Monday, April 9, 2018

Terra Gaucha Brazilian Steakhouse – Tampa, Florida

Last night we had the privilege of previewing the brand-new Terra Gaucha Brazilian Steakhouse on South Dale Mabry in Tampa before it officially opens on tomorrow.

We were sad when GrillSmith closed in that location awhile back because I love their pumpkin crab bisque (luckily, they are moving into the old Grille One Sixteen location further up the road just north of Kennedy…) 

Terra Gaucha has run a successful restaurant in Jacksonville since 2015. They worked with BDG Architects to convert the previous Grillsmith location into an elegant new space that is now fit for the churrascaria style dining experience. This culinary style originated with the South American cowboys, or “gaúchos,” who grilled meats over an open flame.

I’ve been lucky getting to preview the transformation of the restaurant since I work for the architect. Our interior design team did an amazing job (you can read more about the design concept here). I love the beautiful wine display at the entrance as well as the custom sculpture and painting by artist Marc De Waele.

We had never visited a Brazilian steakhouse before, so I wasn’t sure exactly what to expect. For dinner, restaurant patrons have the option for either a gourmet salad and hot bar or the “full rodizio experience” which includes the salad bar as well as unlimited access to over a dozen varieties of meats cut tableside. We were invited to be part of the “friends and family” night to sample the menu, so our meals were complimentary (minus the drinks…)

They have a diverse wine menu, but we tried their cocktails instead. Lance had the caipirinha, made with cachaça (a Brazilian rum), sugar, and lime. I had the same but with muddled pineapple and mint, which I’d definitely order again.

As we were seated, we were served cheesey puffs of bread along with caramelized bananas. The bread was good but I wanted to keep room for all the food to follow. However, we did devour the bananas (they brought us another plate of them after we cleaned the first plate).

When I heard they had a salad bar, I pictured it being more like a Sweet Tomatoes, but I was pleasantly surprised at the quality of the food. They had a few meats and cheeses (including an enormous wheel of parmesan), grilled pineapple, roasted garlic, soups, salads, and more.

Once we had our fill of that, we flipped over a card to signify that we were ready for the servers to bring us meat. It seems that the second we flipped it over, we had half a dozen people dashing our way to serve us. We almost had to flip the cards over as soon as we turned them to green because otherwise we’d never have the opportunity to try the meats they cut for us. 

My favorite of the meats was the Porco Com Parmesao (pork tenderloin encrusted with Parmesan cheese). It is soaked in white wine and herbs before being roasted and coasted in cheese. I also enjoyed the smoky Linguiça (Brazilian sausage) and the Picanha (their house specialty premium sirloin). The rest came by so quickly I could barely keep track of what I was sampling. You can see the variety of meats here (we thought it was funny that the “gauchos” were labeled the same as the meats on the menu…hopefully they weren’t turning us into cannibals!) 

Our waiter, Dennis, was extremely welcoming and attentive. He asked for our feedback on the drinks and dishes, which was all positive on our end. I would have loved to have tried one of their desserts, but we were beyond full at the end of our meal. 

While we really enjoyed ourselves, we’d have to save this for a special occasion because it is pricier than we’d spend on a typical date night. Plus, as much as I enjoyed the food, I just don’t eat enough to make any all-you-can-eat establishment worth it. Lance already said he wants to come back for his birthday though because for him, the more meat the better. I wish there was a way to visit and enjoy the salad bar with a smaller sampling of the meats rather than the unlimited option.

Happy to have another new restaurant concept in town and we wish them the best!

Terra Gaucha Brazilian Steakhouse is located at 1108 S Dale Mabry Hwy, Tampa, FL 33629.  They are open for lunch Monday through Friday 11:30am – 2pm and Saturday/Sunday from 11:30am – 3pm. For dinner, they are open from 5 – 10pm Monday through Friday, 4 – 10:30pm on Saturday, and 4 – 9pm on Sunday.

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

Orange Cannoli Cheesecake

I’ve been making a cheesecake every Easter for nearly a decade now! This year was my 11th year of this tradition. Hard to believe it’s been that long since I was in college making these with my roommates…

It’s getting more difficult to find a unique flavor that I haven’t made in the past, but I save cheesecake recipes throughout the year in preparation. This year I found an amazing recipe for orange cannoli cheesecake. Cannoli are one of my very favorite desserts, especially love them from Mazzaro’s Italian Market in St. Pete. (By the way, did you know a single cannoli is called a “cannolo”? Just learned that now…cannoli is actually the plural form…)

The hardest part of this recipe was actually finding cannoli shells that weren’t already filled. I’m sure if I drove to a specialty market or bakery, it would have worked out fine, but I was on the hunt late at night and ended up at 4 grocery stores before I found them (none at Trader Joes or Sprouts, Publix wouldn’t sell them empty since they didn’t have a SKU for them, so I ended up at Whole Foods).  

This cheesecake uses ricotta instead of cream cheese and is topped with a layer of cannoli filling, pistachios, Trader Joe’s candied orange slices, and couple cannoli for decoration.

We had a family potluck at our house with 16 people this year – all the food was delicious but I especially loved my mom’s cute chick deviled eggs!

We had plenty of leftovers because there was so much food. Plus, my grandpa brought a Goody Goody strawberry pie for dessert so we had lots of sweets.

Hope everyone had a wonderful Easter spent with loved ones. Check out the recipe below if you want to make this cake for yourself (or come to our house quickly if you want some leftovers!)

Orange Cannoli Cheesecake (adapted from Creative Culinary)

Crust Ingredients:
  • 1 ½ cups graham cracker crumbs
  • 2 T granulated sugar
  • ¼ cup butter
Cake Ingredients:
  • 2 cups ricotta cheese
  • 1 ½ cups granulated sugar
  • ½ cup plus 1 T all purpose flour
  • 1 T vanilla extract
  • 2 tsp freshly grated orange peel
  • 2 T orange juice
  • 7 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1/3 cup mini chocolate chips
Topping & Garnish Ingredients:
  • 4 cups ricotta cheese
  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 tsp fresh orange zest
  • 1 cup mini chocolate chips
  • 1 ½ cups shelled pistachios, chopped
  • Candied orange slices
  • 8 cannoli shells (we only used 2 for the actual cheesecake and the rest for filling with the extra cannoli cream)


1. Place ricotta cheese into a fine mesh strainer and place in the fridge for at least 12 hours and up to 24 to drain (I ended up patting mine with paper towels to remove the excess moisture)

2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

3. Spray a 9” springform pan with cooking spray (I use coconut oil spray)

4. Combine all crust ingredients together and press evenly into the bottom of the pan and ½” up the sides of the pan. Bake for 10 minutes and allow to cool before filling.

5. In a large bowl or stand mixer, beat the 2 cups of ricotta and granulated sugar until smooth. Beat in flour, vanilla, orange peel, and orange juice. Add beaten eggs, one at a time, and blend on low speed until just incorporated.

6. Sprinkle chocolate chips with flour (to keep them from settling to the bottom of the pan). Sift out the flour and add the chips to filling. Mix gently and pour into the prepared pan.

7. Fill a large baking pan with 1” hot water. Place the springform cheesecake pan into the baking pan and bake for 75 minutes, or until center is almost set.

8. Carefully remove the pan from the oven and place the springform pan on a wire rack to cool for 10 minutes.

9. Run a sharp knife around the edges of the pan to loosen. Let cool for an additional hour then remove the pan. Refrigerate for several hours or overnight.

10. For the cannoli filling, combine the ricotta, powdered sugar, vanilla, orange zest, ¾ cup of the chocolate chips, and ¾ cup of the pistachios.

11. Pipe filling into the cannoli shells and dip the ends into the remaining chocolate chips.

12. Spread the remaining cannoli cream over the cheesecake. Arrange the candied orange slices around the edge of the cake, sprinkle the remaining pistachios in the center of the cake, and top with cannoli.

Candied Bacon Pretzel Mac & Cheese

Our friend Jason held his birthday at Infusion Brewing in Trinity last week. The brewery was hosting a mac & cheese competition that day so of course we had to participate!

The contest was judged on cheesiness, texture, seasoning, overall taste, and creativity. We spent time on Pinterest trying to find a unique recipe and came across a couple that incorporated pretzels for crunchy texture, which was perfect since they also pair great with beer! As an added bonus, we also topped ours with candied bacon, one of Lance’s mom’s recipes.

There were nine different kinds (one was disqualified since it was made by one of the brewers). There was a pretty good variety, but I’m of course biased and loved ours the best! Our second favorite was actually the disqualified one which incorporated Infusion Brewing’s “Pep in Yo Step” Double IPA, brewed with jalapeño and serrano peppers.

Unfortunately, we weren’t the winners this time – honestly I think it wasn’t as much based on taste/creativity as it was on who had the largest group of people with them to vote. Ours was completely devoured by the time we left, so in my books that means we won. And now we have a really awesome go-to mac and cheese recipe if we really want to splurge!

We doubled the recipe below which ended up making even more than would fit in our large crockpot. Unless you’ve got a huge group, a single version of the recipe will feed plenty of people

Candied Bacon Pretzel Mac & Cheese (adapted from Food to Love)

  • 8 pieces candied bacon (recipe here), broken into bite-sized pieces  
  • 1 pound cavatappi pasta (you can use whatever kind you like, but the spiral shape held the cheese pretty well)
  • 16 oz cream cheese, softened
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • 2 T Dijon mustard
  • 4 cups milk (we used 2%)
  • 1¼ cups heavy cream
  • 2 cups sharp cheddar
  • 2 cups pepperjack cheese
  • 1 cup mozzarella  
  • 5 T butter
  • 1 cup pretzels, chopped into pieces
  • ½ cup panko breadcrumbs


1. Cook the candied bacon according to the recipe (this can be done a day ahead of time since it takes two hours to cook).

2. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

3. Cook pasta for 2 minutes less than the cooking time in the instructions.

4. Shred the cheddar, mozzarella and pepperjack cheeses.

5. Drain and dump the cooked pasta into a large greased baking dish (we used a disposable one since we didn’t have one large enough).

6. Process cream cheese, salt, and mustard until smooth. Add half the milk, process until smooth. Pour over the pasta mixture. Stir in the remaining milk, cream, half of the candied bacon, and 4 cups of the shredded cheese mixture.  

7. Top the pasta with the remaining 1 cup of shredded cheese, remaining candied bacon, and the panko breadcrumbs

8. Bake for 20 minutes or until golden.

9. Take out of oven and top with pretzel pieces.

Note: We had to transfer this all to a crockpot to keep it warm at the competition, so we waited to add the candied bacon and pretzel topping until we moved the pasta to the new dish.