Cheeses & Crust serves a delicious grilled cheese

This past weekend at the Indie Flea Market I tried Cheeses & Crust, a Lakeland-based vendor serving gourmet grilled cheese sandwiches and it was an experience I must share.

I became very aware of the popularity of grilled cheese sandwiches last year when over 20,000 people showed up to the Ybor City Grilled Cheese Festival. My first encounter with a gourmet grilled was years ago in 2011 when I tried Mz. Cheezious in Miami.


What makes Cheeses & Crust special?

The employees at the stand told me they make their bread themselves which enhances the flavor and their bread samples convinced me to buy a sandwich. I ordered the Basic White Sandwich $8 which consists of “scratch-made white bread encrusted parmesan cheese and filled with American cheese”.

I was not ready for the amazing flavors that were going to take my mouth for a ride. The grilled cheese was savory and satisfying. Every last bite was perfection and the tomato soup they served with it was absolutely divine, I licked every last bit of it. I need more of this and I hope Cheeses & Crust appears in more places in Tampa.

The gentlemen at the stand told me they hope to open a food truck in the future and I hope they do. They had no shortage of customers during the event and one person ordered 10 grilled cheese sandwiches at once.

You MUST try Cheeses & Crust. I promise you will not be disappointed.

Visit them on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/cheesesandcrust/

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Cut restaurant wait time down with TorchFi interface

Tired of downloading apps for businesses you frequent to your smartphone? I cannot count how many different apps I have downloaded to my phone for businesses that I never open.

Local start-up company, TorchFi, aims to end the push for restaurants to make their own app and gives restaurants the ability to connect with their customer via a Wi-Fi connection.

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Customers can access restaurant menus through the TorchFi connection and order their food and pay online – avoiding getting caught in line during busy lunch or dinner rush times. They can simply walk into a restaurant and sit at a table and order their food when they connect to the available Wi-Fi. The wireless interface can also help customers call a waiter to help them.

On the business side, the restaurant will receive data about overall customer buying habits/trends and make life easier for their customers – repeat customers can easily order their regular orders with a smart interface that remembers past orders by a customer. All without forcing a customer to download their individual app.

TorchFi is currently targeting fast-casual businesses with busy lunch and dinner rushes. Tampa is a perfect target with plenty of concepts having their beginning here or expanding in the area including Burger 21, PDQ, 4Rivers Smokehouse, Mission BBQ…to name a few.

TorchFi is starting locally with The Attic and Moxie’s Cafe. Downtown Tampa, South Tampa, Brandon, and Carrollwood all have busy lunch rush crowds that could be alleviated using this interface. The interface can also be used for malls and food courts, retail brands, salons, and spas.

For more information, visit TorchFi online at http://www.torchfi.com/

St. Pete Beer & Bacon Fest – 1/21

Craft beer and bacon fans can rejoice on January 21st from 12PM-6PM at the St. Pete Beer & Bacon Fest in Vinoy Park.

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General Admission is available to guests ages 11 and older for $15 pre-sale and $20 on the day of the event and does not cover beer or food costs.

Beer Sampling Admission for ages 21+ is $35 in advance and $40 the day of the event and includes unlimited beer samples from 2PM-6PM, but does not include food.

Sonny’s BBQ VIP Admission for ages 21+ is $75 for pre-sale with limited tickets available and includes a variety of features including Sonny’s BBQ appetizers and unlimited beer sampling with limited small batch beers in VIP tent.

Buy tickets: http://stpetebeerandbacon.com/tickets.html

Children ages 10 and under are FREE.

This food and beer festival will showcase over 80 beers from local craft breweries and samplings of bacon dishes from local chefs and restaurants. Some things on the menus include bacon sirloin meatballs with smoked porter BBQ sauce, bacon beer cheese mac, house duck bacon, BBQ bacon waffle burgers, and more.

Live music will also play throughout the day.

A portion of the proceeds will benefit the Pet Pal Animal Shelter. The Pet Pal Animal Shelter is a non-profit organization helping stray animals get adopted and medical attention.

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Restaurant/Food Vendor Participants (prices will range from $2-$4):

  • Sonny’s BBQ
  • Nico’s Kitchen
  • Craving Donuts
  • Carmel Kitchen
  • Vanchetta Rolling Rotisserie
  • Jolly Porker
  • Sweet Life Cupcakes
  • The Twisted Iron
  • BCA BBQ
  • Taste Time To Love Us
  • I Wanna Wok
  • Prime 19
  • Healthy Heritage Grass Fed Beef
  • Jimmy’s Slider Truck

Menus: http://stpetebeerandbacon.com/food.html

Event Schedule: http://stpetebeerandbacon.com/schedule.html

Brewery list:

  • Big Top Brewing Co.
  • Big Storm Brewing Co.
  • Bold City Brewery
  • Coppertail Brewing Co.
  • Darwin Brewing Co.
  • De Bine Brewing Co.
  • Kona Brewing Co.
  • Florida Avenue Brewing Co.
  • Hidden Springs Ale Works
  • Motorworks Brewing Co.
  • Mad Beach Craft Brewing Co.
  • Magic Hat Brewing Co.
  • Pair O’ Dice Brewing Co.
  • Rapp Brewing Co.
  • Sea Dog Brewing Co.
  • Shipyard Brewing Co.
  • Southern Tier Brewing Co.
  • SweetWater Brewing Co.
  • Tampa Bay Brewing Co.
  • Silverking Brewing Co.
  • 3 Daughters Brewing Co.

Interested in volunteering? Check out this link: http://www.signupgenius.com/go/409054cadad2fa0fc1-stpete

Tampa needs more Korean BBQ

For as happy as I am about the Japanese ramen and izakaya food gods shining on us lately in Tampa, there is another food concept that I am not seeing enough of in Tampa: Korean BBQ.

Korean restaurants are sprinkled around Tampa with Sushi Ninja perhaps leading the pack with the biggest menu of authentic Korean dishes (we even have a delicious Korean food truck called Mmm Bap) – but concepts usually lack Korean BBQ grilling. The popularity of Japanese hibachi/teppanyaki steakhouses and all-you-can-eat concepts (see Koizi, Saki, Ginza) suggests that given the right promotion and effort – Korean BBQ could be huge for the Tampa Bay area.

Izziban Sushi in Orlando has made the concept thrive and now has two concepts in Orlando and one down south near Miami. Izziban offers Korean BBQ with the option of a la carte or buffet with as much meat as you want and the addition of classic sushi rolls and appetizers with prices ranging from $20 for lunch/late-night and $30 for dinner.

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Other restaurants in the Orlando area have caught on and are offering their own take on Korean BBQ with some sticking to just pork belly or samgyupsal and other more basic meat choices. The prices are comparable to what it costs for just one dish of Korean food here in Tampa and perhaps an appetizer.

Another case for more Korean BBQ in Tampa is the communal vibe that eating Korean BBQ has. This is representative of Korean culture where often co-workers, family members, or friends will enjoy a meal today and share their food. It makes food part of the bonding process in eating out and makes food more social. This could be big for corporate events, birthday parties, and family get-togethers.

Grills for Korean BBQ are smaller than those used in Japanese steakhouses and provide for more conversation –  you also are usually in charge of cooking your own food in these concepts.

I’m not sure if I even have a preference on how the concept should arrive here in Tampa. All I know is there is a serious lack of options for Korean BBQ in the Tampa Bay area and that it could be a popular concept if someone would invest in bringing it here.

Here is a quick look at Korean BBQ via Eater:

So who wants to be first and help turn Tampa Bay on to the K-BBQ craze?  I’m waiting.

Tampa Bay Blogger Shoutouts

Here’s what I’ve been reading about lately on local Tampa Bay blogs:

Tampa Bay Breakfasts reviews Mama’s Kitchen on North Florida and gives it a 5-pancake rating. As usual, there are plenty of pics of the food and the happy faces there.

Dena Loves Food visits Mama Fu in Clearwater and tries their Pad Thai and Red Thai Curry.

Tampa Bay Food Monster reviews Ally’s New York Pizzeria continuing his pizza reviews he has been featuring as of late.

Inkwatu visits Dairy Inn on MLK, his favorite choice for soft-serve ice cream.

Epicurean Perils of Sweet Polly visits The Laughing Cat in Ybor City and is pleasantly surprised with their food.

Re/Creating Tampa blogs about the Tampa Go Club.

Happy reading 🙂

Tampa Bay Blogger Shoutouts

Here’s what I’ve been reading about lately on Tampa Bay blogs:

Dena Loves Food is loving Banh Mi Saigon Cafe in St. Petersburg. I love banh mi! Check out her post for more.

Tampa Bay Bites reviews the new St. Petersburg Taco Bus. Taco Bus has had the buzz all week, opening their new location on Valentines Day. I plan to visit during my next visit to St. Petersburg and see how the St. Pete bus fares against the Tampa bus. Love the fact that authentic Mexican cuisine is spreading around the area. Once Tampa Bay was exposed, everyone was instantly hooked.

Inkwatu visited the Queen of Sheba, an Ethiopian restaurant in Tampa. This restaurant has been on my list for some time, I don’t think I have ever really tasted African food. Queen of Sheba is quite popular online and according to Inkwatu, I have to stop delaying this visit and make my trip there.

Re/Creating Tampa highlights some political blogs in Tampa with useful commentaries.

Tampa Bay Food Monster visited the Florida State Fair recently. I did as well (look for my post soon!). He tries fried pickles and oreos, something I am just not adventurous enough to do. He also had fried butter, red velvet funnel cake, and a Krispy Kreme donut burger. I commend him on his adventurous spirit and willingness to sacrifice a few years of his life for a food adventure.

Zest Florida Foodie reviews Bianchi’s Enoteca on her food blog, adding another restaurant to my to-do list.