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.