Thursday, December 6, 2012

Sab Cafe - downtown St Petersburg, FL

I love Sab Cafe.  Easy, now my work is done.  Okay, maybe that was just a little to easy, so a few more details.  This is a small cafe in downtown St Pete in the Plaza Courtyard that serves Thai and Vietnamese food.  There are a few cozy tables inside with more seating outside on the sidewalk.  We have eaten inside Sab Cafe and we have also gotten our food to go and take it next door to eat at the Ale and the Witch.  The food here is awesome and you can taste the freshness of the ingredients in every bite.  We have enjoyed spring rolls, the vegetable rolls, the pad thai, the drunken noodles, and the pho.  I will slowly work my way through the menu.  The service here is very friendly and prompt and very obliging in answering my questions.  This is one I plan to enjoy a lot.

Sab Cafe 
111 2nd Ave NE
St Petersburg, FL  33701

Sab Cafe on Urbanspoon

Carmel Cafe and Wine Bar - Tampa, FL 33609

I stopped in at Caramel Cafe and Wine Bar one night without doing any research and not realizing that with four locations already in Tampa Bay, it is the beginnings of a chain.  However, appearance wise it was good and I was excited to begin the dining experience once I learned we would be ordering our food via iPads.  The server handed us a couple of iPads and explained the concept to us after he learned we had never dined there before.  He told us we could set the pace of our meal by ordering everything at once or staggering our orders out so all of our food didn't arrive at once.  Once we understood how everything worked, the ordering commenced.

We started off with a glass of red wine, and an Amalfi Lemonade, which I found to be very refreshing. We put an order in for the butternut squash bisque and the chickpea fries.  During this time our server checked with us to make sure everything was running smoothly, so this is a not a you are left alone with an iPad and no human interaction.  After our food arrived, we took the time to enjoy, and then we ordered the grilled salmon, Moroccan Lemon chicken with couscous, and the braised short ribs with polenta.  These turned out to be delightful, and we saved just enough room for dessert.  We ordered a pumpkin cannoli, which I did not care for too much, and the chocolate lava cake, which was a hit.

So, all in all, it was a fun night out with good food.  I suspect  the novelty of ordering my food from iPads influenced me and I think it was a fun concept to try.  I don't know that I want every place to start doing that, but something new is always fun.  And again, even though you are ordering from an iPad, there are plenty of servers around to answer your questions.

Carmel Cafe and Wine Bar
3601 Swann Avenue
Tampa, FL  33609

Carmel Café & Wine Bar on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

La V: Vietnamese Fusion - Downtown St. Petersburg, FL

La V Vietnamese Fusion couldn't be a better addition to downtown Saint Petersburg.  A few tables outside for people watching, and inside, simple, elegant lines with beautiful artwork on the walls.  Everyone walking in the door, along with ourselves, were greeted promptly on walking in the door the evening we were there.  There are a number of chairs at the bar along with tables or booths at the back of the restaurant.  We chose a table at the front of the restaurant so we could see the whole place.  Our server arrived promptly with menus and gave us a couple of minutes to look them over.

We were delighted to see that along with the usual selection of wine one sees at most restaurants, they offered a French white, rose, and red.  We are fond of French rose and find it is a good wine pairing for anything that has a hint of heat or spice, so we chose the lovely selection they offered from Provence, France.  A good glass of wine in hand, we made our selections.  We started with Shrimp Roll on Sugarcane and Fresh Tofu rolls.  The shrimp rolls were very good, but I really loved the Fresh Tofu rolls with the fresh taste of mint inside and a yummy peanut dipping sauce.  For our entrees, we ordered the Grilled Prawn on Vermicelli, Lemongrass chicken on vermicelli, and sesame beef on fried rice.  All of our dishes were very good and it was hard to pick a favorite, but I have to say the sesame beef on fried beef was my favorite by a narrow margin and I loved the crisp vegetables served on the side of our entrees.  I know this is going to be a new favorite of mine.

La V
441 Central Avenue
St Petersburg, FL  33701

La V Vietnamese Fusion on Urbanspoon

Papa Angelo's - downtown St Pete, FL

I decided to stop at Papa Angelo's one day and get a pizza to go.  It is a simple place with a few bar tables and they have extended their space to include the old Globe Coffee lounge, which they have redone over nicely into a space to hold parties and such.  On the day I stopped in, it looked like a baby shower was going on, so that area was closed off.  I ordered a plain cheese pizza and some garlic knots, and 15 minutes later it was all ready.  The pizza was good, but the end crust seemed to extend in a little far, which kind of diminished the sauce and cheese covered area.  The garlic knots tasted pretty much like my pizza crust, so not much going on there.  Overall okay, but still not my favorite place to order pizza downtown.

Papa Angelo's
536 1st Avenue North
Saint Petersburg, FL  33701

Papa Angelo's Best Pizza on Urbanspoon

Malio's Prime Steakhouse - Downtown Tampa, FL

I have known of Malio's existence for the last couple of months, but have been unable to stop in because whenever I seem to be in the area it is because I am visiting the Florida Museum of Photography on a Saturday and Malio's is not open for lunch on Saturday.  This invariably leads to us dining someplace else.  However, the whole family recently had a Friday off and after a visit to the Museum of Photography, we stopped in for lunch at Malio's.  Predictably, any restaurant in downtown Tampa on a weekday will be filled with the business crowd, which gives it a different atmosphere than a Friday evening.  However, we were eating a late lunch, so just a few stragglers were left.  We took a seat at one of the curved booth seats in the bar, which I thought was quite cozy.  I can say it might even be romantic with all of the soft lighting and muted sounds.

I didn't much care for the wines by the glass menu, so I decided to order the Blue Moon Cosmo, which was pretty, as well as tasty.  We ordered the aged white cheddar cheeseburgers with fries and the filet tips with mushroom marsala sauce. The filet tips came with a choice of salad, which I upgraded to the gorgonzola salad, which was excellent.  It was so good, that next time I would just add a filet to the salad and make it a meal.  The food arrived and the burgers were great and we loved the thick steak fries that came with them.   As far as the filet tips went, I did not like the marsala sauce served in a gravy boat that came with it.  It had settled into a thick, lumpish mess that wasn't very appealing.  However, the filet tips were so good on their own, that after a first taste with marsala sauce, I ate the rest without the sauce.  Unfortunately, I was full after that, so I didn't get a chance to try dessert, but I would definitely like to come back one evening for dinner.  Another plus, the service was attentive.

Malio's Prime Steakhouse
400 North Ashley Drive
Tampa, FL  33602

Malio's Prime Steakhouse on Urbanspoon

Bar Louie - Westshore(Tampa), FL

I try to avoid the International Plaza Mall on the weekends, and to be honest I don't like malls too much on weekdays, either.  However, I am forced to visit them once and a while for something or other. When I find myself there, I try to find someplace new to dine at in the mall to recover my sanity.  This latest visit, we decided to check out Bar Louie.  As is often the case at mall restaurants, Bar Louie is a chain, but we were hungry and thirsty and not above chains on desperate occasions.  When we stopped in, the place was pretty quiet, but I think shoppers were still in full force shopping in their favorite stores and would make their way to eating establishments later.  All the better for me, who welcomed the peace and quiet away from the crowds.  There were several tall bar tables, but we took one of the normal dining tables outside the bar area.

We decided martinis were the thing for us, so we tried the Clover and the Lemon Drop.  The Clover tasted a bit too sweet, but the Lemon Drop was perfect for a hot summer day.  We decided to try the chicken nachos, the verde chicken flatbread, and a basic cheeseburger.  Everything was a hit from the nachos that seemed to stay crisp to the end, the combination of flavors on the flatbread, and the pleasingly juicy burger.  It was almost good enough to have me make up an excuse to go shopping.....almost.  Let's not get crazy kids.

Bar Louie
2223 N Westshore Blvd
Suite B-202
Tampa, FL  33607

Bar Louie on Urbanspoon

The Living Room - Dunedin, FL

Why, oh why, did I wait so long to try the Living Room Restaurant in Dunedin? There is not any particular reason, other than it is a bit of a drive for me because I certainly had a mostly lovely experience dining there for Saturday brunch.  I arrived there a bit early with my family, so the place was still wide open and we were able to pick a choice spot in the dining room where we could have a good view of both rooms.  I ordered a spicy Bloody Mary and then looked over the menu.  We decided to try Roy's Brunch Reuben, the Brunch Burger, and the Henny and Johnny, which is a fried cornish hen served with cornmeal pancakes and one egg.

My Bloody Mary was just the way I liked it and it was not much of a wait for food.  First, the Henny and Johnny.  I was very happy with my cornmeal pancakes and egg, but the cornish hen had no flavor and I think some basic salt and pepper would have made quite a difference there.  So, moist hen and nice crunchy coating, but ruined by a lack of seasoning.  Luckily, the rest of the meal was very enjoyable.  I loved the burger, but the reuben was my favorite and more than made up for the cornish hen.  I have to say I liked the friendly service there and the atmosphere, too.  One negative, but more than enough positives would make me want to go back more often, if only it were closer.

The Living Room Restaurant and Lounge
487 Main Street
Dunedin, FL 34698

The Living Room on Urbanspoon

Monday, August 27, 2012

Mad Fish Grill - Saint Pete Beach , FL

Driving by on Gulf Boulevard one evening, my family and I spotted a flash of silver out of the corner of our eyes.  It looked just like an old fashioned diner from the outside!  We just had to try that.  Walking through the door, we were not exactly disappointed, but it wasn't the old fashioned diner we were expecting, either.  It was leaning more towards a restaurant geared towards fine dining than a diner.  However, we were still ready to give it a try and were seated at one of the booths.

Madfish grill offers wines and beers, but as we were still in a diner frame of mind, we opted for bottled root beer.  On the menu they offered a variety of meals including steak and several seafood selections, but we were all in the mood for burgers, so burgers are what we ordered. The burgers were awesome! Two thick patties covered in cheese, juicy and worth every calorie.  The burgers were served with some pretty tasty fries and a side of coleslaw, which was the only thing not so impressive about the meal.  But, who needs coleslaw when you have a yummy burger in front of you. Next time, I might want to come back and try the seafood. And just so you know, they are also open for breakfast and lunch.

Mad Fish Grill

5200 Gulf Boulevard
Saint Pete Beach, FL  33706
MadFish on Urbanspoon

Friday, June 22, 2012

Timpano Chophouse and Martini Bar - Hyde Park, FL

We needed a place to duck into to escape from the rain, and Timpano's being the closest,  that is where we ended up.  The place was packed and live piano music was being performed in one corner.  We were seated at one of the patio tables, which was a lovely spot to watch the rain and sip a drink.  My thing lately has been Cosmo's, so that was what I ordered and it was perfect.  We ordered a lovely prawn appetizer that came to the table sizzling in its pan with melted butter to dip it in.  The prawn had a delicious smokey taste and was perfect.  Soon the rain stopped and our drinks and appetizers were finished and we were able to continue on our way.  Next time we won't need to use the rain as an excuse to stop at Timpano's.

Timpano Chophouse
1610 West Swann Avenue
Tampa, FL  33606

Timpano Chophouse and Martini Bar on Urbanspoon

Donut Connection - St Petersburg, FL

If you want something different than Dunkin Donuts, stop at this little hole in the wall.  Nothing fancy to see here, but I found donuts that I enjoyed way more than that other place, and the coffee was very good.  I was curious about some of the reviews that mentioned the regulars that seem to come with the place, but although they seemed as though they were stuck in a different time warp to give newcomers a look more than once, they were harmless and I guess you could say they just added character to the place.  Whether that is good or bad, you'll have to judge for yourself because the donuts and coffee are worth stopping in for when you need a donut fix.

Donut Connection
649 34th Street North
St Petersburg, FL  33713

Donut Connection on Urbanspoon

A Corner of England - St Petersburg, FL

A mother's day weekend called for a trip to A Corner of England to have a spot of tea.  When we walked in the door, it looked like that was the plan for a lot of moms because a fair number of tables were already filled.  Luckily, a busy server was able to find a spot and we were seated at a charming little table.  The look there is very eclectic and nothing is matching.  All the tables are different with different chairs and different tea cups on every table.  A quick look at the menu, and we were ready to order.

I ordered a earl gray tea and a scone.  I saw they mentioned devon cream on the menu, but the server informed me that that came with my scone.  Also, we ordered afternoon tea, which included tea of your choice along with finger sandwiches and a choice of scone or cake.  We ordered a piece of lemon cake with that and a piece of chocolate cake for my son.  Our tea arrived first, quickly followed by our food.  It was lovely to sit there and enjoy our cups of tea in dainty little  china cups.  The cake and finger sandwiches were lovely and heartily enjoyed.  I had mixed feeling about my scone which was tasty served with strawberry preserves.  However, the little cup that was supposed to contain Devon cream contained whipped cream.  At that point I ate what I was served, but I ever after wondered if I was served whipped cream by mistake or if the whipped cream being was being passed off as devon cream.  If you have ever had devon cream, which you can find in jars in a few grocery stores in the dairy section, then you know it is not the same as whipped cream.  Devon cream is thick and rich and comes closer to a butter consistency than whipped cream.  I assume they wouldn't put devon cream on the menu, unless they had devon cream.   That aside, I still had a wonderful time, and it was a lovely surprise to learn that all moms were receiving a flower at the end of the meal.  It is not a place I would go to all the time, but it is nice for a special treat.

A Corner of England
6297 Central Avenue
St Petersburg, FL  33710
727-345-5353 A Corner of England on Urbanspoon

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Les Deux Magots - Paris, France

Les Deux Magots was one of our Hemingway restaurants to dine at while in Paris.  We are big fans of his, so we hunted down a bunch of spots Hemingway was known to frequent and this was one of our favorites.  This was a breakfast spot for us and it was fun to sit at a table outside on the sidewalk and watch all the world go by on Saint-Germain-de-Pres.  We would typically order cafe au lait for us and hot chocolate for our son and pain au chocolat or brioche with butter and jam.  The hot chocolate was rich and thick and it came in its own little pan.  The cafe au lait here was also the best and the coffee was served in its own little pot and a pot of hot milk so you could mix your coffee and milk to your taste.  I still dream about breakfast at this cafe, oh my.  

6 place Saint-Germain-des Pres
Paris, France  75006

Cafe Procope - Paris, France

Cafe Procope is supposed to be one of the oldest operating cafes in Paris, opening in 1686.  It has had visitors such as Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, and Voltaire.  The cafe is decorated in an understated elegance and the walls are covered in portraits of famous people.  The servers here are a little impatient and not inclined to answer too many questions about the menu, but we were able to make our way through the meal quite happily.

We started off with a nice wine from Burgandy.  We skipped appetizers and went straight to the main course.  Our favorite entree was the veal that was served at the table in a little pot of its own with plenty of gravy and roasted vegetables.  The gravy was so good that we ate more bread than was good for us.  Also lovely was the roast chicken.  The salmon entree was also nice, but overshadowed by the veal. We ordered the crepes suzette for dessert which included a small glass of Grand Marnier.  The crepes were so good that I could have gone back for them alone.  This is another one to visit if you find yourself in Paris.

Cafe Procope
15 rue de L'Ancienne Comedie
Paris, France  75006

Polidor Restaurant - Paris, France

The Polidor Restaurant had to be one of our funnest restaurant finds while vacationing in Paris.  We came across this place while doing laundry of all things.  While waiting for our laundry cycle to finish, my husband wandered across the street to check out the menu and he discovered a picture of Woody Allen on the window.  Turns out it was where they filmed a scene from one of our favorite movies a Midnight in Paris.  After checking out the menu, we just knew we had to dine there.  The inside of the restaurant is awesome and from what we understand the inside hasn't changed much in the last hundred years.  They even had an Indian style toilet in the floor, so even if you don't feel adventurous enough to actually use it, go check it out.  The restaurant has communal tables, so expect to share your table as the dining rooms fill up.  They have a regular menu and the specials are listed on a board.  I loved the wine menu which had from inexpensive to exorbitantly priced wines.  We found a nice red on the menu that we enjoyed.

The food at Polidor is not gourmet food, but it is french comfort food at its best.  The beef bourguignon is awesome and a must try.  The chicken and mushrooms and cream sauce were also excellent.  Both of these dishes were served with potatoes and of course plenty of bread to soak up that delicious sauce.  If you have any room left for dessert after all of that, try the Tarte Tatin, otherwise know as apple pie.  The pie was great and an excellent end to our meal.  The service here was brisk, but polite.  We liked the restaurant so much that we dined there one more time before leaving Paris and if we ever find ourselves back in Paris again, we will be back at Polidor.  Before I forget, they only take cash, so make sure you have enough cash before sitting down to eat and they do not take reservations.

41, rue Monsieur Le Prince
Paris, France  75006

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Le Colonne - St Armand's Circle, Sarasota, FL

I held off writing this review for a while because I just didn't know what to do with it. I went there with my family for lunch one afternoon and the food was awful. Normally, I suggest going back for a second or third time to a restaurant because the next time could be really good and you could miss out on a great restaurant. However, there were just so many things wrong that this is one of the few times I would most likely not go back again, especially as it is not located conveniently near to me and I would rather try other restaurants in St Armand's Circle.

The weather was nice, so we took a table out on the sidewalk. This should have been a give away because there was only one other table with customers seated there and the inside of the restaurant was mostly empty, while the other restaurants on St Armand's Circle were bursting at the seams and there were waits to get a table at other places. We ordered wine, and along with that we ordered pizza, seafood risotto, and a vegetable soup. Everything went downhill from there. Our server left us mid-meal to go fold napkins inside and another one took over. The soup was awful and tasted like vegetables in water with no flavor of broth. The risotto was beyond al dente with no flavor and the seafood was rubbery. The pizza was the only thing that tasted good, but I always think one can't go too wrong with pizza.

The final thing that just topped it all off was when the server came out at the end of the meal. My bowl of soup was literally full, the risotto had about three-fourths of it still left on the plate and the server didn't ask any of the obvious questions. The obvious questions should have been can I get you a box to take home your leftovers or how was your food, or is something wrong with you food? No, they only asked if I was ready for the check. They could have salvaged a potential future customer if they had made the effort, but it was not to be. So, just make your own assumptions from that.

Le Colonne
22 South Blvd of the President
Sarasota, FL 34236

Le Colonne on Urbanspoon

Ratchada - Downtown Saint Petersburg, FL

I went to lunch at Ratchada's the other day and had a very pleasant time. The restaurant is comfortable with some nice big booths to relax in or tables, if you prefer. You can also grab a bar stool at the big half-moon sushi bar along one wall. There was a great special at lunch time for $6.95 that allows you the soup of the day, a spring roll, and an entree. The soup that day was a nice vegetable broth with delicately crunchy vegetables and tofu and some yummy spring rolls with dipping sauce. For entrees, we tried chicken pad thai, chicken katsu, and chicken teriyaki. The chicken pad thai would have been good if I had ordered it with mild heat instead of medium, which turned out to be too hot for me, but I just never know what I am going to get with a medium heat. The breaded chicken katsu was lovely, but my favorite was the smokey tasting chicken teriyaki.

Altogether a good dining experience and I loved the good value lunch special. My only complaint was at the end of the meal was there was a bit of a lag to get the bill paid and change back. It was okay for me because I didn't have to get back to work, so I had time to wait, but it could have been a bit of a problem if I was on a work lunch break. Other than that little hiccup, everything went smoothly and I wouldn't hesitate to go back again.

270 1st Avenue North
Saint Petersburg, FL 33701
Ratchada on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Wood Fired Pizza - Downtown St Petersburg, FL

I was so excited as I watched the progress of the construction for the new Wood Fired Pizza restaurant in downtown St Pete. I love food that has wood fired in front of it, and pizza is one of my favorites. At last, the construction was complete, and I was ready to try it out. The restaurant itself looks awesome inside and out. There is the big wood fire oven that dominates one corner of the restaurant, and if you want to sit outside, there is a huge covered deck to keep the hot Florida sun and occasional rain showers at bay.

We took a seat inside, with the oven in view so we could watch the action there, which is always fun. A server was quick to come and take our drink order, and then we took the time to look over the menu which had innumerable pizza choices. In the end, we chose the Bianca and the Mona Lisa. The pizza was good, and I really liked the taste you get with a wood fired pizza. And I gotta say, my son loved the bottled vintage soda pops offered here. I can't wait to go back and try some of the other pizzas.

    344 1st Avenue South
     Saint Petersburg,
     FL 33701 727-282-1888
      Wood Fired Pizza on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Montmartre, Paris

Yes, I am in Paris......and having the time of my life. I consider where I was this time last year, when I couldn't eat and climbing a short ways up stairs was a chore, before I was given a diagnosis of the neurological disorder known as Spasmodic Torticollis. With treatment, I am now able to lead a near normal life, which seems ten times sweeter now. As you can see from my iPhone pics, I am roving all over the place, and coming from Florida which is very flat, that is no small chore.

I took a few pics of the Montmartre area of Paris, including the Sacre Coeur, a view from the Sacre Coeur, and a receipt from a restaurant in the area. This is a veritable tourist trap and you are better off buying a bottle of wine and bringing a picnic lunch along, because the wine is expensive and horrible in the cafe's. As you can see from the receipt, my sons soda was just as much as my glass of rose. Does that mean he should drink wine instead of soda???

Monday, February 13, 2012

Tryst Gastro Lounge - St Petersburg, FL

Tryst is worth a trip just to see the restaurant, which is a trendy new addition to Beach Drive in downtown St Pete. Outside, they have some cozy couches on the sidewalk, but we usually like to sit inside with the cool vibe going on in there. We have stopped by many evenings just to have a glass of wine and relax. Most recently, we tried the Sweet Corn Chowder topped with warm crab salad, which is absolutely delicious. Another winner is the Roasted Duck Breast with its delightful maple glaze that adds just the right touch of sweetness and is nicely complemented with sauteed spinach and wild rice. We also enjoyed the Filet Mignon Brochettes. To finish it all off was the fabulous peach cobbler cheesecake. In conclusion, great food, good setting, but sometimes the service can be hit and miss, depending who your server is. The only other comment I might make is the price point is probably fine for tourists who are vacationing on the spot and tend to congregate on Beach Drive, but a bit high compared to other restaurants in the area. That being said, I still love it.

240 Beach Drive NE
St Petersburg, FL 33701

Tryst Gastro Lounge on Urbanspoon