Today marks the one year anniversary since I started Florida Food Lover! It’s been a busy year and we’ve eaten a lot of tasty things…I’m excited to check out even more restaurants and try new recipes this year!
Last week we attended Creative Loafing’s first ever Meet the Chefs event – the kickoff to Tampa Bay Restaurant Week. It took place at Coppertail Brewing Co – and chefs from several local restaurants had samples from their prix fixe Restaurant Week menus.
It was DOWNPOURING that night. The streets were so flooded, I had to abandon my car in a shopping plaza on the drive home from work because Dale Mabry was 3 feet underwater – Lance came to rescue me in his Ford Explorer so we could head to the event. We were thinking maybe there wouldn’t be a very good turnout because of the weather (and maybe we’d get extra food!), but it was already crowded when we arrived. It actually sold out, so luckily we bought our tickets in advance.
The main event took place upstairs. Each restaurant had a booth set up to serve their featured dish. We also got 3 drink tickets to sample Coppertail’s beers (each food had a suggested beer pairing).
We started off with Chef Michael Buttacavoli’s dish from Cena – Red Wine Oxtail Arancini & Gorgonzola Fondue. This actually ended up being my favorite one of the night (we went back for seconds…) Arancini are Sicilian rice balls coated with bread crumbs and fried.
Next we had the Curried Deviled Ham, Toasted Rye & Pickled Peach from Chef Greg Baker of The Refinery/Fodder & Shine. The topping was very good but I actually wasn’t as impressed with the bread.
Chef Andy King of Datz served Green Curried Braised Beef Short Rib Tacos with Fresh Napa Cabbage, Pico de Gallo with Pistachio, and Fresh Cotija Cheese on a Homemade Corn Tortilla. This dish was great – but pretty messy. We found a bartop table to enjoy our tacos so we didn’t spill them everywhere.
We washed them down with some lemonade cocktails from Tito’s booth – they let you customize your drink with your choice of mint, basil, blueberries, raspberries, and strawberries.
Chef Tony Bruno from The Living Room on Main served Maple Leaf Farms Duck Duo: Star Anise Ginger Brined Duck Drumette & Fois Gras Deviled Egg with Charred Yellow Pepper Marmalade and Pea Tendril Salad. This was another one of my favorites of the evening. The presentation was great too – definitely looked gourmet.
After that we had Chef Ferrell Alvarez’s dish from Rooster & The Till – Salmon Belly Crudo with Sprouted Lentils, Pickled Tomato, Green Harissa & Whey Almond Milk. I really liked the flavors, but unfortunately it was a pretty small bite.
Mise en Place’s Chef Marty Blitz prepared Smoked Pork Congee with Pig’s Ears & Pickled Shishoto Peppers. It was a pretty hearty soup – it could easily be a meal. The pig ears were a little chewy though, so we couldn’t eat them. But we were pretty full at this point anyways.
We finished with desserts by Chefs Rosa Rivera and Ricardo Castro from Piquant (actually, we grabbed dessert part way through, but we got one more at the end to finish!) Their first dessert was a Chocolate Pot de Crème infused with Coppertail Brewing Co.’s Custom Porter: Habanero Peppers, Schezuan Peppers, Cocoa & Vanilla. It was topped with a Passion Fruit Gelee and Meyer Lemon Chantilly. It was more of a shooter to drink. The other dessert was some sort of delicious chocolate pudding treat.
It was a really fun event – definitely worth the tickets. It would have been nice to have seen a few more restaurants represented (considering about 70 are participating in Restaurant Week this year and only 7 of them were there). But we left with full bellies anyways – so it was plenty of food for us!
Tampa Bay Restaurant Week goes from June 11th – 21st. Select Tampa Bay restaurants will be offering special prix fixe menus for $30 (some are $30 for two people, some are $30 each…) You still have a few days left, so if you haven’t already – visit one of the restaurants to take advantage of the specials!
And thanks to all of you who have continued to read my blog this year. I've had a lot of fun writing it! If you ever have recommendations for me, don’t hesitate to use my contact form to send me recipe or restaurant suggestions.