Thursday, January 19, 2012

Bern's Steak House - Hyde Park, FL

Disappointment is what I experienced after a trip to Bern's, and I felt reminded a bit of the children's story the "Emperor's New Clothes." Yes, there is red velvet everywhere, but I found the lack of windows a bit claustrophobic and the way diners were packed in there, it was hard to hear each other at our table. It looked more like mess hall for young recruits, and it is not a good pick for something intimate like a date. As for our server, I felt he was rude to us in a subtle way, as well as to the busgirl. Another thing I noticed was the servers appeared to be men over the age of fifty(not anything wrong with the age, but I didn't see a representation of younger people or women servers).

Now, on to the drinks and food. Yes, Bern's has a humongous wine list, but a smaller and more select wine list, especially for the wines by the glass, might be in order. We tried two different reds and two different whites from France, which were nice, except I could not tell the difference in serving temperature between the red and white(the whites were both served at room temperature). We started off with caviar and an order of potato blinis, which was nice. Next, we tried the french onion soup and the lobster bisque, both of which were nice, but nothing exceptional. Then, we tried the salad which had a lot of different vegetables and that was good, but unless you are wild about salad, why not save room for the main course because that salad was almost a meal in itself. Finally, the entrees arrived. First, there was the porterhouse steak which is served with steakhouse onion rings, vegetables, and a baked potato with fixings. The steak was fine, but not the out of this world steak experience that I was expecting. The onion rings tasted fine, but I would not suggest more than a taste because they were rich and made to kill the appetite when eating steak. The presentation of the food was blah, which I don't mind if the food can stand by itself, but nothing was exceptional. Wanting to see how Bern's non-steak entrees stood up, I also tried the charcoal grilled wild salmon and the yellowtail snapper a la plancha. Of the two fish dishes, I preferred the salmon and felt the snapper was boring.

Finally, the dessert, which deserves its own paragraph because this was my favorite part of Bern's. Each dining party is given their own little room with a table in the dessert room upstairs. There, you can experience the intimacy missing in the downstairs dining rooms. Order your favorite after dinner drink and pick a dessert from their large dessert menu. We ordered the macadamia nut sundae, for which they are famous, and the chocolate cake Jones. Both desserts were very good, and if I could have skipped the whole downstairs dining experience and just came for dessert, that would have suited me fine. All in all, try Bern's once to see how you feel about this landmark steakhouse, but it would not be a place I would go for a special or intimate event.

1208 South Howard Avenue
Hyde Park, FL 33606

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Friday, January 13, 2012

Wine Exchange - Hyde Park(Tampa), FL

A beautiful, crisp January evening, and it seemed like the perfect time to head over to Tampa and try the Wine Exchange Restaurant. Approaching the restaurant at night, it was beautiful to look in at, with the huge windows throwing light onto the sidewalk outside. Inside, the first thing I noticed was the wine racks and a tiny bit of space giving a nod to the Gasparilla Pirate and tons of bead necklaces. After that, I gave my appreciation to the beautiful bar backed with a lot of mirrors and a back wall hung with funky abstract art. There was a choice of dining outside on the enclosed patio, or inside. We decided to dine inside as we really liked the vibe surrounding the bar.

First, to the wine menu, where you can buy by the glass or bottle. The white and red wines by the glass are ranged from light to rich and bold. I am going to say this straight out that they do an excellent job of choosing the wines they serve by the glass. We tried two different whites and three different reds, between us, and every single one of them were good. Usually, wines by the glass can be hit and miss, but not so here, which was great for us. For food, we started with the lobster cakes served with a mango aioli and I have to say I would go back for them alone, so I would recommend them as a must try. After that, we tried the special of the night, which was a New York Strip pepper steak served with mashed potatoes and broccoli. Also, I ordered the spinach ravioli off the regular menu, to which I added salmon. Both choices were very good, but I still had my mind on that delicious lobster cake. My son ordered a basic cheese pizza, which was not one of their pizza choices, but they were very accommodating and able to make that for him, which made him a happy camper. To round out the meal, for dessert we tried the Chocolate Bomb, which was a cake topped with a layer of chocolate and white mousse and covered in a chocolate shell. Also, we tried the baklava cheesecake. Both were excellent. Finally, I have to give a hats off to the service there, which was very attentive without being overbearing and made for a pleasant dining experience. In summary, great wine, food, and service!
1609 Snow Avenue
Tampa, FL 33606

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Saturday, January 7, 2012

Frida's Cafe & Bakery - Largo, FL

I have my regular weekday coffee place to get my coffee and morning sweet fix, but one day I decided to take a little trip to mix my weekday routine up a bit. With that in mind, I headed over to Frida's. Stepping in the door, the cafe was nothing fancy, but that didn't matter, as my eyes were drawn to the big bakery case filled with all sorts of delectable looking bakery items.
Behind the bakery display case there were racks filled with donuts and other goodies. I wasn't sure what to pick at first, as there were too many things to pick from, but my eyes were drawn to a small cheesecake dessert. This yummy sweet was surrounded by almonds and topped with raspberry jam and an almond paste that was baked, so that it had a delicate crispy crust. I was very happy with my selection. They offer regular coffee and espresso drinks. I ordered a latte, but I think I would have been better off with a regular coffee, as the latte was just so-so. Besides sweets, they also offer breakfast and lunch. This was quite a trek for me to go to on a regular basis, but if I wanted to pick up some elegant and tasty desserts to take home, this would be a first pick for me.

9700 Ulmerton Road
Largo, FL 33771

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Monday, January 2, 2012

White Horse Pub - Sarasota, FL

The White Horse Pub is a lovely British Pub located in a strip mall in Sarasota, Florida. Don't let the strip mall deter you from visiting, because once inside it has the cozy feel that one likes in a British pub. We were there for the live guitar music performed by Duende; if you want to learn more about this awesome group, find out about it here. The White Horse is a sprawling restaurant with a small room where live music is performed, a separate bar area, another room with tables and chairs, and a pool table area. We grabbed a table with friends at one of the high topped bar tables, so we could see into the music room. We ordered a couple of British beers to get into the pub mood, and then checked out the menu. They offered meaty pasties, as well as vegetarian pasties, so we decided to go in that direction and found the pasties to be very good. Also delicious were the fries and onion rings. This was an awesome place and one that you want to visit again and again and bring your friends along!

White Horse Pub
6240 North Lockwood Ridge Road
Sarasota, FL 34243

The White Horse Britsh Pub on Urbanspoon

Venezia Restaurant - Sarasota, FL

A sudden rain storm forced me to find shelter from the rain, when walking around Saint Armand's Circle in Sarasota. As I walked by the Venezia Restaurant with its large front windows, it looked like just the right kind of spot to escape from the rain. I picked one of the high topped bar tables facing the huge windows, so I could enjoy a glass of wine and watch the rainfall. The view was lovely inside with cool art all along one wall with a seemingly nice vibe. I ordered a glass of pinot grigio and bruschetta for an appetizer. I enjoyed the glass of wine, but the tomatoes for the bruschetta fell flat. The right combination of garlic, tomatoes, and basil were there, except the refrigerated tomatoes ruined it. You know how they always tell you not to refrigerate tomatoes because they get mushy, well that is what they did here. It was such a simple thing that was almost right, but that one important little thing made the difference. I would definitely give the place a try again if I am in Sarasota, but I would carefully consider the menu before ordering.

Venezia Restaurant
373 Saint Armand's Circle
Sarasota, FL 34236

Venezia on Urbanspoon

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

I made a stop at Le Macaron one afternoon to have a cappuccino and some macarons. Although this little shop is named Le Macaron, that is not the only thing they offer here. One can enjoy gelato, croissants, or a wonderful selection of handmade chocolates. I was impressed by the beautiful rows of macarons and my dilemma was what to pick from the assortment of jewel-like colors. Finally, I tried the Black current, the pistachio, the vanilla, and the Belgian dark chocolate. They were wonderfully light and crispy with a lovely, creamy filling. These went perfectly with my cappuccino. If you haven't tried a French Macaron, this is your chance.

382 Saint Armand's Circle
Sarasota, FL 34236

Le Macaron on Urbanspoon

Star Keeper Cafe - Sarasota, FL

I found time to try Star Keeper Cafe one evening for their Burgers and Live Music event that is held every Thursday evening, starting at 6:00 p.m. For $10 dollars you can get beer, a grilled burger, and corn on the cob. For $2 dollars more, make that a wine instead. If burgers are not your thing, you can get a grilled chicken sandwich or a Portobella mushroom sandwich. There is seating inside this hundred year old house that was converted into a cafe, or you can enjoy seating on the patio out back, especially nice when live music is playing, which was perfect for me. The burgers that came hot off the outdoor grill were wonderful and I loved the grilled corn on the cob. Try to save room for dessert because they offer some lovely homemade desserts. A cozy place to relax and enjoy tasty food.

1734 Bamboo Lane
Sarasota, FL 34236

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