Barbecue, especially in the south, is a true art form that many spend years upon years tweaking, adjusting and perfecting. There are four essential classifications of barbecue: Texas, Carolina, Kansas City & Memphis. [Editor’s note: There can be a myriad of others, but these are the most well-known.] Each region’s style of barbecue varies notably, and there is always a … Continue ReadingRead more
Poké (pronounced as poh-kay), which is said to have been originated in Hawaii, has gained a copious amount of popularity all across the world in recent years. Poké is a traditional dish that is typically comprised of, in its most basic state, raw tuna and shoyu, where the tuna is cut crosswise, and then cubed. However, there are many, many … Continue ReadingRead more
“I will leave it up to you” is the english translation of the Japanese phrase Omakase. Having never been to Japan, I had actually never heard this phrase until just the last couple of years. Boy have we all been missing out. You don’t know what you’re missing if you’ve never tried it.
Word around town last year was that … Continue ReadingRead more
Ever since our first visit to Grace Restaurant, just after they opened in the summer of 2017, we have considered Grace to be an anomaly at the beach. Why? Because it has great food, great wine and great service in a beautiful, welcoming, non-pretentious atmosphere. Our first write up on Grace.
A locals favorite, Grace continues to impress with quality … Continue ReadingRead more
In January 2019, Bacchus St Pete quietly opened its doors offering a European inspired market complete with wine, cheese and charcuterie. Bacchus is not just a market, but a lovely place to eat, drink and unwind. Read our original article on the inspiration of Bacchus before they opened here.
Upon first entering, the decor is bright and airy with a … Continue ReadingRead more
A take down in the ‘Burg…Spinning a take on the Esquire Network series, Knife Fight, IL Ritorno is bringing some Saturday night fun into our downtown culinary scene with their newest concept the “Midnight Chef Fight” series which will pit two Tampa Bay chefs against each other in an hour long, “after hours” cook-off to create the best dishes.
Not … Continue ReadingRead more
I don’t make fried chicken at home, but as a child my mother did, and from what I recall it was finger licking good. My mother is from Georgia so she knows southern cooking. Did she way over cook vegetables? Definitely, but I think most moms in her era did.
So when I see fried chicken on a menu, it … Continue ReadingRead more
On Thursday night, we were invited to a pre-opening party for No Vacancy. Quite honestly we weren’t sure what to expect. No Vacancy currently occupies the former King’s Street space and is the brainchild of Stephen Schrutt of The Hunger + Thirst Group which also includes The Avenue and Park & Rec.
Schrutt said that this concept has been brewing … Continue ReadingRead more
A couple of months ago Rococo Steak started opening at 11am for Sunday brunch. Kevin and I were invited in to photograph and taste a few of the brunch items. Brunch is done a lot downtown and we have covered quite a few of them, so I was really not quite sure what to expect. That thought should have never … Continue ReadingRead more
PLEASE NOTE: THIS PIECE WAS WRITTEN WHEN THE NAME OF THE RESTAURANT WAS THE PEABODY, IT IS NOW THE LIBRARY.
From the minute you walk thru the doors of The Peabody, you feel transported back in time. A serene setting of tables within an old fashioned library surrounding a bar. All of this located in the research and education building … Continue ReadingRead more
That’s right! IL Ritorno will now be open on Sunday at 5:00, for dinner only (except for private events), starting on January 7th, 2019. So to thwart the inevitable question in advance, they will not be serving a brunch.
They have had such a high demand for Sunday reservations and are constantly having to turn away customers and parties on … Continue ReadingRead more
Bento Asian Kitchen + Sushi is a fast-casual Pan-Asian restaurant that is opening its first Tampa Bay area location in downtown St. Petersburg. The 2,700 sq. ft. location is located at 320 Third Street South – in the base of the Camden Pier District apartment building, formerly AER. The grand opening is tomorrow, October 5th.
Plenty of parking is available … Continue ReadingRead more
Arriving on the St Pete scene in 2005, BellaBrava has been a mainstay in downtown for many years. Well before the restaurant boom that has hit us now. Originally occupying the space on Central Avenue, where The Acropolis Greek Taverna is now, they moved to their iconic Beach Dr location in 2010.
After Chef Jeffrey Jew and the partners of … Continue ReadingRead more
The Crafty Squirrel is hosting a grand opening event tonight, Thursday, September 13th from 5:30pm – 7:30pm. There will be a formal gathering with Mayor Rick Kriseman, a complimentary sampling of menu items, $250 in raffle prizes, and more!
Guests will have an opportunity to taste items on the menu like the Kitchen Sink, an artisan pizza made with tomato, … Continue ReadingRead more
When we first learned about Beantown Pub opening we were very excited to have something different opening downtown. Here’s our original write up about Beantown Pub opening. It’s nice to have a pub with pub food that’s true to its roots. Beantown has been an institution in Boston for over 20 years and they brought the exact concept … Continue ReadingRead more
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- October 3, 2023 Best Upscale-Casual Restaurants in St. Petersburg FL 2023
Being in Florida, the land of vacations, fun and casualness, the term “Fine Dining” is not a favorite of some restaurateurs here as they are concerned it might make their establishment unapproachable to some potential customers. There was one restaurant where I described the food as “gourmet”, and was asked by the owner to not use that word for the same reason. “Upscale-Casual” was where we landed as the compromise. For our purposes of comprising a list of the best upscale-casual restaurants in the St. Petersburg area, we will use our own guidelines that focus more on the quality level of the ingredients used, the chef’s treatment of these ingredients, how they are presented, and creativity of the dishes. The atmosphere, level of service, knowledge of staff, and dress codes are areas that come into the definition of fine dining. There are definitely some establishments on this list that meet the exact definition of fine dining. There are others on this list where the food and presentation are at a fine dining level, but the decor may be a little more relaxed. They might be considered casually high-end having a casual atmosphere with the best quality food, and excellent chef skills, or serving delectable delights not commonly found elsewhere. Not all of the restaurants require reservations, but I highly suggest making them for any you choose. (Brick & Mortar does not take reservations.) IL Ritorno 449 Central Ave N #101 St. Petersburg, FL 33701 (727) 897-5900 IL Ritorno Website Chef David Benstock says, “we have Italian roots, but pull inspiration from other regions”. When IL Ritorno opened in 2013, they were typically referred to as an upscale, modern Italian restaurant. They were never the typical rustic Italian-American place that most expect when they think of an Italian eatery. They have always offered elevated Italian, and over the years have evolved to offer Michelin-star level (they do not have a Michelin star as Michelin hasn’t covered St. Pete yet) plates with fine dining mastery. This is evidenced in their recent special dinner series that included a Caviar Dinner, Antinori Wine Dinner, Japanese Fish, and Fort McCoy Farms. IL Ritorno utilizes the highest quality organic, free range meats from local farms and makes most of their ingredients in-house including all of the pastas, ‘Nduja, and Guanciale (made from local pigs, not imported finished product as most do), and Chef Benstock even makes his own Shio Koji. (A fermented rice product originated in Japanese cuisine (and now used in others), primarily for marinating. Allelo 300 Beach Dr NE #128 St. Petersburg, FL 33701 (727) 851-9582 Allelo Website Allelo is serving up dishes inspired by the regions near the Mediterranean and Aegean Sea, which leaves open a multitude of cuisines. Their name “comes from the word allelomimesis which is the phenomenon of a group, such as birds, coming together to form a flock. The idea of gathering is echoed throughout their menu where items are meant for sharing with friends.” The menu is focused on small, tapas-style shared plates with a selection of pastas, and a few large-format dishes. Everything is top-notch – the service, food, and atmosphere. This is one of those places where you can tell that the people working there are not just doing it to pay the bills. They’re there because they wholeheartedly love what they do. The East Coast Oysters were delectable and fresh. We loved the mignonette with this as it wasn’t the standard bitey type. It was smooth, mellow, and slightly sweet. The meatballs are special and unique. Instead of breadcrumbs, they use Freekeh. (I had to look it up. You should too.) Another cool thing about the meatballs is that they are elegant and rustic at the same time. I usually prefer a more rustic meatball over a fine soft one. Allelo’s had a fine texture to the meat, but also offered chunky bits of parsley, basil and garlic. They tasted fantastic, and the sauce was great too. The Raditatori lamb bolognese with Pecorino-Romano and parsley – The name of this pasta shape translates to radiator as that is what it resembles, and it has such an orgasmic mouthfeel. The dish was scrumptious. The Pasta Alla Norma is soul-soothing comfort food. Check out their weekend brunch too. Calida Kitchen & Wine 2909 Dr M.L.K. Jr St N St. Petersburg, FL 33704 (727) 202-0263 Calida Website Calida Kitchen & Wine is absolutely the next big thing. The only thing that isn’t big is the restaurant itself. The cozy dining room has about three tables of four. The bar seats six and there are a few two tops in the bar area as well. The decor transports one to a small European hidden gem. A reservation is highly recommended. First, we ordered the Shatta Shrimp from the Starters & Shared Plates section of the menu. This dish, served with Argentine reds, baby bells, greens, spring onion and grilled lime, was my favorite of the night. It had the perfect amount of spice, tang and umami all wrapped up with the delicious natural sweetness of the shrimp. We actually convinced several different diners to order it while we were there. We shared the Chow Noodles as our main course. They are made with long noodles, market vegetables, fresh ginger & garlic, tamari, sesame oil and chili flakes. This dish was down home and comforting, perfectly seasoned and just delicious. We scarfed this down. The noodles also have a fun back story. Quoted from the owner, Dayna, “Ian was the Chef de Cuisine at a restaurant in San Luis Obispo that I use to go to all the time. He created that noodle dish there and I ate it for years and loved it before I ever even knew Ian. So it’s got sentimental value for me.” It’s somewhat of a love story. We also ordered the Branzino with carrot soubise, grilled palm hearts, market vegetables and chili oil. Tender, flaky and delicious. In the last […]
- October 3, 2023 Spicy Tomato Soup with Basil Cream Recipe
Tomato Soup is perhaps one of the more simplistic soups to throw together and undoubtedly one of the tastiest. A handful of ingredients and a little bit of patience is all you need to whip up a piping hot pot of comforting tomato soup. The most important aspect of this recipe, of course, is the tomatoes. A lot of recipes call for canned tomatoes, which of course is the easiest of routes. However, I prefer the utilization of beautiful, ripe and in-season tomatoes whenever they’re available. Tomatoes are in season here in Florida and I fully took advantage of that for this recipe. In fact, these juicy jewels were my inspiration after noticing an abundance of them at the grocery store recently. Rollin’ Oats, my favorite health market, specifically has a beautiful array of Roma and beefsteak tomatoes that are organic of course. Basically any tomatoes will work for this recipe as long as they’re ripe. Roma, vine ripe and beefsteak are my recommendations. Prepping the tomatoes for the soup is easier than you may think. All you need to do is cut an “X” into the stem end of each tomato, drop the tomatoes into boiling water for one minute, transfer them to an ice bath and then easily remove the tomato skin. Aside from the tomatoes, the only other components needed for the soup are garlic, onions, vegetable broth and heavy cream; however, this isn’t just your standard tomato soup – this version has some spice. For the spice element, I used jarred chopped Calabrian chilies, but if you can’t find those, one teaspoon or so of crushed red pepper flakes will suffice. The spice is certainly present in this soup, but it isn’t overpowering and should be tolerable for most all palates. Serving tomato soup with some basil and some cream is a must in my opinion, so, why not combine the two? I recommend throwing the two ingredients into a small blender, like a NutriBullet, and giving them a quick blend. This will of course thicken the cream mixture a bit which is great for dolloping into a steamy, hot bowl of soup. But wait, there’s more. What’s tomato soup without a crispy and cheese-topped bread element? I like to make this tomato soup with a side of what I refer to as mozzarella sourdough dippers. I cut sourdough bread into rectangles that are about 1″ thick, drizzle them with olive oil and top with shredded mozzarella. Pop them into the oven until the cheese is melted and the bread begins to crisp and dunk them into your bowl of soup. Rollin’ Oats sells one of my favorite sourdough brands – Gulf Coast Sourdough. They have a few variations of their bread on their shelves like rosemary garlic and asiago, but I always opt for the classic, the simply sourdough. As for the cheese, I always reach for Organic Valley shreds which Rollin’ Oats also carries. This spicy tomato soup recipe is great for all occasions and days of the week and it’s just what you need to get yourself into the fall mode. Spicy Tomato Soup with Basil Cream Recipe Fall is here and so is tomato season. What better way to kickoff the season than by whipping up a comforting pot of spicy tomato soup? Spicy Tomato Soup2 tbsp olive oil1 white onion (medium in size, halved and sliced)4 garlic cloves (peeled and minced)3 lbs tomatoes (roma, vine ripe or beefsteak – make sure they're ripe)1/2 tbsp jarred chopped Calabrian chilies (or 1 1/2 tsp crushed red pepper)4 cups vegetable stock1/2 cup heavy creamsaltBasil (for serving)Basil Cream1 cup basil (fresh, loosely packed)1 cup heavy cream1/2 tsp saltSourdough Dipperssourdough bread (cut into rectangles 1" thick)1 tbsp olive oil1/2 cup mozzarella (shredded) Basil CreamAdd basil, salt and 1/2 cup of heavy cream to a small blender like a NutriBullet and pulse for a few seconds. The mixture will become thick, but that's okay. Pour in the remaining heavy cream and stir – the cream mixture will thin out a bit. Set aside until ready to serve soup.Sourdough DippersHeat oven to 400F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Toss sourdough rectangles with olive oil and arrange in a single layer on the baking sheet. Evenly distribute shredded mozzarella onto rectangles and bake in the oven until cheese is melted and bread is toasted around 7-9 minutes.Remove from oven and set aside until ready to serve with spicy tomato soupSpicy Tomato SoupBring a large pot of water to a boil. Prepare a large ice bath in a separate bowl. Cut an "x" into the stem end of each tomato and boil the tomatoes for one minute. Carefully remove and place in the prepared ice bath. When tomatoes are cool, remove the skins from the tomatoes and discard (this should be quite simple to do because of the boiling process). Heat olive oil in a dutch oven or large pot over medium heat. Add in the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until onion begins to soften – 4-5 minutes. Season with salt.Add garlic to the pot and cook for another 1-2 minutes until it's fragrant.Mix in Calabrian chilies or crushed red pepper and cook for another 1-2 minutes.Turn the heat up to medium high, add in in the peeled tomatoes, pour in the vegetable stock and bring the mixture to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium low and simmer for 40 minutes. Season with a few more pinches of salt.Blend the mixture with an immersion blender or carefully add the soup contents to a high powered blender like a Vitamix to puree and return to the pot.Stir in the heavy cream and heat the soup over medium low for 15 more minutes. Season with more salt as needed.Ladle soup into bowls, top with basil cream and basil and serve with sourdough dippers along side. Dinner, Main CourseAmerican
- September 27, 2023 Italy Bottega Turns Up the Heat With a New Executive Chef and Menu
On June 3, 2020 Federico Fanelli bravely opened Italy Bottega in the midst of the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic. Nobody really knew anything back then about this virus causing the pandemic, how long it would last, and how bad it would be. But he persevered. Born in Venice and raised in Rome, Federico believes that the rich Italian culture and cuisine represent a way of life meant to be experienced, tasted and enjoyed by everyone. So when he opened here, he aspired to bring a taste of Italy to St Pete. Federico recently reached out to us to invite us in for dinner, since we had not been when he was at the helm. The restaurant itself has a cozy, rustic, warm and inviting atmosphere. There are many bottles of wine for sale to take home, as well as other Italian market items. Federico had a management team running the business for about a year and he is now back at the helm since April of this year. Federico has now hired Chef Daniel Rabice, formerly of A Mano on 4th St N before it closed for a complete revamp. Chef Daniel has worked in and around St. Pete for many years and has a large following of clientele who come to eat his Utica, NY style of Italian cooking. The current menu features a few of his signature Utica dishes such as his Chicken Riggies and Rigatoni Carmine Rabice. While we were in for dinner on this occasion a table near us had driven from Sarasota for Chef Rabice’s cooking. When we arrived Federico treated us to a lovely glass of Sicilian Catarrotto Insolia Chara. It is a refreshing white wine with notes of grapefruit and lemon zest. I really enjoyed this and would have it again. Up first for food we had the rustic, yet luscious Meatballs Ricotta – homemade marinara, parmigiana reggiano and basil with a fresh scoop of ricotta. If meatballs are on the menu, Kevin must get them. These received the Kevin Godbee stamp of approval and I would order these every time. The scoop of ricotta just takes them to the next level. A special featuring chunks of lobster in a scrumptious cream sauce with heirloom tomatoes and spaghetti? Yes, please. This was a no brainer. It tastes as good as it looks. The lobster was cooked to perfection – delicate and buttery. All of the flavors just sang in your mouth. I wouldn’t normally order Shrimp Scampi, it’s not really my thing, but we wanted to step out of our wheelhouse and our waiter suggested it. This one is made with garlic, lemon, white wine, butter, orange liqueur, fresh angel hair and topped with a blood orange. It’s beautiful and the sauce had such a nice, light flavor combination but you could tell that the pasta water had not been salted (the pasta was missing that starchy, somewhat salty flavor) and was a tad overcooked and so were the shrimp. The red wine that Federico brought over for our next dishes was outstanding. It’s a Valpolicella Ripasso Superiore. This was stunning with a rich, warming mouth feel, notes of red fruit, spices and cocoa on the nose, well rounded tannins and a slightly vanilla finish. It was so good, we bought a bottle to bring home. The wine paired beautifully with the Lasagna Bolognese – bolognese made with veal, pork and beef in a decadent besciamella sauce. Wow. Is all I have to say about this. How Kevin is with meatballs, I am with lasagna and I could eat this every day. It’s rich and decadent with flavors that just marry perfectly together. In fact, I just finished the leftovers today for lunch. Amatriciana is just one of those dishes that I also crave and love to order wherever I go. This one is made with guanciale, san marzano tomatoes, pecorino romano and served with spaghetti or rigatoni. For us, it was a tad under seasoned and the spaghetti had the same issues of no salt in the pasta water and the pasta was not al dente. It was a very good dish besides those two things. Honestly we never knew about salting the pasta water to infuse the pasta as it cooks, until about five years ago. It really makes such a difference once you know. There are many people out there that this would not matter to at all. In closing, we thoroughly enjoyed our Italy Bottega experience. Federico will take great care of you. He was out on the floor with all of the customers while we were there. It’s a place that makes you feel like home.
- September 12, 2023 Best Taco Places in St. Petersburg FL 2023
As I sat down to write this, the first thoughts that popped into my head were 1) Everybody loves tacos, 2) There sure are a lot of different types of tacos these days, and 3) what is the actual origin of the taco—is it really Mexican, and how close to the original are they to what we eat today? So, I Googled, “What is the origin of the taco?” There’s a bunch of stuff out there, but I liked The Smithsonian’s article the best, as it was the most interesting, and the most credible, in my opinion. Whatever you do, don’t bother with the one from Ortega. It is so stupid, stating that the very first tacos had “salsa, onions, guacamole, and lime.” I don’t think so. To sum it up, tacos were most likely invented by Mexican silver miners in the 18th century. Mexican Americans in the Southwest reinvented it, and businessman Glen Bell mass-marketed it to Anglo palates via the crunchy Taco Bell shell. (By the way, Taco Bell is crap.) The first taco meat was likely offal meat – internal organs and entrails, which aren’t that bad when a chef that knows what they’re doing prepares them. Tacos evolved naturally when Mexicans immigrated to the U.S. and two things happened. First, they had to use what was available—ground beef instead of offals. Plus, they were no longer dirt poor, and could afford better meat. The other thing that happened that is similar, is that they were influenced by the American, or Norte Americanos, as they would call us, (Mexicans considered themselves “Americans” too)—they were influenced by the American foods, which is how lettuce, tomato, and cheddar cheese found its way into the taco along with ground beef. Everyone always argues about what’s “Authentic”. It’s almost a useless word that gets overused a lot in relation to Mexican food. There’s really no such thing as one kind of authentic when describing an entire country’s food, especially Mexico. Did you know that before the Spanish came over that the only meat the natives ate was Turkey? They didn’t even use dairy, so no cheese! The Spanish introduced pork, chicken, beef, goat, and sheep – and fried in pork fat. Al Pastor actually comes from Lebanese immigrants to Mexico. So, what is “Authentic Mexican Food”? There’s no such thing. It’s all regional. Now, there are all kinds of fillings and toppings, and taquerias are continuing to be more inventive every day, which is definitely evidenced by many of our top picks below. Some of the places are sit down, full-blown Mexican restaurants, and others are hole-in-the-wall former gas stations, and everything in between. And yes, I went to all of the places and ate every one of these tacos, some of them many times over. (All photos are my own unless otherwise indicated.) Ok, on to the list! THE LIST IS IN RANDOM ORDER. Here are the Best Places to get Tacos in St. Petersburg, Florida for 2023. Grumpy Gringo 2510 22nd Ave N St Petersburg, FL 33713 (727) 851-9800 Grumpy Gringo Website Grumpy Gringo’s flavors are amazing, the service is quick and cheerful, and you must try the house-made hot sauces. The Street Taco is a corn tortilla, steak, onions, cilantro, and cilantro lime sauce. I got it just how it comes, although there are several extra items you can add. On the Cochinita Pibil (shredded pork) I added jalapeños, and cheese and had a soft flour tortilla. I ate half of each without hot sauce so I could really taste them the way they come, and then ate the remainder trying the house hot and extra hot sauces. They are both excellent. Just be careful with the extra hot. Lori felt the hot was already extra hot, and couldn’t imagine what the extra hot would be like…and didn’t want to. If you like it really hot, you’ll love it. All of the meats at The Grumpy Gringo are well seasoned, fresh, moist and juicy. The tacos without hot sauce taste fantastic, and with hot sauce they are excellent as well. Lori tagged along on the second visit and got two tacos—Carne Asada, and Barbacoa. She said they were well-seasoned, had good flavors, and nice tortillas that were better than most. Poppo’s Taqueria 1033 Central Ave St. Petersburg, FL 33705 (727) 289-1121 Poppo’s Website Poppo’s is fantastic and unique San Francisco / Mission-style tacos. There is nothing like them around here. They have great flavors, lots of options and everything is fresh made in-house. They pressed our tortillas right in front of us. They use the highest quality, and freshest ingredients. They do not have a freezer or a can-opener in the place. The meats are super well seasoned. Lori ordered the build your own carne asada and al pastor tacos and I had the Poppo’s Taco with al pastor and the Classic Taco which comes with carnitas. Fast-Casual – order at the counter, and food is brought to your table. El Huarache Veloz Restaurant 7100 49th St N Pinellas Park, FL 33781 (727) 525-6028 El Huarache Facebook El Huarache is the real deal. It’s a small place with only seven tables, and they are here to feed the blue-collar Mexican workers in the neighborhood. This is the food you would likely get if you went to someone’s house in Mexico. Aside from me, every patron was Mexican, and speaking Spanish. The menu is even in English and Spanish. They open early at 10 am, but they also close early at 8 pm (9pm on Friday and Saturday), so keep that in mind when planning your visit. As you can see from the photo, they do give you the option to gringo-ize your tacos. I had the Pollo Desebrado (shredded chicken), Al Pastor (marinated pork), and Cabeza (beef head). All tacos come with onion and cilantro. I added lettuce, tomato, and cheese. They were really loaded and the first one was going all over the place. For the second two, […]
- September 8, 2023 10 Best Mexican Restaurants in St. Petersburg FL 2023
Must Eat Mexican Treats in St. Pete If you search this site for “Mexican”, you may notice that I do all of the Mexican restaurant reviews. Why? It’s because I love Mexican food so much that I could literally eat it every day for a week straight. (I actually have done that before.) Two and a half decades ago when I traveled all over the country in sales, I would try a different Mexican restaurant in every town—going to a new town every day. Something else I’d like to mention is that I have been to Tijuana, Mexico City, Oaxaca, Zihuatanejo, and Cancun—although I’m not sure Cancun counts. I mention my Mexico travels because it came up in the midst of discussions in our Facebook Group. I was asked if I ever went to Mexico because my iteration of “authentic” was being questioned. We learned something interesting while posting our Mexican restaurant reviews. The word “authentic” tends to trigger an avalanche of criticism and disagreement. It reminds me of the “Slowly I Turned” sketch – a popular vaudeville sketch wherein a character is relating a story and is triggered into violent outburst when the listener inadvertently utters a triggering phrase. – Wikipedia (My favorite is Abbott & Costello’s Niagara Falls.) To try to put the “authentic” issue to rest, I asked, what is authentic American food? There’s more than one style. Just look at all of the different types of barbecue for example. Just like there are different regions and styles in the US, the same goes for the United Mexican States. Our friend Robert has been traveling around Mexico for a little over two years now, and when we were talking to him about Mexican food, he said, “There’s no such thing as Mexican food. There’s Oaxacan food, Tapatío (Jalisco), Yucatan, Sonoran food, etc.” If you go to Mexico and say you are looking for authentic Mexican food, no one will know what you are talking about. It’s all REGIONAL FOOD. Most “Mexican” in the US is either Tex-Mex or Mexican-American food, and there are regional variations here too, which often cause debates to break out. Californians think they have the “best most authentic Mexican food”, but don’t tell that to a Texan because they really “know what the best Mexican food is.” Ok, on to the list! THE LIST IS IN RANDOM ORDER. 10 Best Mexican Restaurants in St. Pete, FL for 2023 Chile Verde Authentic Mexican Food 2801 22nd Ave North St. Petersburg, Florida 33713 (727) 800-2679 Chile Verde Facebook Chile Verde has been going strong for a little over five years now. The Tacos Mexicanos are done traditional Mexican-style with just meat, chopped onions, and cilantro. That’s it. The meat is well-seasoned and the tacos are delicious. The meat choices are steak, barbacoa (bbq beef), chicken, pork, tongue, tripe, and lamb. You can see that it’s not fancy, served on a styrofoam plate, but it is tasty. They also have Tacos Americanos where you get the tomatoes, lettuce and cheese. There is a small Mexican market inside with hot sauces, canned refried beans, chiles, tortillas, corn meal, etc. Order at the counter, and the food is brought to your table. Carmelita’s 5211 Park St North St. Petersburg, FL 33709 (727) 545-2956 Carmelita’s Website Here’s another Mexican family using their recipes from home serving up the St. Pete area for 40-years. This one is quite traditional too. When they have Menudo on the menu, it’s a good sign. You can also tell that the salsas are made fresh every day. Carmelita’s actually has five locations: Pinellas Park, Largo, St. Petersburg, Dunedin, and New Port Richey. They are all run by separate Mexican families, but with the same menu and recipes. VIP Mexican Restaurant & Lounge 10625 Gulf Blvd Treasure Island, FL 33706 (727) 360-5062 VIP Website VIP on Treasure Island has somewhat of a cult following. It is a unique experience, and the two most important things you need to know are: 1. Go early. 2. Get the Beef Tamale. Although the tamale doesn’t look pretty in the above photo, it is so so good! This place is so small and so good that there is always a wait. We went at 5:00 pm on a weekday during slow season and had a 40-minute wait. You can’t be shy or claustrophobic here as it is so tight, you are right on top of each other and there is no such thing as a private conversation … yet there is a wait every night … for good reason. VIP also has a location in Indian Rocks Beach now. Nueva Cantina 1625 4th St South St. Petersburg, FL 33701 (727) 851-9579 Nueva Cantina Website Nueva Cantina has been rockin’ their special style of Mexican food for six years now. They have some more traditional items, and great fusion, like the Picadillo Tacos, and Tex-Mex, like their excellent Fajitas. Above, Modelo Marinated Chicken – Honey-lime Modelo marinated chicken served with Mexican rice, black bean corn salsa, salsa rojas, and fresh cilantro. The chicken is nice and juicy and the roja sauce gives a nice, sweet heat. It’s complex, rich, tender, and has a great depth of flavor. Below, a more traditional item – Beef Enchiladas with black beans & rice. So many Mexican places taste all the same that you would think the beans and rice all came out of the same big shared can and box, but not these. They are fresh and delicious, and packed with flavor. The enchiladas are some of the best we’ve ever had. TacoMiendo St Pete Mexican Restaurant 4747 66th St N Kenneth City, FL 33709 (727) 498-6369 There’s nothing elegant, no fusion, or frilly plating. It’s just darn good Mexican food made and served by Mexicans. There’s Tex-Mex too as most diners expect this when they go to a “Mexican” restaurant. Don’t be surprised if your server speaks better Spanish than English. They are open seven days a week for breakfast, lunch, and […]
- October 3, 2023 Spicy Tomato Soup with Basil Cream Recipe
- September 6, 2023 Sausage and Egg Breakfast Sandwich with Pimento Cheese
Breakfast sandwiches and Pimento Cheese are arguably two of the greatest pleasures known to food. A breakfast sandwich on Saturday morning after an evening of libations always hits the spot. And pimento cheese is best enjoyed anytime, period. The two of them together make for the perfect savory marriage – a true sandwich delight. I’ve consumed plenty of pimento cheese in my life and never realized how simple it was to make until a few years ago. There are tons of pimento cheese renditions out there. Some use yellow cheddar, others use a mix of yellow and white, some call for cream cheese only, others call for a mix of cream cheese and mayonnaise, and so on. This recipe calls for a mix of cheddars, cream cheese and mayonnaise and instead of cayenne, I use hot paprika. I really love the hint of smokiness and faint note of heat that it brings to the table. The toughest part about this recipe is allowing it to chill in the fridge for a couple of hours without digging in. This not only cools the cheese, but it also encourages the ingredients to meld together nicely. If you don’t have the time nor desire to make pimento cheese, Rollin’ Oats has you covered. They carry a classic sharp cheddar pimento cheese by Red Clay that’s ready to eat and ultra delicious. The sandwich ingredients are flexible. For example, you don’t have to scramble the eggs. If you prefer to cook them sunny side up, over hard, etc., please feel free to do so. I just encourage you to just buy quality eggs, preferably cage free and/or organic. That’s one of the best things about shopping at Rollin’ Oats – they always have premium, quality ingredients and brands on their shelves. Like the eggs, the sausage and english muffins used can be whatever you prefer. For the muffins, I like to use Dave’s killer whole wheat when they’re available. If I can’t find those, Rollin’ Oats also carries Food for Life 7 Sprouted Grains organic english muffins and I typically use those in place of the Dave’s Killer muffins. Regardless of your ingredient preferences, make this super simple sandwich next weekend and savor every delicious bite. Keep the leftover pimento cheese in the fridge up to a week for premium snacking purposes. Sausage and Egg Breakfast Sandwiches with Pimento Cheese Recipe Not only is this pimento cheese delicious on this sandwich, but it also makes for an ideal snack on its own. It's super simple to make – perhaps the only difficult part is resisting the urge to dive into the mixture while it's chilling. Pimento Cheese1 1/2 cups extra sharp yellow cheddar cheese (finely grated with a box grater)1 1/2 cups extra sharp white cheddar cheese (finely grated with a box grater)1/4 cup mayonnaise1/4 cup cream cheese1/4 tsp hot paprika (like simply organic)1/4 tsp salt (plus more, to taste)1/2 cup pimentons (minced)Sandwiches4 english muffinspimento cheese4 sausage patties (you can also buy ground breakfast sausage or uncooked sausages (casing removed) and form your own patties)4 eggs (preferably organic/cage free)2 tsp olive oil (divided)saltpepper Pimento CheeseCombine and mash all ingredients in a medium sized bowl with a fork until everything is well combined. Season with more salt as needed and chill in the refrigerator for at least two hours.Sandwich AssemblyHeat oven to 350F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Heat 1 tsp oil over medium-high heat in a medium skillet and cook sausage patties for 3-4 minutes per side until they begin to brown.Place the patties on the baking sheet in a single layer along with the english muffins. Put those into the oven while you cook the eggs (5-6 minutes).Crack eggs into a bowl and whisk them to combine – season with a pinch of salt and pepper. Heat the same skillet that you cooked the sausage in over medium heat and add remaining oil. Pour in the eggs and cook for 2-3 minutes undisturbed. Carefully flip the eggs on to the other side and cook for another 1-2 minutes undisturbed. Remove from skillet and cut/divide eggs into 4 even segments.To assemble the sandwiches add the egg to the bottom part of the muffin, then sausage and top with egg. Slather the top of your muffin with pimento cheese.Close up the sandwich and enjoy! Appetizer, BreakfastAmericanPimento Cheese, Sausage And Egg Breakfast Sandwich
- August 1, 2023 Smoked Salmon & Crispy Rice Bowl Recipe
Up your at-home brunch game with this smoked salmon & crispy rice bowl that is both impressive and easy to assemble. If you’re familiar with standard caviar service, you’ll note that this dish is composed using most all of the ingredients served alongside caviar. The only thing missing is a potato element and in its place, we’re using the crispy rice as the vehicle for delivering the other components. The result is a delicious bite that is certain to please due to all of the different flavors and textures involved. This dish does not just have to be limited to brunch of course – it would be ideal most any time of day. Simple, yet luxurious, this would be the perfect meal to serve when guests are scheduled to come over. The cook time is minimal, but the end product is quite beautiful. The only detail that you’ll have to plan for is having some cooked rice from the day before ready to go in the refrigerator. Additionally, because it is a light and vibrant recipe, it won’t have you and your company feeling sluggish and overly stuffed. Making the crispy rice is incredibly easy as long as you can nail the inversion process, which is much more simple than you may think. I serve this crispy rice alongside a myriad of other items like roasted vegetables, grilled fish and meats and in soups and tangy broths. The overall texture is quite desirable because you get the best of both worlds – crispy bits that cooked on the bottom of the pan and also soft and semi-fluffy grains. As far as the salmon and the salmon roe are concerned, feel free to use your preference and/or whatever is available to you. Rollin’ Oats sells quality wild caught smoked sockeye salmon by Spence & Co. which I recommend if Rollin’ Oats is local to you. As for the salmon roe, you can find Romanoff red salmon caviar/roe on the shelves at Rollin’ Oats as well. Salmon roe works great in this bowl and is also a bit more affordable than other types of caviar. However, if you have access to other variations of caviar and are wanting to spend a bit more money, absolutely go for it. Adding that bit of soy sauce at the end to each bowl is not necessary, but I do suggest drizzling just a touch to satisfy your tastebuds. It has a hand in rounding out the dish and adds a bit more of that umami that we all crave, in my opinion. Smoked Salmon & Crispy Rice Bowl Recipe In this brunch bowl, we have all of the ingredients for standard caviar service, but with crispy rice & smoked salmon adding main character energy. nonstick skillet 2 cups cooked white rice (any will do, preferably cooked the day before)4 oz smoked salmon (like Spence & Co. wild sockeye salmon)4.5 oz salmon caviar (Rollin' Oats has Romanoff which works great)1/2 ripe avocado (peeled and divided in equal halves)2 eggs (preferably organic and pasture raised )2 tbsp creme fraiche1 tbsp soy sauce (plus more for serving)1 tbsp mirin1 tbsp olive oil2 tbsp chives (minced)salt Jammy EggsAdd enough water to a medium saucepan to cover eggs (do not put eggs in yet) and bring to a boil. Carefully lower in eggs and set a timer for 6 minutes. Prepare an ice bath for eggs in a medium bowl using lots of ice and some cold water. When time is up, remove eggs and place in ice bath for 5 minutes to stop cooking. Remove eggs from bath, discard water and ice and carefully peel eggs. Cut eggs in half and set aside until ready to assemble bowls. Crispy RiceCombine 1 tbsp soy sauce and mirin with cooked rice. Heat a medium sized nonstick skillet half way between medium and medium-high heat and add oil. Pack rice evenly into skillet.Cook rice until edges begin to turn golden, 8-10 minutes. Carefully place a heatproof plate on top of skillet (topside of plate should be touching the skillet) and invert rice from skillet onto plate.Bowl AssemblyTo assemble bowls, spoon in some crispy rice, top with some salmon, creme fraiche, avocado, half of the eggs, fresh chives and top with a spoonful or two of salmon roe. Finish with a pinch of salt if you'd like and a another drizzle of soy sauce (use as much or as little as you'd like). Breakfast, Main CourseAmericanCrispy Rice, Crispy Rice Bowl, Smoked Salmon
Something about summertime just makes me want to fire up a grill on the regular. Balmy evenings, ice cold drinks, good company and the smell of delicious food cooking away on a blazing hot grill – I love everything about it. However, here in Florida during the summer months, the temperature, especially during the day, can be a bit too warm to spend a considerable amount of time outdoors. Therefore, quick and simple grilling recipes are always what I’m in search of. These easy and incredibly satisfying pork chops with jalapeño & peach puree are ideal for scratching that grilling itch on even the hottest of summer days. Make the puree indoors before heading out to grill the pork chops and then you’re under 20 minutes (including grill heating time) from dinner. The ingredient list for this dish is minimal and you probably have the majority of the items on hand already. If not, Rollin’ Oats is your one stop shop for grabbing everything you need, including quality pork loin chops. They carry Niman Ranch pork loin chops that never have any antibiotics or hormones added and they come in a convenient two-pack. When grilled, these pork chops are ultra juicy with smokey notes. In my opinion, all they need are a good brush of quality olive oil and some salt and pepper – that’s it. If you want to level up these chops, you could cook them via sous vide for 1 hour prior to grilling. That’s only a suggestion though – the pork chops are great enough without that step. To complete the meal, I suggest serving these pork chops along side a simply dressed, cool and crisp salad. Save any leftover charred jalapeño and peach puree for the next week or so and use it with other meals like tacos, sandwiches, rice bowls, chicken, etc. Pork Chops with Charred Jalapeño & Peach Puree Recipe This savory and sweet combination is best enjoyed outdoors with a cold beverage on a balmy summer evening. The puree is fantastic with a myriad of things – chicken, sandwiches, tacos, rice bowls, and so on. Blender Pork Chops4 pork loin chops1 tbsp olive oil1 tsp salt (plus more as needed)peppercilantro ((optional))Charred Jalapeño & Peach Puree2 peaches (make sure they are very ripe – remove/discard pit and cut peach into chunks)2 jalapeños1 shallot (medium in size, peeled and roughly chopped)1 lime (juice only)3 tbsp olive oil1 tsp honey1 tsp salt (plus more as needed) Charred Jalapeño & Peach PureeHeat oven to broil. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and broil jalapeños until they begin to char at around 7-9 minutes (keep an eye on them as they will take on color quickly as they begin to char and you don't want to burn them).Set jalapeños aside until they're cool enough to handle. Carefully cut away seeds and stems and discard. Add jalapeño flesh to a small high powered blender or food processor with peeled and chopped shallot, peaches, lime juice, honey, olive oil and salt. Blend for 30-45 seconds or until puree is smooth. Season with more salt as needed.Pork ChopsPrepare grill by cleaning the grates and heating to medium-high heat – ideally 400-450F. Brush pork chops with olive oil and season with salt and a few cracks of black pepper.Grill pork chops directly over the heat, turning once halfway through, for about 10-12 minutes or until they reach 140F. They should have some beautiful grill marks on each side as well.Allow them to rest for a few minutes then slice and serve over peach puree and garnish with cilantro (optional). Condiment, Dinner, Main CourseAmericanCharred Jalapeño & Peach Puree, Pork Chop
- June 1, 2023 Lamb Meatballs with Tzatziki & Mint Gremolata Recipe
Meatballs are typically something I associate with a rich red sauce like marinara and a giant plate of spaghetti. However, the temperatures are rising, spring is in the air and summer is around the corner and lately I’ve been craving lots of vibrancy in my meals. These lamb meatballs with tzatziki and mint gremolata are the perfect dish to enjoy during the warmer months. Bright, zingy and herbaceous – you’ll be coming back to this satisfactory combination time and time again. I admittedly do not typically cook a ton of lamb – I find that it is easy to overcook which in turn, makes it a bit tough and gamey. The end product of this juicy meatball recipe though leaves for tender and delicious meatballs. The key is to not cook the meatballs for too long in the oven and also to not overwork them when forming them into their shape before baking. Additionally, buying quality ground lamb (and quality ingredients, in general) makes all the difference in the world. Rollin’ Oats carries grass fed ground lamb by Thomas Farms, which I highly recommend. You don’t have to make your own tzatziki if you don’t want to; however, the process is actually quite simple. In the event that you’re pressed for time, or would just simply like to skip crafting your own tzatziki, Rollin’ Oats carries a few different options. For those avoiding dairy, may I suggest Kite Hill dairy-free, and for anyone else, perhaps reach for Cedar’s Tzatziki. In my opinion, the mint gremolata is what really brings the dish together. Gremolata is traditionally made with parsley, lemon zest and garlic as its main ingredients. But, this rendition is made with mostly mint and a touch of fresh dill. It adds an extra lively zing that is really lovely. You could go the standard route though and opt for Parsley – in fact, feel free to use any kind of fresh herb that you’d like. Crafting gremolata with basil is one of my favorite ways to make it. Serve these meatballs alongside warm pita and lemon wedges and enjoy this with a group as an appetizer, or simply as your main course. Either way, you’ll discover that these meatballs will be loved by all. Lamb Meatballs with Tzatziki & Mint Gremolata Recipe These meatballs are bright and herbaceous enough on their own, but tzatziki and zingy gremolata really liven up the party. Feel free to swap out the lamb for ground beef or turkey. Meatballs1 lb ground lamb (you can also use ground beef or turkey instead)1/2 cup panko 1/2 cup parsley1 egg3 garlic cloves (grated)1/2 medium white onion (grated)1 tbsp dried oregano1 tsp cumin1 tsp salt1/4 tsp black pepperpita and lemon wedges (optional – for serving)Tzatziki1 cup greek yogurt1/2 cup english cucumber (grated)2 garlic cloves (grated)1 tbsp olive oil1 tbsp lemon juice1/4 cup dill (chopped)1/2 tsp saltMint Gremolata3 tbsp mint (finely chopped)1 tbsp dill (finely chopped)1 lemon (zest of entire lemon and juice of 1/2 lemon)3 garlic cloves (grated)1 1/2 tbsp olive oilsalt (to taste) TzatzikiAdd grated cucumber to a clean dish cloth or cheese cloth and squeeze out as much liquid as you can.Add cucumber to bowl with remaining Tzatziki ingredients and mix well. Season with salt as needed and refrigerate until ready to use.MeatballsPreheat oven to 400F. In a medium bowl, combine ground lamb, panko, parsley, egg, grated garlic and onion, cumin, oregano, salt and pepper. Mix well.Line a baking sheet with parchment and form meat mixture into golfball-size meatballs. Place meatballs on prepared baking sheet.Bake for 18-20 minutes, flipping meatballs at 9-10 minute mark, until cooked through (meatballs will take on slight color). Be sure not to overcook them, as they will become tough.Mint GremolataWhile the meatballs bake, whisk all gremolata ingredients in a small bowl until well combined. Season with salt as needed.AssemblySpoon and smear Tzatziki on a plate, add a few meatballs, spoon over gremolata and serve with warm pita and lemon wedges. Appetizer, Dinner, Main CourseAmerican, GreekGreek Meatballs, Lamb Meatballs