All of the sudden there seems to be a large number of restaurants and bars in Tampa Bay reporting cases of Coronavirus among their staff members. Some are closing and some are not.
This is occurring at the same time as Florida coronavirus cases are spiking and fears of a shutdown are coming back into play. Governor DeSantis has swore there will be no shutdowns and this is the “new normal”.
There’s an exciting new concept coming Friday, June 12th, 2020 to the Hall on Franklin food hall called Chef & The Baker from Chef Rosana Rivera and Chef Ricardo Castro. I had a chance to ask them a few questions about this new initiative and how things have changed since the pandemic began.
CARLOS EATS:First off – How have you guys been getting by during the pandemic?
Chef Rosana: We pivoted early on in the pandemic through R2 Provisions, our ghost kitchen in Pinellas Park, to do delivery of products, Xilo Mexican favorite food items, bakery items like bread, and provisions like eggs, flour, sugar, yeast, and toilet paper. The response was phenomenal and we are so grateful that Tampa embraced the concept, no questions asked.
Chef Ricardo: We continue to service via delivery from R2 Provisions. Customers can order through r2xilokofe.square.site.
CARLOS EATS: Chef & The Baker is a highly anticipated project considering your past with Piquant. How will this project be different?
Chef Rosana: The recipes have been tweaked and perfected. Chef Ricardo, over the past couple of years has really honed in on his talent and craft to become an even better baker.
Chef Ricardo: We will have artisan breads, more viennoiseries (pastries), and a higher quality of patisserie items (cakes and European tortes).
CARLOS EATS: Who are some people you look up to in the baking world and is there any pastry or bakery chefs who inspire you? What are your favorite bakeries around the world?
Chef Rosana and Ricardo: Belinda from B Patisserie in San Francisco, Eric Kayser from Maison Kayser in NYC & Paris; Antonio Bachour from Bachour Miami; and the quintessential Francois Payard from around the world. However, there are a lot of up and coming pastry superstars that we are always following and trying to learn from like Johan Martin.
CARLOS EATS: When it comes to ingredients – What makes a quality baked good different? Does water make a difference?
Chef Rosana and Ricardo: Best quality of ingredients is crucial and yes – water quality makes a huge difference. There are some things we have little control of – but buying the best ingredients is something we can control, especially when it comes to baking ingredients. We buy flours that are unbromated, we use cage-free eggs for baking applications, all-natural products, European chocolates, filtered water, and butter with a higher fat content. It all makes a difference in the quality of the product you bake. We never cut corners, you can taste the quality.
CARLOS EATS:Food enthusiasts have been making their own sourdough starters at home during the pandemic as people tried to find a way to get through being home constantly and still enjoy the things they love. What trends do you see emerging in the baking world and how will it change in the future?
Chef Rosana and Ricardo: More at home baking for sure! Our plan is to launch a virtual cooking kitchen class in which we are able to share our knowledge with our audience on a digital, but interactive format. I think the love for the art of baking is going nowhere, on the contrary its getting better and better.
CARLOS EATS:Industry experts say the pandemic has changed how goods are bought and prices of food seems to be going up. How are you dealing with that?
Chef Rosana: We are sticking to our prices as much as we can, and if we can’t do that – we try to minimize the impact by increasing the price by 25 or 50 cents. Our margins are taking a hit and are reduced, but at the end of the day we want to be conscious of how people spend their money. We don’t want or need to abuse.
CARLOS EATS: Which menu item would you say is the most complex or time-consuming dish you make? Can you tell us more about it?
Chef Rosana: Anything croissant, which is easily a 72+ hour process, but we love it and our guests love anything croissant that we do. My favorite item is the Kouign Amanns.
Chef Ricardo: That is how I make the croissants, not everyone follows that. It creates better flavors as the dough ferments slowly. My favorite item is The Morning Buns (citrus crispy laminated dough) is my favorite item on our menu.
CARLOS EATS: What made you both fall in love with baking?
Chef Rosana: I fell in love for baking because of Ricardo. Every day I see him bake I am in awe of him!
Chef Ricardo: I fell in love with baking when my Mom AKA Chef Cookie, would teach me how to bake things since I was 9 years old. Later, Chef Rudy from Austria took me under his wing and taught me everything European pastries. The right way and the best way!
Don’t forget to check out Chef & the Baker when it opens on Friday, June 12th at 11AM at the Hall on Franklin at 1701 North Franklin Street Tampa, Florida, 33602.
Busch Gardens Tampa Bay is launching their 6th Annual Food and Wine Festival earlier this year on Saturday, February 29th, 2020. The festival will run every weekend from February 29th to April 26th and included with park admission to the theme park.
This year will feature 25 new food items in addition to fan-favorite dishes and 80 wines, beers, and cocktails, to choose from. Some new additions include:
Chef’s Corner Cabin: Features 3 signature dishes carefully crafted by the park’s head chefs such as arroz con pollo, a pork belly taco with kimchi slaw, and pork tenderloin with champagne watercress sauce
Coaster Cocktails: Iron Gwazi Gimlet, Falcon’s Fury Lemon Drop, and Tigris Tea
Pick-A-Barrel Tastings: create your own flight of liquors and wines from around the world
Some other new food items include Kung Pao Ribs, Maple Bacon Cinnamon Rolls, “Boujee” Bacon, Fried Clams, Pork Tamales, Grilled Shrimp Elotes, and Strawberry Shortcake Sundaes
Guests can purchase a 5, 8, or 12-item sampler lanyard to use at each festival cabin to explore sample-sized dishes and drink offerings and they start at $32. Pass Members can purchase an exclusive 15-item sampler for the same price as a 12-item sampler and save 20% off.
Pass Members can get a sneak peak on February 28th that will include an all new menu of sips and samples and Eaglemania: The World’s Greatest Eagles Tribute Band.
Busch Gardens plans to launch Iron Gwazi this spring, North America’s tallest hybrid coaster and the fastest and steepest hybrid coaster in the world.
The 6th Annual Food and Wine Festival concert schedule:
Feb 29: Collective Soul March 1: The Commodores
March 7: Chase Bryant & Danielle Bradbery
March 8: Rachel Platten
March 14: Ezra Ray Hart March 15: THREE DOG NIGHT
March 21: LOCASH March 22: Fitz & The Tantrums
March 28: Home Free March 29: Taking Back Sunday
April 4: Third Eye Blind April 5: KC & The Sunshine Band
April 11: 38 Special April 12: Micah Tyler & Austin French
April 18: Lee Brice April 19: Clint Black
April 25: El Gran Combo April 26: Toad the Wet Sprocket & The Verve Pipe
PDQ, a popular and growing chicken chain from Florida, launched a breakfast menu on Tuesday at their Carrollwood location located at 12650 North Dale Mabry Highway in Tampa. The menu is also available at their test kitchen located at 4343 Anchor Plaza Parkway in Tampa. Those are the only 2 locations serving breakfast for now.
Breakfast is available 7 days a week from 6:30AM to 10:30AM. It is available for dine-in, to-go, and for catering.
The breakfast menu includes: “sandwiches, wraps, a breakfast bowl and more. The sandwich options feature two biscuit sandwiches: a Honey Butter Chicken and a Pimento Brunch item. Guests can also order the new French Toaster sandwich, which contains sausage, fresh egg, cheddar cheese, and maple butter on PDQ’s own french toast bun.”
Signature menu offerings include “King’s Hawaiian chicken bites, a breakfast bowl with crispy honey butter chicken, fresh egg and cheddar jack cheese over tots, and 3 fresh whole wheat wraps: Maple Butter Bacon, Sriracha Sunrise and the Grilled Chicken Mornin’ wrap. Beverage choices include Joffrey’s Peruvian medium blend, and two different Cold Brew options”.
Jonathan Maze, Executive Editor at Restaurant Business, shared some professional insight into this growth:
“It is very much a growing segment.
There are a number of fast-growth fast-casual breakfast-and-lunch places. Cracker Barrel’s purchase of Maple Street Biscuit Co. last year was a pretty serious indication of the growth in that particular sector. And there are a lot of such chains that have emerged in recent years. Chains like IHOP (Flip’d) are even starting their own versions. And then a number fast casuals like Modern Market offer breakfast.
It’s been a growth daypart for fast casual for some time. Breakfast is the fastest growing daypart so you’re always going to find development as a result. And much of the development in the restaurant business period remains in fast casual. Ergo, breakfast fast casual continues to grow.”
What is birria? It is essentially a stew usually made with goat meat but sometimes made with chicken or beef. It essentially means savory and boy is it savory. The stew makes for a great dip or flavor enhancer. Birria tacos are soaked in the sauce and loaded with the meat. Jimmy’s Tacos serves a pretty tasty one. Quesabirria is still in the works though.
Jimmy’s Tacos opened recently across from El Puerto in Ybor City in a part of Ybor City that was left for dead after the 2008 financial crisis, but has been getting steam lately with a new brewery BarrieHaus, a new cafe called Ybor Beverage Co., and a number of other small businesses that previously would not have crossed so far off 7th or 8th Avenue.
Jimmy’s Tacos is one of the closes things I have experienced to Mexican food from California in Florida. There are taquerias now all over Tampa, but most of them are just average to me, nothing like what I’m used to or expect in Mexican food.
When you taste the carne asada at Jimmy’s Tacos, it has that zest, that spice that you rarely ever taste in so-called carne asada at other restaurants in Tampa, but I know this flavor too well from spending time on Mission Street in San Francisco. All the tacos I have tasted thus far have been delicious and the burrito is actually excellent as well. Well-balanced, not too much rice and plenty of meat.
You’ll spend about $3 per taco but guacamole is included, their burrito will run you about $10 so I would budget about $10-12 for a visit. Their horchata is actually pretty flavorful.
It almost seems too good to be true to have something like Jimmy’s Tacos in Tampa. All I can hope is that they’ll succeed and maintain the commitment to true flavors and food. The owners are originally from Los Angeles and have experience in restaurants there.
I highly recommend Jimmy’s Tacos.
Jimmy’s Tacos.1604 N 17th St, Tampa, FL 33605. (813) 242-0242.
Looking for Valentine’s Day 2020 plans in Tampa Bay? Here are some suggestions:
Valentine’s Day Friday Flight: Tampa International Airport is having a free concert at the airport for Valentine’s Day on February 14th with The DeLeon Band in the Main Terminal Space from 4:30PM to 6:30PM. The airport gates are available for dining as well for those who enjoy a travel backdrop with their new TPA All-Access Program: tpaallaccess.com4100 George J. Bean Pkwy, Tampa, FL 33607.
Anti-Valentine’s Day Cocktail Release Party: Head on over to URBAN Brew and BBQ in St. Petersburg for an Anti-Valentine’s Day event on February 14th from 5PM to 10PM. Four Roses will headline the event with two featured cocktails. 2601 Central Ave, St. Petersburg, FL 33713.
Valentine’s Day Speed Friend-ing: The Lowry Parcade in Seminole Heights is hosting a speed friend-ing event on February 14th from 7:30PM to 10:30PM where the object is to get to know new people instead of just dating and it’s absolutely free. Match with anyone at the event and Lowry Parcade will provide you with tokens to play some games together. 1213 W. Waters Ave., Tampa, FL 33604.
Hello Kitty Cafe Food Truck Pop-up: The popular Sanrio character from Japan comes to WestShore Plaza on Saturday, February 15th from 10AM to 8PM. Snacks and merchandise are available. Great to pencil into your weekend plans. 250 Westshore Plaza, Tampa, FL 33609.
D&B Family Valentine’s Day Party: Dave & Buster’s in Brandon has a special promotion for Valentine’s Day from 6PM to 9PM. A special buffet for $21.56 with appetizers, desserts, and soft drinks with an option to upgrade to a $20 power card and unlimited game play for $10 more. There will be a live DJ, games, and prizes. Tickets available on Eventbrite. 10209 Estuary Lakes Dr., Tampa, FL 33619.
Punk Rock Valentine – Prom Night with The Ramones: The Independent Bar and Cafe in Seminole Heights is having a special throwback party on Valentine’s Day from 8PM to Midnight. It will celebrate the looks, hairstyles and music of the 1980’s with a special concert. They will have a prom photobooth, name the prom king and queen (for the best dressed), and have spiked punch (of course!). 5016 N. Florida Ave., Tampa, FL 33603.
Valentine’s Day Party: Byblos Tampa on Macdill is throwing a party on Saturday, February 15th in honor of Valentine’s Day. The event will feature singer Mohanad, DJ Khalil, and Belly Dancer Gypsi. Tickets are $60 and will include cold and hot lebanese meza, soft drinks, main grill course, and a welcoming champagne toast. Reservation can be made at 727-687-2466. 2832 S. MacDill Ave., Tampa, FL 33629.
Love’s Revenge – Haunted Trail: Head over to Plant City for a spooky haunted trail this Valentine’s Day weekend from 7PM to 11PM at Sir Henry’s Haunted Trail. Tickets are $25 and can be purchased online. 2837 South Frontage Road, Plant City, FL 33566.
Shuffletine’s Day: Shuffle in Tampa Heights will have a special celebration on Valentine’s Day, February 14th, from 4PM to Midnight. For $30 you can play Shuffleboard, drink a bottle of champagne, eat a heart-shaped pretzel, and enjoy a dessert. You will also be entered into a contest to win a $50 gift card. 2612 N Tampa St, Tampa, FL 33602
“Love Reimagined” Dining Pop-Up: Rooster & The Till and Ichicoro have joined forces for a special dining pop-up event. If you’re willing to spend, it could be a great time. Tickets start at $160. 1910 North Florida Ave. Tampa, FL 33602.
Where else can you drink a craft beer at an affordable price and shop around a grocery store sometimes with live music? Lucky’s Market was an absolutely treasure that I enjoyed shopping at whenever I was in Orlando or Pinellas County.
A Filipino favorite, Jollibee, is opening its doors on Friday, January 17th at 4057 Park Boulevard, Pinellas Park, Florida. The location will be the 40th location to open for the franchise which is currently experiencing high growth and expansion across the country. The chain plans to open 150 stores in the United States by 2023. It is the first location in Tampa Bay.
The opening time for opening day is from 9AM to 10PM.
“We cannot wait to welcome Jollibee fans who have long waited for their turn to finally have Jollibee in their area, in addition to welcoming new foodies intrigued by our unique menu, which we fondly describe as a joyous mash-up of Western comfort food and Asian flavors,” said Beth Dela Cruz, President of Jollibee Foods Corporation North America, Philippine Brands Group.
Popular items at Jollibee include the Chickenjoy, Jolly Spaghetti made with signature sweet-style sauce loaded with chunky slices of savory ham and hotdog, and Peach Mango Pie, made with real Philippine mangoes enclosed in a light, crispy crust.
Tampa is home to one of the largest Filipino communities with its Bayanihan Center and annual PhilFest celebration that draws thousands for a celebration of Filipino food and culture every April.
There are some perks for those who choose to line-up early for the opening:
The first 50 customers in line to spend $25 or more will get FREE Chickenjoy for a year.*
The first 50 with the best #ItsOurTurn signs will get a Jollibee in Barong Funko Pop.
The first 300 on day 1 (plus the first 100 on days 2 and 3) will get a free drawstring bag with a minimum $25 purchase.
*One 6-piece bucket of Chickenjoy per month for a period of one year
Michelle’s Faedo is opening her second location of Michelle Faedo’s Tampeño Cuisine on Wednesday, January 8th, 2020 in Downtown Tampa at 601 East Kennedy Boulevard, Tampa, FL, 33602 inside the Hillsborough County Building.
The restaurants are an off-shot of Michelle Faedo’s On The Go food truck which has been in operation for years. The first location is located at the ENCORE! building not too far away from Downtown close to Ybor City.
Popular items on the menu include the Famous Traditional Cuban and deviled crabs that pay homage to Tampa’s rich food history. Like the Cuban Sandwich, deviled crabs were created by the immigrant communities in Tampa that existed during the cigar boom.
Faedo is an award-winner from the annual Cuban Sandwich Festival and is well-recognized for her Cuban sandwiches around the Tampa Bay area.
The opening hours for the location will be Monday through Friday from 7AM to 4PM.
City of Tampa Mayor, Jane Castor, is expected to be there at around 1PM to celebrate the occasion.
Roux, the New Orleans concept by Datz Restaurant Group, has ceased operations according to a report by the Tampa Bay Business Journal.
The restaurant was known for serving favorites of Cajun and Creole cuisine such as jambalaya, red beans and rice, and also some of the best cornbread I have ever enjoyed in Tampa. The chefs were brought from New Orleans back in 2014 for a true experience for fans of the cuisine to enjoy.
Datz Restaurant Group is currently busy opening new restaurants across the bridge including most recently their Datz St. Petersburg branch and a cafe inside The James Museum. A new Datz location is also opening soon in Brandon.