Local Do: Deputy Kotfila Memorial Dog Park

by Jennifer Thai in


This weekend, pH and I took Sadie to the grand opening of the Deputy Kotfila Memorial Dog Park in the Channel District. Featuring two separate play areas for large and small pups to roam and plenty of shade from the Selmon Expressway overpass, this new park is a welcome addition to the Tampa Bay area's growing dog-friendly community.

Large Dog Play Area

Large Dog Play Area

Small Dog Play Area

This new dog park honors the legacy of Hillsborough County Deputy John Robert Kotfila, Jr., who lost his life to a wrong-way driver on the Selmon Expressway in March 2016, and pays tribute to the strong bond he had with his German shepherd, Dexter.

Sadie had way too much fun playing with the other pups, and pH and I got a chance to meet with a few of the vendors at the grand opening, including the fine folks of Craving Donuts and Adam Goldberg of AGoldPhoto Pet Photography

Water Fountains

Caramel Bacon Donut from Craving Donuts

Deputy Kotfila Memorial Dog Park is located at 705 Raymond Street in Tampa and is Tampa Hillsborough Expressway Authority's first Selmon Greenway Pocket Park. The park is open from sunrise to sunset.


Local Bites: FlameStone American Grill

by Jennifer Thai in ,


A couple of weeks ago, I got the chance to host a food bloggers' brunch at FlameStone American Grill in Oldsmar, about a 30-minute drive from my home sweet home in South Tampa. Although I'd heard a lot of great reviews about this spot, I hadn't been able to try it for myself, and was excited to discover if it truly lives up to the hype. I invited some fellow bloggers who are actively involved in highlighting their local community and the foodie treasures it holds - keep on scrolling for a brief peek and a full recap of our eats!

(From L to R): Casey, Caitlyn (Live Sweat Sleep), Me (This Jenn Girl), Alex (Sunkissed in December), Annie (Discovering Your Happy), Tia (Pennies in my Pocket) and Nichole (Casa de Crews)

We began the tasting with a champagne toast, followed by appetizers, which were paired with one of FlameStone Grill's most popular cocktails, the Bubbles and Berries.

Bubbles and Berries: Fresh berries, Van Gogh Citrus, casis, prosecco

Shrimp and Polenta with Lobster Citrus Reduction

Tableside Guacamole

Ahi Tuna Salad: Blackened yellowfin tuna, Asian slaw, pecans, asparagus tips, crispy wontons and ponzu-peanut vinaigrette

Everything was delicious, but if I had to choose must-order picks for you to try during your visit, I would recommend the Shrimp and Polenta and the Tableside Guacamole. The Shrimp and Polenta dish is a seasonal item that is not regularly on the menu, but, if they have polenta in-house, they will be able to make it for you - just ask! It's a delicious, light dish that fully satisfies my love for shrimp and lobster.

The guacamole is prepared tableside, and you can watch as your server whips up avocado, tomatoes, garlic, onions, salt, jalapenos and lime juice into a delicious dip that you can order mild, medium or hot.

After the appetizer tasting, we moved on to our main entrees, which were paired with the Smoked Flamestone 21, a smooth bourbon-based sipper, which pH (the bourbon/whiskey snob) says is a must-order.

Smoked FlameStone 21: Buffalo Trace, Carpano Antica, Luxardo (bourbon barrel-aged in house, 21 days)

Smoked FlameStone 21: Buffalo Trace, Carpano Antica, Luxardo (bourbon barrel-aged in house, 21 days)

Pan-Seared Chilean Sea Bass: Parmesan risotto, roasted tomato fondue and basil-infused oil

Fire-Grilled Filet Mignon Oscar: Jumbo lump crab, asparagus, meyer lemon hollandaise

Both of these entrees were phenomenal. The fish entree perfectly embodied the mild, melt-in-your-mouth texture that I oh-so-love about Chilean sea bass, and the tomato fondue and basil oil were the perfect flavor pairing. The filet was extremely tender (nearly cut-with-your-fork tender!) and seasoned to perfection. I've never had a steak cut Oscar-style before, so it was wonderful to get that surf and turf flavor in a perfectly-portioned dish.

As full as we were by this time, of course we saved room for dessert! We were spoiled with two of them:

S'mores Milkshake

Fried Oreos: Served with salted caramel ice cream

I'll never ever forget the taste of the S'mores Milkshake, and what an incredible presentation, with fudge and graham cracker crumbs outlining the outside of the glass!

I was blown away by each of FlameStone Grill's dishes, both in regards to presentation and taste - there was not one thing that I didn't like, and Chef Nicole and her team have made quite the impression on me! Although Oldsmar is a bit of a drive away for most, I definitely recommend that you make a visit to FlameStone Grill - you won't be disappointed.

FlameStone American Grill is located at 4009 Tampa Road in Oldsmar. The restaurant is open Monday through Thursday from 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m., Friday and Saturday from 11:30 a.m. to 11 p.m., Sunday for brunch from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. and Sunday for dinner from 3 p.m. to 9 p.m. You can view the menus here. To stay updated on the latest happenings at Bonefish Grill, follow along on FacebookTwitter and Instagram.

*Disclosure: The meal featured in this post was provided by FlameStone American 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 FlameStone American Grill.


Holistic Living with Essential Oils

by Jennifer Thai in


Lately, I've been actively implementing essential oils into my daily lifestyle, and I've been loving the results. When Jessica from Frank + Pine sent some Young Living blends that she'd put together for me a few months ago, I wasn't sure what to expect. Although so many friends and colleagues rave about the immediate benefits they've experienced using essential oils, I wasn't so sure that I would see that same impact.

Jessica asked me if I had any particular areas of need I'd be interested using essential oils for - I told her that sometimes it's difficult to get a full night's rest and that I could use a little stress easing every once in awhile. She sent me two oil rollers - one for me to use before bed, and the other to use when I could use some calming effects.

After two full months of using these oils, I've realized how much of an impact they truly make on me from day to day. In the evenings, I roll the 'Dream' blend on the soles of my feet, on my wrists and behind my ears before going to bed, and I swear, it helps me sleep like a baby through the night. I absolutely adore its fragrance!

I keep my 'Stress' blend at work, for the days when things get a little crazy - my work bestie, Ashley, definitely finds a use for it as well. Since she's an avid Young Living essential oils user as well, she also keeps a 'Focus' blend in our office for us to share when we need a little concentration added to our work days.

I have been loving essential oils being a part of my daily routine - they provide an uplifting essence that gets me through my days and eases my mind to know that I'm using all-natural products to enhance my lifestyle, versus something that is full of chemicals.

If you're interested in experiencing them for yourself, reach out to Jessica at Frank + Pine! She provides great essential oil tips and recipes on her blog, and is so helpful in crafting a blend that fits your lifestyle and needs.


You Can Let Your Hair Down

by Jennifer Thai in


I'm always in the market for hair care that's readily available and reasonable in price. As much as I love a good salon-bought brand, sometimes I just need a shampoo and conditioner that does its job: cleans my locks, retains moisture and provides volume.

I received samples of Herbal Essences' new line of shampoos and conditioners featuring bio:renew, a blend of all-natural ingredients that revives dull, lifeless hair with each wash. This new line features blends that cater to nearly every hair care need and indulgent fragrances that make your hair smell wonderful.

I was provided with two blends to try out that sounded like a good fit for my need for volume: Arabica Coffee Fruit and White Grapefruit & Mosa Mint. Both smelled absolutely delicious. While both worked really well for my hair, and provided my hair with both the bounce I needed and a fair amount of smooth, run-your-hands-through-your-hair texture, I really loved¬† the White Grapefruit & Mosa Mint blend the best. After each wash, I truly felt that my hair was washed thoroughly, without the dryness that the word "clean" is often associated with.

Herbal Essences' new collection of shampoos and conditioners is available at your local food, drugs and mass market retailers for $5.99 per bottle. These products are free of colorants, parabens and gluten, and are safe for color-treated hair like mine.

*Disclosure: I was provided with the items featured in this post in exchange for editorial consideration. This post was written on my own accord - opinions are my own and are not indicative of the opinions or positions of Herbal Essences.


Father's Day 2017 Gift Guide

by Jennifer Thai in , ,


Father's Day is two weeks away, and I've rounded up my favorite gifting items and deals for you to say 'thank you' and 'I love you' to your hero.

FOR THE WELL-DRESSED DAD

Whether it's loungewear for a lazy day in, an already-pressed dress shirt for work or comfortable (and colorful) swim pants for a summer day out, I've got my favorite picks covered for Father's Day:

Kenneth Cole offers comfortable, quality loungewear that doesn't break the bank, perfect for when Dad is needing a day in, reading the news, watching the game or playing video games with the guys.

I love ENRO's Non-Iron Tailored Fit shirts - the color and pattern options are endless, and just what Dad needs to make a solid impression at the office or on a romantic dinner date with Mom. // Use code JENN20 for 20% off of your order!

And when he's in the need of a little vitamin D, send Dad to the beach with swim shorts from Original Penguin that are far from blah, and that definitely aren't being worn by every other dad on the beach.

FOR THE WELL-GROOMED DAD

When Dad's gone camping, off on a work trip, or wherever he is on-the-go, send him off with Pacific Shaving Company's Shaving Cream Minis - they're sure to be his new favorite thing. Tucked away in a resealable pouch, each tiny pod creates just the lather he needs to groom and go.

The Artistry Men Skincare System is just what Dad needs to balance his unique skincare needs. Including a face wash, post-shave toner, serum concentrate and facial moisturizer, he'll feel as pampered like a prince!

Clarisonic's Alpha Fit Facial Cleansing Brush will reinvent the way your dad takes care of his skin, from pre-shave to post-shave. The unique brush provides deep cleansing meant especially for men, sweeping away dirt, sweat and oil and providing a closer shave.

FOR THE ARTISANAL DAD

With traditional Spanish recipes, stunning images of savory dishes, countrysides and cityscapes, Charcuter√≠a: The Soul of Spain from James Beard Award nominee Chef Jeffrey Weiss, brings authentic Spanish meat-curing techniques to America...and to your food connoisseur father. // Use code THISJENNGIRL for 25% off!

Treat Dad to the meal of his dreams - a tender and robust 30 oz. T-bone steak, gourmet jumbo franks, potatoes au gratin, eight ground beef sliders and a 6 in. New York-style cheesecake from Omaha Steaks. More than enough to share. ;)

FOR EVERYTHING IN BETWEEN

With a classic scent like Ralph Lauren Polo Blue, a fresh blend of bergamot and rich vetiver, you can't go wrong with the Eau de Parfum fragrance gift set for Dad. The gift set includes both full and travel-size Eau de Parfums and a face lotion. // Free shipping and toiletry case with purchase at Macy's.

Help him work in style, with Korchmar's limited edition Centennial Roosevelt leather laptop sleeve. Designed to protect most 15" laptops, this svelte world-class leather piece comes in tan, brown and black options.

*Disclosure: I was gifted a few of the items featured in this post in exchange for editorial consideration. This post was written on my own accord - items included in this gift guide are of my own suggestion and are not indicative of the opinions or positions of any of the featured brands.


Local Bites: Bonefish Grill's Summer 2017 Menu

by Jennifer Thai in ,


With the many visits I've had to Bonefish Grill, the dining experiences never disappoint, and I always enjoy going there to see what's fresh on the seasonal menu. Over the weekend, I got the chance to check out the newest seasonal menu with pH and my little sister, Katie. She's been practicing her driving every weekend with us, so what better way to celebrate the continued growth of a safe, soon-to-be driver than with Bang Bang Shrimp and other yummy bites? Although we have a location very close to us in South Tampa, we really wanted to enjoy some outdoor seating, so we had Katie drive us to the Bonefish Grill in Carrollwood, which features patio dining.

Bang Bang Shrimp: Crispy shrimp, tossed in Bonefish Grill's signature creamy, spicy sauce.

While Katie ordered a non-alcoholic Blackberry Smash and pH ordered one of his favorite bourbon drinks, a classic Sidecar, I opted to try one of Bonefish Grill's seasonal drinks - the Pomegranate & Sage Martini. The cocktail was refreshing and sweet, with a light earthy flavor from the infused sage.

In addition to the Bang Bang Shrimp, we ordered the seasonal Applewood Bacon-Wrapped Scallops and Fresh Maryland Soft Shell Crab. Although I'm not a huge scallops fan, I thought these were incredible. The scallops were perfectly cooked, large and juicy, and the wrapped Applewood bacon really complemented the dish (then again, when does bacon not?). The Maryland Soft Shell Crab is the best of two crab worlds, with a juicy, soft shell crab filled with a delicious, meat-heavy crab cake. The butter served on the side is a must with this dish - if anything, ask for extra.

Pomegranate & Sage Martini: Reyka small-batch vodka, a hint of sage, 100% pomegranate juice & fresh lemon juice, finished with a fresh sage leaf

Applewood Bacon-Wrapped Scallops: Four Georges Bank Scallops wrapped in Applewood bacon and topped with mango salsa

Fresh Maryland Soft Shell Crab: Single Soft Shell Crab sautéed crispy, stuffed with a Maryland-style crab cake

Since we were starting to fill up on our selected appetizers, we decided to share two fresh dishes from the new seasonal menu. I couldn't not order the Creole-Style Redfish (I love the flavor and texture of redfish), and pH also chose to order the Grouper Oscar, topped with jumbo lump crab and a rich lemon butter.

The Creole-Style Redfish was hearty in creole flavor, and I loved the crawfish that the fish was topped with. I've never had spoonbread before, but it was a wonderful complement with the spicy flavor, with an aromatic corn flavor and sweet taste profile. pH and Katie loved the Grouper Oscar - they recommend asking for extra lemon butter to drizzle on top of the wild grouper, as well as the vegetable sides.

Creole-Style Redfish: A mild, sweet flavor with a medium firm texture. Wood-grilled and topped with crawfish and a Creole-style sauce, served with sweet corn spoonbread and french green beans

Fresh Grouper Oscar: Wood-grilled wild Grouper, topped with jumbo lump crab, freshly steamed asparagus and lemon butter, served with choice of two sides

We were so full from our meal, that we didn't have room for dessert, which is absolutely a lesson for next time. We thoroughly enjoyed our dinner, and I can't get the wonderful taste of the Applewood Bacon-Wrapped Scallops off of my palate - I will definitely be back for more of those tasty morsels!

Bonefish Grill Carrollwood is located at 13262 North Dale Mabry Highway in Tampa. The restaurant is open Monday through Thursday from 4 p.m. to 10:30 p.m., Friday from 4 p.m. to 11:30 p.m., Saturday from 11 a.m. to 11:30 p.m. and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. You can view the regular menu here. To stay updated on the latest happenings at Bonefish Grill, follow along on FacebookTwitter and Instagram.

*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.