GrillSmith Carrollwood VIP Party on the Patio

Carlos Eats team member Jenn Nguyen visited GrillSmith in Carrollwood this Friday for their VIP event. Here is her post on the event.

Two bruschettas were served at the event: smoked salmon and portabello.  They both contained capers, basil, red onion, sun dried tomatoes and Parmesan cheese.  I personally enjoyed the smoked salmon much more.  It was fresh tasting and unlike the portobello bruschetta, the flavor weren’t drowned out by the accompaniments.  My guest favored the portobello one.  He personally enjoyed the fact that he could taste all the flavors in the bruschetta.  The toast was on the oily side even though it did add a nice depth to the hor d’oeuvre.

Basil made another appearance in the Caprese stack.  A jumbo grape tomato (surprisingly flavorful) with basil and mozzarella (nothing special).  The salty, creamy mozzarella played well with the crisp, juicy tomato.

The fourth sample was the Spicy Thai Shrimp, the restaurant’s successful take on Bonefish Grill’s Bang Bang Shrimp.  A nice crunch to the succulent shrimp with a hit of tang to cut the rich Sriracha aioli.  The Creative Loafing freelance writer who joined me at the table noted that this was her favorite item even though she did not like fried foods.

The final sample item available was the Crab and Shrimp Cake.  Since no utensils were provided, it was a little hard to eat.  Unlike the Spicy Thai Shrimp, this fried item was quite greasy.  I thought the construction of the item was a little awkward; the breading was only on the outside and it was quite heavy.  The jumbo lump crab was plentiful and flavorful.  The shrimp was unnecessary especially because the crab overpowered the delicate shrimp.  It did serve as a great textural contrast.  There was a small bit of Sriracha dolloped on top, but did nothing for the crab and shrimp cake.

The signature cocktail we tried was the Signature Strawberry Lemonade. Made with Grey Goose Vodka, I expected it to have that lemonade twang with a smooth finish. Yet, it was surprisingly sweet and floral.

Overall, a good tasting! A talented artist, Shaun Hopper, was there playing his acoustic renditions of popular songs. I thought the service could have been a little bit more efficient; there were times when I had to hunt down a server to get an hor d’oeuvre.  There were giving out samples of cocktails (a Bacardi spiced rum with Coke and Orange flavored Grey Goose with Cranberry Juice) which the crowd enjoyed. The chef even made an appearance and mingled with the crowd to answer any questions. All in all, I had a great time and a memorable experience, no doubt.
Grillsmith on Urbanspoon

Restaurant Name: GrillSmith

Cuisine: American, Steakhouse

Neighborhood: Carrollwood

Address: 14303 N. Dale Mabry Highway Tampa, FL 33618

Phone Number: (813) 269-1500

Website: http://www.grillsmith.com/

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Bokuchoi Ramen launched – first Japanese ramen restaurant in Tampa Bay

My good friend in Tampa informed me that a ramen restaurant opened in August and she was surprised at how great it tasted.  As you know, I had some great ramen here in Seoul at Gaya-Gaya and South Korea has no short supply of ramen shops. The idea of a ramen restaurant in Tampa interests me. I hope this small operation can find its place in our great city of Tampa. I investigated and learned about the restaurant owner and his plans.

You can read the article on Creative Loafinghttp://cltampa.com/dailyloaf/archives/2011/10/11/bokuchoi-ramen-restaurateur-brings-first-japanese-ramen-restaurant-to-tampa

Check out Bokuchoi Ramen on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/BokuchoiRamen

Renzo’s Gourmet on Kennedy Celebrates 2 Year Anniversary Sept 28-Oct 1

Renzo’s Gourmet, an Argentinean steakhouse in Tampa, is hosting their 2 year anniversary event from now until Saturday. They will have a free wine tasting with Malbec, Carmenere, and Torrontes wines for visitors and free hors d’ oeuvres. You guys know I love free stuff! This is a great opportunity to go check out the food and wine menu there. Two Carlos Eats team members visited a tasting at Renzo’s Gourmet a few weeks ago and really enjoyed the food and atmosphere there (post coming soon!) and plan on making a trip back before the anniversary promotion ends. Photographing and filming of the event is allowed, the event is open to the public, and no RSVP is necessary.

Restaurant Name: Renzo’s Gourmet

Cuisine: Argentinean

Neighborhood: South Tampa

Address: 3644 W. Kennedy Blvd., Tampa, FL 33609

Phone Number: (813) 870-3606

Website: http://www.renzosgourmet.com/

Carlos Eats Seoul: 400 Won Wing Night Tuesdays @ Beer O’ Clock

During my freshman year of college, I spent every Monday at Wingstop with the Vietnamese Student Association eating 35 cent wings. It was an experimental event that become a weekly tradition. There is nothing better than cheap and delicious wings (my two favorite words). Sometime later, Wingstop changed some of their policies and we stopped our visits. Last week, I started craving wings in Seoul and a quick Google search directed me to Beer O’ Clock.

Beer O’ Clock is a Canadian bar in Sinchon. When you enter you find American football on televisions and plenty of foreigners around. We came for their 400 won wing night. There are plenty of tables and open seating to provide ventilation to the room. The wing promotion has five varieties and to get the deal you must order a beverage. The waiter was quick to bring us our drinks and take our order.

Soda and basic beers are both 3,000 won. I decided to order a coke. I drank it down it down fast and then learned after asking that there were no free refills. You’ll want to be careful about this since I find it very difficult to enjoy wings with water. Some American food, mainly burgers, wings, fries, and pizza just taste great with some soda or beer.

Our table ordered two types of fries. The bacon and cheese fries cost 9,000 won and are delicious. The cheese is melted perfectly between the fries and the bacon tastes great as well. The price is certainly high for french fries, but split among a few friends it wasn’t too bad. Each person at my table order 10 wings for a total of 4,000 won per person.

The regular plate of fries costs 7,000 won and is also great. They went much faster than the other fries, but were enjoyable down to the last bite. The wait for the wings was a little long, I would say we waited at least 30 minutes for our wings. When they arrived we were ready to get our wing fix on.

The BBQ wings were appetizing, but needed to be dipped in a sauce. I asked the waiter for some ranch dressing, but he disappeared after dropping off the wings and never came back to ask if we needed anything else. Nevertheless, it was nice to have some BBQ as finding food in BBQ sauce is a rare find in Seoul.

The plain wings were just that: plain. Make sure you have something to dip them in.

The hot wings were quickly being eaten by my friends. I personally don’t eat hot wings so I can’t comment on the taste. However, they looked pretty appetizing.

The Rancho-Relaxo wings had an interesting sauce to them. Different, but not particularly my favorite. I could take or leave them.

My personal favorite were the Greek wings. They had a lemon pepper taste to them that was invigorating. I could not stop myself from grabbing more and I actually felt a little sad when they were all gone. It was the most memorable part of my meal and in the future I would be sure to order these wings again.

Overall, Beer O’ Clock is a decent pub with some delicious and cheap wings. Perfect for a college student and someone who wants to spend some times in a sports bar without spending too much cash. I would return again for their wing night in the future. I invited some other friends who came later at night (past 9PM) but found the wings sold out so make sure you head early if you’re planning to eat dinner there.

Restaurant Name: Beer O’ Clock

Cuisine: Pub grub

Neighborhood: Sinchon, Itaewon

Address: Seodaemoon Gu, Changchun Dong 52-53 2nd floor

Phone Number: (02) 3339733

Website: http://www.beeroclock.ca/

Tampa’s First Food Truck Rally

This guest blog was written by a friend of mine Dena Pham. She blogs on her food blog Dena Loves Food in Tampa. As many of you know, I am currently studying abroad in South Korea and I really appreciate her writing up a post for my readers on a very important food event in Tampa. If you like what you see, like her blog on Facebook! http://www.facebook.com/pages/Dena-Loves-Food/181586071852396. Stay tuned for more Tampa blogs as many are being finalized at the moment and don’t forget to checkout The Taco Bus Wednesday on Man Vs. Food. 🙂

Food trucks have been on the rise lately, especially with Food Network’s show called The Great Food Truck Race. Tampa may be a bit behind with the new “In” but we are catching up pretty fast. Last Saturday, Tampa had their first Food Truck Rally and it went a little too well! Sponsored by 352 Media Group and Tasting Tampa, they were only expecting 1,000 people, but shockingly around 5,000 were able to experience the first food truck rally in Tampa.

Food trucks have been popular for quite some time, but what makes these new food trucks so different is that they serve legitimate food. You can get your dessert, snacks, gourmet meals and more at a reasonable price now from these food trucks. Everyday they park in a different location all around town and update their fans via Facebook, Twitter and other online media outlets.

There was around 10 different food trucks and vendors that attended the food truck rally. They all served different food for any and all taste buds. From Tex-Mex, sweets, and smoothies to seafood, bowls, sandwiches and so much more.

Here is a list of the trucks that attended: Wicked Wiches, Killer Samich, 3 Ballers, Fire monkey, Michelle Faedo’s, Coconut Bo’s, Fat Tortillas, The Cuppin Cake, Nelly Nels, and Buddy Brew Coffee.

There were massively long lines and wait times which was expected, but I was very surprised when an hour and a half went by from their opening time that many trucks have already started erasing and crossing items off their menus. Nelly Nel’s was the first to officially close their window before the 2 hour mark, but they reopened a couple hours later serving pork and chicken bowls. It was impossible to try food from all trucks so I did what I could do since each truck was a minimum of 1-2 hour wait in line.

I was able to try smoothies from Coconut Bo’s, two different crab cakes from Michelle Faedo’s and food from Wicked Wiches. The smoothies from Coconut Bo’s wasn’t great enough for me to be tempted to find where their truck is everyday, but their food off their menu looked interesting and healthy.

The crab cakes from Michelle Faedo’s truck would probably be my favorite thing I ate at the whole event. The cakes were loaded with crab meat and they were also crispy on the outside and extremely moist in the inside. Their crab cake also has a nice tangy citrus kick which made them really addicting.

The last spot I was able to get food from was Wicked Wiches’ truck. They are known for their creative twist on sandwiches and I must give them props because their food is really unique and full of flavor. I was able to try most of the items off their menu that was available at that time. We ended up ordering their Moroccan smashballs, Dr. Pepper Dancing chicken, Big Lebrowski, Cheeseburger egg roll, Sloppy Mary kota and a fried ham & cheese sandwich. I also got their Lychee Mango Limeade and that was one of my favorite drink, I never had anything like it which makes it an even more plus on my list!

Overall, the food was really good and the event was fun. There was some frustration with long lines, heat and food running out, but I’m sure the next event on Oct. 22 will be much better. There will be around 20 trucks for this next event and also many will now have some food truck rally experience to know what to expect.

Wicked 'Wiches Truck on Urbanspoon

Website: http://www.facebook.com/TampaFoodTruckRally

Tampa Taco Bus on Travel Channel’s Man Vs. Food – September 28th

Throughout the past year I have received many hits from people searching for Taco Bus, Travel Channel, and Man Vs. Food. Later this month you can catch The Taco Bus on The Travel Channel on September 28th at 9PM EST. I am very curious to see what Adam Richman from the Man Vs. Food will say about The Taco Bus that is taking Tampa by storm. Mark your calendars and save the date.

Carlos Eats Seoul: Tacos Chidos (타코스치도스) Fresh Mexican Grill in Hongdae (홍대)

Money has been pretty tight in Seoul as I wait for my financial aid to arrive from my home university. I have had to make it by on things, such as tuna kimbap, ramyun, pizza, and various other cheap things you can find in convenience stores (the college student lifestyle indeed). My awesome parents back home in Tampa dropped me some cash the other day and I decided I should probably have one good meal to keep myself a little happy until my scholarships and aid come.

I was craving Mexican. Tacos & Rice was the first thing to come to mind, but I was thinking more of a sit-down environment and found Tacos Chidos (타코스치도스on my food blog friend Seoul Food’s blog. Some Korean food blogs with amazing food pictures I found on Korean search engines Naver and Daum led me out the door and on my way to Hongdae on a food adventure.

I ended up lost looking for the restaurant for about an hour, but used the mental map in my head and some friendly locals to find the nightclub Harlem in Hongdae. Once you are at the club you walk down the street and make a left into an alleyway and you can find Tacos Chidos near the back of Kraze Burger. This area is surrounded with students and is right next to Hongik University so if you don’t see any students you know you are probably going the wrong way.

When you enter you will see about five or six tables and a bar. I decided to sit at a table. A waiter was quick to bring me a menu and bring me some complimentary chips and salsa. One of the first things I noticed was the free Wi-Fi and a waitress was nice enough to set me up on my iPod Touch with the password. Another cool thing inside the restaurant was Spanish-style wall paintings and Spanish music playing inside the restaurant which created a nice atmosphere, especially to a Hispanic diner.

I decided to order the ground beef burrito for 10,900 won. The cheapest burrito is the bean burrito for 8,900 won, but I like some meat in my burritos. Tacos range from 6,000-8,500 won and for that price I think it is probably a better deal to get a burrito. The enchiladas also caught my eye with chicken for 10,900 won and beef for 12,900 won. I also ordered a Coca-Cola for 2,500 won and a side of guacamole for 1,000 won.

In Tampa there are few places where you can get a small sample of guacamole and if you do find it then the guacamole is some ridiculous price like $3 or $5 so I was happy to try the guacamole at Tacos Chidos. I was quick to finish the chips and salsa and when I finished the waiter came and refilled it for me. At first I was confused and thought maybe I was being charged for this and when I noticed that this was just the waiter servicing me well, then I really wanted to tip the waiter (unfortunately in South Korea tipping is considered rude). The tortilla chips tasted fresh and the salsa was a little spicy with a nice aftertaste to the chips.

The burrito came out quickly. I read the cuisine was Tex-Mex and normally I am not a fan of this type of Mexican cuisine, but I was surprised when I discovered the savory taste of the meat and ingredients inside the burrito. The rice and beans were both satisfactory, certainly not authentic Mexican cuisine but still enjoyable. The side of guacamole tasted fresh and was a nice addition to the rice, beans, and burrito. The sauce on the burrito was slightly spicy, but added a nice flavoring. The tortilla used for the burrito kept in tact and didn’t fall apart when I started to dig in. Many of the flavors here reminded me of Miguel’s Mexican Restaurant in Tampa. Different than California-style Mexican food and places like The Taco Bus.

One of the waitresses was watching me eat and brought me a complimentary side item of jalapeños. Although I don’t eat spicy food I couldn’t help but be astounded by the great service at Tacos Chidos. When I finished my meal the waitress came by and offered to refill my chips again for me despite my empty plate. The waiter refilled my drink every time he saw it low and never proceeded to try to rush me out of the restaurant with my check. The great service and enjoyable Mexican food really made my time at Tacos Chidos memorable and I suggest you check it out if you have a chance.

Restaurant Name: Tacos Chidos (타코스치도스)

Cuisine: Mexican

Neighborhood: Hongdae

Address: 마포구 서교동 361-8 경서빌딩 1F Seoul, South Korea

Phone Number: 02-3143-3618

Other blogs about Tacos Chidos:

http://www.cyworld.com/sosweet22/7224339

http://deltion.blog.me/40124231603

http://blog.naver.com/osunsimi/129309600

Tampa Food Truck Rally #1 – Tampa’s First Food Truck Roundup

Over the summer I visited Miami and had the pleasure of the attending the Biscayne Triangle Truck Roundup. Over 30 trucks meet by FIU in Miami and for someone who loves food it is simply paradise. The trucks range from Asian cuisine to grilled cheese sandwiches. I am happy to announce that the same food scene is now making its way to Tampa. TBO Food Writer Jeff Houck wrote a great piece on Tampa’s food truck scene back in July and here we are a few months later preparing for a real food truck rally.

The 1st Tampa Food Truck Rally will occur on September 24th, 2011 at the Hyde Park Presbyterian Church from 11am to 3PM. The event is co-sponsored by Tasting Tampa and 352 Media Group. There will be live music, home-baked desserts, free child care and it is even located in the shade. Some of the vendors include Wicked ‘Wiches’, 3 Ballers Traveling Bistro, and Michelle Faedo serving Deviled Crab & Cubans. A second rally is currently be planned for October as well.

Event location: Hyde Park Presbyterian Church 1309 W. Swann Avenue Tampa, FL 33609

Event time: 11AM-3PM

Event website: http://www.facebook.com/TampaFoodTruckRally and http://www.tastingtampa.com

Parking is available in the Hyde Park Village parking garage across the street.

Spread the word and tell your friends about this important part of Tampa food history 🙂

Carlos Eats Seoul: First Nepal Restaurant – 2

My first few days living in Sinchon I had a difficult time finding good places to eat. Sinchon is surrounded with hundreds of restaurants. Lots of chains and plenty of places for people unfamiliar with the area to waste lots of money on overpriced food. I started to get a little discouraged after the first few days, but as if the food stars shined a light of guidance on me; some friends randomly took me to First Nepal Restaurant for my first good meal in Edae right by Sinchon. Ironically, my first great meal in Seoul would be Indian cuisine and not Korean.

This restaurant would be easy to miss while passing. Scratch that: most places in Seoul are easy to miss. Most things are built upwards with some buildings having over eight floors of businesses. My friends and I mostly stick to places on the first floor unless we know what we are looking for. I was lucky to have a Korean friend guiding us to this restaurant.

When you enter its almost like you left Seoul for a second. The windows looking out into Edae are the main thing reminding you that you are still in Korea. The man working there is from Nepal, but speaks perfect Korean and also understands English. You will find the most interesting combinations of people in Seoul. The menu had a variety of things to choose from appetizers, tandoori, curries, and nan bread to various dessert choices.

We decided to order Butter Chicken Makhani Curry (8,000 won), Seafood Curry (~9,000 won – not currently listed on their website), 2 orders of Butter Nan (3,000 won each) and 2 orders of Garlic Nan (3,000 won each). We also ordered 2 orders of Korean rice (1,000 won each). We ordered some extra Nan throughout our meal and the waiter even brought us an extra nan for free during our meal. You guys know college students love free stuff.  Service was above average. The waiter refilled our water for us quite a few times and the food came out in a timely manner.

How can I describe the taste of the curry dishes? I don’t think great does it justice. It was amazingly appetizing. We consumed every last drop of the curry with our nan bread. The seafood curry has an especially great taste to it. The curry tasted good with Korean rice and I could just as well throw the curry on a sandwich or anything else for flavoring because it was downright delicious. The thing about Indian food is you don’t realize how full you are getting as nan bread and rice tend to expand in your stomach after consumption, be careful not to order too much.

The Butter Nan was really sweet. It would have been a little too sweet on its own, but once it was dipped in some curry it tasted perfect. My friends also decided to order the Paneer Nan (4,000 won) which has cheese inside and it was also fantastic. I would recommend it.

We had about 5 people in our group and were able to get full on around 38,000 won worth of food total (~8,000 won per person). A really great deal for a meal like this. You would probably pay at least $13 (~13,000 won) before tax and tip for an Indian dinner per person in the United States. They have set meals as well for lunch and dinner, but I think it is better to just grab some friends and share so you can have a greater variety of dishes (as is the cultural thing to do in Korea anyway).

Overall, First Nepal is a great restaurant out in Edae and is close to Sinchon so both Yonsei University and Ewha University students can easily get to the restaurant. I recommend heading out there with a few friends as soon as possible so you can experience the great food I had for yourself. I really want to try the Galub Jamun dessert in the future and anticipate to have many future meals at First Nepal.

Restaurant Name: First Nepal Restaurant – 2

Neighborhood: Edae

Cuisine: Indian, Nepali

Menu: English, Korean

Address (English): 2F, #90-24, Daehyun-dong, Seodaemun-gu, Seoul, Korea

Address (Korean): 서울시 서대문구 대현동 90-24번지 2층

Phone Number:  02-364-8771

Website: http://www.firstnepal.com/

Other blogs about First Nepal:

http://www.seouleats.com/2010/03/first-nepal-indian-and-nepalese.html

Carlos Eats Seoul: Paris Baguette in Namdaemun

Paris Baguette is a chain you’ll find throughout Seoul and South Korea (2,900 stores) and has been established since 1986. The headquarters for the company is in Seongnam (성남). It has a few locations in big urban places such as New York and California (with expansion plans through the U.S.A.), but it is located on nearly every other street throughout Seoul. I grew curious about the place after seeing it in so many places around Sinchon and Yonsei University. After shopping for a camera in Namdaemun Market we finally stopped at Paris Baguette and gave it a shot.

You walk around and pick what breads you want with a tong and then proceed to front and pay your bill. It’s a self-serve kind of place. Most of the people who go there look stylish and the overall feel of Paris Baguette is a trendy cafe. The cashier was wearing a french hat and outfit and another employee there was wearing a tall chef hat. I am sure Paris Baguette is a hot-spot for dates and for girls hanging out with their friends. We were just hungry.

The food was pretty tasty and not too expensive although the portions were small. We did enjoy the mini-burger sliders and the bread was excellent. The pizza bread had a nice taste and was enjoyable despite not being heated. Dining at Paris Baguette was an interesting experience and I would like to try many chains in Seoul just to see how different they are than the chains we have in the United States (and I also want to try American restaurants to see how different they are in South Korea). That’s one of that great things about eating out in Seoul. No matter where I have a meal, it’s still an interesting experience since its completely new to me.

Overall, I might go back to Paris Baguette someday if I was in need of some bread and maybe a light snack. If I was really hungry I don’t think Paris Baguette would be a smart choice to dine-in.

Restaurant Name: Paris Baguette

Cuisine: Bakery

Website: http://www.paris.co.kr/ http://www.parisbaguetteusa.com/parisbaguette/Home.asp