Carlos Eats Miami!

I will be vacationing in Miami starting this Sunday the 31st until next Friday the 5th. Despite living in Florida since 1998, I have never been to Miami and I am excited to try all the restaurants food spots out in Miami (looking forward to checking out their food truck scene!). I will be staying on Sunny Isles Beach. If you have any recommendations on where I should eat at, leave me a comment below :). I have already taken down a few places from a few friends, but would love to add some more things to my list. I’ll be updating soon from Miami and look for a ton of finished posts to be heading your way very soon as well!

Photo credit: http://www.sxc.hu/profile/jovas167

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Congrats to Katie! New giveaway: Flamestone Grill $25 gift card

Katie is the lucky Anthony’s Coal Fired Pizza gift card winner! She writes a blog called She Likes Ruffles, He likes Truffles. You can follow her on twitter @SheLikesRuffles. Congrats again!

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Don’t despair if you didn’t win the gift card. I still have many gift cards and freebies to giveaway in coming weeks. We’re going to start it off today with a $25 Flamestone gift card giveaway. Here is a little information about Flamestone in case you unfamiliar with it: “FlameStone is a casually sophisticated American Grill that places an emphasis on cooking with nature’s most basic elements: Fire & Stone”. We use natural cooking techniques such as grilling over an open fire or preparing our guacamole using lava stone, to give our food exceptional flavor and taste”. Checkout their website, urbanspoon, and twitter.

This contest will run until Wednesday, August 3rd 2011 at 11:59PM. Just like the previous contest, you must comment below with your contact e-mail in order to be eligible to win and the winner must reply back within 3 days of winning as well.

There are a total of (4) entries you can receive in this contest. Here is how to enter:

1) Follow Carlos Eats on Foodspotting. If you don’t have an account you can easily Facebook connect and make one in seconds. Foodspotting is used to tag photos of food to restaurants. If you want to know more about Foodspotting read my blog about it.

2) Tag my Facebook fan page and let me know what your best meal this summer has been. Summer is sadly drawing to an end soon. 😦

3) Subscribe to Carlos Eats via e-mail and I’ll check and verify if you’re on.

4) Reply back to me on Twitter and tell me about a restaurant I have been missing out on trying that you love.

Remember your odds are increased if you do all four entries, but you can still have a chance without doing all of them as well. Good luck!

Dine Tampa Bay Launch Party tomorrow! :)

Tomorrow, July 28th, is the Dine Tampa Bay Launch Party at TPepin’s Hospitality Centre from 6:00-9:00PM. There will be food samples from many restaurants and a chef competition as well. I will be there with a guest and I would love to see you come out too and support Tampa Bay restaurants. Tickets must be purchased in advance online at: http://www.visittampabay.com/meetings/index.cfm?action=Details&eventid=159

The restaurant week being organized by Dine Tampa Bay will last from Aug. 19 – Sept. 2, 2011 and features 57 restaurants in Tampa Bay. Checkout all the restaurants here: http://www.dinetampabay.com/restaurants

Giveaway: Anthony’s Coal Fired Pizza $25 gift card

Are you ready for the 2nd Carlos Eats giveaway contest? I’m giving away a $25 gift card to Anthony’s Coal Fired Pizza. Maybe you want to try their Cauliflower Pizza or Eggplant Marino? Or how about the fresh mozzarella, sliced tomato, and basil pizza (yum!). Well I believe in feeding my readers. Here’s how you can win:

You can have up to (4) entries in this contest.

1) Follow Carlos Eats on Twitter: @Carloseats – Send me a Reply or Direct Message letting me know you’re following me and also tell me what your favorite pizza place is.

2) Like Carlos Eats on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/carloseatsblog “Like” the post with this giveaway to confirm you have liked my page.

3) Tag the Carlos Eats fan page on a post on Facebook and share something you’re eating.

4) Follow Carlos Eats on Urbanspoonhttp://www.urbanspoon.com/br/30/2873/Tampa-Bay/Carlos-Eats.html Let me know in the comments here if you use a different alias on Urbanspoon.

Comment below with your name and use your contact e-mail when filling out the form so I can email you if you win.

Good luck and happy eating!

Contest ends July 28, 2011 at 11:59PM. I’ll then contact the winner, it’s important that you reply within 3 days or I will be forced to pick another winner.

Cauliflower Pizza @ Anthony’s Coal Fired Pizza

During the Anthony’s Coal Fired Pizza Tweetup in Carrollwood, I spotted a curious pizza that I was sadly too full to try. Fortunately, Anthony’s Coal Fired Pizza contacted me recently and invited me to come out and try a complimentary pie of their Cauliflower Pizza. I, of course, accepted and ventured to the Anthony’s Coal Fired Pizza location in Brandon. The Brandon location has a different feel from the Carrollwood location, it feels more like a mom & pop pizza restaurant. One large room with a few televisions and various things on the wall. When I arrived a waitress helped me out right away and sat me down at the bar.

She told me I had to try their Eggplant Marino and brought it out right away. The fried eggplant was toasty and the marinara and cheese on top tasted great, the taste of the eggplant was faint but still present. A nice way to get some extra fruits in…I personally don’t normally eat eggplants because I usually find them to be bitter so I found this to be a cool way to cook it. It wasn’t long before the Cauliflower Pizza was ready and in front of me.

The Cauliflower Pizza has an interesting appearance. It looks like a cheese pizza at first glance, but if you look again you see the pieces of cauliflower spread throughout the pie. I normally associate cauliflower with soul food, so I have never imagined it in this context. It was surprisingly very pleasant. The pizza has a balance between the bread, cheese, and cauliflower that I enjoyed. Neither is overpowering and the pizza is not sloppy or greasy. As I mentioned in my other blog about Anthony’s Coal Fired Pizza, their pizzas are light and won’t leave you feeling sick or painfully full afterwards. The pie is one of Anthony’s specialty pizzas and is $16.75 for a 12″ and $19.75 for a 16″ pie.

The manager mentioned they put olive oil on the bread and it certainly does add some extra flavor to the oven-roasted pizza. Cauliflower is known for preventing cancer and having a number of other health benefits and although this form might be less effective than eating one whole, it must be better than eating pepperonis and sausages. As I was live tweeting my visit, many people mentioned to me that the Cauliflower Pizza is one of their favorites and there is much to love about this pizza. Anthony’s Coal Fired Pizza was secretly making me eat healthier, while still enjoying my food. I took the few pieces I couldn’t finish to a friends house and everyone devoured it and was surprised to find out there was cauliflower in the pizza they ate.

Stay tuned for an Anthony’s Coal Fired Giveaway on my next blog!

Anthony’s Coal Fired Pizza on Urbanspoon

Restaurant Name: Anthony’s Coal Fired Pizza

Cuisine: Italian, Pizza

Neighborhood: Brandon

Address: 1912 W. Brandon Blvd. Brandon, FL 33511

Phone Number: (813) 409-3830

Website: http://anthonyscoalfiredpizza.com/

In Memory of Lisa Tian, Joy of Tokyo in New Tampa restaurant owner

I stumbled upon Joy of Tokyo in New Tampa one day in January of this year when a friend and I were heading to SoHo Sushi North and found it closed at 2PM. We decided to try a new restaurant we had seen on Bruce B. Downs by Acropolis, Joy of Tokyo. Once inside we had a great meal and the owner, Lisa (Lixin) Tian, came and sat with us. We talked for quite some time about her new business and how much I liked the food. She told me she moved all the way from Ohio down to Tampa to support her son attending USF and had successful businesses in Indiana and Ohio. I gave her some suggestions about using social media and setting up a website and she took my suggestions.

The next time I visited for lunch the owner and I talked about her new website and Facebook fan page. She told me her son who attends USF made the accounts for her since she wasn’t too familiar with how to use the internet. We laughed and after another great lunch I decided I wanted to schedule a sushi social with the organization I started at USF, The Japanese Club at USF. She was happy to set it up and I talked with her for about thirty minutes over the phone, she said she was happy to work with the USF community and would plan special discounts for my members and work with us however best she could.

The sushi social had a decent turnout for being scheduled during the day and the owner prepared everything and was completely hospitable to us. The next time I would interact with Joy of Tokyo would be at a Sushi Workshop organized by USF organizations Sigma Lambda Beta and Asian Students in America (A.S.i.A.). The employees from Joy of Tokyo came to our school and explained to students how to make certain sushi rolls. It was clear that Lisa was a smart businesswoman who was open-minded and happy to be a part of the USF community.

Unfortunately, in late May 2011 – I heard that Lisa Tian had been hospitalized after being severely beaten by her husband, Chunping Lin, and Lisa  suffered severe bleeding from the brain and a broken wrist in a case of domestic violence. Chunping a six-foot tall, 160 pound man, also attacked his 10-year old son who was defending his mother and caused a laceration of the son’s finger with broken glass. Lisa became comatose at St. Joseph’s  Hospital and after two months of the restaurant being closed down, I heard that she died a few days ago. Her husband was being charged with attempted murder, domestic violence, and child abuse according to article released in June. I am unaware of his current criminal charges.

During the week that Lisa became hospitalized a positive article was written about her business by a local newsletter. I am deeply saddened that her business never had the chance to reach success in the Tampa Bay area and that a local community leader has been lost in such tragic circumstances. The restaurant was hardly at it’s half-year point. My condolences go out to her children who must be struggling through such a difficult time. We have lost a pioneer in New Tampa and a local friend. Rest in Peace.

Pagelli’s Italiano (Wesley Chapel)

My parents have dined at Pagelli’s Italiano in the Wiregrass Mall for quite some time and mentioned to me I had to try the Tiramisu there. Being a huge Tiramisu fan, I did not miss the next chance I had to dine at Pagelli’s. The restaurant is spacious, with plenty of outdoor seating that is shaded and still cool despite the heat of a Florida summer. The setup is similar to many Italian chains and you may feel a sense of deja vu when you enter the restaurant (The Olive Garden came to mind).

I came for an early dinner and found that there was a special menu for early birds (4-6PM) with discounts on appetizers, entrees, and desserts. In addition, there was a bar menu that ran later and I decided to order the Calamari ($5-6) off of this menu. For my main course I ordered their Fettuccini Alfredo ($12) and for dessert I ordered the Tiramisu ($6). The waiter was quick to put our orders in and bring us drinks and bread.

The bread your average bread pieces. Not particularly soft or crunchy, but it worked well with the olive oil sauce provided. It wasn’t bad to snack on until the Calamari arrived a few minutes later.

The Calamari was crunchy and flavorful. The batter wasn’t too heavy. The two sauces provided went fine with it, but I enjoyed it more with just squeezed lemon on top. The Calamari normally costs $9 for dinner so this was quite a saving.

The Fettuccini Alfredo was one of the best parts of the meal. The pasta was well-cooked and the pieces long with plenty of Alfredo sauce to enjoy it with. It wasn’t quite as cheesy as the Fettuccine at Bella’s, but still tasted fresh. The pasta was much lighter than I was initially expecting, but still managed to nearly fill me up. I saved some of it for lunch the next day and it reheated well.

Finally, it was time for dessert and out came the Tiramisu. It has to be one of the most chocolate-coated desserts I have had in some time. While Bella’s pours it on top of the Tiramisu at your table, this dessert comes pre-coated. The inside of the Tiramisu is airy and sweet as a Tiramisu should be. The coffee flavoring is powerful and perhaps the only part that I didn’t enjoy in this dessert was the strong rum taste. If you’re not really much of a rum drinker, you may not like this rum-like aftertaste. Nevertheless, the dessert is still a quality tasting and well worth the $6 price. For now my favorite Tiramisu continues to belong to Hella’s Bakery in Tarpon Springs.

Overall, dining at Pagelli’s Italiano was a pleasant experience. The food was excellent and the service on point. One interesting thing I noticed was the sounds of an opera Italian singer over a speaker system. I originally thought this was a recording (which occurs in many restaurants) and was shocked to find out that the voice I heard was actually being projected from inside the restaurant and I witnessed the opera singer with a strong and powerful voice on my way to the restroom. Live music is always a plus. I will be back to Pagelli’s Italiano in the future for more tasty Italian dishes.

Pagelli's Italiano on Urbanspoon

Restaurant Name: Pagelli’s Italiano

Cuisine: Italian

Neighborhood: Wesley Chapel

Address: 2001 Piazza Ave Ste 100 Wesley Chapel, FL 33543

Phone Number: (813) 991-1414

Website: http://tampa.pagellis.com

Ploy Thai (Brandon)

Ploy Thai was one of the first Thai restaurants I fell in love with when I first moved to the Brandon area back in 2005. The inside is decorated as lavishly as any other Thai restaurant, but there is something about the quality of the food and service that I enjoy after every visit. The quiet atmosphere is relaxing and when I came back from a week-long trip of eating and traveling for spring break last year in San Francisco , the mecca of great food, the first place I wanted to go when I returned was Ploy Thai. My last visit was after finals. I was craving some Thai food after hours of studying and I thought of the relaxing environment of Ploy Thai almost instantly when I started thinking of restaurants in the Brandon area.

Fun fact: Ploy Thai is named after the owner’s daughter, Ploy, which means “little gem” in Thai.

I never intend to order soup, but I find it hard to resist once I look at an item on the menu and think about the last time I enjoyed one. The Tom Kha Gai or Chicken in Cream of Coconut Soup ($3.50) started my dinner and I really love the lemongrass and cilantro in the soup and the coconut milk is sweet and leaves a nice aftertaste in your mouth.

The Chicken Pad Thai ($10.95 for dinner) is superb. I personally enjoy my Thai food non-spicy and Ploy Thai consistently delivers an excellent Pad Thai in this regard, I can’t comment on Thai hot flavors. The noodles are packed with flavor and the smell of it fills me with zest. The quality of Ploy Thai’s chicken is great tender and juicy, and their simple Pad Thai really hits the spot.

The consistency of the Thai Tea is usually made well and although you may want to ask for little ice so you can get more actual tea, the tea is usually reasonable for the price. Thai food is either water or tea, I find it hard to drink anything else with it.

Overall, Ploy Thai consistently has great food and service and I have enjoyed every visit here in the past few years. They have lunch specials that are $7-$8 if you’re looking to save a few bucks. Ploy Thai is certainly worth a look if you’re in the Brandon area and is located only a few minutes from the Brandon Mall. I have been to the Cross Creek location in New Tampa and enjoyed it as well.

Ploy Thai on Urbanspoon

Restaurant Name: Ploy Thai

Cuisine: Thai

Neighborhood: Brandon

Address: 1941 W Brandon Blvd. Brandon, FL 33511

Phone Number: (813) 684-5007

Website: http://www.ploythairestaurant.com/

One Family Korean Restaurant

I have dined at One Family Korean Restaurant (known as Pine Tree Karaoke Cafe until 2010) for about 3 years now. Regarded by many as the best Korean restaurant in Tampa Bay and after searching high and low myself, I have to agree. One Family offers reasonable prices for dishes in comparison to the Korean price inflation found at several other restaurants in town. Their lunch prices stay around $10 as well and even dinner is a bargain. The side dishes are not as plentiful as Rice Restaurant and Lounge, but One Family provide the essentials.  One Family is found in a Korean plaza on Hillsborough Avenue (right past some yellow flashing street lights) and is right next door to a Korean grocery store called S-Mart 1. The restaurant is easy to miss if you don’t look out for buildings with Korean writing.

I came for dinner and split a few entrees with friends. We ordered 해물파전 (Haemul Pajeon) for $10.99, 돌솥비빔밥 (Dolsot Bibimbap) for $11.99, 불 고 기 (Bulgogi) for $14.99, and 갈 비 (Galbi) for $16.99. Normally we would be fine just with one appetizer and a main course, but we wanted to have a variety of things during this dinner. The price was still reasonable when split. Some places charge over $20 for Galbi, believe it or not.

The first thing to arrive was our appetizer: 해물파전 (Haemul Pajeon) or Seafood Pancake. The pancake was great! It is perhaps one of the best seafood pancakes I have had in the Tampa Bay area. The sauce in the middle is a spicy sauce, but actually edible for sensitive diners, unlike the one at Sa Ri One that almost burned my tongue off. The ingredients inside were cooked well. I was excited when the dish arrived and accidentally ate a piece before I could snap a photograph. The Haemul Pajeon went quick, but it was quite filling as a start and it is important to share this dish because you get tired of the seafood taste after a few pieces.

The 돌솥비빔밥 (Dolsot Bibimbap) is one of my favorite dishes at One Family. It is a hot stone bowl filled with steamed rice and topped with ground beef, vegetables, and a sunny side up egg. They also give you spicy sauce on the side. This entree is AMAZING. You can still hear all the ingredients in the hot stone bowl cooking when it comes out. Break your egg and mix the ingredients to begin a delightful tasting adventure. I mix the bibimbap with everything I eat. You will find yourself attempting to finish the bowl, but there is so much food packed in that I have found it to be almost impossible. It is only $1 extra to upgrade from regular bibimbap to the stone bowl so I always upgrade. It just tastes better that way.

The 불 고 기 (Bulgogi) or marinated grilled beef with vegetables came out on a sizzling skillet. I found the beef to be perfectly tender and full of flavor. Superior to Soul of Korea, but still not quite the flavor Sa Ri One on South Dale Mabry has. The price is about the same as Sa Ri One, but I think the portion here was much larger and better for sharing with friends or family members (The one at Sa Ri One was just for one). I enjoyed the beef and felt it was worth the price.

Ah…The 갈 비 (Galbi)! Galbi is one of my favorite Korean dishes and One Family makes delicious pieces of Korean short ribs. Each piece leaves a savory aftertaste and you will be licking the bone. The pieces were huge and the price is reasonable when compared to the crazy $20+ prices at other restaurants, such as Matoi Sushi. I have love for the Galbi at Pacific Grill in Valrico, but for Tampa residents the Galbi at One Family is the best bang for your buck.

The waitress was attentive, but nothing to brag about. She came and brought our food and went on her way. Stopped by for some refills throughout our meal. Most of the waitresses are young Korean girls, probably daughters or family friends of the owners. Most patrons are Korean here as well. The restaurant is nicely decorated, quiant, and feels like it took a slice out of Korea. Overall, One Family Korea is a great and affordable Korean restaurant and my personal favorite in Tampa Bay.

After our meal we decided to sing some karaoke upstairs. It was $25 an hour. Split between friends it isn’t so bad and the price is on-par with Korean karaoke spot Tampa Karaoke, though the English song-list was a bit lacking to Tampa Karaoke’s frequently updated list. The funniest song to karaoke was “My Heart Will Go On” by Celine Dion :).

One Family Korean Restaurant and Karaoke on Urbanspoon

Restaurant Name: One Family Korean Restaurant

Cuisine: Korean

Neighborhood: Town N Country

Address: 7030 W Hillsborough Avenue Tampa, FL 33634

Phone Number: (813) 901-0153

Website: http://www.onefamilykoreanrestaurant.com/

Universal Studios Orlando: Wizarding World of Harry Potter – Three Broomsticks restaurant

In honor of the release of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part II’s release, I thought I’d do a write up on my first experience with Butterbeer (read my review Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallow’s Part II here). One of the most exciting parts of visiting Universal Studios earlier this year was visiting the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. One minute in this new land and we felt like we had left Universal Studios. Every detail was made to feel like a realistic representation of the Harry Potter franchise. You can read more about the park on my travel blog Carlos Abroad.

We really wanted to try the Butterbeer that everyone was raving about. There were stands around the park where you could line-up to buy some, but my friend suggested we visit the Three Broomsticks restaurant and avoid the lines. This strategy proved successful and within minutes we were ordering food and picking up our Butterbeer. There were two kinds of Butterbeer and I decided to go with the frozen Butterbeer (my theme park guru friend recommended it), in addition to a turkey leg combo with fry wedges.

The food was surprisingly good for theme park food and although I would have enjoyed some bbq sauce with my turkey leg, I was full within a few minutes. My friends didn’t hesitate to devour every last piece of my turkey leg I was unable to finish. The potato wedges were tasty as well. This interior of Three Broomsticks will remind you of a tavern you might find within the world of Harry Potter. There is a stairwell that seems to go up to higher floors, but it is all for show.

The frozen Butterbeer was sweet and tasty. It was sweet without being too strong. You’ll notice that almost everyone around you orders Butterbeer as well. There were elements that made me think of a butterscotch-like root beer float. It was definitely one of the most exciting parts of visiting the Wizarding World of Harry Potter and something we HAD to do before left. No questions about that. I think everyone should give it a shot.

Three Broomsticks on Urbanspoon

Restaurant Name: Three Broomsticks

Address: 1000 Universal Studios Plaza Orlando, FL 32819

Phone Number: (407) 363-8000

Website: http://www.universalorlando.com/