Back from the Keys, my friends from Long Island was in town for one more day. It was beautiful day, temps in the 70's, no clouds, so we were off to the beach for lunch, and took Madre with us. Pass-a-Grille beach is one of my favorite Pinellas County beaches, about a 30 minute easy drive from Tampa. A small penninsual that is about 20 blocks long and 2 blocks wide, quiet, small main street witha few shops, and cafe's, and several great seafood restaurants, and B&B's, smaller Mom and Pop type hotels with expensive small homes mixed in, a quaint little town, just south of the Don Cesar on St. Pete Beach. Parking is in assigned spots right on the beach(no big parking lots or garages), and you pay the meter in cash or credit card at $1.25 per hour, very convenient. We checked out Brass Monkey Bar and Grille, on the second floor facing the Gulf, with ample outdoor seating. The waters were an aqua marine greenish blue today and served as our back drop to a delicious lunch. We started with Stuffed Mushrooms, stuffed with crab meat. Although the server advised us that the mushrooms were two portabellas, we expected two large portabella caps stuffed, but what came out was maybe one whole portabella mushroom cap cut in half and stuffed. Although tasty, we felt that the $12 price was a bit much for this appetizer. We dined one of their many interesting burgers, topped with Old bay Seasonging, crab stuffing and cheese, a great combination, tasty, but a little messy. There are over a dozen types of burgers on the menu with very unique flavors. Madre ordered the Fish and Chips, an oversized filet of Halibut, enough for about two people or one very hungry person, and standard french fries. I devoured the Blackened Grouper Sandwhich, very thick, although it could have used a bigger bun, inseatd of breaking the Grouper in two pieces and piling them on top of each other so it would fit on the bun. All very good food, and the service was excellent and friendly, with our server constantly waiting on us.
After a nice walk through the village to the fishing pier and back, we decided to check out the annual Florida State Fair in Tampa, about a 45 minute ride to the Fairgrounds from the beach. The Fair is an amazing site, and takes up the entire Fairground propery, lasting 12 days. All kinds of exhibits relating to the state, from Agriculture, Farming to Wildlife and Forestry, to Cracker Country(original Floridians were called Cracker beacuse the Florida cowboys would crack their whips on their lands to herd the cattle). Lots of shows and famous musical acts throughout the Fair are also available. We went and saw the Hollywood Circus, which is a must if you go, about a 90 minute show with very entertaining stunts, and acrobats, and only one animal section with amazing Black Stallions. The highlight was the caged motorcross riders in the round cage criss crossing within inches of each other. The Midway at the Florida State Fair is the largest in the country, over 40 rides, unique to the Midway, and of course the rows and rows of games of Chance. One thing you dont want to miss out on as well is the FOOD...lots and lots of FOOD..this year we saw Fried Oreos and Fried Fruit....seems they will fry anything!! Just kicking back and people watching is very entertaining. Admission is only $10, and that includes all the exhibits and shows.
This week work brings me to West Palm Beach, and Tampa is gearing up for yet more Gasparilla Festivities with the Gasparilla Knight Parade on Saturday night in Ybor City.