Monday, September 30, 2013

Yachtsea Grille, River Walk, Bradenton

Another Great Escape with our good friends. This time we headed south to Bradenton River Walk’s Yachtsee Grille. I’m guessing the name infers that you can dine and watch yacht’s go by but that’s not the case. Situated within a short walk to the River Walk, the outdoor dining room affords no view at all. It’s more of a hideaway albeit a pleasant one. Canvas panels keep the sun out while allowing the breeze in. What you hear is an awful lot of traffic noise from the access road just beyond the property line. Happily, a singer with his guitar arrived soon after we got there and provided soothing, not-too-loud sounds ranging from Billy Joel to Jimmy Buffet that very effectively drowned out the traffic noise.
We sat at a large granite table with a built in fire pit for a centerpiece and as soon as the night sky approached we got the owner to ‘light our fire’. He obliged and regaled us with stories of how he and his dad had built these special tables. He told us that Yachtsee Grille is the only restaurant in the River Walk complex which certainly credits him with some foresight in procuring the location when the project was still on the drawing board.
If you haven’t yet visited River Walk you must put it on your To Do List. It’s a beautiful planned recreational area that debuted in October 2012. On a previous visit we’d stopped by to observe some daring youngsters at the architecturally awesome Skateboard Park risk broken bones to outdo each other. (not for the squeamish) Check out the park’s event calendar for concerts and other fun stuff they offer
As for the food, I was very pleased with my grilled salmon over yogurt dill sauce with fresh veggies and a salad. Hubby had a large chopped salad and an appetizer of lightly breaded, tender calamari. Everything was fresh and tasty and all eight of us were pleased with the food and service.
Have you ever gone to a restaurant and filled up on appetizers so that you end up taking your expensive Entree home in a doggie bag? It seems like such a waste since it never tastes the same reheated. There are times when I’ve finished my meal and SO wanted a dessert but - not yet – better to wait an hour. So what we do now and then is just order a couple of appetizers, a salad and then share a dessert. It all equals out to around the same cost and the best part is you get to try all those Appies and Desserts that look so tempting. LocalEats featured blog YachtSea Grille on Urbanspoon

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Cooper's Hawk Winery & Restaurant

You can never run out of restaurants in Tampa. The choices are as plentiful and varied as your imagination, palette and wallet can handle. The challenge for our dining out group is to pick from hundreds. We put a lot of thought into our choices, trying to find a restaurant that will appeal to various dietary concerns and culinary sensibilities. Remember the mission statement of The Great Escape is to ‘escape’ from Sun City Center while we’re still able to!
This weekend we visited Cooper's Hawk Winery. Not the actual vineyard, but one of their many restaurants that feature the Cooper's Hawk wines and offer a ‘Scratch” kitchen. I asked our waitress Barbara what that meant and as the word implies, everything on the menu is made from scratch. Our waitress graciously served us all a tasting of their special cask wine blended from five grapes. It was delicious. She happily granted requests for a few other tastings before we all settled on our picks for the evening. One couple in our group ordered a “Flight” of wine – something we’d never heard of before. It consisted of four samplings of wine thoughtfully selected to offer the guest a progression of tastes - it’s hard to pick one when they were all great so this was a delightful way to get the full wine tasting experience.
Here you see the Restaurant Manager Joseph Busicchia demonstrating how they draw their featured wine from the cask into a glass tube and then dispense it into our wineglass. He graciously posed for my photo as recognizing a kindred spirit he swapped NYC memories with my husband.
But let’s get to the food now – enough about the wine – or can there ever be enough wine? My husband and I shared the Ahi Tuna appetizer and an iceberg wedge salad – absolutely delicious. I chose the chopped salad with blackened tenderloin, he chose the Jambalaya which was prepared beautifully with flavors rivaling those we sampled during our recent vacation in New Orleans.
All eight of us were very pleased with our choices. The menu offers a wide range of options so you can choose wisely to meet your budget. Hubby and I are of the mindset to “go big or go home” so maybe we’ll be tightening our dining out budget for the coming month. But once in while you gotta splurge, and you don’t mind doing that when you’re getting a quality meal and excellent service.