Thursday, December 24, 2009

St Pete Brassiere - St Pete, FL

**Update: Wonderful experience on a Saturday night, recently. Great food and service. Watch for my new post coming soon.....

I feel like with today's post, I need to explain again about my philosophy when it comes to writing about my dining experiences. I am not a critic or reviewer because I feel that is too presumptuous of me. I love supporting local restaurants and there are people who work really hard to build a business and they are passionate about what they do and I love the choice we have here in the bay area. It is hard work and I really have to applaud people who have chosen that line of work. In my fifty plus posts that I have done I feel that I have put forth an effort to keep my posts positive. If I really don't like a place and I don't feel that it is redeemable, I don't even write about it in my blog. That being said, today I am going to write my first negative post, if only with the hope that it might do some good.

When I first read about The Table restaurant changing their name and going with the concept of a brassiere, I was very excited. I felt this was something St Pete needed and I liked their new lower prices and their menu looked great when I checked it out online. So, on a Wednesday night, my family and I headed over to check it out. When we arrived, the place was quite busy, but after a short wait, we were seated at our table. This is where the first glitch took place. One server comes and takes our order for drinks and an appetizer. Then another server arrives later and says she will be our server. We told her we had already been helped and she goes to our first server and we observe them have a quiet two minute argument about who will be our server. Finally, the second server comes back and says she will our server and we need to give our order again, because apparently the first guy couldn't tell her what we had already ordered. Alas, we gave her our drink order, but forgot to mention the order for the onion tart that we had placed with the first server. After a wait, our server showed up again and we order our appetizer. Sorry, but the customer should not have to witness the infighting and I felt like we kind of felt the fallout all evening for the argument between the two servers.

Our onion tart arrived and this was really one redeemable menu item of the evening and it was quite delicious. The only thing I would have done differently is I should have paired the tart with a chardonnay or Riesling because they would have helped to cut the richness of the tart. Instead, I had ordered a Cabernet, which was good, but didn't necessarily pair with the tart. Oh well, that was my mistake.

After the onion tart, everything really seemed to go down hill. We ordered another glass of wine, which took about twenty minutes to arrive. We waited forever to get our food, which sometimes happens and if the server is good at giving me updates I am ok with that because the kitchen is really beyond the control of the servers. However, that doesn't explain why it took twenty minutes for our glass of wine. She did come and apologize once for the delay on the food, but it was really a strange reason that she gave us. She pointed to a table with a party of twelve and said that the large table was the reason everything was slow tonight. Huh? I had seen that party of twelve there for at least a half an hour before we had ever ordered our entrees. And from what I could see, it took them forever to get their orders, too.

So, we had our wine and our entrees arrived. My son ordered the brassiere burger well-done with no vegetables on it and pommes frites alongside. The burger came with vegetables, which was no big deal because we just scraped them off. However, then he took a bite and it was blood red inside. I know some people are in to rare burgers, but if you are not into them, that can be quite gross. So, we call the server over and she takes the burger back to the kitchen. After ten minutes, the same burger with the bite out of it comes back and it was cooked with ketchup and all and the unwanted vegetables back on top. Oh, and the same french fries came back with it. At this point, my son just ate it. He is young enough that as long as there wasn't blood coming out of the burger, he was happy. If it had been me, I wouldn't have ate it.

For myself, I ordered the steak of the day with pommes frites. My steak was a rib eye and it was just an okay steak. What I had been really excited to try was the pommes frites which I had read were cooked in the traditional way, wherein they are fried for a short time once, and then a second time until they are finished, which produces a nice, crisp fry. However, these fries were more similar to a pommes allumettes, or matchstick fries. And serving the fries with the steak on top of them defeated the purpose of having crisp fries.

Last of all, my husband had the vegetable risotto. Both him and I agreed it was just a so-so risotto and we both tend to prefer a creamier risotto. Also, I must say it would have been nice to see a couple of more vegetarian options on the menu. St Petersburg does have a decent number of vegetarians in there midst and it would be nice to have that reflected on the menu.

I hope that this just happened to be on of those nights, because it still felt a lot like the Table restaurant, only with a different menu. Like I said, the new pricing is great as it reflects the current economy. On paper, the menu looks great, so I would love to go back again and try it and hope that it was just an off night. This restaurant is a great concept and I would love to see it succeed in St Pete and it would be lovely to see new decor in fitting with a European feel.

St Pete Brassiere
539 Central Ave
St Petersburg, FL 33701

St. Pete Brasserie on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Yacht Sales Cafe - St Petersburg, FL

I discovered this little spot when I was out for a 3 mile run with my son and husband one Saturday. Up to this point, I had never heard of its existence, and after my visit there, I wish I had known about it sooner. Just south of the Dali museum in downtown St Pete, it is an unassuming spot with a relaxing atmosphere that is helped along by the yachts along the waterfront. The food is simple, but good. There are a few beers on tap to choose from along with some bottled beer and there are 2-3 wine choices. The food consists mainly of soup or sandwiches and you can pick up chips or a few bakery items from the counter. I believe they also offer grouper. I have been there twice, and I have tried the egg salad sandwich and the philly cheesesteak, which were both good. Again, this is simple food at its finest and it is great tossed down with a cold beer. The people working there are friendly and efficient. Order you food at the counter, and they bring it out to your table outside in a flash. As an added plus for the budget minded, draft beers and food are inexpensive. It is a great place to pass a relaxing Saturday afternoon for me.

Yacht Sales Cafe
1110 3rd Street South
St Petersburg, FL 33701

Yacht Sales Cafe on Urbanspoon

Burrito Border - St Petersburg, FL

There is everything to love about this spot. First of all, the minute you walk in the door, you are greeted by the people working behind the counter and they actually seem like they are happy to see you there and not putting on an act. Second, you get untold choices to build your taco, burrito, nachos, etc....whichever way you want it. You like meat..... go ahead and build it from there. problem, build it from there. Choose your meat, vegetables, beans, cheeses, and salsas and add it to whatever you want and you are ready to go. I go there about once a week when I am having a beer at "The Independent" that is right next door. The guys wrap it all up in takeaway boxes and I am ready to go.

Burrito Border
17 3rd Street North
St Petersburg, FL 33701

Burrito Border on Urbanspoon

Friday, December 4, 2009

Nola Cafe and News Stand - St Petersburg, FL

Just new to Beach Drive in St Pete, is the Nola Cafe and News Stand. This is the second location for Nola, which has its first store in Tampa. My family and I were just walking by and wanted to take a peek inside. However, it ended up being more than a peek when we were met at the door and invited inside to take a look at the menu, which serves up New Orleans style food. Once we saw beignets on the menu, there was no way we were leaving. For those of you not familiar with the New Orleans treat of beignets, they are a like a pillow-shaped donut that is always served fresh out of the hot oil and sprinkled very liberally, and then some, with powdered sugar. The beignets at Nola's were light and fluffy and went great with a cup of traditional Cafe Au Lait, made with half chicory coffee and half hot milk. This looks to me to be a new favorite morning treat to have at Nola's!

Nola Cafe and News Stand
(The website above is for the Tampa location, but it duplicates the menu at St Pete)
300 Beach Drive
St Petersburg, FL

Nola Cafe on Urbanspoon

Tre Amici @ the Bunker - Tampa, FL

Yay, I had the great experience of finding another great wine/espresso bar, and again this was something my family found in our quest to listen to some of the wonderfully talented singers that we have here locally in the Tampa Bay area. On this particular occasion we had the opportunity to hear Vanessa Brown, Steve Vaclavik, and Bob Forrest. I have to say, they all put on an excellent music show and that everyone who showed up at the Bunker had a great time!

Now for the location itself. It is just two blocks off the main action in Ybor, and yet it is a nice quiet spot. Huge windows overlook the street, and it looks quite cozy if you walk by the windows and look in at night. Inside, there are cozy tables for two, or some larger couches and tables to gather around with a party of friends. I really liked the black and white photography on the walls. Also, their is a neat piece of artwork hanging over the counter where you order that shouldn't be missed. If you like, there is a bar to sit at.

For drinks, one can order wine, espresso, tea, and soda, etc. I had a cappuccino that I really liked, and even better was their lemon-ginger tea. Also, we ordered some of their sandwiches, which were all very good. My favorite sandwich turned out to be the one that my husband ordered, The Pianta. This was a vegetarian sandwich with avocados, sun-dried tomato pesto, olives, and swiss cheese on cuban bread and toasted. For myself, I ordered the Avery sandwich, which had smoked turkey, greens, cucumbers, and cream cheese on cuban bread and this was all very yummy. Also delicious was the roast beef sandwich. All these were served with a choice of chips or fruit salad. If you have room for dessert, or you need something along with your coffee, we tried the lemon raspberry bars and the oreo bars which were very decadent and hard to share, they were so good.

Tre Amici at the Bunker is a very lovely place and I can't wait to go back. Every Thursday night they have live music, so it is worth checking out their schedule on their website. They love to support local talent and any local talent that wants exposure and is interested in playing should stop by and check it out, too.

Tre Amici@the Bunker
1907 19th Street North
Tampa, FL 33605

Tre Amici at Bunker on Urbanspoon

Friday, November 20, 2009

The Independent - St Petersburg, FL

There are beer places and then "there are beer places" and The Independent in downtown St Petersburg is IT. If I would have to pick my favorite place to go have a beer in the whole Tampa Bay area, it would be this place. It is very low key, and it just has a good vibe to it. What makes it that way? For one, the phenomenal choice of beers from around the world, and on tap. Not sure what to try, ask one of the knowledgeable bartenders who get extra points for extreme friendliness. The owner, John, makes a point of greeting all his customers and he gives some great suggestions, also. Another fun thing is that a lot of the beers have the glass that is made for it, not just one uniform beer mug. It is a diverse crowd that comes to the independent, but one thing everyone has in common is a love of quality beer. Cheers!

The Independent

29 3rd Street North
St Petersburg, FL 33701

Monday, November 16, 2009

Ella's Americana Folk Art Cafe - Tampa, FL

Wow! Stepping into Ella's is like stepping into another world. Ella's has lots of lovely, open space with an upstairs seating area overlooking the dining area below. And there is lots of cool art on the walls. Take a closer look at the art and you will see it is made up of a lot of old stuff, such as the painted refrigerator door or bedstead. The front grill of a car overlooks the small stage, where one can enjoy the music of whatever band happens to be playing. Check out Ella's website for a music schedule. The tables are neat, too. They look like they are made up of part old tables, with a metal top. Besides the upstairs and downstairs dining area, you can grab a seat at the bar or there is a large patio to enjoy your meal. However, in our case, we were there to enjoy the wonderful music of local singer/songwriter Rebekah Pulley, so my family and I grabbed a table near the stage.

This was our first time dining at Ella's, and we happened to be there on a Sunday afternoon. Sunday afternoon means Sunday BBQ at Ella's. The Sunday BBQ gives you a choice of ribs, beef brisket, pork-sammy, beef bun, or a combination. Along with that you can choose one side: macaroni and cheese, zucchini fritters, sweet potato fries, etc. I opted for the beef bun and the sweet potato fries. The beef is served with barbecue sauce and a pickles and the sweet potato fries were served with a spicy ketchup that went perfectly with the crispy sweet potato fries, which I loved. The beef bun was very good, not the best I've had, but still very good, and I was very satisfied. Along with my meal, my husband and I enjoyed a bottle of the Malbec Rose that turned out to be very nice.

There was only one disappointment about the meal and that is that being a Sunday BBQ, they didn't really have any vegetarian options. There was a choice of one salad, which didn't really sound too much like a let's make a meal out of it salad. The only choice left was the sweet potato fries or zucchini fritters, which were delicious, but not really a meal. I looked over the menu for the rest of the week and there are a lot of lovely options for vegetarians that you don't find at other places, but Sunday evenings don't really offer a lot in that direction. Perhaps a vegetarian chili to go with the theme of BBQ, or some other option??? Other than that, I think Ella's is excellent and I look forward to visiting there again.

Ella's Americana Folk Art Cafe
5119 N. Nebraska Avenue
Tampa, FL 33603

Ella’s Americana Folk Art Cafe on Urbanspoon

Thursday, November 12, 2009

The Queenshead Restaurant and Bar - St Petersburg, FL

I went to the queenshead with my family on a weeknight and we had a marvelous experience. For those of you with kids, bring them along, but note that children are not allowed after 9:00 p.m.. Queenshead is located in the Grand Central District in St Petersburg. From what I have read previously about the restaurant, the building was formerly a 1950's gas station. I have to say that a gas station is the last thing I had on my mind when I saw the premises and it was an absolutely stunning restaurant. If you like to dine outside they have a comfortable and relaxing area in front. However, if you like to dine inside you will find a trendy, yet comfortable dining area. A long bar dominates the room, with plenty of room for those who enjoy to have their drink or meal at the bar. To the left of the bar, one can find tables or to the right of the bar is an attractive sitting area for a more intimate experience.

There is a small, but nice selection of draft beers and wines to choose from around the world. After choosing a nice malbec wine to enjoy with my meal, I tried to decide what to order. This was no easy feat because there were a number of things that I wanted to try, however, I couldn't order everything. For starters, I decided to try the roasted pumpkin soup. The soup was excellent and it was sweet, yet it had the slightest hint of heat. Words cannot describe how wonderful the soup was, and I would go back there for that alone. For my main course, I tried the beet risotto with feta cheese. The risotto was very good and it was a nice change from typical risotto that one finds elsewhere. My family also tried the fish and chips. The fries were very good with a nice crust and perfect for dipping. The fish was very good and fresh tasting. Again, this is a nice change from fish and chips I have tried elsewhere. Finally, as if that all wasn't enough, we decided to try the rice pudding for dessert. Again this was a modern twist on a classic and we loved with they did with it. They served the rice pudding warm and it was filled with cranberries and pistachios on top and you could taste a lovely hint of vanilla. MMmmmmmm, delicious. I would definitely recommend Queenshead to everyone. Oh, lest I forget, the service there was great!

The Queenshead Restaurant and Bar

2501 Central Avenue
St Petersburg, FL 33713

The Queen's Head Eurobar on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Courigan's Irish Pub - St Petersburg, FL

My family and I tried Courigan's one afternoon and we enjoyed the simple and relaxing atmosphere to be found there. It is located at One Beach Drive in downtown St Pete, and you would almost miss it if you didn't know it was there. If you are into sports, a couple of tv's are on the walls to catch the game. There are several drafts with the usual Guinness, Smithwick's, Boddingtons, etc. The day we were there, there was just one guy working there and he was doing a great job of taking care of both the bar and the floor.

For lunch, we tried the Reuben sandwiches and the burgers. The Reuben went perfectly with my Smithwick's and I also tried a bite of the burger, which was good. They have a few menu items offering Irish fare, and next time I go I need to try the Shepard's Pie. This is a good place for family or friends to get together and is a nice neighborhood type of establishment.

Courigan's Irish Pub
One Beach Drive
St Petersburg, FL 33701

Courigan's on Urbanspoon

Monday, November 2, 2009

Gatsby's Restaurant - St Petersburg, FL

Gatsby's is located in Grayl's Hotel right on Beach Drive and offers a nice and relaxing place to enjoy a drink and perhaps to have a bite to eat. My family and I recently dined there and enjoyed a nice spot on the elevated patio, which was perfect to watch people passing by on the sidewalk or to enjoy the view of the trees that were strung with lights across the road. The service there was very good and the staff was extremely friendly and they aimed to please. We ordered drinks and cheese pizza, which turned out to be very good. Next time, I look forward to going back for the great service and for a chance to try out more of their menu items.

Gatsby's Restaurant

340 Beach Drive
St Petersburg, FL 33701

Gatsby's Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Three Birds Tavern - St Petersburg, FL

I have driven by Three Birds Tavern (formerly know as Limey's Pub) dozens of times, but I had never taken the time to stop in and now I wish I hadn't waited so long. I picked a day when the weather was beautiful and I was thirsty for a cold pint. I knew things were looking good from the moment my family and I stepped onto the covered wrap-around porch at Three Birds Tavern. This is a beautiful, deep porch with plenty of room for tables and benches and a great view to watch traffic pass by. The ceiling of the porch offers plenty of fans for hotter weather, and a map of the London Underground adds a charming touch. Go around to the other side of the porch, and you can encounter the pool tables and the quintessential British red telephone booth. Also, if you like, off of the porch, there are more tables with plenty of trees for shade. We took a peek inside, just to see what it looked like, and it had a nice pub feel to it, but the porch was to be the place for us that day.

We stopped by at about three in the afternoon, and found it was surprisingly busy for that time of day, which was a good sign. Our friendly server brought us a list of beers and the menu. We were happy to see they offered Boddington's on tap because a lot of our favorite pubs have pulled that from their taps. Altogether, they offered a nice selection of international drafts. After receiving our drinks, we went ahead and ordered. As to be expected, I ordered the Shepard's Pie (my affinity for Shepard's Pie has been mentioned in earlier posts). The Shepard's Pie was good, but didn't have as much gravy as I would prefer in the meat portion. However, it was still good and satisfying and I would order it again. As for my family, they ordered the fish and chips and the chicken balti curry. The fish and chips were very good. As for the chicken balti curry, it was good, but again like the Shepard's Pie, a matter of preference. Our server kept the right balance of checking on us to make sure we had everything we needed, but not to the point of being obtrusive, for which we thank her for doing such a great job.

We look forward to coming back to Three Birds Tavern again, because they have an awesome business with a nice beer selection, good food, and a great atmosphere. Also, we need to check out some of the music groups that play here on the weekend. Cheers!

Three Birds Tavern
1492 4th Street North
St Petersburg, FL 33704

Three Birds Tavern on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Mazzaro's Italian Market - St Petersburg, FL

I love Mazzaro's and I can never go there without going wild. This is a great Italian market. Inevitably, I go there with my list and I come out with more than I had ever planned to buy. The whole mood of the place contributes to a buying frenzy. You walk in the door and Italian music is playing in the background. There is cheese hanging from the ceiling and wine bottles abounding in every nook and cranny, and that doesn't even include the wine and cheese room, which are also amazing.

They have a good meat counter if you desire to cook yourself, or head in back and grab something from the deli, which has many good things to tempt you. Recently, I had the spaghetti pie, which I had never tried before, and I thought it was delicious. I had got some beef lasagna and turkey to go along with it, but the spaghetti pie was wonderful all by itself. Don't forget to peek around the case in back where they have fresh pasta, filled ravioli, filled manicotti, etc. Then there is the wonderful bakery where you can buy something to go or perhaps you want to buy something and enjoy it with your coffee at the coffee bar in Mazzaro's.

Also, I do not want to forget to mention the grocery aisle's where you can find your dried pasta, olive oil, chocolate, herbs, sauces, etc...... There are too many things to mention, so I suggest try it out for yourself, if you haven't already.

Mazzaro's Italian Market

2909 22nd Avenue North
St Petersburg, FL 33713

Mazzaro's Italian Market on Urbanspoon

Brunch at Savannah's Cafe- St Pete, FL

My family and I had an amazing brunch at Savannah's this last weekend. With cool weather finally here, Savannah's was the perfect spot to have that cozy brunch. Our waiter started us off with a nice, hot coffee while we looked over the menu. I am happy to say that they serve Kahwa Coffee here, because I just love that coffee.

Between us, we ordered a hamburger, the Low Country Omelet, and the Brioche French Toast. First, the hamburger was good and juicy and everything that a burger should be. The Low Country omelet was delicious and covered in a spicy crab and shrimp gravy and served with a biscuit that was light and airy. Finally, there was the Brioche French toast that was great with maple syrup and pecans.

Again, this was a nice relaxing place to have brunch and the service was very good.

Savannah's Cafe
1113 Central Avenue
St Petersburg, FL 33705

Savannah's Cafe on Urbanspoon

Saturday, October 10, 2009

400 Beach Seafood & Tap House - St. Petersburg, FL

400 Beach is a great new addition to the restaurant scene along Beach Drive in downtown St. Pete. The inside of the restaurant is huge with large windows overlooking the park with glimpses of the bay beyond the park. For our dining experience, we opted to sit outside, which I thought turned out to be a lovely choice.

This was our first time dining at 400 Beach, and we opted to go for drinks and appetizers. The restaurant has a good choice of beers with over 20 beers on draft and a large selection of bottled beers. There is also a nice selection of wines by the glass. I decided to go with the Tucher beer for my meal and my husband selected a glass of the Oyster Bay Pinot Noir. On their list of starters, the restaurant offers soup by the cup or bowl. My husband and I ordered a bowl of the Beachside Clam Chowder and the Island Seafood Chili. We thought both of these were really yummy and the seafood chili really had a nice little kick. We also tried the Cajun Fried Rock Shrimp that was served in a cup of lettuce in a stemmed glass with capers on top, which was real tasty. And finally, we had the Artichoke Fondue with crab and served with blue corn tortilla chips and the was scrumptious. As if this wasn't all enough, they serve cheese bread along with the meal. Although we ordered appetizers, this turned out to be quite the substantial meal and the appetizers are more than sufficient for two to share.

Although we did not order from the dinner menu, we did notice that they offer a wide choice of entrees from sea and land. Also, they offer a selection of Beach Baskets for the budget conscious diner, which I feel is important in today's economy and I am glad the restaurant seems to realize this, too.

Finally, I cannot close without giving a special thanks to our server David G. He was very courteous and attentive throughout our meal and always made sure we had drinks on hand. Thanks David G.!

400 Beach Seafood & Tap House
400 Beach Drive NE
St Petersburg, FL 33701

400 Beach Seafood & Tap House on Urbanspoon

Monday, October 5, 2009

Parkshore Grill - St Petersburg, FL

I have been to the Parkshore Grill in St Pete a few times for dinner or for drinks and appetizers. My family and I generally like to grab a sidewalk table. There you will find a pleasant view of the water, or if it is evening the trees in the park across the road are prettily lit up with blue lights.

My favorite thing about the menu here is the simplicity of the food. For dinner, we have tried the roasted chicken with sun dried tomatoes which I thought went lovely with a glass of white wine. A few times we have gone there for appetizers and we love the butter poached garlic shrimp. Make sure you get some bread to go along with the shrimp because the butter and garlic sauce along with the red chili is great for dipping your bread. The jumbo lump blue crab cakes are good and the tomato jam they serve with the crab cakes are delicious. For dessert, we love the creme brulee, which is a favorite of my husband and I. Anywhere we see creme brulee on the menu, we will invariably order it.

Finally, I notice there are a number of comments regarding service at Parkshore Grill. It would be nice to see a few more smiles or more cheer. Overall, my experience there has been positive and I will still keep going back, but a smile will make a good place seem even better. Cheers!

Parkshore Grill
300 Beach Drive NE, #104
St Petersburg, FL 33701

Parkshore Grill on Urbanspoon

Sunday, October 4, 2009


I cannot finish my trip to Europe without talking about Rome. When heading to Italy, our main destination in mind was Rome. This is the place we had missed the last time we visited Italy, and we felt Italy could not be complete without visiting Rome. Not that there weren't other places we wanted to see in Italy, because there are other places, but the history of Rome called us.

There was so much to see in Rome, but there were especially three sights in Rome that my family couldn't leave Rome without seeing. First, there was the Colosseum with the adjoining Arch of Constantine and the Acropolis, which was my son's choice. Then there was St. Peter's Square in the Vatican City. The size of the columns in St. Peter's square are absolutely amazing. And then there is the Pantheon that was built as temple to all the gods of ancient Rome, and rebuilt in the second century Rome A.D. (According to Wikipedia) Since the 7th century, the Pantheon has been used as a Roman Catholic church. The Pantheon was my pick for Rome.

And then of course, there were the other usual tourist places that we all had to see. There is Trevi Fountain and the tradition of throwing a coin over your shoulder to ensure a return trip to Rome. My family and I all threw a coin over our shoulder, so I guess we have to go back again someday;). Of course, if you follow the legend further, two coins promise romance and three coins marriage. Right next to Trevi Fountain are the Spanish steps. I have to mention that both the Trevi Fountain and the Spanish Steps are covered in tourists. Also, when traveling in Rome, make sure you keep your water bottle after drinking because around this area and all over Rome there are natural spring water fountains that are here and all over Rome that you will see tourists refilling.

So, the sights mentioned above were visited along with many other sights in Rome, which abound around every corner. A tip for travelers is take a trip south of the river when traveling in Rome to get away from the center of the tourist attractions. South of the river, you will still find tourists, but not as many and you will find restaurants that are frequented by tourists and locals alike. In the center of Rome, you have all of the main tourist attractions, and you will not escape from the restaurants that are tourist traps, for the most part. South of the river is like a breath of fresh air and you can wander through twisting alleyways a grab whatever romantic spot you can find. And of course, there was the gelato, again.......

I don't think there is too much more I can say about Rome, just because Rome is larger than words. Even with all the tourists buzzing everywhere, the history of the place supersedes that and amazes one. Another tip, take a hotel near the main train station in Rome. One can walk to many of the sights from there or take a five or ten minute train ride and get off at the other main tourist attractions. This way, when you arrive in Rome it is easy to drop off your luggage and get around and it also makes departing Rome easy to. With this, I end my trip to Rome.........

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Europe continued......Milan

After a somewhat lengthy interval, I will continue my rambles about Europe. After finishing up in Geneva, we took a 4-hour train ride south again, and arrived in Milan. We spent one day and night in Milan and my sole desire was to visit the Duomo di Milano or the Milan Cathedral. This is a great example of Gothic architecture and is the fourth largest church in the world. For us, it was an awesome sight to behold and it dominates the square. As usual, when you visit any major tourist sight, you will find it surrounded by tons of tourists restaurants and shops, which aren't always the best in terms of food, but great in terms of the view. Because we wanted to sit down and enjoy the view of the Duomo and watch the people passing by in the square, we picked at table at one such spot. After, some pizza and beer, we were ready to move on.

The other main sight to see in Milan is right next door to the Duomo and that is the Galleria Vittorio. This is a upscale shopping spot built in the late 1800's and its beauty can be found by looking overhead at its arching glass and cast iron roof. The floors of the Galleria are beautiful also, and worth a picture or two. From the Galleria Vittorio, we just walked along to see what we could see and along the way we enjoyed some gelato, which one can never have too much of, and then we headed back to our hotel for dinner in the area.

It was nice to enjoy the evening sitting at a sidewalk table and watching the street life. As I think I may have mentioned before, in Europe it is not unusual to see people sitting at restaurants late at night, even on weekdays and we found this a very relaxing to just sit and have a table for the evening. In the morning, off to Rome..........

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Pia's Trattoria - Gulfport, FL

Checking out Gulfport for the first time, my family and I stumbled upon Pia's quite by accident. We found a street parking space that happened to be right in front of Pia's. This place looked so cute, and with a nice crowd of people sitting inside, we figured it had to be good. We grabbed a seat outside, which is where most people were dining. The outside dining area was like a nice little secluded oasis, with blowing fans and plenty of shade. The music playing in the background alternated between typical Italian music and blues and it lent nicely to the atmosphere.

For drinks, we order a carafe of the house pinot grigio. We ordered the pesto pasta, the pasta di bologna, and the sea scallops with ravioli in a butter sauce. Everything was very good, and my favorite was the sea scallops and ravioli, which was the special of the night. For dessert, we tried a Stromboli filled with chocolate and strawberries and served with whip cream that we thought was wonderfully decadent. The service was good and it it was a relaxing place to spend a couple of hours.

Pia's Trattoria - Gulfport, FL
3054 Beach Blvd South
Gulfport, FL 33707

Pia's Trattoria on Urbanspoon

Paddy Burkes - St Petersburg, FL

I was happy to see the opening of newcomer Paddy Burkes Irish Pub to St Pete. I have already been there a couple of times with my family and it is a nice place to grab a pint and unwind. They offer a nice menu selection and a decent choice of beers on tap.

On both of our visits we have had the onion rings and we love the horseradish and tomato sauce that comes with them. The burgers there are good and they have some interesting options for your burger, and I thought the Belfast Burger with a fried egg on top was especially good. If I am at an Irish pub, I do tend to like to try the more typical Irish fare. The Irish stew was delicious and I loved the leek scones that were served with it, although the stew was so filling that I hardly needed the scones alongside. Also, depending on your appetite, you can order a small or large stew. I ordered a small stew, and even with some help from others, I was not able to finish it all.

One thing I did miss out on one of my visits was the shepard's pie. They don't have it on their menu, but as I was eating my stew, I heard another server listing it as the special of the night. As, I mentioned in an earlier post, I love shepard's pie, so I was sorry to miss it that night, even though I really enjoyed my stew. So, moral of the story is remember to ask your server for the specials of the night, if they forget to tell you. I look forward to enjoying more of Paddy Burkes.

Paddy Burkes Irish Pub

100 4th Street South
St Petersburg, FL 33701

Paddy Burkes Irish Pub on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Chambery, France

When we recently traveled to Geneva, we knew we couldn't go there without traveling to France. Geneva is right next to the border of France, and Chambery was only about an hour and a half away by train. We chose Saturday as the day we wanted to go to Chambery because we knew it would be market day. Once we arrived there, it was a short walk to the center of town and to the Saturday market. It was a very charming walk, by the way. Another reason we picked Chambery was because it wasn't a real touristy destination. They had a few tourist sites and a few tourists, but it was largely just a typical French town, with the locals going about their normal Saturday business. The market was large and really cool. Everything was there, such as: baby chicks, baby geese, cheese, bread, bakery goods, fruit, vegetables, seafood, meat, clothing, etc.... After the market, we took at stroll to the Elephant Fountain, which is one of the main attractions in town and we saw the castle of the Ducs de Chambery.

Of course, we had to stop for lunch. That was a little bit of an adventure, but fun. I say adventure because as this was not a major tourist destination, we encountered less English speakers, but like I said this made everything all the more fun. So, we found a nice restaurant and we had a nice server who was able to speak a little English. My husband and son had a breaded turkey cutlet and lyonese potatoes, while I had a breaded somthing that was in the family of "like a chicken, but not a chicken", but I never actually knew what it was. Whatever it was, it was delicious. With this all we enjoyed a rose wine, that everyone seemed to be drinking in Europe. It must be a popular summer wine because I have never seen it in previous trips to Europe, but then I had never traveled in the summer before. We enjoyed various treats for dessert and then it was time to head back to the train station. It was a lovely day and it was nice to experience the day to day life of a Saturday market day in France.

Bella Brava has a New Chef, yayyyyyyyyy!

I was so excited when I heard my favorite chef, Domenica Macchia, was going to be the new chef at Bella Brava. My family and I went to Bella Brava this last Saturday, knowing that she was joining Bella Brava, but not sure if she would be there that evening. I am happy to say that she was and she looked real excited about it to boot. It was the outgoing chef's last night, but Domenica had a few feature items on the menu. We tried her fig caprese salad with a reduction sauce that that was divine and the organic tomatoes that came with it actually tasted like tomatoes. Most of the time I am scared to order salads or dishes with fresh tomatoes because they usually taste like mush, but this was not the case at Bella Brava. For the main course, we tried the gnocchi in a gorgonzola sauce that Domenica had made that very same day. The gnocchi were light and exactly what a gnocchi should be, while the sauce that was served with it was pure comfort food and delicious with the glass of Chianti I had ordered. Now we are anxiously awaiting as Domenica adds her touch to the menu and look forward to the changes she will make to it. For those of you who watch Food Network, she said think Malto Mario. She wants to emphasize rustic food or food like an Italian family would make. I know we will be waiting with knife and fork ready.

Bella Brava
515 Central Avenue
St Petersburg, FL 33701

Bella Brava on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Geneva....Old Town

Without a doubt, the scene around the lake dominates Geneva. However, take a trek up a VERY steep hill and you will find yourself immersed in the old town of Geneva. Here take a walk on cobblestone streets and catch a sight of Hotel-De-Ville. A must see is the Cathedral St Pierre. It is rather a contrast to some of the flashy cathedrals you will find throughout Europe, as if they didn't want their congregations to be distracted. However, despite the lack of grandeur, it reflects the beliefs and feelings of the people and its architectural structure is something to be admired.

The day that we chose to visit the old town, it was the only time of our whole trip that it decided to rain. This wasn't anything that fazed us, as we are used to traveling in the rain in Europe and always come prepared. It rather lent a lovely atmosphere to the day. After climbing to the top of a VERY steep hill, we decided it was time for lunch. We picked a rather touristy spot because we didn't really want to take the time to venture very far at that point. After looking over the menu, we decided to go with fondue, again. However, just to reassure, that was our last fondue of the trip and we did try other things. Fondue......yummm...

After lunch, we took a leisurely stroll wherever our feet might lead us and we found ourselves outside the golden domes of the Russian Church in Geneva. A short walk from there, and unfortunately for me, we found ourselves on a ferris wheel ride. However, I made it through, and everybody was pleased with the views of Geneva from the ferris wheel.

Again, we walked down the hill and wandered along, with a few stops along the way. We stopped at a Mexican restaurant for beer and a coke, and to cool down. A little later, we found ourselves outside a gelato shop that we had stopped at a previous evening. This is one of the spots in 0ur trip that my Spanish major came in handy. Nobody spoke English there, but one of the ladies asked if I spoke Portuguese. I said no Portuguese, but that I speak a little Spanish (I tried this in Spanish, of course). The nice lady behind the counter was so happy that I spoke Spanish, or at least attempted to speak it, and treated us very nicely. So, we carried out our transaction in Spanish and everything worked out fine. I guess it was all about the effort. The positive outcome was that I am making an effort to refresh my Spanish, yay! By the way, the gelato was delicious and we ate a lot of gelato this trip due to the hot weather. You would be amazed at the lines you would see outside gelato shops, even at midnight.(Again, Europeans are out much later, as a whole). One night, we were in a line at midnight, and we were the cutoff. People kept coming and trying to get in, and they had to lock the doors. Wow!!

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

On to Geneva......

Upon arrival at the Milan airport, our first effort was to make our way towards Geneva. This entailed a number of steps. First, we needed to take the Express train to Milan, which was about a 40 minute train ride away. Then, we need to take a metro train to Milan Centrale station, so that we could travel to Geneva. At Milan Centrale, we purchased the train tickets via the automated machine because the line looked like it would take about an hour to get through. At this point, you might be wondering how this was accomplished even though we didn't speak Italian. Well, it all progressed quite easily because the ticket agent spoke English and all of the machines had the option to choose English as your language, thank you very much.

The only unfortunate part about our train ride from Milan to Italy was that the air conditioning was out on this particular train. Fortunately for us, this is the only time this occurred on our trip. So, a train ride and four hours later of struggling to stay awake, we arrived in Geneva. At this point, we revived and were alert enough to enjoy our surroundings. We had booked a room at the Novotel in Geneva, which turned out to be quite nice and quite hi-tech. (As a side note, Europe is quite technologically ahead of us in certain aspects, and maybe I will get into that more on another post if the mood strikes me.)

After checking into our room, we took ourselves and the handy map the hotel gave us and went for a short walk down to Lake Geneva, which was very beautiful. After that, we were in the mood for food. We opted for a restaurant close to the hotel that was recommended to us, which turned out to be a good choice. Being in Switzerland, we had to be hokey and go for the obvious choice, especially when traveling with a child, and we ordered the fondue. There was no way to go wrong with fondue, along with a Swiss beer. The service was lovely and unhurried. In Europe, I tend to notice that people take several hours when dining and the staff NEVER hurry one along.

All in all, a lovely opening to our trip.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

The Return from Europe

Well, the fun is over and time to return to earth. When I last posted, I had about one week to plan and arrange a trip to Europe for my family and I. As this was a very spontaneous thing, our plans changed a least a dozen times, but by time we landed in Milan, we had it all figured out. When it was all said and done we traveled to the following cities:

Milan, Italy
Geneva, Switzerland
Chambery, France
Rome, Italy

Of course, being who we are it was crazy, but fun. We ate a lot of good food and drank a lot of good wine and beer. And being August, it was hot. However, the heat did not deter us and the evenings were gorgeous. As Europeans tend to stay up later, this worked out great for us. Over the next few days, or weeks, and I am going to talk about my trip to Europe. Some of my posts will be informative, while others will be impressions and thoughts about the people and countries, and the cultures of the places we visited.

Oh, and lest I forget, my husband took a lot of really beautiful photos of our trip, which I will be posting along with my posts. For this post, I have attached a photo of a train. This is one of the things I love about traveling in Europe. They get you where you want to get, without any hassle. You do not need to rent a car to travel in Europe, if you are sticking to the cities. The only reason I would ever see the need to rent a car is if you want to travel to the countryside or perhaps you are doing a tour of the various wine regions, for example. But if you are sticking to the cities, don't even think about renting a car because the rail and metro systems of the cities within Europe are great.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Italy, here we come......

I am so excited to say that my family and I will shortly be traveling to Italy. This is kind of one of those last minute, spur of the moment sort of things. The price was right and we were in need of rejuvenation. We will be flying into Milan and taking the train down to Rome. We have been to Italy before, but the last time we were there, we missed Rome. Unlike our previous travel to Europe, we will try to contain ourselves largely to Rome and just soak up the atmosphere. Usually, when traveling in Europe we go crazy and do this multiple city and country thing because there is so much to see and everything is just so tempting. This time, we are really trying to make a commitment to not go around like mad. Hopefully, this will turn out to be a more sensible approach. I can't wait for the sights, the food, and above all.....the wine.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Bin 27 Bistro- Tampa, FL

This is an elegant, yet casual place to enjoy a nice dinner and good wine. I went there one Friday evening with my family to hear one of my favorite Tampa Bay singers, Julie Black, give a great performance. First off, we started off with a good impression by the host who met us very warmly at the door. Our server also made a good impression. These things always count a great deal toward setting the mood for a happy dining experience.

Now, for the meal itself we started off with the Tasmanian Sweet Crab Cakes that was served along with a wonderfully spiced remoulade. For my entree, I enjoyed the Hickory Hanger steak, and my husband had the vegetable risotto with steak added, which I tried and thought was very sumptuous. Along with the meal, we enjoyed a bottle of the Urban Malbec. Don't hesitate to ask for a sample of any of the wines that are offered by the glass, before ordering a bottle. We sampled a couple of wines before making our choice. Although not very large, they have a nice wine selection. For a nice end to our meal, we ordered the Chocolate Mousse and Hazelnut Terrine, which rounded out our meal nicely. Altogether, Bin 27 offered nice service, a good atmosphere, and great food.

Bin 27 Bistro
2702 W. Kennedy Blvd.
Tampa, FL 33609

Bin 27 Bistro on Urbanspoon

The Dubliner Irish Pub - South Tampa

One Sunday, my family and I headed over to south Tampa to hear My Little Trotsky play some music. We have heard them a couple of times now, and as usual, they gave a very good performance. Anyway, they were playing at The Dubliner Irish Pub, at their South Tampa location. We had never been there before, but we always love pubs and were eager to try out a new one. This was a nice location just off Howard Street and they have a lovely set up. The outside patio was surrounded by old, shady trees and would have been nice to sit, if it had not decided to rain that afternoon. Nonetheless, the inside was just as lovely with plenty of stools at the bars and bar tables throughout. Kinda of nice too, because the inside bar was connected to the outside bar, so the bartenders are able to work between the two easily.

As far as the food went, it was good. I can hardly go to an Irish pub without ordering Shepard's Pie, and this instance was no exception. It was a very good Shepard's Pie, and while not my favorite version, it left me fully satisfied and happy with my choice. Everybody else went with burgers, and I thought those were good, too. Add a cold Smithwick's to our meal, and along with the good music, it made for a lovely afternoon. There is not much more to add, and all I can suggest is go over and try it yourself. They have one pub in south Tampa and one in North Tampa.

The Dubliner Irish Pub
2307 West Azeele Street
Tampa, FL 33609

Dubliner Irish Pub on Urbanspoon

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Z Grille - St Petersburg, FL

This is a very cool restaurant. My family and I stopped there on a one evening, so that my husband and I could enjoy a glass of wine and dessert. This was my first time inside and I was impressed. We grabbed a table in the bar area, next to the floor to ceiling windows. It was rather nice to be able to catch a view of the street, as well as watch what is going on at the bar. As luck would have it, it was half-price bottle of wine night, so we went with a nice red. For dessert, we ordered the hot apple cobbler with vanilla ice cream. The cobbler was very delicious, and huge. Three people were sharing, and it was enough for all three of us, if that gives you any scope for the size of the cobbler.

Z-Grille has a lot of nice dining items on their menu that I need to try from their menu next time, such as the Dr Pepper fried ribs. Another thing to remember to check out is the various specials that they offer during the week. In addition to half-price wine night, they have one day during the week that they offer a blue plate special. I believe the blue plate special is a salad, entree, dessert, and glass of wine or beer for $20 (call restaurant for exact details), which makes it an excellent deal. Keep an eye on my comments section for further updates of Z-Grille in the future.

104 2nd Street South
St Petersburg, FL 33701

Z Grille on Urbanspoon

Flanagan's Irish Pub - Dunedin, FL

This place has a good vibe. Needing to kill some time one afternoon, my family and I stopped by Flanagan's for a pint. I was met by a friendly server, who told me to grab a table of my liking. I ordered a Smithwick's and some onion rings and fries to snack on. The atmosphere had everything to be desired in an Irish pub, and it got me interested enough to want to stop by again and try the Irish fare and perhaps listen to the live Irish music that they offer some evenings. When I stop by again, I will leave my remarks in the comment section of this post. Cheers!

Flanagan's Irish Pub
465 Main Street
Dunedin, FL 34968

Flanagans Irish Pub on Urbanspoon