At the 7th Annuall Pinellas Pepper Fest, the folks from Tahiti Joe's Hot Sauces passed out samples of hot sauce-based Jell-O shots and strawberry margaritas.
Robin Sandell, Tahiti Joe's sister, said their hot sauce-infused drinks give people another way of tasting the goods outside of the usual dipped chip. Their top seller is the Maui Pepper Strawberry Meltdown.
"On the heat level, it's almost at the top. It's excellent on funnel cakes," said Sandell. "There is no mild," she added, grinning.
Held at Pinellas Park's England Brothers Bandshell, the pepper fest gathered hot sauce creators and tasters alike.
Any thirst for spicy and unusual foods could be slaked at Buffalo Bob's Big Game Meat Snacks. Ron Freyer, the man behind the tent at Buffalo Bob's, noted that festival goers seemed to favor their spicy alligator jerky.
"It's a spicy fest, you know," said Freyer.
Along with vendors, the pepper festival also played host to two competitions including an amateur hot sauce competition and pepper eating contest. But less than an hour before the contest began, only five people dared to sign up to challenge their palate.
"I have five (people signed up), and the target is 12," said contest sponsor Debbie Brown. Luckily, by 2 p.m. when the pepper eating was slated to begin, all 12 spots were taken.
Contestants had three minutes to eat as many jalapeno peppers as possible. Then they had to keep them down for five minutes without vomiting. Anyone who puked during the five minutes had to start the entire process over again.
Joanie Corneil and Bill Shumate, owners of Square 1 Burgers, are both from Oklahoma. This weekend, Corneil and Shumate are raising money for not one, but two great causes.
For families and victims of the recent Oklahoma tornado, $1 will be donated for every Okie Dog or double-dipped onion rings order. The fundraiser runs from Friday, May 24 to Monday, May 27, and proceeds go to the Red Cross for Oklahoma Disaster Relief Fund.
Sidebern's Executive Chef Chad Johnson strode into the dining room with a full Berkshire pig (from the nearby Summerfield's Pasture Prime) draped over his shoulder. Everyone at last week's Knob Creek Big Flavor Dinner dropped their Manhattans and gathered around a demonstration table. And with three knives, and seemingly little effort, Johnson showed the room "how to butcher a pig."
He showed us what parts of the pig most Americans will eat, and then showed us how much of the pig is leftover, which is a lot. Johnson is a chef unafraid of American's texture-frigid palates and he uses almost every part of the pig to his culinary pleasure.
The entire menu was suited to follow the grand entrance, every course laden with little piggie goodness.
We began with lard poached prawns with crispy trotters (fried pig's feet in lieu of croutons), fava beans, and egg vinaigrette.
There's a food revolution afoot in the Tampa Bay area, and the folks involved want to see the demise of processed preservatives, and the rise of locally grown produce and whole foods. Ybor City's Roosevelt 2.0 is one of the base camps for these pro-active people and next weekend they are hosting an event that gives you the chance to enjoy fresh, local and delicious produce (plus some wine, beer, music and other nifty things).
That's problematic for the blossoming brewing industry in the Sunshine State. A standard growler holds 64 ounces of beer or about four glasses of beer, a 32 ounce growler is about two beers, and a gallon growler is about eight beers.
Joey Redner, CEO and founder of Cigar City Brewing, said people on vacation (otherwise known as beer tourists) bring their 64 ounce growlers from home, and Cigar City must refuse to fill them.
"Some people think we were just trying to sell them a new 32 ounce growler," Redner said during our interview last month. "But then we have to explain that it's actually illegal for us to fill that size."
Senate Bill 1344, which was proposed by Pinellas Republican Sen. Jack Latvala, passed in the Senate Regulations Committee. The bill would legalize the standard growler size in Florida. Similar legislation in the House of Representatives, HB 715, had its first reading at the beginning of March.
The 2013 Florida Strawberry Festival began Thursday and runs for 11 days. The event takes place in Plant City, the winter strawberry capital of the world according to the city's website. The Florida Strawberries Growers Association says the sweet fruit is available from December through April every year and is grown on approximately 8000 acres around Florida.
Whether you call them flapjacks, hot cakes, or short stacks, it's hard not to love pancakes. And free pancakes? Well, those taste even better.
Today (Feb. 5), get a a free short stack of pancakes from the International House of Pancakes from 7 a.m.-10 p.m.
In lieu of pancake payment, consider leaving a donation. Monies collected today will go to the Children's Miracle Network Hospitals and other local charities. This year, IHOP is trying to raise $3 million. Free pancakes and a good cause? This is a no brainer.
Dine with the CL Food Staff
Ever wonder how a restaurant critic goes about assessing what's on his plate? Find out first-hand when you and a friend accompany CL's Jon Palmer Claridge for a review meal at a restaurant to be announced.
CL Assistant Editor Arielle Stevenson oversees food coverage for the paper. For her column, "The Last Bite," she forages Tampa Bay to find little-known culinary enclaves and brings back tasty things to cook and share. If you win this auction item, you'll get to go along for the shopping, the cooking and, best of all, the tasting. (PS: You'll also get a prize at the end: a Reeds gift basket full of goodies like crystallized ginger candies and beverages from their line of sodas and sparkling fruit juices.)
A week ahead of Thanksgiving, there are lots of food and drink events out in the Tampa Bay area, many benefiting local charities too. Be sure to get out to some of the great things happening in our community.
MONDAY, NOVEMBER 12:
FOOD FOR THE SOUL, A FARM TO FORK EVENT
Ella's Folk Art Cafe hosts a meal made from locally sourced ingredients! Contributing farmers include: permaculturalist Willow LaMonte, Nate and Charlie of Gnarly Farms (Seminole Heights), and Kevin from Glory Road Farms. Proceeds from the dinner and post-meal drinks benefit the Green Springs market and delivery service and Community Stepping Stones, both helping the Sulphur Springs neighborhood. $60, 5:30 p.m., 5119 N. Nebraska Ave., Tampa, 813-234-1000.
WEDNESDAY, NOVEMBER 14:
HOME FOR THE HOLIDAYS
Catch a preview of Whole Foods' Thanksgiving menu, paired with holiday wines. From bread, to pie, to spicy sage stuffing, Whole Foods is a one-stop-show for Thanksgiving. The tasting will be held throughout the store. FREE. 6-8 p.m. 1548 N. Dale Mabry, Tampa, 813-874-9435.
ACOUSTIC BARBECUE SERIES
New World Brewery and Thx Mgmt's Wednesday night acoustic music and BBQ series, features Chris Otepka (Heligoats and Troubled Hubble) this week. Grab a plate of Bird's famous $5 chicken plates and take in some free live music. FREE. 7-9 p.m. 1313 E. Eighth Ave., Tampa, 813-248-4969.
THREE PALMS KEEP THE PINT NIGHT Three Palms Brewing presents a keep the pint glass night on site at the brewery. For $10, you'll get two tickets good for two pints of Three Palms beer and keep your logo pint glass. $10. 6-9 p.m. 1509 Hobbs St., Tampa, 888-813-4856.
As Floridians, hurricanes are routine. We are conditioned to it, the pace of preparation every year like clockwork. But as one New Yorker wrote me this morning, "Yes, you guys have hurricanes down there unfortunately. NYC does not, sadly."
So here are some ways people in the area are helping or can help.