CL Food Issue 2014

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

The Food Issue: Staff tastes too

Not to be left out, CL’s amateur eaters list the dishes they can’t forget.

Posted By on Wed, Jun 11, 2014 at 8:58 PM

  • James Ostrand

Why should the restaurant critic have all the fun? Here are 13 dishes that haunt the rest of us here at CL — meals we will eat whenever we get the chance, recommend if we ever get asked, and miss terribly if they (or we) ever go away.

What about you? What are your most memorable meals? Tell us at

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The Food Issue: The CL stars guide

Jon Palmer Claridge’s best-reviewed restaurants from 2012-2014, from 3.5 stars on up.

Posted By on Wed, Jun 11, 2014 at 8:58 PM

Elevage in Tampa, one of JPC's 4.5-star restaurants. - CHIP WEINER
  • Chip Weiner
  • Elevage in Tampa, one of JPC's 4.5-star restaurants.

Each week I hope to capture the dining experience, both good and bad, using Goethe’s three questions: What were they trying to do? How well did they do it? And finally, was it worth doing?

The answers to these questions translate into my five-star system as follows:

5=World Class

While Tampa Bay currently has no world-class restaurants, there’s one in Orlando (Victoria & Albert’s at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort), and there’s a five-star-worthy chocolatier in Belleair Bluffs.

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The Food Issue: Unforgettable

The 25 local dishes CL restaurant critic Jon Palmer Claridge still dreams about.

Posted By on Wed, Jun 11, 2014 at 8:57 PM


In the two years since I began reviewing restaurants for Creative Loafing, I’ve tasted nearly 1,000 dishes. Some took my breath away; others made me wonder if anyone in the kitchen had ever eaten what they put on my plate. The best ones offer balanced flavors where each component contributes and the whole is greater than the parts.

Great chefs have moxie; they’re not afraid to experiment. Some harness new methodologies, others embrace tradition but find ways to refine and enhance familiar dishes. All command impeccable technique.

As I look back over the past 24 months, I recall so many memorable tastes from my favorite restaurants that choosing the best is like choosing among beloved children; making a list like this one requires painful elimination of worthy efforts. However, after several hedonistic voyages down memory lane, these 25 dishes are, for me, “such stuff as dreams are made on.”

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The Food Issue: Tastes of the future

The celebrity chefs of Sundial and an offshoot of Pearl in the Grove.

Posted By on Wed, Jun 11, 2014 at 12:46 PM

LOCALE COLOR: Don Pintabona speaking at the announcement of Locale Market, a huge gourmet food emporium, on June 5 at Sundial. - SUNDIAL ST. PETE VIA FACEBOOK
  • Sundial St. Pete via Facebook
  • LOCALE COLOR: Don Pintabona speaking at the announcement of Locale Market, a huge gourmet food emporium, on June 5 at Sundial.

What’s the recipe for successful redevelopment of a problematic but iconic area of St. Pete?

Or to put it in culinary terms, how do the sad leftovers of BayWalk rise like a successful soufflé as Sundial?

Well, just in time for CL’s Food Issue, the secret sauce has been revealed. Entrepreneur Bill Edwards’ recipe goes like this: Start with a big pile of greenbacks.

Add an ample portion of visionary flare and a big squeeze of inspiration from NYC chef (and USF grad) Don Pintabona, who launched Robert De Niro’s TriBeCa Grill.

Then really turn up the heat: Throw in a huge sprinkling of world-class chef, in the person of Michael Mina.

You may not know the name Michael Mina because he’s not a fixture on food TV, but he’s got a pedigree at the top of the culinary food chain. I had a spectacular meal at his eponymous San Francisco flagship restaurant and have cooked from his 2006 book — Michael Mina: The Cookbook — that shares his unique trio concept, in which a master recipe is followed by three flavor variations, each accompanied by side dishes created just for that version. His gastronomic troikas are enough to make your head spin.

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The Food Issue: Spoon, advise, yelp!

Meet four of the area’s most active online restaurant reviewers.

Posted By on Wed, Jun 11, 2014 at 12:01 PM

Some of them are frequent travelers, others are bloggers and a few got tired of the hooey written by other users and review websites.

Locals Ariana Lee-Fisher, Steve Elliot, Crystal Hamilton and David Jenkins are among the chowhounds producing reviews of Tampa Bay eateries on a regular basis. And for diners near and far, prestige in the online restaurant reviewing world comes easily enough.

Write a sufficient number of reviews, build a rapport with fellow users, and become an “elite” Yelper or a “prime” member on Urbanspoon. TripAdvisor may even mail off complimentary photo albums to recognize frequent reviewers, and for some, like Jenkins, such perks keep them sharing their experiences online.

Jenkins, 40, who’s well-known locally as the producing artistic director of Jobsite Theater, said accepting the photo albums doesn’t bother him as a reviewer. He said TripAdvisor’s survival depends on user-generated content, and the albums are sent after he submits multiple ratings or reviews, never before.

“They’re not telling me how to review, but they’re saying ‘thank you’ in a promotional way,” Jenkins said.

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The Food Issue: Hangover helpers

What to eat the morning after a night you don’t quite remember.

Posted By on Wed, Jun 11, 2014 at 11:48 AM

PINKY PROMISE: Eggs aplenty at Pinky’s Diner.
  • PINKY PROMISE: Eggs aplenty at Pinky’s Diner.

You wake up to the piercing sun peeking through an unfamiliar window, regretting those last five shots, wondering where you are and what happened last night. And to top it all off you have a stomach that’s a growling pit of hunger and leftover alcohol.

Even though you think you might still be drunk, you rise, craving a cure for that looming hangover. Whether it’s that greasy burger from your go-to spot down the street or a medically supported solution, food is the key to making the day after drinking a day actually worth living.

If you’re a by-the-books type of person and the Advil and coffee just aren’t cutting it, these are the foods both doctors and experienced drinkers swear by:

Bloody Marys. It’s really the tomato juice that helps. Packed with lycopen and Vitamin C, tomato juice will help revitalize your liver and reduce inflammation. A little hair of the dog is always said to help, too, which makes the ever-popular Bloody Mary bars a necessary stop on the hangover train to hell. St. Pete’s Café Alma, among many others, features a much-lauded Bloody Mary bar during its weekend brunch. They use tomato-flavored vodka as well a range of hot sauces, peppers and pickled vegetables that, combined, are sure to make you feel better.

Coconut water. Another juice that’s making its name in the hangover world, coconut water has more electrolytes and restorative benefits than Gatorade, with way less sugar and dyes. Containing five of the key electrolytes we need after a night of drinking, it’s a far healthier option than a sports drink.

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