Friday, February 22, 2013

Gotta Get Outta This Place

Planning on surprising my bride, the Belle of Ballast Point, with a memorable "date night" dinner, I searched for an exciting new dining venue. My goal was to find a restaurant in the Tampa area with an innovative and inviting menu.

With a few exceptions, Edison's and Wimauma for example, my search proved what I already suspected - Tampa Bay is essentially the gastronomic armpit of the world. We are overrun with pizza joints, Mexican and Oriental dining spots that serve foods you would never see in the countries of origin.

We have a plethora of steak houses that are mirror images of each other. Our fish houses serve, well fish - fried, blackened, or broiled in massive amounts of oil. Don't even get me started on oysters on the half shell.

I am so tired of seeing fried calamari on practically every menu in the bay area, and I think I will scream when I next see the ubiquitous seared tuna coated with sesame seeds offered as an innovative appetizer.

We do have reservations for dinner tonight at one of the area's newer steak houses. We will see how that goes, but doing a copy and paste on their appetizer menu, here is some of what they offer:






Yes, I just SCREAMED!

I have gotta get my taste buds out of this place before they atrophy. Never fret, for there is light at the end of the gastronomic tunnel. Over the next several months my bride and I will be visiting both Atlanta and New Orleans, two cities that show culinary promise.

We have made advance reservations (a necessity) at The Optimist in Atlanta. I chose this spot because,

On ice they have:
  • east coast oysters, fresh horseradish, mignonette
  • west coast oysters, fresh horseradish, mignonette
The burning question is - do they know how to shuck'em? My hopes are high.

And, a few of their other "starters":
  • garlicky tiny clams & pork belly, hand-torn croutons, chili
  • mussels, crabby-coconut broth, birds eye chili, pickled herbs
  • “angels on horseback” / fried oysters, pork belly, pickled mushrooms, red wine fish bordelaise
On the seafood side:
  • seared rare tuna, charred octopus & potato salad, harissa
  • skate wing “schnitzel,” brown butter, charred lemon, capers
  • crispy day-boat flounder, early summer tomatoes, pickled herbs
  • maine sea scallops, oxtail marmalade, brown butter-chicken jus
  • whole roasted georgia trout, marcona almond, pickled celery
  • duck fat poached swordfish, pickled sweet peppers, crispy pancetta

One of their meat dishes got the slobber glands working overtime:

  • lamb belly, field peas, preserved lemon, lamb jus

While at the Hartsfield airport I plan on a return visit to One Flew South - the best airport restaurant I have ever tasted. An airport restaurant? You betcha!

For the NOLA trip, I have several spots picked out: At the Boucherie I am anxious to try the Crispy Skinned Duck Confit with a Roasted Kumquat, Sunchoke, Mustard Greens Salad & Pecan Vinaigrette followed by Smoked Wagyu Beef Brisket with Garlicky Parmesan Fries. For dessert, Thai Chili Chocolate Chess Pie sounds good.

Later, a trip to Cochon Butcher for lunch - Pork Belly with Mint + Cucumber on White - and the sister, Cochon, for dinner. I'm thinking cane syrup glazed pork cheeks with mushrooms & roasted corn grits followed by either smoked ham hock with baked peanuts & charred radishes, catfish courtbouillon, or Louisiana cochon with turnips, cabbage, pickled peaches & cracklins.

Tonight, back in Tampa, one of the listed appetizers is...wait for it...bacon in a glass for $8. I can't wait! I will have it, though. I mean, it is bacon, after all.


  1. Damn, Jon! Just reading your article on potential gastronomic euphoria has convinced me that I have metaphorically wasted my essence in the fleshpots of Cairo. Got any room in your suitcase for a fat Texan?

  2. Bill there is always room for you in my suitcase and at my table.

    Good to hear from you my friend.

    And, I hate it when my essence gets wasted. I am no longer allowed in fleshpots anywhere - the Belle of Ballast Point has put a stop to that sort of thing.

  3. I have tried the "Glass O' Bacon" at the establishment of which you speak, and it actually was pretty damned were most of the other menu items I got to taste. Nothing mind-blowing, but solid nonetheless.

    You and the BOBP have GOT to take I-75 South to Beach Bistro on Bradenton Beach sometime. It's a "big night out", but you enjoy a stunning Gulf view while dining on options such as:

    Heaven & Earth (Lush risotto, gifted with the heavenly richness of truffles, foie gras and American exotic mushrooms)

    Duck Fat Roasted Fingerling Potatoes (Roasted crisp with garlic, fresh thyme & rosemary)

    Foie Gras, “Life, Liberty …” (Seared Hudson Valley foie gras on savory brioche bread pudding. Garnished with a vanilla bean and Sauternes reduction, nutmeg anglaise and aged balsamic)

    Bistro “White Castle” Slider (Foie gras and Prime tenderloin on a butter-grilled sweet bun with demi-glace and béarnaise. Everything that is bad for you all in one place)

    Food Heaven (Worth dying for. The richest food marriage – Colorado lamb, butter-poached Nova Scotia lobster and Hudson Valley foie gras- all on a brioche bread pudding. Served with a port, demi-glace sidecar and a sip of Essensia. Sublime. “A Dionysian vision from the end of a pier in Maine.”)

    You can read more of this food porn here:

    Best meal I've ever eaten in Florida.

  4. I love everything that is bad for me, and you have never led me nor my taste buds astray. We did 116 last night, and that bacon in a glass was heavenly.