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Pro tip: Do not threaten struggling small businesses with ADA lawsuits you jerks

At the end of an uninteresting 4th of July weekend, I was scrolling on Instagram as I heated up some leftovers and read a post from The Lab Coffee in North Hyde Park that infuriated me.

A customer told them they will be hearing from the ADA (Americans with Disability Act) and City of Tampa for refusing them service without a mask.

During a time when Tampa Bay is ranked 3rd in the nation for growing Coronavirus cases with over 19,000 locally and growing, the least thing you can do as a decent human being is wear a mask.

If you’re unable to wear a mask for some reason, you should order delivery or make your own food at home.

What you should not do is harass a local business that has been through one of the biggest interruptions of our time with your pompous attitude that literally nobody cares about and threaten them with a lawsuit.

A friend of mine who owns a local salon told me she encountered a similar situation and had to involve lawyers. What she found out is that customers can be turned away because it is a violation of OSHA for workers to be put at risk with the Coronavirus which is even worse for employers.

Other lawsuits are underway around the country including 32 lawsuits against Giant Eagle supermarket in Texas for requiring masks and several lawsuits around Florida to drop mask mandates and ordinances all together.

Folks. A mask is NOT a political statement. Masks are about saving lives.

It is proven that masks can help save lives and the refusal of customers and especially Floridians to take action to protect their fellow Americans is exactly why hospitalizations are on the upswing and cases are out of control. Florida added nearly 30,000 cases in one weekend.

If we do not stop the spread eventually Florida will be forced into shutdown like Arizona and Texas…then businesses will be forced closed again and millions of people will lose their jobs and livelihoods again. Is that what you want?

Be responsible. Wear a mask. Don’t torture others because you don’t want to be considerate and stop being a jerk.

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List: Restaurants and bars confirming Coronavirus cases in Tampa Bay

All of the sudden there seems to be a large number of restaurants and bars in Tampa Bay reporting cases of Coronavirus among their staff members. Some are closing and some are not.

This is occurring at the same time as Florida coronavirus cases are spiking and fears of a shutdown are coming back into play. Governor DeSantis has swore there will be no shutdowns and this is the “new normal”.

Hillsborough County and Pinellas County leaders seem to be racing to come up with a plan to help slow down the rise in cases to prevent an issue later in hospitals. Mayor Kriseman announced a mask order today for employees of St. Pete businesses and he said a local order for the public is in the works.

Here’s what I’ve seen so far:

The Galley DTSP – 6/12

The Avenue DTSP and Park & Rec – 6/13

In The Loop Brewing – 6/13

Jannus Live – 6/16

Meat Market South Tampa – 06/16 (case discovered June 8)

CALI – St. Petersburg – 06/17

View this post on Instagram

Hey Cali fam, Three of our team members at the St. Pete Cali location recently tested positive for Covid-19. We want to assure our guests these team members contracted the virus through an isolated incident traced to a specific point of contact outside any of our restaurants. Those who tested positive, along with any team members they came in close contact with, immediately began self-quarantining. No team member displayed symptoms or contracted the virus in the store. We attribute this outcome to the very serious precautions we’ve been taking at Cali from day one. We closed our St. Pete store for a full day after learning of the diagnoses to be deep cleaned and we have partnered with a trusted health company that advised us in reopening. We absolutely would not have reopened if we felt we were putting anyone at risk. While it is unfortunate these team members contracted the virus through outside activities, the lack of spread to other team members within our restaurant proves that what we are doing is working. We will continue to follow the steps recommended by the CDC and the National Restaurant Association, which exceed the State of Florida’s recommendations. These include: – Partnering with Zero Hour Health to perform health screenings at the start of each shift – Requiring all team members to wear masks (properly) and gloves – Offering full-service dining all day to minimize lines at busy times ⁃ Removing all self-service stations to minimize contact with shared items/spaces ⁃ Rearranging our seating to keep parties six feet apart and reducing occupancy to 50% ⁃ Installing multiple new hand sanitizer stations – Performing rigorous cleaning checklists every 30 minutes and sanitizing more deeply at the end of each day ⁃ Continuing to provide contact-free pickup and delivery options ⁃ Providing clean new glasses for every refill and sparkling clean wrapped silverware We are grateful for our amazing team who have been taking these precautions very seriously all along. We also want to thank our Cali community for showing us so much love over the last few months and appreciate ya reading this message.

A post shared by Cali (@eatatcali) on

Noble Crust – St. Pete – 06/17

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Articles

What I’m Reading Food Media – June 16th

The food media world has been rocked by an earthquake this year. First COVID-19 which threatens all industries, then the death of George Floyd and allegations of racism have led to major shakeups and discussions between the media and public.

Here’s what I’ve been reading lately.

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Articles News

NEWS: COVID-19 cases temporarily close St. Pete bars

In a normal society, the government would inform citizens when outbreaks of Coronavirus (COVID-19) are happening at businesses nearby.

However, we live in Florida where the Governor has actually invited a national convention to our state in the middle of a pandemic that has killed 116,000 Americans so far. Where the health department fired a data scientist because she refused to manipulate data to fit his opening criteria.

In the middle of the night, the Tampa Bay Times broke a story about COVID-19 cases at The Galley, Park & Rec St. Pete, and The Avenue in Downtown St. Petersburg. All the bars have closed temporarily due to staff members testing positive to COVID-19.

No doubt if you have been eating or drinking there you should be getting tested yourself to make sure you don’t have COVID-19. We were warned by scientists that restaurants and bars were not safe due to the ease in which spread can occur indoors with people and laughing inside paired with air-conditioning units.

Bars and restaurants should be more vigilant about testing staff and customers, closing for 2 weeks or even a few days is detrimental to a business right now. Obviously proper mitigation efforts are not being done. This will keep happening.

In one of my recent visits to pickup food at restaurants for curbside, I have noticed very few of them are observing capacity limits and customers are swarming together in clusters and groups. Parking lots filled. Bars full. This is a recipe for disaster.

Be smart. Wear your masks. Stay home. This is far from over.

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Articles Interviews News

Interview: Chef Rosana Rivera and Ricardo Castro on upcoming Chef & The Baker

There’s an exciting new concept coming Friday, June 12th, 2020 to the Hall on Franklin food hall called Chef & The Baker from Chef Rosana Rivera and Chef Ricardo Castro. I had a chance to ask them a few questions about this new initiative and how things have changed since the pandemic began.

CARLOS EATS: First off – How have you guys been getting by during the pandemic? 

Chef Rosana: We pivoted early on in the pandemic through R2 Provisions, our ghost kitchen in Pinellas Park, to do delivery of products, Xilo Mexican favorite food items, bakery items like bread, and provisions like eggs, flour, sugar, yeast, and toilet paper. The response was phenomenal and we are so grateful that Tampa embraced the concept, no questions asked. 

Chef Ricardo: We continue to service via delivery from R2 Provisions. Customers can order through r2xilokofe.square.site.

Pastries from Chef and The Baker at Hall on Franklin.

CARLOS EATS: Chef & The Baker is a highly anticipated project considering your past with Piquant. How will this project be different?

Chef Rosana: The recipes have been tweaked and perfected. Chef Ricardo, over the past couple of years has really honed in on his talent and craft to become an even better baker. 

Chef Ricardo: We will have artisan breads, more viennoiseries (pastries), and a higher quality of patisserie items (cakes and European tortes).

CARLOS EATS: Who are some people you look up to in the baking world and is there any pastry or bakery chefs who inspire you? What are your favorite bakeries around the world?

Chef Rosana and Ricardo: Belinda from B Patisserie in San Francisco, Eric Kayser from Maison Kayser in NYC & Paris; Antonio Bachour from Bachour Miami; and the quintessential Francois Payard from around the world. However, there are a lot of up and coming pastry superstars that we are always following and trying to learn from like Johan Martin.

CARLOS EATS: When it comes to ingredients – What makes a quality baked good different? Does water make a difference?

Chef Rosana and Ricardo: Best quality of ingredients is crucial and yes – water quality makes a huge difference. There are some things we have little control of – but buying the best ingredients is something we can control, especially when it comes to baking ingredients. We buy flours that are unbromated, we use cage-free eggs for baking applications, all-natural products, European chocolates, filtered water, and butter with a higher fat content. It all makes a difference in the quality of the product you bake.  We never cut corners, you can taste the quality.

CARLOS EATS: Food enthusiasts have been making their own sourdough starters at home during the pandemic as people tried to find a way to get through being home constantly and still enjoy the things they love. What trends do you see emerging in the baking world and how will it change in the future? 

Chef Rosana and Ricardo: More at home baking for sure! Our plan is to launch a virtual cooking kitchen class in which we are able to share our knowledge with our audience on a digital, but interactive format. I think the love for the art of baking is going nowhere, on the contrary its getting better and better.

CARLOS EATS: Industry experts say the pandemic has changed how goods are bought and prices of food seems to be going up. How are you dealing with that?

Chef Rosana: We are sticking to our prices as much as we can, and if we can’t do that – we try to minimize the impact by increasing the price by 25 or 50 cents. Our margins are taking a hit and are reduced, but at the end of the day we want to be conscious of how people spend their money. We don’t want or need to abuse.

Koign Amann from Chef and the Baker at Hall on Franklin in Tampa.

CARLOS EATS: Which menu item would you say is the most complex or time-consuming dish you make? Can you tell us more about it?

Chef Rosana: Anything croissant, which is easily a 72+ hour process, but we love it and our guests love anything croissant that we do. My favorite item is the Kouign Amanns.

Chef Ricardo: That is how I make the croissants, not everyone follows that. It creates better flavors as the dough ferments slowly. My favorite item is The Morning Buns (citrus crispy laminated dough) is my favorite item on our menu.

CARLOS EATS: What made you both fall in love with baking? 

Chef Rosana: I fell in love for baking because of Ricardo. Every day I see him bake I am in awe of him!

Chef Ricardo: I fell in love with baking when my Mom AKA Chef Cookie, would teach me how to bake things since I was 9 years old. Later, Chef Rudy from Austria took me under his wing and taught me everything European pastries. The right way and the best way!

Don’t forget to check out Chef & the Baker when it opens on Friday, June 12th at 11AM at the Hall on Franklin at 1701 North Franklin Street Tampa, Florida, 33602.

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Articles News Restaurant News

NEWS: Tampa restaurants and Black Lives Matter have a complicated week

This week there were a number of stories happening around Black Lives Matter after the murder of George Floyd and in Tampa’s restaurant restaurant community it was no different.

A number of restaurants were navigating how to address the rising movement and protests or how to deal with the fallout of communicating about it to their customers.

The week began with a post from Lanfranco Pescante of Nocturnal Hospitality Group. A message posted online by him said “shoot them all” and drew condemnation from the local community including black leaders, bloggers, and others, led to Franco’s resignation, brought 500 protesters to Downtown Tampa at Franklin Manor, and eventually ended up leading to Celebrity Chef Fabio Viviani cutting ties with all associated restaurants from the group including many upcoming concepts around the Tampa Bay area.

This fiasco ended with the indefinite closing of all properties including Franklin Manor, Osteria Tampa, Mole y Abuela, and upcoming concepts like Shibui and La Pergola. News reports have shown that Franco is now under FBI and state investigation. Investors and employees found themselves caught in a firestorm that led to almost 200+ people losing their jobs after months of COVID-19 lockdowns.

A former investor shares this:

Next, Oxford Exchange – a popular South Tampa eatery worth millions decided to wade into the debate happening and posted that they support all lives and African-Americans, but refused to say that “Black Lives Matter” which led to people fighting in their comments until eventually the brand relented and put #blacklivesmatter into the description.

It’s important to know that when your brand has decided to take a stand on an issue, you must think about the cause you are supporting. Black Lives Matter is an issue where you must actually say it to be effective and show your solidarity.

The important thing about politics is always that if you don’t want to get involved, simply say nothing at all.

After that, popular eatery Datz in South Tampa also found themselves in a social media controversy after an employee put up Black Lives Matter on their famous signboard without talking to the owners of the business.

This led to confusion and allegations and in the end the owners decided to go forward and post it on their page and explained that they felt it was “distasteful” for their employee to add the words without thinking about how it would be displayed first since the original sign was advertising breakfast.

Finally – an employee at Seminole Heights General Store told Creative Loafing that they were fired because of posts they made online supporting Black Lives Matter.

That was a long week.

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Articles Dining Guide

List: Black-Owned Restaurants and Businesses in Tampa Bay

2020 has been one of the craziest years. It has been especially hard on our black-owned small businesses who may not have the same access to capital that other businesses do and who are dealing with the fallout of the Coronavirus and now racial tensions after the brutal murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis.

None of these things are new. Disparities in support for black-owned businesses has existed probably since the beginning of our country. There are ways to help make a difference though.

Here is a list of black-owned restaurants and businesses that you can support in Tampa Bay. If we all do our part, we can help our fellow businesses get through this storm. Consider supporting them.

Tampa:

Tarpon Springs:

  • The Jerk Center. 405 S Pinellas Ave, Tarpon Springs, FL 34689. (727) 940-5343. thejerkcenter.com

Largo:

Gulfport:

St. Pete:

Here’s a list you can save to your phone’s Google Maps: https://www.google.com/maps/@27.9708346,-82.5722641,10z/data=!4m2!11m1!2smZUS7CD-RcuPjB6Jx5gIAw


If I missed one feel free to e-mail me to have it added to the list.

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Articles News Restaurant News

NEWS: GoFundMe Created for Saigon Bay Damaged During Protests in Tampa

Last night the nation witnessed another night of protests across the country after the death of George Floyd and many of them became violent in the evening.

Although Tampa saw a peaceful protest in the daytime with the Mayor of Tampa Jane Castor and Chief of Police Brian Dugan marching with protesters, as the evening approached the protests became more intense and led to several cases of looting including a burning of a Mobil gas station and then a fire at Champ’s across the street from the University Mall.

Saigon Bay is a local Vietnamese restaurant that has been a neighborhood eatery for decades and it’s location next to Champ’s led to damage of their building. University of South Florida students and staff, as well as those from the area know it well as a great place to enjoy a bowl of pho.

Bryan Huynh, whose family formerly owned Saigon Bay, shared this statement on Instagram:

“As you may know Tampa got out of hand last night. My parents owned and built this restaurant from the ground up ever since I was born. We sold it a few years back to some wonderful owners that took the restaurant to another level. I’m incredibly heartbroken about the events that have occurred especially to something so near and dear to my family’s hearts, but please please everyone be empathetic towards one another.

In the video of George Floyd’s death, there was a man of Asian decent that was in the wrong and it reminded me how different it is for our race. Yes, we still deal with racism. However police brutality is something our race does not have to deal with. I’ve seen with my own eyes how my African American friends get treated differently than me even though I am a minority just like them.

Whenever I hear “All Lives Matter,” it’s total bulls***. At the end of the day, we all have to be kind towards one another. Love really does cure all. As for Saigon Bay, I am communicating with the owners to see how we can help as a community to help put back their business that they put their blood, sweat and tears into. #blacklivesmatter #bekind

GoFundMe: https://www.gofundme.com/f/saigon-bay-vietnamese-restaurant-tampa

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Articles Product Reviews

Product Review: IMUSA Electric Coffee / Moka Maker 3-6 Cup

Full disclosure: This coffee maker was sent to me complimentary by IMUSA in exchange for a review on my blog. Any opinions expressed are my own and do not represent IMUSA or any stakeholders.

I’ve been looking for a new coffee machine lately during quarantine and was fortunate enough to receive one complimentary in the mail a few weeks ago from IMUSA. I’ve bought and used their smaller 3-cup aluminum moka pot in the past, but was looking for an electric solution.

This coffee maker allows you to make a 3-cup or 6-cup brew of espresso in less than 10 minutes. What comes out is a clearly superior brew that beats out even our Keurig machine at home (that costs nearly double the price).

Coffee is easy to make in this appliance. You simply add your water to the base and then add coffee to the filter, screw on and hit the on-button. You can watch your coffee flow into the eletric moka pot through the plastic which is an added bonus.

Before you know it you’ll have plenty of coffee ready to go. We even got a new milk frother to make some lattes at home. Being a regular at coffee shops, the pandemic has made it a little rough for me to enjoy my coffee favorites but I’m thankful there are solutions out there for those at home.

To clean out the machine: Rinse out the reservoir and use water and soap on the top part (after unscrewing). Make sure to dry fully.

I highly recommend the IMUSA Electric Coffee / Moka Maker. You can find it online at Amazon here: https://amzn.to/3cae1Ew

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Articles Recipes

Recipe: Mom’s Signature Puerto Rican Sofrito

Sofrito is a staple of Puerto Rican cuisine and can be added as a base to rice, soups, stews, sautes, and anything you want. My Mom has been making sofrito my whole life and our recipe goes back generations in my family.

Not everyone makes it the same, but here is our family recipe for your use when cooking.

You’ll need a glass jar to store your sofrito inside after completion.

(Cubanelle pepper not pictured)

Ingredients:

  • 1 large green bell pepper
  • 1/2 cubanelle pepper
  • 1 bunch of cilantro
  • 1 large yellow onion
  • 4 mini sweet peppers / 4 Aji Dulce peppers or both
  • 1 garlic bulb

Prepration: Wash your vegetables before beginning the process.

Steps:

1) Peel garlic (do not mince) and cut vegetables to a size that will blend.

2) Pulse all ingredients in blender starting with onion and peppers, little by little to make the base until all combined. Do not add water.

3) If you prefer to have little chunks – keep pulsing until all combined or you can use the blend button for a smoother consistency. We choose to blend our sofrito so it will dissolve into our food.

4) Add Aji Dulce (also called Cachucha Peppers) if available. You can find this at Latin Markets although it can be hard to find in certain markets. Finish pulsing or blending depending on consistency preferences. We keep ours frozen as you can see above.

5) Move to a glass jar for storing in coldest part of your refrigerator (usually the upper back part). Freeze leftovers in an ice cube tray or ziploc bag. The sofrito will last a very long time in the freezer, but not so long in the fridge (about a month, 2 max) so keep that in mind.

Enjoy!

Mom's Signature Puerto Rican Sofrito

  • Difficulty: easy
  • Rating: ★★★★★
  • Print

A staple of Puerto Cuisine. Add this to your cooking regimen.


Ingredients

  • 1 large green bell pepper
  • 1/2 cubanelle pepper
  • 1 bunch of cilantro
  • 1 large yellow onion
  • 4 mini sweet peppers / 4 Aji Dulce peppers or both
  • 1 garlic bulb

Directions

  1. Peel garlic (do not mince) and cut vegetables to a size that will blend.
  2. Pulse all ingredients in blender starting with onion and peppers, little by little to make the base until all combined. Do not add water.
  3. If you prefer to have little chunks – keep pulsing until all combined or you can use the blend button for a smoother consistency. We choose to blend our sofrito so it will dissolve into our food.
  4. Add Aji Dulce (also called Cachucha Peppers) if available. You can find this at Latin Markets although it can be hard to find in certain markets. Finish pulsing or blending depending on consistency preferences. We keep ours frozen as you can see above.
  5. Move to a glass jar for storing in coldest part of your refrigerator (usually the upper back part). Freeze leftovers in an ice cube tray or ziploc bag. The sofrito will last a very long time in the freezer, but not so long in the fridge (about a month, 2 max) so keep that in mind.