Tuesday, February 23, 2010

A day in Sarasota

Saturday we went down to Sarasota, about an hour south of Tampa. Met a friend and had some lunch at the Anna Maria Oyster Bar in Bradenton, then went to the Mote Marine Aquarium, which grew in size since the last time I was there....they had a large bird sancutary set up across from the aquarium, and a short walk was the Dolphin, Manatee and Sea Turtle exhibits. After that a short drive to Siesta Key where we walked around the beaches and the Village area, and by evening it was time to meet up with about 10 others for dinner at Tommy Bahamas at St Armands Circle. A great little getaway for the day!

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Valentines Weekend in Tampa

Saturday, although temps were chilly, we went and took a nice drive up Gulf Blvd from Madeira Beach to Clearwater beach, passing by lots of Mom and Pop motels, tourist traps, unique beach bars and shops. On Clearwater beach we stopped at Frenchy's Rockaway Grill, right on the beach. Parking in Frenchy's own parking lot, only holds about 10 cars just beside the restaurant, we were immediately seated, but it was very busy, with a live band playing. Perfect views of the Gulf...we started with the She Crab soup....large chunks of crab in a thick and flavorful soup...munched on Onion Straws, one order is enough for 4, until our regular Grouper Sandwich's came, one grilled the other Cajun style. This place still lives up to its reputation for excellent Grouper Sandwich's...and its a fun place with great views.

Sunday we took the Kayaks out at Picnic Island, it was only in the lo 60s but the sun was shining, and made it a perfect day for Kayaking...we explored a new island near the AirForce Base, lots of wildlife and birds, the water was calm and clear today...no dolphin sitings on this trip though.

Monday after checking out the Academy Award nominee "Crazy Heart" movie, we went over to Hyde Park/SOHO area to enjoy a dining spot I haven't been to in a while, Ciccio's and Tony's. Place was jumping with pretty Hyde park people, the Olympics were playing at the bar area...lively place, LARGE menu they share with the Water sushi place next door. Lettuce Wraps have always been my fav here, so I got the Natural Chicken, and HUGE sliced all natural chicken breast, with plenty of toppings and tasty sauces to make your own wraps. We also tried one of the Stir Fry bowls you can create...very good!

Friday, February 12, 2010

Black Eyed Peas and Hockey - downtown Tampa weekdays

Wednesday eve we went to a long awaited show...the Black Eyed Peas were playing at the Forum downtown Tampa. Parking at the Embassy Suites hotel across the street was convenient, we walked over to Hot Tuna across from the Forum where the DJ was spinning all BEP, and was very crazy busy..so we then walked next door to The Hut...again a very busy crowd inside, we hung outside by the bar, and they also had a DJ, but not as entertaining as Hot Tuna. By 8pm, we entered into the Forum, with Club Seat tickets...the show was AWESOME...very entertaining. After the show we were not ready to head home with all the energy from the show, so we walked a few blocks up to the Hub, and cabbing it back home to end the evening at the Green Iguana south westshore...a great Wednesday night.

Thursday the Boston Bruins were in town, so we all went to the Lightning Game...prior to the game we stopped by Malio's for their great Happy Hour Menu...HUGE Ginormous juicy cheeseburgers, some of the best flavor and fresh baked soft onion rolls; Shrimp Theresa in a garlic lemon butter sauce; Mozzarella planks - cheesy and lightly fried; tower of Onion rings - again lightly fried and large portion...each item only $5 each!! We were pleasantly surprised how much food and how great it was...definitely will be back for the Happy Hour menu again. The game was slow go for the Lightning in the first period, but an exciting third period with lots of action, but could not get one last goal to tie it up, and we lost 5-4.


Monday, February 8, 2010

Tampa with Hockey, John Mayer and Pirates!

Another great long weekend started Thursday evening when the Tampa Bay Lightning took on the NY Islanders at the Forum in downtown Tampa. I used to watch and follow the Islanders as a kid, my dad would take me and my brothers to the Nassau Coliseum for games growing up in Long Island. Being in Tampa for about 22 years, I was going for the Lightning tonight, and although a sloppy game, Lightning won 5-2.

Friday was a concert night downtown Tampa. We started at Cafe Dufrain, got a nice table outside overlooking downtown and the Forum along the Channel. Food is consistently GREAT here, started with Lamb Ribs(kind of small, and a little over cooked) and Calamari, cooked perfectly with a great lightly spiced oil. Then we enjoyed Sea Scallops entree, and Ahi Tuna. PERFECT. A short walk across the harbour island bridge to the Forum after dinner was perfect(parking at harbour Island is free in the garage if you dine or use one of the services). John Mayer was awesome, played lots of new and old, talked alot with the crowd of nearly 12000. A walk back to harbour island after the concert, we stopped by the Convention Center along the Riverwalk where the Jose Gaspar ship has been docked all week after taking over the city last Saturday.
And Saturday night was the Night Parade for Gasparilla, the 3rd and final parade for Gasparilla. We got to Ybor City early to visit to partake in the Ybor ART walk which occurs every first Saturday of the month from noon to 6pm, only to find out that may of the studios and galleries were closed, because of the parade this evening. We got to the Laughing Cat for the BEST Italian dinner, and were joined by some other friends....filling up on some of the best Italian food in all of Tampa area..Sea Bass Special, Seafood AuGratin, Eggplant Parmasean, Eggplant Rotini, and some soups....all very very good. By then it was time to hit 7th Avenue for the Parade, and what I like about the night parade is it is more 'intimate'...the floats are closer, the people are not as packed, you can get right up to the front, and get the most beads ever. the 2.5 hour parade was FUN..meeting friends from the Krewes at Gaspars Grotto afterwards, and then late night Pizza and NY NY Pizza.

Im looking forward to the Black Eyed Peas this Wednesday!


Tuesday, February 2, 2010

2010 Gasparilla Weekend! The Invasion and Parade

Friday afternoon started off great, some lunch outdoors along the waterfront at Hula Bay, some Vino in the backyard patio with great friends, and then over to Hyde Park for the Pre-Gaspar festivities. Mateo's new Mexican place was packed, we ended up Valet parking at The Lodge on Howard Ave, and walked around Howard Ave which was hopping by 700pm. We walked over to The Rack on Platt Street for some good eats, have dinner outside, we enjoyed the Lobster/Spinach Dip, with large/soft triangle bread for dipping, then onto the Crunchy Grouper Tacos - Large fried pieces of Grouper in 3 soft flour tortillas, with all the accompaniments, and fries...they were good. And also some Bison Sliders with Cheese/Fries, very juicy and cooked perfectly. It was a great place to start the night.
Then it was a walk across the street to Hyde Park Cafe, where they started a new Friday Night special called "Flip Flop Fridays", and now have a Huge Biergarten with over 60 beers from all over the globe on Tap...also serving Piranellis thin crust pizzas and free wings. The beers are only $10 for a mug and all you can drink from 8-10pm, with a DJ outside in the Biergarten spinning classic dance/alternative tunes from the 80s/90s. It was a fun crowd. Couldn't stay too late, a big day was ahead for Gasparilla.

Saturday morning was very cloudy, breakfast was at a buddies house in Tampa Heights, then we took the #1 Bus (about a dozen of us), to downtown Tampa, first stop was The Hub...it started raining, but by 4pm the parade had reached downtown and we walked over to Taps in Skypoint...some of us watched the parade from Taps outside under the shelter of a tent set up out front, others braved the rain and wind(it stopped raining by 5pm) with Ponchos on and watched the parade up front, catching beads, meeting lots of folks along the parade route. To end the evening, it was an excellent concert by Collective Soul on the Great lawn of the new Curtis Hixon Riverfront Park.

An excellent Saturday night!! And successful Gasparilla Weekend!