Category Archives: EAT This

Loco Moco… Tales of an Epic Brunch Party

Food War Brunch Brunch Group
The Brunch Edition of the Food War / Food Throwdown Party took place last Sunday.  For those unfamiliar with the dinner party concept that my good friends Katina and Justin started, it’s basically an episode of Chopped meets Top Chef played out among friends and fellow foodies.  [READ HERE for the specific event details & rules.]  From these parties, I somehow managed to  earn a Simon Cowell reputation for my harsh honest critiques, and am constantly asked to put my money where my mouth is by entering a challenge and preparing a dish.   I have only entered one previous challenge where my Peanut Butter Chicken Chili tied for the top spot.  Truth be told, I will only enter any contest if I know that I will come out victorious on top, hence why I never participated in the homemade pasta and Moroccan challenges.

My friends Jaime and Jaden put so much work into hosting these parties at my dream their house, and creating such fabulous dishes, that it would only be fitting that I participate in this edition.  So the challenge was on: contestants must prepare a Brunch Dish, savory or sweet and not limited to specific ingredients, to be critiqued by all guests, but ultimately selected as the winning dish by chosen judges.  The cocktail challenge: to create the ultimate Bloody Mary, not limited to specific ingredients.  Being that I can barely properly pour a beer, I stuck with preparing a Brunch dish for the challenge.

I have a reputation with my friends and co-workers for not knowing how to cook, solely because I may dine out often.  Truth be told, I am a fine, young cannibal chef in the kitchen, and when I throw down, I throw it the @#$! down.   For my brunch dish, I knew that I wanted to create a hearty dish.  I also knew that I wanted to prepare something from Hawaii or Samoa that didn’t involve spam.  (And yes I can make that joke!)  Although, I may have lost this Food War, I am very proud of my dish and had quite the challenge with all of the wonderfully prepared and delicious dishes.  I am looking forward to DESTROYING Jaime and Jaden participating at the next challenge.

Sunday afternoons don’t get much better than spending it with old friends, new friends, enjoying delicious cocktails and homemade food.

 

Here were the brunch dishes entered at this Food War / Throwdown: 

Food War Brunch Dish 02

Jessica & Amber’s Dish:  Peruvian fish ceviche  made with lime, onions, spicy peppers, fresh cilantro, and served with a sweet potato round and toasted corn kernels

 

Food War Brunch Dish 03

Lauren’s Dish:  Homemade almond, raisin monkey bread  served with creme anglaise

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Food War Brunch Dish 01

Areis’s Dish:  Southwest stuffed breakfast pepper – stuffed with eggs, spinach, potatoes, pepper jack cheese, and topped off with black beans, pickled onion, pickled jalapenos, avocodo scallions, and sour cream

 

Food War Brunch Dish 04

The Best Dish in the Universe My Dish:   Hawaiian Loco Moco: coconut beef patty and brown tapioca gravy served over steamed jasmine rice, topped with a fried egg and bacon crumble

 

And of course for the WINNING DISH:

 

Food War Brunch Dish 05

Jaime & Jaden’s Dish:  Sweet potato hash, tossed in a spicy curry and sundried tomato sauce, topped with an olive oil poached egg, bacon crumble, and fresh herbs, and served with a gin, honey, simple syrup, ginger liqueur, fresh lemon juice topped with an IPA.

 

Food War Brunch Winners Judges Food War Brunch Winners

 

A HUGE CONGRATULATIONS to Jaime and Jaden for not only winning the Brunch Challenge, but for also winning the Bloody Mary Challenge.  And yes… they won Trophies for their victory.  We foodies take these challenges very seriously!

A SPECIAL THANK YOU to Nicholas and Allison with NHIE Tampa Bay, who judged the Brunch Portion, and were amazing troopers for putting up with my bribery, harassment, extortion tactics  allowing me to call them un-American graciously being a part of this challenge.  Be sure to check out their amazing NHIE: Never Have I Ever – Tampa Edition BLOG online at:  www.nhietampabay.com

 

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Fine Dining Into Ecstasy

Every year, I host some type of birthday party for myself, with last year’s celebration being the absolute best one yet.  This year, my plan was to celebrate with each of my best friends over one-on-one lunches and dinners in Tampa before jettisoning off to Chicago to spend time with my other family.

And while in Chicago, my vacation goals were as follow:

  1. eat
  2. be day drunk
  3. nap
  4. watch as many movies possible in a horizontal position (but without developing bedsores)
  5. fondle the TV remote control
  6. eat some more
  7. eat some more full-fledge pig out
  8. be day drunk with my friends
  9. watch a 3D movie while day drunk
  10. just effing relax

After all, I had officially entered my mid-30s so it’s all about taking it easy from here on out.  Relax.  Relate.  Release.

My traveling partner-in-crime Mike joined the Chicago fun, and recruited new friend Jonathan to drive-up and join in as well.  I hung out with Sterling and Adam, experienced a drive-by dinner visit from Rusty and embarked on a culinary cruise through Chicago where I ate the most delicious food imaginable.

My first stop began with a visit to Alinea, the #2 Top Rated restaurant in the U.S., the #15 Top Rated restaurant in the world and the venue that served me my most-expensive meal ever.  How to describe Alinea?  It was a ticketed establishment for starters, meaning you had to buy a ticket to dine at the restaurant.  Despite their sold-out schedule, Neil was fortunate to secure 4 tickets to Alinea.  Tickets allowed one to enjoy a finely crafted 14-course meal of molecular gastronomy dishes, with each creation paired with a different wine, champagne, beer and/or sake.  The dishes were so beautiful, that at times, I didn’t want to eat them out of guilt that I would be destroying miniature visual works-of-art.

Desserts that were plated on the entire dinner table and resembling a Jackson Pollock piece… Bites suspended on wires and pins…  Tastings that were time-sensitive to eat because the wax bowl would melt if you weren’t fast enough…  Burning leaves and pine to play with your sense of smell… Dehydrated green apple filled with helium served as a balloon…

There were moments where everyone at the dinner table collectively closed their eyes and sighed upon a first bite.  The dishes were THAT unbelievably and heavenly appetizing and orgasmic.  I failed to snap any photos of the dishes, because I wanted to take in every single second at Alinea.  So the below photos are ones that I found online to help give you a visual idea of what was served.

Alinea 02Alinea 01Alinea 03My food orgasm continued the following evening at Vince and Gina’s Dinner Party at their house.  She recruited her friend Ken to help create an 8-course meal paired with different wines and champagnes.

On the menu that evening:

  • Deviled Eggs a la Spotted Pig
  • Red Kuri Squash and Apple Soup  ::orgasmic::
  • Roasted Beets with Greek Yogurt and Micro Kale
  • Clams Oreganata
  • Pork Tenderloin, Apple Mostarda & Carmelized Onions
  • Beef Tataki with Pho Ponzu
  • BBQ Ribs, Hong Kong meets Memphis Style
  • and the best FLAN that I ever tasted in my life!  ::Heaven on Earth::

Photos of the dishes are below and were taken by moi.  Fill me up with bubbly and I apparently become as snap-happy with the phone camera as I become Chatty Cathy.

Gina Chicago 2013
Leave it to a quote from Gina to perfectly sum up my 34th birthday weekend…

Gina:  “Okie, we’re old now.  This is what we’re supposed to do now.  Dinner parties, wine and conversation.  Welcome to your mid-30s!”

…annnddd I’m not mad at that!  Gina’s fabulous dinner party actually inspired me to host my own Saketini and Appetizer Party for my close friends, and reminded me to always enjoy life by the glass.

The weekend wouldn’t be complete without giving a BIG thank you to Neil for the VIP, non-Gen Pop hospitality and friendship.  Happy Birthday (again) to me!

Here is the souvenir menu from Alinea for those curious foodies:

Alinea Menu







“Play by Play” by Autre Ne Veut:  Yet another song that Neil got me obsessing over and playing on REPEAT…

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Food Throwdown: May 2013

One of my most favorite periodic gatherings with friends, the Food Throwdown (the first one of this year) took place last weekend.  What exactly is a Food Throwdown?  My good friends Katina and Justin open the doors to their home and host these Food Throwdowns which are culinary competitions where a specific dish and cocktail are selected for the event.  Anyone from our social network of friends is free to prepare that particular dish and/or cocktail for everyone in attendance to taste, publicly offer their taste buds’ critique ala Bravo’s Top Chef and then anonymously vote for their favorite dish and cocktail.  (Fun Fact: Katina still holds a grudge from the very first Food Throwdown where I criticized her BBQ Short Rib’s pasta for tasting like Chef Boyardee despite voting for her winning dish.)  What’s fun is that anyone tasting the food is completely unaware of who concocted any of what’s being served.  What’s not fun?  The Food Throwdown winner only wins bragging rights.  (C’mon people, can’t we all throw money towards a prize already?)

Previous Food Throwdowns have involved a pasta dish with all ingredients including the pasta and sauces made completely from scratch, and a very fun quesadilla and margarita challenge.  This past Food Throwdown had my friends competing by making their favorite tacos and sangria.  While Rayda’s AMAAAZZZING beer-battered chipotle tilapia tacos with homemade peach salsa and tartar sauce did not come out on top with the other guests, Stephanie’s St. Germain white sangria did win proving that there was some palatable justice after all!

And since I’ve been told that I can typically be a bit harsh on my table comments (Chef Boyardee anyone?), I am making a vow to obliterate the competition enter my very first Food Throwdown as a contestant the next time around to prove that I can take the feedback as  much as I serve it.  (You hear that Katina?!  I’m coming for ya!)

Congratulations to Jesse & Stephanie who won this season’s Food Throwdown and a very special THANK YOU as always to the lovely hosts Justin and Katina!  Bon Appetit!

Food Throwdown May 2013

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Big Foodie Hoes

TOST 2013 Group 2

I relapsed at the beginning of April this year.  I didn’t mean to, but I am powerless against my lifelong addiction.  It completely spiraled out of control from then on out.  Perhaps its time I check into rehab?…  I am of course referring to my endless appetite and the numerous Food Festivals and Food Events that I attended last month silly!

My absolute favorite thing to do in the world is to eat.  I love food.  Everyone who knows me knows that I love, adore, worship food.  Eat, Pray, Love?  Nope… Eat, Drink, Eat!  There is nothing that I have not eaten.  There is nothing that I would not eat.  Seriously, if I were a contestant on Fear Factor, I would win every single one of those crazy food eating challenges.

So imagine my excitement when I nabbed tickets to three of Tampa’s signature Food Events last month.  I took a break from my usual routine of healthy clean eating so that I could binge eat overwhelm my taste buds and indulge.

YTT 2013 Improv 2

My Fat Ass Foodie Adventure began with the Ybor Tapas Trail (part of Ybor City’s Aficionado Days).  18 restaurant stops.  3 hours.  Food samples and a cocktail at each location.  By the time my friends and I passed the finish line, we were all completely spent. All of the eating and trekking in the humid weather took its toll, and I immediately climbed into bed when I got home from the event not wanting to ever think about food again…

TOST 2013 Group 3

…until the annual Taste of South Tampa at Hyde Park Village the very next day.

The Taste of South Tampa featured 27 local restaurants such as Timpano, Jackson’s and Catrinas Cocina y Galeria  each serving a sizable plate of food.  There was live entertainment, complimentary beer and wine, and a text messaging contest for patrons to vote for their favorite restaurant.  Piquant Epicure & Cuisine‘s savory-sweet croissant with sausage gravy was one of my votes, along with JusThai‘s offering of Pad Thai, Springrolls, Fried Rice and Thai Tea.

DCYC 2013 April

The last stop on my obesity marathon Food Adventure was Dishcrawl Tampa‘s Ybor City tour.  The concept of Dishcrawl Tampa is for patrons to dine at four principal restaurants in a specific neighborhood of the Tampa Bay area.  Patrons have zero clue where they will be feasting since each restaurant stop is revealed as you go along.  The chefs at each restaurant are commonly at the dinner table, answering any questions and providing details about their menu items and restaurant.

My friend and fellow foodie Tracy Guida organizes and oversees Dishcrawl Tampa.  She’s also quite a remarkable blogger.  Check out her review of the Ybor City Dishcrawl HERE along with her primary website HERE.

I highly urge any reader to experience a Dishcrawl Tampa event.  Future Dishcrawl stops include International Plaza on May 14th, Downtown Tampa on May 21st, the Westshore district on June 4th and the Dunedin area on June 11th.   Check out all of Dishcrawl Tampa’s events at www.dishcrawl.com/tampa.

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“Let It Be” by Blackmill featuring Veela…  Robby turned me onto this song a few weeks ago, but I swear I heard this song somewhere else way before his introduction.  It’s a melodic, tranquilizing, groovy tune that confuses me.  I don’t know if I should be dancing, performing sun salutations, or both every time I hear it!

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Moment 4 Life

Eddie Vs Opening

I had the privilege of attending the Opening Preview of Florida’s very first Eddie V’s restaurant last month.  This was an invite-only event to preview the dishes and desserts of the latest culinary offering from the Darden Restaurants Group.  I’m not singing praises only because my friend Steven Hickey is the managing partner there, but Eddie V’s completely knocked my socks off and wowed me.  My table split the Kung Pao Calamari and Jumbo Lump Crab, shared the Bananas Foster dessert, and I managed to inhale a lil’ bit of everything around me: Aimee’s Pacific Ahi Tuna, Jess’s Roasted Double Breast of Chicken and Shane’s Crab Fried Rice with Scallions & Mushrooms.  My Chilean Sea Bass dish managed to rival that of SideBern’s, my most favorite restaurant in Tampa.  The entire evening was a fantastic time spent with fabulous friends, and I salivate at the thought of my next Eddie V’s dining experience.  THANK YOU Steve for having us as your guests.

Please click on a thumbnail to enlarge / view photo (and please excuse my cellphone-snapped quality shots):

Niely Bday 2013 Group

After dinner that same evening, I high-tailed over to my good friend Niely‘s pinup / greaser-themed birthday party at The Dog’s Bollocks Pub.  Every year, Niely throws some colorfully-themed bday party for herself.  Two years ago, her festivities coincided with Square One‘s Man On The Moon art extravaganza, requiring guests to dress in black and white (not exactly colorful now that I think about it.)  However last year’s Nicki Minaj-themed bash featured a Look-a-Like costume contest and a plea for guests to butcher perform a Nicki Minaj song on the karaoke stage.  (Fun Fact: Before believing you can do Nicki’s “Moment 4 Life” karaoke justice, don’t.)

I concluded the evening still feeling dazzled from dinner and still feeling relieved that I stopped myself last year from subjecting my karaoke rendition of “Moment 4 Life” to living and breathing human beings with iPhone and Android video recording capabilities.  HAPPY BIRTHDAY Niely!

“I Was A Fool” by Tegan and Sara: I never paid much attention to Tegan and Sara until recently.  They’ve become one of those artists who lure me in with their new single, and then provoke me to start backtracking, listening and falling in love with all of their previous albums, wondering why the hell I never paid any attention to them ever back then.

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Eat This: Grow Cart

Dining Review: Grow Cart

Owners (and recently engaged) Devin O’Connor and Sashy Czarnec recently debuted their Grow Cart  food cart at the Loafing In The Park concert series in Centennial Park, which coincided with this past Saturday’s WMNF Tropical Heatwave event.  The Grow Cart is an extension of their non-profit organization, The Grow Group, Inc. which provides vocational rehabilitation services to individuals in Florida through job development and preparation, career planning and training and more.

Sashy showered my friend Lorena and I with complimentary tastings of their organic food offerings in exchange for a blog review of their cart’s first outing.  She only asked that I be honest in my critique, even if it were scathing and brutal.  Luckily for Sashy and Devin (and myself for the free bites), Grow Cart was very tasty and filling with the potential of fruitful promise!

Keep in mind that eating is my absolute favorite thing to do in the world!  While I do not consider myself an expert in cuisines and am not schooled on technical culinary jargon, I do know the simple “what tastes good, what tastes bad” and do consider myself an expert on recommending palatable and quality food to others.

The Grow Cart’s organic chicken sandwich was surprisingly very moist, so the roasted red pepper aoili sauce was just an added bonus.  Both the organic guacamole and hummus, served with pita chips were very smooth and tasted freshly prepared.  I only wish that fresh vegetables were an option with both to continue with the apparent “healthy-eating” motif of the menu.  My absolute favorite dish that was served was their all-natural sweet potato salad which was the perfect flavorful blend of various consistencies: creamy & smooth with a bit of crunch factor (pecans).  I could have easily devoured an entire plate full of it!

I didn’t have a “proper” digital camera to take photos that did justice to their food.  Please excuse the camera phone photos!

I would love to see the addition of more fruits and vegetables on the menu and a vegetarian sandwich option, but for the Grow Cart’s virgin outing… not bad, pretty good actually.  I can definitely see Sashy and Devin experimenting with more menu items in the future, and possibly grow-ing their Grow Cart into a full-fledged Grow Food Truck if they continue down the delectable path they just started on.  These two highly ambitious individuals bust their asses at everything they do, so it’s not a far off thought.

Congratulations Sashy & Devin!

Check out more about The Grow Group, Inc. here.

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