December 22 is our wedding anniversary, and for the last 23 years the Belle of Ballast Point and I have made it a tradition to celebrate by dining at a venue that is as unique and spectacular as our marriage has been.
This year we chose edison food+drink lab, 912 West Kennedy near downtown Tampa. Our dear friends Sweet Polly and her Underdog, of the best food blog in the whole world, Epicurean Perils of Sweet Polly, had suggested our lives together would forever be incomplete with out a visit to edison. So we went!
Our reservations were at six, and we were immediately guided to our table, past the bar and main dining area to a quiet little alley way toward the back with four or five comfy booths. The main dining room can get a little loud with a large crowd - and, edison does draw a large crowd - for good reasons. We will now explore a few of those good reasons.
Ramsey, our very knowledgeable and attentive server, explained the edison concept and offered suggestions to enhance our evening. The ever changing menu has a bounteous bundle of belly busting delights categorized as SPARK, COLD START, HOT START, SOLUBLE OR SOLID, and LARGE FORMAT.
My taste buds were all a-quiver as I contemplated selections from each section. Ramsey suggested we make two choices from the small plates, and one from the LARGE FORMAT. The LARGE FORMAT, he said really emphasizes the creativity, imagination, and skills in the kitchen. We were torn. There were so many mouth watering small plates and large that piqued our interest.
We had to start somewhere, so we decided to begin with a bottle of Umberto Bortolotti extra dry Prosecco to get the juices flowing and to steady our nerves.
Next was the first of several small plates, the Beef Tenderloin Carpaccio with banh mi salad, fish sauce vinaigrette, and toasted baguette. The banh mi resulted from the French influence on Vietnamese cuisine and this fusion presentation with tender, succulent tenderloin, and bean sprouts, cucumber, and fried onion rings was heaven to the palate. This dish was the first to earn the two-heart rating for double love.
Up next, and only for me, were the oysters on the half shell, nagatoshi farms yuzu kosho mignonette, liquid N2 (nitrogen that is cold enough to exist in liquid form), and kaffir lime. This dish was the only heart-breaker of the evening. The taste was intriguing but those little, itty bitty $2.60 a pop mollusks looked as though they had been ripped apart and adorned with bits of broken shell.
It is said that the eyes eat before the stomach. My eyes were disappointed, but except for that one misstep everything else we tried that evening sent us into spasms of gastronomic delight.
There were several large plates we wanted to try, but for this dining adventure we decided to press onward with the small plates. When I say "small plates" this should not suggest you will not get full to the eyebrows with artistically prepared food.
I could live the rest of my days dining on pork belly, so it came as no surprise to by bride that I would order the crispy pork belly with black bean munetta (puree), a palm heart medjool date salad with citrus chimichurri. The black bean munetta is common in Latin American cuisines and it paired well with the crispy, juicy pork belly.
Next up for the Belle was the sweet potato biscuits with to-die-for barbecued pork cheeks, creamy dill pickle slaw, and crispy buttermilk onions. My bride had ordered this plate on her first visit to edison, and couldn't resist enjoying it once again. I had a bite of the pork and it was excellent with a touch of piquancy.
While she was getting cheeky with the pork, I had to try the Boquerones - the white anchovies fried in a delicate batter with a sauce gribeche. A small as this plate appeared, it packed a powerful and flavorful punch. I was approaching food overload. My world for an extra stomach!
After the pork cheeks, my bride of 24 years decided to throw in the towel - but then, Ramsey, cruel dude that he is, brought out the dessert menu. The Belle of Ballast Point located that dessert stomach that I have been told all women possess, and she requested the dark chocolate tart with coconut ice cream, heavenly frozen bananas, and a double dog espresso rum sauce. Do you remember the scene in the NYC deli in the movie, When Harry Met Sally?
Ramsey asked what I desired for dessert, and though I didn't really need anything more to eat, I cowboyed myself up, and asked for the tenderloin tartare with a heavenly kim chee puree and edison's Korean pickles. I love kim chee and steak tartare, so this fusion dish with black beans brought on a gastronomic orgasm. This was almost the highlight of my evening. I'm saving the very best experience for last. Stick around.
Along with celebrating 24 wonderful years with my bride, the Belle of Ballast Point, as we were waddling from edison, whom did we spy guarding the entry way into the kitchen? It was none other than the High Priestess of Epicurean Excellence herself, Jeannie Pierola. In addition to being a celebrated chef, Ms. Pierola is a very charming lady who really cared about our dining experience. After hearing us describe a few of our dinner choices, she referred to us as "foodies". We were overwhelmed at the compliment.
Now that I have titillated your taste buds, I should mention again that the menu changes on a daily basis. That should be all the more reason to visit edison. You won't get bored.
Dinner for two with all food and wine - $160 and included a well deserved 20% for Ramsey.