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I’ve launched a new website and personal blog that will focus on topics going beyond food called CarlosIHernandez. I hope you will check it out and give it a look. See you there!
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Busch Gardens Christmas Town starts November 17th

Are you feeling the holiday spirit? It’s 67 degrees today in Tampa and I am already sipping on an eggnog latte. Busch Gardens Tampa Bay will bring back their annual Christmas Town series starting this Saturday, November 17th.

Christmas Town favorites will return including Santa’s House presented by Coca-Cola and Rudolph’s Winter Wonderland.

New for Christmas Town this year:

  • Brunch with Santa: Christmas-themed dining experience for the whole family. Some items on the menu include fried chicken and waffles with apple butter, butternut bisque with cinnamon cream, and chocolate cake with raspberry sauce. Santa Clause will make an appearance with a photo opportunity. Adults can enjoy unlimited mimosa and “Build-Your-Own-Bloody-Mary” upgrades. The event will occur on select dates at Serengeti Overlook Restaurant 
  • “Christmas Is…” holiday show at Dragon Fire Grill joining Christmas on Ice, Elmo’s Christmas Wish, the Holiday Hills Band, Carols of the Bells light show, and Christmas Town Sing-A-Long Train
  • Christmas Town Village will be located in a new location this year. Find it inside the Gwazi Pathway with holiday merchandise and treats for-sale. The Jingle Bell Express miniature train will be in town. Winter whiskey and wine tastings will be available for adults of age. 

My favorite part of Christmas Town is all the lights and of course the snow. The holiday train is also something I really enjoy. It really gets you in the mood for the holidays.

Here is the schedule for Christmas Town 2018:

 Find more information at ChristmasTown.com.

Review: Amy’s Organic Soups Golden Lentil Indian Dal

I have been shopping for some new soups lately and came across Amy’s Organic Soups Golden Lentil Indian Dal. I found the soup at Sprout’s Farmers Market on-sale for about $2.50 per can.

I was really surprised with how great the flavors were in this soup.

You can really taste the organic tomatoes, organic carrots, and organic red lentils and it isn’t spicy besides a little organic black pepper. I have a bit of spice sensitivity and I was just fine with this soup. The ingredients tasted rich and full of flavor. It tasted savory and I gobbled it down.

Many store-bought soups are too watery and that wasn’t my experience with this product.

I would recommend getting some Naan bread or pita bread on the side. This soup would pair well with any dish and was quite filling on its own. The soup also has no trans fat and like the rest of their line is Non-GMO as well as gluten-free, dairy-free, lactose-free, soy-free, corn-free, tree-nut free, vegan, and kosher. Their cans have non-BPA lining too.

The sodium level is 56% of your daily value or 1,360 milligrams with 2 servings or 1 can so if you’re watching your salt intake this soup may not be for you unless you’re going to balance the rest of your diet out. It is low sugar with only about 6 grams in a can.

I recommend Amy’s Organic Soups Golden Lentil Indian Dal. Great flavor and quality for the price.

Veteran’s Day 2018 Freebies

Looking for some freebies on Veteran’s Day 2018?

The national holiday will occur on November 11th and be observed on Monday, November 12th, 2018.

Veteran’s Day was originally founded as “Armstice Day” by President Woodrow Wilson on November 11th, 1919, the first anniversary of World War I and eventually become a way to commemorate all who have served our country.

Here is a list of places offering discounts – make sure to bring your valid identification to qualify:

  • 4 Rivers Smokehouse: All veteran’s and first-responders (with valid ID) will receive a complimentary sandwich at their local 4 Rivers) on Monday, November 12th.
  • Applebee’s Grill + Bar: All veterans and active-duty military can enjoy a free full-size entree Sunday, November 11th, from a selection of eight dishes
  • BJ’s Restaurant + Bar: Free meal up to $12.95 + free Dr. Pepper Sunday. 
  • Bonefish Grill: Free bang bang shrimp on Sunday, November 11th.
  • Buffalo Wild Wings: Free small order of traditional or boneless wing with a side of fries on Sunday, November 11th
  • California Pizza Kitchen: Free meal from special menu on Sunday, November 11th. BOGO card valid November 12th to November 18th. 
  • Chipotle: BOGO deal on Sunday, November 11th
  • Cracker Barrel: Free slice of Double Chocolate Fudge Coca-Cola Cake or Craft Coffee Beverage
  • Cici’s Pizza: Free adult buffet on Sunday, November 11th.
  • Denny’s: Free Build Your Own Grand Slam from 5AM to 12PM Monday, November 12th for active, inactive, and retired military personnel. 
  • Grimaldi’s Pizzeria: Men and women who have served can enjoy 15% off their bill on Sunday, November 11th. Alcohol excluded. Not valid in NY, NJ, or CT.
  • IHOP: Free Red, White, and Blue pancakes or patriotic pancake combo on Monday, November 12th from 7AM to 7PM.
  • Longhorn Steakhouse: Free appetizer or dessert on Sunday November 11th.
  • Miller’s Ale House: 50% off meal on Sunday, November 11th.
  • Olive Garden: Free meal from special menu on Sunday, November 11th
  • Outback Steakhouse: Free bloomin’ onion and non-alcoholic beverage on Sunday, November 11th
  • Red Robin: Free Red’s Tavern Double with bottomless steak fries on Sunday, November 11th
  • Shake Shack: Free scoop of Shake Shack custard on Sunday, November 11th.
  • Sonny’s BBQ: Free pulled or sliced pork big deal combo for veteran’s and active duty on Monday, November 12th. Dine-in only.
  • Starbucks: Free tall hot brewed coffee on Sunday, November 11th.
  • Texas de Brazil: Two veteran’s dine complimentary and 20% off for up to 6 more guests on November 11th and November 12th.
  • Texas Roadhouse: Free lunch from special menu on Sunday, November 11th for active, former, or retired military. Dine-in only. 
  • Tijuana Flats: Free entree and drink Sunday with military ID. Dine in or take out. Limit 1 per person.
  • World of Beer: Free draught beer for veteran’s or $5 off your bill.
  • Zaxby’s: Free chicken filet sandwich on Monday, November 12th. 

Here are local spots in Tampa Bay offering deals for Veteran’s Day:

  • Brandon Harley-Davidson: Free food and drinks for all veterans, active duty, and retired military personnel on Saturday, November 10th from 11AM-3PM. 20% off general merchandise official licensed products. 
  • Fresh Harvest at Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Tampa: 2-4-1 buffet or 50% OFF buffet. $20 in free play will be offered to veteran’s (must visit Player’s Club to redeem).
  • Prost Kitchen + Bar: Free meal for active/retired military on Sunday, November 11th and Monday, November 12th. 
  • Tampa Bay Grand Prix: $10 per race special all weekend for all veteran’s and their families.
  • Tampa Beer Works: $1 off drafts for veterans on Sunday, November 12th

Restaurant News: Sparkman Wharf opening November 30th in Downtown Tampa

Image via Strategic Property Partners

The highly anticipated Sparkman Wharf is opening on Friday, November 30th, 2018 where Channelside once stood.

This is part of the Water Street Tampa project that aims to rebuild and rethink Downtown Tampa, adding much needed green space and a focus on Tampa’s waterfront views.

Several restaurateurs have signed on to the project including Ichicoro owner Noel Cruz, Chef BT Nguyen of Restaurant BT, Chef Ferrell Alvarez of Rooster & the Till, and more.

One might even think of it as an outdoor food hall complete with an upcoming outdoor beer garden called Fermented Reality Beer Garden.

Guide: Don’t miss these Election 2018 voting discounts

Early voting starts in Hillsborough County and Pinellas County on Monday, October 22nd and will go until Election Day 2018 on Tuesday, November 6th.

This Election Day is important with seats such as the race for Governor, House of Representatives, and Senate on the line as well as plenty of amendments and tax proposals.

Learn more about voting in Hillsborough County: http://www.votehillsborough.org/

Learn more about voting in Pinellas County: http://www.votepinellas.com/

Uber and Lyft are providing FREE rides to the polls on Election Day. No excuses.

Some great local businesses will offering perks to voters who show up with their “I Voted” stickers during early voting through Election Day. 

Here is a list of participating local businesses with discounts I rounded up:

  1. Ginger Beard Coffee – 10% OFF with “I Voted” sticker. 1208 E Kennedy Blvd #112, Tampa, FL 33606
  2. Ybor City Wine Bar – One FREE glass of select wine or bubbles. 
    1600 E 7th Ave, Tampa, FL 33605
  3. Rooster & the Till – Show your “I Voted” sticker and enjoy at 15-percent ‘Neighborhood Love’ discount. 6500 N. Florida Ave, Tampa, FL 33604
  4. Nebraska Mini Mart – Show your “I Voted” sticker and enjoy at 15-percent ‘Neighborhood Love’ discount. 4815 N. Nebraska Ave., Tampa, FL 33603
  5. Bullfrog Creek Brewing Co. – $1 OFF your craft beer.  3632 Lithia Pinecrest Rd, Valrico, FL 33596
  6. The Refinery – 10% OFF per person with “I Voted” sticker. 
    5910 N Florida Ave, Tampa, FL 33604
  7. Surf & Turf Cafe – FREE side of fries when you order a sandwich or salad bowl from the cafe with “I Voted” sticker. 101 N Franklin St., Tampa, FL 33602
  8. Angry Chair Brewing – BOGO beer with “I Voted” sticker. 
    6401 N Florida Ave, Tampa, FL 33604
  9. The Lab Coffee Tampa – $1 OFF any espresso beverage with “I Voted” sticker. 1703 W State St, Tampa, FL 33606
  10. Empamamas (Armature Works) – 10% OFF your order with “I Voted” sticker. 1910 N. Ola Ave., Tampa, FL 33602
  11. Mekenita Cantina – 10% OFF your entire order with “I Voted” sticker. 
    6707 N. Florida Ave., Tampa, FL 33604
  12. Independent Bar and Cafe, Tampa – 15% OFF with “I Voted” sticker. 
    5016 N Florida Ave, Tampa, FL 33603
  13. Sulphur Springs Sandwich Shop – 10% OFF to whoever is wearing their “I Voted” sticker. 9000 N. Florida Ave. A, Tampa, FL 33604
  14. Jet City Espresso Seminole Heights – 10% discount off of all coffee/tea drinks with sticker.6601, 5803 N Florida Ave, Tampa, FL 33604
  15. Leaven Brewing – 10% OFF with “I Voted” sticker. 
    11238 Boyette Rd., Riverview, FL 33569
  16. Heights Pizza – 10% OFF to anyone who presents the “I Voted” sticker on pickup or delivery. 7504 N. Florida Ave, Tampa, FL 33604
  17. Snobachi – Buy 1, Get One 50% OFF from Tuesday to Thursday with “I Voted” sticker until Election Day. 2206 E. 7th Ave., Tampa, FL 33605, Tampa, FL 33605
  18. Cigar City Brewing – 10% OFF for “I Voted” Sticker on Election Day 2018 (Nov. 6). 3924 W. Spruce St., Tampa, FL 33607
  19. Brew Bus Brewing – FREE house beer to people with “I Voted” sticker (Election Day only). 
    4101 N Florida Ave, Tampa, FL 33603
  20. Hemingway’s (Armature Works) – 15% OFF with your voting sticker from now until Election Day! 1910 N Ola Ave, Tampa, FL 33602
  21. Coppertail Brewing Co. – Come with your “I VOTED” sticker and get a FREE beer. We are honoring this during early voting through Election Day (one per person on the day you voted please). 2601 E. 2nd Ave., Tampa, FL 33605

Tampa Bay Food Fight 2018 a smashing success

Metropolitan Ministries had their Tampa Bay Food Fight 2018 charity fundraiser tonight at Armature Works in Tampa Heights.

St. Pete edged out Tampa for the best food city with chefs claiming victory from The Mill, Parkshore Grill, Locale Market, Dr. BBQ, Red Mesa, Il Ritorno, The Birchwood, and The Peabody.

Metropolitan Ministries raised $250,000 at the event and is still aiming for $300,000 as their goal to help them in their mission to fight poverty, hunger, and homelessness.

The proceeds help their Culinary Arts Program that teaches valuable skills to those seeking to improve their lives and work in the food industry.

You can donate at 
http://secure.metromin.org/site/SPageNavigator/ITB_Culinary_Arts_Program.html


Here are highlights from the evening:

View this post on Instagram

#tbff2018 #behope #tampabayfoodfight @levy.restaurants

A post shared by Gena Berry (@genabculinaryworks) on

Restaurant News: Jubao Palace Noodle Bar and Center Bar now open at Hard Rock Tampa

The Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino recently re-opened the Jubao Palace Noodle Bar and Center Bar after renovations. The Noodle Bar has expanded from 16 seats to 44 seats and features a “new upscale and enhanced design.


Restaurant hours are 11:30AM to 4AM Monday to Thursday, 11:30AM to 5AM Fridays & Saturdays, and 11AM to 4AM on Sundays.

It is probably the only place you can grab late-night Vietnamese and Cantonese cuisine in Tampa. The re-design was done by Klai Juba Wald Interiors.

In addition, The Center Bar has a new and upgraded look designed by Wimberly with 12 TV’s set to sports broadcasting and 17 slot machines lining the bar surface. It can fit up to 90 people.

Tampa ranked #12 in foodie cities by WalletHub

Tampa was ranked #12 in “foodie” cities by WalletHub for 2018 beating out popular cities such as Chicago, Denver, and Charleston. This adds to a growing number of lists that Tampa is finding itself on.

Tampa’s food scene has grown incredibly since I began writing in 2010. The last 8 years have seen a growing food truck scene, explosion in craft breweries, and a healthy growth of so-called “third wave of coffee” shops around the bay area.

Local restaurants and national chains have made aggressive expansions across the city and many suburban areas such as Wesley Chapel and the Brandon/SouthShore area have experienced major growth in the last few years and the economy recovers from The Great Recession. 

There is so much more to come as well with the growth of Tampa Heights, completion of the Tampa Riverwalk, and Water Street Tampa opening in the next few years in Downtown Tampa.

Related – Guide: Top 8 Local Coffee Shops in Tampa and 10 Great Local Craft Breweries in Tampa Bay

Support Tampa Bay Food Fight October 16th at Armature Works

The Tampa Bay Food Fight is returning this October in the fight against poverty and hunger. Chefs from Tampa and St. Petersburg will put out their best food in the name of charity. Which city do you think will will win? The fundraiser will occur on Tuesday, October 16th, 2018 from 6:30PM-9:30PM in Tampa Heights at Armature Works (1910 North Ola Avenue).
 

The competition will be hosted by WWE Superstar Titus O’Neil and Radio Personality Mike Calta. Tickets are $125 and are now on-sale. Buy your ticket at tampabayfoodfight.org Participating Tampa restaurants include:
  • Elevage
  • CENA
  • Steelbach
  • Oystercatchers
  • Armani’s
  • Hemingway
  • Ava
  • Oxford Exchange
  • Bern’s Steak House
  • Inside the Box
  • Dough Nation
  • Cru Cellar
  • Graze 1910
  • World of Beer
  • Zukku Sushi
  • Ciccio Cali
  • Ocean Prime
  • Mise en Place
  • The Rez Grill
  • Rooster & The Till
  • Forbici
  • Haven
  • Chismis
Participating St. Pete restaurants include:
  • The Mill
  • Parkshore Grill
  • The Avenue
  • Noble Crust
  • Better Byrd
  • Hawker’s
  • The Birchwood
  • Big Storm Brewery
  • Mini Doughnut Factory
  • Il Ritorno
  • The Peabody
  • Locale
  • Dr. BBQ
  • Red Mesa
  • Ichicoro
The line-up is truly exceptional. The event is organized by Metropolitan Ministries and benefits Metropolitan Ministries and Inside the Box which are working to fight homelessness, poverty, and hunger.