Friday, February 27, 2015

Drinking Issue 2015: Try these at home

DIY books for drink-makers to pour over.

Posted By and on Fri, Feb 27, 2015 at 6:54 AM

  • Adams Media
There’s not much that’s new in Jackson Meyer’s splendid volume, The Book of Wine: An Introduction to Choosing, Serving & Drinking the Best Wines (around $16 on Amazon), but it’s organized in such a pithy and accessible way that mountains of information are at your fingertips. “Wine 101,” his opening section, takes you through a brief history of the drink, then follows with a broad overview on wine types from sparkling to port, complete with suggested producers listed by price. He then finishes with a concise summary of what goes into generating the beloved beverage.

In part two, “The Wine Universe,” he breaks down the major grapes with an astute rundown of the main growing regions, aromas and flavors, acidity, tannin, body and major mixing partners (i.e. which grapes may end up in the same bottle). This is followed by suggested food pairings and his preferred producers. It’s a quick and easy way to grasp a complex subject. Once he’s covered all the big grape varietals, he summarizes wine regions and gives you handy ways to link grapes to specific geographical locales. There are also practical graphics that present information you’ll find on wine labels, which allows you to connect the type of wine to the region to the grape variety.

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Thursday, February 26, 2015

Della's After Dark limits restaurant to private events

When chef Debbie Frangipane ends her time at After Dark, private events will only be offered.

Posted By on Thu, Feb 26, 2015 at 4:31 PM

An After Dark flatbread with prosciutto and arugula. - CHIP WEINER
  • Chip Weiner
  • An After Dark flatbread with prosciutto and arugula.

Beginning Sunday, March 8, Della's After Dark, a fine dining and live jazz destination in Brandon, will only be open for private events.

Owner Beverly DellaGrotta doesn't want to operate the nighttime eatery without "someone with the same passion and artistry" as chef Debbie Frangipane, who decided to end her time there, according to an announcement on the restaurant's Facebook page.

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Drinking Issue 2015: Cocktails — you call the shots

Dos and don'ts from a bartending maestro.

Posted By on Thu, Feb 26, 2015 at 4:07 AM

MIX MASTER: Like good food, fine drinks call for balance, according to Ciani. - CHIP WEINER
  • chip weiner
  • MIX MASTER: Like good food, fine drinks call for balance, according to Ciani.

Gin, rum, some wine, vodka and tons of whiskey.

That’s what longtime cocktail-slinger Johnny Ciani (he hates the word mixology) stores in his drink-making lair. And when he shares his whiskey collection — better known as the “hey, let’s sip on something crazy” stash — guests know he really, really likes them.

“Those are the babies over there,” Ciani says, referring to the whiskies.

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Drinking Issue 2015: Beer — kit and ca-brew-dle

With the right equipment and support, handmade beer is within reach.

Posted By on Thu, Feb 26, 2015 at 4:05 AM

Master beer judge and homebrewer Jeff Gladish. - CHIP WEINER
  • chip weiner
  • Master beer judge and homebrewer Jeff Gladish.

When it comes to making beer at home, there are nearly as many types of brewers as there are kinds of beer. There’s the occasional dabbler. There’s the dedicated hobbyist. There’s the serial competitor. There are even those who have transcended the title of brewer, like Tampa’s Jeff Gladish. In addition to being a multiple award-winning beermaker with more than two decades’ experience crafting his brews, Gladish is also a Beer Judge Certification Program (BJCP) Master Judge whose knowledge, experience and palate can make or break a competition entry.

“I tend to get into hobbies to the extreme,” he says.

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Drinking Issue 2015: Go cold-pressed crazy

You know you want to.

Posted By on Thu, Feb 26, 2015 at 4:04 AM

JUICING MACHINE: Gush co-founder Kristen Thomas says she tries to make magic with her juice. - KEVIN TIGHE
  • Kevin Tighe
  • JUICING MACHINE: Gush co-founder Kristen Thomas says she tries to make magic with her juice.

With refrigerator shelves regularly replenished throughout the day with colorful bottles of enticingly named elixirs like Green Goddess and Afternoon Delight, local juiceries’ cold-pressed offerings have become a go-to pick-me-up for those seeking healthful benefits, an alternative to cola and more.

And for some Bay area juice bars, their cold-press operations evolved from home.

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Drinking Issue 2015: Kava — embrace the communal root

Making kava at home is time-consuming, but worth it.

Posted By on Thu, Feb 26, 2015 at 4:03 AM

Bula Kafe's Kenn Hoyumpa mixes up a batch. - KEVIN TIGHE
  • Kevin Tighe
  • Bula Kafe's Kenn Hoyumpa mixes up a batch.

Nearly every day, folks will find Kenn Hoyumpa behind the bar at Bula Kafe in St. Pete’s Kenwood neighborhood, serving coconut shells full of a brown, murky liquid. That’s kava, a mild sedative derived from a Polynesian root. In traditional Pacific cultures, kava is often part of formal social and religious ceremonies. Now kava’s part of a growing U.S. bar culture — and it started right here in Florida.

Hoyumpa was one of the original employees of the first kava bar in North America, Nakava in Boca Raton. He moved to Tampa and opened Bula five years ago, and he and the team just opened a second Bula location in Madeira Beach. Hoyumpa estimates there are now about 20 kava bars across the state, and more are opening throughout the country at a slow but steady clip.

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Drinking Issue 2015: Your booch! It's alive!

Dive into cultural studies 101.

Posted By on Thu, Feb 26, 2015 at 4:01 AM

  • Kevin Tighe

Kombucha is an often-pungent type of fermented tea, of apocryphal East Asian origins, touted as something of a miracle cure among health nuts for more than a century. Kombucha is the strange jar of cloudy-orange liquid sitting on top of your eccentric family member’s fridge, the sun streaming through string-like tentacles dangling from a fleshy white disk. Kombucha is mysterious. And weird. And disgusting.

But the first time you take a sip of Mother Kombucha, that’s all forgotten. The St. Pete-based brewer, launched in early 2014, makes beverages with the complexity and subtlety of a wine or beer, but as bright and refreshing as a soda.

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Drinking Issue 2015: Step up your vino game

It's time to ditch the boxed wine for an at-home wine cellar.

Posted By on Thu, Feb 26, 2015 at 4:00 AM

  • Kevin Tighe

You need a wine cellar. It doesn’t have to be fancy, and the wine needn’t be expensive. However, there’s a certain joy in knowing the right wine for a particular meal is at your fingertips. I know wine can be intimidating, but that’s true for many realms of the unknown. Everything you sample and everything you learn adds to your enjoyment. You gain a greater understanding of your palate, and the diversity that the wine world offers, with the more you taste. So let’s begin.

It’s useful to develop a relationship with a particular wine shop, a spot that does regular tastings and offers advice. That said, I’m building this column around wine that’s readily available at Costco. The prices are good, and the selection is an adequate place to begin until you get hooked. When that happens, you’ll probably want to seek out specific producers and vintages, and, perhaps, stretch your budget for a special bottle. But in the meantime, we’ll focus on keeping it simple and affordable with most wines $20 or less. My strong recommendation is to up your game from boxed or bulk wine, and even from bottles under $10. Making that jump to an extra $5 per bottle is actually a quantum leap in wine quality. And as you’ll see, many of these recommendations are quite wallet-friendly.

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Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Drinking Issue 2015: Tampa Bay Beer Week highlights

Whether you're into sipping at festivals, bottle releases or food-pairing affairs, Beer Week's got it all.

Posted By on Wed, Feb 25, 2015 at 5:43 PM

St. Pete's 3 Daughters Brewing is one of Beer Week's many participants. - JAMES OSTRAND
  • James Ostrand
  • St. Pete's 3 Daughters Brewing is one of Beer Week's many participants.

Tampa Bay Beer Week, hosted from March 7 to 15, will showcase the region’s locally brewed nectar through a stellar lineup of events for the fourth year in a row. If you’re not sure where to hang (the lengthy event list can get intimidating), here are our suggestions for what not to miss. For the full schedule, visit

Friday, March 6

St. Pete Beach Beer Fest.
With a waterside view, score 50 types of beer from local and national craft breweries at the St. Pete Beach Recreation Center. Eats, T-shirts, prizes and cigar rolling will also be showcased. You get a commemorative tasting cup and free valet parking with a ticket purchase. $30-$35. 6-10 p.m. 7701 Boca Ciega Drive, St. Pete Bach, 727-560-1088,

Official Beer Week Kick-off: Pinellas. An array of brews from Beer Week sponsors, including the week's signature Double IPA by Cigar City Brewing. The Applebutter Express will provide the tunes at 8 p.m. Money for beer. 7 p.m. 1584 Central Ave., St. Petersburg, 727-895-5900,

Official Beer Week Kick-off: Hillsborough. Florida brews will take over the Pour House to celebrate the start of Beer Week. Money for beer. 8 p.m.-2 a.m. 1208 E. Kennedy Blvd. #112, Tampa, 813-402-2923,

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Tampa restos introduce limited-time items, new menus

Dishes like strawberry-inflected ravioli and gator spring rolls set to appear on Tampa eatery lineups.

Posted By on Wed, Feb 25, 2015 at 1:48 PM

Pelagia's Chipotle strawberry-glazed pork tenderloin over polenta. - MEAGHAN HABUDA
  • Meaghan Habuda
  • Pelagia's Chipotle strawberry-glazed pork tenderloin over polenta.
Last week, four Tampa restaurants revealed a handful of new menu additions, as well as some that can only stick around for a limited time. Diners may snag a taste of the offerings as early as, well, now.

First up is The Refinery. Executive chef Greg Baker kicked off the Seminole Heights restaurant's lunch service Monday, showcasing small plates, salads, a daily fish selection, burgers and more. The items are offered 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday through Friday.

Sandwiches — including steak (kimchi, squash butter, American cheese) and veggie (smoked eggplant, peanut hummus, watercress) renditions — change monthly, while desserts rotate weekly.

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