How-To: Tips On How Get The COVID-19 Vaccine in Florida

This article was originally published to News Break – follow me there. Note: This information is regularly updated and may be subject to change.

The COVID-19 vaccine is being expanded to include more people nearly everyday. President Joe Biden recently said that the United States is on track to have enough COVID-19 vaccines for all U.S. adults by the end of May 2021.

The U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) continues to add more vaccines to the list and the White House has been working to add more doses to the pool. Here are some tips on how to get the COVID-19 Vaccine in Florida.

Continue reading “How-To: Tips On How Get The COVID-19 Vaccine in Florida”

Exploria Stadium in Orlando selected as host venue for 2021 Concacaf Gold Cup

Concacaf (The Confederation of North, Central America and Caribbean Association Football) announced Exploria Stadium, the home of Orlando City SC of Major League Soccer and Orlando Pride of the National Women’s Soccer League, as a host venue for the 2021 Gold Cup earlier this afternoon. Exploria Stadium is one of nine stadiums selected. 

“We are, yet again, honored to be able to host another one of the world’s most prestigious tournaments at Exploria Stadium and to again feature some of the best in the game in Downtown Orlando,” Orlando City SC CEO Alex Leitão said. 

“After a successful Concacaf Champions League in December, we are excited the confederation has selected our incredible venue for the Gold Cup and that we will be able to showcase more top national teams here in Orlando. This is yet another testament to our community’s love and passion for the Beautiful Game.”

“On behalf of our stakeholders within the Greater Orlando sports eco-system, we want to welcome Concacaf back to Orange County and downtown Orlando’s Exploria Stadium for this summer’s Gold Cup competition. We couldn’t be more pleased to add the Gold Cup to our soccer-crazed community’s portfolio of events in what is quickly becoming the ‘Summer of Soccer’ here in Orlando,” said Jason Siegel, President & CEO of the Greater Orlando Sports Commission. 

“Events like the Gold Cup provide the residents of our community and those traveling to our destination a wonderful opportunity to celebrate the beautiful game, and we look forward to welcoming international teams to our region as we continue our pursuit of the 2026 FIFA World Cup.”

12 nations who qualified through their Concacaf Nations League performances will compete for the final three spots in the 16 team Gold Cup Group Stage via the Prelims. The Round One and Two Prelims matchups were drawn on September 10, 2020. They can be seen here.

The group stage featuring 16 national teams will begin on July 10th and will be played in a hub-city format, reducing team travel to prioritize the safety of all involved. The groups for the 2021 Concacaf Gold Cup were also drawn on September 10th, 2020, and are as follows:

Group A: Mexico, El Salvador, Curacao and Winner Prelims 9

Group B: USA, Canada, Martinique and Winner Prelims 7

Group C: Costa Rica, Jamaica, Suriname and Winner Prelims 8

Group D: Honduras, Panama, Grenada and Qatar.

For the first time all the Gold Cup’s final group stage matches will be played simultaneously. This is to ensure an even more compelling spectacle as the teams each compete to reach the knockout stage. 

The nine stadiums that will host group and knockout stage matches of this year’s edition of the Concacaf Gold Cup are, in alphabetical order by stadium name (previously hosted Gold Cups):

  • AT&T Stadium, Arlington, TX (2009, 2011, 2013, and 2017)
  • BBVA Stadium, Houston, TX (2013, 2015, 2017, and 2019)
  • Children’s Mercy Park, Kansas City, KS (2011, 2015, 2019)
  • Cotton Bowl, Dallas, TX (1993)
  • Exploria Stadium, Orlando, FL (first-time host)
  • NRG Stadium, Houston, TX (2005, 2007, 2009, 2011, 2019)
  • Q2 Stadium, Austin, TX (first-time host)
  • State Farm Stadium, Glendale, AZ (2009, 2015, 2017, 2019)
  • Toyota Stadium, Frisco, TX (2015, 2017, and 2019)

Concacaf will announce the schedule, ticketing information, and other details in the coming weeks. 

Exploria Stadium was opened in March 2017 and  is home to Orlando City of Major League Soccer (MLS) and Orlando Pride of the National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL). The 25,500 seat soccer-specific stadium is located in the heart of Downtown Orlando and was the first MLS stadium to open with five consecutive victories.

Exploria Stadium was 100 percent privately funded at a cost of $155 million. 

To date, the stadium has hosted a U.S. Men’s National Team’s 2018 World Cup Qualifier, the U.S. Women’s National Team in the 2018 & 2020 SheBelieves Cup, as well as the 2017 NWSL Championship, 2017 NCAA Women’s College Cup, 2018 & 2019 MLS Combines, the Florida Cup, the 2019 MLS All-Star Game and the 2019 Cure Bowl – the first non-soccer event at the venue.

Photo Credit: Orlando City Soccer Club

Celebrate Earth Day with Kodiak Cakes and support grizzly bears

Happy Earth Day! Kodiak Cakes wants you to celebrate Earth Day with their eco-friendly products.

According to the Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee, ” When Lewis and Clark explored the West in the early 1800s, an estimated 50,000 grizzly bears roamed between the Pacific Ocean and the Great Plains, across vast stretches of open and unpopulated land. Today, with the western United States inhabited by millions of Americans, only a few small corners of grizzly country remain, supporting about 1,200 – 1,400 wild grizzly bears.

“Kodiak Cakes is owned by Joel Clark, who is the Co-Founder and CEO of Kodiak Cakes, using 100% whole grain, protein-packed, non-GMO products. He built the natural foods company around his family’s flapjack recipe and grew it to become the fastest-growing pancake brand in America. They donate every year to efforts such as the Vital Ground Foundation, whose mission is “to protect and restore North America’s grizzly bear populations for future generations by conserving wildlife habitat and by supporting programs that reduce conflicts between bears and humans” as well as to other conservation efforts.

The brand was on Shark Tank in 2014 which led to widespread national attention and nearly $1 million in revenue according to CNBC.

They offer a Kodiak Cakes Plant-Based Flapjack & Waffle Mix which features 100% whole grain wheat flour,100% whole grain oat flour, Pea Protein, Non-GMO ingredients, and 12 grams of protein. It’s a nice replacement for those avoiding regular flour such as diabetics, but it still maintains a good taste and texture. It is not dense, but still fluffy.

They also have a Kodiak Cakes Crunchy Granola Bars available in Oats & Honey, Peanut Butter, Maple Brown Sugar and Chocolate Chip. I have been sampling the Maple Brown Sugar and Chocolate Chip granola bars over the last few weeks and they are delicious and a nice replacement for breakfast. They flake a little bit, but overall keep together.

They are packed individually for on-the-go movement. According to U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services, “Grizzly bears in the lower-48 states were originally listed in 1975 as a threatened species. There is one umbrella recovery plan for all grizzly bears in the lower-48 that was developed in 1982 and revised in 1993, and some ecosystems have supplements that add or update habitat-based and/or demographic recovery criteria for that particular population of bears.”

“There are six recovery ecosystems for grizzly bears in the lower-48 states today: the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem, the Northern Continental Divide Ecosystem, the Cabinet-Yaak Ecosystem, the Selkirk Ecosystem, the North Cascades Ecosystem, and the Bitterroot Ecosystem.”

Sources: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services, CNBC, Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee

5 places to satisfy your sweet tooth in Orlando

I don’t always crave dessert, but when I do and find myself in Orlando, there is simply no shortage of places to go grab something great. Orlando is filled with both local shops and franchises that you may not find anywhere else in Florida, and the items they sell are top-notch.

Here are 5 places to satisfy your sweet tooth in Orlando:

The Greenery Creamery: This is my absolute favorite ice cream shop in Florida. I try to stop by every single time I travel to Orlando and hope they have some Ube ice cream on the menu, but nearly everything on the menu is good and so are their cones which are made from scratch. Greenery Creamery opened a few years in Downtown Orlando at 420 East Church Street Unit 112 and the owner has been making ice cream with her family for most of her life. Locals love it and they are known for their vegan ice cream offerings. Greenery Creamery recently expanded into Sanford just as the pandemic began and are now doing soft-serve ice cream and shakes as well. Get the Ube shake if available. You will not regret it. Multiple Locations.

Royal Tea: It’s hard to impress me with bubble tea, but Royal Tea in Mills 50 really hits the spot. This franchise from China has excellent fruit teas and milk teas. I absolutely love the cheese crema too. I am partial to the grapefruit and orange drink and also the matcha is delicious. It’s pricier than some of the other shops, but the quality is there and the staff is super friendly. You’ll see people coming through the door and a line outside at any given time. 714 North Mills Avenue, Orlando, FL 32803

Sweet Shiba Desserts: This is one of the cutest places I have ever seen and is definitely a great place to go on a date. The theme is Shiba Inu dogs and they have it on their logo. They are temporarily closed as they relocate to International Drive, but keep an eye on this place. They are known for having fresh mochi. 5135 International Drive Suite 7, Orlando, FL 32819

Matcha Cafe Maiko: Matcha is one of my favorite things to enjoy and in San Francisco I am much more accustomed to having the taste accommodated to, but now Florida is starting to catch-up and Matcha Cafe Maiko has opened up a location in Orlando’s Mills 50. The matcha is imported from Japan and the green soft serve matcha is eye-catching. 639 North Mills Avenue, Orlando, FL 32803

Mr. Puffs Dessert Bar: This is a franchise from Montreal, Canada that opened at The Florida Mall. They sell what looks like mini donuts and a ton of different flavors. According to Mr. Puffs, Puffs are traditional Greek donut holes or Loukoumades, and date back 2800 years ago to Ancient Greece. They were served to Olympians and referred to as honey tokens because of the traditional honey and cinnamon toppings. Flavors include Honey Cinnamon, Creamy Caramel, Salted Caramel, Sugar Cinnamon, Hazelnut Biscotti, Choco-Loco, and more. 8001 South Orange Blossom Trail Unit 1530, Orlando, FL 32809


Photo Credit: dungthuyvunguyen

Get a taste of South Florida with the new IMCF Guava Mojito Cocktail Courier Kit from Haig Club

Ready for a taste of South Florida? David Beckham and Diageo’s Haig Club brand is releasing an IMCF Guava Mojito Cocktail Courier kit for fans just in time for the first away soccer game for Inter Miami CF on April 24th against The Philadelphia Union.

The Cocktail Courier kit includes everything you need to mix-up the official cocktail of the IMCF team at home, including Haig Club Clubman and ingredients for the tropical twist to the classic Mojito drink. It will also include a IMCF game-day scarf, perfect for your next at-home watch party.

Items in the kit include Haig Club Clubman (a 750ML bottle), Guava, Mint, Lime, and IMCF game-day scarf. Fans can head to CocktailCourier.com to get their own Haig Club IMCF Guava Mojito Cocktail Courier kit ahead of this weekend’s away game. 

Haig Club Clubman is matured exclusively in American ex-bourbon casks, allowing the sweet, Single Grain Scotch Whisky from Cameronbridge, a distillery committed to sustainable practices, to interact with vanilla, butterscotch, and sweet toffee flavors that are found in ex-bourbon casks. Clubman is recommended served neat, on the rocks, or in an H.O.S cocktail – Haig Club Clubman with a fresh orange slice and soda.

“From its earliest days, Scotch whisky has attracted people from all over the world with its sophistication, style and distinctive array of flavours. We want to continue in this spirit, bringing to market a special new whisky and introducing new fans to this incredible industry.”, said David Beckham during the whisky launch in 2014.

The House of Haig can trace its whisky producing roots back to the seventeenth century, making the Haig family Scotland’s oldest grain whisky dynasty. The brand aims to bring Single Grain Whisky to the forefront. 

Inter Miami CF began playing in the MLS starting in the 2020 season. On January 29, 2018, the Miami Beckham United group, four years after the ownership’s original announcement of pursuing a team, was awarded the twenty-fifth MLS franchise.

Club Internacional de Fútbol Miami, or Inter Miami CF for short, was announced as the club’s name on September 5, 2018. The team plays at DRV PNK Stadium, a 50,000 square foot training center and seven fields in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

Willa’s Provisions cafe now open in Tampa’s North Hyde Park and serving breakfast and an expansive all day menu

Willa’s has now opened Willa’s Provisions in the same building as the new French-inspired American restaurant in Tampa’s North Hyde Park at 310 North Rome Avenue. Hours of operation upon opening are 8AM to 5PM from Wednesday through Sunday with plans to be open daily in the future.

Right now they have breakfast tacos and bagels from 8AM to 11AM as well as baked goods such as brownies, chocolate chip cookies, carrot cake loaf, and almond butter toast. Bowls and sandwiches are also on the menu.

The new all day cafe will sell King State Coffee, which owns their own cafe and microbrewery in Tampa Heights. They will sell the coffee brand’s “Yuh” blend for espresso, cold brew and drip. The beverage program will also include organic tea from HOUSE of WARIS Botanicals and matcha from Matchaful. 

“We met Nate and Merrin what feels like years ago – Nate gave us a tour of an old building with a lot of character and an even bigger vision. It felt a lot like King State when we started,” says King State founder Tim McTague.

 “Nate from the get-go seemed to understand quality, experience and most importantly customer service, so when they asked us to partner with them at Willa’s Provisions, it was a no-brainer. Provisions turned out even better than we thought it could have, and to have a mini-King State in a neighborhood that we don’t serve is awesome – especially one that’s run by a rad team that cares about our coffee as much as we do.”

The all day menu includes assorted soups and salads, sandwiches, soft serve ice cream, wraps, fresh juices, and more.

“We wanted to create a coffee shop where when you visit – no matter the reason or the time of day – you can experience something unique and special, whether that be enjoying a cappuccino and a freshly baked glazed cruller or learning about natural wine for the first time. Coming to Willa’s Provisions should be a highlight of your day, where there’s always something new to taste and discover,” says Willa’s Provisions co-founder Merrin Jenkins.

Willa’s Provisions is implementing safety measures in light of COVID-19, including wellness checks for all employees before every shift, air filtration, surface disinfecting, mandatory masks for all staff and guests unless seated and more. 

Willa’s and Willa’s Provisions are housed in a 4,700-square-foot industrial building initially constructed nearly a century ago. It is only a few blocks from South Tampa and borders Downtown Tampa and Tampa Heights. 

Willa’s Provisions will also serve as the private dining and event space for the adjoined restaurant, with plans to host pop-ups in the future.

The restaurant has parking available on-site and reserved spots for curbside pickup if you need to pick an order and go. You can visit them online at willasprovisions.com.

Photo Credit: Jett Butler for FÖDA, Veronica Judd 

Here is the current menu:

Mr Black Australian distiller launches Coffee Amaro in United States

Looking for a new way to enjoy coffee in your cocktail? Mr Black, an award-winning Australian cold brew coffee liqueur company, launched Coffee Amaro in the United States recently at the beginning of the month in April. Mr Black has enjoyed success in the past with its bitter liqueur inspired by Italy’s after-dinner drink tradition and Australia’s coffee culture.

It is crafted with bittersweet Arabica coffee, fourteen carefully selected distillates, and macerated fresh botanicals such as citrus from the brand’s distillery garden in Erina, Australia, and native Australian botanicals. The brand calls it “a modern take on the traditional Italian bitter liqueur”.

Tom Baker, co-founder of Mr Black shares, “What people might not know about Mr Black, is our coffee roastery is also a world-class gin distillery. Our Co-Founder Philip Moore is Australia’s highest awarded gin distiller, being the only Australian to have won Gold at the London International Wine & Spirits Competition. We make coffee by night and distill botanicals during the day. Our Coffee Amaro is the extension of my love and worship of coffee and Philip’s 30-year botanical obsession”.

Baker told Esquire in 2019, “There are more isolated flavours in coffee than red wine—Mr Black’s goal is to take that world into the night.” Personally, I agree that coffee is much more complex than people realize and the options are quite endless with all the regions, changing weather patterns, and industry movements.

Head distiller, Philip Moore notes, “Amaro is essentially a botanical drink, similar to gin or absinthe, so blending that idea with the specialty coffee craftsmanship of Mr Black was something I really enjoyed developing”.

The botanicals include orange, lemon, coffee, angelica, illawarra plum, coriander, licorice root, macadamia, gentian, lime, quassia, caraway, grapefruit, and cardamom. ABV is 28.5%.

According to Nielsen’s, sales for coffee liqueurs grew 23.7 percent, with Mr. Black ranking as the second fastest-growing liqueur overall on e-retailer Drizly in 2020. Both coffee and Amaro have long been prized for their qualities as digestive drinks enjoyed at the end of a meal or in classic cocktails, especially in Europe.

Food Republic reported that there is a long history of botanicals being used and that ancient “Greeks and Romans considered botanicals medicinal. Carthusian Monks created Chartreuse in the 17th and 18th centuries, and Benedictine gets its name from a 16th century abbey in Normandy.”

Espresso martinis have been appearing on menus around the country now, especially as craft coffee becomes more popular. Many people expanded their knowledge of coffee during the pandemic as well with the rise of work from home and remote culture.

The release of Mr Black Coffee Amaro will see only 1,200 bottles available across the US through MrBlack.Co and select outlets in New York and California.

Sources: Food RepublicEsquire

Review: Willa’s brings delicious, refined eats and libations to North Hyde Park

Full disclosure: I was invited to Willa’s to taste their menu on a media reservation. I received a complimentary meal for 2 during my visit. These opinions are my own and do not represent those of Willa’s.

Willa’s is now open in North Hyde Park at 1700 Fig Street. For years this neighborhood has been dubbed, “up and coming” by city leaders and people who moved into the area.

My favorite upstart coffee shop and roaster in Tampa is not too far around the corner so I am well acquainted with the neighborhood – taking numerous long walks in the past (and sometimes scooter rides) from Cass Street down in between a haircut and a stop at the Cass Street Deli.

After COVID lockdowns though and a long year of trying to avoid getting sick, the neighborhood looks different though and almost unrecognizable, like much of Tampa its growing. Construction is still at the end, but regardless of it, Willa’s has turned a rustic building into a new dining establishment that is both charming and not stuffy, great ambiance is not always easy to come by in Tampa.  

A quick scan inside and I saw local bartenders and industry members, families, business meetings, and South Tampa locals dining. I think you could dress casual or up for this kind of restaurant, depending on the mood. The restaurant is operating a limited capacity due to COVID-19, but I still opted to sit outside because I’m just not comfortable dining in yet. They were more than accommodating and the outside dining is still charming, especially on a chilly and windy day.

Willa’s has plenty of industry experience involved in its creation, with Nate Siegel having a background at Mise en Place, a Tampa staple as well as a few restaurants in New York and it shows. Every detail at Willa’s is carefully analyzed and approached from the menus, the bathrooms, the cocktails, it is obvious that this restaurant is not built by amateurs. 

His partner, Merrin Jenkins, also clearly has had a great influence on this restaurant with a heavy background in non-profits, you can see the organizational structure here flows greatly, with attentive servers who seem genuinely happy and customers clearly being attended to around with care. 

Soon they will open Willa’s Provisions in the same, a cafe and shop that could be attractive to those looking for more lunch options in the area, which have been pretty limited in the past with the exception of Cass Street Deli and of course the always great drive-up Chicago Paulie’s on Howard. The sign of any growing neighborhood are cafes and breweries, and I’m sure students from the University of Tampa nearby will appreciate more choices.   

We decided to start right off with some cocktails. First I tried the Hotel National ($12) made with a house rum blend and stiggins’ fancy pineapple. Excellent blend. The rum was so well-mixed you couldn’t taste it, but you knew it was there from the coming buzz.

Like many newer restaurants, Willa’s is also doing cocktails on draft called Grandfather Grocer ($13) and I enjoyed one with tequila although it is also available with gin or rum, also excellent. 

To get some carbs in, we ordered the Whipped Ricotta Toast ($11) recommended by our waitress, made with Florida honey and roasted hazelnuts on sourdough. The bread is apparently made in-house, and it tastes phenomenal, a light and airy taste. I actually want just a big thing of sourdough bread to enjoy on every visit to Willa’s. Every bite was perfect.

The dish itself feels like it belongs more on a lunch menu or brunch menu, but regardless it is delicious.

Next was the Cold Vermicelli Noodles ($15), I don’t normally do salads unless forced but this one was grabbing my eye. When you look at the menu at Willa’s for the first time, understanding the actual theme of the restaurant can be a bit confusing, so do not be afraid to ask questions to your server. My understanding is that the menu is a mix of strengths from the chef and staff that has been carefully tested and tried, but still evolving.  

Back to the salad, it comes with cabbage, jalapeno coconut crunch, crispy shallots, toasted peanuts, and a cilantro vinaigrette. Easy to share, so please do. You can also add proteins if you are simply interested in a salad for your visit for an upcharge. 

My first impression of this salad was something of a Chinese Chicken Salad or the like from California Pizza Kitchen or Cheesecake Factory and although it shared some characteristics, this salad was hundreds of times better, simply every bite was delectable. It would be great to have this salad as a smaller option or as an add-on to a meal because it is so good. I am in love with salad and I do not say that very often. 

It has a very refreshing and yet complex flavor, the jalapeno coconut crunch on top just makes it so enjoyable in every bite. I am sure health-conscious South Tampa residents gravitate towards the salads and I am sure they must love this one because I sure do. 

There are a number of main-course options, but I decided to try the main course Rotisserie Chicken ($18) as the restaurant claims it is the signature item at Willa’s. It is an “all-natural, free-range chicken, half-chicken” that is slow-roasted and topped with salsa verde that is almost like a chimichurri sauce.  

What you get is a nice helping of chicken that is very moist and flavorful. It is certainly quite delicious and the skin is excellent. Personally, I think I prefer a Peruvian-style rotisserie chicken if I had to choose, but I think I would like this chicken from Willa’s in a sandwich. The portion might be big enough to share for 2 people, but certainly nothing more than that. 

What makes the meal though is the sides and they are ala carte at Willa’s. They are $6 each or 3 for $15. We ordered the Roasted Mushrooms and Macaroni au Gratin. These portions are also enough to share for 2 or maybe even 3. 

By far we were in love with the mushrooms served with thyme, rosemary, and garlic butter. Every last bite was perfection. I have always liked mushrooms, but I feel like they are usually not done right at restaurants for some strange reason and Willa’s just kills this dish. 

The Macaroni au Gratin was tasty and certainly cheesy enough, it just needs a little more salt and could benefit from perhaps aged cheeses added to the mix. I enjoyed it overall. We were absolutely stuffed at this point and had to get a box, but dinner was still ahead. 

I enjoyed an Aperol Spritz ($12) with dinner and it was finely made. What’s not to love about the Florida Sun and some Aperol? Can very much see myself enjoying one for brunch one day when they expand to an earlier schedule as well.

I had a chance to chat for a minute with Chef Zakari Davila and apparently he is a Tampa native who ended up working in kitchens in New York and ended up back down here during the pandemic. Fate brought him by Willa’s and before you know it, he found a job. He mentioned he is still fine-tuning the menu and had a very ambitious air to him, personally I feel like this is a very solid menu for a new restaurant and that good things are ahead. 

After quite the meal, for dessert I enjoyed a well-made espresso from King State Coffee and a Caramel Banana Pudding ($11) made with vanilla whipped cream and a honey graham cracker, apparently made by an in-house patisserie chef. I was not ready for how absolutely delicious dessert was going to be.

I also will admit I have been turned off to desserts in Tampa, just because so many places are underwhelming, totally not the case here. What a well-thought out and delicious end to this meal. I cannot recommend it enough. 

In many ways, Willa’s feels like it captures upscale dining at a price that is still not quite South Tampa levels and more neighborhood and middle class friendly and I think much more of that is needed in Tampa. In a time of soaring rent prices for this town, here is a place that is putting everything it has into making great food that you could actually afford to visit and unfortunately that is not being targeted enough. 

My waitress Rachael was simply excellent too. Talk about world-class service. The world has been so hard on restaurant workers this past year and I can’t imagine anything tougher than working in a new restaurant, but the personal touch was present everywhere and it is appreciated. 

By the time I made my leave, the restaurant was filled with customers and I have to say I feel like great things are in the future for Willa’s. I recommend it and plan to go back in the future.

Willa’s. 1700 W Fig St, Tampa, FL 33606. (813) 519-4552. willastampa.com

Live the Italian dream with Bar Monte this month in Tampa

Ready for a taste of the Italian lifestyle Florida? This might be the closest you can get for now to your dream European vacation. Amaro Montenegro’s traveling Italian pop-up bar will be on tour at the Armature Works food hall in Tampa Heights from Friday, April 16th to Sunday, April 18th and again from Thursday, April 22nd to Sunday, April 25th.

It is a partnership with BE1 concepts’ M.Bird, Steelbach, and Stone’s Throw. Bar Monte’s hours of operation will be Thursday to Saturday from 3PM to 9PM; and Sunday from 12PM to 6PM.

The open-air activation will feature innovative Monte cocktails and tasting flights, as well as immersive yard and table games. The activations will be implementing COVID-safety protocols, including a mandatory mask policy for staff and guests while on-property (removed while at the table only), socially-distanced seating, and extensive sanitation including hand sanitizer stations.

“At Montenegro, we believe that everyone deserves to indulge in the joy that our slice of Italian culture offers and we wanted to bring this to America,” says Tad Carducci, Director of Outreach & Engagement – Americas, Gruppo Montenegro.

Amaro Montenegro was created 1885 and features essences of 40 botanicals from around the globe, collected during the travels of explorer and herbalist Stanislao Cobianchi. It was named after Princess Elena of Montenegro who went on to become Queen of Italy in 1900. Botanicals include sweet and bitter oranges, marjoram, oregano, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, and more.

The signature, complex taste is characterized by a blend of sweet and bitter notes. It was traditionally served as a digestif, Amaro Montenegro has since become popular with bartenders and mixologists for its versatility in crafting innovative cocktails and adding a flavorful twist to classic drinks.

It was named the 2018 Best Liqueur by the 2018 San Francisco World Spirits Competition.

It is a product of Bologna, Italy, and the secret recipe behind Amaro Montenegro remains unchanged since its creation nearly 136 years ago.

The Heights is a 50-acre mixed-use urban district located along the Hillsborough River, just north of Downtown Tampa. When completed, The Heights District will include hotels, apartments, condos, office buildings, restaurants, retail stores, green spaces, parking garages and more. The Heights District is anchored by award-winning Armature Works, a 73,000-square foot historic warehouse reimagined as the signature food and entertainment destination in the Tampa Bay area.

Here is a fun cocktail you can make at home with Amaro Montenegro: 

The Montenegroni – An original twist on one of the most popular classics of the Italian tradition, this cocktail replaces the bitter side with Amaro Montenegro’s herbal flavor, making the drink sweeter and more approachable.


  • 2 oz. Amaro Montenegro
  • 1 oz. Sweet Vermouth
  • 1 oz. Gin
  • 2 drops of Angostura Bitter


Pour all ingredients into a tumbler and fill with a lot of ice. Add Angostura bitters, mix and twist an orange peel. Serve in a tumbler and garnish with an orange twist.


St. Petersburg Art Alliance Appoints New CEO in New Era For Organization

Editor’s Note: This article was originally published to News Break – follow me there.

The St. Petersburg Art Alliance (SPAA) has appointed a new CEO, Terry Marks, to run the non-profit whose tenure began on March 18th.

“While we will miss our Founder and Executive Director, John Collins, we are excited to continue the great work of SPAA under Terry’s leadership. Her background in the arts, business and nonprofit sector is a perfect fit to enhance and increase our impact for the community,” stated Mary Anna Murphy, Board Chair. Collins served for nearly a decade as the CEO.

Collins told St. Pete Catalyst, “I think it’s time for new energy, younger energy,” said Collins, who will stay on in an advisory position through the fall. “Somebody to bring in new ideas.”

“Visual and performing art is such an intimate form of expression and one of the most powerful means to communicate. I am honored to accept the newly created position of Chief Executive Officer. John’s influence as Founder and Executive Director will always be a shining light for me.”

“I am looking forward to serving the compelling and innovative arts culture within St. Petersburg. My primary goal is to create a unifying alliance and grow our vibrant arts economy. Within the business sector, art has a significant role to play and a seat at the table to accelerate the overall growth of our city. In addition, I want to expand and support artists and art education, as St. Petersburg continues to rise as a diverse destination for arts and culture.”, says Marks.

Marks grew up in New York City, with a deep and abiding love for visual and performing arts. Her first career was as an educator, and she then worked on Wall Street with Fortune 500 companies, including the largest minority and woman-owned brokerage. She also was a publisher of a magazine for children, as well as owning her own 17-year consulting practice in Los Angeles, serving organizations with budgets from $2 million to over $250 million.

Marks previously worked with the Santa Monica Museum of Art, known now as the Institute of Contemporary Art, the Pacific Symphony, Celebration Theater, Los Angeles Youth Orchestra, and she traveled with one of her clients, a ballet company, in a cultural exchange to China.

Most recently she consulted for the Suncoast Black Arts Collaborative which consists of “a small group of individuals with a strong interest in increasing the visibility of works produced by artists of color with a specific interest in artists of African descent”.

St. Petersburg Art Alliance Community Impact

One of the big events organized by the SPAA is their Second Saturday Art Walk which will be upcoming on April 10th, May 8th, and June 12th from 5PM to 8PM. The free event unites the Central Arts District, EDGE District, Grand Central District, Warehouse Arts District and downtown Waterfront Arts District in celebration of the arts.

They also host an annual SHINE Mural Festival in October that “illuminates the power of art in public spaces by revitalizing areas, inspiring dialogue and uniting our community, while cultivating new standards of artistic excellence reflecting St. Petersburg’s creative and vibrant spirit”.

SPAA is the “only 501(c)3 nonprofit dedicated to raising money and advocating for our entire creative community – artists, arts and cultural organizations, and creative businesses.” The organization raises money through individual and corporate gifts, event sponsorships, and grants that support community-wide arts efforts. SPAA is always seeking out donations, memberships, and volunteers to help their cause. Membership starts at $150.

The organization has created and shared resources for artists impacted by COVID-19 and is currently accepting applications for a 2021 Individual Artist Grant Program through April 30th with support from the Mayor’s Office of Cultural Affairs in St. Petersburg.

The grant makes it possible for 15 local artists to receive up to $1,000 towards equipment, supplies, select services, and materials for presenting and documenting their work. The program is designed to support public engagement (if COVID guidelines allow) of individual work/projects in the Visual Arts, Craft Arts, Dance, Music, Theater, or Literature.

Find more information at stpeteartsalliance.org.

Sources: St. Pete Catalyst

Photo Credit: St. Petersburg Art Alliance, Craig Adderly, Pixabay

Busch Gardens Tampa Bay opens Giraffe Bar to public

Full disclosure: I was invited to Busch Gardens Tampa Bay for a complimentary media preview of their new Giraffe Bar and to experience the safari for this story. All opinions here are my own and do not represent Busch Gardens.

I have visited Busch Gardens Tampa Bay since I was a little kid. I rode the, now torn-down, Gwazi on the first day the right was available with my best friend of 4th grade, Richard. I had a fun card over the summer in middle school and would hangout at the theme park with my friends to pass the time. One time we must have been on the Kumba coaster at least 30 times in a row.

Along the way Busch Gardens has grown and changed as it adapts to the growth of Disney and Universal Studios in Orlando. The Africa themes have given way to a variety of events and other add-ons over time. One thing I never did too much was spend time with animals and I admit I have always been more of a roller coaster guy when it comes to theme parks.

However, when I first received notice about the coming Giraffe Bar I was immediately excited. Why has no one does this before? I thought to myself. The animals are literally right there and somehow there was no way to enjoy a drink and observe them.

I visited the theme park for a media visit recently to check the new bar and to get the backstory. First, media guests were invited on a safari tour to actually visit with the giraffes. I have always read you can do this, but never opted to and honestly it is one of the best things I have ever experienced.

Continue reading “Busch Gardens Tampa Bay opens Giraffe Bar to public”