Local Bites: World of Beer Tampa International

by Jennifer Thai in ,

Anyone who knows me knows that if they invite me out for drinks, there'd better be food involved, which is why I was so excited to learn of the newest World of Beer (WOB) location at Tampa International and the options on its tavern menu. Most people's reaction when it comes to World of Beer and food: "Wait - they serve food?Yes, yes they do, and it's pretty darn delicious.

My sister and I had the chance to squeeze some twinnie time in just before the Thanksgiving holiday and checked out the menu for ourselves. The two-story space itself is vast and gorgeous - the venue also features outdoor seating accompanied with fire pits and a flight deck on the second level with its own bar. Inside, you can keep track of arriving and departing flights at Tampa International Airport.

One cool thing to note is the infusion tower located at the bar inside - WOB works with breweries to develop flavor infusions that pair best with beers, and these infusions rotate regularly. Our server noted that the last infusion offered was a mix of chocolate and cherries - YUM.

We opted for our favorite lambic beers this time around.

German Pretzel: Served with a house-made stone ground mustard.

Spring Greens & Kale Salad: Fresh spring greens & kale with goat cheese, apples, sweet pickled red onions & candied pecans tossed in a house-made Framboise vinaigrette.

Steak Frites: Marinated flat-iron steak grilled & thinly sliced, served with steamed broccoli, fries & garlic aioli for dipping.

IPA Salmon: Fresh Grilled Salmon, brushed with our Spicy IPA Glaze, Red skin mashed potatoes & steamed broccoli.

Belgian Waffle S'mores: Light & crispy, fresh baked, Belgian beer-infused waffles with toasted marshmallow, drizzled with a KahlĂșa fudge sauce, & topped with graham cracker crumbles & powdered sugar.

My must-order picks:

  • German Pretzel: This is definitely shareable, and you cannot go wrong with ordering a side of WOB's house-made beer cheese to go along with it. The texture is that of a perfect soft-baked pretzel - just a touch of crispiness on the outside and soft and fluffy on the inside.
  • Steak Frites: The steak is seasoned just right - I requested mine medium-rare and it came out perfectly. Fries were as good as steak-cut fries can get (I'm more of a thin-cut fries girl).
  • Belgian Waffle S'more: DO NOT leave WOB without ordering this dessert - you will not regret it one bit. The Kahlua fudge was oh-so-fudgy and the portion was just right for us to share.

World of Beer - Tampa International is located at 5311 Avion Park Drive in Tampa. It is open Sunday through Tuesday from 11 a.m. to 12 a.m., Wednesday and Thursday from 11 a.m. to 1 a.m. and Saturday from 11 a.m. to 2 a.m. You can view the menu here. For additional updates from the World of Beer - Tampa International location, follow along on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

*Disclosure: The meal featured in this post was provided by World of Beer 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 World of Beer. 

Local Bites: Better Byrd in St. Pete

by Jennifer Thai

I've always been a huge fan of the Ciccio Restaurant Group (CRG). From Fresh Kitchen to Daily Eats, they never seem to disappoint. And with the addition of a new restaurant concept in the Tampa Bay area, they are continuing to kill it. Better Byrd recently opened in St. Petersburg, next door to its sister restaurant, Fresh Kitchen, on 4th Street. Better Byrd is, according to CRG, "fast-food reimagined" - its focus is on 100% hormone-free chicken options, from sandwiches to bowls, and mini donuts to pair them with.

I was able to check out the CRG's new digs, and taste some of their favorite Better Byrd menu items. Check it ALL out:

Homemade Strawberry Lemonade

Bacon Sriracha Queso Fries

Sweet Potato Tots: Served with a whipped maple dip

The NumberOne: Buttermilk fried chicken, lettuce, house-made pickles and CluckSauce on a sesame bun or whole wheat wrap

The Cheesy Chick: Buttermilk fried chicken, whipped goat cheese, and pepper jelly on a homemade English muffin

My must-order picks:

  • Homemade Strawberry Lemonade: It's rare that I order lemonade when I go out - they tend to be too sweet for my liking; but, Better Byrd's house-made lemonade is the perfect balance of sweet and tart, the way lemonade should be!
  • Bacon Sriracha Queso Fries: The name in and of itself should explain why this is a must-order. Thin, crispy fries are doused with a creamy Sriracha queso and a good sprinkle of crumbled bacon. Word of advice: Always eat the queso fries first, as an appetizer and not as a side - they're way more enjoyable when fresh and hot.
  • The NumberOne: Original is the way to go. The housemade pickles on this baby are so deliciously and pickly tart, I'd order a side of them just to snack on.
  • Mini Donuts: My favorite flavors were the Lemon Papi Thyme, Cracker Jacks, Maple Bacon Walnut and Matcha Ginger - all were a great combination of both flavors and textures!

Better Byrd is located at 4447 4th Street North in St. Petersburg. It is open Monday through Friday from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m., Saturday from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. and Sunday from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. You can view the menu here. For additional updates from Better Byrd, follow along on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

*Disclosure: The meal featured in this post was provided by Better Byrd 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 Better Byrd or Ciccio Restaurant Group.

Local Bites: Chef Marc Murphy + Chef Anne Burrell Dinner at Grey Salt

by Jennifer Thai in ,

I had the honor of being invited to attend a special culinary demonstration and dinner hosted by Seminole Hard Rock Tampa last week, featuring two of my favorite celebrity chefs, Chef Marc Murphy and Chef Anne Burrell. To say that these two are a dynamic duo, is an understatement. For the culinary demonstration, we convened in the Plum VIP Lounge to watch them prepare a savory spaghetti carbonara and share their best preparation and cooking tips.

Chef Anne Burrell & Chef Marc Murphy

After a fun and, of course, hilarious demonstration, we all moved to Chef Marc Murphy's Grey Salt restaurant at the Seminole Hard Rock Tampa, where we were able to enjoy a four-course meal prepared by both Chef Anne Burrell and Chef Marc Murphy. The first two courses, a wilted romaine salad and a mushroom farrotto were prepared by Anne, who came out to the dining area after each course was served to introduce and explain each dish.

I'm not usually a fan of fruit paired with salad, but this salad was the perfect balance, as the zesty dressing paired wonderfully with the sweetness of the pear. I really enjoyed the mushroom farrotto - the dish was perfectly cooked, and I savored every last bite.

First Course, by Chef Anne Burrell: Wilted Romaine & Roasted Pear Salad

Second Course, by Chef Anne Burrell: Mushroom Farrotto & Herbs

Chef Anne Burrell

As we finished up our second course, Chef Marc Murphy began preparing our third and fourth courses, a savory porchetta with a slow-poached egg on top, and a decadently satisfying salted caramel pudding, served with a chocolate-covered, salted pretzel rod. The skin of the pork roast was perfect - not overly chewy, yet not overcooked, and the yolk of the slow-poached egg helped balance the flavor of the red pepper. As can be expected, my favorite course of the evening was the salted caramel pudding. I can't even begin to describe how delightful it was. The pudding was sweet, dense and indulgent, and when paired with the salty, chocolate-y flavor of the pretzel rod, was the most perfect salted caramel flavor that I'd ever tasted. 

Third Course, by Chef Marc Murphy: Porchetta with Red Pepper & Slow Poached Egg

Final Course, by Chef Marc Murphy: Salted Caramel Pudding

Chef Marc Murphy

We truly enjoyed our evening at Grey Salt - not only were we surrounded by great food, but also great company. Seminole Hard Rock Tampa never disappoints when it comes to the events that they host, and for me personally, the food-related events are the best. To keep updated on the latest restaurant events happening at the Seminole Hard Rock Tampa, visit its Dining Blog.

Chef Anne Burrell & Chef Marc Murphy

Time Flies {JORD Wood Watches Giveaway!}

by Jennifer Thai in

Holy moly. I can't believe that we're already planning for the holidays - it seems like just yesterday, it was April/May, and I was celebrating This Jenn Girl's two-year anniversary! As much as it is hard to believe, realistically, it's unsurprising. Between my role at HSN, writing/capturing photos for the blog and freelancing on the side, it has been one blur of a year! Thanks to my friends at JORD, I've discovered a perfect, functional timepiece to keep me on track and on time for all of life's big and little moments.

I'm sure I've said it before in another post, and I'll say it again - I love it when fashion meets function. With my Frankie 35 Series wood watch from JORD, I can either dress it up or wear it casually, and I adore the mint face paired with the dark sandalwood - it gives the piece a great pop of color. 

Whether it's an afternoon acai bowl date with the girls or an evening out with the beau, my wood watch keeps me stylishly present, and I'm amazed by how many people ask me about it. I think we're so used to either metal or leather banded watches, that a wood watch is deemed out-of-the-ordinary, and I receive so many compliments and questions about it. And to my dashing male friends out there, don't feel left out - JORD offers both women's and men's watch styles.

Through my partnership with JORD, I'm giving you a chance to win a $75 e-gift card so that you can treat yourself this holiday season with a gorgeous timepiece from JORD! And even if you don't win, you'll still receive a $20 e-gift code just for participating. >>>ENTER HERE<<< The contest ends at 11:59 p.m. ET on Sunday, 11/20 and the e-gift codes will expire on 2/28/2017.

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

Local Bites: Pelagia Trattoria's Thanksgiving Prix Fixe Menu

by Jennifer Thai in ,

It's almost crazy to think that Thanksgiving is just around the corner - it feels like just yesterday, I was complaining about Halloween decor already being hung up and sold at all the supermarkets. For some, there just isn't enough time to prepare a holiday meal for guests, and let's face it - for others, there just isn't the necessary culinary talent.

Rather than heading to your nearest Village Inn or Cracker Barrel, consider Pelagia Trattoria instead, located within the Renaissance Hotel at International Plaza. On Thanksgiving Day, Pelagia Trattoria will be open and featuring Executive Chef Brett Gardiner's take on some Thanksgiving favorites in a special prix fixe menu - three courses of your choice for just $45 per person (and vegans, there are options for you, too!). The price also includes one complimentary glass of Prosecco or sparkling apple cider. I had the opportunity to taste all of these items at a tasting on Friday evening - keep scrolling for all the details and for my must-order picks!

Brett Gardiner, Executive Chef

My must-order picks:

  • Seared Shrimp and Crab Cake: This pick was a no-brainer - the shrimp and crab cake was succulent and full of flavor. The accompanying saffron cilantro crĂšme fraiche was the perfect pairing.
  • Slow-Roasted Standing Rib Roast: I'm partial on this one. I cannot resist a good rib roast for the holidays and I always joke about how I never get one for Thanksgiving - my family always makes me wait for Christmas. The Chianti demi-glace has a slight sweetness that perfectly accompanies the seasoned rib roast.
  • Pumpkin Tiramisu or Chocolate-Gelato Stuffed Cream Puffs: Okay, this one was a little more of a difficult choice. It really depends on what your palate is craving. If you're a fan of pumpkin, the tiramisu was fluffy, light and wondrous. If you're more of a dark chocolate fan, you cannot go wrong with the chocolate gelato cream puffs with chocolate ganache. Rich, decadent and delicious.

Pelagia Trattoria is located within the Renaissance Hotel at International Plaza, at 4200 Jim Walter Blvd in Tampa. Thanksgiving reservations for the prix fixe menu are available from noon to 8 p.m. on Thanksgiving Day, Nov. 24 - reservations can be made via phone at 813-313-3235 or online here.

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!