7 new foods to eat at Florida State Fair 2019

There are less than 10 days to go until the Florida State Fair comes back to Tampa for 2019 and they have a good amount of new food items coming for your waistline. Here are 7 new food items available this year.

  1. Black Cherry Burger – Carousel Foods: Many of the past hits or mouth-dropping food items have come from Carousel Foods at the Florida State Fair such as the ramen burger and mac and cheese burger. This year they have a burger filled with cherries, basil, shallots, garlic, and a cherry orange relish on a brioche bun. Intriguing? Yes. Will it be tasty? We’ll find out soon enough.

2. Rainbow Grilled Cheese – The Giddy Piggy: This one is for the ‘gram as kids like to say. Rainbow everything is usually a huge magnet for Instragram influencers. This grilled cheese features Gouda, mozzarella, and provolone.

3. Cuban Pizza – Pizza Emporioum: It was only a matter of time before Miami’s crazy Cuban sandwich pizza traveled back across the state. This pizza features a Dijonnaise base topped with a mozzarella and Swiss blend, roast pork, ham, and pickles. Make sure to go and have a real Cuban Sandwich later around Tampa, where Cuban Sandwiches were created and home of the annual International Cuban Sandwich Festival.

4. Red Beans and Rice Funnel Cake – The Best Around: A new funnel cake arrives every year to test our willingness to take our appetites on a new horizon. The batter for this funnel cake has spices, red beans, and rice mixed into it. It is then topped with smoked sausage, peppers, onions, and beans on top. I almost want to throw some sour cream and guacamole on this bad boy. Maybe I’m on to something…

5. Giant Mozzarella Cheese Stick – Angela’s Pizza: One of the great pleasures of the fair is not second-guessing having a giant corn dog or a giant turkey leg. Now cheese fans have something for them with a giant mozzarella cheese stick that has over 1/4 a pound of mozzarella cheese inside. Hopefully some marinara comes with it.

6. Coconut Cream Doughnut – Peachey’s Baking Co. – You simply have not gone to the Florida State Fair if you have not stopped by Peachey’s Baking Co. for a delicious doughnut or pretzel. It is some of the best food I have had in my life. They were known before as the Amish Baking Co.

7. Fried Cookie Dough – The Happy Dough – Considering how popular cookie dough is now as a food trend, why not eat it fried? Flavors include classic chocolate chip, birthday cake, and peanut butter cookie dough.

What are you looking forward to trying at the Florida State Fair? I am personally dreaming of a footlong corn dog and some french fries right now…and now the wait begins.

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10 brands I recommend from Winter Fancy Food Show 2019 in SF

Winter Fancy Food Show in San Francisco

I attended the Winter Fancy Food Show this year in San Francisco. This food-industry trade show features 80,000+ specialty food and beverages as well as thousands of new products, industry networking events, and 1,400+ exhibitors from around the planet.

I was able to try hundreds of new products coming to the food industry. These are the 10 brands that left the biggest impression on me and that I’m recommending to my readers.

  1. Ithaca Cold-Crafted Hummus: A premium hummus brand that is achieved by using cold processing techniques that preserve nutrients that are normally lost when heating ingredients to make hummus. There are no GMOs, no preservatives, no citric acids, no artificial ingredients, no canola, and no soy. What’s really incredible is how fresh this hummus tastes with each bite. My favorite flavors were the garlic hummus and lemon dill.
  2. Proud Label: This is a new brand that makes spreads made with different vegetables. It was in the Incubator Village at the Fancy Food Show. Each one I tried was truly delicious with my favorite being the Product Label Red that is made with beets and pepper. It tasted like it would go great on a breakfast item (maybe even some Huevos Rancheros). The Proud Label Orange was also delicious and uses carrots, cauliflower, and spices to create a great spread. I hope to see these in stores soon.
  3. Blue Evolution: An incubator that grows seaweed in Baja California and Alaska and is finding new ways to introduce them the public. Right now they sell penne and rotini pasta to the public, but soon they will release seaweed popcorn which was an awesome experience to try and is something I’ve never thought of doing before. I want more soon.
  4. Ocean’s Halo: Speaking of seaweed. It seemed to be an emerging trend at the Fancy Food Show. Ocean’s Halo had a variety of products on display but their kelp-based ramen broth blew me away as well as their soy less sauces made with seaweed. There are so many things I want to try now from this brand after this experience.
  5. Villa Piva Jucies: Southern Brazil is creating 100% natural juices that have no preservatives, no added water, no added sugar, and juices that are gluten-free and lactose-free. They are quite tasty and my favorite was the apple juice made with hibiscus, cinnamon, and ginger. Their tangerine juice was also quite tasty and is made with lemongrass. I’d recommend giving them a look.
  6. Exotic Food Thailand: This brand from Thailand is beginning to sell Thai chili sauces made with Stevia which is a nice alternative to the sugary Thai products currently on the market and can be helpful for diabetics who still want to have some sweeter flavor in their food. Upon sampling these sauces, even I would make the switch if the product becomes available to me.
  7. Shimadaya: This Japanese brand makes Shin Uchi Frozen Ramen which was probably one of the booths I ran past the quickest, but actually had a lasting impression because it tasted quite good and requires very little preparation. Just 20-40 seconds boiling depending on whether you want standard or thick noodles. This product is not out just yet on the market, but is coming soon.
  8. Roam Free Bison Bites: Food with a mission describes Roam Free Bison Bites. The owner, Brittany Masters, hopes to make grass-fed bison a staple of the American diet again. She owns a sustainable start-up ranch in Western Montana that smokes premium bison meat in small batches and flavors with organic spices. The bison jerky snacks are high protein (24 grams per snack) and sugar-free. Farmers need Americans to eat bison again to help make their farms grow and become more sustainable. Personally, I found the snacks to be quick yummy and healthier than beef jerky.
  9. The Swiss Rosti: This is a product from Portland, Oregon that can be used as snack, side dish, or hor d’oeuvre and is made with vegetables blended with potatoes or sweet potatoes. The one I tried was the Curry Lentil flavor whcih is made with shredded parsnip, carrot and potato filled with Curried Acorn Squash and Cauliflower. It was gluten-free, vegan, and incredibly delicious! I would buy these.
  10. Aedan Foods: This is a local SF food business that makes fermented rice with something called koji which can be used as a food starter for different dishes. They offer different fermented items for cooking including miso, shio koji, amazake, and sagohachi. Their products use non-GMO and organic ingredients. I tried the shio koji and it was delicious. Fermentation is so important in Asian food cuisines and there is plenty of ways this can be used in cooking. I’ve never seen something like it in the Southeast. There’s a bit of a learning curve to their products, but they have recipes and plenty of information on their website.

Until next time!

Christmas Day Champagne Buffet at Rusty Pelican Tampa

Nothing gets the holidays flowing like champagne. Rusty Pelican Restaurant located at 2425 North Rocky Point Drive in Tampa has a special Christmas Day Champagne Buffet for guests this year.

The 2018 Christmas buffet will run from 10AM-4PM and cost $75 for adults and $35 for children ages 5 to 12.

Rusty Pelican Christmas Day. Enjoy a champagne buffet with amazing views and Christmas Day surprises.

Offerings on the menu include Prime Rib, Holiday Ham, Crab Legs, Festive Sides, Decadent Desserts, Bottomless Mimosas, Bloody Mary Bar, and more as well as a festive photo booth.

Reservations can be made online at OpenTable and an advance deposit is required. Cancellations must be made 24 hours in advance.

Happy eating!

Christmas Day Holiday Meal at Castile Restaurant

Is there anything more Florida than Christmas Day at the beach? Celebrate XMAS 2018 with a holiday meal at Castile Restaurant located inside Hotel Zamora on St. Pete Beach at 3701 Gulf Boulevard. Castile will be offering a 4-course meal from 11:30AM to 8:30PM.

Reservations are encouraged.

Adults can enjoy the meal for $70 or spend $90 to include a wine tasting. Children ages 12 and under will cost $25. Bring your santa paws to their outdoor seating options. No need to leave your fido at home.

Some items on the menu: Grilled Octopus, Burrata & Tomato Salad, Pork Ossobuco, Seared Filet, Wild Mushromo with Black Truffle, and Maple Mascarpone Cheesecake with Candied Vanilla Walnuts. Just reading out the menu is making me hungry.

Call (727) 456-8660 to make your reservations. You can also make reservations at OpenTable.

Christmas Eve / Christmas Dinner at Epicurean Hotel Tampa

Epicurean Hotel Christmas Dinner in Tampa

Looking for a meal this Christmas Eve and Christmas 2018 in Tampa?

Check out Epicurean Hotel in South Tampa for a special three-course meal offering from 5PM-10PM on Christmas Eve and 11AM-10PM on Christmas Day. Reservations are suggested.

Dining options start at $48 depending on your main entree choice.

Offerings include a Black Pepper Bucatini, Duck Confit, Filet Mignon, Buttermilk Panna Cotta, and more. View the full menu: http://epicureanhotel.com/events/christmas-eve-dinner/

Make a reservation at (813) 999-8726 or online at OpenTable.

Epicurean Hotel is a food-focused hotel that hails from the same owners as Bern’s Steak House, located across the street, in a collaboration with Mainsail Lodging & Development.

The hotel has numerous offerings for guests and visitors include Elevage Restaurant, EDGE Rooftop Bar, Epicurean Theatre, and more.

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!

Tampa Bay Food Fight 2018 a smashing success

Metropolitan Ministries had their Tampa Bay Food Fight 2018 charity fundraiser tonight at Armature Works in Tampa Heights.

St. Pete edged out Tampa for the best food city with chefs claiming victory from The Mill, Parkshore Grill, Locale Market, Dr. BBQ, Red Mesa, Il Ritorno, The Birchwood, and The Peabody.

Metropolitan Ministries raised $250,000 at the event and is still aiming for $300,000 as their goal to help them in their mission to fight poverty, hunger, and homelessness.

The proceeds help their Culinary Arts Program that teaches valuable skills to those seeking to improve their lives and work in the food industry.

You can donate at 
http://secure.metromin.org/site/SPageNavigator/ITB_Culinary_Arts_Program.html


Here are highlights from the evening:

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#tbff2018 #behope #tampabayfoodfight @levy.restaurants

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CL Tampa Margarita Wars happening Friday July 27th

Full disclosure: This is a sponsored post for Creative Loafing Tampa. Any opinions expressed are my own and do not represent Creative Loafing.

Get ready to party like it is Cinco de Mayo this month. Local newspaper Creative Loafing Tampa will have their annual Margarita Wars competition on Friday, July 27th from 7PM to 10PM at TPepin’s Hospitality at 4121 North 50th Street in Tampa.

Guests will sample margaritas from more than 15 mixologists around town and vote for “Tampa Bay’s Best Margarita” while enjoying Mexican bites from top restaurants.

Margaritas are one of the most popular drinks in the United States and Americans drink up to 185,000 margaritas per hour according to The Nibble.

In fact, The United States is the number one tequila market in the world beating even Mexico. Not only that, but the South accounts for 34.9% of all margarita sales nationwide. It makes sense considering how hot it is.

Tickets start at $45 and are now on-sale. VIP attendees will enjoy an hour of early entry as well as other perks.

This event is for ages 21+ older only.

Now to go look for my sombrero.

Buy Tickets: http://tampabayeventtickets.com/events/54636603/margarita-wars-2018

Participating restaurants and bars include:

  • Beach Bar & Restaurant
  • Besito Mexican
  • Brew Bus Brewing
  • Bungalow Restaurant & Bar
  • Casa Tina
  • Copper Shaker
  • Datz
  • Epicurean Hotel
  • First Chance Last Chance Bar
  • Haven
  • Iberian Rooster
  • Parks & Rec
  • Pisces Sushi & Global Bistro
  • Rasoi Indian Cuisine
  • The Avenue Eat + Drink
  • The Bricks
  • The Living Room on Main
  • The Mill
  • World of Beer
  • & More

Facebook RSVP: http://www.facebook.com/events/1322485457897217/

Upcoming June Wine Events at Michael’s Wine Cellar (Sarasota)

If you love wine, there are quite a number of upcoming events at Michael’s Wine Cellar in Sarasota. Spend a day at the beach and enjoy some wine at at this international boutique that has been offering wine for more than 30 years.

Monthly Casual Tasting – 6/2

In addition, Michael’s Wine Cellar has a monthly casual, walk-about tasting which will be held this Saturday, June 2nd from 2PM-4PM. Guests can enjoy dozens of international wines throughout. Admission costs $10 and no RSVP is required. Guests may register in advance or pay at the door.

Bordeaux Wine Tasting – 6/9

Looking to try some great Bordeaux wines? Michael’s Wine Cellar will have a Bordeaux Wine Tasting on Saturday, June 9th, 2018 at 6:30PM. Tickets are on-sale and cost $50 per person. Admission includes Hors d’oeuvres and tastes of more than 20 Bordeaux wines which is quite a steal. Bourdeaux, France features the most sought after wines on Earth.

Each ticket will receive a $25 voucher for purchases of $50 or more of the Bordeaux wines being showcased at the event.

Buy Tickets: http://shop.michaelswinecellar.com/bordeaux-wine-tasting.html

Wine Educational Series –  6/11

For those looking to learn more about wine, Michael’s Wine Cellar is continuing their monthly educational series on Monday, June 11th, 2018 from 6:30PM to 8PM. 3 different wines will be tasted 3 different ways. Reservations are required. Tickets cost $25 and can be purchased online. Class begins at 6:30PM on the dot.

Participants can enjoy a display of cheese and fruit, as well as sliced French bread during the class.

Buy tickets: http://shop.michaelswinecellar.com/wine-class-3-way.html