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? 

A More Radiant Beam with Smile Brilliant {+ Giveaway!}

by Jennifer Thai in

For the most part, I've been able to maintain relatively white teeth, but at the same time, my smile has always been on the more dull side. And with the twice daily coffee indulgences and the occasional glass of my favorite red wine, I'm open to the idea of extra help. You know what I'm not open to, though? The painful, irritating side effects that teeth whitening sensitivity typically brings. 

When Smile Brilliant reached out to me to ask me to test out its at-home whitening kit, I was a little skeptical about its claims and wasn't sure about the ingredients, so I sent the information supplied on the Smile Brilliant website to my brother-in-law (a dentist) to check it out and give me his thoughts. After reading through it, he told me that the Smile Brilliant whitening gel contains the same active ingredient used by dentists for teeth whitening and that it was safe for me to use. I still had some concerns about my level of sensitivity, but after realizing that the brand offers a special option for those with teeth sensitivity, and reading user reviews, I decided to give it a chance.

Another element that played a role in deciding to move forward with the review was the custom-fitted whitening trays. The idea of having a non-messy whitening process sans slippery strips and with trays that fit comfortably to the shape of your unique teeth was a big selling point for me. 

I was sent the T3 Sensitive System, which includes nine whitening applications, nine desensitizing applications and the products needed to create the impressions for my custom-fitted trays. I blended the catalyst and base pastes included in the kit to mold around my top and bottom teeth to create my impressions and sent these in a pre-paid envelope to Smile Brilliant, who then created my custom-fitted trays and sent them back to me.

The trays fit my teeth perfectly, and the application of the whitening gel wasn't anywhere close to being as messy as your typical, drugstore-bought whitening strips. After applying the whitening gel for one hour, I then applied the desensitizing gel for about 15-20 minutes. The results? Absolutely zero pain. It's amazing. 

After just two one-hour applications, I could already see a difference - what was once opaque and dull, is now bright and luminous:

Remember, I admitted I've always had fairly white teeth, so think about what Smile Brilliant's whitening system can do for you if you have teeth that you're not super proud of. I definitely recommend Smile Brilliant and am happy that it proved my doubts wrong in the end - I'm thrilled with how well it whitened, and compared to the $700+ charge you could expect at the dentist's office, I'll gladly invest a little over $100 for a reliable and effective at-home whitening kit that brings the same results.

You can enter to win $75 (that's more than half!) off of the T3 Sensitive Whitening System from Smile Brilliant - all you have to do is follow this link and provide your name and email address. It's that easy!

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

Local Bites: Bartaco in Hyde Park - Eighth Bartaco Secret

by Jennifer Thai in ,

My favorite times of the year are the holidays (for obvious reasons) and when Bartaco releases its latest secret tacos. pH and I were recently let in on the eighth secret, and checked it out during a lunch date at our Bartaco in Hyde Park during MLK Day weekend.

We toasted to a long weekend with my favorite Mint Lemonade and an Old Thymer, which pH really enjoyed and described as a sweeter, more citrus-y version of the classic Manhattan. I ordered my favorites, the Baja Fish and Ancho Ahi Tuna tacos, along with a couple of the secret tacos, while pH added a Spicy Chorizo to his secret taco order.

The eighth and latest secret taco is the Braised Short Rib Taco - ancho coffee-braised short rib, served in a corn tortilla and topped with pickled fennel. Although it hasn't quite made our list of top three favorites, it is still an aromatic, flavorful taco.

Mint Lemonade and Old Thymer

Ancho coffee-braised short rib taco, on corn tortilla and lettuce wrapped

Ancho coffee-braised short rib taco, on corn tortilla and lettuce wrapped

A favorite: Lettuce-wrapped ancho ahi tuna taco

I've been really loving Bartaco as a date option for pH and I because of the versatility of the menu. As most of you know, pH is on the keto diet, one that significantly limits his carbohydrate intake. Since I am a lover of all things potato, pasta and bread, it's hard for us to find a restaurant that accommodates both of our wants, but Bartaco really covers it all - pH can enjoy any taco lettuce-wrapped, and he still feels satisfied and full after three or more tacos.

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.

A Practical Ponytail

by Jennifer Thai in ,

I'm all for the practical and when fashion meets function - or, in this case, when function meets fashion. Putting your hair up in a high ponytail or messy bun doesn't necessarily have to represent laziness. There are plenty of days when my hair is limp and a little on the oily side, or just isn't falling into the right places. My go-to alternative typically consists of a hat or a quickly-done bun. So, if I'm able to "do it up" and transform an otherwise bland look into a more embellished one, you can definitely count me in.

A couple of years ago, I was introduced to IVChic, a line of hair jewelry for the fashionably conscious. What I love most about the line is how so many of the hair pieces are dual-purpose, serving as arm candy as well. From edgy to classic to a little more boho, there are plenty of styles to fit yours - personally, I love the Austin wrap, because there are so many ways to wear it. It can be be used to secure a ponytail (see below!), weaved into a braid or just worn as a wrap around your arm.

This Jenn Girl - IVChic 2

How many days out of the week on average do you put your hair up? And when you do, how often would you say you take it up a notch in style? IVChic makes it easy to do so, and for a limited time, you can receive 25% off your purchase by using the code THISJENNGIRL25 at checkout!

*Disclosure: The product featured in this post was provided by IVChic 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 IVChic.

Life with Alexa

by Jennifer Thai

*Disclosure: Through a partnership with AT&T, I was provided with an Amazon Echo to use and test for two weeks. The opinions expressed within this review are my own and are not indicative of the opinions or positions of AT&T or Amazon.

When we were preparing our wish lists for the holidays, the Amazon Echo was something that pH had mentioned wanting. This two-week trial period gave us the chance to see whether we'd use the Amazon Echo as much as he thought we would, and gauge whether or not our use of it would be worth the price. 

I won't lie - having Alexa around was pretty nifty. We used her to request daily news updates and play holiday jazz music on Pandora. But, as much as it was cool, I don't think we're a tech-y, connected couple enough to use the Amazon Echo to its fullest potential, like controlling the lights, switches and thermostats. After this test run, I think the Amazon Echo Dot may be a little bit more up our alley - the price is a bit more on par with our expected usage of the device.

What are your thoughts when it comes to smart home technology? I'd love to hear your personal insight!

Local Bites: Cask Social Kitchen

by Jennifer Thai in ,

Last Friday marked my final day at HSN before heading into my new role as social media specialist at Johns Hopkins All Children's Hospital - to say a proper farewell and celebrate a wonderful year full of memories and learning opportunities, I had colleagues meet me for one final hurrah at one of my favorite spots in Tampa: Cask Social Kitchen.

Without a doubt, the Loft Lounge at Cask Social is my go-to spot for hosting private parties. Last year, I hosted both pH's 30th birthday surprise party and my oldest sister's baby shower in the intimate upstairs space at Cask Social. A $100 bartender's fee gets you access to the bar upstairs and a personal bartender for your party; you can opt to have your guests pay for their own tabs, or there are appetizer platters and brunch/dinner menus that can be arranged for your party. For pH's 30th, I booked the bar and opted for multiple appetizer platters for our friends to enjoy. For my sister's baby shower, we had a custom brunch menu for her guests.

This time around, I reserved the bar space and shared light bites with friends. Our bartender, Hana, is the best. I remember as I was setting up for pH's birthday party last year, I'd mentioned that I was starting to get hit with a cold, and she made me antioxidant-rich mocktails to sip on. Holy moly, were they the best freakin' mocktails I've ever tasted. Let me let you in on a little secret about me: if I want to have a really good time while out with friends, I won't drink - because the truth is, I get lethargic when I drink, which leads to me being a really boring compadre. So, on Friday, I asked her to once again shake me up some of her delicious, non-alcoholic creations, and they were just as amazing as I remembered.

Of course, she doesn't just specialize in non-alcoholic drinks - she's amazing at creating the boozy ones, too. pH is such a snob when it comes to drinking - he's a bourbon/whisky fella, and tends to turn his nose at most cocktails in the area. He loved the Vieux Carre that Hana made him - other favorites included the Whiskey Smash and the Paper Plane, included on Cask's Specialty Drinks Menu.

My delicious grapefruit-garnished mocktail.

pH's Vieux Carre

We ordered our favorite appetizers, Buffalo Cauliflower and Tuna Tartare (not pictured, because I ran into the common issue of excitedly eating prior to taking photos). But, I'm pretty darn sure that the highlight of my evening was the Chef's Seafood platter that pH ordered for me - out came a mound of stone crab claws, jumbo shrimp and freshly-shucked oysters. I cried.

Overall, it was an amazing evening filled with great people and equally great food and drinks. If you plan on hosting a large get-together, I highly recommend considering Cask Social Kitchen - you can reach out to Allison Gorrell via email at allison@planamgmt.com to get the planning process underway. All three of the events I've had at Cask Social have been absolutely wonderful, and I will continue to make it my number one option for parties!