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..