Easter Sunday 2012

Easter was a nice chance to kick back with the family and enjoy some home cooking. My sister did not disappoint the family. She hosted a feast with steak, chicken skewers, mashed potatoes (using my Mom’s famous recipe), chips and homemade salsa, flan, and more! We also now have a ton of candy in the house thanks to some overestimating on egg stuffing choices. It’s like Halloween all over again.

Here are some photos:

Valentines Day Dining in Tampa Bay

It would seem that almost every restaurant in Tampa Bay is having some kind of Valentines Day special for the big day of love. Here is a listing of some of the specials I have noticed, for the late-minute diner like myself. Even if you don’t have a Valentine – you might want to have a bite on some of these deals.

Bernini: This delicious Italian restaurant in Ybor City is offering 1/2 price pastas and entrees all week long until 7PM. $2 Finlandia Martinis. (813) 248-0099

BurgerMonger: Famous for its delicious Akaushi Kobe Beef – BurgerMonger will be giving away chocolate-covered strawberries to couples (while supplies last) on Valentines Day. They say the quickest way to a man’s heart is through his stomach – and a BurgerMonger burger sure does please my stomach! (813) 968-6860

Cafe Kili: Dixie Blue will play an eclectic mix of country, early rock and roll, and cajun songs for visitors starting at 7PM. Special drinks will be on the menu including the Red Velvet Frappe and Raspberry White Mocha.  (813) 988-2879

Ceviche Tapas Bar and Restaurant: The usual $4 tapas menu will be in effect Tuesday at Ceviche, in addition to two lovers specials: Mixed Grill and Mixed Fish specials for $39. First-come, first-serve basis. Numerous locations around Tampa Bay and Orlando.

Datz: Special cocktails, entrees, and desserts will be sold for V-Day. Some examples are pink polka dot pancakes and cherry martinis. (813) 831-7000

Fly Bar & Restaurant: Open 4PM-3AM. Patio dining and rooftop deck in Downtown Tampa. Live jazz music from 8-11PM and dinner. (813) 275-5000

Origami Sushi (Hillsborough): Free dessert on Valentines Day. Happy Hour 3-7PM with $1 sushi rolls. All beverages reduced price. (813) 878-2145

Pelagia Trattoria: This hidden Italian restaurant in the International Plaza will have a special Valentines Day menu available fro 5:30-10PM. Some things on the menu include lobster bisque, veal osso buco, and Godiva chocolate cake. (813) 313-3235

The Rack: Valentines Day blues troubling you? The Rack will have happy hour all night long on Valentines Day, in addition to their regular Tuesday specials. (813) 250-1595

The Refinery: Special Valentines Day menu available at this hot spot Tampa restaurant. The steak tartare sure caught my eye. Make sure to call ahead – they may already be filled to max capacity. (813) 237-2000

Senor Taco: Lots of buzz online for this Pinellas Park Mexican restaurant lately. Taco Tuesday brings tacos to the amazing price of $1. (727) 289-7080

Soobak: This excellent Davis Island Asian restaurant is offering a 5-course Valentines Day dinner which includes salad, appetizer, sushi, choice of meat, and dessert for $35 per person (+tax). Be sure to call ahead as space is limited. (813) 258-3377.

SoHo Sushi North: USF-area SoHo Sushi will feature a $55 (+tax) special for couples featuring 2 soups, 2 salads, 2 drinks, 2 sushi rolls, and dessert. (813) 977-8744

Spain Restaurant & Toma Bar: Offering a 4-course pre-fix menu for $45 per person (+tax) includes 1 alcoholic beverage, appetizer, salad , entree, and dessert. Live romantic music from 6-9PM. Regular menu also available. (813) 223-2831

Wimauma: The current talk of Tampa Bay. Special Valentines Day menu available for $40 per person (+tax).  (813) 793-1687

GrillSmith Chef Joe Guli Interview & Chef Guli’s Top 10 Fourth of July Grilling Tips

I had the pleasure of sitting down and talking with Joe Guli, GrillSmith‘s Chef Tech of Operations in this area, today at the Brandon location located inside the Westfield Brandon Town Center (located outside near the food court). GrillSmith was established in 2004 and is an affiliate of Front Burner Brands, a restaurant management company headquartered in Tampa, Florida. Joe has been a chef for 10 years and studied at the Florida Culinary Academy prior to becoming a chef. Prior to the interview I was served some bruschetta with smoked salmon that tasted great. We talked about Guli’s history and food interests in a brief interview before he gave me 10 grilling tips for families to use this 4th of July when having barbeques and getting together for the Independence Day holiday.

Q & A with Joe Guli

Carlos Eats (CE): How did you get started as a chef? How did you get into your current position with GrillSmith?

Joe Guli (JG): My grandfather inspired me to become a chef and I was also influenced by a family-owned establishment growing up. I worked for the Cheesecake Factory in Las Vegas and then moved to Florida, landing a position at GrillSmith through a contact from my former employer.

CE: What is your favorite entree at GrillSmith? What’s your favorite sauce?

JG: Chicken Milanese is my favorite entree (sautéed, herb-crusted chicken finished with a lemon-butter white wine reduction, sun-dried tomatoes, golden raisins and capers, dressed with arugula and pine nuts in GrillSmith’s lemon-feta vinaigrette, served over seasoned rice). I love breaded chicken. My favorite sauce would have to be our port wine sauce.

CE: Social Media Day is coming up on June 30th. What do you think about the relationship that Social Media and Food have found today?

JG: I think it’s great. It allows people to get recommendations to restaurant and interact with food.

CE: Here’s a fun question. What is your favorite food network show and why?

JG: Robert Irvine’s Restaurant Impossible. I personally enjoy going into a restaurant and making it a success the way Robert Irvine does on his show.

CE: What toppings do you like on your burger?

JG: It might sound weird, but my favorite burger toppings are fried pork belly with egg (laughs).

CE: What is a 4th of July tradition for you and your family?

JG: Grilling with the family is definitely a 4th of July tradition for my family. We’re Italian and French so there has to be pasta at our 4th of July family gatherings as well.

CE: Thanks for your time, it was great talking with you.

Joe Guli’s Top 10 Fourth of July Grilling Tips

1.    Go with gas. Use a gas grill to help control cooking temperature. Most gas grills have a number of heat settings and many include built-in temperature gauges to determine the correct cooking temperature required for a certain food.

2.    Use multiple burners for multiple food items. When grilling several different foods that require different cooking temperatures, it’s helpful to use a gas grill that features multiple burners to better control the temperature for each food.

3.    Add wood-grilled flavor. Add grilled flavor to food by using wooden grilling planks that are designed to provide added flavor to food during the grilling process.

4.    Know the difference between direct and indirect heat grilling methods.

    • Use direct heat for thinner meats. Direct heat grilling is the best approach for grilling foods such as hamburgers, steaks, hot dogs, brats, pork chops, chicken breast and fish. To grill with direct heat, place food on the grilling grate in the area directly over the heat source.
    • Use indirect heat for thicker meats. Thick meats are best cooked with a heat source that is not directly under the food. This allows them to cook slowly to ensure that the food does not burn on the outside before the inside reaches the necessary level of doneness. Whole chickens, whole turkeys, beef roasts and pork roasts are good choices for grilling with indirect heat.
    • Alternate direct and indirect heat grilling for large meat cuts. It’s a good idea to sear large meat cuts directly over high heat to help seal in the juices and maintain tenderness. Then, place them in an area of the grilling grate that is away from the heat source to allow the indirect heat to cook the meat slowly until it’s done.

5.    Choose the right lean-to-fat ratio for burgers. Use ground beef that contains 77 perfect lean and 23 percent fat. This will result in juicy, flavorful burgers that won’t flare up on the grill due to too much fat content.

6.    Don’t overwork burger meat. When making burger patties, touch the patties lightly and be careful not to overwork the meat. Overworked meat will become tough, dried out and could fall apart on the grill.

7.    Cut and coat your vegetables. Cut vegetables into uniform-sized pieces to help them cook evenly. Rub vegetables with vegetable oil or toss them with a clear or light marinade prior to grilling over indirect heat.

8.    A digital meat thermometer can be your best friend. Use this tool to help you avoid overcooking. Poultry should be cooked to an internal temperature of 165 degrees, hamburgers and medium steaks to an internal temp of 160 degrees and pork to 150 degrees.

9.    Add some flavor the easy way. Pre-mixed seasonings, marinades, rubs and sauces can be a big help! Poultry such as chicken breasts should be marinated for 30 minutes to one hour. Marinate tender steaks like sirloin for 15 minutes to two hours. Less tender steaks like flank should be marinated for six to 24 hours.

10. Give it a rest. Let meat rest after removing it from the grill for at least three minutes, 10 minutes for larger cuts, before slicing it so that the juices redistribute evenly and the flavor stays in the meat rather than leaking out onto your cutting board. Place the meat on a hot serving plate and cover it loosely with foil while resting to keep it from getting cold.

Where to Dine on Father’s Day in Tampa Bay

In case you haven’t heard, 50 million Americans are expected to dine out for Father’s Day this weekend. Trying to figure out where to take Dad to eat on Father’s Day? I have you covered. Here are some suggestions of dining deals happening around Tampa on Father’s Day (Sunday June 19, 2011 for those of you who didn’t know).

Stump’s Supper Club in Channelside is offering a free appetizer for Dad’s on Father’s Day (with the purchase of an entree).

Yamato Japanese Steakhouse has Morgan Chardonnay for $5 down from the usual $17 for Father’s Day.

The Yacht StarShip has a Father’s Day Brunch Cruise with tickets selling at $39.95, boarding at Noon on Father’s Day.

Father’s get free food and get to bowl for free at Splitsville in Channelside when they come with their kids.

Charleys is offering free 24oz Ribeye steak for dads, along with a signature salad and French bread (with a purchase of equal or greater value) on Father’s Day.

The Bearded Clam in Sarasota has a buffet with live music for families. $20 for adults and $6.95 for children 10 and under.

IKEA is having an all-you-can-eat Father’s Day brunch. $9.99 for adults and children 12 and under are just $2.49. Quite a deal with the amount of things on the menu.

Spaghetti Warehouse in Ybor City will be offering free Lasagna or Spaghetti for Dad’s on Father’s Day. No coupon necessary.

The Columbia will be open for Father’s Day and is accepting reservations. They have a number of specials for Father’s Day including a Coca de Langosta y Chorizo tapas special and two entree specials: New York Strip Sirloin “The Bambino” and Vieiras y Ibérico “Canarias”. Note: The Columbia Cafe on the Riverwalk will have their usual menu and not be offering Father’s Day specials.

Grille 54 has a special Father’s Day menu. They will be opening at Noon on Sunday.

Beef O’ Brady’s will give Dad’s a free meal for Father’s Day (with the purchase of an entree of equal or lesser value and a limit of $10, some restriction apply…check with your local Beef franchisee for details).

Fleming’s Steakhouse has a 3-course Father’s Day Brunch for $32.95 and you get a free $25 gift card for your father with your purchase.

Visiting the Cheesecake Factory for Father’s Day? Print out this coupon for a free cheesecake for every $30 purchase. Valid until 6/28/2011. Even if you aren’t going for Father’s Day print it anyway. Who doesn’t love free cheesecake?

Hope everyone has a Happy Father’s Day!🙂

Did I miss your restaurant? Shoot me an e-mail to carloseats [at] gmail [dot] com and I will add you to the list.

Happy Cinco de Mayo!

Happy Cinco de Mayo everyone! This food blogger is finally on summer vacation so look for lots of updates to be coming soon. I thought that Cinco de Mayo would be the perfect day to blog about Jarritos sodas. I received a package from one of their social media consultants some time ago and had the privelege of trying every Jarritos flavor. I’ll be blogging about my impression of each soda. I also received a CD filled with music and a Jarritos t-shirt that I am wearing today in honor of Cinco de Mayo.

It was hard to decide which ones to drink with so many flavors to choose from. I have barely seen Jarritos sodas in Tampa, but in California you will find them just about everywhere, so naturally I was very excited to try these samples.

The design of the bottles themselves are pretty neat. They stay nice and cold and when you open the bottle cap the soda tastes fresh and crisp.

Here is the awesome t-shirt they sent me.

I’ll be blogging about my impressions of the flavors soon. I hope everyone has a fun and festive Cinco de Mayo!🙂

IHOP Free Pancake Day: Tuesday 3/1/2011

Tomorrow is IHOP Free Pancake Day. Expect a rush of people at IHOP tomorrow getting their fix of pancakes for free from 7am to 10pm. IHOP has a goal of raising 2.3 million dollars for Children’s Miracle Hospitals and other local charities. IHOP has given away more than 10.1 million buttermilk pancakes since 2006. Don’t miss out on this national event. Visit http://ihoppancakeday.com/ for more.

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Belated Merry Christmas!

I hope everyone had a great Christmas. I spent mine with my family. We ate and ate and ate (today I hit the treadmill for sure). We spent Christmas Day at Downtown Disney in Orlando, fun and chill time. Our Christmas Eve dinner was a feast!

So many things. The arroz con gandules was excellent!

My sister’s drunken chicken.

My Mom’s ham and pineapples. Mmmm.

My Aunt’s delicious deviled eggs! I always sneak one in before dinner.

My sister made an El Salvadorian dish called Panes Con Pollo (a different version of the original Panes Con Pavo) that was excellent. The sauce is sweet and goes perfectly in a sandwich. It was delicious and really stole the show at dinner.

As you can see I had a great Christmas dinner, I hope you guys did as well. Drop me a comment with what you did or what you ate, I’d love to know and Happy Holidays🙂