Wednesday, October 31, 2012

October Foodie Pen Pal Reveal Day

Not only is today my favorite holiday, it is also Foodie Pen Pal Reveal day!! This month was a lot of fun for me across the board and you get a two part reveal. What I got and a guest blog about what I sent. I received an awesome Tex-Mex package from pen pal Jackie who lives in Lubbock Texas.
I was very excited to see all the ingredients to make my own enchiladas, with both red and green sauces. I have never used Hatch ingredients before so this was new for me. I have already made red enchilada's and Gabe said they were amazing. The thing I loved the most about this box was the Kylito's Salsa
It's gentle for the spice wimp. I laughed hard when I saw the wimpy salsa portraying a baby on the label. Gabe grabbed the jar of salsa and turned it over to see where it was made. To his satisfaction, the salsa is made in Texas, not New York City.
Thank you Jackie for everything, this box was great!


I was the pen pal to Lauren who I found out lived in neighboring Orlando. After Lauren and I wrote back and forth a few times, I learned we had similar flavor profiles and she is a recent graduate of University of Florida.  Here is what Lauren had to say about her box:

"Although this is only my second month participating in Foodie Penpals, I feel as though Megan knocked this one out of the ballpark! I absolutely LOVED everything I received. Megan and I e-mailed back and forth all month long, and I explained to her my love of all kinds of cuisines, specifically food made with fresh, healthy ingredients. 

With that being said, Megan gave me an awesome box filled with ingredients to make 3 of her favorite dishes - fresh Vietnamese spring rolls, Thai chicken noodle soup, and butter chicken. Healthy, delicious, and homemade? Sign me up! The box included: spring roll wrappers, pho base, chili garlic sauce, peanut sauce, fish sauce, rice noodles, hoisin sauce, and butter chicken mix. The day I received the box, I also received an e-mail from Megan with detailed descriptions and recipes for all of the items. So far, I have used everything except for the butter chicken mix, which is on the agenda for dinner this week. I am a huge fan of both recipes, especially the Vietnamese fresh spring rolls - yum! 

Megan and I also discovered our mutual love for the Florida Gators (!), so in my box, I also received a Gators coaster from her company, Halftime Designs, and an iron-on Gator applique. This was such a nice surprise and I (obviously) LOVED both of these items! Thank you Megan for such an incredible box! It was so great getting to know you this past month and you hit the nail on the head with my foodie Penpal package! GO GATORS!" 

Click here for more information on joining Foodie Pen Pals!


Happy Halloween!

Today is my favorite day of the year. I am going to keep this blog post short so I can stuff myself full of candy corn until I get sick. Yesterday at Disney, I spotted a few pumpkins I thought were share worthy.

Minnie Mouse with a Surfboard, Aloha! I LOVE THIS.
Minnie Mouse Pumpkin
 You don't want your carriage to turn into a pumpkin - unless it looks like this......
Cinderella Carriage Pumpkin
 I couldn't leave Mickey out
Mickey and Minnie Mouse Pumpkin

It's also not Halloween without Michael Jackson.While searching on youtube for a good video of Thriller, I came across this gem. It may get you in the mood for Christmas.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Introducing Lee Roy Selmons Food to Share

I recently had the opportunity to check out Lee Roy Selmons new amazing Chicken and Waffles entree. At the premier of this dish we were also introduced to Lee Roy's new food to share menu. I have been a fan of this restaurant for quite sometime - anyone who specializes in southern food is up there on my list. I found myself very satisfied and patiently waiting for November 2nd when this menu is released.

Starting off with Meatball Skewers, ground beef and pork served with a creamy smoked chipotle dipping sauce. These little bite size treats were wrapped in bacon and to say they were amazing is an understatement. I went in a little skeptic and left wanting more. I had to find self control as I knew there were many dishes left to come.
Meatball Skewers - $6.99
Up next was another dish that pretty much knocked my socks off. The menu stated Calamari Strips. What I wasn't expecting was lightly battered calamari steaks. They. Were. Amazing. I don't know what else to say.....Served with a sweet chili dipping sauce and not to mention, this dish is only $7.99
Calamari Strips - $7.99
After that - not much can compete. Out came Buffalo Chicken Tenders. They had a nice light batter just like the Calamari Strips. This will be an excellent dish while watching football at Lee Roys.
Buffalo Chicken Tenders $5.99
If you aren't into buffalo sauce, no fear. Lee Roy's also serves these bad boys dry, served with fire-cracker sauce and honey mustard vinaigrette dipping sauces.
Chicken Tenders $5.99
Finally, Soft Pretzels with beer cheese dipping sauce. If you know me, you understand my excitement here. If I am dining in a restaurant which I know serves these in their bread basket, I usually order extra. LOVE. Not to mention, it is served with beer cheese sauce! Hello my lovelies. These pretzels are imported from Germany and although they were previously frozen, I was not sad. They were quite honestly some of the best pretzel bread I have ever had.
Soft Pretzels $5.99
This weekend, grab some friends and order some plates to share while watching some football. Trust me - you will not be disappointed. The prices are right and the flavors are great. Lee Roy Selmon would be proud.
Lee Roy Selmon's on Urbanspoon

Monday, October 29, 2012

Boca Hyde Park - Seasonal Fresh Ingredients from Local Farms

I recently had the opportunity to dine at Boca Hyde Park (aka Boca Kitchen Bar and Market) in South Tampa with my pal Lauren (Tasting Tampa & Tampa Uncorked). This was my second opportunity dining at Boca and they did not disappoint. Boca's farm fresh concept uses local ingredients and brings them to the table. Everything from your cocktail to your dessert has seasonal fresh ingredients from local growers.

Boca has one of the best Happy Hours I have seen which features craft cocktails. From 11am-6pm, a variety of their specialty beverages are $2! They also have a name of the day game on Facebook, so make sure you are following them. If your name is drawn, it means free drinks for you and three friends. For our cocktails, I ordered the Indian Summer - watermelon, apple shrub, basil, bombay. I substituted the bombay for Kettle One. It was very sweet but a refreshing cocktail.
Indian Summer
Lauren, aka the princess of everything spicy, ordered the Hot House Collins - cucumber, lime, bombay, tonic. She also substituted vodka for the gin. I was very impressed with her drink and would order it. I actually stole one of her peppers to give my drink a little heat!
Hot House Collins
Lauren and I started off with two appetizers to share. I was excited to try out the Mason Jar Breads and Spreads with dolce bleu cheese and walnut spread, a chorizo and citrus hummus and an arugula pesto. The chorizo an citrus hummus was my favorite of the trio.
Mason Jar Breads and Spreads
When Lauren and I decided that we were going to do our girls night out at Boca, we both started stalking the menu. She was very excited to try the Blistered Shisito Peppers. I was on the fence. I am not a huge fan of peppers and am a big old baby when it comes to spicy stuff. I am a team player and went for it as I knew how much she wanted to try them. One week later, these bad boys are all I can think about. They are addicting. When the shisito peppers were presented to us, we were told that  only one of every 12 of these is super hot. Lauren got one and I luckily did not. Smoky, roasted red pepper and salty. It was a true savory treat and I want more.
Blistered Shisito Peppers
Time for our entrees, I ordered the Yellowfin Tuna with Moroccan vegetables  roasted garlic cous cous, chamoula aioli and grilled Meyer lemon. Overall it was amazing. The aioli had a flavor that reminded me of curry and citrus. It paired perfectly with the cous cous and vegetables. I could put that on everything. 
Yellowfin Tuna with Moroccan Vegetables. 
Lauren ordered the I had the Nor Cal Flatbread. This consisted of pulled chicken, artichoke, spinach, goat cheese, and pomegranate syrup. The pomegranate syrup was more like a balsamic and was a perfect topping to this huge flat bread.
Nor Cal Flatbread
For our desserts, I got the Chocolate Cherry Bacon Cake. Say hello to my little friend. I am not a huge fan of cherries so luckily, I was able to push them aside. I could eat an entire batch of the candied bacon.
Chocolate Cherry Bacon Cake
 Lauren ordered the berry cobbler with ice cream. This should be called a Berry with a side of cobbler. It had more berries than I have ever seen in a dessert. Very good!
Berry Cobbler
Overall, I was very impressed with Boca Kitchen Bar & Market. If you are in town on November 7th, there is a Beer vs. Wine dinner at 6pm! Click here for more details.
You can also have your holiday party at Boca, or have them cook your Thanksgiving dinner. Call 813.254.7070 for more information.
Boca Kitchen Bar Market on Urbanspoon

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Steak Bites with Bloody Mary Dipping Sauce #SundaySupper Halloween Party

Halloween is my favorite holiday of the year so I was pretty excited when I heard the theme for this weekends Sunday Supper hosted by Leslie at La Cocina. I knew instantly what I was going to share for the #SundaySupper Halloween Party - Steak Bites with Bloody Mary Dipping Sauce! I found this recipe years ago on Foodnetwork from Rachael Ray. This recipe has made an appearance at many of my Halloween Parties. It's super easy to make and is always a crowd hit.

Ingredients 
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling 
1 small onion, finely chopped 
1/2 cup vodka 
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce 
2 teaspoons hot pepper sauce 
1 cup tomato sauce 
1 rounded tablespoon prepared horseradish 
Salt and pepper 
1 1/3 pounds beef sirloin cut into large bite-sized pieces, 1 by 2 inches 
Steak seasoning blend or coarse salt and black pepper 6 to 8 inch bamboo skewers

Steak Bites with Bloody Mary Dipping Sauce
Adapted by Rachael Ray

Heat a small saucepan over medium heat. Add oil and onions and saute 5 minutes. Add vodka and reduce by 1/2. Add Worcestershire, hot sauce, tomato sauce and horseradish. Stir to combine the dipping sauce and return the sauce to a bubble. Add salt and pepper and adjust seasonings. Heat nonstick skillet over high heat. Coat meat bites lightly in oil. Season with steak seasoning blend or salt and pepper, to taste. Cook the meat until caramelized all over, about 2 minutes on each side.

For a cute serving idea, purchase coffins at your local craft store. Lightly coat the meat and put into the coffin for each guest. Serve the bloody mary dipping sauce on the side to be put into the coffin once opened.


A few Halloween Costumes through the years. My favorite was the year my brother and I went as music stars in the news. I was Amy Winehouse, he was Lil Wayne. It was fun keeping in character all night!

For more Halloween recipe ideas, be sure to check out the rest of the #SundaySupper line-up:

Bewitching Brews

Ghoulish Gruel: 

Haunted Snacks: 

Spooky Sweets: 
Please be sure you join us on Twitter throughout the day, this Sunday (October 28th) during #SundaySupper.  We’ll be meeting up at 7:00 pm (Eastern) for our weekly #SundaySupper live chat where we’ll talk about all things Halloween.  All you have to do is follow the #SundaySupper hashtag, or you can follow us throughTweetChat.

We’d also love to feature your favorite Halloween recipes on our #SundaySupper Pinterest board and share them with all of our followers, too.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Tasting Tampa Mojito Madness

Ten mojito's. Five restaurants. Ten yummy snacks. Thirty people having a great time, all while being chauffeured from location to location by Tampa Bay Brew Bus. This can only mean one thing my friends - Tasting Tampa's Mojito Madness! This past weekend, we were on a quest to find the best mojito in Tampa Bay. Siesta Key Rum which is made a few cities away provided the rum for the event. Each restaurant had a duty to make a classic mojito and a creative mojito while pairing them with delicious nibbles. They all did a great job showcasing their talents.

Carmine's of Ybor. Carmine's Seventh Avenue on Urbanspoon
We have visited Carmine's a few times as it is in walking distance from our Condo. They have amazing deviled crab and Cuban sandwiches. Carmines brought out our classic mojito paired with Cuban roasted pork. The pork was very good and the plantains were amazing. Next came the creative thin mint mojito and calamari. The thin mint mojito reminded me of a grasshopper and was a nice surprise.
Mojito Madness stop one - Carmine's
Samba Room Samba Room on Urbanspoon
This was my first visit to the new South Tampa restaurant.  I was instantly impressed the moment I walked in the door. The decor, layout and hospitality of the group is pretty amazing. The bartender went into great detail on how they make their classic mojito's. One sip of the classic and everyone at my table ordered a full sized cocktail. It was that good. The creative mojito was a cucumber and Guanabana (which is pronounced like the muppets manah manah). I love any beverage with cucumbers so it was right up my alley. The nibbles were Papas Bravas and Lump Crab Ceviche. I could eat an entire bowl of that Ceviche.
Mojito Madness Stop 2 - Samba Room
It was also time for a photo opp with my buddy Leslie (Dash of Les). Yes, she is wearing a Seminole shirt and I am in a Gator dress. We don't hold that against one other but I have a sneaky suspicion we will not be speaking on November 24th.

Datz Datz Tampa on Urbanspoon 
Stop three was a visit to one of my favorite restaurants in Tampa, Datz. We were greeted with a classic mojito which was simple and elegant in presentation. Our creative drink was the Ho Ho Mojito which was very festive looking. I give it the award for the prettiest drink of the day. Our nibbles from Datz was amazing black bean hummus with plantain chips. We also tried the tostones with two dipping sauces, cilantro aioli and sweet fruit jam. Datz, I want the recipe for that hummus!
Mojito Madness Stop 3 - Datz
Next up was another first visit for me - Hula Bay. I was instantly reminded of one of my favorite Saturday hangouts in Daytona, Inlet Harbor. This place has amazing water views and I have been looking for a lazy weekend hangout like this since moving to Tampa. Our classic mojito promptly came out paired with a dual nibble - potstickers and fried shrimp. Our creative mojito was Blueberry and very refreshing. I am not a blueberry fan but could take down a few of these. I am looking forward to trying out Hula Bay for lunch one day. I foresee many buckets of beers consumed at this hidden gem while watching yachts pass by.
Mojito Madness stop 4 - Hula Bay Club
Mojitos Mojito Restaurant and Lounge on Urbanspoon 
We finally made it back to MojitosTampa Bay Brew Bus did an excellent job delivering us from location to location. Mojito's is one of my favorite lunch spots as it is near my office and has amazing food. If your restaurant is named Mojito and you are in the Mojito Madness, you better show up to play. That they did. The classic mojito was traditionally excellent. The creative mojito was apple cinnamon, something I will go back for again. Our nibbles included guacamole with plantain chips which was as delicious as it was pretty along with a serving of Tortitas de Plantano paired with Tostones de pollo. Mojito's showed up to live up to their name.
Mojito Madness stop 5 - Mojito
We voted on range of 0-5, 0 was "meh" and 5 was Mind Blowing. We voted on the classic, the creative and the nibbles. I will not reveal all of my scores but I will state that first and second place were very close in my book. My first place restaurant scored all 5's in my book and apparently the rest of the group agreed. Congrats to Samba Room!

Make sure you are following Tasting Tampa on Facebook as the next Touring Tampa event will take place in December.....the Cocktail Countdown! We will explore some of the best drinks Tampa has to offer! You do not want to miss out on that one.

Now, if you grew up with the muppets and caught onto the comment above about the Guanabana, I know Manah Manah is stuck in your head. You're welcome and I am closing this out with my favorite childhood song:

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

2013 Disney Princess Half Marathon Medal Revealed and Run LIke A Princess Sweepstakes

I've been anxiously awaiting the release of the 5th anniversary Disney Princess Half Marathon medal. Although I will not be running this race  I wanted to share the medal and an amazing contest that our friends at runDisney is putting on. The only reason I am not running this is due to a joint graduation trip/ family vacation to New Orleans (and running the NOLA Rock and Roll Half).

So here she is - the 2013 Disney Princess Half Marathon 5th Anniversary Medal!

It features FIVE Pink jewels, a tiara and a touch of pixie dust. I am so sad that I will not be at this race but I had to put others before me this time around.

Along with the reveal of the pink themed medal which I really want, Disney has a sweepstakes presented by Lady Footlocker, Run Like A Princess. The winner of this contest will be the envy of every other princess. A VIP Grand Prize Package for four (4) to the 5TH Anniversary of Disney’s Princess Half Marathon Weekend includes:

  • The ultimate royal retreat the evening after the race: A one night in the Cinderella Castle Suite in Magic Kingdom® Park. (!!!!!!!!!!!!) (!!!!!!!!!!!) (!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!)
  • Race entry for Disney’s Princess Half Marathon, Disney Royal Family 5K, or runDisney Kids Races 
  • Pasta in the Park Party tickets at Epcot
  • Race Retreat or Platinum Level ChEAR Squad entries
  • Meet & Greet with Olympian and runDisney Training Consultant Jeff Galloway for the winner and three Guests
  • Round trip airfare
  • $200 Disney Dining Gift Cards
  • 3-Day Magic Your Way Theme Park Ticket
  • 2-Night stay at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge

Enter at www.runlikeaprincess.com to play a Facebook game, where you pick your princess through various Disney Bibs. You also have a chance to win gear, gift cards and race entries from Lady Foot Locker and runDisney. I selected Ariel but didn't win today. You can come back everyday for another opportunity to win.

For those on the fence to sign up for the race, it is currently 78% full. Historically, races fill up after the medals are revealed. Sign up by visiting Run Disney's website here.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Dining at Ciccio's Water Tampa Bay

This past weekend, I had the opportunity to check out Ciccio's Water with my friend Katie (She likes Ruffles, He likes Truffles) and our two significant others. This was my first visit to Ciccio's and I was looking forward to it after hearing rave reviews from our friends.

Upon walking in, I instantly knew we would be in for a treat. There was great energy in Ciccio's. The unique thing about Ciccio's is that it is technically two restaurants in one. Ciccio's California Cuisine and Ciccio's Water. The menu is vast, offering everything from California noodle bowls to gourmet sushi and everything in between. The specialty menu switches monthly and they keep it non hectic by having two kitchens, one for the Sushi and one for everything else. Also, Ciccio's gets the majority of their products local.

We started off by sampling the famous Slam-Gria. A giant glass of homemade sangria, offered in red, champagne and white. I got the red:
Red Slamgria
Gabe and Katie both ordered the Champagne and Katie's husband Justin ordered the white:
Champagne Slamgria
After receiving our delicious cocktails, we discussed the menu with the Manager Steve, who we allowed to select our items for us. This is always fun as you are not sure what you are going to receive but you know it will be awesome.

Out first was one of my favorite items of the evening, Tuna Bruschetta: Pistachio Wasabi Crusted Seared Tuna with edamame hummus, seaweed salad and soy ginger vinaigrette. It was amazing. The Tuna was perfectly seared to have the pistachio crust. The flavors really complemented one another.
Tuna Bruschetta
Up next was Filet Mignon Quesadilla's: Strips of filet mignon, black beans, roasted poblanos, cilantro, spicy corn guacamole, jack cheese and sour cream. Gabe really liked this dish and asked me to make Filet Quesadilla's at home.
Filet Quesadilla
Lobster Mac and Cheese with Truffle Oil Drizzle. Ermahgerd....This dish was beyond. Rich, savory, delicious, creamy, cheesy, truffle, lobster goodness. I told Steve they should put this in a New England Style Hot Dog Roll and make a Lobster Mac and Cheese roll out of it. I want to go back for more, now :(
Lobster Mac and Cheese
After savoring those three items, out came three rolls of sushi. Up first was the Spicy Diablo Roll which was amazing: Ahi tuna, tempura onions, topped with spicy tuna, beet tobbikko, daikon sprouts, and sriracha aioli and sesame seeds
Spicy Diablo Roll
The roll you see in the background was one of the monthly specials, Sleepy Hallow: Spicy ahi tuna, cucumber, mango, avocado, topped with zesty spicy aioli marinated Maine lobster meat, black sesame seeds, beet tobbiko and tempura spinach. Our third roll was the Chef Special roll and my photo did not do it justice.
Sleepy Hallow Roll
Next came out two pizza's. The Chicken Marsala Pizza, which was delicious. I need the recipe for Ciccio's homemade marsala sauce.
Chicken Marsala Pizza
And"Almost Gluten Free Thin Crusted Pizza". 8 inch single serving with fresh tomato sauce, basil and mozzarella. You can include a variety of toppings and there are only traces of gluten (22 carbs include fiber). This pizza was simple and delicious.
Almost Gluten Free Thin Crusted Pizza
To think we had two additional entree's coming out had me in a food like coma. So Katie and I ordered two martini's to mask our fullness. I tried the Cucumber - Muddled cucumber and sugar, Absolut Vodka, St. Germain Elderflower Liqueur, fresh lime and a splash of club soda. Katie tried the Zen Cosmopolitan - Gekkeikan Sake, Triple Sec, Lime, Cranberry Juice. The cucumber was very refreshing and I could probably drink 20 too many of them. Katie's Zen Cosmo was made with Sake so it had a different twist to the classic cosmo. It was great!
I have heard wonderful things about Ciccio's California bowls. They are known for the variety of options, everyone will find something on the menu that they would love. You choose to have your bowl served with steamed yellow, sticky rice, brown rice, farro (add $1) or chilled Asian noodles (add $2). We tried the Thai Chicken Bowl,  napa cabbage, scallions, cilantro, carrots, mango, crispy wontons and peanut aioli (with steamed rice). As this included all of my favorite flavors, I was a very happy (and full) girl.
Thai Chicken California Bowl
We also tried the fish of the day which was local caught Tile Fish served with spaghetti squash, grilled broccolini and lemon almond sauce. I could eat an entire bowl of the spaghetti squash. When I make it at home, it is never this good. I have never had Tile fish before and really enjoyed it.It's a light white fish.
Tile Fish
Next thing I know, dessert came out. I can never say no to Smores, no matter how much room is left in my belly. Toasted marshmallow and Chocolate bar with vanilla ice cream and caramel. Need I say more?
Smores
Steve came out to check on us and to inform us we had another item coming out. When he saw the pained look in our faces, he told us it wasn't food, it was a shot bucket. Shot bucket?? When this thing came at us, I sat wide eyed. A firecracker inside of a champagne bucket, which included fireball whiskey shots. Talk about the icing on the cake! What a presentation!
Ciccio's Shot Bucket
Overall, we had an amazing experience. Thank you Ciccio's for a memorable evening. Everything we had was delicious. I will absolutely be back again. If you have yet to dine there, I urge you to go give them a try! They offer a weekend brunch and a daily Happy Hour.

Ciccio's Water on Urbanspoon