Local Bites: Weekend Eats

by Jennifer Thai in ,

If the success of a weekend is based on the food consumed during it, then this past weekend rocked. Take a look for yourself:

Saturday, 1 p.m. - Ichicoro Ramen

On Saturday, I went bridesmaid shopping with my sisters for my older sister's upcoming fall wedding. Post-madness, we headed to Seminole Heights for some ramen. Ichicoro does not disappoint, especially when it comes to karaage - the way it is prepared and fried is perfection, and the spicy garlic mayo dipping sauce the dish comes with is flavorful and delicious! I wasn't feeling at my best Saturday, so opted for a simple shoyu ramen bowl, which was satisfyingly good.

Karaage: Marinated fried chicken, furikake, spicy garlic mayo

Shoyu Ramen: Chicken broth, chasyu asado, ajitama, menma, scallion, nori

Saturday, 2:30 p.m. - Whatever Pops

After ramen, we decided to satisfy our sweet teeth in a refreshing way, by checking out Whatever Pops down the street in Seminole Heights. Guys - this is popsicle heaven, I'm in love! The Earl Grey Lavender Lemonade ice pop was so amazing - you get all the notes of Earl Grey tea paired with aromatic lavender in a zesty, citrus-y ice pop. So good!

Earl Grey Lavender Lemonade Pop - So aromatic and tasty!

Sunday, 11 a.m. - Island Way Grill

On Sunday, my family got together for brunch at Island Way Grill in Clearwater to celebrate my dad's birthday. Island Way Grill is our favorite spot for Sunday brunch - it never ever disappoints! For just $24.95, you get one mimosa, paired with a limitless selection of raw oysters, peel & eat shrimp and crawfish, as well as access to plenty of breakfast and lunch dishes, omelette, sushi and cutting stations, and a dessert room. Note: The price for Sunday brunch increases if it falls near a holiday, i.e. Mother's Day, Easter Sunday, etc.

What do you think, did I have a good weekend, or what? ;) What does your dream foodie weekend look like?

A Savory Month with the Flavors of Italy {+ Recipe!}

by Jennifer Thai in ,

With another hour of sunshine added to my evenings since the time change, I've been making a better effort at committing to more homemade meals and less fast casual dining. For me, there's nothing better than a delicious, homemade Italian meal, and with The Fresh Market right in my backyard, it's never been easier to get my hands on seasonally fresh and affordable ingredients to create a flavorful Italian dish with.

This month, The Fresh Market is offering its guests a taste of the 'Flavors of Italy,' with weekend sampling events and store-wide Italian cuisine inspiration:

During a recent visit to The Fresh Market in North Tampa, I got the chance to experience one of the store's Guest Appreciation Days - I enjoyed a variety of yummy Italian samplings and gained inspiration for my own 'Flavors of Italy' recipe - it's crazy simple, and equally crazy in deliciousness. And the kicker: serves four and UNDER $50. Keep reading!

Crunchy Caprese Salad

Ingredients (Serves 4):

  • Fresh mozzarella
  • Basil leaves
  • Cucumber
  • Sweet campari tomatoes
  • Stonewall Kitchen Maple Bacon Balsamic Dressing
  1. Dice mozzarella, chop basil, slice cucumbers and tomatoes
  2. Blend ingredients together with a hearty amount of dressing

Robusto Linguine with Sausage

Ingredients (Serves 4):

  • Linguine pasta
  • Hot Italian sausage
  • Stonewall Kitchen Basil Pesto
  • Rao's Homemade Roasted Garlic Sauce
  1. Remove sausage from casings - roll sausage into 3/4 inch thick meatballs
  2. Place meatballs in a deep pan and sear
  3. Mix 1/3 jar of basil pesto with entire jar of roasted garlic sauce
  4. Pour sauce mixture over meatballs and simmer until meatballs are cooked fully
  5. While sauce and meatballs are simmering, cook linguine al dente (10-12 minutes) and drain, rinsing with warm water
  6. Plate linguine and ladel sauce and meatballs

It's not hard to commit to home-cooked meals when they're simple to make and the ingredients are so fresh and delicious! And can you believe it's possible to make a meal for four (or a meal for two, plus lunch the next day) for under $50?!

You still have time to experience The Fresh Market's 'Flavors of Italy' and a Guest Appreciation Day on Saturday, March 18th at the North Tampa location from 1-5 p.m.! Enjoy grilling demonstrations, a variety of sausage samplings and live music - plus, the first 300 guests will receive a free, reusable shopping bag. For more information, visit thefreshmarket.com and The Fresh Market on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

This post and these recipes were sponsored by The Fresh Market. Opinions expressed here are my own and are not indicative of the opinions or positions of The Fresh Market.

Local Do's: Gasparilla International Film Festival 2017

by Jennifer Thai in

Last week, Gasparilla International Film Festival (GIFF) 2017 closed its week-long lineup of feature film debuts, short film screenings and everything in between. This was my first time attending any GIFF-related events, and now, I'm positive I won't be missing any more in the future. What a great way to celebrate the wonder that is the film industry, both local and national. Thanks to a partnership with Tampa Bay Bloggers, I was able to attend the week's festivities as a VIP guest and capture some great snapshots from the week:

Favorite Screenings:

Burn Your Maps

"Burn Your Maps," from director Jordan Roberts, is a wonderful, heartfelt film that takes you on the journey of a little boy who believes that he is a Mongolian goat herder and depicts the impact of his journey on those around him. So many laughs, and maybe a tear or two here and there.


A hilarious, cringe-worthy (but in a good way) film written by Demetri Martin, "Dean" is a dramedy revolving around an illustrator's struggle with love and his relationship with his father, following his beloved mother's death. It's beautifully real, and I really enjoyed the incorporation of Martin's own drawings. 

Daryl & His Friends

This was a great short, directed by local talent, Evan Smith. "Daryl & His Friends" perfectly depicts the story of Daryl, a man who has had many imaginary friends since he was a child, struggles with figuring out who's real and who isn't. His romantic world is forever changed when meeting a local barista - but is she real or imaginary? Smith does a fantastic job of telling a full story within the constraints of a short film.

The Last Word

This was, without a question, my favorite film from the entire week. Featuring Shirley MacLaine & Amanda Seyfried, and "The Last Word" was everything that I was hoping for, and then some. It's a heartwarming film, about a "my way or the highway"-type woman (MacLaine) who seeks the help of the obituary writer for the local paper (Seyfried) to re-develop her life's legacy. The two both embark on a journey of self-discovery and establish a special relationship, as they uncover MacLaine's character's four components for a legendary obituary.

I had such an amazing time during Gasparilla International Film Festival, and I cannot wait for its return next year!

As a member of Tampa Bay Bloggers, I was provided with a pair of VIP screening passes in exchange for social support and a post-event review. Opinions expressed here are my own and are not indicative of the opinions or positions of Gasparilla International Film Festival or Tampa Bay Bloggers.

Local Bites: Bonefish Grill at St. Pete Tyrone

by Jennifer Thai in ,

These days, I feel like whenever someone says "chain restaurant," it's almost in a derogatory manner or there's a negative connotation associated with it. Of course, there are exceptions to this idea, and Bonefish Grill has consistently been one of them - with its seasonal menus and fresh and tasty flavors, it never disappoints. And, with the recently refreshed interiors in the South Tampa, Trinity, Tyrone and Wesley Chapel locations, it goes to show that they are adapting with their customers' aesthetic preferences, with warm, Earthy tones and a sleek, modern design.

pH and I recently stopped by the St. Pete Tyrone Bonefish Grill location to check out the new seasonal menu and to enjoy a quiet date night:

Bang Bang Shrimp

Lobster, Crab & Artichoke Dip

Cedar Plank Bourbon Salmon

Black Cod with Miso

My must-order picks:

  • Bang Bang Shrimp: This appetizer dish is the real OG, my friends. You can never go wrong with these perfectly-fried, crispy shrimp tossed in spicy bang bang sauce and paired with fresh, leafy greens and chopped scallions.
  • Cedar Plank Bourbon Salmon: This Norwegian Salmon was delicious, with a more mild flavor than your typical salmon. The aromatic, cilantro-lime jasmine was perfectly steamed and the rainbow carrots were just what I needed as a fish pairing.
  • Black Cod with Miso: Black cod is officially one of our favorite fish discoveries. Imagine the buttery texture of Chilean sea bass, but with a little more substance and flavor - that's exactly what this black cod had to offer, and pH ate every last bite.

This was the perfect ending to a busy weekend, and now that we are both working in St. Pete, the St. Pete Tyrone Bonefish Grill will definitely be a go-to spot for us when we need to wind down from the work week!

The Bonefish Grill St. Pete Tyrone location is located at 2408 Tyrone Blvd. in St. Petersburg. The restaurant is open Monday through Thursday from 11 a.m. to 10:30 p.m., Friday and Saturday from 11 a.m. to 11:30 p.m. and Sundays from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. You can view the regular menu here, and check out the seasonal specials here.

*Disclosure: The meal featured in this post was provided by Bonefish Grill 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 Bonefish Grill or Bloomin' Brands.

Local Bites: Late Night Menu at Marlow's Tavern

by Jennifer Thai in ,

Sometimes, I want to be able to satisfy late-night cravings at a spot that is not Applebee's on karaoke night. Not that there's anything wrong with an occasional rowdy night, but most of the time, I'm just in need of a low-key late night with some inexpensive grub. Thanks to the recent introduction of Marlow's Tavern's Late Night Menu, I'm able to do just that. 

Marlow's Tavern's Late Night Menu is available daily from 10 p.m. until close, and features a variety of inexpensive opportunities for guests to eat and imbibe, with $1 PBRs and Miller High Lifes, $3 domestic drafts, $4 premium cocktails, $5 select wines and $6 plates.

$4 House Whiskey

Classic Buffalo-Style Wings, served with carrots, celery and a house-made Gorgonzola dressing

J.T. Kettle Chips: Crispy potato chips covered with Gorgonzola cheese, bacon, Roma tomatoes and scallions

Barrel-Aged Scrappy Old Timer (from the regular menu): Old Forester, Suze Aperitif, Cocchi Torino, Vermouth and Scrappy Orange Bitters

Chef's Daily Feature: Creamy Shrimp Penne Pasta with Button Mushrooms

Signature Burger: Swiss Mushroom Burger

My must-order picks:

  • Hot and Sweet Wings: I'm pretty picky when it comes to how my wings are prepared - I am not a fan of heavily doused, soggy wings. Marlow's Tavern prepares them right, nice and crispy with just the right amount of wing sauce. I opted for hot wings, Buffalo Style, and was surprisingly impressed by the house-made Gorgonzola dressing. So good.
  • Signature Burger: This item changes depending on what ingredients are available - the best thing about these menu items are that they are chef-inspired; no two dishes are the same, and you can always be sure that it's a dish that's full of flavor. During this particular visit, we enjoyed a Swiss Mushroom Burger, which was seasoned perfectly and served with a tasty house-made pickle.
  • Chef's Daily Feature: Like the Signature Burger, the Chef's Daily Feature also varies and is dependent on ingredient availability. The Creamy Shrimp Penne Pasta that we had was perfectly al dente and featured a slight citrus kick. 

I can't get that Gorgonzola dressing off of my mind! We will definitely be back to explore the other Late Night Menu items and see what new chef-inspired dishes are featured.

Marlow's Tavern is located at 13134 N. Dale Mabry Hwy in Carrollwood. The restaurant is open at 11:30 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.

Local Bites: Celebrating Valentine's Day in the Tampa Bay Area

by Jennifer Thai in ,

Whether you're celebrating the evening of or over the weekend, with a loved one, with friends or by enjoying the time to yourself, I've got a few ideas on where you can treat yourself (or your Valentine) for Valentine's Day. The Tampa Bay area is packed with amazing foodie destinations, and I can't think of a better way to celebrate a romantic holiday, than over some delicious noms. Personally, I don't think the spot has to have a "romantic" ambiance - just ask pH, nothing's more romantic to me than sharing a tasty double cheeseburger with him, even if it's in the vicinity of people shouting while watching a game. Keep an open mind!

Cask Social (South Tampa)

Cask Social in South Tampa is easily one of my favorite spots for a chill evening with pH. He absolutely adores their cocktail options, and I'm a sucker for their mocktails; our favorite dishes are the Buffalo Cauliflower and Chef's Seafood Platter. // Cask Social is raffling of two Valentine's Day dinners for two - donate $25 or more to the Jackson in Action 83 Foundation and you're automatically entered.

Engine No. 9 (Downtown St. Petersburg)

Engine No. 9 in downtown St. Pete is our favorite spot in the Tampa Bay area for a gourmet burger - they are amazing. Equally amazing is the appetizer selection, oh, and the fact that you get your own personal TV to watch is pretty cool, too. Favorite appetizers include Fried Dill Pickle Spears and Macho Tater Tots; favorite burgers are the Bokor and Van Helsing.

Fly Bar & Restaurant (Downtown Tampa)

Photo: Delane Ashley

Photo: Delane Ashley

Fly Bar & Restaurant in downtown Tampa has been a favorite spot of ours for a long time, and may just have been the location of our first unofficial date. pH has had a love affair with their cocktails for quite some time now, and their dishes do not disappoint, ever. Favorite drinks include the Auld Fashioned and Reverse Manhattan, favorite appetizers include Panko Crusted Goat Cheese and Poutine and favorite dishes include Sofrito Green Beans and Shrimp & Grits.

Franklin Manor (Downtown Tampa)

Franklin Manor in downtown Tampa is a sweet spot for live music and fantastic food. You cannot go wrong with their incredible smoothly blended frosé, and I highly recommend that you order the Carriage House Burger paired with the Frites - it's a heavenly take on the classic cheeseburger that you will not regret.

Hawkers Asian Street Fare (Downtown St. Pete)

If you're craving an Asian-inspired food adventure, Hawkers Asian Street Fare in downtown St. Pete is a great place to share small plates with your Valentine. Favorite dishes include Roti Canai, Green Papaya & Shrimp Salad, Malaysian Prawn Mee Soup and Grilled Bulgogi Beef Skewers.

Marlow's Tavern (Carrollwood)

If you're opting for a weekend celebration, Marlow's Tavern in North Tampa is a great spot for a casual Sunday brunch. I'm a big fan of pretty much all of their food options, but especially the Firecracker Shrimp, Shrimp & Grits, Grilled Chicken Stack and Serious Steak and Eggs. And if you're a fan of Bloody Marys like I am, the Build-Your-Own Bloody Mary Bar is a must. // Marlow's Tavern is helping you celebrate Valentine's Day with a special prix fixe menu, $35 per person for food only, $50 per person with drink pairings. Call the restaurant for more information and to reserve!

Rock 'N Raw (East Lake-Orient Park)

If you're up for some fun and food, consider hitting up Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino for a little slots action, followed by a yummy visit to Rock 'N Raw - some of my favorite dishes include the Surf & Turf Roll, White Flounder Supreme, Luc Lac Beef Tenderloin and Assam Prawns - do not forget to ask for their house-made hot peppers on the side!

Seasons 52 (Northwest Tampa)

If you're looking for a great dining option that's on the healthier side, I don't think you can go wrong with Seasons 52 at Westshore Plaza - we've never had a bad experience there, and always feel great after each meal. pH is a big fan of the Wood-Grilled Pork Tenderloin; I personally love the Asian-Glazed Chilean Sea Bass - it melts in your mouth!

The Living Room on Main (Downtown Dunedin)

One of my favorite late discoveries The Living Room on Main in downtown Dunedin is the picturesque romantic Valentine's Day date. Mood lighting and live music set the tone, and although we haven't gotten the chance to try their menu in full, our favorites so far include the Angus Beef Poutine and you're not allowed to leave without ordering the decadently delicious Mary Margaret Marquis.

Where are some of your favorite foodie spots to celebrate at?