09/25/17 Food & Dining
By Laura Reiley
Times Food Critic
Sometimes, the more time you have with a project, the more complicated it gets. I started hearing about Mortar & Pestle in Seminole Heights about 18 months ago. It was the vision of Ujwal Patel, a pharmacist;
Ujwal's wife, Jessica Patel, also a pharmacist; and Ujwal's cousin, Badal Patel, an internist. They wanted to bring back America's historic mom-and-pop drugstores, the kind where you'd hang out, have a BLT while swinging your legs at the lunch counter, kibbitz with your community and, oh yeah, get your antibiotics prescription filled. This was, Ujwal says, the antithesis of the modern-day CVS or Walgreens, which he says are fairly lousy environments for patients and pharmacists alike....
Once there were grunts and slumps, buckles and brown betties. Oh, and pandowdies and sonkers. In the olden days, people routinely made angel food cakes, tomato soup cakes and hummingbird cakes. These were not Duncan Hines mixes, but rather confections made from scratch following yellowed and stained recipes in your mother's or grandmother's slanty cursive.
Desserts fall out of favor. The pineapple upside-down cake and baked Alaska of the 1960s were abandoned for the Black Forest cakes and chocolate fondues of the 1970s, which in turn were slain by creme brulee in the 1980s....
TAMPA — Blackness. Eyes closed or open, the same.
Imperfect silence, a faint hum that might be the purr of tires on Nebraska Avenue or the susurration of your breath passing through ten inches of water and foam ear plugs.
When your body stills you lose sensation of the water, that line that separates your submerged half from the half that rides above. It's floating in the Dead Sea, outer space, the womb....
09/20/17 Food & Dining
TAMPA — The most red-hot hamburger in the nation right now contains no meat.
There are lines out the door in New York at Momofuku, owned by diehard celebrity-carnivore David Chang, at Epic Burgers in Chicago, at Umami Burger and at Bareburger locations.
And starting Sept. 27, Ciccio Restaurant Group will be Florida's first partner bringing the Impossible Burger to Tampa Bay diners. The meat-free burger that tastes remarkably like meat will be available at Lodge, Green Lemon, Daily Eats, Ciccio and Better Byrd. Fresh Kitchen is the only Ciccio Group restaurant that won't carry the patty....
It wasn't the easiest thing to chant.
"We are the Squid Rockets, the mighty, mighty Squid Rockets."
I should have thought it through a little more, but the T-shirts were excellent (design courtesy of team member and New College undergraduate Elly Bovarnick). Truth was, I probably didn't need the enticement of custom shirts, or squid-themed prizes for the winners, in order to assemble my team for the 2016 Wanderlust 108 Festival in Curtis Hixon Park....
Storms make you thankful, right? You pause to appreciate things you might have taken for granted, knowing they could all be whisked away in a whoosh of storm surge or wind. Here are some of the Tampa Bay stalwarts for which I'm grateful.
1905: COLUMBIA RESTAURANT
The granddaddy of them all, the Columbia Restaurant bears the distinction of being the oldest restaurant in Florida as well as the nation's largest Spanish-Cuban restaurant, with 13 rooms extending one full city block. Some of these waiters have been here a lifetime, there are stirring flamenco shows most nights, and owner Richard Gonzmart has an evangelical zeal when it comes to authentic Cuban sandwiches and the tossed-tableside 1905 Salad. 2117 E Seventh Ave., Tampa; (813) 248-4961, and other locations....
I was cocky. I had nearly finished cooking school, I could make a genoise and a decent hollandaise. But, in much the way an amateur juggler who has mastered the basic three-ball cascade assumes she's ready for four, I was overconfident. In juggling, difficulty increases exponentially as you add objects. I'm pretty sure the same holds true in cooking.
My first dinner party, and many to follow, were studies in reckless overambition. Too many dishes, too many things that had to be done last minute, too many showy and expensive ingredients. I would open the door to my dinner guests feeling shaky and disheveled, the evening spent in a swirl so I was never quite in attendance at my own party....
Feeding those in need before, during and in the aftermath of a storm like Irma is complicated business. More than 585 shelters opened in the state of Florida in the past few days, with more than 200,000 people housed and fed. Many more people than that have found themselves without power or access to adequate food and clean drinking water.
The state's Emergency Operations Center coordinates the response, but there are other agencies and charities involved, intricate public-private collaborations, and many independent folks who step up to the plate and feed people on their own....
Because Hurricane Irma's path is not yet known, most Tampa Bay families are still on the fence: Do we stay or do we go? If we stay, the next couple days will be spent amassing sufficient water and shelf-stable foods for an indeterminate number of days without power and/or running water.
Here's how to prepare and how to know that you are maximizing the longevity and safety of your food.
In advance of the storm:...
It was to be a starter cruise. A quickie cruise. A get-your-feet-wet cruise for my 10-year-old niece, departing out of Tampa and meandering in a desultory fashion to Cozumel, Mexico, a no-there-there destination I'd already visited a couple of times. (Okay, there's Señor Frog's, but I'm a grownup, so it doesn't count.) A few weeks after booking, Carnival sent us an update.
The itinerary had changed. We were going to Cuba....
09/06/17 Food & Dining
Tampa Bay restaurants are adopting a "better safe than sorry" strategy with the approach of Hurricane Irma. Peter Veytia, co-owner of Red Mesa, Red Mesa Cantina and Red Mesa Mercado, all in St. Petersburg, is closing as of tonight until further notice.
"We've been through this drill before, operating at half staff and with half the customers due to a pending storm. How long we close depends on the storm. We've told our staff we will give them 48 hours so they can come back from wherever they are," Veytia said by phone Wednesday afternoon. "We're boarding up all three restaurants. Better to be safe."...
09/06/17 Food & Dining
TAMPA THEATRE WINEFEST
Warm up the couch for three days of "Wine's World" with a two-tiered wine tasting (7 to 10 p.m. Friday), elegant wine pairing (6:30 p.m. Saturday) and a screening of the film Wayne's World (3 p.m. Sunday) as a benefit for the Tampa Theatre. $45-$90 Friday; $275 Saturday; $10-$25 Sunday. 711 Franklin St., Tampa. (813) 274-8982....
Restaurant review: Bayshore Mediterranean Grill brings Turkish fare, and ballooning lavash bread, to Tampa09/04/17 Food & Dining
The signature dish alone is worth the trip. They will tell you about it: oven-baked hummus ($10.99). Mmm, okay. Pureed chickpeas with tahini, only warm? Hummus is so ubiquitous these days it's probably offered as a Lunchable.
But then it comes: an oval cast iron skillet on a wooden board, the hummus and its mantle of mozzarella cheese audibly bubbling. Next to it arrives a huge golden balloon, a just-from-the-oven sesame-dusted lavash, which you puncture to allow a whoosh of steam to escape, the whole thing deflating slowly like a birthday aftermath. Rip off a hunk of lavash — watch the fingers, still hot — and swipe it through the skillet. That's a party....
09/04/17 Food & Dining
TAMPA -- Maybe Jamal Wilson owes Richard Gonzmart a debt of gratitude, Gonzmart's Ulele restaurant just north of downtown one of the first signals that the suburb of Tampa Heights could be the next "it" place. Or maybe he owes that debt to the food halls that have proliferated around the country, places like the Source in Denver, Revival Food Hall in Chicago, Oxbow Public Market in Napa or Gotham West Market in New York City. Or just maybe he owes millennials, Gen Z-ers and young professionals who get it: repurpose a historic space and populate it with different vendors, cool places to sit and free WiFi, so everyone gets to eat and drink what suits their fancy....
09/01/17 Food & Dining
TAMPA — New Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino president Joe Lupo has big plans. This was evident in April when the complex unveiled its 700-space Orient Road parking garage and 26,000-square-foot Mezzanine Level Casino, with its "Rock Walk" of 40 new pieces of memorabilia from artists like Beyoncé, Carrie Underwood, Jimi Hendrix, Stevie Nicks and Cher arrayed in glamorous glass cases. ...