Monday, January 26, 2009

2009 GASPARILLA Season Begins!

Saturday was the official start of the 2009 Gasparilla Season here in its 105th year, its hard to believe, this will be my 21st. A month and half of events(Extravaganza, Invasion and Pirate Fest, Night Parade, Distance Classic, Intl Film Festival, Outbound Voyage, and Festival of the Arts)

I took the bike up to a buddies house near Hyde Park, and we biked along the Bayshore Blvd to visit some friends that were in Krewe's and setting up, getting ready for the Children's Parade. The afternoon was perfect...about 70 degrees and clear blue skies....there were 107 floats for this years Children's Parade, which always takes place the week before the main Invasion and Parade(for the adults). The historic Bayshore Blvd was closed for all 6 miles, and what a crowd there was this year...after chatting it up with our friends in the different Krewe's, we headed back home, and let the kids enjoy this one...

The evening I was back on Bayshore with a few friends, to watch the Mock Pirate Battle and Night Air Show, then the 25 minute display of Fireworks...which seem to get bigger and better every year. Afterwards we visited some friends over in Davis Islands neighborhood near downtown, and had some dinner at 220 East along the Davis Island Boulevard. Even at 930, the restaurant was busy, ive never had a bad meal here, very home style, steaks, chicken and seafood, burgers and sandwich's and pasta...we started with a bottle of Italian Pinto Grigio, priced just right, and tasty...and chowed down on a Portabella Mushroom Cheese burger, a Cheeseburger, and Chicken Pasta Alfredo....the burgers were very big, and on fresh Italian Sub Roll, the pasta portion was huge, and very tasty...we were too full to finish the bottle of wine, but was reminded by the very friendly server that we are now allowed to take home the unfinished bottle to enjoy at we did just that.

Meetings this week take me to.....New Tampa...not a bad journey. The city is really gearing up for SuperBowl coming up this Sunday, you can already tell that its busier, lots of events are taking place...but this upcoming weekend will be most exciting with all the concerts, events and festivals that eventually lead to the big day...SuperBowl Sunday!

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Back from Italia - - Bin 27 and Dog Walks

WOW...what a great trip to Italy...Florence and Rome....couldn't of asked for a better time, both cities are so beautiful, words can't describe!! History, Culture, Scenery, People, FOOD!! Molto Bene!

Happy to see the kids when I got home, I took them to a Dog Park they haven't been in a while near my house, Gadsden Park, off MacDill Ave, right next to the AFB Base in South Tampa. Very large serene park with a large lake and some paved walking/biking trails, and a HUGE fenced in Dog Park area. With only a few people there on Friday morning, they had the whole place practically to themselves, there are three separate fenced in areas with trees for shade, and picnic benches for the humans to relax.

Afterwards, met up with a buddy and went to the Real Dill for lunch, just up the road from my house off Westshore Blvd, this time it was the Cuban and Club sandwhich's and decided to eat in...again, great meal, the little place with about half dozen tables was busy this afternoon...its a great little sandwich place in the neighborhood.

For dinner, met up with another buddy at a new restaurant on Kennedy Blvd called Bin 27. Great looking building, very classy and modern interior and bar area, friendly staff(maybe overly friendly?). Reservations seemed to be a must, they were busy at this 730 time, but had tables available outside on a large deck, that had heat lamps installed throughout the ceiling, and very nice tropical landscaping, it was actually better than being inside. Tried the Edamame for appetizer and had the Grilled Pork Chop and Osso-Busco Cut Braised Beef Rib. The Edamame was good, a small plate of the soybeans with some sea salt; the Grilled Pork Chop was cooked medium rare, very moist and tender, a great tasting pomegranate sauce, and some cooked apples, and onion made for a different and tasty meal, very filling. The Beef Rib, which was explained as the most desirable dish, came out cold, the meat though was tender, and had a very rich sauce. For some reason, we had to ask for bread, when we saw it was brought out to the other tables...and the bread was a very fresh, soft roll, with chive butter, wish we would have had it sooner. Sides consisted of McDonalds type fries that had a nice spice to them, and a very small sampling of Brocolini. Dessert we tried was a Vahlorona, very very heavy chocolate truffle cake, with a dollop of vanilla ice cream...too rich we thought. The server made a mistake and brought another to our table, and if we had not thought it to be to rich, we would have gobbled the other one up as well. With an interesting menu of extremely very different types of foods, and prices that would make you think you were at one of the finest dining Establishments in the Bay area, I would expect a little more from the was OK and maybe worth a try, but not sure it warrants a 'must go' again anytime soon.

Weather is warming up...temps were in the 20's at night the past few days since getting back from Italy....GASPRILLA starts today and goes through the first weekend of the Childrens Parades and Pirate Battle/Fireworks over the Bay this evening...and the city is really gearing up for the SuperBowl, next weekend!!


Monday, January 12, 2009

Lights on Tampa weekend!

Trying to get alot of work done before my trip to Italy, on Friday evening, took a little break from a few projects and walked over to meet a buddy of mine at the Green Iguana, and enjoy a Burger...this time it was the Portabella Cheese Burger..always the best, we also muched on some Hummus, Crab Rangoon and the Black and Blue Salad..crowd was nice outside on the Tiki deck, with an acoustic guitarist entertaining us.....
Saturday, took the kids to Picnic Island Beach, where there seems to be more and more dogs enjoying the huge, wide beach area made specifically for dogs...unfortunately, sometimes someone can bring a not so well-behaved dog, which was the case on Saturday morning, and as my boy went to say hello to a 95 lb pit bull, things went a little sour, and my boy was bit by the Pit twice...he is ok, im just hoping it doesn't effect him for future visits, he and his sister really love the park and beach....I just dont understand some owners, bringing dogs to a dog park, knowing they cannot handle or control their behaviors...

Tried a new biking route, from my house, took Westshore south to Picnic Island, and toured around Port Tampa City, coming up through the neighborhood along Manhattan Ave..a nice 2 hour tour.
Afterwards we went up to Sweet Tomatoes for some lunch, its a chain so I rarely write about them on here, but it was a good all you can eat salad buffet with lots and lots of fresh salad bar veges, salads, breads, pizzas, soups and pastas...
Saturday night was the opening of the three week long, Lights on Tampa. Artists from around the country display their unique creations on buildings, parking garages, all kinds of structures, and parks throughout downtown....the pre-party was at some friends who live downtown at One Laurel Place...we walked towards the convention center, great displays on the Fort Brooke Garage, along the Riverwalk from USF Park to the Convention Center were about 50 or so disco balls creating a luminating effect, some visuals along Franklin Street near the Convention Center, and a SuperBowl Mood Ring that constantly changes in the Park along the River near the Forum. We also stopped by Trolleys bar and Grille in the Embassy Suites Hotel dwontown. It was a little busy, the bartender and servers just seemed like they did not want anyone there...when asking a server for a drink, she just said "I dont make the drinks, you have to ask the bartender"..she was behind the bar, how was I to know, and why didnt she just take my order and give to the bartender. A small manager guy came out in a suit, and didnt seem too thrilled at teh crowd..and when I asked him if he was happy to see it busy, he just shrugged his shoulders...I would think that anyplace would be happy to see people eating and drinking and spending money, especially new hotels and restaurants downtown. Even though service was slow, and unfriendly, the drinks and company were great....our last stop on the walk was to Channelside, we were able to walk into the new Tampa Bay History Center which opens the 17th of January, they were having a private party, and from what we all saw(there was about a dozen of us), it looked very nice, 3 story glass windows all along the Riverwalk, some great displays, but we were only allowed to stay for a few minutes before someone realized we were not with the party(maybe it was the lack of formal attire??) Channelside, stopped by Cold Stone for Ice Cream, the entertainment center was VERY busy, people walking from bar to bar, and in the restaurants....instead of making the long trek back to One Laurel, we hopped on the Green Trolley for a quick ride up to the Performing Arts Center...its nice to know that if you will be out and about in downtown, they have a circulating trolley that runs every 10 minutes along the entire route from Performing Arts on the north end of downtown, along Channelside near the convention center and Forum, and up through the Channelside neighborhood of downtown...and for only a quarter.

Sunday was nice and relaxing for football playoff games, and had a great dinner with family at the Cappy's on bay to Bay...large Greek Salad and a NY Style Large Pizza with meatball and Pepperoni...always GREAT!!!

Italy here I back in 10 days.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Free Beer Samples at Tampa's Busch Gardens---GONE!!

Typically dont write about this stuff, but this kinda bugged me....InBev, the new parent company that bought Anheuser Busch and its Theme Parks(Busch Gardens), announced that as of January 25th, they will no longer offer the 2 free 10 oz samples they have offered for over 50 years. This 'sampling' was not only a tradition of the park, but also gave you the opportunity to taste, try and sample they're different variety of beers introduced to the market each year/season. What a poor marketing decision on they're part..not only do they break from tradition, but now I wont even think about buying an Anheuser Busch product I didn't have the opportunity to taste before hand, or remember tasting when they were once available to sample...tsk, tsk....

Monday, January 5, 2009

A VERY Happy New Year in Tampa!!

Another beautiful long weekend for the New Years Holiday...started off with ending work a bit early on Wednesday, New Years Eve and heading up to a good friends house for a small gathering in the Wellswood neighborhood of Tampa. Fireworks, LOTS of fireworks going off all night long, it seemed throughout the neighborhood, everyone was having some sort of fireworks was nice to be on the back deck, and seeing the explosions and sounds throughout the evening....we had some of our own as well...after the clock struck New Years, it was an easy call to United Cab for a taxi back to South Tampa, and a stop by the Green Iguana Westshore before stumbling home.

I was feeling pretty good on New Years day, and we went up to the Palma Ceia neighborhood for some breakfast at Pinky's, a very small cafe, with a few tables outside. Service was VERY bad this time around, seemed the servers wanted anything to do today except work....the bread on my buddies roast beef sandwich(which was piled high with rare roast beef) was hard and stale, the Egg Sandwich I had was just ok, but most importantly it was the lacking of service and rude ness that somehow makes me not want to come back to this place, there are so many other places nearby for excellent breakfast.
Later we met up at Centro Ybor movies for a late afternoon flick in the Muvico Premiere Theaters, my favorite with extra large leather seats, large armrests, full liquor bar and free popcorn, to see Jim Carrey in Yes Man. Afterwards we took our ticket stubs next door to Rock n Sports Cafe for some half priced appetizers while we waited for some friends to get out of there movie. The Chicken Quesadilla was stuffed with all white meat chicken and cheese, salsa and sour cream accompanied the delicious quesadilla, and it all went sown fine with a few ales. After meeting up with our other friends, it was Burger time, and Green Iguana in Ybor City was calling us with their excellent versions of my favorite burgers...Santa Fe, Florentine, and other burgers were all cooked perfectly, and there is nothing better after a night of drinking than salty, crispy, fresh crinkle cut fries that go along with the burgers. Live music, and a table at the open windows with a great view of the passerby's along 7th Avenue in Ybor City. from what we were told, there were close to 50,000 people in the Ybor area for NYE, it was alot more quieter this evening on New Years Day night.

Friday, we decided to take the kayaks out and explore downtown Tampa. Putting them at the far end of Davis Islands, near the dog beach, it was easy access to the Channel, up along side Harbour Island and Davis Islands, seeing the beautiful mansions, and with the downtown skyscraper's getting closer and closer. Several Crews from the Tampa Rowing Club were out practicing along the Channel, and as we made up to where the Hillsborough River ends and lets out into the bay, it was a great sight to be paddling along side the skyscrapers....on the way back the over mile long channel, we were able play with a few dolphins...
After washing up a bit, we made it out to Yoko's with some friends for the freshest Sushi in Tampa, and then it was over to another friends house in the Palma Ceia neighborhood where about 20 of us partook on Karaoke in their not much of a singer, but who knew Karaoke could be so much fun amongst good friends. Ending the night at Green Iguana, of course.

Saturday, we went downtown for breakfast at First Watch, where the Bacado Omelet fullfilled me as always, there food as consistently been fresh and filling each time I have gone, and this was the best service I received there to date. We walked over to Indigo Coffee for a drink, and then walked over to the new Tampa Firefighters Museum on Jefferson and Zack Streets. Its so new that we had to buzz someone to come down and let us in...its small and has about a dozen displays, old trucks, interesting facts, a memorial area, you could probably go through the entire museum in 30 minutes, they even have a gift shop. It compliments the Tampa Policy museum, also downtown, very nicely. They only accept donations.

Sunday, it was a nice day for biking.... the city we started along Bayshore Blvd near Bay to Bay Blvd, heading towards downtown, and proceeded along the Riverwalk through Channelside and up to Ybor City. A nice ride along 7th Avenue, all the way east to 34th Street, and south we stopped by McKay Bay Nature Park and Trails...where we biked alonga few paths, and a boardwalk that meandered through mangroves into a lake. On the way back, we stopped downtown at the Oaklawn cemetery, very interesting graves dating back to the mid 1800's, and then headed north up to Tampa Heights neighborhood, on the way back through downtown, we biked through University of Tampa and Plant Park, down through Olde Hyde Park neighborhood, and back to where we started at Fred Ball Park along Bayshore Blvd. GREAT RIDE...I found this site to do more tours of the Tampa area this year Bike Tampa.
After a nice break, went over to Oldsmar to see the movie 'MILK' -great story!! This was the only theater in the Tampa area that was playing this movie, and afterwards we stopped by a new place called Flamestome Grill...very surprising, we wanted to know if this was the only one, and it is a first, soon to become a franchise...polished, perfect service, elclectic dining, excellent menu...there was nothing bad to say about the 9oz Filet that came with buttery and whipped potatoes, and perfectly cooked veges, or the 14oz RibEye and Parmesan Oysters(their version of surf and turf)...a must if in Oldsmar area of Tampa Bay!

Back to the grindstone for this looking forward to my first overseas trip next week to Italy for two weeks!!