Friday, December 2, 2016

Goody Goody - much more than a famous burger

My husband and I moved to Tampa in 2011 and we quickly fell in love with the passion around food in this city. Over the years, Tampa Bay has continued to wow locals and visitors with the amazing talent based in the area.
I clearly remember the day in 2014 when Richard Gonzmart, owner of Columbia Restaurant Group announced he was resurrecting a place called Goody Goody. Tampa went crazy. I had no idea what was going on but I had friends going nuts about bringing back the famous burgers and butterscotch pies. Although I never heard of Goody Goody until that day, I knew this was going to be a special place with Gonzmart's passion to make everything above and beyond perfect.
Over the past two years, I have followed along with the hype and looked forward to the day I would finally find out for myself what Goody Goody was all about. Richard Gonzmart bought the original recipes and the original 1940's sign which you will find outside of the building on Hyde Park. With Gonzmarts passion for food and the Tampa Community, I knew years before it opened that Goody Goody was going to be an amazing place.
Two weeks ago, I got the opportunity to sit down with Jeff Houck, Marketing and Public Relations Manager for Columbia Restaurant Group, who you may remember as the former Food Editor of the Tampa Tribune.  I stopped by to not only check out Goody Goody but to also try out their private label wine. That day, I finished up a week in LA and Nashville and headed straight to Goody Goody from the airport. When I got off the plane, I noticed a coming soon Goody Goody logo in Tampa International Airport - it was like burger fate was calling my name.
It was 2pm and the place still had a large crowd. The first thing that caught my eye aside from the wine was the pie display (which the wine sat on). Now, I will be honest - I am not a huge fan of pies but these looked amazing and I looked forward to trying one at the end of my meal.
Jeff and I chatted a bit about Goody Goody's history and what Gonzmart did to resurrect it's legacy. One thing was certain from the beginning - people wanted the original Goody Goody burger back and not a fancy revision of it. The famous Goody Goody POX stands for "Pickles, Onions, Special Sauce". Now, you're probably thinking this sounds similiar to another burger with pickles, onions and special sauce but I am here to tell you - not in anyway the same thing. Goody Goody originally used BBQ sauce and eventually replaced it with The Comeback Sauce. This burger wasn't thick. This burger wasn't cooked to a medium rare like I normally prefer. This burger wasn't the prettiest thing I've ever seen. BUT this burger WAS out of this world delicious and left me in awe. You could tell they used Fresh from Florida Beef for their thin patties. No fillers found here!
I couldn't leave without trying a variety of items on the menu. Jeff made some suggestions and I followed his lead. One item that was very popular during the summer was the Black Eyed Peas salad. This salad was light and refreshing, made from scratch black-eyed peas, diced onions, roasted peppers, jalapeños, tomatoes, cucumbers and cilantro marinated in olive oil and vinegar. It was the perfect amount of flavor without being overwhelming. I may just use this idea for our New Years Dinner instead of making black eyed peas the traditional way. Those looking for a light meal will find a variety of salads on Goody Goody's menu. Plus you can add proteins at a very small up charge (only $4.95 to add sirloin?!).
Now, I LOVE Ahi tuna more than the average person. However, I am very very picky about where I order it from. A diner is likely the last place I would even consider ordering Ahi from. Do NOT let this scare you away at Goody Goody. I was blown away by their Ahi Tuna & Avocado Club. Made with fresh seared Ahi tuna and sliced avacado, topped with spring greens, red onion, tomato and sun-dried tomato vinaigrette on toasted wheat bread - how could you ever go wrong? Although I enjoyed every single bite of that burger, I was wishing I slowed down to allow more room in my already full belly for this delicious sandwich. Along with this sandwich, Goody Goody offers a variety of items if you aren't in the mood for a burger. You can find pretty much anything on the sandwich list... a fried clam sandwich on authentic Tampa made Cuban bread, a Fresh Florida Grouper Sandwich, even a retro egg and olive sandwich.
Let's go back to the wine. It's not every day you will find private label wine at a Diner (but Goody Goody isn't your average diner either). The wines are from Rutherford Estate in Napa Valley. I tried the Chardonnay which was very good. It wasn't too oaky or fruity and had the perfect amount of cream to it. Along with the Chardonnay, Goody Goody also has a Cabernet Sauvignon and offers one wine that isn't part of their private label, Colby Red which supports charities that promotes heart health.
OK friends, it's pie time. As mentioned earlier, I am not a big fan of pies. I am however, a huge fan of butterscotch, so the famous butterscotch pie has had me curious for quite sometime. Although I was so full I could be rolled out of Goody Goody, this pie knocked my socks off. It was perfection topped with meringue. I cannot put this pie into words - but I did order one for Thanksgiving. My Mother-in-Law quickly announced to the table, it's like eating a creamy Werthers Original. When I asked Jeff about this pie - he told me they tested two dozen revisions of this pie before this recipe stuck. While they use many original Goody Goody recipes at the restaurant, this is one they modified. The original was so thick your fork would get stuck in it. There may be a throwback pie coming up in the future, offering a taste of the original - so be sure to keep up with Goody Goody on Social Media! You can also order a pie for Christmas - click here before 12/19 to place your Goody Goody pie order.
Goody Goody recently opened a take out window offering a smaller menu for those on the go or not wanting to wait for a table. There is no question that this convenience window will go over very well in Hyde Park, especially this time of year when everyone is out shopping.
Now, I cannot say this was a nostalgic experience being I never tried the original Goody Goody - but I can say this will not be the last time I will visit this amazing restaurant and pig out on a POX. Don't take my word for it - download the app NoWait so you can reduce your wait time and bring your family so you can try multiple things! I personally can't wait to go back for the egg stuffed meatloaf!

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Wednesday, November 30, 2016

The LakeHouse at Hyatt Regency Grand Cypress

During runDisney Wine Dine Half Marathon, my best friend Keri and I stayed at Hyatt Regency Grand Cypress and had our pre-half marathon dinner at their restaurant LakeHouse which overlooks the properties 21 acre private Lake Windsong.
Neither Keri or I are big into heavy carb-loading prior to a race and will typically eat and drink what we normally would put into our bodies on a Saturday night (with the exception of 2 glasses of wine vs a bottle).
We started off dinner with bread service which we were quick to joke - ok you can consider this carb-loading! LakeHouse does have a few pastas on their menu for those looking to carb load prior to running and we ordered one of them to split - the Roasted Vegetable Ravioli. It was nice and light and not too filling. The veggies were a big plus for me!
We shared a starter and what we thought was a flat bread but was actually a pizza! The starter was a delicious beef carpaccio which we devoured in seconds. I could probably live off of beef carpaccio if able.
And our not so flatbread Pizza was a BBQ chicken pizza. It had a ton of flavor and we could have seriously split this and called it a night being we were already full.
The entree we split was Steak Frites, a grilled skirt steak served with fries. It was cooked to a perfect medium rare and melted in your mouth.
We were too stuffed for dessert and it was getting late. So we called it a night and watched Bad Moms before falling asleep at 10:00 for our 2:30am wake-up call! The following day, we had breakfast at LakeHouse an it blew my mind. As I stated in my recap of Hyatt Regency Grand Cypress, we had ordered it to go following the Wine Dine Half Marathon so I didn't get any photos but found one online from Visit Orlando. I am still thinking of this breakfast, Avocado Toast topped with two poached eggs, hollandaise, arugula and asparagus. We substituted the Canadian Bacon with regular Bacon. It was devine.
photo from VisitOrlando.com
While waiting for our breakfast, we stepped outside to see the views offered from LakeHouse (we dined when it was already dark). The first thing I noticed aside from the beautiful lake was the fresh herb garden! How awesome is this! I need to see about getting planters like this on the side of my house.
The setting of LakeHouse is stunning everywhere you look. It was serine and I could have sat out there all day.
We were overall impressed with LakeHouse and I look forward to dining there again!

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Our first trip to Disneyland, California

2016 marks as the year my husband Gabe and I shared new Disney experiences. We visited Disneyland Paris and Walt Disney Studios Park in September and had a blast. While there, I never thought we would be making the trip to California weeks later to visit Disneyland California for the first time!
Growing up in Central Florida, it is a very common thing to spend a weekend at Disney World. My co-workers who aren't Florida residents think of this as an oddity, that I can decide on a whim to spend the day at Disney but this is how we grew up. With that said, this is the reason neither of us have ever been to Disneyland. When the World is in your backyard, your parents aren't going to be quick to fly across the country to take you to another park.
When we found out I was heading over to Disneyland to run the Super Heroes Half Marathon, we both became filled with excitement for visiting Disneyland for the first time. I don't know if it was the time change or the fact I was more excited than any Christmas morning I could remember, but I was up at 5am waiting to enter the parks.
We stayed on property at Disneyland Grand Californian (blog post to follow) and we had extra magic hours on Saturday morning which permitted us into the park an hour early. I will say that Disneyland's security is tighter than Disney World's - after we got through the security gates, we only had 15 minutes before the park opened to non-hotel guests. If you are staying on property and want to take advantage of Extra Magic Hours, plan accordingly - I would be there 15 minutes before the early time starts.
Once inside, we entered through Main Street USA and just like Paris, we first noted how alike the parks Main Streets were. Then we rounded the corner and saw Sleeping Beauty's Castle. Growing up in Disney World, this was much of a shock to us. While many have warned me not to be surprised at how small the castle was, I was not prepared for this. If you've been to Disney World, you can see in the photo above why we were both a little confused - yes that is the castle in the middle!
We immediately went over to Space Mountain to learn it was closed until further notice. NOOO! We had no idea when (or if) it would reopen. So I started stalking the Disneyland App so we would know about getting fast passes. I am sad to report, we did not get to ride Hyperspace Mountain. By the time we got back over to the ride, the fast pass distribution time was at 7:30 and we had the Super Heroes Half Marathon Pasta Party that night to attend. Also for those used to Magic Band and my Magic Plus, Disneyland still uses the original paper ticket fast pass method.
Although slightly bummed over missing out on Space Mountain, I quickly got over it when I rounded the corner to find Mr. Toads Wild Ride. As a kid, this was 100% my favorite ride and I've never gotten over Disney replacing it with Pooh at Disney World. Mr. Toads was the #1 thing I had to ride while at Disneyland and it was the first ride we did in the park. I couldn't get the smile off of my face. It was exactly how I remember.
We decided to go on Splash Mountain since it only had a 5 minute wait. It was almost exactly like ours. This seemed like a great idea since it was such a short wait but then we got soaked....not a great idea sans poncho.
We got to take advantage of riding the Haunted Mansion Holiday before the parks got packed, which was taken over by Jack and Sally from Nightmare Before Christmas. We literally walked right on the ride which was great being 20 minutes later they were up to an hour wait. Essentially, the ride itself is very similar to our Haunted Mansion but with the Jack twist to it, the entire experience was 100% different and we absolutely loved it.
Although I didn't ride the Mad Tea Party Cups, I saw the same facial expressions as those I see in Orlando. My friends Nicole and Chad got engaged on these very cups a few years ago!
(Photo by Jimmy DeFlippo, © Disney)
Another original ride to be taken over by the Holidays was It's a Small World. Thanks to being stuck on it at Disney World for over 30 minutes, this is one ride I refuse to go on (along with the Tea Cups). However, I thought it was super cute that they redid the ride for the Holidays.
Once you pass It's a Small World, you find yourself entering Toon Town. This was a super fun part of Disneyland and I love how they did it. You seriously felt like you were inside a cartoon. Gabe and I rode Roger Rabbit's Toon Car Spin. I don't do spinning rides and the only reason I went on this was because it was Roger Rabbit. Once I took over the wheel and prevented us from spinning (thanks Gabe...), I really enjoyed the ride.
After leaving Toon Town, we met up with my friend and fellow ASICS ambassador, Linzie (Sharp Endurance). Although we have been connected via social media for nearly 4 years through a number of partnerships and ambassadorships, this was the first time we have met in person. We rode Indiana Jones Adventure together which became our last ride of the day.
While at Disneyland, we did partake in one food staple - the Mickey Beignet. We are hard critics - we visit NOLA two to three times a year. Everyone I know raves on the beignets found at Disneyland's French Quarter but they sadly did not meet up to our real life French Quarter expectations.
I did love all the French Quarter flair at Disneyland! Live Jazz performances and smells of gumbo and Jambalaya in the air. I wish we had this section at Disney World!
Before leaving the park, I had one goal in mind.....a Disneyland Corndog. The line was close to an hour long and luckily we had Linzie w/ us who was quick to inform that the same corndog was available next door at California Adventure. We said our goodbyes to both Linzie and Disneyland and headed next door for a ton of fun.

To be continued...............

Monday, November 21, 2016

Steps from Disney - Hyatt Regency Grand Cypress

Just steps from Disney World Resort is a piece of paradise: Hyatt Regency Grand Cypress. My best friend and I stayed there for the runDisney Wine Dine Half Marathon. This was my first time at Hyatt Regency Grand Cypress and I instantly fell in love with this property.
Hyatt Regency Grand Cypress screams luxury but is also inviting and family-friendly so you get the best of both worlds. Although you are staying at the craziness of Lake Buena Vista, you easily forget the hustle and bustle going on outside the gate once your on property.
At registration, I met Hyatt Regency Grand Cypress ambassador, Merlot the Parrot. I am actually terrified of birds so I didn't get too close but he was very pretty! At registration, we were handed a welcome glass of champagne. The lobby is beautiful and had a very relaxing feel to it - perfect for unwinding after a busy day at the theme parks!
We stayed in a Buena Vista Double Room which was spacious and overlooked the pool, lake and Disney. We had views of the nightly fireworks and gorgeous sunsets.
We had a 2:30am alarm for the race and our car was instantly ready from Valet. The trip from Hyatt Regency Grand Cypress to Epcot was simple and we had zero traffic. Of all the runDisney events I have done, this was the only time I did not get stuck in traffic. In less than 15 minutes, we were parked. I would at Hyatt Regency Grand Cypress again in a heart beat for runDisney events.
Following the race, we ordered breakfast from LakeHouse, one of restaurants located on property. Since it was to go, we didn't get a photo of it but this breakfast was the BEST eggs Benedict I've ever had. The Lakehouse Benedict was avocado toast topped with a poached egg, candied bacon and roasted tomatoes. It was devoured in less than 5 minutes.
After running 13.1 miles, there was no place I would rather be than Hyatt Regency Grand Cypress pool. This pool was something out of a fairy tale with 12 waterfalls, a water slide, rope bridge, and a swim-through rock grotto with a hidden jacuzzi.
The hidden jacuzzi's were our favorite. There were two, one was inside of the grotto which came in handy when a quick rain storm came through.
You had an option of a heated pool and unheated pools. The unheated pools were cold but perfect for post running and we didn't need to take an ice bath! Another runner perk - the 24 hour fitness center has a stretching station with foam rollers so you don't need to travel with yours!
The chairs at the pool were super comfortable and I took a 30 minute snooze. 
Aside from the amazing pools, there are quite a few activities to do at Hyatt Regency Grand Cypress. There is a 21 acre private lake called Lake Windsong and you can choose from a wide variety of non motorized water activities. 
Paddleboat, Kayaks, Hydro Bokes, Canoes, Aqua Cycles, and Sailboats are there for you to enjoy. 
 You can also sunbathe on their 1,000-foot-long white sand beach.
There are a ton of bikes available for you to rent and take a nice ride out along the 1,500 square foot property. 
There are also three jogging trails on property ranging from 1.3 to 4.7 miles.
As you can see, staying at Hyatt Regency Grand Cypress is a vacation inside a vacation. I did not feel that we were in Orlando and there is so much to do and see. We stayed two nights and could have easily stayed a week doing various activities each day. For those who participate at runDisney events, Hyatt Regency Grand Cypress was an ideal location with easy access to the race. We loved staying here and look forward to a return trip!