Saturday, December 28, 2013

Closing Out 2013

How refreshing it is to read a professional food writer's opinion on the ubiquity that permeates Tampa Bay restaurant food offerings. In today's Tampa Bay Times, food critic Laura Reiley took a newly opened sushi joint in downtown St. Peterburg to task by stating, "In short, the [...] menu is so similar to a number of others downtown that it begs comparison."

I seriously doubt that Ms. Reiley looks to the Oracle for inspiration, but that is just what I have been ranting about in a number of my restaurant reviews. Reiley referenced a similar restaurant on Kennedy here in Tampa, "...which boasts the same menu at almost identical prices." This mimics the question that I have been asking, "Why travel across the bridge to dine at a venue almost identical to one closer to home?"

The restaurant in question doesn't have to be a sushi joint though, because from one side of the bay to the other the sameness is stifling. Imitation krab, avocado, cream cheese? Give me a break! Even my son-in-law, who is relatively new to the sushi scene, commented the other day that it would really be a treat to dine at a traditional sushi restaurant instead of the plethora of those serving nothing but Americanized...for lack of a better word...crap (my word, not his)!

A restaurant that rocks! As an aspiring food writer and critic, I find it challenging at times deciding how to rate restaurants that I review. Some reviewers use stars, others rely on numbers - one to five or one to ten. When my reviews are picked up by Urbanspoon, my rating choices are FAVORITE, LIKES IT, (leave it blank), DOESN'T LIKE IT.

Just the other day I was watching a television bio of Nigella Lawson during which she described her method of determining a restaurant's worth. Nigella, who is an untrained chef like me, said that if she could go home and replicate a meal or a dish served at a restaurant, then that restaurant would get very low marks in her review. Bravo, Nigella!

I have been told that I am a very good cook, and it offends me to dine at a restaurant that can do no better than what I can do at home. Sadly, the Tampa Bay area is loaded with just that kind of restaurant and they have the audacity to charge exorbitant prices for what I can do for pennies on the dollar in my home kitchen with menu items purchased at my neighborhood Publix.

I am anxiously awaiting the arrival of a Tampa Bay restaurant that rocks.

Speaking of Nigella. The season premier of the ABC program, The Taste, debuts this Thursday, January 2nd at 8 PM. “The Taste features no-holds barred chef Anthony Bourdain, British food star Nigella Lawson, expert chef and author Ludo Lefebvre and restaurateur Brian Malarkey. Each of the four culinary superstars and “Taste” mentors – Bourdain, Lawson, Lefebvre and Malarkey – will coach a team of four competing pro and amateur cooks chosen from a nationwide casting call as they vie to create the best tasting dish."

I am looking forward to watching this episode because my blogging friend Rebekah of Some Kinda Good out of Stateboro, Georgia auditioned for the program. I don't know if she made the cut, but I have crossed fingers that she did. Rebekah is a charming and talented food writer and critic who deserves national acclaim.

To all: Feliz Año Nuevo.

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