Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Down-home barbecue alternatives

Three fresh takes on summertime get-together recipes.

Posted By on Tue, Jul 22, 2014 at 3:17 PM

Backyard barbecues don't always have to mean chowing on conventional dogs, burgers or potato salad. Consisting of nearly 200 seasonal recipes, Liz Neumark's cookbook Sylvia's Table (Knopf, 2013) gives home chefs and their kids alternative recipes for those tight-knit gatherings made for the patio.

Released by the Sylvia Center of New York, an organization that works with a local farm in its area to give children hands-on experiences with fresh eats, the book is mostly packed with lessons and recipes that Sylvia Center young'uns have learned.

Swap the red meat and fries for these modern food formulas written by Neumark instead.

  • Sylvia’s Table
Roasted Poblano, Red and Yellow Pepper Salad
with Raisins and Basil
Serves 4-6

1 cup dry white wine
2 tablespoons golden raisins
2 poblano peppers
2 red bell peppers
2 yellow bell peppers
2 cups baby arugula
1 large bunch of fresh basil leaves, torn into pieces
2 cloves garlic, minced
Pinch of crushed red pepper flakes, or more to taste
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Bring the wine to a simmer in a small pot, add the raisins, then remove from heat and set the pot aside to let the raisins plump for about 15 minutes.

Char all the peppers, either over an open fire, under your broiler, or directly on the gas flame on your stovetop. After they are charred, place them in a brown paper bag, close it tightly and let the peppers cool. Peel and seed the peppers over a dish to catch any juices; the charred skin comes off easily with a paring knife, but don’t worry if you don’t get every bit. Cut the peppers into 1/4 inch thick strips.

Drain the raisins, and toss them together with the peppers, arugula, basil, garlic and red pepper flakes. Whisk together the oil, vinegar and any accumulated liquid from the charred peppers; pour the dressing over the peppers, toss the salad again and season with kosher salt and pepper to taste. Serve immediately.

Grilled Tamarind Turkey Burgers
  • Sylvia’s Table

Serves 8


2 tablespoons canola oil
1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger
1 teaspoon peeled and minced garlic
1/2 cup tamarind concentrate
1/2 cup honey
2 tablespoons sriracha
1/4 cup water
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice

Cooking spray or vegetable oil
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1 tablespoon peeled and minced fresh ginger
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 jalapeno with seeds, minced
2 teaspoons chopped fresh cilantro
1/2 cup thinly sliced scallions, white and about 1 inch of green parts
2.5 pounds ground turkey, 1/2 white, 1/2 dark meat
hamburger or other rolls


For the glaze, heat the oil in a heavy medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the ginger and garlic and sauté for 2 minutes. Add the tamarind concentrate, honey, sriracha and water and bring it to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer the mixture until it is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon and reduced to about 1 cup, stirring often, about 8 minutes.

Let the glaze cool completely, then mix in the lime juice. Prepare a charcoal fire or gas grill to medium heat or place a grill pan over medium-high heat and coat it with cooking spray or oil. A nonstick or cast-iron pan is also fine for cooking these.

For the burgers, mix together the mayonnaise, ginger, salt, pepper, cumin, jalapeno, cilantro and 4 teaspoons of the glaze in a large bowl, then mix in the scallions. Add the ground turkey and mix it well but loosely with the mayonnaise mixture; do not overwork. Shape the turkey into eight 1/2 inch thick patties (or smaller ones for little people).

Grill the rolls, cut side down, until golden, about 2 minutes; transfer them to a serving platter. Grill the burgers until cooked through and a thermometer inserted into the center registers 160 degrees, about 8 minutes on each side. Brush each burger with the remaining glaze and serve with garnishes, and a spread of your choice for the buns — I like mayonnaise spiked with a drop of two of sriracha.

Eggplant Caponata
  • Sylvia’s Table

Makes about 3 quarts

3/4 cup golden raisins
1 cup olive oil
4-6 medium eggplants washed but not peeled, diced to yield 12 cups
Salt and freshly ground pepper
3 cups diced onions, about 3-4
1 1/3 cups peeled and diced celery
3 tablespoons minced garlic
2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves
1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary leaves
3 sweet yellow bell peppers, roasted, peeled and diced
3 sweet red peppers, roasted, peeled and diced
3/4 cup capers in vinegar, drained and roughly chopped
1 1/4 cups red wine vinegar
1/2 cup sugar
3 cups peeled, seeded and roughly chopped tomatoes
1 cup chopped parsley

Put the raisins in a medium bowl and cover with lukewarm water to soften. Set aside until needed.

Pour enough oil into a sauté pan or skillet to cover the bottom generously and place the pan over medium-high heat. When the oil is hot, add the eggplant and sauté, stirring until tender, adding oil as needed; you may need to do this in batches. Remove the eggplant to a bowl, season to taste with salt and pepper and set it aside to cool.

Pour additional oil into the pan and add the onions, celery and garlic, then the thyme, rosemary, salt and pepper and cook, stirring from time to time until tender.

Add the peppers, capers, vinegar, sugar, and tomatoes; drain the raisins and add. Cook until it is slightly thickened. Adjust the seasoning as necessary with additional vinegar and sugar to achieve a pleasing balance of sweet to acid, and season to taste with salt or pepper.

Let the pepper mixture cool to room temperature, then fold in the eggplant.

Fold in the chopped parsley before serving. Caponata can be served warm, never cold. I think the flavors are at their best at room temperature.

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Monday, July 21, 2014

Learn the art of sushi crafting

Jackson's Bistro hosts series of sushi classes.

Posted By on Mon, Jul 21, 2014 at 4:54 PM

The first sushi lesson at Jackson's is planned for Wednesday. - WIKIMEDIA COMMONS
  • Wikimedia Commons
  • The first sushi lesson at Jackson's is planned for Wednesday.

Jackson's Bistro Bar & Sushi in Tampa will hold $40 classes on how to create sushi at home starting at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday. The restaurant's titled the lessons, Sushi Making 101.

Instructed by Jackson's sushi master chef Emanuel Levya, participants will fashion two rolls (maki) and one nigiri, those little pads of rice covered with fish or other toppings. After the class is over, the newly trained sushi chefs will get to taste what they've made.

Two more 6:30 classes — one on Thursday, July 31, and another on Tuesday, Aug. 5 — are scheduled for the coming weeks, with more to be announced.

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Sunday, July 20, 2014

Ale and the Witch offers $5 beers on Sundays

The tap house's special is limited to summertime.

Posted By on Sun, Jul 20, 2014 at 12:22 PM

The Witch's revolving tap list. - THE ALE AND THE WITCH VIA FACEBOOK
  • The Ale and the Witch via Facebook
  • The Witch's revolving tap list.

Last week, The Ale and the Witch in downtown St. Petersburg started featuring a limited-time $5 special on its beers. The deal runs from 3 p.m. until midnight on Sundays throughout the summer.

The Witch has 32 revolving taps featuring American-made craft brews from Florida to Vermont to Utah, and regularly showcases live music for patrons.

Along with the time and date each brew was tapped, the bar's tap list may be viewed on its website.

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Friday, July 18, 2014

Booze-less brews

Custom coffees and kombucha are on tap around the Bay.

Posted By on Fri, Jul 18, 2014 at 7:05 AM

Nonalcoholic draft beverages are also tapping into growlers. - VIC DONATI
  • Vic Donati
  • Nonalcoholic draft beverages are also tapping into growlers.

The craft beer movement caused eateries to step up their draft selections nationwide, but these suds aren’t the only beverages hitting restaurant taps.

Wine by the keg, draft spirits, cocktails on tap and kegged sake are all part of the handle revolution that gets liquids to drinkers faster.

Alcoholic refreshments, though, can’t control the draft universe forever. According to Technomic, a food service research and consulting firm, tap technology is paving the way for other drinks looking to catch their big breaks.

Along with predictions about draft wine tasting areas in grocery stores and self-serve beer-tap walls at pubs, Technomic cited fruity, chef-crafted soft drinks from soda-water kegs and cold-brewed coffee offered through repurposed beer taps as two big restaurant trends for this year.

Luckily for coffee fiends in Tampa Bay, the latter caught on at Dough along Tampa’s South MacDill Avenue. Its carried a house-made cold-brew coffee on a nitro tap since opening last year, and Commune + Co., an Ybor City-based biz, is behind the bakery-bistro’s latest caffeinated draft.

Serving up pressure-brewed iced coffee to Dough patrons all summer, Commune + Co. sources its coffee from Madcap Coffee in Grand Rapids, Michigan. 

Founder Joel Davis doesn't create his coffee using standard cold-brew methods — he developed his own. He said traditional techniques don't extract the natural sweetness and excitement from coffees the way his does.

“We've found a wonderful way to highlight exceptional coffee,” Davis said.

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Thursday, July 17, 2014

Free tea at McAlister's Deli

"Tea freaks" should flock to the fast-casual chain next week for its annual giveaway.

Posted By on Thu, Jul 17, 2014 at 10:25 AM

Grab a complimentary iced tea from McAlister's Deli on Thursday, July 24, in observance of Free Tea Day.

With no purchase necessary, those looking to score their choice of sweet or unsweetened tea can do so throughout the day.

Are you part of the Tea Freak Nation? - MCALISTER'S DELI VIA INSTAGRAM
  • McAlister's Deli via Instagram
  • Are you part of the Tea Freak Nation?
Diners also have the opportunity to win $25 gift cards, along with a grand prize of $250, during the restaurant's countdown-to-Tea-Day sweepstakes, which is happening through its website.

The tea lovin' following McAlister's has built call themselves "tea freaks," and they have a Facebook fan page with 412, 575 "likes" and counting.

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Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Restaurant review: Trusting in tradition

Clearwater’s Beachcomber proudly offers classic fare.

Posted By on Wed, Jul 16, 2014 at 3:38 PM

Beachcomber's famous Back-To-The-Farm Fried Chicken. - CHIP WEINER
  • Chip Weiner
  • Beachcomber's famous Back-To-The-Farm Fried Chicken.

Imagine if you will the familiar opening of the William Tell Overture. Bump, bada-bump ... The mellifluous tones of the intense narration begins:

“A breaking wave, a cloud of sand, and a hearty ‘Hi Yo Seagull!’ The Beachcomber! ‘Hi Yo Seagull, away!’ With his faithful Seminole companion Osceola, the daring and resourceful restaurateur of the Gulf led the fight for surf & turf and relish trays on the shore. Return with us now to those thrilling days of yesteryear. The Beachcomber rides again!”

When your grandmother comes to visit, this is the place. There’s a sense of time warp, but the patrons are happy — so why change? And what they do, they do well. But I had totally forgotten the concept of the relish tray until one appeared at our table. The server skillfully swings the silver tray into place while the centrifugal force holds the contents in each quadrant: sweet, dark apple butter, large-curd cottage cheese with chives, ground beets with horseradish, and spicy corn niblets with red pepper and the bite of vinegar. And crackers wrapped in cellophane. Lots of crackers wrapped in cellophane. I must admit, however, it is fun.

Yes, return with me now to the thrilling days of yesteryear, indeed. (NOTE: If you’ve gotten this far and you’re totally confused, just Google “Clayton Moore.”)

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Score sushi on Franklin, The Avenue's new menu and more

Munching through the latest in restaurant news.

Posted By on Wed, Jul 16, 2014 at 3:16 PM

Kova chef Chinda Manhnavong creates colorful sushi plates for hungry diners. - KOVA SUSHI VIA FACEBOOK
  • Kova Sushi via Facebook
  • Kova chef Chinda Manhnavong creates colorful sushi plates for hungry diners.

Proprietor Joshua Croy held a soft opening for downtown Tampa’s Kova Sushi at 912 N. Franklin St. on Wednesday, July 2.

The sushi and cocktail hangout’s interior is spacious, with high ceilings and an open dining area that makes for smooth transitioning from the bar to the tables that line its exposed brick walls.

Sushi master chef Chinda Manhnavong, formerly of Vue, crafts colorful offerings, and all of Kova’s sauces are made in-house. There are appetizers, soups, rolls, sushi combos that serve as entrees and more.

Happy hour, which boasts $1 off wine, beer and cocktails, runs from 4 until 7 p.m.

More tastes and twists

St. Petersburg’s The Avenue (330 First Ave. S.) premiered its updated menu to diners at the beginning of the month, and 10 new offerings add to owner Stephen Schrutt’s existing bill of eclectic burger stylings and comfort food.

Schrutt said he and Avenue chef Ryan Kelly worked on the new menu for several months.

A pulled pork sammie dressed in bacon, barbecue sauce, mac ‘n’ cheese and fried egg on Texas toast joined the other six sandwiches, while six more types of burgers — including the Huckleberry with blueberry jam, applewood bacon and brie — rounded off The Avenue’s long list.

New appetizers include thick-cut bacon with bourbon syrup and Guinness chocolate ganache; fried green beans with house-made buttermilk ranch; and boiled peanut hummus.

Diners may chow on the restaurant’s latest additions during lunch, dinner and late-night hours.

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Recipe: Panna Cotta with Balsamic-Marinated Strawberries

You don't need to be a trained pastry chef to pull of this creamy, dreamy dessert.

Posted By on Wed, Jul 16, 2014 at 3:13 PM

This week, let’s shift from savory dishes to sweet and talk about dessert. Since it is the middle of summer, turning on the oven and baking something probably ranks low on your cooking to-do list. Instead, try out the following silky, sweet dessert that can be made with the help of your refrigerator.

Panna cotta is a Northern Italian dessert you’ve probably just seen on fancy restaurant menus. But you don’t need to be a trained pastry chef to pull off this creamy, dreamy dessert. It’s a cinch to prep, then just set it and forget it in the fridge. It’s comprised of cooked cream (or other dairy product), sugar, gelatin and other flavorings. After the gelatin and sugar have dissolved in the warm cream, the mixture is poured into (typically clear) serving dishes or silicone molds and chilled for a few hours to let it firm up and set.

As for the texture of the dish, let me put it this way: If pudding and jello had a baby, it’d be panna cotta — it’s soft and smooth, yet firm and just a wee bit wobbly. Brit TV chef Nigella Lawson described the ideal elasticity of panna cotta when she acted as guest judge on Top Chef: Las Vegas: “...[panna cotta] should quiver like an 17th century courtesan’s inner thigh.”

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Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Drink your veggies: Squeeze Juice Works expands

Squeeze opens second site along South Boulevard in Tampa.

Posted By on Tue, Jul 15, 2014 at 12:52 PM

The St. Pete-bred juice shop expanded to Hyde Park. - SQUEEZE JUICE WORKS VIA FACEBOOK
  • Squeeze Juice Works via Facebook
  • The St. Pete-bred juice shop expanded to Hyde Park.

Tampanians may now enjoy Squeeze Juice Works' organic, cold-pressed juices without leaving their neck of the woods.

Co-owners Kelly Lessem, Amy Losoya and Shawn and Mike Indrigo opened the juice shop's second location in Hyde Park at 7 a.m. on Tuesday. Squeeze is nearly 1 year old.

Offering up signature juices, including its Daily Mean Greens and Lemon Aide, Squeeze's new locale carries grab-and-go eats like raw taco salad, juice cleanses, nut milks, bottled and tapped kombucha, medicinal shots and more.

Availability of fresh, seasonal produce impacts Squeeze's juice offerings, which rotate daily. Each pint contains 4 to 6 pounds of organic fruits and veggies.

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Monday, July 14, 2014

Sunrise Sale beams with deals, breakfast on the cheap

Sleep in and you'll miss discounted food- and drink-related goodies.

Posted By on Mon, Jul 14, 2014 at 5:31 PM

Many Beach Drive merchants will provide early risers with discounts Thursday morning. - JAN LAGERGREN VIA FLICKR
  • Jan Lagergren via Flickr
  • Many Beach Drive merchants will provide early risers with discounts Thursday morning.

Eight St. Petersburg foodie spots will take part in Thursday's 41st annual Sunrise Sale hosted by the Downtown Business Association.

400 Beach Seafood & Tap House, The Birchwood, Cassis Bakery, Kalamazoo Olive Company, Nouvelle Beauty Bar, Paciugo, Sweet Divas Chocolates and Top This Pie (making its debut at the event) are among the more than 45 participating establishments.

Kicking off at 6:43 a.m., businesses downtown, on Beach Drive and along Fourth Street North will offer discounts on their goods until 11. Early risers are able to save up to 75 percent, and more bargains may be acquired if pajamas or beach attire are worn.

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