Friday, July 31, 2015

The Lobby Bar at Loews Don CeSar, Summer Peaches and Pepper Margarita Recipe

Last weekend, my best friend and I spent a day at the lovely Loews Don CeSar located on St. Pete Beach. After a fantastic lunch at Sea Porch and a relaxing afternoon at Spa Oceana, we headed to The Lobby Bar at Don CeSar, which is my favorite hotel bar on the planet. The mixologists are super talented, consistently changing the menu and use local fresh ingredients.
The Lobby Bar overlooks the Gulf of Mexico and is in the epicenter of the iconic Pink Palace. Along with amazing hand crafted cocktails, they also feature one of the best wine by the glass menu's I've seen (hello Silver Oak!). The icing on the cake (or cherry on top?) is the nightly live music...they've got a piano player who will blow your mind!
Speaking of mind blowing, check out this cocktail - "The Old Smokey" a house smoked bourbon in a scotch box with a smoking gun.

I was super excited to try out the brand new Summer Peaches and Pepper Margarita which was featured on the news that very morning! I was able to score the recipe which I posted below. This margarita was delicious. I will be making these this weekend!
My Cosmo loving BFF ordered.....a Cosmo. You always know a good cosmo by it's color and this one was perfect. So perfect, she ordered two!
Along with fantastic cocktails, Keri and I enjoyed a late day snack from the Prime Time Bar Bites menu at The Lobby Bar, Artisan Cheese Selection - Preserved Walnut, Baguette, Market Jam, Charcuterie. I enjoyed this along with a glass of Veuve Clicquot.
Lastly, I have to call these grits out. I saw them on the menu as a side to the Braised Pork Belly. They are Truffle Grits - so of course I had to ask for a side. I literally went cross eyed. Next time I am at Loews Don CeSar, I will try this dish in it's entirety.

The Lobby Bar is open to the Public and is the perfect place to spend Happy Hour and watch the sunset. They are open daily from 3pm-1am and even have an early bird and late night menu.

Summer Peaches and Pepper Margarita
½ oz Tres Generation Tequila
1/2 oz lime juice
Splash fresh OJ
1 oz Real Peach

Mix all ingredients in a shaker with ice and shake well
Rim a large Margarita Glass with white pepper
Strain liquid over fresh ice
Garnish with lime Zest









Loews Don CeSar is located at
3400 Gulf Boulevard
St. Pete Beach, FL, 33706

Click here to check out their special offers, including the Summer Like a Local package!

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Carnival Teams up with Dr. Seuss and Tampa Bay Rays

This afternoon I boarded the Carnival Paradise in Tampa - but I didn't set sea. Instead, I witnessed a the reading of Dr. Seuss What Pet Should I get by Tampa Bay Rays all-star third baseman Evan Longoria to summer camp kids.
image provided by Carnival
What Pet Should I Get is the first book released by the Dr. Seuss Enterprises in 25 years. The manuscript and original artwork was found by his widow two years ago. The book features the siblings from One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish. Evan did a great job reading to the kids

“I was thrilled to participate in this very special event that not only provided local kids with an opportunity to be among the first to read along with the newest Dr. Seuss book but also supports a cause that I hold close to my heart,” said Longoria, a three-time all-star who is Tampa Bay’s all-time leader in home runs and runs batted in and also earned Rookie of the Year honors in 2008. “With Carnival matching my own pledge of $100 to Pet Pal Animal Shelter for every home run I hit, I’m really looking forward to a great second half with the Rays.”
For every home run that Evan Longoria hits during the 2015 season, he and Carnival Cruise lines will donate $100 to Pet Pal Animal Shelter. Pet Pal Animal Shelter is a place close to my heart - they helped me save a Pit Bull from being euthanized. Carnival Cruise Lines also donated $5,000 to the Tampa Bay chapter of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA).
image provided by Carnival
“Carnival is the number one cruise line for families and we’re delighted to team up with Dr. Seuss Enterprises to bring the joy of reading to kids with a special presentation by Rays legend Evan Longoria while supporting animal rescue organizations in the local community,” said Christine Duffy, Carnival’s president. “The kids were absolutely thrilled to be in the presence of an all-star and our most sincere thanks to Evan and the SPCA for the valuable work they do each and every day,” she added.
Following the reading, we joined The Cat in the Hat, Sam I Am, and Thing 1 and Thing 2 for Carnival’s popular Green Eggs and Ham Breakfast, part of the cruise line's exclusive Seuss at Sea program.
In case you were wondering, Green Eggs and Ham are on the Dr. Seuss Brunch Menu and yes, the eggs are actually green.
image provided by Carnival
I opted for Steak and Eggs - or as they say "Fox in Socks Steak and Eggs Don’t blab such blibber blubber! Try to say filet mignon topped with two fried eggs, BĂ©arnaise sauce, chopped potatoes and grilled tomatoes. Now is your tongue numb?"
The whole menu is super creative and fun, perfect for kids of all ages (ahem).....
With Amanda from www.wheresamanda.com
Launched in 2014, Seuss at Sea is a fleetwide program featuring exciting youth, family, dining and entertainment experiences inspired by the amazing world and words of Dr. Seuss. The program includes such fun activities as the Seuss-a-palooza Parade and Story Time, as well as character interactions, Dr. Seuss toys and games and popular movies.

For more information or to book your next cruise, visit www.carnival.com

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Grumpy Cat is coming to Tampa

I cannot recall the last time I was this excited about a tweet.......
That's right friends. Grumpy Cat is coming to the Tampa Theater on August 4th to attend the video premier of  her new video, "Happiness Finds Grumpy Cat". Grumpy Cat, the internet sensation who became the official Friskies® ‘spokescat’ is bringing a kitty entourage join her for the premiere at the iconic Tampa Theatre.

Also appearing will be:
Rays mascot DJ Kitty
Carolina Panthers mascot Sir Purr
Florida Panthers mascot Stanley C. Panther
Orlando City Soccer Club mascot Kingston the Lion
Auburn University mascot Aubie the Tiger.

The free event will include a screening of the new Buzzfeed video “Happiness Finds Grumpy Cat” starring Grumpy Cat and a dog named Happiness who meet in the aisles of PetsMart. The video, slated for release on August 4, follows a loveable and excitable dog named Happiness who recognizes Grumpy Cat in the aisles of a PetSmart. Happiness tries his best to meet Grumpy as she tries her best to avoid Happiness at all costs.
photo from The Official Grumpy Cat Facebook
Tampa Theater, 711 N Franklin St, Tampa FL 33605
The first 150 people through the doors will receive a wrist band for a meet-and-greet with Grumpy Cat after the screening.
Attendance for the event will be capped at 350 people. 
Guests will be permitted to start lining up outside the theater at 5 p.m., with doors opening at 5:45
Everyone who attends will be required to sign a photo release waiver.

I am SO there. 

Follow Grumpy Cat on Twitter and Facebook.

Lunch at the Sea Porch, Loews Don CeSar

My best friend Keri came into town last weekend to have a girls weekend. We had an amazing weekend lined up, starting with a Day trip to Loews Don CeSar. We were to start our day off at the beach day, followed by lunch at Sea Porch, then a visit to Spa Oceana, ending drinks at the Lobby Bar. The beautiful photo below is what we looked forward to.....
However, mother nature had a different plan in mind. It started raining and never stopped (in fact, 5 days later, it is still raining). Luckily for us, the magical powers of the Pink Palace turned what could have been a dreary day into an amazing day. Obviously, we skipped our much anticipated beach day and did the next best thing - go shopping at the nearby Ellenton Premium Outlets. If you find yourself staying in St Pete Beach, it's only a 20 minute drive to the Outlets, where you will find Saks, Kate Spade and even my friend ASICS.
After some great purchases, we headed to lunch at Sea Porch. I have had the opportunity to dine here a few times and am familiar with the menu. However, Sea Porch has a new addition - Chef Patrick Gossett, who we had the opportunity to meet. It came with high suggestion to try the Goat Cheese Fritters from the Small Bites menu. They were so good we ordered a second round. I mean, deep fried goat cheese? Topped with Acai Poached Pear Salsa, toasted pecans and wildflower honey, how can one possibly go wrong.
I was super torn for what to order - I had the Blackened Grouper Sandwich on my last trip to Sea Porch and it was delicious. However, I wanted to try something else and went for the Low Country Shrimp & Grits. I am a Grits snob.....my Mom's family is from South Carolina and Grits were a staple on Sunday morning breakfast. Sea Porch's grits are Megan approved. They were super creamy with white cheddar and simply delicious. The shrimp were gulf pinks, one of my favorites, topped with a Tasso and roasted tomato sauce. One the side were Crispy collared greens. I would order this again in a heart beat.
 If I had to choose between the Blackened Grouper Sandwich and the Shrimp and Grits.....the Sandwich would win by 1% - I mean, look at this thing. Plus, Grouper sandwiches are in my top 5 favorite foods.
Keri ordered the Gulf Fish Taco's, which had blackened mahi mahi, a nice cabbage radish slaw and cilantro crema. They were amazing. While I love fish tacos, I am always worried about them being fishy. Not at Sea Porch. I would absolutely suggest ordering these if you like Fish Tacos.
Following lunch at Sea Porch, we headed to Spa Oceana for Treatments which I will discuss in a future post. In the meantime, I wanted to leave you with the beautiful Sunsets you can experience while dining at Sea Porch.

Through September 7th, Loews Don CeSar has an amazing special where visitors can experience St. Pete Beach like a local.

Few people know St. Pete Beach better than Loews. And, no one can deliver a vacation getaway that is as uniquely local other than the team at the Pink Palace.  Guests can enjoy accommodations inspired by the waters of the Gulf, breakfast daily and a choice of either a Dolphin Watch cruise nearby) or a Sunset Sail. There is no better way to experience the natural wonders of St. Pete Beach, its world famous sunsets or witness first hand playful dolphins frolicking in their own backyard.


Summer Like a Local Package Includes:
Breakfast for 2 in Sea Porch
2 tickets for romantic sunset sailing cruise at Dolphin Landings

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Buffalo Chicken Dip Deviled Egg Recipe #ebeggsfit

I am one of those people who always order deviled eggs while at restaurants - the funkier the flavor combos, the better. I have made a ton of variations on Deviled eggs over the years and always experiment with the filling. During the summer and fall, we typically make deviled eggs once a week thanks to BBQ's and tailgating. For a 4th of July BBQ, I made what was possibly my favorite flavor combination to date - Buffalo Chicken Deviled Eggs. I had some left over skinny buffalo chicken dip and mixed it with the yolks - voila!
Buffalo Chicken Deviled Eggs
1 bag of Eggland's Best  hard cooked peeled eggs. Cut in half, reserving the yolks.
1 cup leftover skinny buffalo chicken dip (recipe below), chilled
Leaves of celery
Buffalo wing sauce for drizzle
Mix egg yolks and chilled skinny buffalo chicken dip
Place in 1 teaspoon of mixture into each egg white
Garnish with celery leaves

Skinny Buffalo Chicken Dip
4 oz. of reduced-fat cream cheese, softened
1 cup shredded part-skim Mozzarella cheese
1 cup plain Greek yogurt
1/2 cup buffalo wing hot sauce + additional for drizzling
1 Tbsp. ranch seasoning
3 cups shredded cooked chicken
Celery leaves for garnish

Mix all ingredients in an greased 8x8 baking dish. Bake at 350 for 25 minutes.
I'm a huge fan of Eggland's Best hard cooked peeled eggs. Along with being the perfect platform for deviled eggs, they are one of the best things to have in your fridge. I eat breakfast on the go and can be seen on Interstate 4 munching down on these quite frequently! They are now the only way I make deviled eggs. My least favorite part of making deviled eggs is peeling them. This is such a time saver, and your eggs will always be perfect. Plus, Eggland's Best has superior nutrition compared to ordinary eggs. Each Eggland’s Best large egg contains:
25% less saturated fat
10 times more vitamin E
3 times more vitamin B12
4 times more vitamin D
Double the Omega 3s
Good source of vitamins B2 and B5
38% more lutein

This post is sponsored by FitFluential on behalf of Eggland's Best.

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Boozy Cherry Coke Popsicles #ShareYourSummer

This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser. All opinions are mine alone. #ShareYourSummer #CollectiveBias #ad. Messaging below is intended for ages 21+ and is intended to be enjoyed responsibly, in moderation.
I met my best friend Keri in 2nd grade. This happened to be the first year I got in trouble at school - what for? Talking too much. She began my partner in crime at age 7 and we are still are inseparable today as we were back then. 2015 marks our 29th year of being friends.
First Day of School, 1996 (yes, I had the Rachel Cut)
When we started high school, my parents would take us to school and Keri's Mom would pick us up from school. We had a daily routine - everyday after school, we would go to McDonald's so Keri's Mom could get a cup her daily afternoon coffee (pre-Starbucks days). While Linda would drink her coffee, Keri and I would have a package of REESE's Peanut Butter Cups and a Coca-Cola, talking about everything that happened that day. Well, at least the stuff that we didn't already know by passing notes (pre-texting days!).
25th Birthday's, 2004
We have been there for each others first broken hearts and were there to help each other say I Do. Eventually, we became more sisters than friends. I moved to Tampa from Daytona 4 years ago and we schedule girls weekends as often as possible.
Matron of Honor at each others weddings
Keri came to visit me over the weekend and I surprised her with BFF REESE'S that I found at Walmart in Tampa and personalized Coke Zero's!
I couldn't imagine what my life would be like if Keri and I didn't get sat next to one another in 2nd grade and it has been a fun adventure sharing my life with my BFF!
We went into the kitchen and started experimenting to make Boozy Cherry Coke Popsicle's. This was a three ingredient recipe using Coke Zero, Jack Daniels and Grenadine. I have a Zoku pop maker so I didn't have a problem freezing the alcohol.

Boozy Cherry Coke Popsicles for 2
2 tablespoon grenadine
1 cup of Coke or Coke Zero (pour into a measuring cup 1 hour ahead of time and place into the fridge)
1 tablespoon of Jack Daniels or Dark Rum

Quick Pops:
1. Using a Zoku Pop Maker (if you don't have this, skip to the next paragraph), pour one tablespoon of grenadine into each pop. Let Let the grenadine set for 7 minutes.
2. Meanwhile, combine the Liquor of choice (if using) and the chilled Coke. Once the 7 minutes are up, top the frozen grenadine with the coke mixture. Let set for 7 minutes. You now have Quick Boozy Pops!

If you don't have a Zoku, this will take a little more time and I suggest you tripling the ingredients and use a 6 Popsicle traditional mold. Follow the same instructions as above, but freeze the grenadine for an hour, followed by step 2 and freeze for an hour.
I was shocked as to how fast I found my name on the personalized coke bottles. Walmart has the widest and most organized selection of Coca-Cola personalized 20oz bottles. It was no surprise to learn that this year's Share a Coke campaign is bigger than ever with 1000 names printed on bottles available at Walmart as they had multiple spellings of both mine and Keri's name. Click here to see if your name is available. If you're looking to surprise your BFF or someone special with the REESE'S with messages, please know that they are exclusive to Walmart.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

ASICS sale at Kohls and Nordstroms

Did you know Groupon has online coupons for a ton of retailers? I didn't until yesterday......and I spent quite a bit of time searching for my favorite stores. I scouted out some of the best deals on ASICS shoes and apparel. The promotion codes change frequently so these prices may vary.

Kohl's
Right now, you can get amazing prices on some of ASICS most popular shoes including the brand new Gel Nimbus 17 Lite Show. You will not find these on sale right now, so this is a steal. Click here to be taken to the Kohl's Groupon page to activate your online coupon. The one I used for this pricing was for 20% my purchase (PS that code expires today!).
ASICS Gel Nimbus 17 for $119.99 (regular $149.99)
ASICS Gel Kayano 21 for $127.99 (regular $159.99)
ASICS GT-1000 3 for $63.99 (regular $99.99)



Kohl's also carries a wide range of ASICS clothing, including my favorite Capri's, the Cleo Pop.
ASICS Fit Santa Contour Scoop Neck $40 (regular $50)
ASICS Abby Printed Shorts $24 (regular $36)
ASICS Cleo Pop Printed Capri's $44 (regular $55)

ASICS Watch Set with HRM $100 AND BOGO 1/2 off  (regular $120)
ASICS SPM Training 300 $72 AND BOGO 1/2 off (regular $89)

Nordstrom Anniversary Sale
Nordstroms has a selection of ASICS gear on their Anniversary sale. In fact, my best friend always buys her Gel Kayano's during this time of year. Click here to go to the Nordstrom Groupon Page.
Gel Kayano-21 $119.90 (after sale $159.95)
ASICS Gel Hyper Tri Running Shoe $75 (after sale $99.95)
ASICS Equation Tech Tee $20.90 (after sale $32)
ASICS Lite Show Running Capris $35.90 (after sale $55)

If you miss these sales, no worries - the Groupon retailer coupon codes are frequently updated and there are others who offer ASICS: Macy'sNordstromNeiman MarcusKohl'sJCPenney. Many of these retailers will allow you to stack coupon codes as well! 

Here are a few tips on how to find your favorite stores coupons on Groupon.
1. Visit Groupon Coupons
2. Search coupons by store or category
3. Look for multiple active coupons for stores that allow you to stack, including free shipping

Dining with the best view in NYC - Bar 54 at Hyatt Times Square

While in NYC this past week for BlogHer, my friend Darlynn and I ventured to a place we normally avoid - Time Square. Why would we do that to ourselves you ask? Oh because we had a great meal with the best view in the city. We experienced Bar 54 located on the rooftop of Hyatt Time Square, the tallest rooftop lounge in the city and for the first time I can recall, we had a very enjoyable time in Time Square.
Bar 54 has extensive views that stretch across Manhattan from the Hudson River to the East River. They offer a wide variety of hand crafted cocktails, fine wines and delicious small plates.
Having a dinner at Bar 54 was the perfect way to spend our Thursday night in the city. We were both looking for a relaxed evening, where we could catch up on life while eating delicious food. This we got, and more!
Since both Darlynn and I are still living in the post-SATC era, we both feel the need to order a Cosmo whenever in NYC. This wasn't the only time this trip we channeled Carrie Bradshaw. The Cosmo at Bar 54 was delicious, all of the juices were fresh (except the cranberry). What makes a perfect cosmo even better? A Cosmo with a view.
Our first course made it's way quickly to the table - candied bacon. I am a huge fan of bacon, and throw some praline on it - we have a winner.
When it came time to order our second drink, we both went with the Moscow Mule made with homemade ginger beer. This drink didn't last long in this world. It was Moscow Mule perfection. 
We decided to split two small plates as neither of us were too hungry. It was the perfect amount of food for two. Eventhough I had a burger at lunch this day, I couldn't say no to the Bar 54 Burger. The first thing I read on the description was "truffle relish". I believe curse words came out both of our mouths after first bite. Yes, it was that good. I am in search for the truffle relish recipe and would go back to Bar 54 every trip to NYC going forward just for this burger.
Darlynn picked out the Porchetta Sliders with pickled cucumbers.  The sliders were delicious, the porchetta was perfect and all the flavors complimented each other nicely.
Other things you can expect to find on the menu: Pigns in a blanket, asparagus bruschetta, deviled eggs, vegan flatbread and much more. The prices for the plates range from $7-$25.
We ended our meal with a nightcap, trying out two of Bar 54 signature cocktails. On the left: Santana's Sour, Tequila, lime, jalapeno, cilantro and pineapple. This was a bit spicy for the two of us but for those who like the heat, it had amazing flavors. On the right: Hawaiian Iced Tea, orange vodka infused with Liliuokalani Tea, Lemon, Mint and Water. I have found inspiration for a new beach cocktail!!!

Hyatt Time Sqaure is located at 135 West 45th Street, NY NY.
Visit them online | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram
I will leave you with one final photo - We were a week late for “Manhattanhenge” but still experienced a stunning sunset upon arriving at Hyatt Time Square.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Columbia's 1905 Salad and Sangria with Motto Wine Recipe

I live in historic Ybor City, Tampa - home to the oldest continuously operated restaurant in Florida and the very famous 1905 salad. We live right down the street from the Columbia, in fact, you can see the restaurant from our balcony. While this is convenient, the restaurant is continuously busy. 

Columbia's 1905 Salad was named one of America's top 10 best salads by USA today. Columbia graciously put the 1905 salad recipe online and it is so easy that anyone could make it. I had a craving the other day for the salad and decided to attempt Paella. I couldn't have these two dishes without Columbia's Sangria, which recipe is also available online. This was a perfect meal which I will make again!
Columbia 1905 Salad
4 cups iceberg lettuce, broken into 1 1/2" × 1 1/2" pieces
1 ripe tomato, cut into eighths
1/2 cup baked ham, julienned 2" × ⅛" (may substitute turkey or shrimp)
1/2 cup Swiss cheese, julienne 2" × ⅛"
1/2 cup pimiento-stuffed green Spanish olives
“1905” Dressing (see recipe below)
1/4 cup Romano cheese, grated
2 tablespoons Lea & Perrins Worcestershire Sauce®
1 lemon

Combine lettuce, tomato, ham, Swiss cheese, and olives in a large salad bowl. Before serving, add “1905” Dressing, Romano cheese, Worcestershire, and the juice of 1 lemon. Toss well and serve immediately. Makes 2 full salads or 4 side salads.

“1905” Dressing
1/2 cup extra-virgin Spanish olive oil
4 garlic cloves, minced
2 teaspoons dried oregano
⅛ cup white wine vinegar
Salt and pepper to taste

Mix olive oil, garlic, and oregano in a bowl with a wire whisk. Stir in vinegar, gradually beating to form an emulsion, and then season with salt and pepper. For best results, prepare 1 to 2 days in advance and refrigerate.

Columbia Sangria
Simple Syrup (see below)
1 orange
1 lime
1 375 ml bottle of Rioja Wine (I used Motto Red Blend)
1 ounce Torres 5 brandy (or substitute any Spanish brandy)
Splash of lemon-lime soda
Cherries for garnish

Simple Syrup Recipe
To make simple syrup, combine one part water to one part sugar in small saucepan. Bring to a boil, stirring to dissolve sugar. Chill before use.

Cut orange and lime in half. Fill large pitcher with ice and combine the wine, brandy, lemon-lime soda, the juice of half of an orange, and the juice of half of a lime. Stir. Add simple syrup to obtain desired sweetness. Slice remaining orange and lime into thin slices. Garnish glasses with orange, lime, and cherry.

Lobster Paella Recipe
I used a modified version of Tyler Florence Ultimate Paella recipe which you can find here. The only difference is that I used half the rice (4 cups was an awful lot for 2 people) and left the clams out.
Motto Wine is a  a new collection of wines from California. From keeping the wine lots separate throughout fermentation and aging, to determining the final blends right before bottling, the Motto winemaking team defies ordinary and makes it their motto. The resulting wines are dark and bold, yet fruit-forward. For more information visit www.MottoWines.com or facebook.com/MottoWines.

Motto retails for $15 and has three varietals available:
2013 Backbone Cabernet Sauvignon has a strong, determined flavor with dark, concentrated notes of red plum, caramel and bright raspberry that explode out of the glass for a lasting finish.
2013 Unabashed Zinfandel boasts proud and striking scents of soft leather, revealing flavors of chocolate covered raspberries and a touch of spice.
2013 Gung Ho Red Blend excites the palate quickly, full of zealous and enthusiastic fruitful flavors of blueberry, pomegranate and spice.