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Tampa I Am

A Tampa Blog! Tampa happenings....from my days in and around Tampa Bay.

Updated: 2018-03-05T17:28:46.244-05:00




Well I am in a new role with my job, and unfortunately do not have the time to update the blog until further notice.

I will say though that I keep myself very busy on the weekends, weather is getting warmer, lots of festivals, and events in and around the Bay area.

I hope to be able to come back time to time on any highlights!!



Wow, first apologies, I've received several emails asking where were my updates. Things have been crazy busy with work and life in general, but let me try to sum up some things I've been up to in the Tampa area over the past month since I last posted.

Sunday Feb 28th, went to the last showing of the Broadway Musical 'Wicked' at the Starz Performing Arts Center in downtown Tampa.

Wednesday March 3rd was a good friends birthday, so about 15 of us met up at The Brasserie in downtown St. Petersburg to celebrate, and my friend Rob was playing solo his great tunes. The food here was excellent, we tried the Onion Tart, a large pie shaped Tart, great flavor, perfect to share for two as an appetizer. I had the Burger, a huge juicy Burger with cheese on a soft Onion Roll, and crisp fries. Perfect!!

Saturday, March 6th was the annual Florida Brewers Guild Beerfest held at Centro Ybor...taking the #19 bus from South Tampa, we were able to try over 40 different Florida brewers showcasing their fine brews...$25 gets you a 4oz cup to sample for 4 hours...lots of really good stuff this year. Then it was off to The Forum downtown for a Lightning Hockey game...

Sunday March 7th, was the ending of Gasparilla season, with the Gasparilla Festival of the Arts at the Curtis Hixon Waterfront park, a beautiful day for it in downtown Tampa.

Wednesday a few of us caught my friend Rob again playing at Hula Bay/Dukes on the waterfront, a cool evening with good tunes, and good food.

Saturday the 13th was the annual St Patricks Parade in Ybor. We started at La Terazza's Italian restaurant around 6ish to celebrate a friends birthday...excellent service and food in this small Italian cafe on 7th avenue...then we walked over to Gaspars grotto to watch the parade, a stop in green Iguana, Spurs, Coyote Ugly, Club Czar, and to end the night we munched on some exccellent Tacos at Jalepenos De Ybor.

Sunday was A nice bike ride from Westshore Blvd to Bayshore Blvd along Euclid Ave, and then up Bayshore Blvd through downtown to Ybor City. It was a beautiful day for it.

Monday I was off to NYC for work.

A day in Sarasota


Saturday we went down to Sarasota, about an hour south of Tampa. Met a friend and had some lunch at the Anna Maria Oyster Bar in Bradenton, then went to the Mote Marine Aquarium, which grew in size since the last time I was there....they had a large bird sancutary set up across from the aquarium, and a short walk was the Dolphin, Manatee and Sea Turtle exhibits. After that a short drive to Siesta Key where we walked around the beaches and the Village area, and by evening it was time to meet up with about 10 others for dinner at Tommy Bahamas at St Armands Circle. A great little getaway for the day!

Valentines Weekend in Tampa


Saturday, although temps were chilly, we went and took a nice drive up Gulf Blvd from Madeira Beach to Clearwater beach, passing by lots of Mom and Pop motels, tourist traps, unique beach bars and shops. On Clearwater beach we stopped at Frenchy's Rockaway Grill, right on the beach. Parking in Frenchy's own parking lot, only holds about 10 cars just beside the restaurant, we were immediately seated, but it was very busy, with a live band playing. Perfect views of the Gulf...we started with the She Crab soup....large chunks of crab in a thick and flavorful soup...munched on Onion Straws, one order is enough for 4, until our regular Grouper Sandwich's came, one grilled the other Cajun style. This place still lives up to its reputation for excellent Grouper Sandwich's...and its a fun place with great views.

Sunday we took the Kayaks out at Picnic Island, it was only in the lo 60s but the sun was shining, and made it a perfect day for Kayaking...we explored a new island near the AirForce Base, lots of wildlife and birds, the water was calm and clear dolphin sitings on this trip though.

Monday after checking out the Academy Award nominee "Crazy Heart" movie, we went over to Hyde Park/SOHO area to enjoy a dining spot I haven't been to in a while, Ciccio's and Tony's. Place was jumping with pretty Hyde park people, the Olympics were playing at the bar area...lively place, LARGE menu they share with the Water sushi place next door. Lettuce Wraps have always been my fav here, so I got the Natural Chicken, and HUGE sliced all natural chicken breast, with plenty of toppings and tasty sauces to make your own wraps. We also tried one of the Stir Fry bowls you can create...very good!

Black Eyed Peas and Hockey - downtown Tampa weekdays


Wednesday eve we went to a long awaited show...the Black Eyed Peas were playing at the Forum downtown Tampa. Parking at the Embassy Suites hotel across the street was convenient, we walked over to Hot Tuna across from the Forum where the DJ was spinning all BEP, and was very crazy we then walked next door to The Hut...again a very busy crowd inside, we hung outside by the bar, and they also had a DJ, but not as entertaining as Hot Tuna. By 8pm, we entered into the Forum, with Club Seat tickets...the show was AWESOME...very entertaining. After the show we were not ready to head home with all the energy from the show, so we walked a few blocks up to the Hub, and cabbing it back home to end the evening at the Green Iguana south westshore...a great Wednesday night.

Thursday the Boston Bruins were in town, so we all went to the Lightning Game...prior to the game we stopped by Malio's for their great Happy Hour Menu...HUGE Ginormous juicy cheeseburgers, some of the best flavor and fresh baked soft onion rolls; Shrimp Theresa in a garlic lemon butter sauce; Mozzarella planks - cheesy and lightly fried; tower of Onion rings - again lightly fried and large portion...each item only $5 each!! We were pleasantly surprised how much food and how great it was...definitely will be back for the Happy Hour menu again. The game was slow go for the Lightning in the first period, but an exciting third period with lots of action, but could not get one last goal to tie it up, and we lost 5-4.


Tampa with Hockey, John Mayer and Pirates!


Another great long weekend started Thursday evening when the Tampa Bay Lightning took on the NY Islanders at the Forum in downtown Tampa. I used to watch and follow the Islanders as a kid, my dad would take me and my brothers to the Nassau Coliseum for games growing up in Long Island. Being in Tampa for about 22 years, I was going for the Lightning tonight, and although a sloppy game, Lightning won 5-2.

Friday was a concert night downtown Tampa. We started at Cafe Dufrain, got a nice table outside overlooking downtown and the Forum along the Channel. Food is consistently GREAT here, started with Lamb Ribs(kind of small, and a little over cooked) and Calamari, cooked perfectly with a great lightly spiced oil. Then we enjoyed Sea Scallops entree, and Ahi Tuna. PERFECT. A short walk across the harbour island bridge to the Forum after dinner was perfect(parking at harbour Island is free in the garage if you dine or use one of the services). John Mayer was awesome, played lots of new and old, talked alot with the crowd of nearly 12000. A walk back to harbour island after the concert, we stopped by the Convention Center along the Riverwalk where the Jose Gaspar ship has been docked all week after taking over the city last Saturday.
And Saturday night was the Night Parade for Gasparilla, the 3rd and final parade for Gasparilla. We got to Ybor City early to visit to partake in the Ybor ART walk which occurs every first Saturday of the month from noon to 6pm, only to find out that may of the studios and galleries were closed, because of the parade this evening. We got to the Laughing Cat for the BEST Italian dinner, and were joined by some other friends....filling up on some of the best Italian food in all of Tampa area..Sea Bass Special, Seafood AuGratin, Eggplant Parmasean, Eggplant Rotini, and some soups....all very very good. By then it was time to hit 7th Avenue for the Parade, and what I like about the night parade is it is more 'intimate'...the floats are closer, the people are not as packed, you can get right up to the front, and get the most beads ever. the 2.5 hour parade was FUN..meeting friends from the Krewes at Gaspars Grotto afterwards, and then late night Pizza and NY NY Pizza.

Im looking forward to the Black Eyed Peas this Wednesday!


2010 Gasparilla Weekend! The Invasion and Parade


Friday afternoon started off great, some lunch outdoors along the waterfront at Hula Bay, some Vino in the backyard patio with great friends, and then over to Hyde Park for the Pre-Gaspar festivities. Mateo's new Mexican place was packed, we ended up Valet parking at The Lodge on Howard Ave, and walked around Howard Ave which was hopping by 700pm. We walked over to The Rack on Platt Street for some good eats, have dinner outside, we enjoyed the Lobster/Spinach Dip, with large/soft triangle bread for dipping, then onto the Crunchy Grouper Tacos - Large fried pieces of Grouper in 3 soft flour tortillas, with all the accompaniments, and fries...they were good. And also some Bison Sliders with Cheese/Fries, very juicy and cooked perfectly. It was a great place to start the night.
Then it was a walk across the street to Hyde Park Cafe, where they started a new Friday Night special called "Flip Flop Fridays", and now have a Huge Biergarten with over 60 beers from all over the globe on Tap...also serving Piranellis thin crust pizzas and free wings. The beers are only $10 for a mug and all you can drink from 8-10pm, with a DJ outside in the Biergarten spinning classic dance/alternative tunes from the 80s/90s. It was a fun crowd. Couldn't stay too late, a big day was ahead for Gasparilla.

Saturday morning was very cloudy, breakfast was at a buddies house in Tampa Heights, then we took the #1 Bus (about a dozen of us), to downtown Tampa, first stop was The started raining, but by 4pm the parade had reached downtown and we walked over to Taps in Skypoint...some of us watched the parade from Taps outside under the shelter of a tent set up out front, others braved the rain and wind(it stopped raining by 5pm) with Ponchos on and watched the parade up front, catching beads, meeting lots of folks along the parade route. To end the evening, it was an excellent concert by Collective Soul on the Great lawn of the new Curtis Hixon Riverfront Park.

An excellent Saturday night!! And successful Gasparilla Weekend!

2010 Gasparilla Season Begins and a New Waterfront park in downtown Tampa


Saturday afternoon began an over 100 year tradition in Tampa, GASPARILLA! It runs through March 7th, with the Children's Parades and Pirate Battle/Fireworks today; the Pirates come to try and take over the city on Tuesday 1/26 only to be told by the mayor they will have to go to war for the key to the city---so on Saturday 1/30 they Invade the city by boat(100's of them), and take the key to the city, and have a victory parade and festival. The following Saturday is the night parade in Ybor City, the Outbound Voyage when we send the pirates back to sea is Saturday 2/27, and then the season ends with the Gasparilla Festival of the Arts in downtown Tampa 3/6 and 3/7. GOOD TIMES!!The fireworks were watched this year with a few friends along Bayshore Blvd near El Prado Blvd, no need to deal with all the crowds further up on Bayshore, it was an amazing 30 minute firework display, and I always get to see some new ones like the smiley face fireworks that went off during the show, all while the Pirate Ship was docked in the Bay along bayshore Blvd. Afterwards, we walked over to mad Dogs and Englishmen for a nice table outside on the deck, and GREAT meals as usual at Mad Dogs--Lamb Chops, Fish and Chips, Mad Dog Salads, Cucumber Salads, and Calamari(which was more breaded this venture for some reason). All paired with some great wines. After dinner, met some friends for a birthday party at Splitsville in Channelside, then a Karaoke party.Sunday was the grand opening of a new waterfront park in downtown Tampa, and extension of the Riverwalk. After an excellent meal at First Watch...we walked over to Curtis Hixon Park which opened to the public today, very modern, open layout, with a Great lawn for concerts and festivals. It has some very nice modern features, more of a special use park, and front lawn to the new Museum of Art and Children's Museum...there are many water features(fountains, misters), and great lighting effects in the evenings, docking for boats and kayaks along the river. I'm not too happy with what they did with Kiley park area, they removed all the trees and its just open..will be mighty hot in the summers in that area.And....Looks like it will be the Saints and the Colts in this years Superbowl...[...]

Tampa's Gorilla Theater and a Wing Fest in St. Pete


Friday evening, went to check out the independent theater, Gorilla Theater, and a new play that opened up called "The Drunken City". There are quite a few independent small theaters scattered around the bay area, this one is in Drew park area of Tampa, near Raymond James Stadium. A great small place, about 45 seats in three stadium like tiered rows, not a bad seat in the house. A small bar area, and waiting area are comfortable for very inexpensive beers and wines and organic coffee's. The play was funny, and very well done by the cast.

Saturday, we went over to St. Petersburg's Vinoy Park along the Bay to check out the 1st Annual Wingfest. About a dozen or so restaurants cooked up all kinds of wings for the tasting...there was live music, and it was a nice breezy sunny day along the waterfront. The Sloppy Pelican, which is in St. Pete Beach, got my vote for the tastiest wings.
In the evening, it was a group of us enjoying some live music and good eats at Hula Bay's Dukes on the lower level area...pouring rain and lightning was the background for a fun night, which ended at the Green Iguana South Westshore.

Friday night in St. Pete; Saturday night in Hyde Park


After work Friday, went over to a friends in the old NE neighborhood of St. Pete, we were planning to go downtown for some eats. We wanted to go to Red Mesa Cantina, but getting there around 830pm, there was over an hour wait...looked like a great scene, live music was playing outside in the courtyard, but it was almost 40 degrees out..brrrrr. So we walked a block over to ZGrille. Nice open modern space, with the kitchen in full view behind the bar. We waited less than 5 mins for a table to be cleared, another great looking scene. Friendly service, we started out with Chips with homemade Guac, Queso, and Salsa - the salsa is the pureed kind, I like mine with chunks of fresh tomatoes, this was good though, we also asked for hot salsa, and for .50 they brought a small side of hot salsa(not sure why they wouldn't just give it to you). The Marinated skirt steak and Rib Eye were our main meals, each came with smashed red potatoes, and a vege(fresh green beans, asparagus). The skirt steak was a very small portion with a pureed chimichurri sauce, not as tender as I would have liked, but it was OK. The RibEye was HUGE, very tender and juicy, flavorful, enough for two. We were pleased with the meal, for some reason our dirty plates remained on the table for quite some time. After dinner it was time to light a fire at home, we were expecting sleet in the morning!!A cold Saturday greeted us, high temps never got over 40 degrees, and we were expecting another freeze in the evening. It was a friends of mine birthday, so about 8 of us went over to Byblos for excellent Mediterranean/Middle Eastern eats. We all met at the bar, where a very friendly bar tender kept us entertained, suggesting wines and cocktails. At 7pm there were only a few people in the place, by 730 it was getting packed. We had a private table in the bar area, called the 'Mosquito Room" because of the mosquito net above our head, a great area and highly recommended for a party of 6 or more. Food and Wines kept coming, Ive always had such great service and some of the best middle eastern foods at Byblos. By 9pm, we had the belly dancer in our area...some Turkish Coffee to wrap up the great evening, and then it was out in Hyde park for the rest of the night, first to Cork on Howard Ave, watching the rest of the Wild Card playoff games, and enjoying great company, then a walk over to Dubliner.Sunday, being as cold as it was, I made homemade Italian Wedding Soup, wow, what a pain making over a pound and a half of little tiny meatballs from scratch. GOOD STUFF!!Hopefully we may see the 70s by Saturday, we are on 10 days of temps below 60 in a row...[...]

Happy New Year Tampa - Twenty Ten!!


The New Year is here, and is COLD!! For Florida standards, highs in the 50s with lows in the 30s, this upcoming weekend, we may even see some sleet!?

It was a fun New Years weekend in the Bay area, starting out on Wednesday the 30th, about 30 of us all met up at Hula Bay to see my buddy Rob play some great music, and enjoy each others, service, music...all good times. And the views even better along the water front of Tampa Bay.

New Years Eve, it was me and a few others at my friends house in the St. Pete neighborhood of Old NE. Making homemade pizzas, we had alot of fun, and then around 1130, walked down Coffee Pot Bayou to North Straub Park to watch the downtown St. Pete Fireworks at the strike of midnight to welcome in Twenty Ten!

Friday - New Years Day, was a great day for watching the Bowl games, and made a huge lasagna for some close friends, of course watching the move 'The Hangover'.

Saturday night, a few of us met up for dinner at the new Hamburger Marys in Ybor City's Centro Ybor. A great space, large circular bar area, lively music and videos playing...a very large balcony area along 7th Avenue too. Service was fast and friendly, food even better...large salads, tasty and huge wings. Alot of fun to start off the evening. Then it was on to see a great show at the Ritz Theater in Ybor City. Glactic is an amazing Funk band, entertaining and fun..who knew a trombone could be so entertaining...FUN FUN!!! I will always see this band when they are in town.

Sunday to end the weekend, took a friend to the last Bucs game of the season against the Falcons. We lost our last game, but we braved the cold temps(only got to 49 degrees), and were able to enjoy the second half of the game in the Club section, no better way to keep warm and watch the game then the Club area of Ray Jay Stadium.

HAPPY NEW YEAR!!! GET OUT AND EXPLORE TAMPA BAY!! One of my goals this year is to explore new places to Kayak, Bike, Beach, Dining and Nightlife.


A Christmas Weekend in Tampa


Happy Holidays! Christmas Break started early, and on Wednesday evening a few of us went to the Forum downtown to see the Lightning take on the Flyers, was an exciting Hockey Game...with the Flyers up 2-0 in the first period, only for the Lighting to get 2 in the second period, but the Flyers came through for another 2 to win the game. After the game we met up and said hello/goodbye to some friends that were leaving Tampa for the holiday weekend.Christmas Eve - started early making Italian sauce and a huge Italian feast for my Aunt and Uncle and a few friends - Sausage and Meatballs, Eggplant Parmesan, Four Cheese Lasagna, Broccoli with Garlic/Lemon, Garlic Bread....espresso's and zambuca out in the backyard around the fire pit..dessert of Italian pastries/cookies, and Banana's Foster, and then playing dice games till midnight, when the Cigars came out. Good Times!Christmas Day - after opening gifts and enjoying the morning, met my Aunt and Uncle at Channelside for some Christmas Thai dinner and Thai Thani - at 330pm, not many people in the restaurant yet, but more and more were coming in as we were eating, the area was very busy with people going to the movies as well. Food and service were good, as usual, we ordered some of the Soups, rich and flavorful, Dumplings - fresh and delicious, and House Fried Rice, and another dish with Shrimp, Chicken and Pork and a very light and flavorful sauce. An excellent Christmas meal. Afterwards we walked it off along the Tampa Riverwalk, starting at Channelside, taking a look at the new Heroes Plaza and Cottanchobee Park. Then it was time to see a movie at Channelside, and Up in the Air was the consensus, great movie!! And a great Christmas Day!!Saturday a good friend of mine in the Seminole Heights neighborhood was having a few dozen people over for a Cookies and Wine get together, everyone that showed up at to bring two dozen cookies, and at the end of the night, you were able to take home a few dozen cookies...interesting, but had alot of fun.Sunday, went to downtown St. Pete, and tried Yummy Mama's - Russian Brunch Buffet. I never went to a Russian restaurant, this was very authentic, and had a little market next door, large bar area with live musicians. The Brunch was thoroughly explained in detail of all the variety of foods, everyone that worked there was overly friendly and Russian...Stuffed Cabbage, Chicken Kiev, Goulash, Stroganoff, Russian salads, Russian soups, Perogies...and lots of other foods such as Cheese Blintzes and Crepes, Omelet station, Carving Station, Salad Station, Seafood Station with Crab legs, Oysters and Shrimps. It was good, included Mimosas or Bloody Mary's. I'M not sure I will be running back to the Brunch Buffet, but would love to try the menu for freshly prepared meals...I thin that had there been more people dining and they were able to turn the food over more in the steam tables, the food may have been fresher. Afterwards it was a walk around the park areas of downtown St. Pete. Sunday night, another good friend of mine had a dinner party at her Wellswood neighborhood home, about a dozen of us on the back porch, with a fire pit, and heaters on, enjoyed company and winding down of a great Holiday weekend.Short week, and looking forward to New Years!!..[...]

Chilly Dec Weekend in Tampa


Temps have dropped, and its getting to feel a lot like Christmas...sort of...with blizzard conditions in the Northeast and over 20" of snow, i'll settle for temps in the 50s and 60s.Friday, we decided to try a new Italian Restaurant near me called Luigi's. On Gandy Blvd near Himes Ave, you go into an new looking open space, with a bar in the back area. We started with some mussels in a lemon butter sauce, about 11 mussels came out on a dish, with a very tasty sauce, great for bread dipping, not so great for $10 though. We ordered the Chicken Parm and Eggplant Parm...both dishes came with seasonal veges(baby carrots in a butter sauce), and a pasta/sauce of choice. HUGE portions, being Italina I am very picky about my Italian when dining out, and although the food was OK, it was just that, only OK. The dinners are covered in melted mozzarella, the chicken was not so tender, maybe heated, and Eggplant was very soggy, I like my eggplant to be fresh, crispy fried thin slices. Service was very good, we also ordered a side of meatballs, three came out in a tomato sauce, very cold. I know they make the meatballs prior, but they could have been heated better, there was alot of breading in the meatballs. We wont be back, sorry Luigi's..nice place, friendly service, but for Italian it was just mediocre at best.Afterwards we went to Cinebistro in Hyde Park Village to see the opening of Avatar. I really really love this not a big fan of going to movies on opening night on a weekend...but being able to reserve your seat ahead of time on line was perfect. We got there about 15 min prior, were seated by the usher, and ordered Cappuccinos and an EXCELLENT chocolate cake dessert that reminded me of the old Suzie Q's. The movie was EXCELLENT as well, amazing effects, 3D technology, good story. After the movie a nice walk through the Hyde Park neighborhood, Bungalow Terrace area, checking out all the Christmas Lights/Displays.Saturday, met a few friends back at the Village to have an early dinner at Timpano's Italian Chop House...this place is beautiful inside, large bar area, upscale dining area, and sidewalk tables was a bit chilly for outside, so we met inside...ive always liked the look of the place, but food is mediocre at best...especially for the prices. 4 Cheese Raviloi with a lemon butter/white wine sauce and sliced chicken..the chicken was very dry, sliced peppers were over cooked, very very salty to the taste....Shrimp Fra Diablo, Veal Marsala...just OK dishes, but they are over $20 each dish, and ala carte. I will say that they have a good wine list(althoguh pricey) and love the Mussels Appetizer that comes out on a skillet.We then went to check out some Christmas Displays, Rawls Road in Tampa...afterwards all were too tired to go to some of the many parties happening in and around the area.Sunday we headed to the Buddhist Temple for Brunch, getting there around 1pm is ideal, the Soups were perfect for this chilly day, sitting along the water, enjoying some very fresh Thai foods..[...]

My brother visits Tampa from Colorado


Another great long weekend, one of my brothers came to Tampa to visit me and my family and also join me to the Bucs/Jets game this weekend. He arrived Thursday, TIA is so convenient, parking on the top floor of the short term parking deck, as soon as he arrives, gets his bags, its an easy elevator ride to the 9th floor, and no charge for parking the first hour. Off to drive him to my Mom's outside of Sun City Center in Valencia Lakes, where we enjoyed some of the best pizza outside of NY..East Coast Pizza take out.

Friday after work, we all met up and went to Cafe Durfrain on Harbour Island downtown Tampa...beautiful waterfront setting, the meals here are always consistently great!! Then it was a walk across the street to Thats Amore for Italian desserts and espresso's while the owner played Sinatra tunes and Christmas songs on the Piano, all while having an excellent view of the waterfront and downtown Skyline.

Saturday my whole family met up for an afternoon movie at the Cinebistro in Hyde Park Village..great comfortable seats, ultra luxurious. modern state of the art theaters..we enjoyed huge bowls of popcorn and giant sodas with free refills, all served to you prior to the start of the movie.
Then we walked thru the village to the Wine Exchange, and enjoyed the unusual warm December air(it was about 65 this evening), sitting on the patio..again always consistently great food and service at Wine Exchange, EXCEPT for the Broiled Seafood Special they were offering, a large portion of Broiled Lobster, Shrimp, Scallops..but lacking any flavor. All else was very good, and then we walked over to City Sweets for coffees, fudge and desserts which we brought out to the fountain area of the Village, sitting outside, enjoying each others company, a nice evening.

Sunday was GAME DAY...the Jets of course beat the Bucs, was a sloppy game, but my brother enjoyed being at the game of his beloved Jets, while I was there for the time though...then we met up with the rest of the family for a final night dinner waterside at Hula Bay...perfect ending to a great weekend, a beautiful evening again as we watched the sunset, and enjoyed awesome fish tacos, sushi, grouper sandwich's, fish and chips...and then stayed for dessert and conversation.


Back in Tampa from New York, NY!


Great trip to NY for business, which led to a great long weekend for play. Some highlights from this trip included:
Momoya - Chelsea
Otto Pizzeria - Great Wine and Food, a Mario Batagglia restaurant - West Village
5th Ave Window Displays - Barneys, Bergdorf and Goodman, Sachs, Macys, Lord and Taylor, etc..
Rockefeller Plaza - Top of the Rock
Murray's Flaffal on 1st Ave
Union Square Holiday Market
Museum of Sex - Flatiron District
"In the Heights" - Broadway Show - EXCELLENT!!
Blue Fin at the 'W' hotel in Times Square
Mercury Bar - Hells Kitchen
Il Porto - South Street Seaport

Nothing like a Trip to New York to get anyone in the Christmas and Holiday Spirit!

Thanksgiving Weekend 2009 in Tampa


Nice long weekend has come to an end. Started out on Wednesday evening, typically a very busy evening with lots of folks coming into town to visit friends and family. Met up with 8 other good friends at Grille 116 in the Northdale area..the burbs about 10 miles north of Tampa. We had a great table in the lounge area...swanky place, very nice, upscale, reminded me a bit like South Beach in the Burbs....service was excellent. Meals here are all a la carte, consisting of Steaks, Seafood and some Pasta dishes. I had the Sea Scallops, three huge pan seared scallops atop a very creamy Risotto. All the dishes were excellent, and to end off the dinner, homemade doughnuts with different toppings like Chocolate, Strawberry and Caramel. It was a great way to start off the long holiday weekend, before heading home, it was a stop at the Green Iguana Westshore, never seen the place more crowded, but alot of fun.Turkey day was held this year at the Columbia Restaurant in Ybor City with the family. We were so surprised by the excellent meal...a first for us to not cook. We had reservations, and only waited about 5 minutes to be seated...we had some of their famous Sangria to start us off...Thanksgiving Meal at the Columbia consisted of Vermont Turkey(all white meat breast), Sausage Stuffing, Mashed Potatoes(with lumps), Mixed Veges, Sweet Potato, Cranberry Dressing, and Gravy...a HUGE portion, some of us couldn't finish it all. Very homemade, VERY delicious. Highly recommend if you don't want to cook, or clean and be served for Thanksgiving, the Columbia is a great choice. The meal even included a salad or soup, and dessert..Pumpkin Pie, Pumpkin Flan or Flan, and all drinks(coffee, teas, sodas)...all for only $20 per person.We then strolled down 7th avenue in Ybor to the was a bit busy in the historic district this Holiday afternoon, but the movies were empty...saw the Fantastic Mr Fox.Friday, had a nice bike ride from my home in South Tampa off Westshore Blvd to Ballast Point Pier/Bayshore Blvd. Beautiful day, in the 60s..we had lunch at the restaurant at the Pier, called Taste of Boston...good warm Clam Chowder, a HUGE Grouper Sandwich and Lobster Rolls, all very good. Friday evening, my musician buddy Rob was to play at Bellini's in Gulfport. A few of us stopped by La Fogota for dinner - excellent Brazilian style place, authentic, upscale decor, beautiful restaurant in Gulfport. We had the Churassco dinner which included all you can eat fresh carved variety of meats(Pork, Steak Diane, Sausages, Bacon wrapped Chicken, Prime Rib, and more) was excellent and included a salad, soups, side dishes bar as well. Rob didn't end up playing this evening, as there was another band booked, Bellini's is a great bar area, with an outdoor area as well with a nice was kinda chilly this evening, so we stayed in and relaxed a few hours, chomping on the great meals we enjoyed.Saturday, we biked again, to the Saturday Morning Market in downtown St. Pete, and then taking the Pinellas Trail over to the Grand Central District area for the annual Chili Cookoff....a fun time, tasted over a dozen different types of chiilis, relaxed at the Queenshead Restaurant listening to live music, and also on the 'Chill Lounge' set up in the area...beautiful day for biking yet again. Saturday afternoon a few of us gathered at my place, and watched USF stumble under Miami for a terrible upsetting football was nice to turn the TV outside, and sit around and enjoy the cool evening watching football. Then up the street to CDB's Southside for some eats and wine.Sunday went and met some friends at Hula Bay/Dukes, another winning sunny [...]

Treasure Island Mexican Eats, Sandsculptures, USF Football, Wine Lunch


After another great Ethiopian meal at Queen of Sheba in South Tampa, on Friday, we ventured out to the beaches to Treasure Island...a quick 30 min drive across the Bay from Tampa, and settled into VIP Mexican, next to Ricky T's and across from the Thunderbird and Bilmar Resort Hotels....hole in the wall, casual, bar...AWESOME AWESOME Mexican frills, you may get friendly service, you may not, you may have to get up and go in the kitchen to get your silverware, its all in the fun...if you park in the back, you have to actually walk thru the kitchen to get in the place...I love dives like this, its been a local beach establishment for over 30 years. After feeding ourselves we all walked across the street through Sloppy Joe's at the Bilmar for the Annual Sand Sculpting contest...over 21 tons of sand was dumped for artists to create some amazing sculptures..there were live bands also playing on the beach, there is nothing like being on the beach at night, such a different experience.

Saturday was the the USF Homecoming Game against Louisville...we started with a GREAT brunch at Brio in International Plaza's BayStreet, I commented a few weeks back that I was not a big fan, but at 10am, brunch was something else...nice table outside, Mimosas in hand, and most Brunch items were under $10....very tasty Fritatta's, Eggs Benedict's, French Toast....USF won their game, and the loong day continued to Ybor City and a few places downtown Tampa.

Sunday, watching the Bucs, we headed over to the Wine Exchange in Hyde Park Village where Vanessa took care of us at a great table outside....ive always had consistently great friendly service, and good food over the past few years here...hope they keep it up.

Short week with the Turkey Day Holiday, trying something very different this year, going to the Columbia Restaurant for Thanksgiving...should be interesting.

Stoney Point Casino Night - St Pete's RibFest


Weekend was beautiful, and FUN!! Saturday night some good friends of mine in the City of Tampa neighborhood Stoney Point held their annual "Casino Night" party at their house, all dressed up in tux's, and Marilyn Monroe look alikes, the theme was Rat Pack - Casino Night. A great party, live music, awesome people, and donations piled up for Toys for Tots and MOSI.
Sunday, to take advantage of the great weather, a bunch of us ventured out on the bikes along Coffee Pot Bayou in St Pete for the annual RibFest, which also benefits Children's Charities. The biking was beautiful, we got to Vinoy Park, locked up the bikes, paid the $15 admission, only to be thrown into a most dis-organized crowd--want something to drink?, wait 30 minutes--pushing and shoving; want to try some of the countries best Ribs and BBQ?, wait about 90 minutes, pushing and shoving; want to enjoy some live music--well, try to find your self a spot on the expansive lawn that was already over populated...ive been to this festival a few times, and have never seen it so disorganized, people didnt know where to stand, no organized times I thought a riot might break out...all I know is if they cant get this festival more organized, or have a limit as to the amount of people they actually let into the festival, I will never go back, and never advise anyone to go to such a mess...we left after about 2 hours, and walked to the Parkshore Grill for dinner...which was awesome as usual. A nice table outside along the park/bay, food has always been consistently good, as well as the service.

Back from NC Mountains - Lunch and Coffee's in Palma Ceia and a Greek Grill in Tampa


What another AMAZING time at the Hawkesdene House Mountain Retreat in Andrews, NC. We had two newbies on this trip, the fall colors were breathtaking, weather couldn't have been better with blue blue skies, temps near 70, and close to freezing at night. Cant wait to get back there soon!!

Coming back Monday, took my babysitter(Madre) and a friend to lunch at Datz Deli off MacDill Ave in South Tampa neighborhood of Palma Ceia. Once again a great meal, HUGE colossal size sandwich's(brought the other half of them home for dinner)--fresh corned beef, pastrami, cheeses, plate of pickles, fresh breads, very very attentive service, and those yummy sweet and salty homemade chips with blue cheese dressing...even asked for extra blue cheese for dipping.
After an excellent lunch, we wondered next door to Kalupa Bakery for fresh Colombian coffee's and fresh baked desserts, there are a few tables for relaxing and enjoying the sweet treats.

This evening, went to check out a new Greek Grill, called GoGos, on Kenedy Blvd just east of Westshore Blvd. Plenty of parking in the back, a very nice clean open restaurant, as I walked in I noticed the set up is almost IDENTICAL to a Chipotle Mexican. You walk up and have choices of Pita, Wraps, Bowls or Salads...then pick your meat--fresh marinated Chicken, Steak, Pork, or Gyro, then toppings--lettuce, feta cheeses, tomatoes, cukes, kalamta olives, greek peppers--and then a sauce--like Greek Vinaigrette or a Jalapeno Honey dressing. HUGE wraps is what we tried, they come with a seasoned Greek Rice. Best of all, everything is FRESH, organically grown, even have vegetarian specialties...sides also include Hummus, and lots more. This is a place I will be visiting more, fresh, tasty, priced right, clean, convenient...and Greek!!
They also have frozen yogurt with fresh fruit toppings.

BRIO Tuscan Grille at Intl Plaza's Bay Street


What a beautiful place--just too bad my food this evening wasnt as beautiful. Brand new at Internaitonal Plaza's BayStreet, they did a great job renovating the old 'pizza' place that used to be here. Ample outdoor covered dining, white curtains, a nice large bar that extends from inside to outside...HUGE high ceilings, looked very 'Cheesecake Factory" like with a bit of Tuscany thrown in...ok, now onto the food...we were greeted by very friendly hostesses, and the service was impeccable, obviously these servers(very very corporate, chain like, almost like robots, making sure they dont forget to upsell anything, explaining the menu, etc.)..gotta love the corporate chains..ugh!OK, now the food...started with a 9.95 glass of Savignon Blanc, a seasonal special, excellent...onto the Calamari as an appetizer, fried calamari, with fried pepper slices, with two types of dipping sauces...nothing out of the ordinary, typical. Then the salads(which came out as we were not even half way thru the appetizer-rushed)..chop salad was drenched in dressing and more like 'ripped apart in small pieces' rather than chopped, tasty dressing, and a typical Cesar salad. And now entrees...the artichoke crusted Beef medallions--served meduim rare there were three 2oz medallions of beef, tender and delicious, and also the Veal Marsala--a wreck, very overcooked Marsala, the coating on the veal was soggy, and drenched in too much Marsala was a tasty sauce, with lots of mushrooms. Each dinner came with a side of roasted potato's(maybe a 1/2 cup), and a very minute amount of vegetables...i couldn't even tell what the veges were, some thin strips of zucchini skins, a few pieces of carrot which were very hard and raw, with skins left on the carrot(to give it a rustic look??), and a slimy red pepper...not good!!!All this came to about $100.00...way over priced for what we here is how I see this place...they will capture the shoppers at Intl Plaza, tourist flocking to Intl Plaza BayStreet, and after work happy hour at the very cool, and chic bar that opens up to outside...but it seems to me like just another chain, an overpriced Macaroni Grille, although i like the Macaroni Grille more than I did BRIO on this trip.[...]

Guavaween Weekend - 2009


The weekend started Friday with a victorious win from the USF Bulls over West Virginia...met up with a bunch of Alumni in Lot 4(we parked at the Westshore Marriott, and took a cab to the stadium...they offered the shuttle, but it seemed the Westshore Marriott was the home base for all the WVU fans, so we cabbed it it there) was great seeing so many people, the game was excellent! Leaving the stadium we ran into the Marriott Shuttle on Dale Mabry, and just decided to get a ride back in the shuttle...with ALL THE WVU fans! Last stop was the Green Iguana Westshore for some live music, and celebrations with other Bulls fans.Saturday eve was Guavaween..Tampa's annual Halloween party in the Ybor City National Historic Landmark District. This year they raised the fee, $17, and also brought back the original Mama Guava Stumble, with NO motorized vehicles in the parade down 7th Avenue. This ensured there would be no blockades along the parade route, and took us back to the traditional Guavaween, which is a fund raiser for the Ybor Chamber of Commerce. It was nice to see the stumble brought back, lots of interesting characters..and at the end you could just walk about in the streets and join them. One thing I also noticed was there was only one stage set up this year, with not the usual National Bands that most people would be aware of playing for the crowds. By the way, the term "Guavaween" was coined by the city of Tampa having once been the "Guava' capital of the country, in addition to Cigar capitol of the world. NYC was known as the 'big apple' so some artsy and new paper columnists people labeled Tampa as the 'big guava'. Guavaween started back in the early 80s amongst the artist, musicians, theater folk wanting to do something similar to Fantasy Fest in Key West--out came Guavaween.Now we all had an EXCELLENT time this year, and our costumes creatively designed via the Goodwill were a hit, with lots of people wanting pics of me and my two buddies. But there were so far fewer people in Ybor City for this event this year...a few suggestions for the future of this fun party:>Charge on even fee of $10--especially in bad economic times, and all the other Halloween parties in the area, give a better incentive to attract the people.>Dont start charging until 6pm--those that arrive earlier will eat, shop, browse the area, and incent the local businesses to stay open.>Dont fence in such a large area--6th ave to 8th ave, and 14th to 19th Streets should do fine. Again, keeping many of the businesses open in the area.>Provide wristbands for those that paid a fee--this will only allow those 21 and older to partake in the festivities, allow access to the bars/clubs/events.>Book MORE ENTERTAINMENT--where were the widely known national acts that have always come by? Where were the carnival rides and attractions? Its Halloween, provide some Haunted Houses, specialized Guavaween attractions.With the 12-15000 that were there this year(compared to 45000 last year, and more in previous years), about 90% were costumed, and all i talked to had a great time..the people watching, the creative costumes, the laughs and good times that can only be had like this on Halloween was worth it all.Sunday we visited Nickos Diner on Florida Avenue Seminole Heights area. Great Diner that reminded me of growing up on Long Island...we sat at the counter, had the typical omelet breakfast with crispy hash browns, fun, friendly service, a neighborhood, locals feel, and good food!!Short week for me this week...heading to And[...]

Wat Mongkolratanaram - Tampa Buddhist Temple Sunday Brunch


I finally made it to this amazing Sunday Brunch along the Palm River in Tampa. Wat Mongkolratanaram is a Buddhist Temple located off Palm River Road, just east of 50th Street. It was a picture perfect day,. with cooler temps, and sunny skies. Arriving there around 1230(the brunch runs form 10am to 1pm, but we still saw them cooking at 2pm), it wasn't to crowded, there was a line for the soups and pad thai/main dishes, but other than that, we were free to roam around and explore.

We tried nearly everything, from the fried bananas, to these small 'dumpling' like eats that were made as ordered - you tell them how many you want, they put your name on a box, and you return about 10 minutes later to pick them up - made with Coconut milk and seasoned with green onion. The soups are incredible, one could just get a large bowl and that could be an entire meal - sprouts, skinny or flat noodles, pork, chicken or beef, fish balls(sort of like dumplings)and lots of extras!! Pad Thai, Sticky Rice served with a Vegetarian mixture with Tofu, Pumpkin and Chicken Curry, a fried fish(not sure what it was); Papaya Salad; Thai Teas; desserts; and they were also grilling some foods as well. Each dish is from $1(for the teas); to $5 - so affordable, and all proceeds to go to raise money for the Temple.

Beautiful grounds with lots of picnic tables along the river. After stuffing ourselves and having lots leftover for later in the day, we walked the grounds, toured the Temple where meditation occurs on Sundays from 12-2pm.

Going 'Green' with the Tampa Bay Lightning


Thursday evening was 'Go Green' night with the Tampa Bay Lightning Hockey team...they were promoting green awareness, powering the Forum with renewable energy the entire night, recycling all plastics/aluminium, etc. And if you rode your bicycle, you received a free ticket to the game, OR if you brought a phone book to be recycled you received a ticket for $5. Soooo, a few of us rode our bikes, and getting onto the Forum Plaza, there was an area set aside for Bike Parking where someone watched them all evening, and we were each handed a great seat to the game. In addition, City Bike Tampa gave anyone with a bike a free maintenance check. While in the Forum, we snacked on some awesome BBQ Beef/Chicken and Pork atop nachos, just like at the Rays games...if you can find these, they are a steal and very filling. During the game we received a call in the 1st period about our friends who had a Suite on the 1st level...soooo, we ventured down to the Suite to watch the rest of the game, noshing on Chocolate Fondue with a picture perfect view from mid ice of the Lightning beating the San Jose Sharks.

There is so much going on the rest of the weekend, just need to figure out what to do:

VM Ybor Neighborhood Historic Home Tour
Johns Pass Seafood Festival
Tampa International Auto Show
Tampa Bay Oktoberfest


USF Bulls > Cinebistro > Kayak >Pops in the Park > Bike > Stone Crabs and Jazz


Wow, I love this time of year, weather gets cooler, and something is going on!!Thursday evening went to the USF Bulls vs Cincinnati Bearcats nationally televised football game for Big East Conference dominance....It was a great game, but the #8 ranked Bearcats dominated the second half and beat the Bulls 34-17 in front of almost 65,000 fans. We arrived about an hour before the game, easily parking in the #10 lot on the corner of Himes and Columbus...met lots of other alumni in the game.Friday was the Grand Opening of a new movie watching concept, Cinebistro opened in Hyde Park Village. Great concept, purchasing your tickets on line like a concert or play, you choose your seat in advance...when arriving you are greeted by a very modern lobby/lounge area where you can pick up your tickets, and about 30 minutes prior to the movie, they open the theater and you are ushered to your seat with a menu....the theaters are HUGE, nice brand new, state of the art, and the chairs are the most comfortable, bigger then a First Class seat on the fanciest of airplanes, with large armrest, and they are in pods of two, so you are never to close to strangers but perfect for a date or couples, and since there are only about 30-50 seats per theater, it makes for a very intimate evening. The menu is good, lots of different choices, Calamri Appetizers, served in a popcorn box with popcorn, and two dipping sauces. Also we tried the Seared Ahi Tuna, a small portion served atop some Field Greens, and the Chuirassco Steak, another small portion with a 'scoop' of black beans mixed with rice, and a few thin stands of Paps Fritas...when you order a soda, its HUGE(probably 24 oz.), and the bowl of popcorn, also HUGE. No paper or plastic here, real utensils, glassware, silverware, plates, etc....Everything is 'served' to you, no need to wait on lines, their is no 'snack bar' is service at its best...a remote keypad is punched in with your order, and goes directly to the kitchen..within 15 minutes, your order arrives right at your seat, and you pay right then at your seat. There are about 15 minutes of previews, and after that, the theater goes dark, and the service stops, no one getting in your way, etc. If you want anything, just go to the cocktail lounge bar, and ask for it. Full Bar, Full Menu, and its 21 and older only.I will definitely be coming back to watch a movie here for special occasions, to impress someone, ability to reserve a seat. Probably wont be dining here except for sodas and popcorn, maybe an appetizer instead of popcorn, or even just dessert. The meals were OK, I felt like they were more of 'banquet/catered' type meals, nicely displayed, with OK flavor. Its also kind of awkward eating on the trays in front of you, and dont even think about getting an Appetizer, meal and dessert together, as everything comes out at once, and there is no room for all that. A great experience, great concept, exclusive niche that is sure to be very successful in Hyde Park.Saturday we took the kayaks up to Canoe Escape to be transported to the Hillsborough River, again a great trip, LOTS of wildlife and birds and gators, the weather was perfect...just so serene and relaxing.Saturday evening was a trip to downtown St. Pete's Vinoy Park, found parking easily off Coffee Pot Bayou near the City Pool, for 'Pops in the Park, a free concert held throughout the year and the Tampa Bay area by the Florida Orchestra. It was great to be able t[...]

Busch Gardens Howl O Scream; U2 Concert; Ybor Dinner/Movie; and Kayaking


Wow...what a nice weekend...this is the time of year I love the best...seems there is just so much happening from October through May, each weekend...a few of my highlights from this past weekend..which was soo unseasonably HOT - we tied or broker records with temps still in the 90s..very weird.The annual Busch Gardens Howl O Scream was attended with a few friends on Thursday..for $20 when you purchase 4 or more on Thursdays... the park was empty, had all the rides and 7 Haunted Houses this year to practically ourselves, made for a great evening of fun and scares....Friday was the long anticipated(bought the tickets in April) U2 Concert....I have been to many many concerts, and NEVER seen such a spectacle which was U2 at Tampa Stadium...72,000 fans(more than super bowl - a record), and a $40 million dollar stage, club seats meant we had access to the club was just a most perfect night, and U2 couldn't have been at their peak of performances, quite the show, more entertainment than I could have imagined.Saturday, went for a dinner/movie date in Ybor City...stopping at El Puerto on 5th avenue and 17th streets for their 22oz Churasco Steak and Chicken Fried Rice...plenty of food and very very good...then a walk over to Muvico Centro Ybor theaters to see Sci FI thriller "Pandorum" (I am saddened that Muvico decided to pull the plug on its Premiere Theaters, and now allow under 21 into that was worth a few extra bucks to see a movie in larger all leather seats, free popcorn and NO KIDS, and ow that is all gone--not good); and to end the evening it was fresh crepes at La Creperia, sitting at a table outside we enjoyed the Marie Antoinette with fresh strawberries, bananas, Nutella and Baileys...Sunday, took the kayaks out on the Bay..the tide was rather low, but it allowed us to just wade peacefully in the Bay seeing all the wildlife throughout the Mangrove areas of Picnic Island/MacDill AFB area(Cranes, Rosette Spoonbills, Ibis, Egrets, and all kinds of jumping fish and Sting rays)...A busy week ahead - my buddy Rob is playing solo at Hula Bay Wednesday, #21 USF Bulls take on #8 Cincinnati Bearcats Thursday night at home, Friday the Cinebistro opens in Hyde Park and the Canvas 5 Art production takes place, and Saturday Bok Towers is celebrating with a large festival, and it may be another perfect weekend for bringing the kayaks out somewhere again....[...]