Local Bites: Cassis American Brasserie

by Jennifer Thai in ,

Since I started working in downtown St. Pete at the beginning of this year, I've been making an effort to further explore its food scene, whether through dinner after work or making the drive from South Tampa over the weekends. I'm not even close to being halfway there - slowly, but surely.

I was invited to try the brunch menu at Cassis American Brasserie, a spot I'd heard a lot about from friends who live in St. Pete. The restaurant has a very clean and bright feel, and plenty of natural lighting from its corner location on Beach Drive, which I can definitely dig.

Overwhelmed by all the delicious options, pH and I were finally were able to make our brunch decisions after spending some time taking in the menu. To drink - Ruby Cubes for pH and a non-alcoholic White Cranberry Mojito for myself. To eat - Tomato & Basil Soup and the Meat Lover's Omelet with a side of crispy bacon for pH and French Onion Soup and the Andouille Sausage & Shrimp Ragout for myself.

Keep scrolling below for all the deliciousness!

Ruby Cubes: Four Roses bourbon, orange juice, ginger, lemon juice | White Cranberry Mojito: Mint, limes, white cranberry juice, club soda

French Onion Soup with spiced croutons and gruyere cheese

Tomato & Basil Soup topped with parmesan cheese

Andouille Sausage & Shrimp Ragout: Roasted pepper, caramelized onion, cheddar grits

Meat Lover's Omelet: Breakfast sausage, smoked ham, bacon, cheddar (subbed with goat cheese)

Verdict: We'd definitely return. Warm, friendly service paired with savory selections make for a wonderful brunch experience and Cassis American Brasserie offered just that. The cheddar grits were full of flavor alone, and even more so paired with the sautéed andouille sausage, shrimp and sweet peppers. My keto-friendly man thoroughly enjoyed his low-carb, meat-heavy omelet, so much that there was not one crumb left on his plate.

Cassis American Brasserie is located at 170 Beach Drive Northeast in St. Petersburg. The brunch menu is available daily from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. and the lunch menu offered daily from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Cassis is open for dinner Sunday through Thursday from 4 p.m. to 10 p.m. and Friday and Saturday from 4 p.m. to 11 p.m. For the latest updates from Cassis American Brasserie, follow along on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

*Disclosure: The meal featured in this post was provided by Cassis American Brasserie 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 Cassis American Brasserie.

Local Do: Pet Photo Shoot with AGoldPhoto

by Jennifer Thai in

pH and I are 100% unashamedly pup parents - as in, we treat our little furry one like one would treat his/her human child. And why wouldn't we? These unconditionally loving and patient creatures deserve all the love and attention in the world! 

At the grand opening of the Deputy Kotfila Memorial Dog Park in the Channel District a couple of months ago, I got the opportunity to finally meet and chat with Adam Goldberg, owner of AGoldPhoto Pet Photography, a local pet photographer who tells the story of rescued/adopted animals and promotes animal adoption via his photos. I'd seen a lot of his work on social media prior to us meeting in person, and I really admired his unique style and branding with his photography. He also got to meet our rescue, Sadie, and happened to capture a really great photo of her shortly after the event, which surprised me, because Sadie does not like the camera. 

He invited us to join him during a photo shoot in the upcoming months, and I couldn't resist the idea of having gorgeous photos of Sadie to show off and ooh and ahh over. What I really appreciate about Adam's work, is how he gives back to the animal community. At his events, which are typically hosted at a pet-friendly business or animal shelter, 100% of the sitting fees go back to the animal community, via donation to the local Humane Society or animal charity. And while he is based in Tampa, he often travels around the country offering photo shoots and giving back to local Humane Society chapters and animal shelters. You can view a list of upcoming charity events here. You also have the ability to book an in-home photo shoot, in case your little pupper is easily overwhelmed in new settings  

Here are some behind-the-scenes images that I was able to capture during our photo shoot session at the Humane Society of Tampa Bay:

And - drumroll, please¬† - the stunning images that Adam captured of Sadie. Each photo perfectly portrays her personality, from sweet and unassuming to "I do what I want."

I am so in love with these images of Sadie, and we cannot wait to get mini square canvas prints to decorate our walls with! 

While he typically only shoots photos of pets, Adam is offering a special in-home photo shoot for both your pet and you, October-only. You can view more details and book here

The man behind the AGoldPhoto lens, Adam Goldberg.

*Disclosure: The service featured in this post was provided by AGoldPhoto Pet Photography 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 Adam Goldberg or AGoldPhoto Pet Photography.

Local Bites: New Chef (And Menu!) at Marlow's Tavern

by Jennifer Thai in ,

There's a new chef at Marlow's Tavern in Carrollwood and he's putting his own creative culinary spin to the menu. At a blogger event hosted by Marlow's Tavern a few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to meet Chef Matthew Beilstein and taste some of the new items on his menu, along with some of Marlow's traditional favorites. Keep scrolling for all of the delicious eats!

*Special thanks to Caitlyn from Live. Sweat. Sleep. for being my knight in shining armor and lending me a lens to capture these images with!

Pom Collins: Tito's Vodka, Pama Liquor, House Made Sour Mix, Simple

J.T.'s Kettle Chips: Crispy Potato Chips crowned with Gorgonzola Cheese, Bacon, Roma Tomato and Scallions

Marlow's Famous Hummus: Grilled, Toasty Pita Points, Crisp, Fresh Veggies, Pickled Okra, Olive Oil, Spiced Pumpkin & Sunflower Seeds

Handcrafted Flatbread: Chicken Pesto

Caesar Chop Salad: Crisp Romaine, Shredded Baker Farm Kale, Radicchio, Chopped Egg, Parmesan, Caesar Dressing and Ciabatta Parmesan Croutons

Banh Mi Chicken Wrap: Soy Glazed Chicken, Roasted & Pulled or Fried, Napa Cabbage, Pickled Veggies, Fresh Cilantro, Firecracker Sauce in Grilled Tortilla

Grilled Chicken Stack: Herb Marinated Chicken, Roast Fingerling Potato, Rosemary, Thyme, Blistered Grape Tomatoes, Artichoke, Baby Arugula, Green Beans, Lemonette and Parslied Olive Oil

The Verdict: I can't get over how fresh the hummus and its accompanying array of vegetables were, and continue to be - Marlow's Famous Hummus and J.T.'s Kettle Chips are still my favorite, go-to appetizers. This visit was my first time trying the Caesar Chop Salad, and I'm always pretty wary when ordering a Caesar salad, because some spots have definitely gotten it all wrong, from the greens used to the dressing prepared. This isn't the case with Marlow's Tavern - I ate every last bite of that chopped salad!

The Banh Mi Chicken Wrap really blew me away - the flavor encompasses the familiar taste of the traditional Vietnamese sandwich. And although I know that pH will miss the formerly keto-friendly Grilled Chicken Stack, which featured a squash carbonara and sauteed spinach, the new version is something that truly satisfies my palate and my tummy.

Marlow's Tavern is still a spot that I consider a hidden gem in the Tampa Bay area - the food is phenomenal and authentically chef-inspired, and the plus is that it's pet-friendly, with a yappy hour menu offered daily.

Marlow's Tavern is located at 13134 N. Dale Mabry Hwy in Carrollwood. The restaurant is open Sundays from 11 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.

Local Bites: Bartaco in Hyde Park - Eleventh Bartaco Secret

by Jennifer Thai in ,

I'm pretty darn excited, because Bartaco's eleventh secret taco has been revealed, and it's my favorite of all the secret tacos I've had so far - we're welcoming back the Lobster Taco, filled with juicy chunks of poached lobster, drizzled with brown butter and topped with hominy!

Lobster is pretty much my favorite thing ever, and Bartaco takes this one out of the park with the amount of flavor packed into this little taco. ūüėč  Keep scrolling on for images from our recent visit to Bartaco Hyde Park! 

Port Chester Reviver, Limeade Fresca, Arnold Palmer and Old Forester

Tuna Poke and Guac + Chips

All The Tacos, Plus My Favorite Spicy Cucumber Salad

Lettuce-Wrapped Short Rib & Spicy Chorizo Tacos

Lobster Tacos

Baja Fish and Spicy Chorizo Tacos

What I really appreciate about Bartaco, is how much they're able to accommodate various diets - pH, for instance, is on the low-carb keto diet, and is able to enjoy all the tacos lettuce-wrapped. In addition, Bartaco continues to be a favorite spot for my gluten-free friends, both because of the lettuce wrap option and because Bartaco denotes which items on the menu are gluten-free. 

Churros with Chocolate Sauce

We wrapped up our visit with yummy churros to share. With trays full of tacos already consumed, one churro each was just enough for us to get our sweet fix. 

Bartaco Hyde Park is located at 1601 West Snow Avenue in Hyde Park Village in Tampa. It is open Sunday through Wednesday from 11:30 a.m. to 11 p.m. and Thursday through Sunday from 11:30 a.m. to 12 a.m. You can check out the menu here. For the latest updates from Bartaco Hyde Park, follow along on Facebook.

*Disclosure: The meal featured in this post was provided by Bartaco 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 Bartaco or Barteca Restaurant Group.

Local Do: Femme Akoi Beauty Studio in Dunedin

by Jennifer Thai in ,

When it comes to my hair, I'm a little bit of a wild child. Cut it, color it, go crazy with it - I'm pretty much up for anything! So, when Femme Akoi Beauty Studio in Dunedin reached out to me to offer a service of my choice, my imagination started running wild with all of the possibilities.

For a little while, I was partially a redhead - I went from a burgundy wine red to a full-on firetruck red. Then, after becoming tired of the amount of maintenance that went into being a redhead, I opted for more natural caramel highlights. After two years of playing it cool, I was ready for some fun change. 

I'd been seeing gorgeous photos of dark-haired beauties rocking a rose gold or chocolate mauve balayage when scrolling through Pinterest for ideas. When I went in for the coloring session with my stylist, Misty (who is a Pravana master colorist), I explained to her that I loved both colors equally and was unsure which one to choose. What she put together, was something in between, and I AM IN LOVE.

From afar, and in the sunlight, the rose gold tones shine through. When you get closer, you can see slivers and peeks of the rich chocolate mauve. I feel like a unicorn, guys.

For you, Misty is offering a 20% discount on services if you're a new client - all you have to do is mention that you were referred by me! And, if you're wondering how much a balayage like mine would cost, it's $175 ($140 if you use my referral discount).

Dunedin, especially closer to the downtown area where Femme Akoi is located, is quickly becoming a go-to spot for discovering delicious eats and shopping finds. It's a charming area, and well-worth the 45-minute drive from Tampa. So, after you get your hair cut, colored, braided, styled, etc., plan on staying after to explore the downtown area!

*Disclosure: The service featured in this post was provided by Femme Akoi Beauty Studio 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 Femme Akoi Beauty Studio.

Femme Akoi Beauty Studio is located at 424 Skinner Boulevard, Suite D in Dunedin. To stay updated on the latest happenings at Femme Akoi, follow along on FacebookTwitter and Instagram.

Inhale. Exhale.

by Jennifer Thai in , , ,

The blogger life isn't always pretty. In the midst of the perfectly selected outfits, beautiful latte art, stylized brunch plates, and posed "candids," lies unneeded stress, insecurity and plenty of (gasp) flaws. They're the reasons why so many bloggers take those months-at-a-time hiatuses, to step away from it all and rediscover why they were so passionate about their personal brand and what it's grown into.

I can't speak for every blogger out there, but if there's anything that I've personally learned from blogging, it's to periodically allow myself to let my hair down, take my make-up off and be candid - indulge in the occasional "real talk," if you will.

Lately, I've been really focusing on self-care, like, reallllly focusing on it. Anxiety is definitely a thing in my life, and although it's a force of habit sometimes to allow it to control my mood and my level of motivation, I've been actively working to re-wire my brain and practice healthier, more positive habits:

  • Real rest and relaxation: And by real, I mean that no one really has to know that you treated yourself to a mani/pedi, facial and 50-minute Swedish massage on Sunday. Because you know who it should really matter to most? You, and only you. Treat yo'self without feeling the need to prove it to the rest of the world - your body and mind will thank you, and that's all the praise and "you-deserve-its" you need.
  • Constructive envy: Sure, bloggers often get matched to the same sponsorships and ad campaigns, and we're always looking for ways to set ourselves apart from the rest. But that doesn't mean it has to be a dog-eat-dog world (cue the "community over competition" phrase heard reverberating through the rooms of every blogger event). We all started at the same place, and we're all walking down similar paths to the same goal - don't ever be afraid to ask for tips and don't you dare ever act like you're too good to give advice.
  • Owning your hot mess-ness: It's okay to take your make-up free, unfiltered self to wherever the hell you want to, for the sole purpose of being lazy and uncommitted to living the blogger life 24/7. I can see it in the local version of US Weekly now - "Bloggers, they're just like us!" "They wear hats to cover their three-day-old hair!" "They forgot to put on a bra!" 

The unneeded stress and feelings of insecurity are just that - unneeded. Sure, easier said than done...at the beginning. But once you start to feel comfortable and confident in who you are as a blogger and what you do as a blogger, I guarantee you'll feel free from those chains. There is no status quo - only the one that you set for yourself.

Loving Lately: August 2017

by Jennifer Thai in , ,

Happy August, friends! It's so crazy to think that in just a few blinks of an eye, we're getting closer and closer to fall weather. Don't get me wrong, I'm not complaining at all - I've been over this too-hot, rainy and humid Florida weather for about two months now.....so, since summer officially started.

I've decided to create a new series to showcase some of the things I've been loving lately, basically an Instagram round-up of favorites that didn't make it to the blog - until now!

Start Today - TPA Snapback

This black TPA snapback from Start Today pretty much gives me every reason to slum it on the weekends sans make-up and still pull it off like I've got my life together.

Handcrafted Gems Raw Dioptase Ring

I recently discovered Olivia's shop, Handcrafted Gems, while scrolling through Instagram one day, and became smitten with her handmade raw stone jewelry. The moment I laid eyes on this beautiful raw dioptase rose gold ring on her shop, I knew I had to treat myself. The meaning of dioptase really hits home for me: it provides a emotionally-healing energy and releases negative emotions and stress.

Kelp Sushi's Spicy Tuna Bowl

First, I discovered Kelp Sushi after realizing my first string sushi spot was closed for the Fourth of July holiday. Then, I discovered the option for delivery sushi. Then, I discovered the Spicy Tuna Bowl. Oh, is it yummy goodness. A hearty bowl is filled with your choice of white/brown rice or spring mix, then topped with spicy tuna, spicy pickled cucumber and lotus root, seaweed, shredded carrots and daikon, and avocado.

Petit Piquant's Kouign-Amann

Okay, so I did write about this on the blog. But, I'm still obsessed with Petit Piquant's kouign-amann pastry. The buttery, flaky layers and dense, chewy texture just keep calling me back - not to mention the delicious, savory flavors: chorizo and goat cheese, short rib and lox.....yum, yum, YUM!

Homemade Zuppa Toscana

Without fail, whether it's because of a rainy day, icky tummy or general craving, I keep coming back to this Zuppa Toscana recipe - it's so simple to prepare, and I even think it's better than Olive Garden's!

What's been striking your fancy lately? I love making new discoveries - leave me a recommendation in the comments below!

Local Bites: O Cocina

by Jennifer Thai in ,

Nestled away in a not-often-visited part of South Tampa, O Cocina shines bright, with its cozy, gorgeous interior, savory modern Mexican fare and delicious libations. I'd heard from friends about O Cocina's beautiful faux succulent wall, but not a whole lot about its food offerings - I decided to check it out for myself during a last-minute get-together with some of my family.

O Cocina does not disappoint when it comes to first impressions - dreamy globe-encapsulated Edison lightbulbs float from the ceiling, while its much-lauded faux succulent wall frames the spotlighted bar.

Our server greeted us and dropped off some corn tortilla chips and salsa while we decided what we wanted to order. We weren't extremely hungry, so opted for some lighter bites off the menu. I can't go anywhere that offers tableside guacamole without at least trying it - the guacamole was good, but, disappointingly, not actually made table-side.

My sister's fiance ordered The Abigail to drink - a gin cocktail a beautiful shade of lavender, featuring Plymouth gin, Rothman & Winters Cr√®me de Violette, lemon, blueberries, rosemary and egg white. It's a light and refreshing drink - I personally enjoyed it, while the men of the table jokingly referred to it as "spa water."

Tableside Guacamole

The Abigail: Plymouth Gin, Rothman & Winters Cr√®me de Violette, lemon, blueberries, rosemary, egg white

My sisters and I have been on a major scallop kick lately. I was never a huge fan of scallops, but lately, I've been realizing that if they're prepared the way they should be, they're absolutely delicious. O Cocina didn't disappoint - we tried both the appetizer and main course versions of its diver scallops: while the appetizer pan-seared diver scallops were lighter, paired with a sweet corn emulsion and drizzled with a chorizo oil, the entree version of the pan-seared diver scallops was more hearty, paired with a bacon and lump crab risotto, sweet green peas and a chile de arbol oil. 

Appetizer Pan Seared Diver Scallops: Sweet corn emulsion, wilted pea tendrils, chorizo oil

Entree Pan-Seared Diver Scallops: Sweet green pea, bacon and lump crab risotto, chile de arbol oil (Note: Picture is of a half-portion; the server split the entree for us prior to serving)

Pork belly is another dish I'm weird about - I'm super sensitive to the texture and taste of fat. Most people enjoy it, but again, if it's not prepared a certain way, I'm not fond of it - at all. O Cocina does a fantastic job with its Guajillo Pork Belly appetizer - the pork belly is melt-in-your-mouth deliciousness, and the fatty texture is masked by the savoriness of the dish. 

I also ordered the Chef's Soup of the Day, which happened to be chicken tortilla, and Off-the-Cob Mexican Street Corn. While pH really enjoyed the soup, it unfortunately did not suit my palate, and tasted more like a warm salsa with shredded chicken compared to what I was expecting/hoping for. The corn was yummy, but there's just something about eating corn right off the cob that is all the more appealing to me. I have child-like eating tendencies, I know.

Guajillo Pork Belly: Crispy Duroc pork, haba√Īero crema, pickled red onion

Sopa del Dia: Chicken Tortilla Soup | Off-the-Cob Mexican Street Corn

Despite some minor disappointments, I was overall very taken with my experience at O Cocina - I love the cozy vibe and the gorgeous interior doesn't hurt. The service was excellent and the food and company even more so - I will definitely be back to explore the menu further!

O Cocina is located at 4110 Henderson Boulevard in South Tampa. The restaurant is open Tuesday through Thursday from 4:30 p.m. to 10 p.m., Friday and Saturday from 4:30 p.m. to 11 p.m. and Sunday for brunch from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. You can view the menu here. To stay updated on the latest happenings at O Cocina, follow along on FacebookTwitter and Instagram.