HubSpot Social Media Certification

Today I was “Social Media Certified” by Hubspot Academy.  The course provided a deep-dive into current social media practices and the changing industry.

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The Godfrey Hotel Tampa upcoming Winterland + holiday events

Looking for some holiday cheer this December?

The Godfrey Hotel & Cabanas Tampa located at 7700 West Courtney Campbell Causeway has a number of upcoming events for the holidays that guests can enjoy.

The main event is “Winterland” which will have a number of rotating events throughout December and a pop-up bar. The event is FREE on weekdays with the exception of private events and family-friendly until 10PM. Winterland is 21+ after 10PM. The event will operate 7 days a week.

 

Winterland is produced by Matthew McCahill, who leads the growing division of Food and Beverage as Corporate Food & Beverage Director at Oxford Hotels and Resorts. 

During McCahill’s 28-year career, he has worked alongside top chefs/restaurateurs including Emeril Lagasse, Wolfgang Puck, and Nick Nicholas in fine dining restaurants and hotels from Las Vegas and Los Angeles to Chicago.

Christmas Caroloke will be available on Thursdays December 6th, 13th, 20th, and 27th. Sing your favorite Christmas songs at Winterland.

Families can enjoy photo ops and dinner with the Grinch: Saturdays on December 8th, 15th, and 22nd from 5PM to 9PM.

The dinner buffet will feature an special holiday menu along with cookie decorating for kids, hot chocolate and eggnog bar, a giant snowman, and FREE photo ops with the Grinch. Dinner is $24.95 for adults and $12.95 for kids ages 6 to 12. 50% off for first-responders. 

Here are some notable events to keep track of:

  • Wednesday, December 5th (6PM to 2AM) – Grand Opening of Godfrey Hotel & Cabana Winterland: Enjoy a FREE event featuring a lighting of Winterland ceremony at 6PM, tour of Winterland, and the Grinch’s Cave, a meet-and-greet with the Grinch, holiday-themed Instagram photo ops, 12 cocktails of Christmas, and an eggnog and chocolate bar for kids and adults.
  • Thursday, December 6th (4PM to 9PM) – Pets in Wonderland: Bring your pets to this FREE event and enjoy some special photo ops with Winterland festivities on this day.
  • Friday, December 14th (5PM to 9PM) – Ugly Sweaters & Toys for Kids: Come out to an ugly sweater party at The Godfrey benefiting families in need. Tickets are $10. Donate a used or new toy for a FREE cocktail.
  • Monday, December 24th (5PM to 9PM) – Christmas Eve Dinner with Mrs. Claus: Enjoy a holiday dinner on Christmas Eve featuring a ham carving station, mashed potatoes, green bean casserole, stuffing, and more. Santa and Mrs. Claus will be in the Winterland this day. Tickets are $24.95 for adults and $12.95 for kids ages 6 to 12. 50% off for first-responders.
  • Tuesday, December 25th (11:30AM to 8PM) – Christmas Day Buffet: Celebrate Christmas Day with a holiday buffet. Tickets are $24.95 for adults and $12.95 for kids ages 6 to 12. 50% off for first-responders.

For more information visit Winterland online at www.winterlandtampa.com

Social Hour at Council Oak Steaks & Seafood now available (Tampa)

Full disclosure: I was invited to Council Oak Steaks & Seafood for a media preview of their new Social Hour menu. I was offered a complimentary meal in exchange for my opinion about their menu. Opinions are my own and do not reflect Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino or any affiliates.

There are few restaurants in Tampa that offer Happy Hour deals on the weekends, but Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino has a few offerings for those of us looking both on weekdays and weekends.

Council Oak Steaks & Seafood has joined the list of places to put on your happy hour radar with their new Social Hour that is now offered daily from 4PM-6PM. I recently tried a wide-range of menu items with other local bloggers and Instagram users and many of the dishes were great.

The Social Hour dishes are not available during regular dining hours are thought of as a unique draw for the juggernaut of Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Tampa.

My favorite is the Skuna Bay Salmon Tartare ($15). This dish has some excellent salmon paired with Citrus Crème Fraîche and has a really amazing flavor profile.

A close runner-up is the Fried Green Tomato Caprese Stack ($13) – which is a must-share dish. Truly excellent flavor profiles are found throughout and there is an obvious effort by the chef to make this menu different from your average happy hour re-hash menu.

If you’re craving some meat, I recommend the Grilled Beef Tenderloin Skewers ($17) which really show you the attention and care to detail the Council Oak Steaks & Seafood has to their meat. The blended herb chimichurri is breathtakingly unique.

As far as cocktails are concerned my favorite drink on the menu is their Cucumber Gimlet ($10) made with Effen Cucumber Vodka, Elderflower, Pear Nectar, Lemon Juice, and Sparkling Wine.

The drink prices are fairly affordable for a casino and the food is made to be shared, but if you’re really hungry you might need to order a few appetizers to be truly satisfied or maybe just head on over for a true steak dinner. 

Social Hour is held in the Council Oak Steaks & Seafood Lounge which is open Sunday to Thursday from 4PM to 11PM and Friday & Saturday from 4PM to 1AM. Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino is located at 5223 Orient Road, Tampa, FL, 33610.

Check out the Social Hour menu here: http://www.seminolehardrocktampa.com/files/1634/Council-Oak-Social-Hour-Menu.pdf

Restaurant News: Sparkman Wharf now open

FeaturedImage via Strategic Property Partners

Sparkman Wharf is now open in the latest Water Street Tampa completion.  I had the pleasure of going to a blogger preview this Tuesday of the new food destination. 

After visiting I can say it is more of an outdoor food hall with multiple vendors selling different kinds of food and drinks. 

Speaking of Edison’s Swigamajig they were by far my favorite booth at Sparkman Wharf. They brought their culinary chops to the menu and still made food you can eat easily. Their grouper sandwich was phenomenal and there is an obvious approach to not cut corners despite being outside in a box restaurant.

My second favorite booth was Boat Run Oyster Company which was serving an excellent clam and oyster chowder during my visit. I’m from San Francisco and finding a good clam chowder can be a chore in Tampa, thankfully this place delivered with a hearty chowder that still had plenty of ingredients to munch including a generous portion of oysters.

The gelato at Whatever Pops was excellent and a nice snack, but don’t miss out on their grilled cheese sandwiches. I had one last year at Curtis Hixon Park and it was one of the best grilled cheese sandwiches I’ve had in the Tampa Bay area.

Craft beer fans should check out Fermented Reality Biergarten whose co-owner, Joel Bigham, has a rich history with craft beer in Tampa and plenty of know-how to bring in some of the best craft beer options to Sparkman Wharf. Downtown Tampa is lacking breweries and I hope this will be a sign for them to look around Water Street and setup shop.

Foundation Coffee is serving up coffee however I did not try it during my visit. I’m sure it is no different from the one up the road in Tampa Heights.

BT To Go had a couple of Vietnamese options up for sale, we decided to try the banh mi which was tasty but will run you back $12 which is a little too pricey for that dish that is easily $3-$6 at most sit-down restaurants. One of my favorite things about BT is her culinary prowess and I hope maybe the dishes at BT will get a little more creative and experimental versus playing save dishes like Vietnamese Summer Rolls that you can find almost anywhere now.

Gallito was serving up tacos and we decided to do a pork belly taco, but were not impressed with the flavors. The pork belly lacked flavor and was overpowered by the pineapple in the taco. Hopefully that won’t be the case with the other tacos on the menu.

Also – The outdoor nature of Sparkman Wharf just doesn’t justify an expensive menu price system unless the food is top-tier to complement.

Speaking of Sparkman Wharf being outdoors, there is limited shading and seating around the venue. I can definitely see that being a problem when it starts raining every single day in the summer for months, but it should be enjoyable as we enjoy these short winters and cold fronts for now.

Parking is also an issue with the lot across the street still under construction and expensive and the nearby lot charging $20 to park during Lightning games and events at Amalie Arena (which are frequent). Hopefully they will add a system to validate your parking ticket like other restaurants have inside Sparkman Wharf to help offset this for people who just want to stop by to eat.

It wouldn’t be bad idea to add some valet parking as well as Tampa once had when Channelside was in this spot.

When I asked about it during my visit I was told parking isn’t the responsibility of Sparkman Wharf which was a little unsettling.

One thing I was surprised about was the lack of liquor around the main stands except for the excellent Edison’s Swigamajig. You can grab a cocktail inside Splitsville which just re-did their menu or hit up craft cocktails at Edison’s Swigamajig.

Overall, Sparkman Wharf has potential – it does bring new food options to town from many people that we already know in town and provides a way to enjoy the outdoors when the weather allows it. Most of the food I tried was delicious and you should make it a point to try it when you have a chance.

CL Brunched this Saturday December 1st!

The cold weather is OUT this weekend and brunch is IN. Come out for CL Brunched this Saturday, December 1st, 2018 from 12PM to 3PM at St. Pete Shuffleboard Club (559 Mirror Lake Drive St. Petersburg, Florida). 

Enjoy great food, mimosas, bloody marys, complimentary shuffleboard, local craft vendors, and more.

Tickets are $30 in advance for GA and $55 in advance.

Buy tickets: http://tampabay.boldtypetickets.com/events/59571944/brunched-2018

Participating restaurants include The Peabody, The Melting Pot, Mini Doughnut Factory, Buddy Brew Coffee, Callaloo, Jannus Market, and more.

For more information please visit www.brunchedtampabay.com

My journey through Busch Gardens Christmas Town 2018

Full disclosure: I was given complimentary tickets to Busch Gardens Christmas Town in exchange for an article about my experience at the annual event. Any opinions expressed are my own and do not represent Busch Gardens or any other entity.

My family and I hit the road on Saturday for an evening at Busch Gardens Tampa Bay for their annual Christmas Town event.  The weather on Saturday was perfect for a day at a theme park. It’s normally hot whenever I visit theme parks, but it was in the mid-60s on Saturday.

Immediately upon entering the theme park we encountered a few of the local workers dressed in excellent holiday outfits which made for great photo ops. If you are trying to take some family photos, Christmas Town is filled with props and characters to help build some great memories.

We decided to hit the ice skating show first called “Christmas on Ice”. I tried to hit this show last year, but arrived too late to enter the show. You need to arrive early if you want to watch this show, I recommend 30-40 minutes before the show at the minimum for good seats. 

“Christmas on Ice” was a really great show with some exceptional ice skaters and plenty of different themes that can appeal to families, couples, kids, and various groups. I really enjoyed this show and recommend it to anyone visiting Busch Gardens during Christmas Town.

After the show we made our way over to the Christmas Village. They relocated the village this year to the lanes by Gwazi due to construction in their old zone. There was a good number of food and drink options, but it did feel slimmed back a little.

I had a turkey panini that was excellent here, however there was quite a line and wait for food, which was definitely frustrating. I also tried the Chicken N Waffles, which were delicious but went a little too heavy on the apple butter.

I recommend hitting up Christmas Village earlier if you’re going to get food because some booths were overwhelmed by crowds and didn’t seem to have a proper system in place to handle them. It have also been the fact that the booth I was mainly at was making mac and cheese grilled cheese sandwiches, which may be logistically difficult. 

A nice added feature was wine tastings and a whiskey addition, which gives you some liquor options unless you to venture over to Dragon Fire Grill & Pub or one of their other restaurants for some libations (we eventually did). 

After we grabbed some food, we wandered over to the Serengetti Overlook Restaurant to watch the Carol of the Bells light show which is always fun and great for kids. After that we ventured back and headed towards the Sing-a-Long Train which is always one of my favorite things to do at Christmas Town and great for when you’re tired of walking and need a break.

We wanted to hit up Santa Clause and Rudolph but the wait times were over an hour so we decided to skip it since we didn’t have much time left until the theme park closed. Busch Gardens does sell priority access to these areas for $24.99 for those who would rather pay to skip the line. 

One thing we didn’t see this year that I expected to see was the snow machines, which I appreciate quite a bit living here in Florida. Hope those come back in the future. 

Overall, my family and I had a great time at Busch Gardens Christmas Town. The lights were beautiful and we enjoyed all the Christmas trees and cheer as well as all the photo opportunities to make some memories. Christmas Village could be improved a bit more logistically, but it was still enjoyable overall.

I recommend getting there early so you can get the most out of it or return back multiple times if you are a passholder and take your time going through the areas of the park and enjoying the holiday spirit.

Happy Holidays everyone!

Busch Gardens Christmas Town happening now

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.