Wednesday, April 30, 2014

I have my Fetish, do your have yours? Fetishes delivers in style

We went to Fetishes for first time after experiencing a terrible, no-good horrific week.  It was the perfect evening of delicious food and wine to ease our tattered & battered nerves. Fetishes is a lovely restorative, an impressive throw-back to the continental dining style that nourishes our soul.  We were impressed from the calm, quietly elegant interior to the impressive cork bar laid by hand by Bruce, the cordial owner.  Fetishes has an excellent wine list, offering many two glass pours, which is a lovely option when you have divergent tastes at the table.  We sat at a quiet table, in the corner, it was delightfully semi-private.  Jenn was our more than competent and attentive server, along with tableside service from Bruce.
My apologies, this is the only photo available from our meal....I neglected to charge the phone, hence the camera was not available.  It only means that we have to return to Fetishes to correct this abomination of a blogger error.  There is a method to my madness.  Did I say that?  Oops, need to use my inside voice.

I was thrilled to see blonde Lillet as an aperitif (now I want Lillet rouge).  I rarely see this offered in restaurants.  I can remember many a supper with a former beau, that started with a glass of Lillet with fresh radishes, soft butter, salt and toasty baguettes.  I digress, again, where is that  pesky inside voice when I need her?   As a former fine dining server, back in the day, I have to confess that the tableside service was my culinary weakness at first.  I used to carve and flambe tableside, with my own horror stories to share of my initial mistakes.  I once flipped a rack of lamb to the floor and in one (151 rum) flaming mistake took off my eyebrows and lashes.  Remember, a mistake is never a mistake as long as it isn't repeated.  Errors are lessons learned as my motto and I'm sticking to it.  That said, I love the intimacy and cordiality of fine dining with the host/owner as your guide.   Tableside presentation is truly an art, not only in preparing the food, but in having the patter, and personality to engage your diner.  I have to say that Bruce "does it right."  It was downright delightful to exchange our collective memories of our serving past.  Bruce has impeccable "street cred."  We do share many friends and that just added to the "feel good sensation" at Fetishes.

While discussing our dinner choices for the evening, Jenn overheard my concern with the Mister regarding the escargot appetizer and the possible garlic overload content.  She quietly mentioned to us that since the food is not pre-made, accommodations can be made to the dishes to adjust the sauces to the particular taste of the guest. Hooray!  It sure bets the "no substitutions or alterations" decree printed on other menus. It is nice to know that special orders don't upset us at Fetishes.

My husband indulged in the Lobster Newburg as his appetizer, while I had the lump crab cake, appetizer portion.  Both were delicious and the Mister could not stop scraping up the delectable sauce from the gratinee dish.  To my chagrin, he threatened to lick the plate.  (If the dish is offered with a few bread slices, we could the avoid the threat of dish licking and finger scraping).  There were huge chunks of lobster and it was worth every cent.  My Maryland crab cake had no filler evident to the eye. (Bruce is from Baltimore, who would question his crab integrity?)  I only questioned how it stayed in shape with a crispy crust.  It was served with a tangy Dijon sauce that was a perfect accompaniment.   We had a most impressive salad with a delightful mustard honey dressing, sliced green apple, romaine and pine nuts.  As a house salad it was superb.  I must return for the Caesar, it requires two for service.  I'm trolling for takers.  The Mister does not like Caesar, silly man.

I chose to have two appetizers as my entree.  The duck liver pate served with a tangy relish and seeded flat crackers.  It was superb.  (I'm a liver pate snob from my days at Rollande et Pierre; spreadable and Le Pompano; loaf style and sliced.)  My second was the bisque, a velvety creamy, intensely lobster flavored heavenly creation.  There was a sherry shooter to add to the bisque and it was wonderful.  The Mister chose to have the steak Diane.  The filet with the mustard, brandy, veal stock, cream sauce was spectacular.  It was beyond tender and flavorful. This supper was plated with Duchesse potatoes and sugar snap peas and carrots.  To say the Mister inhaled his dinner would be an understatement. We did have nice crusty French rolls with soft fresh butter topped with a sprig of dill.  We also indulged in a lovely bottle of Cote de Rhone.  Jenn was attentive but not intrusive, our water glasses were never empty and our wines were decanted to allow each wine time to bloom into a more fragrant tasty libation.  I concur that a wine decanted tastes infinitely better than the wine left in the bottle.  A lesser wine becomes much more open to the nose and it tastes better.  Bravo Bruce for adding the decant service to your wine presentation.  Truly how can a wine breathe through a bottle neck?  It needs the delicate pour into a decanter to breathe life into the captured grape.  I am also, impressed with the delicate touches of real herbs added to the foods.  There is a lovely little herb garden just off the kitchen and it is nice to see the dinner plating includes these touches of freshness that are delightful to the see and taste.

I have to mention that the music tracks that played during our meal was an eclectic mix and a perfect background to a superb, or as the Offspring says, phenomenal dinner. There was even a touch of Bob Marley, thank you.  People do not appreciate a good background music.  Bruce, thank you for adding another delightful dimension to the fine dining experience.

Jenn brought over the dessert and port/sherry selection.  I had a bit of a struggle because the Mister again said, "I'm too full for another bite."  I ordered the Key lime parfait and when Jenn brought my decaf espresso and dessert, he perked up and started eyeing my dish with ardor, nearing on passion!  Bless Jenn, she was prompt with another spoon so he could taste (eat half) of the parfait.  It was light and delicious. Enough tartness to finish the meal with a punch to the tastebuds.  I must return for the Bananas Foster.  I'm trolling for takers.  The Mister will again, be too full to partake.  Hmmm, bring the extra fork and bowl early, please?  Our Offspring stopped by after our dinner to share a glass of wine.  She was burnt to a lobster red crisp from her day at the Alden Beach Resort and she enjoyed her two-glass pour of wine.  It was a celebratory ending for the three of us to be together, so the Mister and I topped off our meal with a nice 1/2 bottle of Piper Heidsieck.  Nothing can make this girl happier than a sparkly champagne finish.

Please note that the restaurant does have a small side room, perfect for 8 to 10 people, that has a TV/monitor for presentations.  It is a private area that can accommodate the higher rung business meeting or a lovely private birthday party. Also there is a 17% gratuity added to the tab.

Fetishes Dining & Wine Bar on Urbanspoon

In a former life time I was known as "Tina, the Tourguide."  Maybe I gained my nickname because of my penchant for telling 'people where to go' or maybe not.   My former employ as a resort front desk manager allowed me to indulge in tasting, trying and then recommending restaurants for our diverse base of guests. It was the favorite part of my job....investigating what was new, what was popular and what would be a good fit for the diner.  I was not compensated then or now for my dining choices, it is purely my personal opinion on finding the best tasting restaurants, value or splurge, family or intimate, to recommend to either guests or friends.  That being said, I do have a personal bias to the old St. Pete establishments as a life long resident of the city I love.  I am drawn to visit and review the places that have been re-vitalized into something new from my recollections.

Notyourmomma's Kitchen Tampa Bay restaurants

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Tarzan - Phil Collins - You'll Be In My Heart to Fred and Tyler





Fred, remember, always.  No more heart attacks, please.  You are using up your nine lives way too fast for me.  I hope I can bring you home tomorrow.

Monday, April 28, 2014

A Tomahawk Chop to feed the world....Seared 1200 does it like no other

Seriously, my daughter and her boyfriend went to  Seared 1200 Chophouse last night for their supper.  She came in bearing leftovers.  The box contained so much food that I didn't think they had eaten anything.

Notyourmomma's Kitchen Tampa Bay restaurants

There was a huge chunk of prime rib meat, perfect medium rare, crusted in the most wonderful peppercorn crust.  SEARED!!  They had added a side of the crab and shrimp "Oscar topping" and bearnaise sauce from the twin filets to their Tomahawk.  The rib bone was huge.  It was taken home to a very grateful German Shepherd.  The meat even as a leftover was fantastic.  I don't know how they did the seasoning, but the freshly cracked pepper crust was so good.  Not at all hot, but most beautifully complementary to the meaty goodness of the rib meat.  I have never tasted a bearnaise sauce that was as well prepared as their version.  It was lightly lemon tart, yet creamy, nearly a foam, with just enough anise flavor to keep it interesting.  It was perfection.

So the "kids" had the yummy house salads, the Tomahawk, the Oscar topping, those good dinner rolls, a nice bottle of wine and it was $128.00 without tip. They sat at the bar and watched the kitchen action.

Considering, I didn't get the full dinner experience, I feel a little weird writing a review.  However, since my darling daughter saw fit to share the wealth and it was "good,"  I can justify the post.  I trust her judgement, her boyfriend is a chef and when they visit a restaurant repeatedly, I'm in.

Seared 1200 Chophouse on Urbanspoon



Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Deep in the Jungle, tasty tapas emerge....The Black Palm

In a former life time I was known as "Tina, the Tourguide."  Maybe I gained my nickname because of my penchant for telling 'people where to go' or maybe not.   My former employ as a resort front desk manager allowed me to indulge in tasting, trying and then recommending restaurants for our diverse base of guests. It was the favorite part of my job....investigating what was new, what was popular and what would be a good fit for the diner.  I was not compensated then or now for my dining choices, it is purely my personal opinion on finding the best tasting restaurants, value or splurge, family or intimate, to recommend to either guests or friends.  That being said, I do have a personal bias to the old St. Pete establishments as a life long resident of a city I love.  I am drawn to visit and review the places that have been re-vitalized into something new from my recollections.

I never had the honor of eating at the Black Palm at its former location, therefore I have no preconceived notions of the intimate setting in Pass-a-grille.
Black Palm Restaurant on Urbanspoon

I have had several dinners at the Jungle Prada, in many of the other guises and establishments.  I am very happy to report that the Black Palm has graciously taken root in the historic building.  It is lovely to see the building, scrubbed and restored to glory.  The terrazzo floors and the arches are uncovered and beautiful to behold.  The bar is generous in size and sparkles with lights.  The room evokes an understated elegance with an old world panache that feels organic.  It honors a long ago treasure polished for newcomers to embrace.

The day was wet and blustery and just plain dreary.  We wanted, nay, we required a pick-me-up to lift our sodden spirits.  Aha, let's try the Black Palm.
I would have put the top down on the convertible to make the drive but the skies were too grey.

The parking lot was jam-packed and we were worried about getting a table.  It was five thirty pm.  We entered and lo and behold, we had a beautiful vision of multiple tables for the taking.  Apparently, the savvy owners of the Black Palm realize the benefit of schmooze and had the homeowners association meeting for the tony Jungle Prada area in their banquet room.  Smart move.

We were seated in the back corner (our choice) on one of the banquettes.  It allowed us full view of the dining room.  Our drink order was taken swiftly.  We were offered a bottle of sparkling water or tap.  I love Pellegrino, you know I chose that bubbly crisp water to quench the palate.

On to the menu, now this took a bit of explaining to the Mister.  The idea of tapas is quite foreign to him.  (Bar snacks at Hooter's require no explanation, hmmm).
There were so many choices, but we persevered and chose a number to share.

The Pinchos-Beef skewers
The Mister ordered TWO beef skewers and I had to fight for one bite.  That man!
Quesadilla de Mer
This was another tug of war dish.  Tortilla with seafood filling, avocado and crema topping.  So good.....do not nibble that jalapeno garnish.  It will make you cry.
Maduros
Lovely soft sweetly starchy plantains, fried and topped with a light crema. The slight sweetness balanced the heat from our other choices.  
Fried Chorizo slices on unripe fried plantain chips, topped with a garlic aoili
The chorizo slices were delicious.  We loved the sauce and it was not overpowering in garlic, a nice complementary tidbit to our selection of little bites.
Pretty Huevos de Diablo
Okay, this was a bit of miss, it did not live up to the Diablo name....a good egg, but it lacked the spice I had hoped for.  
Raiz
A wonderful beet salad, complex and earthy, a salad of my dreams.
Alambre
A saute of tender steak tips with onions, garlic and peppers, served with black beans and rice.  We found the flavor to be spot-on and the beans were aromatic and earthy, with cumin and onion.  A very nice dinner entree. 
Volcano lava cake...it was the coup de grace for the Mister.
Natilla
Oh there are no words to describe the beauty of a "Natilla," a Grand Marnier brulee.  It was so good, I nearly moaned aloud.  Maybe I did.  The table adjacent asked "what are you eating?"  Hmmm.

Our dinner was very good, service was impeccable.  There is a team of servers and each is efficient, swift and personable.  We thoroughly enjoyed our meal and look forward to visiting the Black Palm again.  Our meal with drinks, dessert and tip was $180.00.  Worth every cent!

Notyourmomma's Kitchen Tampa Bay restaurants













Monday, April 14, 2014

Urban Brew and BBQ is a shiny new penny on the block!

Dang, this new brew pub on the block just hit all the vibes with a huge Ka-Bang for this native St. Petersburgian.   Really, there is nothing better than seeing an establishment honor the rich history of Central Avenue in my beloved home town.   Back in the day, my daddy owned Buddy Hill's Auto sales just a block or two west from 16th Street World Liquors (yep, the one with the black and white globe).  The same Buddy Hill who once set huge blocks of ice on the corner of Central Avenue and 4th Street and as they melted they revealed advertising for his Auto Sales.  He got fined, of course but he foiled the signage prohibition at the time.   I love the sense of history preserved in this tiny spot on Central.  From the reclaimed Augusta bricks that line the wall behind the bar, to the 30 foot  back-lit mural with historic buildings accurately painted, to the copper pennies that make up the bathroom floors.  It is just a delight to the eye.


Urban Brew and BBQ on Urbanspoon

Now let's talk food and brew.  I love the large chalkboard with prices for full pours and half pours.  A nice touch if you want to try a few new brews and not commit tummy space to a full pour each.  Believe me, you want to leave room for the food.

The Mister and I share a delightful little iron skillet of kielbasa wrapped in proscuitto and sprinkled with brown sugar.  The little nuggets were perfect as an appetizer.  A little sweet, a little salty and a good bit of fat to make that perfect Beach Blonde from Three Sisters Brewery all the more delectable.  Mr. Boring did his usual Miller Lite as his brew of choice.


Cameron was a terrific server, she was attentive and can pour a perfect pint.  She gave us the lunch specials and we were immediately drawn to them.  The Mister chose the Beef brisket with sweet bbq sauce topped with an overeasy egg on a huge pillowy bun.  (Don't tell his cardiologist).  He upgraded his side dish for the house special mac n' cheese (another piping hot skillet topped with crispy bread crumbs, yum).

 I chose the SML sandwich....what is an SML? Why it is a smoked meat loaf sandwich with smokey bacon, your choice of sauce (make mine spicy) topped with house made cole slaw.  I chose my side of collard greens.  Good heavens, I will always worship a sprinkle jar of vinegar full of full of peppers and garlic.  What better sprinkle can anyone have for greens? The greens were perfectly tender and the hot vinegar made them sing!  Our lunch specials were served on 1/8 sheet pans lined with a paper liner.  It harkens back to the day when your favorite bbq came on butcher paper with a few slices of wonder white.


Hubby declared he was absolutely too full to indulge in a dessert.  I was intrigued with the Sweet Potato Souffle that Cameron had mentioned, so I ordered one for us to share.  "Oh no, Tina, I won't eat any I'm too full."  Famous last words from Freddie.  I went to use the facilities and marvel at the penny floor and when I returned, Mr. I'mtoofull had eaten half of the sweet hot dessert.  It was served in the mini-piping hot cast iron skillet, the sweet potatoes were topped with brown sugar crumble, walnuts and marshmallows.  It was delicious.  All the guilty goodness of the Thanksgiving table in a fun dessert.  A half pint of Bet Red with a perfectly creamy head was a good match with the sweetness of the dish.


We had a perfectly fine afternoon at this nice addition to the burgeoning Central Avenue scene.  Nothing can make me happier than to see our downtown shake off the sleepiness of the past and embrace the vibrancy of good food and cheer. Here's looking at you, kid.

Notyourmomma's Kitchen Tampa Bay restaurants

In a former life time I was known as "Tina, the Tourguide."  Maybe I gained my nickname because of my penchant for telling 'people where to go' or maybe not.   My former employ as a resort front desk manager allowed me to indulge in tasting, trying and then recommending restaurants for our diverse base of guests. It was the favorite part of my job....investigating what was new, what was popular and what would be a good fit for the diner.  I was not compensated then or now for my dining choices, it is purely my personal opinion on finding the best tasting restaurants, value or splurge, family or intimate to recommend to either guests or friends.  That being said, I do have a personal bias to the old St. Pete establishments as a life long resident of a city I love.  I am drawn to visit and review the places that have been re-vitalized into something new from my recollections.




Sunday, April 13, 2014

Ah, the memories of camping.....do you like it rough?



Okay, I grew up with a Daddy who sold used cars and at one time, Open Road Campers.  We had the best camping trips...with the near luxury of home if you count cramped drop down beds from the ceiling and cans flying out of pantry cabinets to hit you in the head when daddy made a sharp turn a luxury.  It was great fun to explore many of the campgrounds in Florida, we hit all the springs and parks in the Keys.  Dad would get us every other weekend and would plan a terrific outing during our spring and fall seasons.  During the summer he would rent houseboats and we would spend our vacations on the water.  We endured hideous truck-sized mosquitos and treacherous rip tides, but there is something to be said about being anchored in a cove and diving from the top of a houseboat to cool off in the dog days of summer.  Yeah, we really roughed it with the Open Road frig, stove, shower and toilet. Dad's camping was upscale and was devoid of any surprising animals. Remind me to tell you about saving one of the houseboat mate by pulling him from a riptide while he was being pulled under the boat. NO FEAR, I heard Jimmy call for help and jumped off to the opposite side of the houseboat, caught him in my arms and swam against the current to the bow of the boat.   Jimmy was my friend then and is a friend in my heart now.

Now with my momma, we actually camped in a tent on the ground without benefit of a mattress at a piece of property we owned.  We built our campfires with cinder blocks and roasted our meals over coals.  I can not forget the oyster roasts on sheet metal, squirted with generous amounts of garlic butter.  We would carry up a bushel of oysters from Cedar Key, use a couple of cinder blocks to support our sheet metal and dump those briny beauties over a roaring hot fire and pop those shells and slurp the finest salty plump oysters, the finest the Gulf offered!  And lest any one forget, isn't  S'mores over a campfire a decadent dessert?  Camping with my momma meant we roughed it without the luxury of a toilet. (My mom grew up in WV and an outhouse was the usual and nothing to be concerned about).  We would practice pistol shooting, aiming miserably for the soda/beer cans on the huge bent magnolia tree.  We would bathe and brush our teeth in the waters of Lake Tsalapopka with nary a worry, it was always cold.  We would fish off the "Phylron", our 18 foot outboard in the lake, momma would clean the fish and fry it in cornmeal in cast iron skillet and make her "famous" hush puppies. Her surprise foil packet dinners were always a treat.  I simply could not tolerate the ghost stories told by the light of a Coleman lantern, especially the man with the hook.  I remember the shivers listening to the sounds of the woods around us and trying really hard to be the brave one.  We endured the huge mosquitos in the woods, but somehow, it never seemed to be an issue in a tent versus a camper.  

We had so much fun and this is a memory that brought cheer to my heart.  The oyster roasting technique served me well when I used to drag race my 1972 Dodge Dart with the 340 4 barrel souped-up orange/red racing car with mag wheels, black leather seats and air shocks on the flats of Apollo Beach before it became a suburb.  We had many an oyster roast over a cinder block set up, with old refrigerator racks, cold PBR Tall boys, mingled with sand, sand flat races and long slow summer sunsets. Aw, memories.

http://www.grouprecipes.com/8469/hush-puppies.html
2 cups of white water ground corn meal
1 tablespoon of flour
1 teaspoon of baking powder
1/2 teaspoon of baking soda
1 teaspoon of salt
1 egg
3 tablespoons of chopped (fine) yellow onion
1 tablespoon of finely minced jalapeno, seeded and deveined
2 tablespoons of plum tomato flesh chopped in a fine dice-no seeds and as dry as you can make them
1 cup of buttermilk

Mix all the dry ingredients.
Add chopped onion, jalapeno and tomato bits.
Then add the milk and beaten egg.
Drop by spoonful into deep hot oil (375).
Turn over and allow to cook until lightly brown.
Drain on plain brown paper bags.
Serve at once.

Mom's hush puppies were never mundane, hard as a rock, without flavor.  Mom's hush puppies were ethereal, flavorful, with onion, bits of tomato, and enough jalapeno to waken the palate but not deaden the tongue.  Always, tasty enough to be front and center as a tasty nibble that can assuage our hunger for what was yet to come.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Jack's London Grill ~ Not a Call of the Wild spot

Jack's London Grill is a spot-on nice pub and grub.  Cold beer, hot fish and chips, roast beef sliders, Scottish eggs, great onion rings and good service makes this family happy.   Add a fun game of trivia and the night becomes even more enjoyable.Jacks London Grill on Urbanspoon

Located on north 62nd Avenue North, just off 10th Street, (St. Petersburg) in a nondescript closed Pizza Hut.  Jack's London Grill has quickly become a delicious addition to the pub scene.  The decor is comfortable, the lighting is dim, the TV's in the corner are set to the sports channel.  The waitresses are sincere and caring.    The menu is dominant with the favorites from over the pond.  There are specials offered nightly.  I want a Sunday visit for Yorkshire pudding and Roast beef....emphasis on the Yorkshire pudding.

My grumpy spouse wanted to go out desperately and was going to give me his regular directive "not too far from home, two miles tops."  I'm designated driver and I get to choose, dear heart.  That's how I roll.  We put the top down on the convertible and I headed due north.  He started to complain once we passed Tropicana Field...whine, "Where are we going?"   Shush, honey, you'll like it.

We chose a comfy booth.  Looking over the menu, I was immediately drawn to the fish and chips.  A personal favorite because I don't fry at home.  Our waitress gave us the specials of the night.  Fred was drawn to the 12 ounce sirloin with mushrooms, spuds and gravy.    We had to start with a couple of appetizers of course.  We ordered the Scottish egg with mustard and a couple of Roast beef sliders.  They were served quickly and were yummy.  The roast beef was delicious and tender.  The roll was fresh and tasty.
 Fred was very happy with his first Scottish egg.
 The tempura light battered onion rings were half price and we added an order to our dinner order.  The onion rings came with a Thai chili sauce that was a nice change of pace.  Our beers were cold and swiftly refilled by the staff.

My fish and chips were delectable.  The fish was huge and curled up nicely over a pile of thick cut chips.

Fred enjoyed his sirloin with spuds and the mushroom gravy was too die for.


After the appetizers and entrees, you would think we would have sense enough to stop there.....but no, as professional chow hounds, we had to try dessert.  Fred had to have the chocolate mousse...and I was enamored with a red wine poached pear.  Freshly unsweetened whipped cream was the perfect garnish to bring down the intense chocolate.  I will have to try the bread pudding (apple & cranberry)next visit.

Prices were very reasonable, the food was good, the atmosphere while a tad spartan, was warm and comforting because of the friendly staff.  Of course, the Tuesday night trivia game was an added bonus.  We stayed to listen to the questions and had a blast with the trivia host.  Much fun to be had by all present.
To quote Ah-nold, we'll be back.

Notyourmomma's Kitchen Tampa Bay restaurants

In a former life time I was known as "Tina, the Tourguide."  Maybe I gained my nickname because of my penchant for telling 'people where to go' or maybe not.   My former employ as a resort front desk manager allowed me to indulge in tasting, trying and then recommending restaurants for our diverse base of guests. It was the favorite part of my job....investigating what was new, what was popular and what would be a good fit for the diner.  I was not compensated then or now for my dining choices, it is purely my personal opinion on finding the best tasting restaurants, value or splurge, family or intimate to recommend to either guests or friends.  That being said, I do have a personal bias to the old St. Pete establishments as a life long resident of a city I love.  I am drawn to visit and review the places that have been re-vitalized into something new from my recollections.