Tag Archives: Katina Athan

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


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


Please click on thumbnail to enlarge / view photo:

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Happy Everyday

My good friend Katina urged me to attempt the 100 Happy Days Challenge that she and numerous other participants have been posting about.  So, I visited and read the website.  I recognized and understood the concept.  Hats off to her and anyone else playing along with the challenge, because it really seems to be one of the more genuine and harmless social media gimmicks flying around out there.  I definitely am not knocking it, but for me, it’s (simply put) just not me.  Just as I loathe those silly website lists telling me what 20 places I need to visit before I die, or those ludicrous and annoying personality quizzes that “determine” which Real Housewife, 80s Pop Star, 90s Rock Star, Hollywood Movie Star, Boy Bay member I am based on my answers to 5 brainless questions… my happiness, my personality, and my future will never be validated, defined nor governed by any website.

HOWEVER… Katina was ON to something, and her enthusiasm with how the 100 Happy Days Challenge has inspired her wound up inspiring me.  I DO need to quit making the excuse that I am too busy to find time to spend with old friends.  I DO need to make more of an effort to stay in touch with others outside of the realm of social media.  I DO need to always remember that I have a pretty awesome life, and to be grateful for its privileges and the individuals living in it with me.

I didn’t quite make 100 days, but I did document the last 7 days that were pretty damn magical.

2014 Edison Okie Steven Dinner

Happiness:  having dinner with one of your best friends

2014 Filthy Richard Okie Jamal Areis Traye

Happiness:  a sudden night out on the town with your boys

2014 Ybor Wine Bar Okie Linley

Happiness: enjoying a long-overdue dinner, movie and wine night with a loved one

2014 GD Okie Neil Jason Areis2014 GD Okie Cody Areis Jason

Happiness: acting as if not one day has passed when reconnecting with your travel crew and best friends from Chicago and New York

2014 GD Okie Dani Steven 2014 GD Okie Nathan Dani Steven Carlos2014 GD Okie Will O

Happiness: randomly running into old friends when in another city

2014 Oxford Exchange Hyacinth Robby Jason Charles Areis

Happiness: when a best friend visits and wants to meet for brunch

2014 Rooster Till Katina 2

Happiness:  nearly ordering the entire menu when dining with a best friend

2014 Little Dragon Group

 Happiness:  experiencing a concert with loved ones
Happiness Bonus:  when the presence of a photo bomber makes you smile

Cheers to #100daysofhappiness A LIFETIME of happiness.

“The world is ours, and no one can take it away except the exhaustion of enjoying it so much.” -my friend Michael Maurer

“Inner Smile” by Texas:  After all these years, this song still makes me feel happy!


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Nude Nite Tampa 2014

Nude Nite 2014 B

An Ybor City Warehouse recently transformed into a three-night art exhibition celebrating the beauty of the human body.  The reason was for Nude Nite, the popular art event that began 14 years ago in Orlando and that eventually expanded onto Tampa Bay’s art scene shores.  The event is a total imagery overload from the “WOW” art of all mediums to the live body painting and performance art to the fun and interactive installations.  Each and every year, I look forward to seeing what Nude Nite founder Kelly Stevens and company will unveil for the thousands that flock to this event.

Nude Nite 2014 A Nude Nite 2014 C

What I love most about Nude Nite is that it’s not just another art event, but a true sensory experience.  I love the variety with changing locations each year.  I love the rock & roll feel of taking over empty buildings and abandoned warehouses.  I love how big city the event becomes with its diverse audience and art-buying patrons.

An experience, and not just an event.  That is something that I, an event organizer myself strive for each and every time with any of my own events.  The art and the performances at Nude Nite are on display just as much as the entire Nude Nite event is.  When most event organizers seek to bring that experience-factor to their events, Nude Nite always triumphs because the event in itself is a stunning and true work-of-art.

Definitely add this event experience to your 2015 calendars!

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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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Oops! I Became a Palindrome… Again

pal-in-drome:  a word, verse, or sentence or a number (as 33) that reads the same backward or forward

I never understood why people in their 30’s and 40’s feel the need to proclaim that they’re re-celebrating their 21st birthday on their special day.  Anytime I told someone that I was turning 33-years-old this year, they jokingly tried to correct me by saying, “oh, you mean 21, right?” which only prompted me  to correct them by letting them know that I am proud to be the age that I am.  When compared to when I was a clueless 21-year-old, I am in a much better place in life: basically wiser, richer and more connected with who I am and what my purpose in life truly is.  Getting older is inevitable, so I fully embrace each new year like a brand new pair of shoes.  I am 33-years-old dammit!

Kristin and I decided to host a birthday party for 40 of my closest friends at her house this year.  With friends already flying in from NYC, Los Angeles, Chicago, Ohio and Miami for that weekend’s Square One event at The RITZ Ybor the next day, I didn’t want to invite everyone out to a huge group dinner for 40 at (insert restaurant name here).  Those type of birthday group dinner gatherings always turn into more of a headache, lack any type of intimacy and just are never any fun: you are forced to socialize more with whoever you happen to be sitting next to, the bill is always wrong, food comes out late, the wrong dishes come out with some dishes not even making it to the table, etc.

Even with the already hectic and crazy work schedule, this year’s birthday party was worth every dime and minute that went into planning it… mainly because I love my friends more than the world.  I wish everyday could be my birthday if only I could have as much fun as I did last weekend!

33rd Birthday… BEST Birthday Ever!

Diamonds by Rihanna

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Congratulations, Happy Birthday, Farewell!

The past few weekends, I have been booked solid.  After reviewing my Google Calendar, yours truly has been on a non-stop celebration tour extravaganza of my friends: most notably, a wedding reception, a birthday gathering and a farewell dinner.

Congratulations to Gary & Kat!

My friends Kat and Gary tied the knot last month in Antigua, but held their wedding reception celebration in St. Pete, FL earlier this month.  I’ve known Kat for a few years now, and can attest to her being my one friend who wanted to get “made an honest woman out of” more than any of my other friends.  Fortunately, she found something special with Gary, and they both seem to be having the time of their lives with one another right now.

The beach-esque reception was a very simple, succinct and standard affair, and had Kat’s unique style written all over the event.  Besides the opportunity to share Kat and Gary’s monumental day with them, it’s always a bonus to have an excuse to dress-up and hang out with friends that you haven’t spent time with in a while.

Happy Birthday Katina!

My old friend Katina held her celebration in St. Pete as well, but her celebration was in honor of her 32nd Birthday.  Just now typing “32nd birthday” reminded me that I have known Katina for over 20 years now.  20 years?  20 years!  That’s just one year shy of a Robby Nichols!

Katina invited a close group of friends for dinner at Snapper’s Sea Grill (which had the most amazing and award-winning blueberry-teriyaki tuna appetizer).  We dined, we drank, we laughed and I was instantly reminded why I’m such good friends with Katina.  The girl is silly, entertaining, love-able and fun.  It also doesn’t hurt that she laughs at every single one of my idiotic jokes.

 Farewell Nathan!

Nathan was my first roommate (that wasn’t a sibling or someone related to me) ever.  He and I first met nearly a decade ago, became good friends five years ago or so later, and lived together for a little under a year.  (And what an entertaining era that year of rooming was!)

Before he flew up to Minneapolis, Nathan held an intimate dinner with his closest friends at Yummy House China Bistro in Tampa.  I never get sad or emotional during friend’s farewell gatherings, mainly because I know that I will still keep in correspondence with them.  In fact, I’ve spent more time with a handful of my former Tampa resident friends now that they’ve relocated somewhere else.  So fluff the guestroom pillows and stock the fridge Nathan, for you will surely have at least one friend visiting you in Minneapolis very soon.

Congratulations… Happy Birthday… and Farewell to my friends!

Oh… and R.I.P. Zombie Jocelyn!

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The Event of 2012!

Pride & Passion
Saturday, May 19, 2012
@ The Tampa Museum of Art

Jocelyn’s wedding to herself.  Tampa’s Gay Prom.  Despite what others may have called last Saturday, the truth of the matter is that last Saturday’s Pride & Passion event is the 2nd largest fundraiser for The Tampa Museum of Art that SOLD OUT.  It just so happens to also be a buffet of fun.  Congratulations to the entire event steering committee, hosts, Tampa Museum staff, entertainers, performers and volunteers for putting on such a class-act event!  Looking forward to next year’s bash!

Photography by Radko Keleman

All Hail the Queen!

with Mayor Bob Buckhorn

One the of many thrilling performances by New Century Dance Company

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Pretty in Pink

Jocelyn and I attended Pride & Passion last year at the Tampa Museum of Art.  Pride & Passion is the Museum’s 2nd largest annual fundraiser, and last year’s event was a handful of fun.  The only major problem with last year’s event was that the majority of our friends weren’t there to experience it with us.

This year, Jocelyn and I both decided to raise the bar.  I was helping this year’s Steering Committee and Jocelyn signed up to be an event host.  A host’s responsibilities included spreading the word about the event and selling tickets.  An internal competition between others hosts ensued to determine who could sell the most tickets as each host received their own personalized ticket url link.  Game on!

Jocelyn and I “harassed” and “badgered” all of our friends to purchase their Pride & Passion tickets.  We enticed friends from Chicago, Los Angeles and Orlando to come in to town for the event.  We also decided to throw a “P” party with free drinks & appetizers at TAPS downtown Tampa for any guests that purchased tickets through her link as an additional incentive.  The “P” Party was our Private Pride & Passion Pre-Party with Personal Paparazzi.  (FYI: Jocelyn hired professional photographer Radko Keleman to document her evening of fun and follow her and her friends around.)  Eventually, the “P” Party also became a Pink Party as most of our guests decided to all incorporate the color pink into their attire.

Dressed in Hugo Boss and Betsey Johnson

We are still awaiting final word on whether Jocelyn won the host competition, but at last count… the Blonde Ambition Queen was leading the pack!

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Last Man Standing [05.17.2009]

Originally posted on MySpace and Facebook on May 17, 2009:

It always puts a smile on my face when all of your close friends come together for the sole purpose of a mutual friend who is in town. Cheri was visiting from L.A. this weekend, and I could not have needed her visit any more than I needed it this weekend.

It seems like life has finally reached that inevitable point where my nearest and dearest friends are either married, getting married, wanting to start a family, moving away, falling in love, and just simply growing up. So anytime anyone of them and I are able to synch our schedules to have dinner or meet up, I find myself being incredibly happy.

This past Friday when Cheri and I walked past the long line at Steam on our way to Reservoir Bar, she remarked, “Who are all these people standing outside? I don’t know anyone in this line.” This coming from someone who practically lived in and ruled the nightclubs just a short 2-3 years ago, and who introduced me to A LOT of people in social circles.

Strangely enough, I was the one who knew the vast majority of everyone in that line, which prompted Cheri to remark, “Omigod, you’re the last man standing!” … a statement obviously referring to the fact that I am the last out of our group of friends who is still going out and doing the stuff that we all did 5 years ago. For some reason, that statement spoke volumes to me and has been marinating with me since Friday and I never understood why until today… I had never realized the truth until it was directly told to me.

Nick and I often make jokes about being old like we did at The Castle last Thursday, but essentially… it is the truth. We are getting older. I am getting older. All of my close friends are able to place a check mark in “LATE 20’s” age box, but what happens when you’re about to place a check in the “30’s” age box? What happens next? What do you do?

I am turning 30 in November of this year, and I always thought that turning 30 would be a great thing and embraced this new era in life with open arms. There were a lot of things about my 20’s that I will not miss… figuring out who I was, being broke, being inexperienced to know better. But now I am wondering if I should still be ecstatic about turning 30 only because I am going to start embarking on a lot of wonderful new memories… possibly… and sadly… without those individuals who I shared the best memories of my 20’s with.

I miss Cheri. I miss Katina. I miss Steven MichaelRay. I miss Billy. I miss David Phan. I miss Jon La May. I miss Nick. I miss Gina. I miss Kristin. I miss Harry. I miss Jess. I miss Linley. I miss Donna. I miss Hilary. I miss Sterling. I miss SAK. It feels like I never see them, but everytime I do… I am instantly reminded that even though they may not be around as much as they once were, they are still a guaranteed source of happiness in any “last man standing’s” life.

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Can We Get Together? [02.17.2009]

Originally posted on MySpace on February 17, 2009:

Two of my most favorite people in the entire galaxy are arriving in town this weekend… Gina & Neil!

It’s been two years since my soulmate Gina was last in Tampa. I actually met her on Myspace through a random message [READ: How I Met Chicago Gina] and anyone who knows me knows how important she is to me and how that random meeting created such life-changing moments [READ: What’s Meant To Be]. It is tradition that I celebrate Gina’s birthday with her no matter where the location… her 30th at Celebrity & SmartBar in Chicago [READ: Gina’s Dirty Thirty Bday]… her 31st at Vince’s place & Boom Boom Room in Chicago [READ: Reciting my Bday Poem to Gina VIDEO]… her 32nd at Avalon in Los Angeles… and now her 33rd here in Tampa, Florida!

Neil was Gina’s roommate during their med school days, and instantly became one of my most nearest and dearest friends. He continually goes out of his way for me and any of my friends… be it housing an apartment full of drunks [READ: 2008 Market Days Weekend]… allowing my friends and I to crash at his place while he is away and working all weekend [READ: Janet Jackson Rock Witchu Tour]… or just plain spending the entire weekend watching movies and eating food with one another [READ: Chicago Lovers VIDEO].

So come out this weekend to play!!! I’M READY!

Friday, February 20th
Steam @ Honey Pot

Saturday, February 21st
8pm: Gina’s Bday Dinner @ L’Olivier (Centro Ybor)
I have Grace’s wedding that afternoon, but I will be out afterwards
followed by GBar

Sunday, February 22nd
12pm: Buddhist Temple
8pm: Travis France’s Bday @ Streetcar Charlie’s

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