Monday, January 25, 2010

2010 Gasparilla Season Begins and a New Waterfront park in downtown Tampa

Saturday afternoon began an over 100 year tradition in Tampa, GASPARILLA! It runs through March 7th, with the Children's Parades and Pirate Battle/Fireworks today; the Pirates come to try and take over the city on Tuesday 1/26 only to be told by the mayor they will have to go to war for the key to the city---so on Saturday 1/30 they Invade the city by boat(100's of them), and take the key to the city, and have a victory parade and festival. The following Saturday is the night parade in Ybor City, the Outbound Voyage when we send the pirates back to sea is Saturday 2/27, and then the season ends with the Gasparilla Festival of the Arts in downtown Tampa 3/6 and 3/7. GOOD TIMES!!
The fireworks were watched this year with a few friends along Bayshore Blvd near El Prado Blvd, no need to deal with all the crowds further up on Bayshore, it was an amazing 30 minute firework display, and I always get to see some new ones like the smiley face fireworks that went off during the show, all while the Pirate Ship was docked in the Bay along bayshore Blvd. Afterwards, we walked over to mad Dogs and Englishmen for a nice table outside on the deck, and GREAT meals as usual at Mad Dogs--Lamb Chops, Fish and Chips, Mad Dog Salads, Cucumber Salads, and Calamari(which was more breaded this venture for some reason). All paired with some great wines. After dinner, met some friends for a birthday party at Splitsville in Channelside, then a Karaoke party.

Sunday was the grand opening of a new waterfront park in downtown Tampa, and extension of the Riverwalk. After an excellent meal at First Watch...we walked over to Curtis Hixon Park which opened to the public today, very modern, open layout, with a Great lawn for concerts and festivals. It has some very nice modern features, more of a special use park, and front lawn to the new Museum of Art and Children's Museum...there are many water features(fountains, misters), and great lighting effects in the evenings, docking for boats and kayaks along the river. I'm not too happy with what they did with Kiley park area, they removed all the trees and its just open..will be mighty hot in the summers in that area.

And....Looks like it will be the Saints and the Colts in this years Superbowl.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Tampa's Gorilla Theater and a Wing Fest in St. Pete

Friday evening, went to check out the independent theater, Gorilla Theater, and a new play that opened up called "The Drunken City". There are quite a few independent small theaters scattered around the bay area, this one is in Drew park area of Tampa, near Raymond James Stadium. A great small place, about 45 seats in three stadium like tiered rows, not a bad seat in the house. A small bar area, and waiting area are comfortable for very inexpensive beers and wines and organic coffee's. The play was funny, and very well done by the cast.

Saturday, we went over to St. Petersburg's Vinoy Park along the Bay to check out the 1st Annual Wingfest. About a dozen or so restaurants cooked up all kinds of wings for the tasting...there was live music, and it was a nice breezy sunny day along the waterfront. The Sloppy Pelican, which is in St. Pete Beach, got my vote for the tastiest wings.
In the evening, it was a group of us enjoying some live music and good eats at Hula Bay's Dukes on the lower level area...pouring rain and lightning was the background for a fun night, which ended at the Green Iguana South Westshore.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Friday night in St. Pete; Saturday night in Hyde Park

After work Friday, went over to a friends in the old NE neighborhood of St. Pete, we were planning to go downtown for some eats. We wanted to go to Red Mesa Cantina, but getting there around 830pm, there was over an hour wait...looked like a great scene, live music was playing outside in the courtyard, but it was almost 40 degrees out..brrrrr. So we walked a block over to ZGrille. Nice open modern space, with the kitchen in full view behind the bar. We waited less than 5 mins for a table to be cleared, another great looking scene. Friendly service, we started out with Chips with homemade Guac, Queso, and Salsa - the salsa is the pureed kind, I like mine with chunks of fresh tomatoes, this was good though, we also asked for hot salsa, and for .50 they brought a small side of hot salsa(not sure why they wouldn't just give it to you). The Marinated skirt steak and Rib Eye were our main meals, each came with smashed red potatoes, and a vege(fresh green beans, asparagus). The skirt steak was a very small portion with a pureed chimichurri sauce, not as tender as I would have liked, but it was OK. The RibEye was HUGE, very tender and juicy, flavorful, enough for two. We were pleased with the meal, for some reason our dirty plates remained on the table for quite some time. After dinner it was time to light a fire at home, we were expecting sleet in the morning!!

A cold Saturday greeted us, high temps never got over 40 degrees, and we were expecting another freeze in the evening. It was a friends of mine birthday, so about 8 of us went over to Byblos for excellent Mediterranean/Middle Eastern eats. We all met at the bar, where a very friendly bar tender kept us entertained, suggesting wines and cocktails. At 7pm there were only a few people in the place, by 730 it was getting packed. We had a private table in the bar area, called the 'Mosquito Room" because of the mosquito net above our head, a great area and highly recommended for a party of 6 or more. Food and Wines kept coming, Ive always had such great service and some of the best middle eastern foods at Byblos. By 9pm, we had the belly dancer in our area...some Turkish Coffee to wrap up the great evening, and then it was out in Hyde park for the rest of the night, first to Cork on Howard Ave, watching the rest of the Wild Card playoff games, and enjoying great company, then a walk over to Dubliner.

Sunday, being as cold as it was, I made homemade Italian Wedding Soup, wow, what a pain making over a pound and a half of little tiny meatballs from scratch. GOOD STUFF!!

Hopefully we may see the 70s by Saturday, we are on 10 days of temps below 60 in a row.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Happy New Year Tampa - Twenty Ten!!

The New Year is here, and is COLD!! For Florida standards, highs in the 50s with lows in the 30s, this upcoming weekend, we may even see some sleet!?

It was a fun New Years weekend in the Bay area, starting out on Wednesday the 30th, about 30 of us all met up at Hula Bay to see my buddy Rob play some great music, and enjoy each others, service, music...all good times. And the views even better along the water front of Tampa Bay.

New Years Eve, it was me and a few others at my friends house in the St. Pete neighborhood of Old NE. Making homemade pizzas, we had alot of fun, and then around 1130, walked down Coffee Pot Bayou to North Straub Park to watch the downtown St. Pete Fireworks at the strike of midnight to welcome in Twenty Ten!

Friday - New Years Day, was a great day for watching the Bowl games, and made a huge lasagna for some close friends, of course watching the move 'The Hangover'.

Saturday night, a few of us met up for dinner at the new Hamburger Marys in Ybor City's Centro Ybor. A great space, large circular bar area, lively music and videos playing...a very large balcony area along 7th Avenue too. Service was fast and friendly, food even better...large salads, tasty and huge wings. Alot of fun to start off the evening. Then it was on to see a great show at the Ritz Theater in Ybor City. Glactic is an amazing Funk band, entertaining and fun..who knew a trombone could be so entertaining...FUN FUN!!! I will always see this band when they are in town.

Sunday to end the weekend, took a friend to the last Bucs game of the season against the Falcons. We lost our last game, but we braved the cold temps(only got to 49 degrees), and were able to enjoy the second half of the game in the Club section, no better way to keep warm and watch the game then the Club area of Ray Jay Stadium.

HAPPY NEW YEAR!!! GET OUT AND EXPLORE TAMPA BAY!! One of my goals this year is to explore new places to Kayak, Bike, Beach, Dining and Nightlife.