I know all of you are DYING to know what the foodies have been up to lately (other than making creamer). Sometimes days come and go and blogging gets pushed to the back burner. But I want to give a brief overview of how we’ve been occupying our food-eating time.
March 12: Our first Dishcrawl! I forget how I found out about it (Twitter?) but the idea was really intriguing. You visit four restaurants over the course of an evening and sample a little food at each place. Tonight’s Dishcrawl was in Ybor. We visited Istanblu, Gaspar’s Grotto, Bernini, and Carne Chop House. (Our favorites were Gaspar’s Grotto and Carne Chop House.) It was a fun change of pace and we got to meet some nice people.
March 14: Mom took Hubby and me to Mise En Place to celebrate my birthday. Hubby and I had been before but had only eaten at the bar; Mom had never been. This time we got a table and service started out a little slow, which was really shocking. Right after we sat down, a table of our server’s regulars sat down and he got very wrapped up in them. When Hubby pointed this out to him, he was very apologetic and was very attentive the rest of the meal, so it all worked out. The food was fantastic as usual. One of the highlights of the meal was the beef tenderloin that Mom and I shared ($34.25). It was so tender I literally cut it with my fork. What was so notable for us about the evening was how much Mom LOVED Mise. She really likes food (where do you think I get it from?) but I think it’s been years since I saw her so enthusiastic about a restaurant. That was a big endorsement.
March 15 (my actual birthday): For dinner, Mom made one of my favorite meals at home: fried catfish and hush puppies. She went to Cox’s for the fish and they just happened to have some wild-caught catfish in stock. What a difference in the flavor! Hubby isn’t usually a catfish fan but he ate several pieces that night and a few more the next night.
March 16: I went to the renaissance faire with some friends (Hubby had to work). After the faire we stopped at Bearss Grove for a Generation Food Truck event. My friends had never been to a food truck rally and were impressed by the selection. I took barbecue from Snootie’s home to hubby and it was pretty awesome. Their sausage tasted homemade and their ribs were really spectacular (had a nice smoky char on them). I’m bummed they’re only here during the winter. We also tried Disco Donuts for the first time and we are definitely fans now (the honey donuts are our favorite).
March 17: I went to brunch at Flamestone Grill with Mom and my BFF C. I realize Flamestone isn’t “cool” because it’s in Oldsmar but we don’t care – the food there is really good. Their new brunch menu was definitely not a disappointment. I had their version of steak and eggs, which is made with prime rib. I NEVER eat steak and eggs but this was fantastic. I would absolutely get it again. The table split an order of French toast, which was divine. Flamestone also has all-you-can-drink bloody mary and mimosa bars for $10. And these are no ordinary drink buffets. The bloody mary bar features infused vodka, veggies (including full stalks of celery), several types of olives, and the biggest grilled shrimp I have ever seen. (The girls both had bloody marys and they were delicious. I had to study that afternoon so I stuck with coffee.) The mimosa bar was really a champagne cocktail bar featuring two types of sparkling wine, orange and cranberry juices, and several types of fruit. Definitely worth $10. Can’t wait to go back.
March 23: Another Generation Food Truck event, this time at the Lutz library for the Lutz centennial celebration. We got so much food I can’t even remember it all. Hubby got the buffalo chicken tots from Hott Mess and they were soooo good (even better left over a couple days later!). We stopped at Pao (Philipino food) and got a couple of pork dishes (the sisig and tocsilog). Both dishes were excellent but we both preferred the sisig. I got Mom shrimp and grits from Destination Grill, which she really enjoyed. And, of course, we got more donuts from Disco Donuts.
March 26: Another Dishcrawl! This one was in the “Bayshore Beautiful” area (MacDill south of Gandy). We visited Mad Dogs and Englishmen, Caffé Paradiso, Tasty Stacy’s food truck, and Wimauma. Our favorite food of the night came from Mad Dogs and Tasty Stacy’s but the host with the most was definitely the owner of Caffé Paradiso. If/when we return to Mad Dogs, we’ll make sure to pop into Caffé Paradiso for a glass of wine and appetizer before because he was such a warm, outgoing man. (The food is quite good, too. We’re just not big Italian food eaters, despite our rabid devotion to Donatello.)
March 30: Big family dinner at Charley’s with the in-laws to celebrate my father-in-law’s and my birthdays. We discovered a new favorite there: the portabello mushroom appetizer. I’m not sure how to describe them (and since Charley’s has THE WORST WEBSITE EVER for a restaurant at that price point I can’t copy/paste the menu description for you) but they were the hands-down favorite of our whole party. As usual, the steaks were PHENOMENAL. My BFF C got the chocolate cake for dessert and I had to try a bite. I was convinced it would be sweet and fake-tasting, like the chocolate cake at most restaurants. Um, NO, it rocked. Next time I’m getting that for dessert. It tasted like the chocolate cake I make.
March 31: Mom made breakfast for everyone before my in-laws went home: French toast casserole (recipe below), bacon, bacon gravy, and biscuits. I had also made Cadbury cream egg cookie bars the day before. Many were eaten and many were sent home with my in-laws and our friends! They were so good I bought more Cadbury cream eggs so I can make another pan before next Easter.
In addition to all of this running around town, I have been trying to eat more natural foods because of my own recent health issues (nothing major but enough to make me change some things) and the continual feed of disgusting news about commercial food production. In the process I have rediscovered Abby’s. My mom has been going there as long as we’ve lived in Tampa but once I became old enough to stay home alone I pretty much quit going. Well, I needed some dates for my creamer recipe and Mom said she had spotted some at Abby’s, so I stopped in. By the time I left, I was PISSED at myself for not going sooner. It’s like a food oasis! If you’re looking for natural foods, go to Abby’s. Not only do they have an excellent selection, including a fantastic café, their prices are highly competitive. Mom frequently finds things cheaper at Abby’s than the Whole Foods up the road.
Overnight French Toast Casserole
I got this recipe from a friend at work. I think she said she adapted it from a Paula Deen recipe. I recommend using brioche (available at Whole Foods). We used regular pecans, not glazed. Also, everyone said this is too good to put syrup on, so… doubt you’ll need any!
1/4 cup (4 Tablespoons) butter, melted
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar (separated-save 1/8 for topping)
1 loaf of French, brioche or challah bread (sliced into 1 1/2 inches thick slices)
8 eggs, slightly beaten
1 cup milk
3 Tbsp half & half
1 Tbsp vanilla extract
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground apple pie spice
3/4 cup chopped pecans (glazed pecans work the best)
1/8 teaspoon salt
(optional) maple syrup and powdered sugar for topping
1-In a small bowl combine brown sugar and melted butter and pour on the bottom of a 9×13 baking dish.
2-Arrange slices of bread in the baking dish on slight standing up angle. Overlap if necessary.
3-Combine milk, eggs, vanilla, salt, cinnamon, and spice in a bowl and pour evenly over bread slices. Make sure all are soaked with mixture.
4-Sprinkle chopped pecans and remaining brown sugar over bread slices.
5- Wrap tightly with plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator for 4-8 hours.
6- In the morning, take the casserole out of the fridge for at least 10 minutes while you are preheating your oven to 350 degrees.
7- Bake casserole for 30-35 minutes. If top starts browning too quickly place a foil loosely over the top of
the casserole for the last 10 minutes or so. You want it to cook long enough to make sure the bottom part is cooked but don’t dry it out completely.
8- Remove casserole from oven and let it cool slightly before serving. Serve with a dusting of powdered sugar if desired.