Local Bites: Wandering Whisk Bakeshop

by Jennifer Thai in ,

I'm really excited about this particular post, because I get the opportunity to not only introduce you to one of my very good friends, but also to what I feel is the Tampa Bay area's best-kept secret when it comes to baked goods. Here's the backstory to this particular introduction: I had the opportunity to participate in a Baking Book Challenge with Sprinkles - I was given an early copy of the Sprinkles Baking Book by Candace Nelson and was asked to re-create a recipe of my choice from the cookbook.  To ensure that my creation both looked good and tasted good, I called upon my good friend, Jen Jacobs. Not only does she work with me at HSN as an associate producer, she also runs a business out of her own kitchen, called Wandering Whisk Bakeshop. Can you say boss lady?

Jen Jacobs, owner of Wandering Whisk Bakeshop

Jen is known for her expansive selection of delicious, decadent creations, most notably, her perfectly-textured macarons and ultra-smooth buttercream frosting. Oh my goodness, is her buttercream frosting amazing - this is coming from someone who consistently wipes the frosting off her cupcakes and eats around it when on cakes - but not when it comes to Jen's buttercream. 

Wandering Whisk Bakeshop doesn't have a physical location, yet, but Jen's sweet treats often make an appearance on the weekends at Intermezzo Coffee in downtown St. Pete. You can also request custom orders from her website - for pH's birthday, she made me a layered chocolate-bacon cake with bacon-infused buttercream frosting, and for my oldest sister's baby shower, she created gorgeous gray buttercream-frosted cupcakes that formed the shape of a whale.

Okay, back to my original story about the contest: Jen and I chose to re-create Candace's recipe for Strawberry Cupcakes, using fresh strawberries. Jen embellished the cupcakes with her signature piping and added sprinkles for good measure. The cupcakes were wonderfully moist, and her amazing buttercream frosting added exactly the hint of sweetness that the slightly tart cupcake needed.

In order to win a year's supply of Sprinkles cupcakes from the contest, we need your help! Give the below image a "like" on Instagram - the entrant with the most "likes" by October 28th will win!

Local Bites: Marlow's Tavern in Carrollwood

by Jennifer Thai in ,

Alright, let me get this over with: I'm ashamed that I didn't discover this gem sooner, considering I could have easily walked there from where I used to live. But, better late than never, right?

I was invited to Marlow's Tavern last weekend to try some fan-favorite menu items as well as dishes offered on their brand-new Sunday brunch menu. I'm going to preface all of these photos by saying that pH and I will gladly make the 30 minute drive to Carrollwood for a delicious meal at Marlow's Tavern. Like I said before, I'm stunned that I didn't discover this place earlier - the food is incredible!

My personal Bloody Mary concoction - Zing Zang Bloody Mary mix, a little Worcestershire sauce, horseradish, Sriracha and bacon. Garnished with pickled okra, pepperoncini, olive and dill pickle, a celery stalk and lime. 

pH ordered a New Fashioned, Marlow's Tavern's twist on an old fashioned, with banana liqueur!

Chef Mike Lopez

Firecracker Shrimp: Tempura shrimp, sweet chili and cracklin' spicy sauce, with red bell peppers and pepperoncinis for an extra crunch.

Grilled Chicken Stack: Grilled chicken, squash carbonara, applewood smoked bacon, sauteed spinach, parmesan, sun-dried tomato sauce and parslied olive oil.

Shrimp and Grits: White cheddar grit cake, spinach, roma tomatoes, shallots and roasted tomato buerre blanc.

Grilled Chicken Panini: Grilled chicken, melted provolone, arugula, roma tomatoes, applewood smoked bacon, basil aioli in a pressed ciabatta bread.

Serious Steak and Eggs: Grilled beef tenderloin over roma tomatoes and eggs any-style.

As you know, I love food. But more than just that, I love hearing people talk about the food they create. Chef Mike was so passionate about each dish that was brought out, we could absolutely tell in the way that he carefully explained each dish with a huge smile on his face.

My must-order picks:

  • Build-It-Yourself Bloody Mary: I overheard two girls at the Bloody Mary bar saying how they'd rather have someone make their Bloody Mary for them. I couldn't disagree more - everyone's palate is different, especially when it comes to Bloody Marys. I prefer mine savory and spicy, and this was by far the best Bloody Mary I've ever had. Seriously.
  • Firecracker Shrimp: I love the textures in this dish! The crispy tempura shrimp pairs perfectly with the red bell peppers and pepperoncinis (my favorite!), and the sauce is the perfect amount and spicy taste.
  • Grilled Chicken Stack: I wish you could have seen the look on pH's face when Chef Mike explained that this dish was carb-free. pH is on the keto diet, low carb-intake (at the very most, 20g net carbs per day) and high fats and proteins. He loved this dish, and was surprised at how well it filled him up. I really enjoyed it as well - it was full of flavor and the chicken was super tender.
  • Shrimp and Grits: I'm a big fan of shrimp and grits, and this dish has made my top three shrimp and grits in the Tampa Bay area list. I was unsure of the grit cakes as I had yet to have a good grit cake, but these ones were perfection, both in texture and taste.
  • Serious Steak and Eggs: This had to be my most favorite dish of all the ones we tried. The tenderloin was grilled to a perfect medium rare and the eggs a perfect over-medium - both exactly how I enjoy my steak and eggs. Nothing about this dish was plain or bland - the tenderloin was seasoned perfectly and paired well with the runny eggs.

Marlow's Tavern is located at 13134 N. Dale Mabry Hwy in Carrollwood. The restaurant is open Sundays from 10:30 a.m. to 11 p.m., Monday through Thursday from 11:30 a.m. to 11 p.m. and Fridays and Saturdays from 11:30 a.m. to 12 a.m. You can view the menu here.

*Disclosure: The meal featured in this post was provided by Marlow's Tavern for editorial consideration. This post was written on my own accord, and opinions expressed here are my own and are not indicative of the opinions or positions of Marlow's Tavern.

In Review: My Week of #ToyotaInTampa

by Jennifer Thai in

If you've been following along with my daily adventures on Instagram, you likely figured out that I got to test drive the refreshed 2017 Toyota Corolla XSE as part of a fun, non-paid campaign. For one week, I made my daily one-hour commutes, went on some fun adventures provided by Toyota and even chauffeured my little sister to her homecoming dance, like a good big sister. 

Riding into the weekend after what felt like a long work week!

Helped the little one get ready for her junior homecoming dance.

Drove my white 2017 Toyota Corolla to the Tampa Riverwalk by the Tampa Convention Center to rent a few water bikes on Sunday morning.

Audrey and I took the guys out on Tampa Bay Water Bikes for the morning - what a work out!

Winded down from an amazing weekend with a 25-minute massage and pina coladas at Safety Harbor Resort and Spa.

It was such a fun week, filled with top-notch experiences, thanks to my friends at Toyota. The 2017 Toyota Corolla XSE drives so smoothly and the added features were a huge plus - the back-up camera made backing into parking spots and parallel parking fast and efficient, navigation got me exactly where I needed to go, Bluetooth audio added my favorite hits to my daily work commute and the lane departure alert feature provided me with additional peace of mind.

*Disclosure: I was not monetarily compensated for this campaign. Toyota provided me with a 2017 Toyota Corolla XSE to test drive for one week, along with admission to a few attractions and hidden gems in the Tampa Bay area to enjoy. This post was written on my own accord, and opinions expressed here are my own and are not indicative of the opinions or positions of Toyota.

Local Spots: Suitsupply in Hyde Park Village

by Jennifer Thai in ,

I had the chance to attend the grand opening of Suitsupply in Hyde Park Village earlier this month, but had a conflict due to work, so I sent my ever-so-dapper other half to cover the new storefront for me. I'll let pH take it away - be sure to check out the slide show in full for an immersive experience of the new store!

Recently, I was given the chance to attend the grand opening of South Tampa’s newest high fashion mecca for men - Suitsupply. This newest establishment seems to resonate the definition of modern class and high fashion for men with all the little attention to detail taken into very serious consideration, but not too seriously. Suitsupply seems to like to showcase their store, the suits and the amazingly-perfect oxfords in a neon frame, letting the style stand out on its own. Most menswear stores seem to be very drab and earth-toned, which is more or less depressing, so it was nice to see an extreme 180-degree on the perspective of menswear. But with the attention to detail and the in-house craftsman tailoring your suit on-site, you’ll be sure to know that you’re the one glowing after getting fitted by these professionals. Suitsupply coming to Tampa seems to be an interesting choice, given its international prowess, but apparently its reputation has presided itself. They had been reporting an extremely high amount of online traffic originating from the Tampa area, so naturally they investigated and found a proper home in Hyde Park Village. I can say, without a doubt, I’ll be returning to see how classy I can get with a real testament to the classic, old-fashioned kind of man that never goes out of style. Cheers.

Local Spots: Mediterranee Skin Spa

by Jennifer Thai in ,

Pampering myself and taking care of my skin is something I'd like to say I'm good at, but am admittedly not. I indulge in the occasional pedicure and massage, but I also occasionally sleep with my makeup on. Sometimes (most of the time), the best motivation for taking better care of yourself is having a professional, who does what he/she does best, show you the way.

I was introduced to Claudia Murray, esthetician and owner of Mediterranee Skin Spa, located inside Crave Nail Spa on Bay to Bay Boulevard. Claudia prides herself in using organic, all-natural products and non-invasive procedures to help people enhance their natural beauty. I visited Claudia at her spa to experience my first facial, the Mediterranean Infusion Facial. If you're a newbie like me, you have no idea what to expect from such a service, so I included as many images as possible to break down the process.

Note: This service is actually completed in a relaxing, dim-lit environment; lights were left on during my experience so that pH could capture each step of the facial and so that we could share them with you visually.

Claudia Murray, licensed esthetician and owner of Mediterranee Skin Spa.

Claudia began the treatment by giving my face a thorough cleanse.

A mild, delicious-smelling papaya/pineapple mask was applied to my face and a steamer was place above my face for several minutes.

After the mask was removed, Claudia performed a skin analysis, and detailed my skin complexion and offered recommendations for future maintenance.

Then, the extraction: This isn't most people's favorite step of a facial, but it's definitely the most beneficial - my clogged pores were cleared carefully using a metal tool.

Afterward, Claudia gently massaged my face and neck - it was sooo relaxing.

A seaweed mask was then applied to my face to assist with hydration.

The final steps: A hand and arm massage and application of toner, eye cream with sunblock and moisturizer to my face.

I learned a lot from my consultation with Claudia - to start, I do not have the oily complexion I always thought I did. That was a huge surprise. Claudia recommended that I stop using products meant for oily skin, and also told me I need to hydrate more - she saw symptoms of dehydration around my nose.

Since my visit at Mediterranee Skin Spa, I've heeded Claudia's advice and have seen a significant change in my skin - what used to be larger breakouts are no more (knock on wood). The Mediterranean Infusion Facial costs $85 and for the entire 75 minute experience, is truly worth it. For a expanded list of services, click here. I thoroughly enjoyed my experience with Claudia and Mediterranee Skin Spa, and will most definitely be a return customer.

Mediterranee Spa is located at 3211 West Bay to Bay Boulevard in Tampa, inside of Crave Nail Spa. Hours are by appointment only - you can book yours with Claudia by calling (813) 299-2601.

*Disclosure: This service was provided by Mediterranee Skin Spa for editorial consideration. This post was written on my own accord, and opinions expressed here are my own and are not indicative of the opinions or positions of Mediterranee Skin Spa.

Chanse's Chef's Table: August 2016

by Jennifer Thai in ,

It's so crazy to think that our last Chef's Table event was eight months ago! Since then, life has been insane for all of us, and between work and personal schedules, we never got the time to plan and execute another event. Sad face. But, sure enough, after a summer crawfish boil that we all attended, Chef Chanse was itching to get cooking again, and we got August plans together and excitedly mapped out our next ventures for October and November.

This time around, our friends Lauren and Josh kindly offered to open up their home in St. Pete to our guests - Lauren set up three beautiful tables for them to dine at. pH was mixologist for the evening, shaking up Sidecars and muddling mint for his Rum Swizzles.

Craft Cocktail of the evening: Rum Swizzle

August's Chef's Table event featured an inspiration-themed menu, with dishes that fuel Chef Chanse's passion for cooking along with some family recipes that he loves. Of course, we couldn't start Chef's Table without his seriously addicting special roasted edamame. I'll let the rest of the images explain our delicious seven-course meal from the evening:

Chef Chanse's special roasted edamame

Jalapeno and cucumber tuna sashimi atop lotus root crisps | Truffle-orange Japanese scallops atop taro crisps | Red snapper sashimi with black bean sauce atop wonton crisps

Shrimp and Gouda mac and cheese

Grilled lamb atop pureed eggplant, served with charred romaine and corn salsa

Oven-roasted Key West lobster served with a spicy tamarind fish sauce

Steamed chicken thigh atop rice, wrapped in banana leaves and topped with a ginger sauce and fried chicken skin

And for dessert: Assorted flavor mochi ice cream

It was another wonderful, successful event, with 20 guests total. We all got to explore new food, new flavors and new textures, and as usual, it was a great time connecting with all of our guests over our mutual love for food. What I love most about Chanse's Chef's Table is that he consistently encourages his guests outside of their comfort zones when it comes to what they're "used" to eating - for instance, this time, he introduced us to medium-rare prepared lobster, which was absolutely delicious.

Don't miss out on our next Chef's Table event - be sure to follow us on Facebook and Instagram for the latest news and upcoming event dates!

Fueling A Fast-Paced Life With Fitlife Foods

by Jennifer Thai in ,

Between my roles as full-time social media producer, freelance social media strategist and part-time lifestyle blogger, it's easy for the hours in my day to pass by in the blink of an eye. Especially considering the off hours I work sometimes at HSN, it can be difficult to keep a healthy eating schedule.

Lucky for me, I've been introduced to the lifesaver that is Fitlife Foods, which just recently opened the doors to its ninth location in the Tampa Bay area. Fitlife Foods gives its customers access to fresh, made-from-scratch prepared foods, understanding that time is precious to all of us, and that quick and convenient doesn't necessarily have to mean unhealthy. I have a Fitlife Foods location right down the road from me, which means that on Sundays, I can stop by and load up my cooler bag with meals and snacks for the week and not have to resort to fast food or microwave popcorn (as tempting as it may be) during my days at work.

I personally don't count my calories, carbs, etc., but for those of you who do, Fitlife Foods offers detailed nutritional info on all of its meals, both on the packaging and online. I usually purchase the medium-sized meals, which are the perfect portions for me.

I blend the Fitmix Antioxidant Blend into my daily morning oatmeal to give me the protein fill I need to hold me over until lunchtime.

I blend the Fitmix Antioxidant Blend into my daily morning oatmeal to give me the protein fill I need to hold me over until lunchtime.

Tampa Bay BBQ Beef with Mac ‘N Cheese: Slow-cooked tender, lean steak with a sweet & tangy BBQ sauce and served with homemade mac ‘n cheese.

Peanut Butter Oat Crunch: Homemade peanut butter bites made with gluten-free oats with red grapes and sliced apples.

I've really enjoyed all of the meals that I've tried so far, my most favorites being the Mac 'N Cheese and Low Carb Huevos Rancheros. And in regards to snacks, the Peanut Butter Oat Crunch is on point. When I experience those midday pangs of hunger, the peanut butter bites fill me up, and paired with the fresh fruit, give me that boost of energy that I need to make it through the rest of my day.

Fitlife Foods has nine different locations in the Tampa Bay area. To find the location nearest you, click here. You can view the menu here. For additional updates on Fitlife Foods, follow along on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

*Disclosure: I was provided a gift card to try meals from Fitlife Foods. This post was written on my own accord, and opinions expressed here are my own and are not indicative of the opinions or positions of Fitlife Foods.

Customized Hair Care From ShampYou

by Jennifer Thai in

It's difficult to get exactly what I want in a shampoo all in one single bottle. For my caramel highlights and lackluster hair, I'm in need of a formula that will bring out my vibrant brunette tones and give my locks a little more texture and body. I've been using John Frieda's Brilliant Brunette Volumizing Shampoo, but I'm not exactly wow-ed by it. It's been my go-to shampoo because it's reasonably priced and treats my hair okay. 

ShampYou introduced me to its unique line of customizable, salon-quality shampoo. With four shampoo base blends and six SuperSerums, over 144 unique combinations are possible - simply choose the shampoo base blend that is the right fit for your hair's needs, mix into two SuperSerums of your choice, and shake.

I let them know about my personal hair needs: I had color-treated hair that could use more texture and volume, and that got oily pretty easily. ShampYou sent me a bottle of its Juniper + Mint shampoo base blend, two SuperSerums (Beautiful Brunette and Turn Up The Volume and a bottle of its Cashmere + White Lilly creme de conditioner

So, I added my two SuperSerums to the shampoo base blend and shook it like crazy until well-blended. I used both the shampoo and conditioner five times over the course of two weeks. The most noticeable change in my hair was the texture - it had body and bounce, and not with the usual oily-feeling that my hair tends to easily accumulate.

The smell of the shampoo and conditioner is wonderful and fragrant, but gentle. And at $10 per shampoo base blend and $3.50 per SuperSerum, $17 for a bottle of salon-quality shampoo that is customized specifically for your hair is not a bad price point at all. And currently, Ulta is offering ShampYou products for buy two, get one free - that in combination with Ulta's $3.50 off $15 purchase coupon essentially gets you both of your SuperSerums for free!

 *Disclosure: The product featured in this post was provided by ShampYou for feature/review. Opinions expressed here are my own and are not indicative of the opinions or positions of ShampYou.