Brews WIth Attitude 2015


I had the opportunity through Tampa Bay Bloggers to partake in some beer shenanigans last week. My wife and daughter accompanied me to join in the festivities. Pepin Distributing hosted its annual Brews With Attitude beer fest. This year boasted some awesome brews. There was a great mixture of local breweries represented, rare beers at the “one-off” truck, and top-notch food trucks for noshing on.

My favorite was the “one-off” truck which was pouring Bourbon County Brand Coffee Stout. The coffee and barrel are done superbly. Rapp Brewing had their Peanut Butter Chocolate Stout on tap as well. Also located at this particular truck full of taps was Spencer Brewery. They were represented with their Spencer Trappist Ale, which is a Belgian Pale Ale. Here, beers brewed by The Monks of St. Joseph’s Abbey, Spencer is the first and only certified Trappist beer made in the United States.

Some other favorites were local breweries Coppertail Brewing, Darwin’s Brewing, and Southern Brewing. Southern had a fantastic tart Berliner Weisse they were offering up.

I can’t say enough about how impressed I was with this event. TPepin Hospitality Centre had plenty of indoor and outdoor space to accommodate the crowd, even when the rain ushered everyone inside. 2015-05-12 20.48.57 2015-05-12 18.45.45 2015-05-12 20.10.05 2015-05-12 19.55.21 2015-05-12 19.11.21 2015-05-12 19.04.12 2015-05-12 18.58.45 2015-05-12 18.53.32 2015-05-12 18.46.01 2015-05-12 19.14.39 2015-05-12 19.19.56

CopperFish is Golden


Recently, I had the opportunity to dine at CopperFish Seafood Grill & Oyster Bar with some fellow bay area bloggers. The event was nicknamed #BloggerFish. Owners Gordon Davis and wife Lorena wanted to show off what they have done with the menu since taking over the restaurant. I am happy to say that the menu was a huge success.

I started the evening off at the bar with a Southside Royale. This was a light and refreshing cocktail consisted of champagne, gin, and other refreshing aromatics such as mint.

2015-04-30 18.37.24The waitress then brought out some sweet and spicy fried shrimp. CopperFish’s take on “Bang Bang” shrimp. These were a huge hit and I loved the freshly sliced jalapeno I got to combine with the shrimp that gave the dish its peppery bite.

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We got a chance to see the mesquite wood fired grill put to use. Well we didn’t actually get to see it, but we did get to taste what came off of that grill, glorious plump oysters with just a smattering of hard cheese melted about. I would’ve eaten these all night long.

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After a little while we were whisked away to a back room appropriately nicknamed, “The Cottage”. This room had one large table that could seat about 18 people and the decor was so serene and cozy. They usually rent the room out or hold functions there.

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It was great that I got to share this room for the evening with the Davis’ and fellow bloggers. It was truly a great time eating, chatting, and of course taking a few photos.

A simple, yet well executed bibb salad made its way in front of me while I devoured homemade sourdough boule. I loved the crispness of the salad with julienned apple and a sharp vinaigrette.

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My main entrée consisted of black grouper that was thick cut and had a fabulous meatiness. It was clean tasting, cooked perfectly as to retain some moisture with just a smidge of sauce and was accompanied with a brussels sprout, fresh mushrooms, and squash hash. I love that each entrée has a different side that comes with it. Too often restaurants just offer the same sides for numerous dish and you don’t get the sense of individuality.

2015-04-30 20.13.41Last but certainly not least I indulged in some outstanding chocolate souffle. It was gooey on the inside and light and fluffy on the exterior. I broke open the center and put a dollop of vanilla ice cream on the inside as well, just because.

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The evening was great insight into the care that the Davis’ have put forth into this venture. Flying farm raised beef in from Colorado, sourcing mesquite wood from Texas, harvesting seafood locally. All while not making things too stuffy. Trying to keep the atmosphere intriguing, yet inviting and casual. I would definitely visit CopperFish again and urge you to do the same.

Pepin Distributing’s Brews With Attitude 2015


May 12th, 2015 is a festival not to be missed. Pepin Distributing’s Brews With Attitude, is a craft beer festival including hundreds of beers on tap to sample, live entertainment, some of Tampa’s best food trucks, and much more. The event is hosted at Pepin Distributing’s TPepin Hospitality Centre from 6pm-10pm.

You can purchase tickets for Brews with Attitude and get more details via the Brews with Attitude Facebook Event page

Cheers!

*In return for helping promote this event through Tampa Bay Bloggers I will receive two free tickets to attend the event and live tweet/instagram

Buncha Mumbo Gumbo


Give a man a bowl of gumbo, he’ll eat for a day. Teach a man how to make gumbo, he’ll apparently eat for eternity.

The weekend. The perfect time to whip up a batch of food that will last a few meals during the upcoming work week. I’ve been trying to get in the mode of making batch food since I don’t have as much time on my hands with the little one now in the fold. What I thought was going to be a nice big batch of gumbo turned into a monster batch. I’m pretty sure it’ll last us this week and I will have to portion the rest out and freeze it. Not a bad problem to have with food as delicious as chicken, smoked sausage, and shrimp gumbo.  Continue reading Buncha Mumbo Gumbo

Ginger and Vanilla Kombucha


I have been anxiously awaiting my opportunity to brew up a batch of kombucha. The only thing that was holding me back was getting my hands on a SCOBY. Luckily for me, I received one as a birthday present from a friend who fostered it herself. Yeah these are the birthday presents we look forward to as we get older. Ha! SCOBYs are kind of scary looking, like something from a Sci-Fi movie. They really are amazing organisms though.

Continue reading Ginger and Vanilla Kombucha

Khachapuri, Georgian Cheese, Bread and Egg Awesomeness


I could be Georgian. According to a 2009 survey, 88% of Georgians prefer khachapuri to pizza. If being Georgian meant that I would always get to consume a dish filled with runny rich eggs, doughy baked bread, and gooey cheesy deliciousness, then dammit, call me Georgian. By Georgian I don’t mean that state north of Florida either, I mean the Republic of Georgia located right in the middle of Europe and Asia. Such simple yet fabulous cuisine.

I ran across a recipe from my favorite blogger, Lady and Pups, specific to this dish. It took me a while to get around to making it with baby Arya monopolizing so much of my time these days. It is a pretty tall order to add new recipes to my repertoire being a new dad and all. Really the dish is as easy as could be, if you’ve made pizza before you can make khachapuri. You prepare a dough, make a thick bechamel laced with tons of cheese, form the dough, spread some salty oily tapenade on the dough, fill with cheese mixture, bake and top with a raw egg yolk, at least that’s the version I made. Depending on the region, the make up of the dish will vary, just like pizza. Heh.

Continue reading Khachapuri, Georgian Cheese, Bread and Egg Awesomeness

#GiveAndGrub, Sticking it to Hunger One Meal at a Time


Hunger facts:

  • From 2008 to 2012, the average number of families in Hillsborough County living below the poverty level was 16.5%—higher than the state average, which was 15.6%, according to Feeding America Tampa Bay.
  • An estimated 700,000 people in the region are struggling with hunger—250,000 of those people are children, according to Feeding America Tampa Bay.
  • 37% of the members of West Central Florida households that Feeding America Tampa Bay serves are children under 18 years of age.

Give and Grub is such a fantastic concept and it would be amazing if more businesses had the foresight to use their influence. I was invited to check out this particular food truck, which is usually parked outside Amalie Arena (home of the Tampa Bay Lightning) with a group of fellow bloggers and I was amazed with the quality food as well as the quality staff heading up this operation. For each gourmet menu item sold or “#GiveAndGrub” used on Twitter, Laser Spine Institute will donate one meal to a hungry child or family in need.

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All of the dishes are named after Tampa Bay Lightning players which is a nice local twist. My favorite dish of the evening was their Hedman’s Steak Tacos. These are slow marinated skirt steak, house roasted corn Pico de Gallo and Tijuana rice and topped with a spicy chipotle ranch. I loved the fact that they double up on the taco shells. So many places fail at this and you end up with a soupy mess of ingredients with a disintegrated shell.

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Give and Grub unveiled a new dish as well. The Thunder Steak Sandwich accompanied with Cross-Check Sweet Potato Fries. The cheese steak sandwich consists of grilled steak, smoked gouda, sautéed onions and mushrooms on a freshly baked roll. The sweet potato fries are topped with sea salt, marshmallow and butterscotch drizzle. I couldn’t stop eating those damn sweet potato fries.

Give and Grub is a leader in social media, here are their links:

Website: http://www.giveandgrub.com/

Twitter: @GiveandGrub

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/giveandgrub

Instagram: http://instagram.com/giveandgrub/

Locate: http://www.giveandgrub.com/where-is-give-and-grub/

I’ll leave you with some great photos from the event. Just writing this post has made me crave some of this fabulous food.

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Broccoli Rabe and Salami Pizza


I made an awesome pizza last night for the wife and myself using my favorite method of pizza making. The broiler+Baking Steel method. The dough had had 4 days to cold ferment in the fridge. Ridiculous flavor!

After a layer of fresh garlicky tomato sauce ladened with sticky estra virgin olive oil I hit the pizza with some grated Pecorino Romano. For the heft portion of the pizza I added blanched and chopped broccoli rabe as well as sliced dried Italian salami and sliced Margherita brand pepperoni. I just love how the pork products get those crispy edges and create glorious pockets for that cheese to settle in. Low-moisture mozzarella works for me most of the time and that’s what I used here. You can sub in cubes of fresh mozzarella if you wish.

You can find my previous post about how I create my pizzas HERE. Nothing goes better with a great pizza than a great beer. So indulge and enjoy. Cheers!

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Leftovers For Daddy


Yes the lighting is dim for a reason in my photos. I had to cook by way of microwave light.

My time has been sliced dramatically since my baby girl Arya has been born. I get torn in every which way. My primary job right now is not that of an elementary art educator, or that of a food blogger, or even that of person who is able to drop everything and go have a blast throwing a few beers back with his friends. No, my primary job is that of a good husband and an even better father. So, you can see how it would be hard to juggle so many things and actually stay sane. Still, one needs to find release in life or sanity will fly out the window and for me that release comes in the form of a good blog post. I can set aside a few good minutes and get lost in words and photos.

This sets the stage for yesterday evening. I was at an outstanding Tampa Bay Bloggers meetup learning how to bring in some extra assets to help out the household. I had to come home later than normal on this Monday evening and I felt bad that I missed baby Arya’s swim lessons with mommy, but I NEEDED to do this.

I had some light meal options that accompanied our blogger meetup at Dough. While they were definitely delicious, they were indeed light snacks, but I was considerate of my better half and snuck home a bouquet of Ramen Encrusted Chicken Bites that were left by their lonesome on my way out of the bakery.

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As I opened the garage door, my wife sneakily opened the inside door and gave me a quick shush with a swipe of her finger across her lips. I knew exactly what that meant. She had enough and baby Arya was getting some much-needed rest for herself momma. Come to find out my wife wasn’t very hungry as she had already heated up some leftovers I made from the night before. Come to find out she wasn’t that hungry. That’s alright, more for me (she did snag one after all though).

Right away I thought to myself, “How can I create something unique and tasty, rather than just nuking these crunchy bites of goodness in the microwave”? I figured I would create an easy breakfast concoction, my go to for an easy dinner option. I also knew I was on a mission not to wake the baby or there would be Hell to pay.

So all I did was cook up a couple scrambled eggs (I love Lady and Pup’s version of scarmbled eggs), chop up the chicken crispy pieces, toss them in the egg pan with some shredded up mozzarella, gave a few squirts of Sriracha, and let it all melt together for a minute. In the meantime, I toasted up some bread and heaped the egg/chicken mixture on top for an unorthodox breakfast sandwich packed with flavor. For an extra blast of umami, I hit it with some BLiS Blast, which is a barrel aged triple pepper hot sauce.

The point I wanted to make here is that you work with what you have. I didn’t have the means to create an elaborate meal, but so what? The meal was delicious nonetheless and it was a fun challenge to keep quiet enough not to wake the sleeping baby because anyone with a baby knows that will get you in deep shit.

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Dining In Style at Ulele


I absolutely love dining at local hot spots. I enjoy seeing what all the fuss is about with certain restaurants. With these things in mind I had a real treat on hand when I was afforded the opportunity to attend a blogger dinner at Ulele, sister restaurant to the Columbia Restaurant.

WIth accolades such as, “One of the Top 100 Restaurants in the U.S. – Open Table”, “One of the Best New Restaurants in Florida – Florida Trend” and “Best Overall Restaurant – Yelp Tampa Bay, and most recently rated the 7th best restaurant in the bay area by Tampa Bay Times food critic Laura Reiley, you can see why I was thrilled to give Ulele the green light on my stomach.

Upon entering the beautiful building (seriously beautiful, $6 million went into the renovation), I was hit with a restaurant loaded with hustle and bustle and glitz galore. I instantly felt like this was a destination restaurant not to be missed. As myself and fellow Tampa Bay Bloggers were whisked away to the upstairs area, I couldn’t help but take in all the aromas of steak and char-grilled goodness. The cuisine at Ulele is American inspired Indian, but really focuses on fresh local cuisine indigineous to the Florida.

Ulele blog event-3Our first sample of Ulele came in the form of samples of craft beer. Tim Shackton, head brewmaster of Ulele’s microbrewery, is known for creating delightful crisp lagers and on this evening I had the chance to sample his Honeymoon beer, a black lager, and a bourbon barrel aged red. Our waiter was gracious enough to recommend the bba red and I really loved the caramel and vanilla from the barrel that came through, yet it was still full of biting hops.

The water they use for brewing their beer (a high-tech filtration system) is actually the water they use to serve patrons at the dinner table. The water comes in glass water bottles original from the Columbia Restaurant, dating back to 1905.

We were then treated to a small buffet of luscious mac n cheese (Four-cheese, Ulele light beer sauce) with all the fixin’s you cared to add, things such as lump crab, green onion, and duck bacon crumbles…yes DUCK BACON! On the same table there was delicious chili with loads of beans and hunks of glorious meat. We weren’t allowed to share our photos of these items because they were not served in their typical plating style. Trust me it was some handsome eats.

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The first dish to arrive at our table came in the form of freshly shucked raw oysters on the half shell served with freshly grated horseradish and quartered lemon pieces. These were super fresh and I could’ve eaten a dozen easy. Here is a pro tip, I later received a bottle of datil pepper sauce to try out and I wish I had that bottle while enjoying some of these oysters. That was followed up with a platter of char-broiled oysters. There were simple and delicious. I enjoyed that there was not a gloppy mess of cheese atop the oysters and they had that great char flavor from the broiler.
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Next up, I enjoyed the alligator hushpuppies (alligator, country ham, duck bacon, fresh corn, jalapeño, honey datil pepper sauce and fresh-ground horseradish aioli). While not entirely a new idea, these were well-executed bites of crunchy goodness.
 Ulele blog event-9As the food train kept marching along, I enjoyed a crunchy bite of squash gratin. The veggies were cooked quite well, not mush, yet not raw. I adored the crunchy breadcrumb and manchego mixture atop the vegetables.
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Now on to the carnivorous portion of our segment. What I enjoyed next, and I do mean enjoy, is a hefty 10 ounce portion of perfectly seared wet-aged filet mignon. The filet was accompanied by fresh asparagus and a mound of white cheddar popcorn mashed potatoes.
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Taking a brief break from beef, I had the pleasure of noshing on some fresh pan-seared pompano topped with fried carrot ribbons all set atop a mound of wild rice and a drizzle of sundried tomato shallot cream. This could be my favorite dish from the evening. I absolutely loved the fried carrot ribbons.
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That was quick break and now back to the beef. This mammoth of a steak is the kilo porterhouse, coming in at a whopping 2.2 lbs. This too had great char on the meat and a great steak quality that I absolutely loved. The extra fat in these cuts always lends to great flavor.
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 Swoon. That’s what I did when dessert hit the table. Candied Duck Bacon Maple Fried Ice Cream (cinnamon corn flake candied duck bacon crust, Knob Creek crème anglaise, caramel, sweet potato waffle crisp). This was definitely the bees knees and if I wanted to eat whatever the hell I wanted everyday, this would end each and every night for me.

Do yourself a favor and get down to Ulele, fast. It is such a unique experience and I absolutely love that they took and area of town and made it an up and coming destination. The ball is rolling, so get a jump on things and make a visit.

For reservations at Ulele, visit Ulele online or call 813-999-4952.
Ulele
1810 N. Highland Ave.
Tampa, 33602
In Tampa Heights
In exchange for my review the food I wrote about was free.