A Lovely Night…

Growing up in NJ and being so close to NYC, you would have thought I’d have seen a Broadway show. But sadly no, my childhood is without memories of The Lion King, Annie or Rent (I don’t even know if those shows were on Broadway when I was a child, but we’re just gonna do with it- clearly I’m not a theater buff) Luckily, The Straz Center must have realized this deep void I had in my life and offered up some free tickets to attend the showing of Rodger & Hammerstein’s Cinderella in exchange for this review. Done and Done.

Photo Credit: Tampa Performing Arts Center

Photo Credit: Straz Center

One nice thing about being a blogger is getting the chance to let others tag along for the awesome experiences, and what better person to experience the magic of Cinderella with then your mother? I am fortunate to have my parents live not too far from me so when I asked my mom if she wanted to accompany me she was beyond excited. Tuesday night we got dressed up and headed to the theater. I must say, it all felt very old school and glamorous.

Earlier in the day I was made aware of a great cause the show would be supporting throughout its run here in Tampa. They were inviting people to play a “Fairy Godmother” by bringing their old homecoming and prom dresses, shoes and accessories to the show to donate. All donations would benefit the Belle of the Ball Project which provides items to low-income girls in the area. I was more than happy to donate 3 dresses and was pleased to see others were donating as well, and it was only opening night! 

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I had only seen one performance before at the Straz Center and that was Chelsea Handler. I have to say, this was a bit more tame than Chelsea but equally as entertaining. As we headed inside to our “Tweet Seats” in the Orchestra section, I saw the stage and was completely blown away. Before Cinderella I had only seen plays done by our high school which were actually pretty good (shout out to the Cinnaminson High School Drama Club) but come on- their sets did not look like this. From the first word to the last note I was totally engrossed. The songs, the sneaky jokes, the costume changes! No seriously, the costume changes were insane, were talking let’s just spin in a circle and suddenly my rags are a gold gown. Wild! And my favorite part was how they changed up the story just a bit. I was coming in expecting a Brandy and Whitney Houston story line (let’s just say there’s a surprise)

Photo Credit: Tampa Performing Arts Center

Photo Credit: Straz Center

Not only was the show amazing, but seeing all the mothers and their daughters (some dressed as Cinderella, so cute!) made it even that more special that I could share the experience with my own mom. Thank you to The Straz Center for having us out!

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Bravo!!

Allison

James Beard Benefit Food Coma

If it seems like we’ve been spending a lot of time over at The Epicurean lately… it’s because we have (we can’t help it if they have amazing events going on 24/7 and their hotel is gorgeous) We’ve done Masterchef dinners, wine tastings, pool parties and macaroon eating over at Chocolate Pi, but nothing compares to the 5 hour eating extravaganza that ensued Monday night. I was lucky enough to be invited by a friend to the Friends of James Beard Foundation Benefit Dinner which included dishes from 11 of the most talented chefs from around the Tampa Bay area. I clearly was not going to miss this one.

The night started with some passed hors d’oeuvres on the garden terrace.  A beautiful tent with string lights, comfy lounge areas and of course a bar, greeted us as the dinner guests filed in. We were treated to 6 different tastings from 3 different chefs while sipping on Collet Brut (please keep in mind this was just the beginning of the night) One thing I love about The Epicurean is how great their staff is. Everyone is so friendly, super accommodating and never lets your glass get empty; which is certainly a good thing in my book! (Shout out to Gavin & Roger- you guys are the best!) After about an hour or so, it was time to head inside.

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We were escorted into the Grand Cru ballroom where tables had been set up and decorated beautifully by MMD Events. Many people (including myself) stopped to take pictures of their table before sitting down. I took my seat over at Table 11 and mentally prepared myself for the goodness that was about to come. Our table browsed over the menu and quickly picked out which ones we were excited for. I have to say, I can be a very picky eater (those of you who have dined with me know) but I am someone who is willing to try anything once. Therefore, the red wine braised beef tongue didn’t intimidate me the way it did others. Our courses were each paired with a wine and by the time we got to the end I was struggling to eat or sip another bit, but don’t worry- I got through it. There was no way I was leaving anything on my plate or in my glass. (Also, I will have you know that someone might have mentioned that Table 11 was the only table to send back completely cleared dishes…. I’ll just leave you with that)

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Char Grilled Bern’s Chateaubriand from Chef Habteab Hamde, Mangalista Jowl from Chef Ferrell Alvarez and Dark Chocolate Semifreddo from Chef Chris Ponte

 

It is so hard to choose my favorites from the night so I’ll just run through a few that stood out. As far as the hors d’oeuvres I really enjoyed the Lobster Zeppoles from Chef Michael Buttacavoli of Cena and the Smoke Chicken & Hazelnut Terrine from Chef Marty Blitz of Mise En Place.  Moving onto the seated dishes (this is gonna be tough)- The Mullet Rillettes from Chef Greg Baker of The Refinery and Fodder & Shine and the Mangalista Jowl from Chef Ferrell Alvarez of Rooster and the Till. I won’t even get into dessert because let’s face it, I loved them all. Kudos to Chef Kim Yelvington of Chocolate Pi and the Harry Waugh Dessert Room at Bern’s.

 

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Mullet Rillettes from Chef Greg Baker, Lacquered Quail from Chef Chad Johnson and Lobster & Avocado from Chef BT Nguyen

 

It was such a great night and even better to be out supporting the James Beard Foundation and the Bern Laxer Memorial Scholarship.  The Bern Laxer Memorial Scholarship provides scholarships for students seeking careers in food service and hospitality management.  It was certainly clear to see from all talent in the kitchen that only good things can come from these amazing scholarship opportunities. Congratulations to The Epicurean, Chef Chad Johnson and all the chefs that took part. My stomach thanks you!

 

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Happy Eating! – Allison

Sushi with a Side of Ninja

As many of you know, Ryan’s birthday was last month. As part of his “birthmonth” celebrations (not really, but it did seem like we were celebrating for three weeks straight) we partied one Sunday Funday afternoon at Splash Sundays at The Epicurean Hotel.  After the daytime festivities came to an end, Allison, Ryan and I found ourselves sitting on the couch and VERY hungry. Fun fact about us: When we aren’t indulging on a trio dip and street tacos from Green Lemon, we love chowin’ down on some sushi. And that’s where the search began.

So, we were on the hunt for some sushi late on Sunday night. It just so happens we did some searching and it was the grand opening night of the Tampa location of Sushi Ninja. Located on Kennedy Boulevard right near Miguel’s, Sushi Ninja serves up a combo of Japanese and Korean food all under one roof. With their modern flair, the “ninjas” at Sushi Ninja have perfected their star throwing, tucking and rolling and judo chopping to put together delicious sushi combinations. We walked in not sure what to expect and were greeted by a live singer serenading patrons with his best vibrato.

Sushi Ninja Tampa

Once we got to our seat, we were told that as part of the grand opening, they were serving up some free lychee sangrias to celebrate. Obviously, we didn’t want to be rude, so we accepted the offer for the free cocktails and cheers’ed up to another great night in Tampa Bay. After looking through the menu, there was so much to choose from. I started light with a fresh, chicken broth soup and Ryan ordered a ginger salad.  So far… we were off to a fresh and authentic start!

Sushi Ninja Tampa

As we continued our eating tour of Sushi Ninja, we learned that Executive Sushi Chef, Mimi Kang, has been serving the highest quality of fresh sushi and sashimi at their Brandon location for over 13 years. We had finished our first course and ordered up some more food to enjoy. Ryan went for the Ninja Beef (love the name) and Allison and I went for sushi. I got the Shrimp Tempura and Spicy, Crunchy Tuna Rolls while Allison got the Volcano Roll. While we waited for the food to come, Allison commented on the HUGE mural behind us on the wall, so we obviously felt it would be the prime time for a photo op #bambooroom #sushininjaselfie. The food came pretty quickly and as you can see by the lack of photos, it was eaten so fast I couldn’t get a pic. I would take this as a definite sign of success.

Sushi Ninja Tampa Fried Ice Cream

After dinner, we were planning on heading home, but couldn’t resist the offer of some of Sushi Ninja’s fried ice cream. After all, it was STILL Ryan’s birthday. So they brought out the fried ice cream, we serenaded him with some Happy Birthday and we dug right on in to that fried ball of deliciousness!Sushi Ninja Tampa Fried Ice CreamAfter the meal, we took a quick tour of the place and got to meet the owners. They were very excited to have us and were so overwhelmed at the response they got on their first day of business in South Tampa. The room we were in was relatively small, but do not worry, there is PLENTY of restaurant space for customers to enjoy the ninja awesomeness. So if you are on the hunt for some sushi in South Tampa, look no further than Sushi Ninja. You won’t be disappointed!

 

-Nicholas

 
Sushi Ninja on Urbanspoon

SoHo Hunt

Hey Everyone! We are so pumped to announce our latest adventure! SoHo Hunt is a fun-filled scavenger hunt around South Tampa that challenges YOU and a teammate to local trivia and tasks. Check out our video announcement for more info and the link to buy tickets. Get them quick before there are none left! We also want to thank our friends at Chais Realty, our presenting sponsor, for all of their support.

http://www.eventbrite.com/e/soho-hunt-tickets-13275468283

Wining and Dining

Another weekend, another festival (not that we’re complaining) and this particular festival  just so happened to feature two of my favorite things- wine & food (clearly I’m the PG-21 rated version of Julie Andrews. Raindrops on Roses? Get real) I am talking about the Tampa Bay Wine and Food Festival which was held at the Straz Center over the weekend. It featured the Southern Charm Wine and Food Gala and Auction on Friday night and continued into Saturday for the Grand Tasting. We were lucky enough to be invited out to both events and let’s just say I’m still coming off my wine buzz days later.

Friday night’s event was black tie optional and not wanting to be scrub status I had to make sure my outfit was acceptable. Therefore lots of outfit changes and roommate advice were experienced before I was good to go. Once decided a friend and I Lyfted over to the event. We grabbed our glasses and headed upstairs to the VIP area. First things first, get in line for a drink. Here is where I was confused, the first drink I had at the Wine and Food Festival was a margarita (I do love myself some tequila) While it was delicious I noticed throughout the weekend the event featured not only wine but some liquor as well. I guess wine isn’t for everyone…

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We grabbed scallops from Publix, lobster rolls from Tampa Palms (and a member for the day card. 18 holes here we come!) cheese from Target (although it was frowned upon by some people- you know who you are) and much more. Now I’m not sure if I missed multiple food stations, but to be honest it didn’t seem like there was much to munch on. There was definitely plenty of wine to go around though. As we weaved our way in and out of the large crowd to the silent auction area we checked out the night’s prizes. Besides items you could bid on, there were a few vendor selling wine glasses and accessories and a band for entertainment. Leaving I wasn’t sure if I could do the whole thing again less than 24 hours later. But who are we kidding, I rallied like a champ.

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Saturday was a lot more laid back, and way more comfortable in my sandals. Also, way more crowded. A few friends had purchased their tickets on Living Social a few weeks back so we headed over in a big group for a day of drinking and eating. Like I said, Day 2 was packed and it was almost uncomfortable trying to maneuver in the narrow spots but after a few glasses of wine we were making new friends in tight corners. Saturday’s event spanned an even larger area and seemed to have way more food. We were upstairs, then downstairs, there was even Jersey Mike’s serving food outside.

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One thing I will say for this event was thank god it was inside. After being outside at events all summer it was clutch to be cool in the AC. Sure, we know it’s getting into fall but it’s still Florida people!!  Despite the amount of wine I consumed this weekend I still may go home and have a glass tonight. After all, I did find a few new favorites!

Salud- Allison

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