Sushi Battle Tampa Bay happening this Thursday!

Full disclosure: This is a sponsored post by Big City Events. I have been compensated for my time writing this article and am involved with the event planning. In addition, I will be judging the participants at the event and am being compensated for my involvement. I personally love sushi and any opinions represented below are my own.

This coming Thursday, September 29th, 2016 is the Sushi Battle Tampa Bay presented by Sapporo Beer at The Coliseum (535 4th Avenue North St. Petersburg, Florida) at 6:30PM. The event is organized by Big City Events. Restaurants will battle it out for who has the Best Sushi in Tampa Bay while attendees enjoy sushi samples and activities.

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Tickets are $45 in advance for General Admission and $75 in advance for VIP in advance. This event will SELL OUT as tickets are limited so if you want to attend, I would recommend purchasing a ticket in advance. There is also a $20 sake tasting ticket available. Purchase tickets from Ticketfly: http://ticketf.ly/2cuRdVW

Attractions include Tampa Taiko drummers, sumo wrestling, sake tastings, group sake shots, karaoke, live DJ music, group sake bomb, and a screening of the Godzilla movie. The USF J-Club will also be tabling at the event.

Facebook RSVP: http://www.facebook.com/events/259912931034738/

Here is a video from last year’s Sushi Battle:

Some participating restaurants include:

Hope to see you there!

YO! Sushi Ramen Mania Party

Full disclosure: This is a sponsored blog post by YO! Sushi. I have been compensated for my time and writing and helped plan this event. These opinions are fully my own and do not represent the views of YO! Sushi. 

This past Thursday I hosted an event with YO! Sushi at the International Plaza and Bay Street in WestShore called Ramen Mania. During the event we partnered together on we featured new additions to the YO! Sushi menu including ramen noodles, udon noodles, limited-edition poke bowls, as well as new sushi rolls and menu items. Attendees were able to meet the staff and chefs who make sushi happen daily at YO! Sushi and see them in action – something you can do as well if you sit in front of the kitchen at the restaurant.

YO! Sushi Blue Mondays $3.50 deal

In addition, we featured a new promotion at YO! Sushi in the USA called Blue Mondays. On Blue Mondays at participating YO! Sushi locations, you can find 40 dishes on special for $3.50. 31 of these dishes on special are completely new. You can check out the current Blue Mondays special here. When I first met the YO! Sushi staff last year they mentioned rolling this out to the USA and I’m glad it is now in our market. It’s an easy way to take friends to try YO! Sushi out and try new things at a cheaper price.

We also featured the new Happy Hour at YO! Sushi. Happy Hour happens Tuesday-Friday at YO! Sushi between 3:30PM and 6:30PM. Participants can enjoy $1 off all plates, $2 sake shots, $3 domestic beers, and $4 house wines during this special and is only valid here in Tampa and in Sarasota.

I was joined by members of the Tampa Bay Bloggers Group including Orangespoken, Live.Sweat.Sleep.Repeat, and Pennies In My Pocket. We were also joined by the Foodies Club at USF, Tampa Bay Eats Out, and Hidden Tampa.

YO! Sushi Poke Bowls

One of the things featured during the tasting was the new poke bowls YO! Sushi is serving. Poke bowls have caught on pretty rapidly in the restaurant industry and I have yet to really enjoy one in Tampa from most places – it always seems overpriced (normally $10-$20) or just uninteresting – sometimes the sauce they are drenched in are also overbearing. The poke bowls at YO! Sushi have a good balance – and you have the option of adding sauce or spicy mayo if need be (personally I recommend the tuna poke bowl with some spicy mayo).

The three poke bowls available are chicken, tuna, and tofu. Of the three my favorite is the tofu. The sesame sauce used with it is excellent and the bowl is balanced. You can see a serving sample below. All three poke bowls are $4.50 which is fair and allows you to enjoy something else with it like a sushi roll or appetizer. One thing I appreciate is that despite the fact that poke bowls are a food trend, the price isn’t crazy on this menu item.

YO! Sushi Tofu Poke Bowl

Another addition to the menu that we tried during the tasting party was YO! Sushi’s new ramen noodles. There are a variety of ramen and udon noodles now on the menu for those who loves soups – just in time for colder months really (hopefully if Florida can finally cool off). They are less than $5 and a nice alternative to miso soup with plenty of actual noodles and broth. I can definitely see myself combining a bowl of soup with a protein or some sushi rolls. The garlic ramen is pictured below.

No doubt the new soups on the menu at YO! Sushi are a response to the ramen craze that is sweeping the nation (hence the name of the event: Ramen Mania). Ramen restaurants are opening left and right around Tampa Bay, offering gourmet ramen for about $14-$20 that is hit or miss. Sometimes though you just want a quick bowl and don’t want to shell out that kind of cash. That’s why I think these ramen and udon noodles options are a great addition to the menu from a purely business and consumer point-of-view.

YO! Sushi Ramen

YO! Sushi Seafood Udon Noodles

The spicy seafood udon noodles had a tasty broth and plenty of ingredients in it.

Shrimp Tempura Ramen at @YOSushi. #ramenmania #eatlikeTia

A photo posted by Tia Smith (@penniesinmypocket) on

Speaking of protein – my favorite thing to order at YO! Sushi that isn’t new to the menu, but I must mention simply because I order it EVERY single time I go there is their Chicken Katsu Curry. I am a HUGE fan of chicken katsu and especially well-made Japanese curry. Maybe it’s because YO! Sushi is based out of London, their chicken katsu curry is one of the best ones of I have ever eaten in the Tampa Bay area and only $5.

One of the hard parts of being a katsu fan and eating sushi is that you normally have to choose between katsu and sushi because katsu is normally $14-$18 for dinner and with a sushi roll you’re easily breaking $30. The chicken katsu curry at YO! Sushi is excellent and inexpensive in comparison and tastes more authentic than a number of competing restaurants in the area.

If I’m at the mall for a quick stop, I’ll grab a chicken katsu curry to-go and eat it in the car. It’s just that good.

We also tried a number of new sushi rolls, appetizers, and sushi options. In general, YO! Sushi is constantly expanding and changing their menu with food trends. It definitely keeps thing interesting. From the sushi menu there is quite a few twists from the original menu worth trying.

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YO! Sushi Chefs

Throughout the event we engaged with the chef and staff and saw them in action making sushi and all the things you’ll find on the conveyor belt at YO! Sushi. There is an open kitchen at YO! Sushi where you can see this happen daily – but since most people sit in the booth, some people might be unaware that everything is made fresh daily at YO! Sushi. All the chefs are really passionate about food and can roll some sushi out at quite a rapid pace.

YO! Sushi now also offers delivery through Grubhub and catering in case you can’t make it over.

Then there is dessert – mochi and doriyaki are light and an easy end to a meal. These are some great shots from Austin from Hidden Tampa:

YO! Sushi Tasting

Thus the tasting party came to an end, but it won’t be long until I am back at YO! Sushi for my next bowl of chicken katsu curry and tofu poke bowl.

YO! Sushi. International Plaza and Bay Street, 2223 N. Westshore Blvd, Tampa, FL 33607. (813) 569-7970. 

Beer & Burger Throw Down this Saturday!

The Beer & Burger Throw Down is happening this Saturday, September 17th, 2016 at Raymond James Stadium (4201 N Dale Mabry Hwy, Tampa, FL 33607) from 12PM-6PM. Over 15 restaurants and food trucks will be on-site selling $3 burger samples and full-sized burgers as well.

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Proceeds will benefit the Animal Coalition of Tampa, which aims to create a community where dogs and cats are safe and treated with respect and value. Participants will get to vote for the Best Burger and Best Brew of the Day.

Participating restaurants/vendors:

  • James Joyce
  • Eats! American Grill
  • Wow That’s Fresh
  • Square 1
  • Daily Eats
  • Carmel Kitchen
  • Prime 19 Grill
  • Bar Louie
  • 4 Rivers Smokehouse
  • Freddy’s Steakburger
  • Mobile Peluso
  • Jimmy’s Slider Truck
  • Got Lobstah!
  • Georgia Big Boys BBQ

Tickets cost $10 and includes multiple craft beer samples and several free event features. Kids also get FREE admission. Buy tickets: http://conta.cc/2a5lkP4

Features at the event include an adult game zone, 2000 square foot kids fun area, custom built dog park, and college football screening.

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Facebook RSVP: http://www.facebook.com/events/529900380545318/

Sponsors include:

  • GTE Financial
  • Big Storm Brewing Co.
  • Rent King Nebraska
  • Tampa Bay K-9 Solutions
  • 98 Rock
  • 620 WDAE
  • Newsradio 970 WFLA
  • Morgan Exteriors, Inc.
  • Creative Loafing Tampa
  • ShoutOUT Tampa Bay
  • Carlos Eats
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Ybor City’s 1st Cookoff for Kids this Sunday

Full disclosure: This is a sponsored post for Junior Chef’s of America. Junior Chef’s of America was created by Ybor City Food Tours, Inc. with the mission of finding a creative way to teach children how to have fun cooking healthier meals. Children learn math, science, English, and reading through cooking classes.

This Sunday, September 4th, 2016 head out for Ybor City’s 1st Cookoff for Kids from 10AM-5PM in Centennial Park located at 1800 E. 8th Avenue. The Cookoff will occur from 2PM-4PM with children ages 4-17 participating.

The event is FREE to the public and will feature live music and food vendors, including kid-friendly vendors that will be perfect for families. An all-kids rock band will be present as well as children motivational speakers.

The competition dish this year will be the Cuban Sandwich. Ybor City is known for hosting the annual National Cuban Sandwich Festival each year in the spring. The festival draws thousands of people every year and showcases traditional and creative Cuban sandwiches. Tampa is so well known for Cuban sandwiches that a restaurant opened in Seoul, South Korea called Tampa Sandwich Bar featuring our signature Cuban Sandwich.

Celebrity judges for the cookoff including Victor Padilla, owner of Cuban Sandwich Festival, Chef Gaston of Gaston Culinary,  Ilya Goldberg, Ybor City Campus President. The MC  for the event is Cloe Cabrera of Cabrera Communications. I will also be participating as a judge at the event!

There will be a fundraiser event tonight at Gaspar’s Grotto for Junior Chefs of America from 7-11PM including an open bar from 7-8PM – info: http://www.eventbrite.com/e/labor-day-weekend-party-tickets-27273215923?aff=es2

Check out their Daytime TV segment: http://wfla.com/2016/08/30/young-chef-cook-off/

See you at the Cookoff for Kids this Labor Day Weekend in Ybor City!

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Event name: Ybor City’s 1st Cookoff for Kids

Venue: Centennial Park

Address: 1800 E. 8th Avenue Tampa, FL 33605

Date & Time: Sunday, September 4th, 2016, 10AM-5PM

Cost: FREE to attend

Website: http://www.juniorchefsofamerica.org/

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Summer of Rum Festival 2016 – September 3rd

9/2/16 Update: Unfortunately, due to Hurricane Hermine the event has been cancelled.

The Summer of Rum Festival is coming up on Saturday, September 3rd, 2016 at Channelside in Downtown Tampa from 12PM to 11PM. The new space doubles the event size from previous years and will feature an improved VIP experience as well. The event is organized by Big City Events and is for ages 21 & older only.

Reel Big Fish will be headlining the event. They are one of the legions of Southern California ska-punk bands to edge into the mainstream following the mid-90s success of No Doubt and Sublime. Local food trucks and food vendors will sell food around the event.

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Tickets are $20 in advance and $25 at the door. VIP costs $100 and $125 at the door (if available). VIP gets you unlimited drinks in the VIP tent, stage view, a seating area, and a cooled air-mist system to cool off.

Participating rum brands around the event:

  • Papas Pilar
  • Malibu
  • Bad Monkey
  • Yolo Rum
  • Ron Barcelo
  • Doc Brown’s Really Bad Rum
  • Koloa
  • Captain Morgan
  • Zacapa Rum
  • Carmelita’s Rum
  • Liquor 43
  • Bayou
  • Gubba Rum
  • Rhum Clement
  • Tanduay Rum
  • Dos Madaras
  • Appleton Estate
  • Chaste No. 850
  • Wicked Dolphin
  • Twisted Sun Rum
  • Florida Mermiad
  • Bumbu Rum
  • Prichards

Also as a bonus – VIP participants will receive 1 rum tasting pass good for unlimited rum tasting at the Island Rum Tasting, as well as a collectible Summer of Rum shot glass.  Additional rum tasting passes can be purchased. Rum tasting opens from 2PM to 6PM ONLY!  No refunds/cash value for unused passes.

Purchase tickets online: http://www.ticketfly.com/purchase/event/1229913

There will also be a Rum Run before the event begins – more information: http://www.summerofrumfest.com/#!rum-run/lxapo

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The Cake Girl dessert food truck opens August 27th

Local vendor The Cake Girl is opening a mobile food truck to the public on Saturday August 27th, 2016. The Grand Opening event will be held from 11AM-6PM at Gables Motorsports of Wesley Chapel located at 28009 Wesley Chapel Blvd. Wesley Chapel, FL 33543. Local food trucks will join The Cake Girl for the opening event and have food available for sale. Live music and giveaways will be held throughout the event.

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The event will feature a FREE cupcake giveaway to the first 100 people who show up at the food truck.

Here is a sample of some of the sweets Cake Girl makes:

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Joining The Cake Girl for the Grand Opening at Gables Motorsports:

  • Moca Loka Frappe: specializing in Puerto Rican gourmet smoothies  – well known for their delicious Nutella smoothies and pineapple colada conconctions
  • KC’s Crepes: serving sweet and savory crepes inspired by French and Japanese cuisine culture
  • Burger Lab: known for their signature black angus blend beef burgers with condiments and sauces made in-house daily

RSVP on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/events/1563206073986256/

For booking inquiries for The Cake Girl – Call (321) 438-2981 or e-mail thecakegirlllc[at]gmail[dot]com.

High West Dinner

High West Distillery Dinner Thursday at Hard Rock Tampa

This Thursday, July 28th, 2016 – Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino located at 5223 North Orient Road will host a High West Distillery Dinner in the Council Oak Lounge with a cocktail reception at 6:30PM and dinner promptly at 7:00PM. This event is for guests ages 21 years and older.

The four-course will showcase innovative culinary dishes paired with High West Distillery spirits including:  High West Distillery Silver Whiskey, High West Distillery American Prairie Bourbon, High West Distillery Campfire, High West Distillery Limited Release – Yippee Ki-Yay and High West Distillery Double Rye.

High West Whiskey

Each guest who attends will receive a commemorative bottle of High West Distillery Double Rye. There will also be a special performance by Josh Carroll.

Tickets cost $221 (including taxes and gratuity) per person and space is limited. Tickets can be purchased by calling (813) 627-6630.

High West Distillery began in 2009 and was opened in Park City, Utah – becoming the first distillery in Utah since 1870, pre-prohibition era. The distillery was founded by David, a biochemist with a passion for whiskey, and his wife, Jane Perkins. The High West Master Distiller, Brendan Coyle, has a Master’s of Science in Brewing and Distilling Science from Heriot Watt University in Edinburgh, Scotland and began his career at Red Rock Brewing Company.

For a list of awards/accolades of High West check out this page: http://www.highwest.com/awards-accolades.php

Follow Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino on Twitter @SHRTampa.