Monday, September 26, 2016

Best Ever Chip Dip

This chip dip is my mom's recipe and it is BY FAR one of the easiest things to make.  You literally dump everything into a bowl and that's it.  For an easy last-minute appetizer, tailgate, or potluck dish, I love making this because despite being made from mostly canned foods, it tastes so fresh and vibrant.   

Best Ever Chip Dip  

  • 1 can whole kernel corn 
  • 1 can black beans
  • 1 can pinto beans
  • 1 can Rotel (the Mexican variety is best, but that's not always easy to find) 
  • 1/2 onion, diced
  • 1/4 cup cilantro, chopped (I actually used a variety called culantro that lasts longer/stays fresher than normal cilantro) 
  • drizzle of olive oil
  • drizzle of red wine vinegar 


1. Combine everything - that's it!  Enjoy

Monday, September 19, 2016

Goody Goody – Tampa, FL

There has been a lot of buildup leading to the opening of Richard Gonzmart’s latest restaurant, Goody Goody, in Hyde Park.  We are big fans of the Columbia and Ulele, so I knew that he would do it right. 

This restaurant is a re-creation of a classic 1925 Tampa landmark where many people grew up eating (at its prime, Goody Goody had four locations throughout Tampa).  While in a new spot, it still retains the feel of a classic diner and serves many of the original recipes, including their famous hamburgers and pies.

I’m so excited about the transformation of Hyde Park Village (although right now, the construction makes it a bit difficult to drive up Swann…)  I spent a lot of time there growing up in Tampa, and it made me sad when for a while it had become a bit of a ghost town.  That’s definitely turning around – it seems every other week, something new opens. 

I’m sure the food was great back then, but the décor was a bit lacking – pretty much your standard diner. 

I absolutely love the design of the new Goody Goody.  They kept the old-fashioned feel, but updated it for a classy, modern atmosphere.  There is an art-deco vibe with beautiful graphics on the doors and brass sculptural light fixtures above the main dining areas.  The floors are lined with vintage-style mosaic tile with green and yellow that carry throughout the space. 

We heard that the wait was insane, so we downloaded the NoWait app, which allows you to get in line on your phone before you arrive.  There were still a couple people in front of us in line by the time we got there, but we ended up sitting at the counter which is first-come first-serve. 

Lance had their classic Goody Goody Cheeseburger POX, with lettuce, tomatoes, pickles, onions, cheese, mayo and their special barbeque sauce.  I had the Royale with Cheese, topped with a fried, over-easy egg, onion, cheddar, Monterey Jack cheese, sautéed mushrooms, bacon, lettuce, and tomato.

I’m happy with the version that I got – I thought Lance’s tasted more like a fast-food burger.  We also split an order of onion rings which nice and crispy with a ranch dipping sauce.  It was a greasy, messy meal, but delicious. 

We finished with a slice of their renowned butterscotch pie.  OMG I would go back and just order this – the bottom layer is incredibly decadent and rich with an airy topping of toasted meringue.  They have several flavors of pies, but I’d have trouble not ordering the same one every time since it was so good. 

I have no doubt this restaurant will be successful.  It is really reasonably priced compared to most of the dining options in Hyde Park (their classic burger is $4.95) and it appeals to not only the young people looking for a trendy place to eat out, but to the older crowd with nostalgia from the olden days. 

Goody Goody is located at 1601 W Swann Ave, Tampa, FL 33606.  They are open Sunday – Thursday 7am – 10pm and Friday – Saturday 7am – 11pm.    

Sunday, September 4, 2016

Retro Oven Bakery – St. Pete, FL

My friend Vimmi invited me to go check out this brand new bakery called Retro Oven that her friend Ivana opened in St. Pete.  We each invited friends who invited their own friends, so we had a nice group of girls join us to test out her treats!

Ivana has already been baking wholesale for a few years, but she decided to add a storefront just last week.  So far, the only advertising has been word of mouth, but it already seems to be very popular. 

This place is a hidden gem. I’m sure if I didn’t know it was there, I would drive right past the strip center (the outside definitely doesn’t do it justice).  It was a rainy Saturday morning with the remnants of Hurricane Hermine, but as soon as we stepped through the door, we were welcomed by the cozy, modern interior. 

There was a mix of sweet and savory pastries, cakes, and breads.  Ivana uses a lot of family recipes, and because of her Serbian background, the sweets aren’t quite as sugary as the typical American dessert (which is actually a relief – some bakeries add so much sugar to their concoctions that you get a headache afterwards). 

She gave us several samples and even had slices of all her cakes for us to test out (I loved the European Hazelnut Walnut).  We also tasted her homemade bread, which was hearty and full of all sorts of grains.  I ended up ordering a cinnamon roll and cup of coffee to dip it in.  And since Lance had to work, I picked him up a giant cookie to go. 

Wishing her lots of success! If any of you are in the area, go and visit.

We ended up spending the afternoon in St. Pete. We visited the Indie Market at the Morean Center for Clay where I stocked up on my stash of Urban Canning Company’s D’anjou pear, ginger & habanero jam, got a cup of blueberry jalapeño ginger beer from Tidal Boar, and found a cool piece of art from The Messy Painter

We finished with lunch at Bodega on Central – it was hot and sticky outside, but I really enjoyed my arepas and maduros.  I’d love for Tampa’s downtown to eventually become as vibrant as the St. Pete scene since I’m on this side of the bay – we’ll get there one day. 

Retro Oven Bakery is located at 2803 38th Ave N, St. Petersburg, FL 33713.  They are open Monday – Friday 7:30am – 3:30pm and Saturday 8am – 3pm (they are closed on Sundays). 

Bodega on Central is located at 1120 Central Ave, St. Petersburg, FL 33705.  They are open Sunday – Wednesday 11am – 9pm and Thursday – Saturday 11am – 11pm. 

Saturday, August 20, 2016

6th Annual Great St. Pete Cupcake Contest

I’m having a sugar crash right now writing this post because I just got back from the 6th Annual Great St. Pete Cupcake Contest.  I just ate enough sweets to last me a month…
My mom joined me along with my friends Thao, Crystal, Kate & Brent.  Here’s our amazing spread of cupcakes:
I attended for the 5th Annual Contest last year, which was held at the Morean Arts Center in downtown St. Pete.  I think that year they underestimated how much people like cupcakes because it was WAY too crowded and almost impossible to navigate.  This year, they moved to a larger venue just down the road – the Morean Center for Clay.  Lance and I had actually attended a Meet the Chefs event there last December. 

The contest is a mix of professional bakers and amateur cupcake enthusiasts.  This year I was especially impressed with the creativity in flavors and presentation.  There were Cookie Monsters, mini churros, a Ferris Wheel display, and dried pineapple "flowers" (I saw this technique at the "Cupcakes and Cocktails" event at the Epicurean Theatre last year...) 

You can try as many cupcakes as you’d like for free, but then it is $1 per ticket to vote for your favorites (the proceeds benefit the Morean Center).  Luckily most people bake mini cupcakes – although even with the small ones, it was impossible to try them all.  It’s best if you have someone that you can split them with so you can taste a wider variety. 

There were so many talented bakers, but a couple definitely stood out.  There was an apple cupcake that was so incredibly moist – that was one of the first I tried.  One cinnamon cupcake actually had a little liquor injector that let you squeeze Horchata into the center.   

There was a cupcake that had Earl Gray tea in the frosting embellished with an adorable fondant teacup! 

Probably my favorite of all though was the black forest cupcakes with chocolate dipped cherries and incredibly rich chocolate cupcakes. 

Judges select the best novice and professional bakers, then the tickets determine the People’s Choice awards.  Here are this year's winners:

Novice Category:
1st Place: Monica McLaughlin - Root Beer Float
2nd Place: Lauren Haught - Lime w/ Strawberry and Basil Swiss Meringue Buttercream

Professional Category:
1st Place: Diane Ratto - Peanut Butter Cream Banana Dream
2nd Place: Joyce King - Angry Orchard Apple Crumb

Specialty Category (Gluten or Vegan entries):
1st Place: Deborah Molise - Pumpkin Cheescake
2nd Place: Brittney Sherley - Vegan Double Mocha

People's Choice:
1st Place: Jen Jacobs - Chai Latte w/ Brown Butter Marscapone Buttercream
2nd Place: Michelle Saxton - Dark Chocolate Coffee w/ Cream Cheese Buttercream

Additional Awards:
Best Overall Frosting: Jen Jacobs - Chai Latte w/ Brown Butter Marscapone Buttercream
Best Chocolate of the Day: Michelle Garner - Junk Cupcake
Flavor Pop: Amy Turner - Bubble Gum Cupcake
Artistic Award: Melissa Howes - Honey w/ Strawberry & Earl Grey

Now time for a nap…