chatting with some others we knew at the same table, and decided to stay there to eat. This is where things go downhill..waaay downhill.

After about 10 minutes of sitting there, we were asked if we wanted a drink, drinks were brought over, but no menus, we had to ask for menus(everyone else at the tables in the bar were eating-not sure why they didn't think we wanted to also). So with menu's in hand, another 10 min goes by before the small, not so friendly woman server asks us for our choices, made a few recommendations, even said if we didn't like one of the choices, she would replace it with something else. Saucy Shrimp for apps, good and saucy with lots of feta cheese. Where is the bread?? A guy came over to ask how things were(didnt know he was a manager, looked more like a bartender, never gave his name or anything, and when we asked why no bread was brought out like to the other patrons, he simply stated "you have to ask now for bread, corporate is cutting back" - well maybe the server should ask us if we would like bread. So with fresh warm bread finally by our side, we were able to mop up that delicious sauce, and the oil/pesto that comes with the bread, while we waited, and waited, and waited some more......and waited, almost 35 minutes later only to be told by that manager guy again that a piece of fish broke on the grill, and they had to re-cook the took 35 min for someone to tell us that? He never once apologized, said it usually isn't this way, and offered us dessert(i'd like to get the meal first) And where in the world was our server, the short dark haired woman looked very busy, but not once coming by to tend to us...then our other friends at the table we met were telling us that service was really lacking this evening for them also.

Well, another 15 minutes, and one of the plates came out so hot, she had to hold the plate with an oven mit, and I understand why, that was the one sitting in the oven while the other fish entree was cooked. Not once was there even an apology, no one ever came by to see how the meals were, the manager guy(we found out his name was Brian, because when we asked for a manager, the server advised we already spoke with him) walked by us a few times, not even glancing over at us to check on us, the server never came back....the meal was just ok, I could tell the Salmon was sitting in the oven, it sat on top of maybe a Tablespoon of Au gratin potatoes(could they spare a little more than a dollop), and a tablespoon of some corn/edamame..very small side portions. The grouper again was just ok, and of course fish have bones, but this grouper had some major bones in it...true to the Bonefish name, but not something you want in a Fresh Grouper entree.

With dirty plates in front of us for another 10 minutes, I finally yelled for Brian when he walked by us for the 10th time, advising him that this was one of the most horrible dining experiences, and all he stated was "dont worry about the check" and walked away....and so did we!!

In economic times like these, and seeing so many businesses going under or failing, especially in the service industry, had Brian the manager and the server been more empathetic, personable, friendly, pro-active, etc., I might not have the bad taste in my mouth for this place as I do and probably will have for quite some time....word of mouth can go a long way.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Tampa Bay Sunday Brunch - Oystercatchers is just OK.

Madre turned a young 70 last weekend, so the Aunt and Uncle and I took her to Oystercatchers for a Sunday Brunch. Located at the Hyatt Westshore, it is detached from the hotel and sits right on the Bay, beautiful views of the water, bridges, Rocky Point. There is also an outside deck. The place recently went through a multi million dollar renovation, and from what was once a very authentic looking, Key West style, Floribean decor, is now a very City chic, modern, clean lines, modern furniture, a bit cold, something you might see in a Manhattan type upscale place. Still has the very large wide windows that give everyone a view of the water. Personally, I liked the Florida style, especially for a restaurant on the water that specializes in Seafood.

Valet parking, and walking in the place, we were greeted by two friendly female hostesses, who escorted us to the table near the windows, and also explained and pointed out the buffet brunch.

The place did not seem very busy at this 1230 time, there were plenty of empty tables, but by 130pm, more people had joined, but again, not too busy it seemed. As for the layout of the buffet, all the food items were layed out along shelves, there were some tables with food, but it was mostly scattered throughout the upper tier area of the restaurant. The desserts and waffles were in a whole other room, you had to walk through the bar, to a side room, where again, the dessert were just layed out along the sides, on was kind of like where ever they could find space, they would set down some food.

The seafood selection was best, all cold, snow crab leg claws, all ready cracked, ready to dip in hot drawn butter, huge shrimps, marinated mussles and large raw oysters(two of us found two bad oysters in the bunch). Eggs station was duck or quail eggs, i asked for an omelet, but got sunny side up duck and quail eggs...i'll take good old chicken eggs.

Pasta station was good but small, typical pastas, extraordinary was the spinach ravioli, when i asked for just oil and garlic as the sauce, there was enough garlic to feed the entire hotel in my small plate of pasta. I think I still taste it a day later.

Other than that typical roast beef meat for carving(which no one was tending, they would slice a few slices from time to time). Some other entrees sitting in a heated pan included a chicken dish, mussels, and a fish dish, then eggs Benedict's, all ready made and sitting in a heated pan, cheeses, a variety of salads, the Cesar was very drenched in dressing, some of the romaine leaves were soft and wilted, the Hearts of Palm were cut in large chunks, which you had to cut up again and were rather tough to chew. Bagels and Lox, Very small Sushi tray, they would only bring out about 4 rolls at a time cut up.

Desserts were ok, the chocolate moose with berries served in tiny juice glasses, when ordering banans foster, again they served it fresh, but in a tiny juice glass. I told them before we go there, that we were coming for my mom's bday. After we had already been up to get dessert, and served coffee, they decided to bring out a dessert plate, with desserts my mom had already picked from the buffet.

The service was spotty, when we first arrived it took over 5 min for anyone to come to the table, and I finally had to get up and ask someone. Dustin arrived, but again, it took sometime for them to get in the swing of things to pick up our dirty plates, by the end of the meal, they had things in synch, filling our Champagne Mimosas, and iced teas, finally clearing and setting new silver for us between trips.

All in all it was just ok, but for $45 a pop, I would expect one of the best brunch buffets, and to be honest, Vegas does a much better job at half the price, but this isn't Vegas.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

World of Wine in South Tampa

A new Wine Shop opened about a month ago in my neighborhood a few blocks from my house. A bunch of us walked up to World of Wine Friday eve for their bi-weekly Tastings from 6-8pm. A nice crowd, people coming and going throughout the tasting...we were able to sample a variety of wines this week from Frei Brothers(the Chardonay was my fav), some homemade Sangria made with Bitch wine, and in the back there was beer tastings..this week was from Southampton Publick House(the Double White was my fav). Food was provided by Roberts Meats, which is a few stores down...and abundance of marinated roast pork, sliced turkey, sausages and cheeses, and grapes. There was even samplings of 'healthy' chocolates.
The store is great, and the owners(husband and wife) did a great job, the wine varieties are some of the best selections, and pricing isn't bad either. Also, with every six pack of beer, you can pick 2 glasses from a variety of beer type glasses, nice gifts as well. I look forward to their next wine event!!

Of course the night would not be complete without a stop by the Green Iguana on the walk back home. Some eats, drinks, darts, and live music.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Mediterranean Eats in Downtown Tampa; and one of the BEST movies ive seen in a while

Went downtown Tampa Tuesday eve to meet a friend, we were going to see a movie at Historic Tampa Theater, "The Boy in the Striped Pajamas". Before so, we went to Paninoteca, on Franklin Street, just north of Madison. Great small cafe type place, Greek music playing in the background, very warm smiles and greeting as we entered. The kitchen is right smack in the dining room, very nice! There are less than a dozen high top tables, plenty of windows to look out into the city, which was VERY quiet this Tuesday evening. We ordered the Chicken Salad sandwich, came on a HUGE piece of very fresh Foccacia Bread, the chicken salad was made Mediterranean style, very light and flavorful with chunks of fresh chicken, and also cam with a large side Greek Salad, made with mixed field greens, and Mediterranean veges, lots of feta, and a creamy Greek dressing on the side. Also to eat was a Mediterranean Chicken Pita, fresh warm Pita, juicy chicken, again very flavorful, and a small side salad as if this very Yummy and filling dinner wasn't enough, we also tried some 'chocolate balls', fresh from the bakery, they had lots of dessert treats to try, can be a great dessert place as well, it stays open late.

After that great meal, we walked a block north on Franklin to Tampa Theater, a treasure of its own. The movie was about an eight year old boy during the Holocaust in Germany, and all I can say is it really took my breath amazing feature, seeing the horribleness of that time period through a young boys eyes...I dont think there was a dry eye in the theater at the end of the movie, or everyone was just too taken away when the credits rolled, no one moved. By far one of the best films of the year!!

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

BLAB is back!!

For those interested in what other Tampa Bay area bloggers have to say, well this site pretty much rolls them all into one easy to read area!! And after months on hiatus, it is back!


I'm taking a 'semi' vacation this week, need to use the vaca days, so Im doin my shopping, getting my tree, putting up the Christmas stuff, and hopefully have a little time to relax.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Wine Lunch in the Village

Met up with some friends in Hyde Park Village Friday, to get together over some wine and eats. At Timpano's, we waited about 10 min for a table to open up outside, since it was another great day in paradise, and we could do some great people watching of all the shoppers out in the Village on this Black Friday. We started with some Mussels, came out sizzling and hot with drawn butter...very tasty but kind of small. We also all dined on some Sliders, I know they are supposed to be small, but there was barely any meat at all on the soft buns; the 4 cheese pizza was very thin wafer like bread with some cheese melted on it; and some chopped salads with grilled chicken, in which the chicken was cold and also very small portion. What was good was the company and the very pricey wines, and the great service that Andrew provided...everyone on the patio seemed to be in a great mood this Friday after Thanksgiving, we chatted with several people during our nearly 4 hour lunch.

The annual lighting of the Christmas Tree was also taking place in the Village, so afterwards we met up with some more friends at the Wine Exchange, also in the Village. They had a nice large table available on their outdoor patio. It was then a walk through the Historic Hyde Park neighborhood to hit up one of my favorite dives, the Tiny Tap..where we met up with even more friends, shot some pool, played Foosball, before grabbing a cab for the 8 block ride up Howard Avenue to the Deck Pizza. The large pepperoni pizza was as close to NY style, thin slices that you fold to eat, very cheesy, nice tangy sauce....and of course a few pitchers of beer. A cab over to CitySide to say hello, and short walk over to Baxters, and then one more cab ride over to Green Iguana westshore to end the night.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving Tampa!

Nice to be home for the holiday this year, although I do miss seeing my brothers and niece and nephews. Thanksgiving Eve(last night), got a call to see the Lightning hockey game against the NY Rangers at the Forum downtown. I ran in the shower, and caught the 7pm bus 3 houses down from my house(Yes... the Hartline City Bus). For $1.50 I get a comfortable, clean ride, that took less than 30 minutes(about 5 miles), and I did not need to find parking downtown, and I did not have to fork over $20.00 for parking, and I was able to have a few beers at the game and not worry about driving home....the game was Great, excellent seats in the 104 section, went into SO(shootout), which I have never seen before...unfortunately the Rangers came out good in the SO, and won the game.
It was then we all went back towards my house to celebrate an annual tradition at the Green Iguana Westshore, the Huuuuuuge Thanksgiving Eve Party...with people home for the Holiday, it was a packed house, and we ran into several people that you don't get to see but on holidays and some special occasions...Great Band as usual...Good Times!

Turkey Day was with the Aunt and Uncle in Brandon, on the way home stopped by Club Chelsea to see some good friends, and called it an early night.

Monday, November 24, 2008

A visitor in Tampa from LA

A buddy of mine came to Tampa for the weekend, stayed downtown at the Hyatt Regency, nice hotel, had a great view of the Pool deck and Harbour Island and Hillsborough Bay. Saturday we walked over to First Watch for breakfast, a few blocks from the hotel in downtown Tampa. As usual the place was busy, about a 10 min wait, but they always have fresh coffee and ice water available while waiting, and it was worth the wait for fresh omlets and French Toast, very friendly service. Afterwards I wanted to see how things were progressing on the Riverwalk, Tampa Museum of Art and Tampa Bay History Center, all under construction downtown. Most of the segments of the Riverwalk from USF park near Borein Street to Channelside is all complete. The history center was looking almost complete, it was due to open in January. The museum of Art looks huge, alot bigger than the older one, and a perfect setting next to the Performing Arts center along the Riverwalk. I twas nice to take a few hours and walk around downtown, there has been alot of progress over the past year, and they are really getting things ready for SuperBowl.

Afterwards, we took the kids to the Park/Beach at Picnic Island, there weren't many other dogs on the beach, it was a perfect day, temps around 70, clear blue skies. Late in the afternoon, we decided on some burgers, so walked over to the Green Iguana, and again, PERFECT burgers(Baja and the Feta Burger), chilling out watching some football in the tiki deck.

Saturday night after a cocktail on the Lobby bar of the Hyatt, which was very busy, we cabbed it to Ybor City to check out a new restaurant that opened up in Centro Ybor called Teatro. From the street the outside balcony was busy, and they had music playing...we get up there, and it the Benz Modeling Agency annual party, and we were welcomed with open arms...and an Open Bar, and Open Buffet...we even mingled with a few people, and were asked to come in off the balcony at one point by the owner Steve Benz, so we could hear his speech....just a big THANK YOU to Benz...Teatro is an upscale restaurant and bar, it was a highlight of the night. By midnight we ventured off the the 2nd Anniversary of G. Bar, and ended the evening with a cab ride over to City Side.

Sunday was watching the Bucs win over Detroit, and went with some friends to my Alma Mater, USF, last home game against UCONN, which we won.

A short week, but work takes me to NYC Tuesday, and i'm looking forward to Turkey day with the family and a relaxing long weekend in town.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

A German Deli in Tampa....

After getting back to Tampa from a GREAT long weekend in the Keys and Key West, took Monday off to relax a bit, and we went to have some lunch in South Tampa...a good sandwich was calling..we tried going to a new Deli place on MacDill Ave near Bay to Bay, but it wasnt open yet...then headed over to Roberts Meats a few blocks from my house, and it was closed(?), so finally we ended up at Schiller's German Deli, El Prado and Manhatten Ave...a very authentic German Deli, with all kinds of foods and gifts imported from Germany, but best of all the excellent sandwiches you can get on all types of fresh baked breads...we had the Turkey Club on an Onion Roll, and also a Corned Beef, Pastrami, and German Salami w/Swiss on Rye...both very good. A side of German Potato salad, and fresh baked Apple Strudel for dessert. They have a few tables inside for eating, or you can order and take out.

This week work brings me to Chicago for a few days.


Monday, November 10, 2008

Wings Gone 'no so' Wild

We went out for some wings and football Sunday night, a relatively new place opened up where Hawks Grille used to be on Bay to Bay Blvd, just west of MacDill Ave. Large open space, high ceilings, lots of flat screen tvs throughout playing all the games. There is also a large outdoor patio, but it was busy with a Bean Bag tournament of sorts...

Grabbing a table inside, the no so friendly server took our drink order, we kind of felt like we were bothering her, the place was not very busy, lots of empty table dfor the Sunday evening. Ordering 16 wings(Garlic Parmesan and Jamaican Jerk), and also an Angus Burger and the Philly Cheese Steak Wrap. All the food came out at the same time, the wings we crispy, and I felt they were ok(nice to have a choice of over a dozen flavors), my buddy thought they were a bit greasy(they are wings though)...the Burger was typical, and looked to be pre-formed, the Philly Cheese Steak wrap, although small in size, was large in flavor and packed with meat. Sides included Sweet Potato Fries, crinkle cut, which were very plain tasting. It took a while for our server to acknowledge us most the night for refills on drinks, and clearing the table, and finally getting us the check to get out of there. All in all, it was an OK sports bar atmosphere with OK sports bar food, maybe a good place to watch a game with a few friends and some chilly ones.

Short week, as I descend to the Florida Keys Wednesday for a LOOONG weekend!!


Sunday, November 9, 2008

Kayaking with the Dolphins

Saturday after taking the Kids to their favorite beach(Picnic Island Park down the street off Westshore), it was time for me to do some exploring...on the Kayak. Decided to take them down to Fort DeSoto Park, and found a spot along the road leading to North Beach where you can park right along the water, and put in...after only kayaking about 15 minutes towards the Gulf along the mangroves in the intracoastal waterway, out of nowhere come a few playful dolphins...they stuck around for a while, giving a nice show, and then just disappeared. There was an abundance of wildlife out today, all kinds of birds, saw a few stingrays in the water, jumping fish of all kinds...and made out to the tip of North Beach, beautiful white sands, very peaceful for a Saturday. On the way back, stopped by a picnic area in Fort DeSoto that was along the water, called Arrowhead Picnic area...nice hiking trails and very wooded area, it was great to take a break from the kayak, and walk around exploring this part of Fort DeSoto i've never seen before. Great day to be out doing anything blue skies, and temps in the upper 70's.

South Westshore Thai

A new Thai restaurant opened up in the 'hood off South Westshore Blvd, about 10 blocks from my house. Jasmine Thai has a couple of other restaurants in the Bay area. An amazing job refurbishing this once Cuban place, and now it is very authentic Thai decor(even some of the decor and settings are from Thailand, according to the Hostess). Very clean, modern, Asian influenced from floor to ceiling. Our very friendly Asian server took our orders, we started with Tom Yum and Wonton Soups..the Tom Yum was very good, a bit spicy and sour, very fresh and flavorful with Chicken, and the Wonton was also very fresh, very thin Wonton skin stuffed with pork, bean sprouts and Asian veges, clear garlic flavored broth. Our meals consisted of Chicken Pineapple Curry - sweet and sour with just the right kick of spice, tender chunks of Chicken, large portion; Garlic and Black Pepper Chicken - huge portion with mixed Asian Veges in a very light sauce; and Crispy basket salad with grilled Chicken - a small sized salad in an edible shell, Asian veges and Greens, thinly sliced Grilled Chicken, and came with several dipping dressings.
We ended dinner with Banana Chips, fresh sliced bananas wrapped in a dough and fried, then drizzled with honey..perfect.
I have never been to Jasmine Thai, but found it to be VERY good, my dinner guests LOVE Thai food, and claimed this was very good. Nice to have another authentic eatery open up in the neighborhood.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Halloween Weekend in Tampa Bay!

The weekend actually started on Wednesday, for the monthly Hyde Park Live Music Series, parking on the top of the garage at the Village, there was an amazing sunset that lit up the few clouds in the sky a very bright orange, and cast the same orange glow on the skyscrapers downtown. A few hundred people gathered as usual, listing to good live music in the Village. Afterwards, we all headed over to MacDinton's to watch the reaming 3 innings of Game 5 World Series, that was delayed for two nights due to rain in Philly...and our Tampa Bay Rays were not triumphant against the Philly's losing the Series 4 games to 1. What a Great Season though, and a more promising 2009 for baseball fans in Tampa Bay!

Friday was Halloween, and as I do every year, some friends came over and we sat out on the Front Porch, like my neighbors all do, with some drinks, watching the kids come up for their Trick or Treats, there were about 40-50 kids this 9pm it was all quiet, and we headed out to Sunset Beach, a great little Gulf Front area on Treasure Island where some friends rented a huge beach house...was a great night, the Beach house was excellent, we walked over to Ka'tiki, one of the oldest beach bars in the area...there were a few people still in costumes this Halloween night, even at the beach bars.

Saturday we did a pre-party at my buddies Bayshore Towers condo on Bayshore Blvd, and then went a few blocks north in South Tampa to one of the largest, best annual Halloween parties in the Tampa area. A huge old house, built in the early 1900's, decorated all for Halloween, each room was different...a few hundred people showed up this year, all in costumes...GOOD TIMES!

Monday, October 27, 2008

Biking on the Beach and Tampa's GUAVAWEEN 2008!

Saturday was a great day out, fall is definitely here, it was dry and mostly sunny, temps hovering close to 80..a great day for a bike ride. We headed over to one of my favorite parks, Fort DeSoto, parked near the boat ramps where the bike trail in the park begins. The park was barely busy this Saturday, after a little over an hour riding the paths, with great views of the Bay, Skyway, Gulf beaches, we stopped by the Fort for some great homemade lemonade while climbing to the top of the Fort.

Tampa's annual Guavaween festival was set for the evening. Before attending the 23rd annual event that draws close to 100,000 to the Historic District of Ybor City, we got all in costume and headed to a friends pre-party at the Seybold Condos in Hyde Park. This restored Bread Factory had a nice rooftop deck, great views of the city, and within the two hours we were there, we had some great laughs at some of the costumes showing up...most of them were all going to the All Hallows Ball being held at the Performing Arts Center this year.
Guavaween was not as crowded this year as it typically is, it was a great crowd, another fun time...going bar to bar, meeting LOTS of interesting people. As for our costumes, in spirit of the Rays being in the World Series, we dressed up as Evan Longoria's(3rd baseman) white trash girls fan club...and were a HUGE hit in Ybor City!!

It wasn't a good sports weekend for Tampa Bay...USF Bulls lost to Louisville, Tampa Bay Bucanners lost to Dallas, Tampa Bay Lightning lost to San Jose and the Rays lost to Philly in the World Series game 4.

Monday, October 20, 2008

USF Homecoming; Biking and Jazz in Clearwater

Saturday afternoon, we went up to my Alma Mater's Homecoming Football Game, USF Bulls vs Syracuse Orangemen. We killed Syracuse, 45-13, in an exciting game for most of the first half, then we just dominated. It was alot of fun, tailgating before hand and seeing some Alumni in the Stadium at half time near the Ship as we do every year.

Sunday, we took the bikes over to Clearwater, and rode the Pinellas Trail through downtown Clearwater, then over to Clearwater Beach along the BeachWalk which is looking great, a major improvement to the area. Lunch was at a place I havent been in a while on the beach, Post Corner Pizza, probably the best Greek Salads, huge hunks of Feta Cheese, and they came with some Gyro and perfectly seasoned and moist chicken on top...back on the Bikes, we went to downtown Clearwater again, listened to some Live Jazz at the Annual Clearwater Jazz Holiday at Coachman Park along the Intracoastal...we then hopped on the bikes and rode the Pinellas Trail up to Dunedin, a great little town, with excellent shops and restaurants, a few blocks off the Intracoastal waterway...a perfect day to be outside, Fall is settling in nicely here in Tampa Bay area.

Sunday night was the Rays clincher against the Red Sox, we WON and are off to the World Series against the Phillies. GO RAYS!!


Friday, October 17, 2008

Busch Gardens "Howl O Scream"

A crew of us went to the Annual "Howl O Scream" at Busch Gardens Thursday evening...the park transforms itself at night into a very dark, and supposedly scary was definitely very dark in the park...Busch Gardens is typically not open in the evenings except special events such as this, and some summer nights. A totally different atmosphere at night, with all the rides open, the coasters are a even wilder ride at night time. There was a very party-like atmosphere, with DJ's set up throughout the park, and about half a dozen Haunted Houses and some shows scattered about.
Note to Self: make sure to check the School schedule before going next time...since the schools were closed Friday, the park was the most crowded I think I have ever been..its open from 7:30pm to 1am on Thursday, Friday and Saturdays through the month of October. By 7pm, there was already lines of cars getting into the parking area..we were in for a VERY busy night. We were able to ride a few coasters, and walk through a few houses. One house reminded me of the old Texas Chainsaw Massacre house, with strange people milling about the very dark and eeery corridors, excellent make-up and special effects...ALL of us were scared at one point or another. Thursday's are only $20.00 with a group of four, otherwise it is over $60.00 to get in on Fri and Sat nights. Next time I go it will be on a Thursday when the kids are not out of school the next day...alot of Fun, A ton of laughs, very Interesting themed areas..and definitely different! You will scream and be entertained....

Sunday, October 12, 2008

An evening on Franklin Street in Downtown Tampa.

Friday late afternoon, we went downtown Tampa, and started the evening at Fly Bar, for some happy hour cocktails...its a very cool place, the rooftop was empty, but by 7pm, the place was filling up, all the tables on the outside patio were was then a stop at the Hub for an extra strong cocktail they are known for in this very smokey dive joint along Franklin Street...the 'clip' Film Festival was keeping things busy in front of Tampa stop was a new restaurant/bar called Boss Hogs, very walking into a western saloon, there was an upstairs balcony overlooking the place...we tried the wings there, they had a very different type of sauce, and were very small....we then heard about a new invention they thought of that night called "reverse wings"...tossed in a blue cheese sauce, and give buffalo sauce for dipping. Last stop was Hattricks to watch the Red Sox/Rays game, place was very busy, cold drinks and good food as ususal.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

'clip' Film festival and Dinner in Downtown St. Pete

Wednesday evening, I got back from an emergency meeting in Atlanta(I had to fly up there in the morning after getting back from Jersey City the night before), and decided to partake in this years 'clip' Film Festival. It is said to be the third largest Gay and Lesbian Film festival in the country, as far as number of films and length of the program(almost two weeks). The film we saw was Clapham Junction, playing at the Baywalk theaters in downtown St. Petersburg. Very interesting plot and story line where the three different stories kind of intertwined into one by the end. Prior to the movie, we went for dinner at Parkshore Grille, took advantage of the great October weather dining outside, with nice views of the water and parks along Beach Drive in downtown St. Pete. Parkshore always has great food and service, this trip was no different, starting out with the Stuffed Meatballs appetizer, about eight small meatballs stuffed with blue cheese in a beef sauce(great for dipping the bread)....and a small "Wedge" salad, great dressing and crisp and cold....for entrees it was the Salmon, perfectly cooked and flavorful, and also the Parkshore Salad with Chicken.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Nina O's new Grille and Bar; and a Kayak Day

Friday after work, went over to a new restaurant that opened up in South Tampa called Nina O's Grille and Bar(they say the Grille comes first because of the great food). They did an EXCELLENT job rehabbing this place that used to be an old strip club, dive bar. Beautiful large bar area, clean modern fixtures throughout, lots of windows and natural light, 11 large flat screen tv's throughout...uniquely, you get your own speaker brought to your table to listen to whatever you choose to watch. The place was packed, but the new outside patio had tables available and a TV outside as well, to watch the 2nd Rays game. The patio had some nice plantings and a few fountains......A friendly server brought us our speaker(we were the only ones outside at the time), menu's and explained the special of the day(all you can eat fried fish and sides). We started with Wings which we were told came breaded, but we could order them naked if we wanted, but he suggested the breaded because they were a house specialty...and they were HUGE, very lightly breaded and fried, almost like southern style, with a little heat. A Turkey and Ham sandwich, which I was told was very good; Patty melt, very fresh Angus beef patty with Swiss cheese and sauteed onions on buttered Rye toast..perfect and delicious!; Also a Philly Steak sandwhich, piled high with meat, my buddy said the meat was slightly luke warm, but he ate the whole thing. The sandwich's came with very fresh potato salad made with red new potatoes, very light mayonnaise, very light flavor. One sadwhich came with Pasta Salad, very overcooked pasta in an oily mess. It was all good, nice relaxing outside, but noticed that the Patio is where the smokers go from the bar to smoke, it was a friendly, family style Grille and Bar...I will be back, they now do Brunch on Saturday and Sunday mornings. One note, DO NOT PARK AT THE LOT NEXT DOOR(thrift store), they lock the gates at 9pm, good thing I had my 4Runner.

Saturday took the kayaks out to a new area, the War Veterans Memorial Park in Pinellas County off Bay Pines Road. Great park area, very wooded and secluded, they had an excellent launch site for the kayaks into the Intracostal waterway...paddling the area there are many private islands to explore, you can even paddle through John's Pass over to the beaches of Madeira or Treasure Island! A great day to be out on the boat.

Both the Bucs and the Rays are playing at the same time this afternoon(4pm)...good thing I got new batteries for the remote, as I will be doing some switching back and forth between the games this afternoon.

Work takes me to Jersey City till Wednesday.


Monday, September 29, 2008

South Westshore Crawl; TaTa-Palooza; a Festival

What a weekend....Friday we walked up to CDB's on Westshore a few blocks form my house, the weather was great for sitting outside for some dinner. A great bottle of Wine, some Antipasto Salad(I ordered by mistake), and a Meatball Grinder on the upper outside deck. We were looking forward to CDB's pinwheels(rolled up Provolone Cheese, Ham, Turkey and Roast Beef and sliced like pinwheels), but they come on the Chef Salad, not the Antipasto Salad, which was loaded mostly with greens, and a few chunks of Salami, Cheese and Ham, some carrots here and there..nothing special, but good. Our server did bring out a side order of the pin time I think that would be good enough with some bread and a bottle of wine......The meatball grinder(the small) was huge, oven baked, melted cheese...plenty of food...again though there sauce is a bit sweet for my liking...the bottle of wine, side order of pinwheels and company made the night.
Afterwards, we walked next door to The Wooden Door Irish Pub, the Rays game was on, a light crowd was on hand, the outside patio tables were all taken up, its nice they put a 50" flat screen out on the was then onto the Green Iguana Westshore to finish watching the Rays game, much livelier crowd as usual..the band started up, and it just got livelier from there.

Saturday it was breakfast over at Mama's Kitchen on South Dale Mabry on my way to Home Depot to do some housework...nice to start the day off with some of the BEST biscuits and gravy in town.
Later in the afternoon, met up with a friend of mine up the street who lives in Stoney Point neighborhood, on one of the canals leading into the Bay. We took his boat out on the bay for a few hours, beautiful blue skies, we found a nice sand bar area over near Weedon Island where there were about a dozen other boaters hanging out.
Saturday night was "TaTa-Palooza" at a friends house, to Benefit the Breast Cancer society, there were about 50 of us that showed up for a fun evening of Black Jack, Food and Drinks, Prize giveaways(I got the little kids bike), and a game of Guessing the TaTa's...all for a great cause...the evening went on afterwards as we headed to Club Chelsea, the Old Club Azalea downtown Tampa, interesting crowd, and even a hilarious drag show...for some late night Pizza it was on to Ybor City where we noticed Demini's on 7th was closed, but we enjoyed walking on 7th Ave, looking rough as usual at 3am on a Saturday night, for Pizza at New York New York, and then around the corner for a few more slices at the little pizza place on 15th street.

Sunday was a relaxing day, off to the Hyde Park Fall Art Festival, this year there were many vendors sampling food items and health conscious activities, after socializing and looking at over 100 Art booths, we sat outside on the patio at Bailey's for lunch. They mostly just do catering and take-home meals, except when they open for dinner for a few hours on Tues, Wed and Thurs evenings....this was the first time they did lunch....very freshly prepared Chicken Salad sandwich's or BBQ pulled pork, with their famous BBQ beans, and very tangy and citrusy ColeSlaw with Mandarin Oranges...a down home, southern style type of place. It was back home to catch he rest of the Bucs game against Green Bay(GO BUCS!).

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Back from Nashville, TN and A night out in a Tampa Village

Back from Nashville(actually Franklin, TN)..some highlights included the quaint little town of Franklin, TN and the Red Pony restaurant on Main Street, some great hiking in the Smokey Mountains.

As I flew back, I met with a few friends at the monthly Hyde Park Village Music Series, always the last Wednesday of the month through October. The air was very dry this evening, actually wore pants tonight, it was great to feel such a change in the weather as Fall arrives in Florida, and seeing that this was the largest crowd i've seen all year at the Village for this small festival, everybody in the local area was also taking advantage of the nice weather....again as usual, I am always running into people I haven't seen since college, or even my old employer....Good Times!!

Waking up on this Thursday morning, it was actually a bit chilly....ahhhh, a touch of whats to come in Florida for the next 8 months.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Ricks, Rays, Tahitian Bfast

After work Friday a bunch of us met up at Ricks on the River for Happy Hour...large outdoor seating area along the River, nice views of downtown, live music, and good food, whats better than that after a long week? It was also feeling a little fallish, nice breezes and drier air.

Saturday it was off to St. Pete with some friends for the Tampa Bay Rays/Minnesota Twins baseball game, winning this game meant being in the playoffs for the first time since the Rays started back 10 years ago. We parked at Ferg's where for $15.00 you also get 6 free draft beers, well worth the close parking and entertainment happening at Ferg's. The place is HUGE, but the downstairs open air area smelled like someone had been sick all over the place the night before, and the heat of the day was not helping much...we went upstairs where they had a small outdoor patio overlooking Tropicana Field.....we ate some ok sandwich's(limited menu on game day)..they were probably prepared the day before knowing large crowds would be around for the game. After the great win, and playoff ceremony, we walked down to the Emerald Club bar, nice dive bar, a live band was just setting was then onto Oyster Bar where we met some other friends of mine, then Mastry's, Independent, and capping off the evening at Georgi's Alibi.

Sunday, after taking a friend back to St. Pete to pick up his car left at Ferg's, went out to the Tahitian Inn on Dale Mabry for some late breakfast/lunch(served till 3pm). Greek omelet was oversized and stuffed with Feta and Spinach, large helping of sliced and grilled potatoes, and a side over overly salted Corn Beef Hash.

Finished the day relaxing watching a great Bucs/Bears game, that the Bucs pulled off in overtime to beat the Bears.

Work takes me to Nashville, TN this week.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Brooklyn, NY

It was a good trip to Brooklyn for work this week, I have been many times, but experienced a few new things this trip to the Brooklyn Heights area....Brooklyn Promenade great views of downtown Manhattan and the Brooklyn Bridge, Henry's End restaurant-some of the best tasting food and great small intimate dining; Juniors for Cheesecake!!

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Biking Upper Tampa Bay

Took the bikes out for a ride as I have many times to Upper Tampa Bay Trail...just wanted to note on this trip, they still have not made any progress beyond the 8 mile mark. It is supposed to connect to the Suncoast trail by 2010. It's a great ride from the Waters Avenue rest area(easy parking and water available)..most of the trail is shaded as well from this point and is all paved and mostly flat, there are water features, and bridges, some wildlife.

Work takes me to Brooklyn, NY for a few days.


Sunday, September 14, 2008

USF Bulls and The Bungalow

After flying back from Greenville, SC on Friday, a good buddy of mine and I went to my Alma Maters(USF) home game against Kansas....parking at the Westshore Marriott hotel, we took the hotel shuttle, with about 8 KU fans, to get dropped off about 2 blocks form the stadium...we met up with his co-workers who were having a nice sized tailgate party, food, beers and all..being that this was nearly a sell out crowd for tonight's game(59,000)..the fields outside the stadium were packed with tailgaters...Good Times!! There is nothing like a night College Football game against two ranked teams...between the USF marching band, the overflowing Student section, and everyone just excited that the young USF football program has done so well. The game was one of the most exciting i've seen, from KU dominating the game in the first half, to USF taking on a substantial lead in the second half...only to be tied up by the end of the forth quarter, and what looked to be an overtime game, a field goal was kicked within seconds of the end of the game to pull our South Florida Bulls ahead of KU and WIN!! It was good to see some of my alumni I graduated with, we always meet up at the Pirate Ship deck behind the student section at half time each home game.

Saturday morning, went over to Mama's Kitchen on Dale Mabry Hwy, just south of Gandy usual, the greasy spoon diner like restaurant pulled through with another great breakfast....
For dinner, a few of us went over to a new place on Kennedy Blvd in Hyde Park area called The Bungalow. It's a very large Bungalow house built in 1919, they did a great job with an open bar area, and small dining area...very nice, wood floors and brick walls, there are pictures of the old house through the bar area. With flat screen tv's throughout, you can catch any game whether in the bar area or dining area...the crowd is very Hyde Park pretty, there is a front porch as well with some tables. Food was good as well, starting with the Buffalo Chicken Wings, they tasted more like Fried Chicken Wings then Buffalo style....dinners included the Surf and Turf sliders(1 burger, 1 ahi tuna, 1 grouper, and 1 crab cake), when I asked what I could get instead of Fries, the server advised that I could only get fries, even though there are about 6 other sides that you can get with other meals(Asparagus, Grilled Veges, Island Cole Slaw, Mac n Cheese, Yucca Fries and Fries)...I demanded the island cole slaw instead of fries, he said he would see what he could do(I got the cole slaw)...the sliders were good, the burger and crab cake were about the size of a .50 cent piece..tiny, the grouper and tuna were a decent size for sliders....I think they should skip the crab cake and go with the jerk chicken slider instead so you would have two turf and two surf sliders.......we also had the Jerk Chicken sandwich which was said to be ok, and the Ahi Tuna dinner which was said to be excellent, cooked rare and flavorful.
The place can get very noisy, there is some music in the bar area...a very nice new addition to Kennedy Blvd.