Monday, December 28, 2009

A Christmas Weekend in Tampa

Happy Holidays! Christmas Break started early, and on Wednesday evening a few of us went to the Forum downtown to see the Lightning take on the Flyers, was an exciting Hockey Game...with the Flyers up 2-0 in the first period, only for the Lighting to get 2 in the second period, but the Flyers came through for another 2 to win the game. After the game we met up and said hello/goodbye to some friends that were leaving Tampa for the holiday weekend.

Christmas Eve - started early making Italian sauce and a huge Italian feast for my Aunt and Uncle and a few friends - Sausage and Meatballs, Eggplant Parmesan, Four Cheese Lasagna, Broccoli with Garlic/Lemon, Garlic Bread....espresso's and zambuca out in the backyard around the fire pit..dessert of Italian pastries/cookies, and Banana's Foster, and then playing dice games till midnight, when the Cigars came out. Good Times!

Christmas Day - after opening gifts and enjoying the morning, met my Aunt and Uncle at Channelside for some Christmas Thai dinner and Thai Thani - at 330pm, not many people in the restaurant yet, but more and more were coming in as we were eating, the area was very busy with people going to the movies as well. Food and service were good, as usual, we ordered some of the Soups, rich and flavorful, Dumplings - fresh and delicious, and House Fried Rice, and another dish with Shrimp, Chicken and Pork and a very light and flavorful sauce. An excellent Christmas meal. Afterwards we walked it off along the Tampa Riverwalk, starting at Channelside, taking a look at the new Heroes Plaza and Cottanchobee Park. Then it was time to see a movie at Channelside, and Up in the Air was the consensus, great movie!! And a great Christmas Day!!

Saturday a good friend of mine in the Seminole Heights neighborhood was having a few dozen people over for a Cookies and Wine get together, everyone that showed up at to bring two dozen cookies, and at the end of the night, you were able to take home a few dozen cookies...interesting, but had alot of fun.

Sunday, went to downtown St. Pete, and tried Yummy Mama's - Russian Brunch Buffet. I never went to a Russian restaurant, this was very authentic, and had a little market next door, large bar area with live musicians. The Brunch was thoroughly explained in detail of all the variety of foods, everyone that worked there was overly friendly and Russian...Stuffed Cabbage, Chicken Kiev, Goulash, Stroganoff, Russian salads, Russian soups, Perogies...and lots of other foods such as Cheese Blintzes and Crepes, Omelet station, Carving Station, Salad Station, Seafood Station with Crab legs, Oysters and Shrimps. It was good, included Mimosas or Bloody Mary's. I'M not sure I will be running back to the Brunch Buffet, but would love to try the menu for freshly prepared meals...I thin that had there been more people dining and they were able to turn the food over more in the steam tables, the food may have been fresher.
Afterwards it was a walk around the park areas of downtown St. Pete. Sunday night, another good friend of mine had a dinner party at her Wellswood neighborhood home, about a dozen of us on the back porch, with a fire pit, and heaters on, enjoyed company and winding down of a great Holiday weekend.

Short week, and looking forward to New Years!!

Monday, December 21, 2009

Chilly Dec Weekend in Tampa

Temps have dropped, and its getting to feel a lot like Christmas...sort of...with blizzard conditions in the Northeast and over 20" of snow, i'll settle for temps in the 50s and 60s.

Friday, we decided to try a new Italian Restaurant near me called Luigi's. On Gandy Blvd near Himes Ave, you go into an new looking open space, with a bar in the back area. We started with some mussels in a lemon butter sauce, about 11 mussels came out on a dish, with a very tasty sauce, great for bread dipping, not so great for $10 though. We ordered the Chicken Parm and Eggplant Parm...both dishes came with seasonal veges(baby carrots in a butter sauce), and a pasta/sauce of choice. HUGE portions, being Italina I am very picky about my Italian when dining out, and although the food was OK, it was just that, only OK. The dinners are covered in melted mozzarella, the chicken was not so tender, maybe heated, and Eggplant was very soggy, I like my eggplant to be fresh, crispy fried thin slices. Service was very good, we also ordered a side of meatballs, three came out in a tomato sauce, very cold. I know they make the meatballs prior, but they could have been heated better, there was alot of breading in the meatballs. We wont be back, sorry Luigi's..nice place, friendly service, but for Italian it was just mediocre at best.
Afterwards we went to Cinebistro in Hyde Park Village to see the opening of Avatar. I really really love this not a big fan of going to movies on opening night on a weekend...but being able to reserve your seat ahead of time on line was perfect. We got there about 15 min prior, were seated by the usher, and ordered Cappuccinos and an EXCELLENT chocolate cake dessert that reminded me of the old Suzie Q's. The movie was EXCELLENT as well, amazing effects, 3D technology, good story. After the movie a nice walk through the Hyde Park neighborhood, Bungalow Terrace area, checking out all the Christmas Lights/Displays.

Saturday, met a few friends back at the Village to have an early dinner at Timpano's Italian Chop House...this place is beautiful inside, large bar area, upscale dining area, and sidewalk tables was a bit chilly for outside, so we met inside...ive always liked the look of the place, but food is mediocre at best...especially for the prices. 4 Cheese Raviloi with a lemon butter/white wine sauce and sliced chicken..the chicken was very dry, sliced peppers were over cooked, very very salty to the taste....Shrimp Fra Diablo, Veal Marsala...just OK dishes, but they are over $20 each dish, and ala carte. I will say that they have a good wine list(althoguh pricey) and love the Mussels Appetizer that comes out on a skillet.
We then went to check out some Christmas Displays, Rawls Road in Tampa...afterwards all were too tired to go to some of the many parties happening in and around the area.

Sunday we headed to the Buddhist Temple for Brunch, getting there around 1pm is ideal, the Soups were perfect for this chilly day, sitting along the water, enjoying some very fresh Thai foods..

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

My brother visits Tampa from Colorado

Another great long weekend, one of my brothers came to Tampa to visit me and my family and also join me to the Bucs/Jets game this weekend. He arrived Thursday, TIA is so convenient, parking on the top floor of the short term parking deck, as soon as he arrives, gets his bags, its an easy elevator ride to the 9th floor, and no charge for parking the first hour. Off to drive him to my Mom's outside of Sun City Center in Valencia Lakes, where we enjoyed some of the best pizza outside of NY..East Coast Pizza take out.

Friday after work, we all met up and went to Cafe Durfrain on Harbour Island downtown Tampa...beautiful waterfront setting, the meals here are always consistently great!! Then it was a walk across the street to Thats Amore for Italian desserts and espresso's while the owner played Sinatra tunes and Christmas songs on the Piano, all while having an excellent view of the waterfront and downtown Skyline.

Saturday my whole family met up for an afternoon movie at the Cinebistro in Hyde Park Village..great comfortable seats, ultra luxurious. modern state of the art theaters..we enjoyed huge bowls of popcorn and giant sodas with free refills, all served to you prior to the start of the movie.
Then we walked thru the village to the Wine Exchange, and enjoyed the unusual warm December air(it was about 65 this evening), sitting on the patio..again always consistently great food and service at Wine Exchange, EXCEPT for the Broiled Seafood Special they were offering, a large portion of Broiled Lobster, Shrimp, Scallops..but lacking any flavor. All else was very good, and then we walked over to City Sweets for coffees, fudge and desserts which we brought out to the fountain area of the Village, sitting outside, enjoying each others company, a nice evening.

Sunday was GAME DAY...the Jets of course beat the Bucs, was a sloppy game, but my brother enjoyed being at the game of his beloved Jets, while I was there for the time though...then we met up with the rest of the family for a final night dinner waterside at Hula Bay...perfect ending to a great weekend, a beautiful evening again as we watched the sunset, and enjoyed awesome fish tacos, sushi, grouper sandwich's, fish and chips...and then stayed for dessert and conversation.


Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Back in Tampa from New York, NY!

Great trip to NY for business, which led to a great long weekend for play. Some highlights from this trip included:
Momoya - Chelsea
Otto Pizzeria - Great Wine and Food, a Mario Batagglia restaurant - West Village
5th Ave Window Displays - Barneys, Bergdorf and Goodman, Sachs, Macys, Lord and Taylor, etc..
Rockefeller Plaza - Top of the Rock
Murray's Flaffal on 1st Ave
Union Square Holiday Market
Museum of Sex - Flatiron District
"In the Heights" - Broadway Show - EXCELLENT!!
Blue Fin at the 'W' hotel in Times Square
Mercury Bar - Hells Kitchen
Il Porto - South Street Seaport

Nothing like a Trip to New York to get anyone in the Christmas and Holiday Spirit!

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Thanksgiving Weekend 2009 in Tampa

Nice long weekend has come to an end. Started out on Wednesday evening, typically a very busy evening with lots of folks coming into town to visit friends and family. Met up with 8 other good friends at Grille 116 in the Northdale area..the burbs about 10 miles north of Tampa. We had a great table in the lounge area...swanky place, very nice, upscale, reminded me a bit like South Beach in the Burbs....service was excellent. Meals here are all a la carte, consisting of Steaks, Seafood and some Pasta dishes. I had the Sea Scallops, three huge pan seared scallops atop a very creamy Risotto. All the dishes were excellent, and to end off the dinner, homemade doughnuts with different toppings like Chocolate, Strawberry and Caramel. It was a great way to start off the long holiday weekend, before heading home, it was a stop at the Green Iguana Westshore, never seen the place more crowded, but alot of fun.

Turkey day was held this year at the Columbia Restaurant in Ybor City with the family. We were so surprised by the excellent meal...a first for us to not cook. We had reservations, and only waited about 5 minutes to be seated...we had some of their famous Sangria to start us off...Thanksgiving Meal at the Columbia consisted of Vermont Turkey(all white meat breast), Sausage Stuffing, Mashed Potatoes(with lumps), Mixed Veges, Sweet Potato, Cranberry Dressing, and Gravy...a HUGE portion, some of us couldn't finish it all. Very homemade, VERY delicious. Highly recommend if you don't want to cook, or clean and be served for Thanksgiving, the Columbia is a great choice. The meal even included a salad or soup, and dessert..Pumpkin Pie, Pumpkin Flan or Flan, and all drinks(coffee, teas, sodas)...all for only $20 per person.
We then strolled down 7th avenue in Ybor to the was a bit busy in the historic district this Holiday afternoon, but the movies were empty...saw the Fantastic Mr Fox.

Friday, had a nice bike ride from my home in South Tampa off Westshore Blvd to Ballast Point Pier/Bayshore Blvd. Beautiful day, in the 60s..we had lunch at the restaurant at the Pier, called Taste of Boston...good warm Clam Chowder, a HUGE Grouper Sandwich and Lobster Rolls, all very good. Friday evening, my musician buddy Rob was to play at Bellini's in Gulfport. A few of us stopped by La Fogota for dinner - excellent Brazilian style place, authentic, upscale decor, beautiful restaurant in Gulfport. We had the Churassco dinner which included all you can eat fresh carved variety of meats(Pork, Steak Diane, Sausages, Bacon wrapped Chicken, Prime Rib, and more) was excellent and included a salad, soups, side dishes bar as well. Rob didn't end up playing this evening, as there was another band booked, Bellini's is a great bar area, with an outdoor area as well with a nice was kinda chilly this evening, so we stayed in and relaxed a few hours, chomping on the great meals we enjoyed.

Saturday, we biked again, to the Saturday Morning Market in downtown St. Pete, and then taking the Pinellas Trail over to the Grand Central District area for the annual Chili Cookoff....a fun time, tasted over a dozen different types of chiilis, relaxed at the Queenshead Restaurant listening to live music, and also on the 'Chill Lounge' set up in the area...beautiful day for biking yet again. Saturday afternoon a few of us gathered at my place, and watched USF stumble under Miami for a terrible upsetting football was nice to turn the TV outside, and sit around and enjoy the cool evening watching football. Then up the street to CDB's Southside for some eats and wine.

Sunday went and met some friends at Hula Bay/Dukes, another winning sunny cool day. Then onto Christmas Tree shopping, ending up at Lowes, great trees, and great service.

Short week, work bring me to NYC for a few days, then playing in Manhattan for this upcoming weekend.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Treasure Island Mexican Eats, Sandsculptures, USF Football, Wine Lunch

After another great Ethiopian meal at Queen of Sheba in South Tampa, on Friday, we ventured out to the beaches to Treasure Island...a quick 30 min drive across the Bay from Tampa, and settled into VIP Mexican, next to Ricky T's and across from the Thunderbird and Bilmar Resort Hotels....hole in the wall, casual, bar...AWESOME AWESOME Mexican frills, you may get friendly service, you may not, you may have to get up and go in the kitchen to get your silverware, its all in the fun...if you park in the back, you have to actually walk thru the kitchen to get in the place...I love dives like this, its been a local beach establishment for over 30 years. After feeding ourselves we all walked across the street through Sloppy Joe's at the Bilmar for the Annual Sand Sculpting contest...over 21 tons of sand was dumped for artists to create some amazing sculptures..there were live bands also playing on the beach, there is nothing like being on the beach at night, such a different experience.

Saturday was the the USF Homecoming Game against Louisville...we started with a GREAT brunch at Brio in International Plaza's BayStreet, I commented a few weeks back that I was not a big fan, but at 10am, brunch was something else...nice table outside, Mimosas in hand, and most Brunch items were under $10....very tasty Fritatta's, Eggs Benedict's, French Toast....USF won their game, and the loong day continued to Ybor City and a few places downtown Tampa.

Sunday, watching the Bucs, we headed over to the Wine Exchange in Hyde Park Village where Vanessa took care of us at a great table outside....ive always had consistently great friendly service, and good food over the past few years here...hope they keep it up.

Short week with the Turkey Day Holiday, trying something very different this year, going to the Columbia Restaurant for Thanksgiving...should be interesting.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Stoney Point Casino Night - St Pete's RibFest

Weekend was beautiful, and FUN!! Saturday night some good friends of mine in the City of Tampa neighborhood Stoney Point held their annual "Casino Night" party at their house, all dressed up in tux's, and Marilyn Monroe look alikes, the theme was Rat Pack - Casino Night. A great party, live music, awesome people, and donations piled up for Toys for Tots and MOSI.
Sunday, to take advantage of the great weather, a bunch of us ventured out on the bikes along Coffee Pot Bayou in St Pete for the annual RibFest, which also benefits Children's Charities. The biking was beautiful, we got to Vinoy Park, locked up the bikes, paid the $15 admission, only to be thrown into a most dis-organized crowd--want something to drink?, wait 30 minutes--pushing and shoving; want to try some of the countries best Ribs and BBQ?, wait about 90 minutes, pushing and shoving; want to enjoy some live music--well, try to find your self a spot on the expansive lawn that was already over populated...ive been to this festival a few times, and have never seen it so disorganized, people didnt know where to stand, no organized times I thought a riot might break out...all I know is if they cant get this festival more organized, or have a limit as to the amount of people they actually let into the festival, I will never go back, and never advise anyone to go to such a mess...we left after about 2 hours, and walked to the Parkshore Grill for dinner...which was awesome as usual. A nice table outside along the park/bay, food has always been consistently good, as well as the service.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Back from NC Mountains - Lunch and Coffee's in Palma Ceia and a Greek Grill in Tampa

What another AMAZING time at the Hawkesdene House Mountain Retreat in Andrews, NC. We had two newbies on this trip, the fall colors were breathtaking, weather couldn't have been better with blue blue skies, temps near 70, and close to freezing at night. Cant wait to get back there soon!!

Coming back Monday, took my babysitter(Madre) and a friend to lunch at Datz Deli off MacDill Ave in South Tampa neighborhood of Palma Ceia. Once again a great meal, HUGE colossal size sandwich's(brought the other half of them home for dinner)--fresh corned beef, pastrami, cheeses, plate of pickles, fresh breads, very very attentive service, and those yummy sweet and salty homemade chips with blue cheese dressing...even asked for extra blue cheese for dipping.
After an excellent lunch, we wondered next door to Kalupa Bakery for fresh Colombian coffee's and fresh baked desserts, there are a few tables for relaxing and enjoying the sweet treats.

This evening, went to check out a new Greek Grill, called GoGos, on Kenedy Blvd just east of Westshore Blvd. Plenty of parking in the back, a very nice clean open restaurant, as I walked in I noticed the set up is almost IDENTICAL to a Chipotle Mexican. You walk up and have choices of Pita, Wraps, Bowls or Salads...then pick your meat--fresh marinated Chicken, Steak, Pork, or Gyro, then toppings--lettuce, feta cheeses, tomatoes, cukes, kalamta olives, greek peppers--and then a sauce--like Greek Vinaigrette or a Jalapeno Honey dressing. HUGE wraps is what we tried, they come with a seasoned Greek Rice. Best of all, everything is FRESH, organically grown, even have vegetarian specialties...sides also include Hummus, and lots more. This is a place I will be visiting more, fresh, tasty, priced right, clean, convenient...and Greek!!
They also have frozen yogurt with fresh fruit toppings.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

BRIO Tuscan Grille at Intl Plaza's Bay Street

What a beautiful place--just too bad my food this evening wasnt as beautiful. Brand new at Internaitonal Plaza's BayStreet, they did a great job renovating the old 'pizza' place that used to be here. Ample outdoor covered dining, white curtains, a nice large bar that extends from inside to outside...HUGE high ceilings, looked very 'Cheesecake Factory" like with a bit of Tuscany thrown in...ok, now onto the food...we were greeted by very friendly hostesses, and the service was impeccable, obviously these servers(very very corporate, chain like, almost like robots, making sure they dont forget to upsell anything, explaining the menu, etc.)..gotta love the corporate chains..ugh!OK, now the food...started with a 9.95 glass of Savignon Blanc, a seasonal special, excellent...onto the Calamari as an appetizer, fried calamari, with fried pepper slices, with two types of dipping sauces...nothing out of the ordinary, typical. Then the salads(which came out as we were not even half way thru the appetizer-rushed)..chop salad was drenched in dressing and more like 'ripped apart in small pieces' rather than chopped, tasty dressing, and a typical Cesar salad. And now entrees...the artichoke crusted Beef medallions--served meduim rare there were three 2oz medallions of beef, tender and delicious, and also the Veal Marsala--a wreck, very overcooked Marsala, the coating on the veal was soggy, and drenched in too much Marsala was a tasty sauce, with lots of mushrooms. Each dinner came with a side of roasted potato's(maybe a 1/2 cup), and a very minute amount of vegetables...i couldn't even tell what the veges were, some thin strips of zucchini skins, a few pieces of carrot which were very hard and raw, with skins left on the carrot(to give it a rustic look??), and a slimy red pepper...not good!!!All this came to about $100.00...way over priced for what we here is how I see this place...they will capture the shoppers at Intl Plaza, tourist flocking to Intl Plaza BayStreet, and after work happy hour at the very cool, and chic bar that opens up to outside...but it seems to me like just another chain, an overpriced Macaroni Grille, although i like the Macaroni Grille more than I did BRIO on this trip.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Guavaween Weekend - 2009

The weekend started Friday with a victorious win from the USF Bulls over West Virginia...met up with a bunch of Alumni in Lot 4(we parked at the Westshore Marriott, and took a cab to the stadium...they offered the shuttle, but it seemed the Westshore Marriott was the home base for all the WVU fans, so we cabbed it it there) was great seeing so many people, the game was excellent! Leaving the stadium we ran into the Marriott Shuttle on Dale Mabry, and just decided to get a ride back in the shuttle...with ALL THE WVU fans! Last stop was the Green Iguana Westshore for some live music, and celebrations with other Bulls fans.

Saturday eve was Guavaween..Tampa's annual Halloween party in the Ybor City National Historic Landmark District. This year they raised the fee, $17, and also brought back the original Mama Guava Stumble, with NO motorized vehicles in the parade down 7th Avenue. This ensured there would be no blockades along the parade route, and took us back to the traditional Guavaween, which is a fund raiser for the Ybor Chamber of Commerce. It was nice to see the stumble brought back, lots of interesting characters..and at the end you could just walk about in the streets and join them. One thing I also noticed was there was only one stage set up this year, with not the usual National Bands that most people would be aware of playing for the crowds. By the way, the term "Guavaween" was coined by the city of Tampa having once been the "Guava' capital of the country, in addition to Cigar capitol of the world. NYC was known as the 'big apple' so some artsy and new paper columnists people labeled Tampa as the 'big guava'. Guavaween started back in the early 80s amongst the artist, musicians, theater folk wanting to do something similar to Fantasy Fest in Key West--out came Guavaween.

Now we all had an EXCELLENT time this year, and our costumes creatively designed via the Goodwill were a hit, with lots of people wanting pics of me and my two buddies. But there were so far fewer people in Ybor City for this event this year...a few suggestions for the future of this fun party:
>Charge on even fee of $10--especially in bad economic times, and all the other Halloween parties in the area, give a better incentive to attract the people.
>Dont start charging until 6pm--those that arrive earlier will eat, shop, browse the area, and incent the local businesses to stay open.
>Dont fence in such a large area--6th ave to 8th ave, and 14th to 19th Streets should do fine. Again, keeping many of the businesses open in the area.
>Provide wristbands for those that paid a fee--this will only allow those 21 and older to partake in the festivities, allow access to the bars/clubs/events.
>Book MORE ENTERTAINMENT--where were the widely known national acts that have always come by? Where were the carnival rides and attractions? Its Halloween, provide some Haunted Houses, specialized Guavaween attractions.

With the 12-15000 that were there this year(compared to 45000 last year, and more in previous years), about 90% were costumed, and all i talked to had a great time..the people watching, the creative costumes, the laughs and good times that can only be had like this on Halloween was worth it all.

Sunday we visited Nickos Diner on Florida Avenue Seminole Heights area. Great Diner that reminded me of growing up on Long Island...we sat at the counter, had the typical omelet breakfast with crispy hash browns, fun, friendly service, a neighborhood, locals feel, and good food!!

Short week for me this week...heading to Andrews, NC for a long weekend at my buddies Mountain Retreat, Hawkesdene.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Wat Mongkolratanaram - Tampa Buddhist Temple Sunday Brunch

I finally made it to this amazing Sunday Brunch along the Palm River in Tampa. Wat Mongkolratanaram is a Buddhist Temple located off Palm River Road, just east of 50th Street. It was a picture perfect day,. with cooler temps, and sunny skies. Arriving there around 1230(the brunch runs form 10am to 1pm, but we still saw them cooking at 2pm), it wasn't to crowded, there was a line for the soups and pad thai/main dishes, but other than that, we were free to roam around and explore.

We tried nearly everything, from the fried bananas, to these small 'dumpling' like eats that were made as ordered - you tell them how many you want, they put your name on a box, and you return about 10 minutes later to pick them up - made with Coconut milk and seasoned with green onion. The soups are incredible, one could just get a large bowl and that could be an entire meal - sprouts, skinny or flat noodles, pork, chicken or beef, fish balls(sort of like dumplings)and lots of extras!! Pad Thai, Sticky Rice served with a Vegetarian mixture with Tofu, Pumpkin and Chicken Curry, a fried fish(not sure what it was); Papaya Salad; Thai Teas; desserts; and they were also grilling some foods as well. Each dish is from $1(for the teas); to $5 - so affordable, and all proceeds to go to raise money for the Temple.

Beautiful grounds with lots of picnic tables along the river. After stuffing ourselves and having lots leftover for later in the day, we walked the grounds, toured the Temple where meditation occurs on Sundays from 12-2pm.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Going 'Green' with the Tampa Bay Lightning

Thursday evening was 'Go Green' night with the Tampa Bay Lightning Hockey team...they were promoting green awareness, powering the Forum with renewable energy the entire night, recycling all plastics/aluminium, etc. And if you rode your bicycle, you received a free ticket to the game, OR if you brought a phone book to be recycled you received a ticket for $5. Soooo, a few of us rode our bikes, and getting onto the Forum Plaza, there was an area set aside for Bike Parking where someone watched them all evening, and we were each handed a great seat to the game. In addition, City Bike Tampa gave anyone with a bike a free maintenance check. While in the Forum, we snacked on some awesome BBQ Beef/Chicken and Pork atop nachos, just like at the Rays games...if you can find these, they are a steal and very filling. During the game we received a call in the 1st period about our friends who had a Suite on the 1st level...soooo, we ventured down to the Suite to watch the rest of the game, noshing on Chocolate Fondue with a picture perfect view from mid ice of the Lightning beating the San Jose Sharks.

There is so much going on the rest of the weekend, just need to figure out what to do:

VM Ybor Neighborhood Historic Home Tour
Johns Pass Seafood Festival
Tampa International Auto Show
Tampa Bay Oktoberfest


Monday, October 19, 2009

USF Bulls > Cinebistro > Kayak >Pops in the Park > Bike > Stone Crabs and Jazz

Wow, I love this time of year, weather gets cooler, and something is going on!!

Thursday evening went to the USF Bulls vs Cincinnati Bearcats nationally televised football game for Big East Conference dominance....It was a great game, but the #8 ranked Bearcats dominated the second half and beat the Bulls 34-17 in front of almost 65,000 fans. We arrived about an hour before the game, easily parking in the #10 lot on the corner of Himes and Columbus...met lots of other alumni in the game.

Friday was the Grand Opening of a new movie watching concept, Cinebistro opened in Hyde Park Village. Great concept, purchasing your tickets on line like a concert or play, you choose your seat in advance...when arriving you are greeted by a very modern lobby/lounge area where you can pick up your tickets, and about 30 minutes prior to the movie, they open the theater and you are ushered to your seat with a menu....the theaters are HUGE, nice brand new, state of the art, and the chairs are the most comfortable, bigger then a First Class seat on the fanciest of airplanes, with large armrest, and they are in pods of two, so you are never to close to strangers but perfect for a date or couples, and since there are only about 30-50 seats per theater, it makes for a very intimate evening. The menu is good, lots of different choices, Calamri Appetizers, served in a popcorn box with popcorn, and two dipping sauces. Also we tried the Seared Ahi Tuna, a small portion served atop some Field Greens, and the Chuirassco Steak, another small portion with a 'scoop' of black beans mixed with rice, and a few thin stands of Paps Fritas...when you order a soda, its HUGE(probably 24 oz.), and the bowl of popcorn, also HUGE. No paper or plastic here, real utensils, glassware, silverware, plates, etc....Everything is 'served' to you, no need to wait on lines, their is no 'snack bar' is service at its best...a remote keypad is punched in with your order, and goes directly to the kitchen..within 15 minutes, your order arrives right at your seat, and you pay right then at your seat. There are about 15 minutes of previews, and after that, the theater goes dark, and the service stops, no one getting in your way, etc. If you want anything, just go to the cocktail lounge bar, and ask for it. Full Bar, Full Menu, and its 21 and older only.
I will definitely be coming back to watch a movie here for special occasions, to impress someone, ability to reserve a seat. Probably wont be dining here except for sodas and popcorn, maybe an appetizer instead of popcorn, or even just dessert. The meals were OK, I felt like they were more of 'banquet/catered' type meals, nicely displayed, with OK flavor. Its also kind of awkward eating on the trays in front of you, and dont even think about getting an Appetizer, meal and dessert together, as everything comes out at once, and there is no room for all that. A great experience, great concept, exclusive niche that is sure to be very successful in Hyde Park.

Saturday we took the kayaks up to Canoe Escape to be transported to the Hillsborough River, again a great trip, LOTS of wildlife and birds and gators, the weather was perfect...just so serene and relaxing.
Saturday evening was a trip to downtown St. Pete's Vinoy Park, found parking easily off Coffee Pot Bayou near the City Pool, for 'Pops in the Park, a free concert held throughout the year and the Tampa Bay area by the Florida Orchestra. It was great to be able to relax in the waterfront park, listening to the music, with the St. Pete Skyline in the background.

Sunday we were all off on the bikes, drove to Clearwater, and started on the Pinellas Trail south of Clearwater(parking off Turner Street)..we biked over the Memorial Causeway Bridge to Clearwater Beach for Frenchys Stone Crab Fest...a pound of large claws for $11...delicious!! Then biked along the new beachwalk to Shepards for some football and people watching, listening to a live band. We then biked back to downtown Clearwater's Coachman Park where the Clearwater Jazz Holiday was happening for its last of a 4 day run....laying on the grass, sun in our faces, listing to great Jazz.
We wrapped up Sunday with a stop at Whiskey Joe's on the Coutney Campbell Causeway, if you ever wanted a place with amazing views, this is the spot...LARGE bar area, with some couch seating, and a large outdoor deck. The food we had seemed to be mediocre at best on this trip..Beer Cheese Soup, which was very watery for my liking, my friends stated it tasted like canned nacho cheese sauce with some water. Then onto Sliders, 4 small burgers, which were overcooked...and they didn't come with any fries...I would order the full burger next time, and cut into 4 pieces if someone wants sliders. Fish Tacos, very minimal piece of grouper split between two soft flour tacos, but you get a HUGE topping of cole slaw, these were more like 'Cole Slaw Tacos, with some fish', they came with chips and a good salsa. We also shared a chopped salad with Chicken, and although tasty, it was DRENCHED in dressing, we found it needed to be eatin with the chips to give it some sustenance. Soooo, for watching some great sports and cold drinks in the HUGE bar area, or enjoying the outdoor deck..this seems to be a great spot. And the views throughout the place are incredible, we almost felt like we were actually on a boat. Maybe next time ill try some of the main entrees.


Monday, October 12, 2009

Busch Gardens Howl O Scream; U2 Concert; Ybor Dinner/Movie; and Kayaking

Wow...what a nice weekend...this is the time of year I love the best...seems there is just so much happening from October through May, each weekend...a few of my highlights from this past weekend..which was soo unseasonably HOT - we tied or broker records with temps still in the 90s..very weird.

The annual Busch Gardens Howl O Scream was attended with a few friends on Thursday..for $20 when you purchase 4 or more on Thursdays... the park was empty, had all the rides and 7 Haunted Houses this year to practically ourselves, made for a great evening of fun and scares....

Friday was the long anticipated(bought the tickets in April) U2 Concert....I have been to many many concerts, and NEVER seen such a spectacle which was U2 at Tampa Stadium...72,000 fans(more than super bowl - a record), and a $40 million dollar stage, club seats meant we had access to the club was just a most perfect night, and U2 couldn't have been at their peak of performances, quite the show, more entertainment than I could have imagined.

Saturday, went for a dinner/movie date in Ybor City...stopping at El Puerto on 5th avenue and 17th streets for their 22oz Churasco Steak and Chicken Fried Rice...plenty of food and very very good...then a walk over to Muvico Centro Ybor theaters to see Sci FI thriller "Pandorum" (I am saddened that Muvico decided to pull the plug on its Premiere Theaters, and now allow under 21 into that was worth a few extra bucks to see a movie in larger all leather seats, free popcorn and NO KIDS, and ow that is all gone--not good); and to end the evening it was fresh crepes at La Creperia, sitting at a table outside we enjoyed the Marie Antoinette with fresh strawberries, bananas, Nutella and Baileys...

Sunday, took the kayaks out on the Bay..the tide was rather low, but it allowed us to just wade peacefully in the Bay seeing all the wildlife throughout the Mangrove areas of Picnic Island/MacDill AFB area(Cranes, Rosette Spoonbills, Ibis, Egrets, and all kinds of jumping fish and Sting rays)...

A busy week ahead - my buddy Rob is playing solo at Hula Bay Wednesday, #21 USF Bulls take on #8 Cincinnati Bearcats Thursday night at home, Friday the Cinebistro opens in Hyde Park and the Canvas 5 Art production takes place, and Saturday Bok Towers is celebrating with a large festival, and it may be another perfect weekend for bringing the kayaks out somewhere again..


Monday, September 28, 2009

Date Night in downtown St. Pete

Friday evening we ended up going to 400 Beach Seafood and Tap House...WOW, what a great choice...valet parking along 5th Avenue was full, but we found street parking in the neighborhood a block away...upon arrival, we noticed there was a HUGE list of waits(the place is HUGE by the way, and very loud inside, great bar area, a few separate rooms for banquet and group dining of the hostesses advised that there were several tables outside with no wait, and we took one of those and were seated right was a beautiful evening, great views of the bay and pier...the menu was excellent, lots of seafood choices, great appetizers, and over 20 beers on tap, I tried the Widmer Drifter, and we ordered Flash Fried Calamari - cooked perfectly, tender, excellent seasoning, and a great sauce for dipping; for meals I had the Ahi Tuna with Lobster Risotto - HUGE piece of Tuna, coked perfectly, and a nice dipping sauce, the Risotto had huge chunks of Lobster, in a very cheesy and delicious al dente pasta; my date had the artichoke stuffed Grouper, again another HUGE piece of moist and tender grouper, atop perfectly cooked and seasoned greens..we both shared each others meals, they were excellent, and im looking forward to my next trip back.
We then walked over to the Gelato place, and walked around the waterfront, finally grabbing a seat along the sea wall...there was a great breeze...a perfect evening.

Saturday we went up to Orlando to visit some college buddies of mine, and watch the USF/FSU game at one of my friends retsaurants, CityFish...they had $20 wing and buckets, $5 slider and fish taco specials...all very good, it was a fun atmosphere to watch the games...USF beat FSU 17-7. That evening we went and saw Juliette Lewis perform at the Social in downtown Orlando..she was very entertaining in this small venue that only holds about 200 was then up to Skybar afterwards. Finally crashing at the EoInn, another palce my buddy owns, and nice historic Inn in downtown Orlando.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Meetings, Parties, Biking and Football

This past Thursday, me and a friend ive know since 2nd grade(thanks Facebook), had some dinner in Hyde Park Village at the Wine Exchange. Sitting outside was nice with the cooling fans, and we had some of the best and friendliest service from Dion...she was one of the highlights of the evening...the food is almost always good here, Cuban Salad with Blackened Chicken, the large was enough for more than two, and a perfectly cooked Filet. The mistake they made by putting the Gorgonzola cheese sauce on the meat was quickly corrected, and Dion insisted we have dessert on her, and we did, an amazing Chocolate Cake with Chocolate moose inside. A nice walk through the village after dinner made a great ending to catch up with an old friend.

Friday I had a meeting with a friend, we met at the 9 Bangkok restaurant on Central Avenue in downtown St. Pete. It was easy enough to find a parking spot on the street along 1st avenue, there was so much activity going on this night in downtown St. Pete. Excellent service in this small, quaint Thai/Sushi place, the food is the best...We shared some Sushi rolls, all very fresh, although the Spider Roll was sliced a bit thin, and left the crab to fall apart when picking up with chop sticks...and also the Duck special, and a spicy Curry sauce...very very tender, moist and again very good. A nice walk through downtown to the Coffee Shop across from Jannus Landing led to good conversation and excellent people watching...downtown St. Pete attracts ALL KINDS. And it so nice to be able to go out anywhere in shorts and flip flops in downtown St. Pete.

Saturday, a buddy of mine and I were going to check out the new off road Bike Trails at Balm Boyette, but he had never been off road biking, so we went to a place for novices, Wilderness Park Off Road biking trails in New Tampa area off Morris Bridge Road. Been here plenty of times, great trails for the beginner, some technical spots...he mentioned how nice and quiet it was, very woodsy, alot of fun.
Saturday night was the USF Bulls game against Charleston Southern...USF won 59-0, and unfortunately Grothe was finished for the rest of the season due to a torn ACL. Its FSU next Saturday!! A bunch of us went to an annual 'end of summer' party in Port Tampa City neighborhood of Tampa..then escaped to Green Iguana, Baxters and City Side, with a 3am breakfast stop at iHop before calling it a night.

Sunday turned out to be a relaxing day for watching the games, and I met my friend from Friday night, and we went over to Hula Bay for some early dinner..sitting outside with great views, watching the thunderstorms blowing in from the Bay, and enjoying the Mahi Mahi Tacos,,,they provide large portions of grilled or blackened Mahi Mahi..with rice, black beans, lettuce, tomatoes, Guac, cheese, sour cream, and fresh soft tortillas...make em how ever you like them...awesome!!

IM looking forward to heading to Orlando next weekend...Juliette Lewis in concert at the Social in downtown Orlando...good times!

Friday, September 18, 2009

Lunch with the Tampa Bay Lightning

This past Tuesday, the Tampa Bay Lightning Hockey Team(2004 Stanley Cup Champions) opened up the Forum to the public for Free Lunch while watching them practice on the ice. It was a nice gesture for the group, Hot Dogs and Cheeseburgers, and plenty of them..and it was great to look over the new Roster, and watching them practice on the Ice. It also gave some new comers an ability to see the Forum.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Labor Day Weekend in Tampa!

Sometimes im out of town for the holiday weekend..this time I was not, and did the local thing in was a great weekend.

Friday, ending work a bit early, some buddies and I headed over to the Bucs preseason home game against the Texans. Arriving near the stadium about an hour early, taking MacDill Ave from South Tampa to the neighborhood just east of the Stadium, we found no traffic, and were able to park conveniently at my friends uncles place a few blocks from the stadium. On the way there we saw lots of parking opportunities from the neighbors for about $5 per car, which is ALOT less than the $25 Tampa Stadium charges. We also stopped by a party house, about a block from the game. Seats were great, game was ok, Bucs are not looking so good...that's another story. After the game, which we left early, we headed to meet some other friends that we saw at the game at SOHO Tavern in Hyde Park on Howard Avenue....the district was hopping on this Friday evening, and then ended the night at Green Iguana Westshore.

Saturday evening about 8 of us went to dinner to Pelagia Tratoria at the Renaissance hotel in Intl Plaza. Very nice, upscale, modern decor, the kitchen rests inside the restaurant for all to view. Their menu is very upscale tastes of Mediterranean styled seafood, meats and pastas. I will say that the service was excellent, and the food was even better...Risotto of the Day, Sea Bass, Veal stuffed Ravioli, Seared Scallops, and a few Chicken dishes..not a complaint in the house....after a nice long dinner, we went upstairs to Bay Street, and Blue Martini...a $10 cover gets you in to a live band, and very pretty mostly 30s and 40s crowd....after hanging out in the 'mall' lounge, we headed to Baxters Lounge for a nightcap.

Sunday did an afternoon in Ybor, seeing 'Inglorious Basterds' the new Quentin Tarintino movie, in great Tarantino style, entertaining. Then a walk over to the Green Iguana to sit outside along 7th avenue, and enjoy some of Tampas best burgers and people watching, always a unique crowd on the streets in Ybor City. Sunday eve was my friends birthday dinner, and she wanted Mexican..there were about 8 of us together, and my fav mex place, Algustos on Kennedy, was unfortunately closed this Sunday Labor Day eve the next best was Miguels also on Kennedy Blvd. Great food, fun atmosphere, friendly service...and free flan and Mexican song/dance for the birthday girl....we then went to a friends Skypoint Condo downtown for some after dinner drinks and meet some other folks before heading to the 60th anniversary party at the Hubb a block from Skypoint.

Labor Day, met a friend for dinner at Hula Bay...was a perfect ending to a great weekend...beautiful sunset along the Bay, great food as always at Hula Bay.


Tuesday, September 1, 2009

TampaIam Back from Colorado

Back from a very nice loooong weekend visiting family in Colorado - Golden and Colorado Springs...some highlights included seeing Depeche Mode at Red Rocks Amphitheater, must be one fo the nciest amphitheaters to see a concert, and all natural venue, huge rock formations providing the perfect acoustics and viewing.. i wll now be making this an annual visit each year. Golden is just a pefect little town, just like the old west...Aces Lounge, Buffalo Rose, Table Top Mountain Inn Cantina, Naures Food Store, Farmers Market, Cold Creek Park...and then just overall family time with the two of my brothers and their families.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Dollar Movies are BACK in South Tampa!

I remember going to the AMC behind Britton Plaza for $1 movies back in the early 90's...what a treat, especially since I was just getting out of college, and renting a house with some college buddies at the time.
Well, Britton 8 theaters, which closed last September, has re-opened, and are playing first run movies(saw Bruno), along with a Bollywood type movie. Each flick is only $2..thats right $2, large screens, surround sound, 80's style seating, no frills movie theater. And also, $1 popcorn, which I was surprised how fresh tasting it was, being stored in the ice bin behind the counter, and $1 sodas. So if you dont mind not having stadium seating, an empty theater, and only small popcorn and small drinks...and also are a little tight on $$$, you cant beat the re-opening of Britton 8 theaters, in the Britton Plaza on South Dale Mabry in South Tampa.

The owner tells me that these prices should last through November.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Dave Matthews Band visits Tampa

WOW!! What a GREAT show, ive been to see Dave 15 years in a row now, and this show had to be one of their BEST. Having seats instead of Lawn tickets made for an even more enjoyable experience. Amazing Jams, especially the Encore..mixing in Led Zeppelin's Stairway to Heaven into All along the Watchtower...just chilling entertainment...DMB shows are truly awe inspiring, the music is brilliant, the vocals are amazing...the pure 'feel good, be happy' tone throughout makes for a good time...and having it all in the Amphitheater, with NO rain this year, was a plus...Dave made a remark how humid it was, and it was...we ask him to come back and play in the winters here in Florida.

The playlist -which changes in each venue!
Wednesday Aug 12 2009 Ford Amphitheatre
Funny The Way It Is *Squirm *Seven *The Maker *Satellite *One Sweet World *Lie In Our Graves *You Might Die Trying *Lying In the Hands of God *Shake Me Like a Monkey *Spaceman *Shotgun *Crush *Why I Am *You and Me *Jimi Thing *Stay (Wasting Time) *__________________Baby Blue +All Along The Watchtower/Stairway to Heaven *

Monday, August 10, 2009

Gulfport Art/Music Walk - Tampa Bike Pub Crawl

Great weekend past.. about a dozen of us went to Gulfport, about 25 min drive from Tampa, to this very funky, artsy, town on Boca Ciega Bay, just east of the Gulf Beaches, and just west of downtown St. Pete. Each first Friday, they have an Art/Music walk along famous Beach Blvd. Many local artisans and musicians along the quaint small Blvd, lined with lots of cafes, shops, and such. Diner was a Backfin Blue, a cool little turn of the century house, we ate outside on the 'back deck', almost felt like you were invited to someones is EXCELLENT comes chilled in a Sand Bucket with Shovel...different, laid back. Seafood is what makes this places famous, especially the crab cakes. Meals, which were all very good, included Trios of Crab Cake, Bacon Wrapped Shrimps and Salmon; Salmon Florentine with Huge Sea Scallops, Fresh Grouper Oscar with lump crab meat, and for the non seafood lovers there was a Gorgonzola stuffed Meatloaf..just like homemade...fixings included a delicious Artichoke and Tomato Salad, Fish Spread, mixed veges and pasta. After being pleasantly full...we strolled along the main blvd, looking at all the arts and listing to some cool tunes.
After we headed to the Grand Central area of St. Pete to a new Bar/Restaurant called Queenshead on Central Ave. Very modern, chic, yet comfortable. Outdoor seating here as well. The night ended close to home at the Green Iguana Westshore.

Sunday we go on our bikes, and did a tour of the city of Tampa..with pub stops. Wine Exchange started the day at Hyde Park Village, and from there it was on to Four Green Fields on PLatt, to the Riverwalk at USF Park, where we followed it to the new Sail Pavillion in front on the convention center along the water...we continued on the Riverwalk by bike to the Columbia Cafe also on the ater at the Tampa History Center..awesome Mojitos made at your table outside. Hopping back on the bikes up Franklin Street downtown to Hattricks where we caught some fo the Rays baseball game, then to The Hubb, Club Chelsea was enxt, where there was a free BBQ..chicken, ribs, hotdogs, and burgers...perfect! Back down Tampa Street through the University of Tampa, and to the Retreat. Next stop was Tiny Tap in Hyde Park, then City Side, Pete's Place on Henderson Ave, where we watched some Sunday night Football, played some pool, and lastly the I Dont Care Bar on Manhattan Ave.


This week is looking busy, all you can east Sushi night Tuesday at the Venue, Dave Matthews Concert at the Amphitheater Wednesday, and taking off for Geneva NY, for the annual Upstate NY Finger Lakes Wine Tours for the weekend!


Friday, August 7, 2009

Hamburger Marys Tampa Opening Soon!

Ive know for a while that there was a Hamburger Mary's restaurant and bar due to open in Tampa, but now its official. A friend of mine, with his business partners, will be opening this very fun establishment in Ybor City, on the 2nd floor of the Centro Ybor Complex off 7th Avenue.

There are several of these throughout the country, Ive visited the West Hollywood, Denver, Orlando and Chicago, and now looking forward to having fun at the Tampa one this fall.

Onto other things, I cant believe its been almost a month since ive posted. Life has been busy, but a very very good busy. Lately emails have stressed that you all have missed my posts, so I promise to be back in action at least weekly. I want to try to be sure I cover the unique places, things, and people I come across in Tampa, and not repeat places ive been already.

Ever been to Dade City? Amazing that only 45 minutes north of Tampa is a quaint little town with a Historic main street, but even better, are it all takes places in Rolling Hills..yes, big rolling hills. My buddy has a 5 acre ranch with horses on top of one of these hills, and the views are amazing, you'd never think you were in Florida.

My annual Chicago trip was a blast this year, staying downtown this year instead of friends was a treat. I had about a dozen or so good friends from Tampa join me this year, and I think my annual trip will now include staying downtown, as opposed to the neighborhoods..there is so much to see and do in this beautiful the summers!!

Monday, July 13, 2009

Downtown Tampa Eats/Drinks; Channelside-Ybor Night; The BEACH

Crazy weekend gone by, and Good Crazy weekend!! Weather cleared up and it was sunny and warm, a few regular afternoon storms throughout the area, but not like the deluge of rain we had been getting during the week. Friday my buddy had some friends in town from Greenville, SC who were all staying at the Westin on Harbour Island downtown Tampa. They wanted something to do for Happy Hour, so I suggested the Water Taxi Cocktail Cruise - meeting Captain Cliff at the dock in from of Cafe Dufrain on harbour Island, they took there wine and drinks on board and headed up to Ricks on the River, about a 25 minute boat road around downtown Tampa, up the Hillsborough River. Having some appetizers and drinks, with a live band outside in this very very casual place on the River, I met up with them and drove them back downtown to Fly Bar on Franklin Street. We got a nice table outside, and enjoyed some wines, and beers from around the world...for eats it was the Mushroom Risotto, a large bowl of Cheesey Risotto, and Mushrooms, thick in consistency, very very tasty and filling. The plate of Nachos with Ropa Vieja was enough for 4 or 5, piled high with delicious topping. Ahi Tuna sampler, a cucumber salad, and some thinly sliced Salmon with Citrus rounded up our small plates here at Fly...service was impeccable, it was a great few hours. Afterwards we walked over to Raw Bar, where a friend was having her birthday party...very dark and loungy, this place is in Skypoint on Ashley Drive..some expensive cocktails, groovy lounge tunes, it was a very comfortable and pretty place to be, so to get a taste of the opposite, we went to The Hubb on Franklin, strong drinks...and a juke box with all kinds of tunes, to go along with all kinds of clientele in this Tampa one of a kind bar. It was a short few blocks back to Harbour Island downtown and we ended the night at Jackson's..with two DJ's spinning, a very busy LARGE outdoor area overlooking the water and downtown Skyline.

Saturday after we headed over to the Gulf Beaches...Pass-a-Grille--one of my favorites. An easy ride from Tampa(about 30 min), and plenty of parking right along the beach. The water and company was perfect, we walked down to the Beachside restaurant for some live music and entertainment..floated in the warm Gulf waters for hours...then had some cocktails on the rooftop of the Hurricane, and had some dinner in Stormy's, on the second floor of the Hurricane. The food is just ok, my Grouper Sandwich , which they had been known for, was very tough, dry, and over cooked(grilled)..the "Build your own salads" was just a large pile of Romaine, with very large portion of Flounder on one(also dry and bland), and Chicken on the other, dressing came on the side in a bowl. The Stuffed Flounder Entrees looked good, but again the fish was dry, as if left under a heat lamp, and the Asparagus stalks, although very large, were cold and soggy. There are many other choices to eat at Pass-a-Grille, I felt like I was in a tourist trap for Hurricane for rooftop drinks and elsewhere on the island.

Saturday night, we were all invited to a friends private birthday party at Channelside in downtown Tampa. We waited for everyone and had some pre-party cocktails at Splitsville...the place was hopping, bowling, DJ, happy crowd, I like this upscale place, there is just so much going on...we then ventured to a place I never knew existed, seems there is a nightclub in the Channelside Movie theater fro private events..they actually turned a Theater into a Three level nightclub. FUN! Then we moved across the street to Club Aja...a good crowd, with danceable tunes in this multi level upscale Club...a quick taxi ride about a mile north to Ybor City, and we ended the evening with throwing Frozen Vodka Shots(after we drank the vodka of course) against the brick wall behind us at Club Czar...good DJ's playing here this evening, and the final spot was G. Bar.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

4th of July in Tampa

I know ive been away for some time, lifes been good, real good, and just haven't had the time to jot things down lately.

But in regards to 4th of July weekend, we started out having the Holiday on Friday, and a few of us met up in Ybor City at the Tampa Bay Brewing Company, for usual good eats inside, cause the large outdoor patio was packed. Fresh Grouper entree's, Pizza's and Chicken sandwhich's filled us up, with homemade brews. After wards, we ventured over to see Mama at Reservior Bar..she was happy as ever, good rock music playing from the juke box, and decent crowd of all walks of life having fun...then it was a trip across the street to check out The Honey Pots 'Steam Friday's'...we walked in and paid the steep $10 cover, only to turn around within our first drink...just not my scene to hang out in a ultra nice dance club with what looked like an under 23 crowd of young over to Spurs Country Western bar, and although not a sole was outside on the huge outdoor patio, they insisted on charging $5 cover, without even letting us see if anyone was even gladly we just walked away. And it was on to the Green Iguana Ybor, the great band Chromatic was playing their typical tunes, and we noticed the place has shrunk...IN HALF! They put a wall up where there was the entrance to the second room, and now there is half the space. Asked around, and no one seems to know whats going on with the second half. Ending the night was a cab ride to my neighborhood joint...Green Iguana Westshore.

Saturday for the 4th, it was dinner for about a dozen of us on Harbour Island, in downtown Tampa at Cafe Dufrain, We got there by 7 and scored almost the entire outdoor pation for all of us, food, wine, and service was top notch as usual, and after dinner they allowed us to step ioff the patio with our drinks,and watched he short, but excellent 20 minute fireworks show at Channelside, perfect viewing spot form harbour Island, no big crowds, water and downtown Views. We left downtown for Ybor City again, this time heading to Ybor Social which by 11pm was not too busy, but the downstairs Ybor Eagle was packed...walked down to Spurs, where this night had no cover, chatted with the owner for a bit about the nite before...and then gobbled down some pizza at New York New York was an awesome 4th fo July in Tampa(im usually out of town), with some pretty great friends.

Sunday was a day on a friends boat in Tampa Bay, docked on a few islands in the Bay, nice relaxing, beautiful day ended with great burgers at Square One on Henderson Ave in South Tampa.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

IKEA - Ybor Dinner; Kayak and Bay View lunch; Fathers Day brunch.

Buddy of mine came back from his trip while I watched his kids(Rhodesian Ridgeback and a Chiuaua), and we went over to check out the new IKEA that opened in Ybor City. At 7pm on a Wednesday evening, the place was EMPTY, plenty of up front parking, grabbed a yellow bag as we entered and proceeded up the escalator to begin out tour...meandering in and out of every imaginable type of Home Ware displays..kitchens, baths, bedrooms..appliances, furniture...this place has Everything and its HUGE...we stopped off for some of their Swedish Meatballs on the 2nd level cafe, offering great views of the Port and downtown Tampa skyline. Finishing the tour downstairs through all the housewares, and knick knacks, we stopped by the grocery area where my buddy took home some of the frozen meatballs and stuff. AS a reminder, you must bring a bag to take home the goodies you purchase, or buy a bag from IKEA.

Afterwards, it was dinner at a fav of mine in Ybor - El Puerto. a HUGE perfectly cooked and delicious 22oz skirt steak and Chicken Fired Rice was shared...enough for four people, I was able to take some home for lunch and dinner the next day.

Friday dinner was with the family at Cappy's pizza on Bay to Bay Blvd...a large Greek Salad and this time we did a small NY Style with Pepperoni and a Ham and Cheese Calzone..I was surprised and a bit disappointed that the Calzone only had Mozzarella Cheese, and no Ricotta Cheese. Still the pizza is some of the best I've had in Tampa Bay area.

Saturday a few friends of mine and I ventured out to Kayak the Hillsborough River. Our friends at Canoe Escape brought us to Sargeant Park along 301 to start the Hillsborough River kayaking...beautiful scenery, lots of wildlife, and lazy paddle down the river to Morris Bridge Park, about 2.5 hours. Being shaded and on the water kept us was hovering in the mid-90's today.
After getting back home and cleaning up a bit, we enjoyed a great lunch along the Bay at Hula Bay..once again, a perfect meal(the grilled grouper sandwich's and roast pork soft tacos), perfect views, and great company.

Sunday was Fathers Day, and about 5 of us fathers(of the four legged kind), went to Datz on MacDill Ave for their Sunday Brunch...around 130pm, there was about a 20 minute wait, we wondered around on the lower level, tasting wines, cheeses, breads and such..there was a great female singer entertaining the Fathers Day crowd. Upstairs we were seated in the bar area, with a bottle of wine and free draft beers for the fathers..we were already having a great time. The sandwich's here are HUGE!! The Meats and Cheeses are top quality, service was a little slow and awkward though. Some of us ordered Omelets which unfortunately were on the small side compared to the Colossal sandwich's and Salads.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Hula Bay Sushi - Lodge Sushi - Redbox - SudsFest

A buddy of mine is in town for a couple of weeks, so we ventured to Hula Bay, off Westshore, south of Gandy on the Bay...and tried their Sushi...It was a Wednesday evening, and the outside tables at 7pm were all full, even Duke's Bar was completely full, so we were seated at a table inside, still with great views of the Bay. They have a listing of over a dozen specialty rolls, and of course your main stream Sushi and Sashimi. Surprisingly very fresh, and very good...I have never been dissapointed with the food at Hula Bay, and now the Sushi comes with good recommendations..with a great scene and views.
After dinner..we went to AMC (free popcorn Wednesday's)...and saw The Hangover...this one goes down as one of the classic's, like Caddyshack, Animal House, you will want to see a few times...just non stop laughter!!

Thursday, after helping a friend move into her new apartment in South Tampa, we met a few people at The Lodge, on Howard Avenue in Hyde Park neighborhood of South Tampa. Lots of pretty people, we put a few tables together outside, and enjoyed the company, and somewhat dry air(still very warm, but the circulating fans kept things cool on the patio). Their menu is all over the a good way...from over a dozen kinds of sliders, to Steak and Eggs anytime, and my favorite>>Tatar Tots! We tried the Sushi here(as if I didnt already have enough this week), and found the Ahi Tuna App with cucumber salad to be very good, their specialty rolls are also all over the board..and the ones we tried were both very good, for a place that doesn't necessarily specialize in Sushi.

Friday was movie night with the kids....and I now find Redbox rentals so convenient and CHEAP. For $1, you can rent all the latest new releases, along with many older just go online, find a redbox near you(almost all Walgreens and SweetBay supermarkets), rent one on line..then just go to the redbox, slide your credit card, and out comes your DVD movie....return it within 24 hours, and its just $1, or $1 each day you have late fees, you can return it to ANY quick, the RedBox!

Saturday evening was the annual SudsFest at the Florida Aquarium downtown Tampa - Channelside. For $50, they open the Aquarium from 7pm to 11pm, and not only can you enjoy all the attractions at the Aquarium, but throughout their were over a few dozen beer tables, sampling beers from all over the country...AND over a dozen local restaurants, dishing out their specialities...AND live music, inside, outside on the deck, and in the Shark Tank seemed each time you turned a corner, there was something wasn't crowded AT ALL, no lines for beer or food, and just turned out to be a great Saturday Night at the Aquarium with really good friends.