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:
CRISPY FRIED CALAMARI STRIPS
TUNA TAR TAR
JUMBO LUMP CRAB CAKE
SEARED AHI TUNA
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
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
- 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.