Tuesday, September 16, 2014

The Avenue – St. Petersburg, FL

Tonight we planned to eat at a new restaurant called Bucket’s Grill & Comfort Food.  It’s nothing fancy, but it’s gotten pretty good reviews.  However, I got home from work and noticed crowds of people, police cars, and closed streets around Dale Mabry.  It turns out that our dinner time coincided with the President of the United States landing at MacDill Air Force Base, which meant that getting to Buckets would be almost impossible. 

So instead we decided to avoid the traffic and head to St. Pete.  We heard that The Avenue (the first restaurant featured on my blog) had an updated menu, and the Burger of the Month for September is called “the DUDE”. 
Lance is a big fan of the The Big Lebowski – he even named our (female) cat Dude after the main character from the movie.  And our spare bedroom has Lebowski art mixed in with the Steelers décor. 
This video outlining the making of the burger is really what convinced us to head there: 
Click here to see the video.

We aren’t really sure how the ingredients are inspired from the movie, but regardless it sounded amazing!  It consists of an 8 ounce Angus beef patty, house-made duck pastrami, Swiss cheese, and house-made mustard on rye swirl bread served with bleu cheese balsamic drizzled kettle chips. 
We both ended up getting the same meal and we weren’t disappointed.  The burger itself was unlike any I’ve ever had – I loved the duck pastrami and the homemade mustard complimented the flavor very well.  The bread was nice and crispy, and the kettle chips were generously covered in large chunks of bleu cheese. We enjoyed the burgers with Yuengling beer (although if we were really trying to go with the Lebowski-themed night, we would have ordered White Russians…)
The atmosphere of The Avenue was completely different at night than during the day.  Last time when we dined there for lunch, there were only a few other restaurant patrons and it was very relaxed.  Tonight it was packed with a trivia night crowd on the patio and people watching the Ray’s game inside.   
If you have the chance to make it there by the end of the month, I’d strongly recommend this burger.  Hopefully they’ll put it on the regular menu!

The Avenue is located at 330 1st Ave South, Saint Petersburg, FL 33701 and open 11:30am - 3:00am Monday through Sunday. 

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Thai Temple – Tampa, FL

A few weeks ago, our neighbor, Vimmi, told us about a Sunday morning market at the “Thai Temple”.  I had somehow never heard of it, yet when I looked up more info online, it was rated as the #10 best attraction in Tampa on Tripadvisor and everyone on Yelp raved about it!  Growing up in Tampa (and loving Asian food), I’m not sure how I could have possibly missed the memo. 

It takes place at grounds of the Wat Mongkolrata Buddhist Temple, which is just between Brandon and Tampa overlooking the Palm River.  You can tell the food is worthwhile because there were people directing the traffic for parking!  The location is beautiful.  The first thing we noticed was the ornate temple and golden Buddha statue.  There are picnic benches shaded by oak trees overlooking the river – a nice peaceful site to enjoy a Sunday morning. 

Dozens of tables were set up with volunteers serving a variety of meats, curry dishes, noodle soups, kabobs, salads, egg and spring rolls, drinks, and desserts.  They also had stands set up selling fresh fruits, vegetables, and flowers.  Some of the foods were ones I had never even heard of before.  We sampled a small sweet fruit called a longan (which translates to “Dragon Eye” – the texture actually was a bit like an eyeball).

Vimmi got a vegetarian noodle soup and some amazing fried bananas.  
I had Thai tea, and Lance and I split pork egg rolls, shrimp spring rolls, and a coconut dessert made with sticky rice.  Everything tasted so fresh and authentic.  I really loved the peanut dipping sauce for the spring rolls.  Lance also bought some chicken wings and sausage to bring to work for lunch.  
Be prepared with cash since there are no credit cards accepted.  Although you really don’t need much because it’s all very reasonably priced!  Lance and I together barely spent around $15, and that included the extra food he bought to go. 

I’m only regretting that I didn’t find out about this market sooner!  I’m sure I’ll be a regular now – especially once the weather cools off a bit.  If anyone is free on a Sunday, let me know because I’m already ready to go back again! 

The Wat Mongkolrata Sunday Market is located at 5306 Palm River Rd, Tampa, FL 33619 and is open 10:30am – 2pm (but get there early!). 

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Pesto Ranch Chicken & Pear Gorgonzola Salad

Tonight we had Grandma Anne and my cousin, Jenn, over for dinner.  Since Lance & I both worked today, I wanted to make something quick and easy. 

I found this recipe for Pesto Ranch Chicken – it literally took 3 minutes to prepare this morning.  And then the salad was pretty simple to throw together once I got home.  The chicken was so incredibly moist – and would be impossible to mess up even for someone with no cooking skills whatsoever.

Pesto Ranch Chicken: (adapted from Picky Palate)
  • 10 skinless chicken thighs
  • 1-8 ounce jar pesto
  • 1 packet Hidden Valley Ranch Dip Mix (1-ounce)
  • ½ cup chicken stock

1. Cut excess fat off chicken thighs.

2. Place chicken in crock pot, pour in pesto, ranch seasoning, and chicken stock.

3. Stir to combine seasonings, close lid, and cook on low for 6-8 hours (mine was closer to 10 hours since I was at work all day today…but I actually preferred it cooked more).

Pear Gorgonzola Salad:
  • 4 cups spinach
  • 1 cup matchstick carrots
  • 2 pears, sliced (there are 3 in the photo but I ended up just using 2)
  • ¼ red onion, sliced
  • Seeds of 1 pomegranate (If you need to learn how to seed a pomegranate, see this post)
  • 2 ounces gorgonzola crumbles
  • 1 cup praline pecans
  • 1 T Trader Joe’s Champagne Pear Vinaigrette
  • 1 T balsamic vinegar 

1. Toss together & enjoy! 

edison: food+drink lab – Tampa, FL

My dad joined me for an hour long spin class last night – then afterwards we had worked up a huge appetite.  We originally headed to 717 South since he had a Creative Loafing deal, but there was an hour long wait (guess that’s expected for a Friday night), so we ended up at edison: food+drink lab (which was also packed, but we snagged the last 2 seats at the bar). 

I had been once for a work lunch, but this was my first time for dinner.  It’s on Tasting Tampa’s Top 10 List for South Tampa so I was eager to try more on their menu.  The chef and owner, Jeannie Pierola, worked previously at Bern’s Steakhouse for 9 years.  The restaurant is appropriately named – it is on the corner of W. Kennedy Boulevard & S. Edison Avenue, plus it experiments with unique combinations of dishes.  The décor also pays tribute to Thomas Edison with exposed filament light bulbs throughout. 

The menu changes regularly – it consists of several pages presented on a clipboard showing the “sparks” (starters), cold and hot starts (appetizers), solid + soluble (soup & salad), sharing plates, and entrées. 

Looking back on it, our eyes were way bigger than our stomachs (I blame our intense spinning workout).  We started off with the Escargot + Cippolini Onion Crostini with black garlic bagna cauda – which was absolutely amazing.  We decided we could have just ordered several rounds of escargot and been happy. If this is on the menu next time, I’ll definitely order it again. 

We then had the Pork Belly Bulgogi and Jumbo Soft Shell Crab a La Plancha appetizers.  The pork belly dish was served Asian style with sun ramen, poached organic egg, and spicy kimchi broth.  It was a totally original combination of foods that probably isn’t served at any other restaurant. 

The crab itself was great, but I also loved the spinach it was served over with fuji apples, pine nuts, raisins, and black garlic yuzu mojo (yuzu is a kind of Asian citrus fruit). 

Next we had the Jumbo Lump Crab + Butter Lettuce Salad.  It was served with haas avocado, pickled strawberries, palm hearts, cucumbers, and goat milk ranch. They didn’t skimp on the crab meat, and the dressing was very creamy (this photo doesn’t really do the salad justice…)

We could have easily ended with the salad, but we finished by splitting the Butter-Poached Maine Lobster.  I don’t think I’ve had lobster since we went to Maine last summer on a family vacation.  This one was served over sweet corn risotto, with haricot vert, fava beans, organic pea shoots, hazelnuts, sweet corn broth, and truffle foam.  The photo below is actually only half the dish (since we were sharing they served us separate plates).  I didn’t completely understand the truffle foam, but it looked fancy!  The flavors again were innovative and perfectly paired.  

At this point of the meal I was getting uncomfortably full, so I took half of my lobster dish home for Lance to enjoy (plus he deserved to try at least a small sample of our incredible meal after working late that night!) 

The meal was a bit pricier than I’d spend on a typical night out, but it is worth the splurge for a special occasion.  Probably a bit too fancy for a post-workout bite to eat, but it was a wonderful father-daughter date night!

edison: food+drink lab is located at 912 W Kennedy Blvd, Tampa, FL 33606 and is open 11:30 – 2:30pm then 5pm – 10pm Monday through Fridays, 5 – 10pm on Saturdays, and closed Sundays.