Monday, October 19, 2015

Real Chicago Beef in town, Cubbies in the Playoffs?? Hallelujah!

Chi-Town 165  Dr MLK Jr Street North, St Petersburg Florida
Happy Happy me!  My daughter went to pick up lunch so I could elevate my bum leg for awhile.  She is as thrilled as I am with our Chicago beef sandwiches, wet with hot peppers.  So good, absolutely delicious.  Better than remembered and they traveled well.  Little piggies that we are, we got 4 dogs for later.  Three Chicago dogs through the garden and a Chili dog with mustard, cheese and onion.  I had to try my chili dog, good snap, yummy chili and fixin's.  I was threatened that if her Chicago dogs come up missing there will be h-e-double hockey sticks to pay.  I'll feast on my dog later.  Topped this fantastic lunch with some celebratory champagne.  Meatballs, thanks buddy for a fine lunch.  We are already planning which friends to bring next visit.  You are a special kind of fun.  Mini-me approved and she is a tough critic.  Time for a nap.


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.


Saturday, October 17, 2015

Time to Chill!

I am in love with Chill in their new digs.  Ruthie has done an admirable remodel to the space and the front dining area is open to the fine fall air.  Very nice and good sidewalk seating too.
I was very fortunate to have a fine lunch with one of my favorite food bloggers, Denise Parker of the Epicurean Perils of Sweet Polly and WTFotk, at Chill yesterday.  We were pampered by John, an affable, more than competent server with the most delightful accent.  He could read the classified ads to me and I would be enthralled.  

We pored over the menu and decided to share the Goat cheese, sundried tomato and fig terrine.  

It was served with a basket of crisp bread for spreading the yummy cheese goodness.  A nice combination of savory and sweet to awaken the taste buds.   My gracious dining companion allowed me to order the Grilled Cheese 2.0 and she chose the Black and Blue salad.  John assured my friend the kitchen would gladly modify the salad and would eliminate the tomatoes from her dish. I must hasten to add we were enjoying generous pours of the house wine, as well.   


The grilled cheese was a very engaging taste explosion of melted mild cranberry cheese, sliced pears, bacon and a delicious orange marmalade aioli.  The plate also featured lightly seasoned crisp fries. 



 The Black and Blue salad was topped with a perfectly cooked medium rare steak and a tasty sherry vinaigrette.  (I adore sherry wine vinegar).  A very fine lunch indeed, 


 It took only a little arm twisting to add a dessert to end our meal.  The famous dessert combining a chocolate brownie and red velvet cake in a  glorious dome of moist goodness.  There was a crispy edge that yielded to a tender center. Topped off with a scoop of good ice cream and a caramel drizzle, it was a delicious morsel to share. Oh so good.  It was very nice to have the kind and friendly Ruthie check on our satisfaction.

Our meal was a perfect treat on a Friday afternoon.  I look forward to visiting Chill again. Might I add that John told us that the lovely brie appetizer on the dinner menu could be ordered at lunch.  The kitchen would be happy to oblige, just ask. I find that willingness to accommodate the taste whims of a dining guest refreshing in this world of no substitutions.  An appetizer, two entrees, a dessert and (ahem) six glasses of wine was a very reasonable 75.00 dollars, excluding the gratuity for the personable John.  I urge you to visit Chill and do just that, chill out for a few  hours with the company of a friend.  You will feel infinitely better to face the rest of your busy day.

Chill Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato 
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.

View my food journey on Zomato!

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Baroque Rococo, say yes to the exquisite flair in food and decor.

A single roasted pearl onion with explosive flavor was the eye opener to our experience at Rococo.  A single bite with that much taste showed the care and expertise of the kitchen with each delicious ingredient. A pearl onion to rival the "Girl with the Pearl Earring."  My daughter and I had circled downtown St. Pete in the driving rain looking for dinner.  Parking was at a premium and the long waits at some establishments were interminable. (The Mill, Brick & Mortar, Station House).  We wanted a fine cocktail and food and we wanted it now.  As the designated driver, my darling patient (ahem) child was getting increasingly irritated as I told her to turn left here and "trust me" one more time.

Click to add a blog post for Rococo Steak on Zomato

We were greeted warmly.  Olivia gasped when she saw the dining room.  "Simply stunning" were her words.  It is singularly dramatic in decor and that defines baroque. The deep charcoal grey walls, red chandeliers, sconces, vibrant art and white upholstered chairs are striking.  The upholstered banquettes were inviting.  We did NOT have a reservation and the hostess was able to seat us before the bartender could complete our drink order.  She with her favorite dirty martini with blue cheese stuffed olives and I with the Cucumber Fresca (tequila, muddled cucumber, mint and a splash of sparkle).  We were seated in a comfortable room with vaulted ceilings that evoked a wine barrel.  Glass window displays would rival Macy's with fabulous representative prime champagnes in various sizes from magnum to rehoboam.  Talk about wish list!  My girl said before we even ordered that if she were to get married, this would be her choice for the rehearsal dinner,  We did raise her well.  After all life is a matter of taste.

Our waiter, Dan, explained the many special items for the evening.  Fresh East coast and West coast oysters on the half shell, available in any increment, the featured salad, fish and steak cuts not on the regular menu.  He explained the ala carte service and menu selections.  Grass fed and corn fed beef are available including the elusive bone-in filet.

My mini-me ordered the goat cheese pie and I chose the foie gras pain perdu.  Her pie arrived with a deeply colored crispy crust and what I would describe as a goat cheese cake filling with a side of arugula and poached pears dressed most simply with a fig dressing.  Mini-me swooned, as did I with the creamy dense tart savory pie.  My torchon of foie gras was gently pan seared and served on top of a Grand Marnier toast of eggy brioche and sprinkled with salted hazelnuts, a drizzle of pomegranate balsamic enriching this delicacy. The floral note of the Grand Marnier and pomegranate stilled the slight mineral taste to the foie gras.  The crisp hazelnut provided the perfect contrast in texture.  Small as it should be with a power packed punch to the palate.

We could NOT pass up sharing a bowl of the corn lobster bisque.  A personal Kryptonite for mother and daughter.  The kitchen kindly split a portion of this warm bisque.  It was quite generous.  We laughed because we each dared the other to pick up the bowl and lick it.  It was that good.  It was intensely deeply lobsterly with undertones of sherry, mushroom and corn.  One of the best that we have tried.

Service was quite competent and Dan was very apologetic at the slow pace for our entrees, we didn't mind the leisurely pace because we were so comfortable.  We had a lovely bottle of Duck Decoy to sip and savor while we waited for the kitchen to catch up.  Olivia ordered the 12 oz. Roasted Prime rib with au jus and horseradish cream.  It was a perfect medium rare and the cut was lovely.  The bite I had was seasoned perfectly with enough salt to enhance the beefiness.  Sauce was not necessary.  Now this is where that pearl onion entered the picture.  She had two picture perfect roasted baby carrots and three pearl onions as garnish.  I got a single onion and the deep caramelized flavor epitomized the simplest garnish done well.  I ordered the wild wood grilled salmon with kale, boar bacon (!!!!) and lemon oil, medium rare.  It was sublime.  Rococo might have singularly converted me to kale.  Naturally because we ALWAYS over order, we had a family style serving of creamed spinach and chef made potato coins (shreds of russet potatoes and herbs, a fat flat crispy tater tot).  Olivia had been to Ruth Chris' Steak house last week and raved over their creamed spinach.  Hand's down she said Rococo was better. RC can't come close to the Rococo version.  It was incredibly creamy and cheesy.  It ain't easy being green, but this was spectacular.  The crispy "tots" were yummy.  We brought most of each home.  (I made a spinach omelette with tots for my hard working girl for breakfast).

Now at this point after packing up our to-go boxes, Dan cruelly (just kidding) suggested dessert.  WTH, why not?  In for a penny, in for a pound.  My petite chou chose the chocolate peanut butter tower. It was flippin fantastic. The peanut butter mousse and graham cracker base was enrobed in dark chocolate and garnished with fresh barely sweet whipped cream. I picked the apple bread pudding which was a masterful representation of yummy.  I was served a warm slab of moist apple brioche, caramel sauce and creme anglaise.  As we sat back and sighed with pleasure, we topped off our meal with a snifter of Grand Marnier and Disaronno on the rocks respectively.

When an independent restaurant demonstrates extreme care in the minute details of a meal and you are prepared to wait for perfection, I highly recommend Rococo as a fine dining destination.  Stylish, chic and delicious.

The manager was most gracious as we were leaving.  He made sure we didn't melt in the rain.  Please support the independent restaurants and when you want to pull out all the stops, visit and enjoy the romance of Rococo.  $$$$ yes, but worth every restorative moment. Photo borrowed from website.  My apologies for the lack of pictures, my camera ended up in a puddle earlier in the day.



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.

View my food journey on Zomato!

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Stillwaters Tavern does run deep....

Stillwaters run deep. 1.proverb~a quiet or placid manner may conceal a more passionate nature.
After very satisfying lunch at Stillwaters Tavern last week, I find that the Tavern does show their passion where it counts, in their service, sourcing of food stuffs and preparation of a lovely meal. I appreciate the calm aesthetic in the decor. The reclaimed wood and slightly nautical touches are soothing especially when the noon lunch crowd arrived. I particularly like the tall black booths. They give a sense of intimacy and you are not subjected to other conversations.
I had the delightful companionship of Denise Parker, blogger extraordinaire (The Epicurean Perils of Sweet Polly) and author of the WTFork column with the Tampa Tribune. We were seated close to the kitchen area and even though the restaurant became increasingly busy, having a conversation was easy. I liked the capped bottle of chill water presented by our waiter Paul. He was attentive and willing to answer questions about the menu. He knew when to offer a refill on our wine. (Immediately.) I like the offer of a large pour and the many choices by the glass.
We decided to share a plate of fried oysters as our appetizer. The oysters were lightly coated and extra crispy. They included a few deep fried vegetables such as carrot, cauliflower and hot cherry pepper. A mustard aioli was a spicy dipping sauce. The oysters definitely reminded me of an Italian fritto misto, mixed seafood and veggies deep fried. It was excellent.
Onto the main dish, since Denise was a repeat customer I listened to her comments on the Shrimp and grits and chose it as my dish. She chose the Airline chicken. Let me tell you THAT chicken was the single finest piece of chicken I've tasted in ages. Off the chart, flavorful, tender and juicy. Bless Denise for sharing some of the jalapeno cheddar cornbread as well. Be still my heart. Forgive me, I have to say it, "Winner Winner chicken dinner."
 I was very pleased with my Key West pinks. The shrimp were firm and properly cooked. The stone ground cheddar grits beat the pants off any other grits in town. This was notyourmommas' baby pablum. There was a nice texture and heft to the grits and the flavor was delicious. Note that the shrimp has a mustard wine sauce. It was reminiscent of Eastern NC bbq sauce. It is not a typical sauce and I thoroughly enjoyed the mustard punch.

Of course we saved room for dessert. My dining companion chose the apple blueberry crumble with whiskey cream. Don't you want to have some now? It arrived in a small cast iron skillet. The aroma was intoxicating. There is something to be said of the aroma of cinnamon and brown sugar. The crumble was not soggy as some can be. A credible crumble in my book. 

But I do believe I hit the chocolate jackpot with my dark chocolate cremeaux with peanut butter pretzel and chocolate caviar. It was chocolate nirvana. The cremeaux is denser than a mousse and we were instructed to dig down to get all the layers. It was divine. It was rich and decadent. Passion under Stillwaters, indeed.
A wonderful addition to our restaurant row and I look forward to visiting again soon.  Plus, anytime sharing delicious food with a kindred spirit is a day brightener and a highlight of my week.  Til we eat again, m'dear.

Click to add a blog post for Stillwaters Tavern on Zomato 

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.


Friday, April 24, 2015

Promises fulfilled at The Maritana Grille at the Don CeSar

I recently fulfilled a promise to my late husband, to follow through with a special dinner our daughters' 24th birthday.  It had to be a special meal because we were trying to top a cruise for her 21st, (yes, we are those parents; the back story of our life does not equal spoiled girl, by any means). The restaurant of choice was where my love proposed to me 31 years ago, not with ring but the promise of a Persian kitten.  (Okay, I'm a bit goofy).  So we went to the Maritana Grille at the Don CeSar.  We also stayed at a suite on our honeymoon at the pink palace.  His surprise to me.

Maritana Grille on Urbanspoon

The food was beyond delicious. Jeff, our server, was knowledgeable in food and wine. Service was perfect white linen service, with fresh flatware per course, chilled when necessary.  (Personal peeve, not getting fresh flatware and being chastised by the server, you need to keep it).  I was furnished a black napkin for my dark dress to prevent any white pilling,  Thank you.  There are aquariums lining the walls, not the touristy Rum Fish size, but just big enough to provide entertainment without being overwhelming. The albino unicorn fish is cool. 


The daughter and I each had a cocktail. a dirty martini for her and a blonde Cosmo for me. We were served an amuse bouche, a jellied cucumber melon caviar with tiny microflowers.


She ordered the crab bisque. "You can't eat this soup standing up; your knees will buckle." nee Seinfeld.   Jeff gave us a detailed description of how the corn stock was infused with crab shells to provide the perfect briny touch to the reduced stock that thickened the bisque without cream.  The bowl had crab, corn and chorizo that were a perfect marriage with the rich stock.  She swooned.  Jeff had a service trick that tickled her funny bone.  Maritana, match point for clever service; her look was priceless, thank you.

I had the super fresh Wahoo crudo with crab, micro green salad and avocado mousse. It was sublime. The wahoo was torched slightly with a citrus soy glaze before assembly. Four types of bread (olive, baguette, sweet buns and pumpernickle) were offered with two flavored butter squares, one herbal and one with Parmesan.

We split a Caesar salad which was a completely unnecessary course.  It was a tasty rendition but with the spectacular overload of what we were tasting, the Caesar was superfluous.  Although this notyourmomma would eat three of the Parmesan fricos in 10 seconds if challenged.

My budding gourmand ordered the rack of lamb, medium rare, with gnocchi, sauteed mushrooms and a sherry demi-glace of lamb stock. She was astonished on how good the lamb tasted. (Perhaps, because I've only made lamb shanks from the Old Country and daddy only ate lamb rare doused in mint jelly, neither a favorite for her)  This lamb was a definite knocked out of the park entree.  The depth of subtle flavors were mesmerizing.

I had the Lobster pappardelle with melted brie, leeks asparagus and shaved black truffle. It was so rich, redolent of earthy truffle, a sauce seasoned deeply with ocean goodness, fresh spring vegetables and a tender noodle. It was served in a deep bowl and every single bite spoke volumes.
You would think we would throw in the towel at that point. But no, we soldiered on. We each ordered an espresso, took a deep breath and ordered Chocolate Sin and the Reveal. My daughter had a "When Harry met Sally" moment over the huge white chocolate egg that when a hot chocolate sauce was poured over, petals opened to reveal a ethereal peanut butter mousse and a crackle toffee peanut blondie.
I had a deliriously delicious chocolate truffle with a salted caramel ice cream, a tuile and a chocolate frico. It was sinful as advertised.
 We shared a lovely bottle of red from New Zealand, a red blend, "Craggy Range" ($65,00).  Jeff topped us off with a couple of raspberry truffles candies,   The coup de grace were our snifters of Grand Marnier for me and Amaretto for the girl. This was not a cheap or even moderate dining experience but it was a necessary healing bonding meal between mother and daughter.
I'm happy I was able to give the child a special meal from her dear daddy. It was a one of a kind of meal.  Our meal and tip came to $370.00 dollars.  Meal, beverage, tax was $295.00.  As a former server and the daughter as a current server, we tip according to the service provided; Jeff was worth it. 
Maritana Grille on Urbanspoon


First genuine smile from my baby girl in months  We have decided that we can hit the Maritana Grille for the crab corn  bisque, bowl for each, share a cheese plate and get TWO Reveal desserts with a bottle of sparkling wine and celebrate life. The life we remember, the life we live and the life ahead.  Rest in Peace, my beloved.  Always in our heart and a promise fulfilled.  Promises kept.  I love you Fred, always and forever.



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.