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NEWS: Early voting starts today in Hillsborough County

Vote By Mail has been breaking records in Hillsborough County this election, but it’s not the only option. For voters who prefer to vote in person, Early Voting begins Monday in Hillsborough County. In Hillsborough County, Early Voting is open for 14 days, from October 19 through November 1, 7AM to 7PM, including weekends.

Hillsborough County voters can choose from any of 26 Early Voting
locations to vote. This is different from Election Day, when voters must vote in the polling place assigned to their precinct. Each Early Voting location will also have a curbside, Vote By Mail drop-off tent for voters who want to turn in their Vote By Mail ballots in person.

“We are a large county and I want our voters to have plenty of options, so I’ve added extra sites and we will be open the maximum number of days and hours allowed by law,” said Hillsborough County Supervisor of Elections Craig Latimer. “In these uncertain times, I encourage voters to vote early if you can. If you get sick, or someone you care for gets sick, you may not be able to vote on Election Day.”

Early Voting for the General Election includes two new sites, at Amalie Arena and Raymond James Stadium. The voting sites in those locations will be similar in size to other large Early Voting sites in the county,
including the sites at several libraries and the University Area Community Center.

The elections office has taken extensive measures to ensure the health and safety of in-person voting, and has posted a video preview on the 2020 General Election page of their website.

Only a limited number of people will be allowed inside to ensure social distancing, and surfaces will be cleaned throughout the day. Poll workers are required to wear masks at all times, and face shields or plexiglass barriers will provide additional protection.

Supervisor Latimer asks that all voters wear masks and will have them available for voters, if needed. And, voters will get their own combination stylus/pen to sign in and mark their ballot.

“With ongoing cleaning and limited capacity, in-person voting will go a little slower, but once voters are inside the polling place, they should be able to move through quickly,” said Supervisor Latimer.

Voters should bring a Florida Driver License or other acceptable photo and signature ID for voter checkin. If they forget their ID, they can vote a provisional ballot to be verified by the elections office. The full
list of accepted IDs, along with a list of Early Voting locations, can be found on the Early Voting page of VoteHillsborough.org.

“The drive-up Vote By Mail drop-off tents are a contactless way for voters to cast their ballot in person, so I expect this option to be popular. We’ve sent out more than 405,000 Vote By Mail ballots and we want to
see those voted ballots come back in,” said Latimer.

Voters can still request a mail ballot online at VoteHillsborough.org or by calling (813) 744-5900.

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List: Tampa Bay + Orlando Restaurants maintaining social distancing rules despite Governor DeSantis

For some strange reason the Governor of Florida decided to move Florida into Phase 3 of the reopening from Coronavirus. There are no statewide rules on capacity or restrictions in restaurants in bars. Just weeks ago bars and breweries were closed due to the spike they contribute to the pandemic.

Governor DeSantis is now calling for packed football stadiums in the middle of a pandemic that has killed more than 15,000 Floridians and over 219,000 Americans in just a few months.

Some restaurants and bars said they will still maintain rules though and the City of Tampa and Hillsborough County have pledged to maintain things like mask rules in place (for now). Here are some of the places that are pledging to maintain rules:

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NEWS: Armature Works to launch “The Drive-In at Armature Works” with Rooftop Cinema Club

Armature Works, Tampa’s largest food hall and event space, is joining forces with Rooftop Cinema Club to launch “The Drive-In at Armature Works”, a contact-free drive-in event in Tampa Heights District.

Audiences can enjoy a mix of modern and classic films every day of the week, two showings per night, including a full week of Halloween and Horror favorites. 

Family-friendly screenings will take place at 7:30PM followed by a second screening for the night-owls at 10PM.

Tickets will start at $22 per vehicle, regardless of occupancy. Parking will be assigned on a first-come, first-served basis depending on ticket type, and audio can be picked up through local FM stereo.

Guests can order concessions or food and drinks online from their vehicles and will be notified for pick up.

Tickets and programming will be released this coming week. Locals are encouraged to sign up to Rooftop Cinema Club’s email database via rooftopcinemaclub.com/armature to be the first to know when tickets and programming are released, and to receive 10% off their first purchase. One lucky subscriber will also win unlimited drive-in movie tickets for the first two weeks of screenings. 

For more information visit Rooftop Cinema Club at rooftopcinemaclub.com.

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Articles Beer News

NEWS: Coppertail Brewing in Ybor City celebrates 6 years

Coppertail Brewing Co. located in Ybor City is celebrating their 6 year anniversary with a crowd-sourced mixed 4-pack of Hop Skull IPAs. A little over a month ago, fans were asked to vote for their favorites of the Hop Skull Series and the top three would end up being re-brewed and released as part of an assorted 4-pack.

The fourth beer in the 4-pack is Coppertail’s Sixth Anniversary Hop Skull Triple IPA. This hazy IPA comes in at 10.5% and features Chinook, Citra, Loral, and Bravo Hops with their house haze strain. The
beer features notes of citrus, apricot, and pineapple with a sizable malt backbone to make it the “juiciest” IPA they have ever made.

The three winners of the voting contest were Hop Skulls #3, #5, and #11 which are all hazy IPAs.

“It feels great when you hit those milestones and the whole team wants to get together and celebrate. This is the best way we could think of to celebrate that milestone and still keep everyone involved.” says Kent Bailey, President at Coppertail Brewing.

The pack was released on Friday, August 28th, at Coppertail’s Ybor City location tasting room ONLY in a mixed 4-pack and on draft. It is also available as a standalone 4-pack. Commemorative shirts and glassware are available for purchase as well as a gift pack containing a shirt, 2 glasses, a mixed 4-pack and 2 free beer tokens.  

Coppertail Brewing Co. is an independently owned production brewery in Tampa, Fla, founded in 2014 by homebrewer and reformed attorney, Kent Bailey and professional brewer, Casey Hughes. The two wanted to bring more hop-forward and Belgian-influenced beer to the thirsty masses.

Find more information at Coppertailbrewing.com/HopSkull

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List: Restaurants and bars confirming Coronavirus cases in Tampa Bay

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”.

Hillsborough County and Pinellas County leaders seem to be racing to come up with a plan to help slow down the rise in cases to prevent an issue later in hospitals. Mayor Kriseman announced a mask order today for employees of St. Pete businesses and he said a local order for the public is in the works.

Here’s what I’ve seen so far:

The Galley DTSP – 6/12

The Avenue DTSP and Park & Rec – 6/13

In The Loop Brewing – 6/13

Jannus Live – 6/16

Meat Market South Tampa – 06/16 (case discovered June 8)

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Articles Interviews News

Interview: Chef Rosana Rivera and Ricardo Castro on upcoming Chef & The Baker

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.

Pastries from Chef and The Baker at Hall on Franklin.

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.

Koign Amann from Chef and the Baker at Hall on Franklin in Tampa.

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.

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Articles Events Food Events Food News News

NEWS: 6th Annual Busch Gardens Food and Wine Festival kicks off February 29th

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

Find more information on the 6th Annual Food & Wine Festival at http://buschgardens.com/tampa/events/food-and-wine-festival/

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Articles Restaurant News

NEWS: PDQ launches breakfast menu at Carrollwood location

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”.

Breakfast has been a winning category for chains in the restaurant industry lately with McDonald’s pivoting to breakfast and Wendy’s dropping a breakfast menu.

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.”

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Articles Restaurant review Reviews

Birria tacos arrive in Tampa at Jimmy’s Tacos Ybor City

Birria. Oh sweet birria. The tacos from Jalisco have arrived in Tampa at Jimmy’s Tacos. These tacos have taken San Francisco by storm with the Quesabirria, a cheesy birria taco creation. These tacos have legs on social media.

Birria taco at Jimmy's Tacos.

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.

Carne Asada burrito at Jimmy's Tacos

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.

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Articles Food Events

Guide: Valentine’s Day 2020 in Tampa Bay

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.com 4100 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.