Saturday, May 23, 2015

Urban Brew and BBQ – St. Pete, FL



We kept hearing great reviews about Urban Brew and BBQ, which opened about 2 years ago on Central Avenue in St. Pete, but unfortunately we didn’t check it out until a few weeks ago.  We are thrilled to have finally tried it because it is AWESOME. 


The first time we went, Lance and I had a date night on a Sunday.  It wasn’t very crowded that night, so we had the patio to ourselves, which has nice string lights hung and wood-slat planters.  I love the design of this place – they did a great job making it casual yet sophisticated.  They even took the time to tile the bathroom floors in pennies, which they individually placed, taking over 30 hours to create. 



We were impressed by their wide craft beer selection – we were told that each brewery is only allowed one beer at a time on tap.  I had Barley Mow’s Maven On Cocoa Nibs Chocolate Milk Stout which was almost like a dessert.

 

The barbeque there is amazing.  We started a dish they called “The Thing” – a cornbread waffle topped with pulled pork, cheese, bacon, and an egg over easy with house made pork gravy.  It wasn’t anything pretty – pretty much a blob of food – but wow it was tasty! 

Next we split the half rack of ribs served with a fresh baked roll and our choice of side.  We upgraded our side to the Urban Mac ‘N’ Cheese, baked in a skillet and featuring smoked gouda, parmesan, and cheddar with prosciutto and crispy bread crumb topping.  We cleaned the whole metal tray.  Lance has decided this is his new favorite restaurant (although Datz is still a close second...)  

And just since we felt like splurging that night, we split one of their desserts – bacon s’mores.  It was baked in a skillet too – if you like sweet & salty combinations, it’s the perfect dessert.  The bottom had a graham cracker crust topped with chocolate and marshmallows, then sprinkled with chunks of bacon. 

While we were eating, we read on their chalkboard about a 5 course dinner paired with 5 Green Bench beers.  We enjoyed our dinner so much, and we love Green Bench, so we invited friends to join us to check it out!

The 8:40pm seating was the only time available, but that worked out well because before dinner, we actually ended up booking our wedding venue just a few blocks away in St. Pete at Nova 535.  It’s a really beautiful building with brick walls, wood floors, and a courtyard with 30’ high bamboo – so excited!

Our friends Pate and Katie joined us for dinner.  We sat at the bar inside with the small crowd that was able to get tickets.  The food was actually a preview of some possible menu items for a new sister restaurant, Urban Comfort, which is meant to open this summer.  They are repurposing an old autoshop and adding all sorts of fun games like horseshoe, volleyball, and even a shuffleboard court (which was funded by Kickstarter). 

Urban Comfort will not only have great food like Urban Brew and BBQ, but it will also brew its own beer.  I had sampled a preview of their Kumquat Hefeweizen back in February at Localtopia.   

At the food and beer pairing dinner, Khris, the brewer from Green Bench, gave us a background about each beer we sampled. 

We started off with their Les Grisettes – a low-alcohol farmhouse ale.  Khris explained that this style of beer was originally brewed as refreshment for coal miners.  “Grisettes” comes from the French word “gris”, which means grey.  The women who delivered the ale to the miners often had grey clothes.

The first course was a deviled egg topped with pork rinds.  I really liked having the crunchy addition to a typical deviled egg.  Urban Brew makes their own bacon, so they said they use the leftover skins to make their own pork rinds. 

Next we had the Skyway American Wheat Ale – brewed with four different kinds of hops.  I’m not normally a fan of hoppy beer, but the citrus in it actually balanced it out so I liked this one.  This was paired with black eyed peas with braised pork shoulder – they explained that it’s a long process to make this dish, but it was so flavorful.  It was pretty rich though – and I wanted to save room for my other courses, so I couldn’t finish it all. 

After that we had the May The Fort Be With You – an American IPA.  Again, pretty hoppy, but citrusy.  It’s a reference to Star Wars, as well as a local group called the “Tampa Bay Beer Nerds Hide Out Blanket/Pillow Fort” – which apparently has a top secret facebook group for extreme craft beer enthusiasts in the area.  This was served with a biscuit and sausage gravy – made from scratch with lard and sea salt.  The biscuit was a bit dry for me, but very traditional southern style. 

Next came the Happy Hermit Pale Ale – another hoppy yet light beer.  This came with fried chicken, mashed potatoes, and rosemary gravy.  The chicken was brined for 24 hours in herbs and spices so it was extra juicy and herby. 

Finally, we barely had room, but we finished with the Maximo Milk Stout – named after Maximo Park on Boca Ciega Bay.  This sweet beer went perfectly with the skillet bourbon pecan pie.  It was served a la mode and was seriously decadent. 

If you want to check out the last Beer Dinner before they take a break to focus on opening Urban Comfort, Urban Brew will be pairing food with JDubs Brewing on May 26th.  You’ll need to call to make reservation since tickets book quickly. 

Urban Brew and BBQ is located at 1939 Central Ave, St Petersburg, FL 33713. They are open Monday – Thursday 11am – 10pm, Friday – Saturday 11am – 12am, and Sunday 12pm – 10pm. 

Friday, May 22, 2015

Save Money with the Ibotta App



I always try to be thrifty when I shop – we get the Sunday paper so we can clip coupons, and I love Publix and Winn Dixie BOGOs.  But the thing I hate about most coupons in the paper is that most of the savings are for products I’d never buy – or you have to buy so many it’s not worth it. 

But recently, I discovered an awesome app called Ibotta.  It’s available free for iPhone or Android.  It has hundreds of coupons, and the best part is that many of them are for foods you’d buy normally at the store, like eggs, milk, cereal, fruits and vegetables.  They do have some brand name coupons like Kashi granola bars and Blue Diamond almonds, but the coupons I use most are for the “Any Brand” items. 


You can use them at pretty much any store (unfortunately Trader Joe’s isn’t on the list…but locally I can get rebates from Walmart, Publix, Target, Winn-Dixie, Whole Foods, Fresh Market, and more).  They even have rebates for purchases you make at stores like Express, Sephora, and JCPenney. 

You have to answer a survey question, learn a fact, or watch a video to get the coupon.  Then when you buy something, you scan your items & upload your receipt to claim your money.  Once you reach $10, you can send it to your PayPal or Venmo account, or you can get the cash on a gift card to Walmart, Amazon, Starbucks, Best Buy, Express, Aeropostle, Regal Cinemas, or iTunes. 


I’ve had the app for less than 2 months and I’ve already made $23.85 off it without buying anything that wouldn’t already be on my list. One of the best coupons so far was $5 off a 6-pack of Shock Top (which only costs about $7, so that was pretty cheap beer).  Most of the food rebates are only for 20-50 cents, but when it’s food you already plan to buy, it really adds up.  Plus, you can combine it with store or manufacturer coupons, so if you have a coupon on a certain brand of cereal, you can get an even bigger discount with the Ibotta rebate.    
 

They also have team challenges (for instance, this month, I can get $2 free if I redeem $5 in rebates and my team gets $10 in rebates…)  So the more people on your team, the easier it is to get the bonus money. 

If you download the app, join my team by using the referral code “iadctyo”.  I’d highly recommend it!    

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Berry Avocado Quinoa & Spinach Salad with Honey-Lime Poppy Seed Dressing



 

We had dinner at our friends Tony & Katie’s house the other night and I brought a salad.  This is now one of my favorite recipes – it’s really healthy and the homemade dressing was sweet & tangy.  It only took a minute to toss together. 

The next day I had leftover and added grilled salmon - it could easily serve as a meal instead of just a side! 

Berry Avocado Quinoa & Spinach Salad with Honey-Lime Poppy Seed Dressing
 (adapted from Cooking Classy)

Dressing:
·        ½ cup olive oil
·        Zest of 1 lime
·        Juice of 1 lime
·        2 T honey
·        1 T Dijon mustard
·        ¼ t salt
·        2 t poppy seeds
Salad:
·        2 cups cooked quinoa (about 2/3 cup dry)
·        1 cup sliced almonds, toasted
·        9 oz. baby spinach
·        1 ½ cups fresh blueberries
·        1 ½ cups fresh raspberries
·        2 medium avocados, peeled, cored, and diced
·        5 oz feta cheese, crumbled
 

Directions:
1.  Toast the almonds & cook the quinoa.  Mix all the dressing ingredients minus the poppy seeds in a bottle or jar until well combined.  Stir in the poppy seeds.  
 
2. Toss all the salad ingredients together.  Enjoy!