Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Sunday Brunch at Bonefish Grill, Brandon

My cousin Grace threw herself a birthday brunch bash at Bonefish Grill in Brandon - our very favorite restaurant. The family gathered around and celebrated her while we indulged in some delicious food. This was our first time trying their Sunday Brunch and it was fabulous. Especially the Unlimited Bubbles - I chose the Bellini which was so tasty I was smacking my lips. I had three! (Don't judge me) Bonefish Grill Brandon has recently undergone a major overhaul and transformed their already lovely restaurant by kicking it up a notch. New kitchen, new furnishings, newly defined areas with some really lovely architectural details. A bar that emits a warm glow of welcome and a new outdoor dining space. Robert Hayman, their resident concierge has become a friend. He is gracious, cares about the customer experience, and does his best to make you feel welcome. Perhaps it's his butler training that makes him eminently qualified to excel at his job.
The brunch menu offers a wide array of luscious meals. Mike and I had the Surf & Turf Eggs Benedict (Filet Mignon Tips topped with a generous amount of Lobster meat and then topped with a perfectly cooked egg and Hollandaise Sauce). The Kobe Burgers were declared 'best I ever ate' by Martha & Rick. Hubby went for the Scallops and ate every scrap. The Fish N Chips Aida ordered was a massive dish and half went home to enjoy later. Howard opted for the Creme Brulee French Toast and enjoyed it very much. Of course there was dessert! Creme Brulee, Jamaican Rum Coconut Custard Pie, and Brownie with Ice Cream.
Bonefish Grill has everything we want. Great food, impeccable service, beautiful ambiance. Managing Partner Emin Hadziosmanovic also stopped by to greet us and make sure we were being well taken care of. We assured him all was very well. It's become "Our Place" and we'll be back often. Thanks again to our gracious birthday girl for this special treat.
1015 Providence Road, Brandon, FL 33511
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Monday, October 24, 2016

Ciccio Cali, Riverview

Ciccio Cali - Bowl Culture
It was Girls Night Out and we headed over to Ciccio Cali thinking that it would be like the Ciccio Water we tried a couple years ago in Tampa. But they are different in many ways. Ciccio Cali is light and airy, almost cafeteria like but a cool and modern cafeteria with a European flair for the minimal. It took us a while to study the menu but once we figured it out we all decided to immerse ourselves in BOWL CULTURE and it was terrific.
I had the Tuna Poke, Seared rare ahi tuna with fresh minced ginger, cilantro, jicama and cucumber topped with yuzu tobikko, sesame seeds and spicy rayu ponzu sauce. I wisely asked for the ponzu sauce on the side cause I'm a lightweight when it comes to spicy and the dish had just enough heat without it.
HOT & CRUNCHY TUNA Seared rare ahi tuna, scallions, jicama, avocado and cucumber topped with tempura battered onions, sesame seeds and sriracha aioli.
BOWL CULTURE - Choose between rice (yellow, sticky, brown), Kale Blend, Spaghetti Squash (+2), Chilled Asian Noodles (+2) / Add more protein (chicken +2, steak +3, tuna +3) OR Go Vegetarian! Sub veggie and broccoli mix (no charge)
Pictured here is the Fajita Bowl and the 'Phelps' which featured roasted eggplant, broccoli, chicken, goat cheese over Napa mix and quinoa salad. It was very tasty!
All in all a pleasant experience with excellent service. We capped off the night by taking a short walk through the plaza to Starbucks where we sipped decaf cappucino's and watched the fabulous evening sky (Photo credit to Cheryl). We'll definitely be back.
http://www.cicciocali.com/menu/dinner/ 11230 Sullivan St, Riverview, FL 33578 Ciccio Cali Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato View my food journey on Zomato!

Sunday, September 4, 2016


My original pick PLAN A this week was Stillwaters Tavern in Downtown St. Pete. After watching Hurricane Weather reports for days we somehow got it into our heads that driving to that neck of the woods was probably not a good idea - wind, rain, flooding, no parking, holiday weekend, etc.
So I selected PLAN B the newly opened Tibby's New Orleans Kitchen in Brandon. Reviews of their other locations were favorable so I had high hopes and gave them a call. They don't take reservations or call aheads "yet" but maybe in the future. So we took a chance and upon arrival we were told it would be a one hour and forty minute wait (GASP) for a table. Naturally we decided not to stay. The place was jumping with enthusiasm and we felt disappointed to be turned away. I have only myself to blame, for what was I thinking trying out a restaurant open only FOUR DAYS in the middle of a holiday weekend!? We'll plan on going back for a late lunch and see what all the fuss is about. Last minute changes are awkward with a large group but we salvaged the night by going to the nearby Miller's Brandon Ale House PLAN C . There we were greeted warmly and seated quickly (I guess everyone else in Brandon was standing on line at Tibby's!).
Brandon Ale House offers typical pub food with some surprising twists on their menu like Cajun Chicken and Jambalaya (I'm guessing these would likely pale in comparison to the new place down the block). We settled in for burgers or ribs or cobb salads and hubby bravely went for the Osso Buco - something else you wouldn't expect on a pub menu (pictured here with some disturbing plating techniques don't you think?) It was all okay but nothing exciting. A safe port in the storm.
Dessert at our house was also a PLAN B in that I'd asked hubby to pick up a Pecan Pie to go along with the Cajun theme but Publix didn't have any so he selected one of their very yummy apple pies. Still, it wasn't Cajun - but then again, neither was our meal. It just shows you that you need to remain flexible and go with the flow and keep a sense of humor - especially when the sun had come out to mock me and my original concerns to avoid St. Pete. Stay tuned for reviews of PLANS A & B because I'm determined to go sometime soon.
Brandon Ale House 1817 W. Brandon Blvd., Brandon, FL 33511 / 813-643-0511 www.millersalehouse.com/location/brandon-ale-house
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Tuesday, August 9, 2016

The Moon Under Water, St. Pete

It's been years since I've been to an English Pub and I was lucky enough to visit a few in London so I can spot an authentic one when I see it. The Moon Under Water hits all the right notes for ambiance, and it has a pretty cool story to it's name. It refers to the trickery employed by 18th Century Recruiting Sergeants who would drop a Queen's shilling into the tankard of ale of some unsuspecting drunk while he wasn't looking. When the unwitting fellow got to the bottom and saw the shilling, that meant he was conscripted into the British Army because he'd 'accepted' the shilling. Thus the glass bottomed tankard was invented to allow a bloke to look under his mug and see the offending coin and thereby avoid drinking it. The sight of the shilling under water and the foam above became known as "The Moon Under Water."
The menu has something for everyone's taste and our party of eight enjoyed a variety of goodies. I had the Chicken Pot Pie and while it was tasty, I didn't much care for the gravy that held it all together as it was a little too thick. Several of our group had the Fish and Chips and all declared it a winner.
The servings were huge. Kathy had The Moon Cobb Salad, an extremely large portion that she fully enjoyed and still took some home for lunch the next day. Hollie had the Tandoori Chicken and some Chick Pea Naan type of bread and it looked amazing as well as tasting delicious. Hmmmm, I think I'll order that next time or better yet just let Hollie order for me. Ever wonder why there'd be Indian food on a British Pub menu? It dates back to the British colonization and the lucrative spice trade which introduced these flavors to English society. An 1852 cookbook stated 'few dinners are thought complete unless at least one curry is on the table".
Cheryl and I washed it all down with a delicious Malbec wine that went down very smooth. So the whole experience was lovely except for an unapologetic waiter who didn't seem to like that hubby complained that his salad and meal were brought together. We dine out quite often and it is customary for one's salad course to be served first. So when hubby objected and said he didn't want the salad anymore our waiter seemed to blame HIM for the confusion instead of just apologizing for the misunderstanding. Bad form. Dessert and coffee at the Kaplans finished off the evening with shared stories and laughter, the best digestive. We were already planning our next "Escape" so stay tuned for more delicious stories.
332 Beach Dr NE, St. Petersburg, FL 33701
The Moon Under Water Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato
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Sunday, July 31, 2016

MI CASA, Apollo Beach, FL

MI CASA ES SU CASA......(My house is your house) These are words I heard often growing up as my mom welcomed everyone to our home with arms open wide and no judgments, just love. Last night we dined at this authentic Mexican restaurant and it was a winner. It had been quite a while since we'd been here. I don't know about you but sometimes a perfectly good restaurant will fall off your radar for a time, especially when there are so many good dining options out there.
We were happy to be back again enjoying good food, pleasant service and beautiful décor. I love the chairs here! They create such a warm and happy atmosphere and of course they're sturdy and comfy.
I couldn't believe the line of people waiting to get in, people of all ages, couples, large families - this place was jumping and no wonder...the food was delicious. Cheryl and I indulged in yummy Margarita's that were just the right amount of tart. They were the perfect accompaniment to the toasty warm tortilla chips and salsa. I loved how they gave each of us our own footed salsa bowl cause I didn't want to share, and besides not sharing meant we could double dip if we pleased. (It's the little things no?) I had the Chicken Fajitas and they were very good. My only complaint was they were served in three parts - a sizzling platter, a dish piled high with rice, beans, shredded lettuce, guacamole etc...and then my flour tortillas were rolled up in tin foil. I should have had a third plate on which to assemble my fajitas rather than eat out of the foil and drip onto my lap. Mind you that didn't stop me from eating every bite, but I fairly had to be hosed down afterwards. Hubby had a salad topped with fried shrimp and served in a large taco shell. Cheryl had Fish Tacos, and Ken had Chuleta de Puerco (Pork Chop). He practiced the pronunciation a few times before the waitress came so I'll give him a B+ for trying to sound Latino. Most dishes are served with a side of yellow or white rice and your choice of black or red beans.
Let's talk about beans. I grew up in a Puerto Rican household where beans were cooked several times a week but I refused to eat them. It wasn't until I was forty that my Italian husband convinced me to try them and boy did I love them. I could kick myself for all those years I drove my poor mom crazy with my picky eating habits. And while there are subtle differences in cuisine from Puerto Rico, Cuba and Mexico, the black beans are pretty much the same. By now I consider myself somewhat of an expert and in fact hubby declares often that no one cooks black beans better than me. Here's my simple recipe - buy a can of GOYA black beans (and yes, it must be GOYA!) and follow the directions faithfully - but make sure you (A) cook your Sofrito (peppers/onions/garlic) down long enough to develop the flavors and until its very translucent and (B) during the cooking process run the back of your spoon around the pan capturing about a half dozen or so beans and squishing them against the side of the pot - this helps thicken the liquid. Voila (or Ole) perfect beans.
Nutritional Fact: A 1/2-cup serving of cooked black beans, which is 86 grams, contains 113 calories. With 1.3 calories per gram, black beans are a low-energy-dense food, which means calorie content is low compared to weight. This makes them a more filling food because you can eat a large portion without going overboard on calories
10283 Big Bend Rd, Riverview, FL 33578 · ~4.8 mi
(813) 677-6559
Mi Casa Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato
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Saturday, June 25, 2016

Earl's Rib Palace, Edmond, OK

The first thing you have to know about Earl's Rib Palace is that Earl's most famous admirer was Elvis Presley! Earl traveled with the King as his personal chef for several years. Earl's food was so good that Elvis gained a whopping 50 pounds during that time. I'd say that was a pretty good endorsement. We took a lunch break after getting the three penny tour of OKC and I threw down on the chopped brisket sandwich smothered with some real good barbecue sauce and balanced it out with a side salad. I cleaned my plate.....no dieting this week. Tara went for the sliced brisket and loved it (she's been here before!) Now hubby had the same thing but he thought it was dry. The perfect brisket would have some of that luscious fat along the edge and so he missed that.
It's a charming place with a friendly, casual atmosphere and kitchy bbq design. Earl's has six locations in Oklahoma and prides itself on knowing how the Okies like their barbecue. Judging by the lunch time crowd I'd say they're right about that.
Under the heading "it's a small world" Tara was approached by a nice young man who recognized that some six years previously she'd been his teacher at Taft Middle School. Hugs all around and even his parents came forward to meet the teach. We're so proud she's remembered so fondly by her students. Obviously she's an awesome teacher. Emails were exchanged and he shared his plans for college. It was a lovely chance meeting.
2121 S Broadway, Edmond, OK 73013
Earl's Rib Palace Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Boulevard Steak House, Edmond, OK

Who doesn't love a good steak? Dining in a real "Steak House" is always a treat and given it's price point, we reserve these nights out for special occasions. We were visiting newly found sister Tara & Warren in Oklahoma for the first time and they treated us for hubby's birthday to her favorite Steak House - Boulevard. The really good steak houses all have that same atmosphere of rich dark old world mahogany and wood paneling, low lights, waiters dressed in formal black & white that offer impeccable service. There's always a fabulous bar serving martinis. Boulevard hits all the points and more.
We started with a delicious 2014 Bodega Norton Malbec that was the perfect accompaniment to our Filet Mignon. Being a purist, I had mine plain - no steak sauce, no toppings - when I get a good expensive steak that's all I want to taste. And boy was it good. Tender, juicy and flavorful. Tara ordered hers rare and I ordered mine medium rare. Our waitress did something I've never seen done before (and I've eaten at quite a few good steak houses). She served our plates and asked us to please slice into the middle and confirm that they were the correct doneness. Turns out they had been flipped so a quick swap of plates delivered to us our perfect steaks. Hubby had the 12 oz. Rib Eye and it was perfection. All the steaks they serve are PRIME and you really can tell the difference.
Apologies for the dark pictures but the restaurant was very dimly lit. Frankly I'm all for atmosphere but would prefer a little more light when I'm eating. While there was just no room for dessert, Tara went for the Crème Brulee and devoured it while I indulged in a Cappuccino and hubby had an Espresso. We left quite satisfied and added this to our list of great Steak Houses to frequent.
505 South Boulevard, Edmond, OK 73034, 405-715-2333
Boulevard Steakhouse Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato