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.