Thursday, May 28, 2009

Buddha Lounge Tampa

Looks like a Sushi week for me...this evening some Friends of mine and I decided to check out Buddha Lounge at the Westshore Hotel on Westshore Blvd just north of Cypress Street...from the Green Iguana people, this a classy very loungy type place, with a sunken bar, and cozy sofas and chairs throughout, lounge music in the back ground. You can enter through the Green Iguana, has a separate entrance in the back, or through the Lobby.

We picked a cozy couch and chairs, very comfortable, and started with a few cocktails from a very friendly server. Moving on to a Ginger Salad and Edamame, both very good, lots of Ginger dressing on the large plated salad that had mixed Field Greens, shredded carrots and sliced Cucumber...refreshing. The tuna is best here...flown in daily from Hawaii, we tried the Ahi Tuna Tar tare, beautiful presentaiton and flavor with thin crispy tortilla chips for dipping/scooping the tartare...then onto some very fresh Sashimi, and a few Rolls....all very well presented, but best of all very fresh and delicious. I found me a new spot for Sushi, in a very loungy type atmosphere in the Westshore District of Tampa!

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Raw Sushi in downtown Tampa

Took a friend out for his Bday dinner and movie, and we decided on the new Sushi place that opened downtown at Skypoint, RawSushi, from the same owners as Taps next door. Very dark and loungy inside, with Black walls, white curtains, lounge music playing softley in the background, and a large raised bar along the entire back wall as you enter. Plenty of platic couches and chairs along the patio out front, complete with artificial turf along Ashley Drive.

It was there first night serving food and was a very limited menu of just a few appetizers and about a dozen Sushi Rolls. Mos of the menu was drinks, with $11 Martini's, Wine by the Glass at $7 and up, and bottles from $28 and up. Not an inexpensive place at all, or reasonable at least in my book.

The Apps we tried were Edamame, a very small bowl of your typical Edamame, barely enough to share for two. Also where the Chicken Skewers that my friend said were good. The Sushi Rolls are what I would consider "Fusion Sushi Rolls"...rolls with Italian tomato sauce, rolls wrapped in Prosciutto...very authentic and different. They were tasty, buty most were five or six portions to each roll, which are pricey at about $12 each. When we asked for Low Salt Soy sauce, they came out in the eye dropper like plastic tubes, said to be homemade soy sauce. Nice touch of something, but I like dipping my Edamame in Soy Sauce, sometimes mixed with Wasabi(I know not very traditional), but that the way I like it, and you can not do that at all with the eye droppers...

I may stop by again when they have a full menu...but its just another downtown place, seems overly priced, maybe a bit pretentious...they are to have a DJ start spinning on Thurs-Sat nights till 3am. Some people like it that way...

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

NC Mountains Getaway - Hawkesdene House

WOW...just a quick write up to say what an AMAZING trip to the North Carolina Mountains for Memorial Day weekend, and Hawkesdene House in Andrews, NC was all it was said to be, and MUCH MUCH more! I cant remember the last time in my life I have been sooo relaxed, sooo pampered, laughed sooo much, and just enjoyed life..the owners of Hawkesdene, Rob and Phil, took care of me and eight of my friends like no one else could.
Some highlights:
Lonesome Dove for Horseback Riding
Ocoee Adventure Rafting for White Water Rafting down Class III/IV Rapids of the Ocoee River
Ingles for everything
Be sure to have Rob and Phil prepare your meals, and fun!!
The 'Pit'
Hiking the Waterfall, Waterpipe and the 'Top of Hakesdene'.
The never ending Creek, and hammocks, and Gazebos
The 'Pavillion'
The 'Farm' with Llamas, Goats, Mules and Chickens and the Great Pirnaese Dogs watching over everyone.
'The Arbor'
'The Garden Cottage'

We will see you again real soon Hawkesdene!!

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

SOHO Sushi, a Scavenger Hunt in Tampa, and Tropical Heatwave.

Friday evening a buddy of mine and I met up with about a dozen friends at SOHO Sushi on Kennedy Blvd in Tampa...they moved to this location less than a year ago from their spot on South Howard Avenue...still a very nice, small place, with a sushi bar in the back, we had a large table amongst us all. And there move did not deter their quality...still GREAT Sushi, and also Japanese Items from the menu as well....the owner is the son of my other favorite Sushi establishment in Tampa, Yoko's.

Saturday was the annual "Quest for Hope" Ultimate Tampa Bay Scavenger Hunt to benefit the Tampa Childrens Cancer Center. There were 35 teams of 5 this year, and from 6pm t0 10pm, Channelside and Ybor were invaded...Some of the over 100 antics and establishments we visited included - Margarita Mama's(which has the WORST food, service and cocktails btw), had us drop hot peppers down one flight in the person's mouth below; dressing up a stranger as a girl and serenading the Pussy Cat Dolls "Dont Cha"; Finding Al Kuplinski in Hooter's; Hot Dog easting contest and singing "I wish I was an Oscar Meyer Weiner"; Drinks and Ring Toss at Stumps; Howling at a 'Moon' or someones moon; Killing Cancer with Paintball; Dressing up as Robots and wrestling; Flinging women's underwear to the ceiling in Coyote Ugly; Getting Momma to spank us in Reservoir Bar; Singing "Its Raining Men" in Spurs; Doing the Choo Choo Conga line through Streetcar Charlies; ,much much more...but it ended with a great party with buffet and open bar at the Historic Ritz theater in Ybor, where our team came is 2nd place!!

Afterwards we ended the night at the 28th annual 'Tropical Heatwave' taking place at 6 different venues in Ybor City, catching Trombone Shorty, and a few other GREAT acts...

Its a short week...taking off for the North Carolina Mountains on Thursday for the long Memorial Day Weekend!

Monday, May 11, 2009

A Race, Market, and Mothers Day in Tampa

To start off the weekend, I saw that off road running and adventure group was holding their first of three annual races in Picnic Island on Friday evening. So a buddy of mine and I hauled the kayaks down the street to Kayak in the Bay, and watch the over 600 racers traverse through the beach, swamp, muck, waters, hills, and woodsy areas of Picnic Island. We got a great spot, watching all 600 trample upon one another about mid way through course through the thick muck and mud, some losing their shoes, some getting stuck, and all coming out as muddy as ever...very entertaining...then we paddled our way over to the beach area and finish line to see them all run about waist deep into the Bay, then back to finish the race....looked like FUN, but alot of agony. Their was a DJ in the park, and lots of food and beverages to be enjoyed before, during and after the races.

Saturday, we all headed to Ybor 's Saturday Market in Centennial Park to see if we could find some good Mother's Day's gifts...there were about 50 booths, alot of crafts and knick knacks, fresh fruits and veges, there was some acoustic guitar for entertainment..a much much smaller Market compared to St. Pete's, I got me some fresh Honey as I do every so often...we then walked over to Jalepnos de Ybor for lunch, on the corner of 5th Avenue and 17th street in Ybor City. A walk up window and you are greeted by VERY friendly order taker, that gives you the special of the was Carnitas, with flour tortillas, rice and beans...VERY VERY generous portion and includes a drink, even moist, tender and flavorful...we also enjoyed on the side patio(all outdoor seating in a very shaded garden), Chicken Burritos, packed with meat and all kinds of fresh toppings. This place is a must for lunch when in Ybor...unfortunately they close at 2pm each afternoon, would make a great dinner, or even late night stop in the evenings...its really that GOOD!!
After lunch, it was the anniversary of the first Railroad from 1869, so at Historic Union Station in downtown Tampa, there was a celebration going on, with authentic model trains, and some historic booths detailing the streetcar and train tracks throughout Tampa, old pictures, and an opportunity to learn more about the National Train proposal throughout the country, and even TBARTA train service in the Tampa Bay area. A live band was set up outside the platforms, it was interesting to see so many people either embarking or disembarking on the Amtrak train that was in the station, and all those just serious to learn about Union Station and Tampa's old train days.

Sunday was Mothers the family and I took Madre to the Mothers Day Brunch along the Riverwalk in downtown Tampa. The Tampa Convention Center catering company put on a HUGE display of what seemed like a lavish Vegas Style Buffet,,,A new Orleans section, Wild Game section, Ybor/Tampa section, Asian section, Mediterranean section, Seafood Section, Italian section, and of course Breakfast section, and four kinds of meats being carved...You paid as soon as you walked in, and then were seated....a nice concept and if it wasn't for the company and the view, I prob would not have enjoyed other words the food was just ok...most of it was very generic (Aramark does the catering), and for $40 per person, you would expect at least some culinary skills and more than generic foods...meatloaf, sliders, Mojo pork, Roast Lamb, all very tough or pre-formed meats....the seafood was fresh though, and we took advantage of that...most of the warming trays did not warm the food at seemed you had to walk ALOT and far if you chose to dine outside along the Riverwalk. There was a nice String Quartet playing, but I cant say I will be back to one of their brunches(they also had one on Easter). After a 2 hour brunch, we took the TECO streetcar to Ybor City to enjoy a movie, Star Trek - which was entertaining - and then hopped on an open air streetcar back to the Convention Center. Mothers Day ended with Ice Cream near my house at Dairy Joy on Manhattan Ave just south of Euclid.

Friday, May 8, 2009

The NEST in Ybor City

Thursday evenings are usually my Sushi night, but this evening a buddy of mine and I decided to check out a new place in Ybor City, The NEST. Thursday evenings starting on May 7th, they host an evening of 1/2 price Tapas and Sangria called "SangriLa", with a DJ spinning tunes as well. We arrived around 7ish, and there were plenty of space available, but quickly by 8pm, the place was place. Nicely updated, loungy corner front cafe/restaurant style with a full bar in the back and front, and small party room in the far back. We started with the Lemon Chicken Skewers - tender all white meat chunks lightly grilled, two small chunks per small skewer with onion and peppers, and a creamy lemon sauce; Calamari, a small bowl of very lightly fried, both tenticales and meat in inch to 2 inch long strands, with a watery fresh tomato sauce; Ahi Tuna, 4 large slices of just seared tuna, the best we had so we ordered more, but the next order only had three slices, with a wasabi/mustardy tasting sauce; Salmon - a small piece of Salmon on a spinach type sauce, very flavorful; Hummus - very garlicky and flavorful Hummus with fresh Tortilla style chips, a few Kalamata olives; and finally Garlic Shrimp - about 3 medium chopped up shrimps drenched in a small bowl of VERY VERY garlicky tomato sauce. Overall the Ahi Tuna was a top choice, although I wasn't overly impressed with the food, it was good, but I cant imagine paying full price for ANY of the Tapas choices. I will note the Sangria was heavy on the Liquor side, very tasty and fruity though, and probably the best priced for this special evening.
A nice walk around Ybor after dinner, and Thursday night was looking to get busier, its nice to see so many newer options for dining, shows, art galleries, and even shops along 7th avenue open.

This weekend looks like another time to get out and enjoy the weather and events...its is slowly get warmer and warmer around here, but NO RAIN :(

Some happenings include:
Kings of Leon, Gavin DeGraw, Janes Addiction, Nine Inch Nails are all in town
Peurto Rican Festival at the Fairgrounds
Blueberry Festival in Plant City
Salvador Dali Look a Like Contest at Gallery Live in Ybor and Dali Museum
VaGogh Artwork Appreciation/Movie/Planetarium at MOSI
Mothers Day brunches - Riverwalk downtown Tampa
Tampa Bay Water Ski Show


Monday, May 4, 2009

Birthday weekend in Tampa!

I usually get out of town for the birthday, this year I decided to stick around the Tampa Bay area to celebrate.

Thursday - After doing a little shopping at the Westshore Plaza and International Plaza(I hate shopping but its nice to have these places only about a mile from each other), went downtown Tampa to explore the new Tampa Bay History Center. I stopped by my buddies place, and we went over to the center, where they share a parking lot with the Forum, at $5.00 for the day. Before going thru the History Center, we grabbed a table on the huge outdoor patio area of the Columbia Cafe, it overlooks the Channel and Harbour Island, and the most the tables are shaded from the was yet another beautiful day in paradise. Ordering the 1905 salads and Cuban Sandwich's we were all very pleased with the attentive service, and the huge portions of very delicious foods. Only in Tampa can you get authentic 1905 salads, with an "Italian" type dressing mixed throughout the lettuce and tomatoes, meats and cheeses, like a chef salad but Tampa style...and the Cuban's, HUGE foot long on fresh pressed cuban bread, they take a piece of what each immigrant brought to Tampa (Cubans/Spanish - Roast Pork, and Swiss Cheese; Italians - Salami; Germans - Boiled Ham) with sliced pickles and a mustard/mayo combination. After filling the bellies, it was time to explore the History Center...$12 gets you into the center, and about 2.5 hours you can explore each and every exhibit(shorter if you by pass some of the exhibits), there is a great movie about the fist explorers to the Tampa Bay area, and an animatronic/movie with some special effects detailing the Seminole Indian Wars. Cigar City has many interactive short movie trailers that really explain how Tampa came to be what it is today, and there are many artifacts from the early settlers to Tampa dating back to the 1500's. The second floor is even more interactive, there aer HUGE maps where you can locate many landmarks, see how the city has progressed, learn about the different towns and cities throughout the Tampa Bay area(like Rattlesnake, FL where the present day neighborhood of Port Tampa City and Bayside West now reside...interesting story)....lots more to see, they explore the many festivals, the Port of Tampa, sports franchises, Agriculture and Farming and Ranching, and Tampa Bay area during the wars. Travelling exhibits are to open on the third floor stating in September.
Thursday evening, my family and a couple of close friends gathered at Malio's for the birthday of the finest restaurants in the Bay area. Ive reviewed them before, and still consistently great...attentive, friendly service....and thru May 31st, all the steaks are 1/2 priced from 4pm-7pm each night! My 22oz bone in Rib Eye is regularly $39.00, but is $20 on the menu....all was enjoyed at Malio's from the perfectly seasoned and grilled steaks, ala a carte sides like Mac n Cheese, Spinach, Baked Potato's, and Asparagus, to the HUGE slice of birthday cheesecake we split amongst all of us. Thursday night ended with a few of us heading to the Green Iguana South Westshore to finish the night with some live music.

Friday, went and got the car detailed, and take care of some errands, and went over to the new Floridian cafe, they are famous for their Cuban Sandwich's over on Treasure Island for years, and finally opened up a small shop on Kennedy Blvd(yes, Cuban's again---I love them)....with only a few tables inside and a counter, we were able to beat the lunch crowd which drew lines in this place, and scored a table....the 10" Cuban was big, and I ordered fries with a special gravy for a side...and again, the Floridian did not disappoint.
Friday evening, there was quite a few of us that met up downtown Tampa for the last installment of the "ECO-lution" week, and met at Fly Bar...the Ecolution Tour gives city of Tampa residents an opportunity to explore the urban areas of downtown Tampa(Channelside, Ybor City, and the CBD of downtown), there are over two dozen establishments, from bars, to restaurants to museums, that all provided discounts or specials for those involved on the tour, and you were also given a free all day pass for the transit options to get you around via Green Line trolley and the TECO StreetCar system. Some of the establishments visited throughout the night included Fly, SPAIN, Tina's Tapas, Gaspar's Grotto....

Saturday was yet another bright and sunny warm day, perfect for bringing the dogs to the beach in the morning before heading downtown Tampa to the annual Dragon Boat races and Asia Fest. Celebrating the Asian cultures(like Korean, Philippine, Vietnamese, Thai, Chinese, Japanese, etc.), there were cultural exhibits and dances, but the best part of this small festival is the food...trying all Thai food for this years festival. The Dragon Boat Races were going strong, with a race almost every 15 minutes...its authentic, and Tampa is lucky to be able to hold this annually, live music and again more food was available for the spectators.
Saturday evening, we all went over to downtown St. Pete for the Rays game against the Red Sox...before heading the Tropicana Field, we went over to Fresco's, an waterfront restaurant with outdoor seating and bar area...very nice views of the Marina and Pier in downtown St. Pete...some other friends of ours were attending the American Stage in the Park production of Altar Boyz, and annual outdoor plays they do throughout the year, so we met with them briefly on the bridge to Demen's Landing, then walked the Baseball Blvd(Central Avenue) walkway from the waterfront about 12 blocks to Tropicana Field, stopping at Mastry's and then Ferg's before entering the was alot of fun, (Nachos were a highlight, piled with LOTS of BBQ pork and chicken, and yummy ladled nacho cheese)...but we lost to the Red Sox, but overall beat them in the 4 game series. Stopping by Fresco's one last time after the game, we ended the night at where else, bu the Green Iguana South Westshore.

Sunday was a day to relax in the beautiful day, and catch an independent film, "The Great Buck Howard" at historical Tampa Theater in downtown Tampa, and then dinner at Paninoteca on the corner of Twiggs and Franklin, for some great Mediterranean food, eating outdoors of course to take in the beautiful evening to end this long great birthday weekend in Tampa Bay.