Monday, September 29, 2014

Tasty fall coffees sans pumpkin spice

Go beyond the pumpkin-spiced lattes when searching for a cuppa joe this season.

Posted By on Mon, Sep 29, 2014 at 9:48 AM

Dunkin' Donuts' Pumpkin Crème Brulee Iced Latte. - MEAGHAN HABUDA
  • Meaghan Habuda
  • Dunkin' Donuts' Pumpkin Crème Brulee Iced Latte.

It's National Coffee Day. And although some autumn-lovin' caffeine enthusiasts may object, cozy coffee concoctions crafted without pumpkin spice are out there. Neglected flavors like maple, cinnamon, almond and caramel have the ability to induce soul-warming falltime nirvana, too.

Whether you like yours hot or over ice, here's five of our favorite java drinks for fall. What's your go-to?

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Friday, September 26, 2014

Old Northeast Tavern hosts Oktoberfest-esque beer fest

The Beer Fest neighborhood party at St. Pete's Old Northeast Tavern will bring German-inflected fun.

Posted By on Fri, Sep 26, 2014 at 8:50 PM

Don't miss Old Northeast Tavern's neighborhood bash Saturday. - OLD NORTHEAST TAVERN
  • Old Northeast Tavern
  • Don't miss Old Northeast Tavern's neighborhood bash Saturday.

Looking for a festive weekend celebration? Come welcome the arrival of fall in St. Petersburg, at Old Northeast Tavern’s annual Oktoberfest-inspired block party — Beer Fest — this Saturday, from 2 to 7 p.m.

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Drink More Wine: Of wood and wine

Barrel-aging can produce a variety of results.

Posted By on Fri, Sep 26, 2014 at 8:14 AM

OVER A BARREL: Oak flavors in wine can run from subtle to overpowering. - WIKIMEDIA COMMONS
  • Wikimedia Commons
  • OVER A BARREL: Oak flavors in wine can run from subtle to overpowering.

It’s been said that oak in wine is like catnip for humans. And there is something positively alluring about the butteriness that time in a toasted barrel imparts. However, some winemakers hide behind barrel-aging, and distinct varietal fruit flavors (which is what wine is really about) are masked. No one, after all, wants to drink a glass of wood.

And it seems that lower-priced California chardonnays, in particular, tend to be the culprits. They may be fine for everyday sipping to unwind after work, but they’re notoriously bad when it comes to pairing. Unless you’ve got a rich, buttery cream sauce, the oak buries the fruit and the wine tastes harsh and flat with food. Good cooks, however, understand how bridge ingredients help pull a dish toward those flavors that make the match compatible; think caramelization, brown butter, sesame oil or toasted nuts.

The wood barrel, in addition, is a source of tannin (which also comes from juice-stem contact during fermentation). It’s a natural preservative and one of the components that gives wine, particularly reds, longevity.

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Thursday, September 25, 2014

Covert cuisine: Tales from the first Illumineati dinner

Illumineati's first mystery meal brought nine courses, what felt like endless wine and more.

Posted By on Thu, Sep 25, 2014 at 4:07 PM

Reuben Pressman and Jimmy Breen, two of Illumineati's co-founders, said a communal table keeps the meals intimate. - MEAGHAN HABUDA
  • Meaghan Habuda
  • Reuben Pressman and Jimmy Breen, two of Illumineati's co-founders, said a communal table keeps the meals intimate.

Underground dinners. The secret happenings are nothing new to culinary scenes worldwide. However, I was invited to dine with Illumineati, the area’s latest invite-only dinner club, last Sunday at its inaugural hush-hush meal.

The gathering’s location, my dining comrades and the cuisine (aside from knowing it’d be nine courses, and who the chef was on accident, thanks to a slip-up during my first chat with club co-founders Reuben Pressman and Jimmy Breen) were unknown. Here’s how it went down …

Before I entered the dinner’s venue — a club member’s home in St. Petersburg — around 6:30 p.m., bartender Chris Marsicano welcomed me behind a bar setup outside. Illumineati’s pre-nosh cocktail hour was underway.

A member of the Tampa Bay Bartenders Guild and Red Dwarf Hospitality Management’s founder, Marsicano showcased a beverage called One For Tucker using Angel’s Envy Bourbon, orange-blossom honey water, lemon juice, lavender and Angostura bitters. Johnny Ciani, the club's third co-founder, created the drink to honor a friend who passed away.

Bourbon? I thought. I’m in.

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Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Foodies rally: More mobile eats in store for St. Pete

Downtown St. Pete will get two new food truck events.

Posted By on Wed, Sep 24, 2014 at 3:07 PM

Loflin’s Maggie on the Move food truck parked in front of the Dali Museum. - MEAGHAN HABUDA
  • Meaghan Habuda
  • Loflin’s Maggie on the Move food truck parked in front of the Dali Museum.

The Gulf to Bay Food Truck Association plans to host a series of rallies in downtown St. Pete that may spark a larger mobile kitchen following throughout the city.

Showcasing tacos, tater tots, popsicles and other eats, a 10-truck rally will happen Friday, Oct. 17, at the St. Petersburg Pier. It will continue each third Friday of the month, according to Maggie Loflin, the association’s vice president.

Another rally, expected to take place at Williams Park during lunchtime every first and third Wednesday, will rotate five food trucks regularly. The event’s still in development, with no launch date set. But Loflin said she wants it to debut as soon as possible.

Loflin, who dishes Mediterranean fusion from her Maggie on the Move truck, said she’s discussed food trucks with the city, everything from zoning regulations to rallies, for more than two years.

Though Loflin and others park outside USF St. Petersburg Wednesday afternoons and All Children’s Hospital every fourth Friday, she said it wasn’t until recently that city officials warmed up to restaurants-on-wheels operating in the downtown core, under certain conditions. The city’s co-sponsoring both upcoming rallies.

“It’s taken a very long time,” Loflin said. “Nobody seemed really excited about it.”

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Restaurant review: Annata has the mark of Mazzaro's

Beach Drive's Annata is heaven for charcuterie lovers.

Posted By on Wed, Sep 24, 2014 at 2:48 PM

***1/2
HOLY SMOKED: Annata lets you select your own charcuterie meats and cheeses. - JAMES OSTRAND
  • James Ostrand
  • HOLY SMOKED: Annata lets you select your own charcuterie meats and cheeses.

It’s no surprise that St. Pete’s Beach Drive was voted “Best Restaurant Row” by readers in last week’s Best of the Bay 2014 issue. The thoroughfare, which stretches south from the Vinoy, is near the water, handsomely designed and always vibrating with activity. From a purely culinary perspective, however, I’ve found its restaurants to be inconsistent and, therefore, disappointing. So I enter Annata, a wine bar offshoot of the iconic Mazzaro’s Italian Market, with my expectations firmly in check.

Inside, however, is a sight that quickens my pulse: A huge prosciutto di Parma affixed to a slicer to shave off the thinnest amuse bouche. Your server offers these meaty tidbits of dry-cured pork heaven wrapped around breadsticks “planted” in a box of green sprouts reminiscent of the perfect lawn.

It’s a serendipitous way to begin as you peruse the 70 wine selections (33 by the glass). They run the gamut, and are presented by grape varietal in order of weight, with pithy descriptors to aid in selecting a stem (or two) to fit your every desire. There’s lovely Cakebread chardonnay, under-appreciated Halter Ranch rosé from Pasa Robles with the look and aroma of wild strawberries, and a special 40th Anniversary California cabernet bottling from the renowned Caymus Vineyards that’s worth the $18 a glass. I have a smashing, food-friendly Belle Glos single vineyard pinot noir from the Russian River Valley.

Since Mazzaro’s Kurt Cuccaro wisely plans to rotate the wines on a regular basis, I certainly hope Annata considers offering some wine flights so you can compare and contrast. I am happy to see somewhat affordable half-bottles of Piper-Heidsieck brut ($30), since real Champagne is always a good match for such an eclectic menu.

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Eat & do good: Perkins flips free 'cakes for a cause

Perkins' Give Kids The World Pancake Day will help a nonprofit and feed diners free short stacks.

Posted By on Wed, Sep 24, 2014 at 12:37 AM

Perkins will celebrate its Give Kids The World Pancake Day Thursday. - PERKINS RESTAURANT & BAKERY VIA FACEBOOK
  • Perkins Restaurant & Bakery via Facebook
  • Perkins will celebrate its Give Kids The World Pancake Day Thursday.
On Thursday, Perkins Restaurant & Bakery locations will serve free short stacks of pancakes to diners.

Perkins, which has more than five sites in the area, is featuring the deal in honor of its Give Kids The World Pancake Day.

"It's our way of freeing you up to donate to Give Kids The World Village," said an email sent out by the franchise.

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Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Tequila cocktails fit for autumn revelry

Mix up your next go-to fall drink using these tequila-infused cocktail recipes.

Posted By on Tue, Sep 23, 2014 at 7:58 PM

So, um, it's only Tuesday. But Red Mesa Cantina's Big South Tequila Festival last weekend, which this reporter was fortunate enough to participate in as a Distiller Throw-Down judge, prepped us for more tequila sipping.

In a news release, Partida Tequila bartender ambassador Jacques Bezuidenhout said fall is one of his favorite cocktail seasons.

"Flavors like apple, pear, cider and baking spice blend so nicely with aged spirits like anejo tequila, whisky and cognac," he said.

Bezuidenhout shared a tequila cocktail recipe he crafted with CL. The formula calls for hard cider and Partida Blanco, the brand's unaged liquid. A second recipe comes from bartender Mike Ryan of Chicago's Sable Kitchen & Bar, who integrated agave nectar and a six-month-aged offering from Partida into his drink.

Salud!

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Monday, September 22, 2014

Second Cali Tacos celebrates debut, serves up freebies

Tampa gained a new San Diego-style California Tacos To Go along Dale Mabry.

Posted By on Mon, Sep 22, 2014 at 4:10 PM

The new California Tacos To Go is housed in the former Pita's Republic space on South Dale Mabry Highway. - CALIFORNIA TACOS VIA FACEBOOK
  • California Tacos via Facebook
  • The new California Tacos To Go is housed in the former Pita's Republic space on South Dale Mabry Highway.

California Tacos To Go's latest surfer-style eatery is hosting its grand opening Monday in South Tampa at 808 S. Dale Mabry Highway, and diners should flock there stat.

The second Mexican joint under the Cali Tacos moniker is larger than its older sibling. However, the new site prepares the same West Coast-inspired tacos its following has salivated over since 2009.

Diners have a chance to win free tacos for a year if they stop by before 6 p.m. during the restaurant's grand opening. Other giveaways, including T-shirts and complimentary food cards, are also up for grabs.

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Saturday, September 20, 2014

Festival del Sabor: Clash of the arroz con pollo

Amateur chefs set to show off chicken and rice stylings at the annual Festival del Sabor.

Posted By on Sat, Sep 20, 2014 at 6:35 AM

The region's finest arroz con pollo crafters will be recognized at the Festival del Sabor during the Ybor City Saturday Market. - ANDY HUSE
  • Andy Huse
  • The region's finest arroz con pollo crafters will be recognized at the Festival del Sabor during the Ybor City Saturday Market.

Another lineup of around a dozen amateur chefs will compete in the annual Festival del Sabor's culinary showdown at Centennial Park Saturday.

Their challenge? To fix the best arroz con pollo a panel of judges has ever tasted.

As Tampa Hispanic Heritage Inc.'s kick-off celebration to National Hispanic Heritage Month, Festival del Sabor, which is in its ninth year, will feature Hispanic-inflected art and music alongside the grub. The event runs from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., and is free to the public.

Prizes will be awarded to competitors who take home the Best Recipe or Most Creative Recipe titles for their chicken with rice dishes.

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