Boozin’ and Bakin’

It’s the most wonderful time of the year (well almost) and the holidays mean 3 things: family, food and a few too many cocktails. And while I would much rather indulge in the later two than actually prepare the meals, I have my domestic moments from time to time. From a young age I’ve been the boxed brownie queen of the kitchen but as time goes on there are only so many ways to spice them up. However, “spiking” them up never occurred to me until I headed over to Chef Beth’s Cupcakes & Cocktails class at the Epicurean Theatre.

Chef Beth, of Cloud 9 Confections hosted her second class at the theatre on Tuesday night and I have to say, I’m bummed I missed the first one (especially the margarita cupcake) but I was lucky enough to catch this one. This class featured fall themed cupcakes that included Pumpkin Spice, Hard Apple Cider and Bourbon Chocolate Pecan. During the class, she demoed the Bourbon Chocolate Pecan cupcake while we had the pleasure of sipping on some cocktails crafted by one of my favorite Elevage bartenders, Roger.

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The first was a Pumpkin Prosecco. With Pumpkin Spiced Lattes and Pumpkin Spiced beers popping up all over the place I would expect nothing less than to mix pumpkin with a little Prosecco. And while I can’t really categorize myself a “basic” since I don’t rush right out to Starbucks on the day the PSL is released, this cocktail had me rethinking my “basic” status. We sampled the Chocolate Bourbon Pecan batter and whewww could you taste the bourbon. We were about 45 minutes in and I was beginning to feel my buzz before the second cocktail was in my hand or the first cupcake was on my plate.

Next up, Chef Beth would be mixing up the Bourbon Chocolate Buttercream while we were handed the hard apple cocktail, my favorite cocktail of the night. A mix of gin, lemon juice, Concord juice and Crispin Hard Apple Cider, this may become my new go-to when visiting the Epicurean. A few minutes later, it was time for the hands on portion of the night. We headed to the front of the theatre and took our places at different work stations where we were able to fill, frost and top off the cupcakes to our liking, all while enjoying a bourbon cocktail.

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At the end of the night we were lucky enough to go home with a strong buzz and 6 cupcakes in a take home container. The only thing I’m upset about is that I didn’t get to try the homemade bark that I’ve heard so much about (or the toffee, chocolate covered pretzels and cookies) If you’re interested in checking out her next class, it’s December 16th and you can get your tickets now here.

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The Blind Tiger Sinks Its Claws Into Ybor City

Ybor is getting a new flavor and the bite that packs the biggest punch is The Blind Tiger Cafe, located at 1901 E. 7th Ave in the historic Ybor City district. Serving up delicious coffee brewed from Buddy Brew and teas made by TeBella Tea Company, this place knows how to keep customers craving more. Not only are they a cafe but, the Blind Tiger is also the home to local retailers, Black and Denim Apparel Company.

Black and Denim is a lifestyle brand created with 100% American raw materials and is inspired by Americana, Music and the American lifestyle. Specializing in clothes and accessories for both men and women and sold right here in Tampa Bay, Black and Denim promotes the “shop local” motto and invites customers to try their “made in America” apparel and leather goods.

This past week, we were invited to check out the space at 1901 E. 7th Ave for a media preview before the grand opening and found lots of cool design elements happening in the space. After a few seconds glancing around the room, we knew why we loved the decor so much… Schiller Salvage had put their touch on the space! Working to transform an old, beat up office space into a funky and sleek new cafe and textile shop was not an easy task, but The Blind Tiger Cafe has done just that.

And I almost forgot… the above is only HALF of the space at the location. In the adjoining space next store, CoWork Ybor has opened up shop. CoWork Ybor offers a space for creatives to utilize aside from their home or office to work. It provides killer WiFi and a funky space for people to come and work and gain support from like-minded individuals in the community.

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All in all, this new addition to Ybor City has so much to offer there is no doubt you need to stop in and check it out! Veronica from the Cafe and Chris and Roberto from Black and Denim have created an experience that you have to go and see for yourselves. The grand opening is this Thursday, November 13th from 5-7pm, so head on down to Ybor City to check out this awesome new edition to Tampa Bay! And when you do, be sure to grab a coffee, some new threads and enjoy 1901 E. 7Th Ave!

- Nicholas
Blind Tiger Cafe on Urbanspoon

Zeal, For Real?

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We all know that I am quick to find a need to go shopping for household items for no real reason, so when we heard our friends at Rarehues were having a party and ribbon cutting for the newly- added Zeal Coffee Roasters that is located inside their store, I found a way to “clear my schedule” to make it there on Friday night to check it out!

Zeal Coffee Roasters has its original location in Lutz, a bit of a hike for this South Tampanian, but none the less, we followed them closely on social media and a few months ago and Allison and I were lucky enough to check out their mobile, Cold Brew party Bus to snag a taste of the coffee they make!

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From our past trips to Rarehues, I knew that they serve up some really unique housing gifts, furniture, jewelry and more (all with a modern, vintage twist). With the addition of Zeal Coffee Roasters opening within the market, they now serve up even more awesomeness to customers. When we walked up to the counter, we were immediately intrigued by the design of the coffee shop. It was very modern and sleek with varying tones of gray with pops of crisp white (our favorite)! I ordered myself a iced caramel latte, white I chugged down during one lap around the store. We are so happy for both our friends at Rarehues and Zeal Coffee Roasters for all of their continued success and look forward to many more shopping experiences while sipping on a coffee to keep me moving (Shh, just don’t tell Ryan).

Vintage Tampa Bay Carrollwood

Rarehues Modern Vintage Market

 

-Nicholas

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 than 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; we’re 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 much 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

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