Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Grille 54 unveils new Sushi Menu

I am a huge fan of Grille 54 on Sheldon Road. They have a vast menu which would please any diners palate. Normally restaurants who offer multiple cuisines lacks in one category or another. Not the case at Grille 54. Anyone who can nail a Kobe beef burger, sushi, Italian food and specialty martinis, I'm in.

Last night, Grille 54 introduced a new Sushi line up and I couldn't be more impressed. They kept the local favorites and did a little tweaking and revamping, only to end up with one of the best Sushi menus I have ever seen.

My friend Lauren (Tampa Uncorked) and I excitedly sat down with a glass of wine, catching up on each others lives while waiting to see the new sushi offerings. Grille 54 has an amazing Happy Hour which I wrote about after my first visit at this restaurant. Since we were dining on nothing but sushi, we went with a glass of Ca Bolini Pinot Grigio for $6 a glass.
Sushi Ceviche
Out first came the Sushi Ceviche. Tuna, salmon, white fish, yellowtail and avocado tossed in a cilantro lime marinade. Served with a side of wonton chips. I first exclaimed that all of my friends were on one plate. Seriously, they were. After the first bite, I found myself a little speechless....WOW. The marinade had a Thai sweet chili hint to it which paired perfect with the wonton chips. This was absolutely one of the best ceviche's I have ever had.
Assorted Sushi
Out next came a sushi bridge with three brand new rolls, Fish Outta Water, Deadliest Catch and Mt. Fuji. I adore Grille 54's sushi presentation.

The back roll is Fish Outta Water Lobster claw meat, snow crab, avocado, asparagus, scallion, & jalapeño. Topped with seared beef tenderloin and tuna, jalapeño smelt roe, wasabi aioli, & siricha. This roll is insanity. It was my favorite of the three and I could eat it everyday. It sounds like a lot going on with the different players but they really complimented each other well. I suggest this on your next visit.

Bottom Left is Deadliest Catch Cream cheese, avocado, cucumber, tempura onion, & chop shrimp & krab stick. Topped with snow crab, tempura chips, wasabi aioli, & siricha. This was a very good roll. You could taste the tempura onion but it wasn't too overwhelming. I liked the fact that the chopped shrimp wasn't tempura, it would have been too much with the tempura onion.

Bottom right is Mt. Fuji Tempura shrimp, cream cheese, & asparagus roll topped with chopped shrimp & krab stick served with a cool nappa cabbage, tomato, red onion, & tuna tossed in Cajun aioli. This roll was so different and amazing. The topping of tomato, red onion and tuna was like a sushi salsa. It had the perfect hint of heat without being too much.
Straw Nana
For dessert, we also got sushi! Straw Nana Tempura plantains & creme cheese wrapped with soy paper. Topped with fresh sliced strawberries & coconut lime sauce. This was so good but I found myself out of habit on multiple times trying to dip it into soy sauce. I came up with a suggestion of serving it along with a soy dish filled with chocolate dipping sauce. We will see if they take my suggestion to heart! I loved the coconut lime sauce with the strawberries. It was very fresh and satisfying.

Lauren and I couldn't end the night without a pair of Grille 54s famous craft martini's. I went with the Smor-tini: Three Olives® Smores Vodka, Smirnoff® Fluff Vodka, Godiva® Dark Chocolate, Half n Half, Graham Cracker Rim. This was such an awesome dessert martini. I could have done some serious damage with these earlier in the night!
Smore-Tini
Lauren went with the Espresso Martini: Smirnoff® Vanilla Vodka, a shot of freshly brewed espresso shaken with Kahlúa® Liqueur and dark crème de cacao. I had a sip of hers and it was delicious. Our Amazing server / bartender Amber suggested a splash of Baileys to this concoction and it was perfect!
Espresso Martini
So if you are looking for a nice night out with friends to get sushi and cocktails, you now know where to go. Perfect atmosphere, amazing food and dangerous drinks. What else could you ask for? Check out Grille 54's facebook to keep up with there ever changing menu and events.

Grille 54 on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Chobani in the Kitchen and a Giveaway

It's hard to imagine that a year ago, I thought I hated Greek Yogurt. I am a girl with texture issues - I dislike scallops and raw tomatoes due to texture reasons only. At one point in my life, Greek Yogurt fell into that category. After I moved to Tampa, Keri came to visit and bought Greek Yogurt to make parfaits for breakfast. I turned my nose up to it, watching her make a beautiful yogurt, raspberry and granola breakfast. Finally, I broke down and tried it to realize that I really liked Greek Yogurt! I learned that adding crunch to the yogurt initially helped me with the texture issue. Today, I can eat the yogurt straight.

Not only is Greek Yogurt my go to breakfast staple, I also cook with it. We go through a 32oz container of plain Greek yogurt a week. I use it in place of sour cream, buttermilk, heavy cream, mayonnaise and much more. Here is a handy chart from the Chobani Kitchen.
When Chobani offered to send me a cooler full of product, I didn't know what I would expect to find on my doorstep. I am normally not a flavored Greek Yogurt person, the most unadventurous I get is Vanilla. When my UPS man dropped of a box from Chobani on Friday night, he called me his Job security which got a giggle out of me. I opened the box, to find a aluminum cool bag, which I will be re-using.
Now it's like a Chobani Christmas in my house, what will I get? Upon opening the box, I saw a huge variety of flavors. Black Cherry, Blood Orange (!!), Pineapple, Strawberry, Apple Cinnamon (YUM), Pear, Banana, Mango, Strawberry Banana, Blueberry, Plain and Peach.
Of the flavors, I got super excited about the 0% Apple Cinnamon. It was the first one I tried of the group, I had it for breakfast and I loved every moment of it. The second one which caught my eye was 0% blood orange. Oh my -It tasted exactly like a creamsicle. I added chocolate chips to it and I now have a favorite Chobani flavor.
Chobani wants to give you a 12 pack cooler packed full of their goodies too! I want to know if you substitute Greek Yogurt in cooking. Chobani offers many delicious recipes on their website. A few of my favorites are featured below using the flavors I received in the package. Leave me a comment letting me know what you would make at home if you won the prize pack. After leaving your comment, make sure you enter on  Rafflecopter as that is how I select my winner. If you are unsure how to use Rafflecopter, click here for a quick video explaining how to use it.

Pineapple upside down cake using Pineapple 2%
Source - Chobani.com
Black Forest Cupcakes using Black Cherry 0%
Source - Chobani.com
Mango Lentil Soup using Mango 2%
Souce - Chobani.com
Peach Jalapeno Hush Puppies using Peach 0%
Souce - Chobani.com

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Monday, January 28, 2013

Girls Cruise Day 4 - Key West

When Keri and I started looking at cruises for our annual girls trip, one thing pushed us in the direction of the Carnival Ecstasy, a day in Key West. We spent a week in Key West for our 30th Birthday and have plenty of amazing memories there. Although we live in FL, going on a trip to Key West is an 8 hour drive each way. Ending our cruise in our favorite city was like icing on the cake.
We had a lengthy wait for customs to clear us so we sat with a beautiful view, drinking our daily juice - extra large mimosa.
We were finally on our way with one goal in mind - Key Lime Martini. When we were in Key West a few years back, we both fell in love with this martini. Yet we could not remember where we got it from. After internet investigation, we learned that the White Tarpon has the "famous Key Lime Martini". Our bartender Emily was amazing, and she absolutely makes the worlds best Key Lime Martini. It was a very potent drink that was too easy to go down. Ironically, we found out that the White Tarpon is owned by the same restaurant where we first fell in love with the Key Lime Martini
White Tarpon has $.50 oysters! The self proclaimed oyster lover that I am ordered 2 dozen with excitement. I forgot to get them lightly steamed. Surprise to me - they came out raw. I have never had raw oysters so now was a good time to try them. I was very impressed and ate most of them. Between the amazing Key Lime Martini's and $.50 oysters, White Tarpon is the way to go.

White Tarpon on Urbanspoon
After our oysters and key lime martini's, we felt the need to visit the house we rented for our 30th Birthday. It looked exactly how we remembered it nearly 4 years later, pink door and all.
We also had to get an updated photo of Love Lane. I'm trying to figure out from this photo if one of us is double fisting or being smart by carrying water and a vodka drink.....
Love Lane 1/2013
Just to brag about Keri for a quick second - check out how much weight she has lost in the past 3 years. This is one of the reason we got new photos to replace the ones from 2009!
Love Lane 6/2009
We took a self guided street tour and visited Truman's Annex and other areas of Key West. After walking a bit, we worked up an appetite and found Blue Heaven. When we first started planning this trip, Keri mentioned she wanted to go here. This is a restaurant we have heard quite a lot about from friends with rave reviews.
The Roosters guided us in. I live in Ybor City where we have our fair share of street roosters but it is no where near what you find in Key West. How cute is this place!
For some reason, I did not get a photo of Keri's entree but I got the Lobster Melt. OMG. It was perfect, with homemade pickle slices to compliment the sweetness of the lobster. I cannot remember a time where I finished a sandwich so quickly.
Only in Key West:

Blue Heaven on Urbanspoon
OK - onto our next stop along with crazy wind and rain. See the thing about being on a ship for 4 days, you have no idea what is going on in the real world. Apparently Winter Storm Lago was on it's way to do some destruction up north, causing us to have really crummy weather. When did they start naming winter storms? I saw Willy T's, one of my favorite bars in St. Thomas so naturally we decided to take cover with another drink. I love seeing all the dollars on the wall and ceiling of Willy T's. This is such a fun dive bar.
We visited a few art gallery's to kill some time. We had dessert reservations at Better Than Sex at 6pm. This is a dessert bar that dips your wine glasses in chocolate. Yes ladies, you heard me right, chocolate dipped wine glasses. After fighting strong wind, rain and flying roosters, we found ourselves at our final destination.
We were led to our table by a woman carrying a flashlight. This place was amazing - you must visit it if you are in Key West. I was a little overwhelmed so our server suggested we try the Carly's Button,
a Dark Chocolate rimmed wine glass with sparkling Shiraz. You've never tried anything until you have drank from a chocolate rimmed wine glass.
For our dessert, we got the chocolate grilled cheeze which was amazing. I love a savory sweet combo and this was perfect combo. It came with a raspberry dipping sauce.
Better Than Sex - A Dessert Restaurant on Urbanspoon
It was nearing 7:30 which meant we had to hurry back to the ship. We were one of the last (if not the very last) trolley back to the boat. We did not have enough time in our favorite city and are talking about taking another summer trip there this year. One day at Key West is nice but not when you have 100 things you want to do. We didn't get to go by Irish Kevin's which made me very sad. Again, there is not enough time in the day when you are rushed for time. This is the downfall for being at a port where you are familiar with the destination. We were informed that our cruise was Carnivals last time docking in Key West.

On a side note, we did not eat dinner on the ship this night. As you can see from above, we had a very big day drinking and eating. I did find myself at the pizza bar at 1am though - oops. I danced off all this food though trust me. The more nights on the boat, the better dancer I think I am.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

MOSI celebrates 18TH annual Einstein on Food & Wine festival, Tampa

Hello fellow Tampa foodies and wino's!! On February 2nd, MOSI will celebrate it's 18TH annual Einstein on Food & Wine festival. I will be joining the celebration after spending 3 days in Atlanta for a company event. I am literally jumping off the plane and heading straight to MOSI.
I am a culinary geek  at heart. Anytime I hear the words science and food mixed into the same event, I am front and center. If you are like me, a lover of food, wine, music and science, this event is perfect for you. Wait, it gets better, Top Chef Fabio Viviani will be there!
Give me a second to swoon. I am a Top Chef geek extraordinaire. I remember when Fabio was voted off the block. I voted for him to get fan favorite, and he ended up winning. I always wished I could have Fabio cook for me. Now is you chance: Fabio is kicking off the weekends event with the inaugural Annus Mirabilis* dinner on Friday, Feb. 1, at 7 p.m. Tickets are available for those wishing to enjoy an intimate dinner, culinary demonstrations and a customized menu the one and only Fabio in a private home on Bayshore Boulevard. If I wasn't in Atlanta on Friday night, I would be there. Click here for more information.

If you aren't around for Friday nights intimate dinner and want a chance to meet Fabio, grab yourself a VIP ticket. VIP's have early access beginning at 6 p.m. and can rub elbows with Viviani in the VIP lounge. If I wasn't 10,000 feet in the air at 6pm, I would be there with my bells on.

You can also get discounted tickets to The Einstein on Food and Wine through Living Social by clicking here. General Admission tickets normally go for $80 each and you can get two for $80 for a limited time!

The Einstein on Food and Wine's host sponsor, ABC Fine Wine & Spirits, will feature more than 50 vintners with a variety of wines, including reds, whites, champagnes, domestic and imported. I cannot wait to get off the plane from Atlanta to enjoy this night out with my Mom! Talk about a girls night out :)

Delicious food and desserts from more than 30 different local restaurants will be featured including Chart House, BJ’s, TC Choy Asian Bistro, Brio, PDQ, and Blue Bell ice cream, along with a variety of food trucks like Not Your Ordinary Food Truck and Michelle Faedo on the Go. In addition to the array of food and wine, a silent auction will be held with proceeds to benefit MOSI’s educational programs.

From the press release: This year MOSI is adding a new and exciting element to Einstein on Food & Wine for its participating restaurants. Restaurants who participate will have their food judged by Fabio Viviani of Bravo’s Top Chef and MOSI guests in a quest to find the best food at Einstein on Food & Wine. All voting will be done by secret ballot and all ballots will be tabulated during the evening.

Winners will be announced in MOSI’s Grand Lobby prior to the closing of our silent auction.
 Prize categories are as follows: 
-First Place will receive $1000 and a plaque
-Second Place will receive $750 and a plaque
-Third Place will receive $250 and a plaque
-People’s Choice will receive a plaque and bragging rights

 Einstein on Food & Wine tickets are $60 for members, $70 for nonmembers and $80 when purchased the week of the event. The event begins at 7 p.m. and guests must be 21 years or older to attend. VIP tickets can be purchased for $125, which includes valet service and early access to Einstein on Food & Wine at 6 p.m. Tickets for the inaugural Annus Mirabilis dinner, which includes an intimate dinner, culinary demonstrations and a customized menu by Viviani, are $200 per person or $350 per couple. Both evenings benefit the education programs at MOSI.

For more information or to purchase tickets, call 813-987-6000 or visit MOSI.org.

About MOSI (Museum of Science & Industry) MOSI is a not-for-profit, community-based institution and educational resource dedicated to advancing public interest, knowledge, and understanding of science, industry, and technology. With a total size of over 400,000 square feet, MOSI is the largest science center in the southeastern United States, and home to the only IMAX® Dome Theatre in the state of Florida. Kids In Charge! The Children’s Science Center at MOSI is the largest children’s science center in the nation. Disasterville, featuring Bay News 9 WeatherQuest, combines education and 10,000 square feet of interactive exhibits on the science behind natural disasters. MOSI’s newest permanent exhibition, The Amazing You, presented by MetLife Foundation and sponsored by Florida Blue, explores the fascinating world of birth through end-of-life. Conquer your fears and experience an adrenaline rush like no other on MOSI’s permanent attractions, the Sky Trail® Ropes Course and Zip Line. Also, guests can now Dream it – Make it – Do it in MOSI’s technology playground & inventor’s studio, Idea Zone. MOSI is the proud winner of the 2009 National Medal for Museums by the Institute of Museum and Library Services, the nation’s highest honor for museums. For more information on MOSI, visit www.mosi.org. *Annus Mirabilis is a Latin phrase meaning “Wonderful Year” and was the title of a collection of articles written by Einstein in 1905 that included his theory of relativity.

Friday, January 25, 2013

A moment to brag. Thank you runDisney

I like talking about myself, duh I have a blog. But right now it's my moment to brag. Of the who knows how many photos taken at the Walt Disney World Marathon Meetup, my photo with Joey Fatone was selected to appear on the runDisney blog, recapping the amazing event.

I never expected to see my big grin on this site. Thank you runDisney, you made my week! Also, 100 thank yous to Rachel (runnerstales.com) who brought this to my attention.

SQUEAL!

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Girls Cruise Day 3 - Nassau

After another uneventful night following our day at Freeport, Keri and I decided to go to bed early and be ready for our Snorkeling day in Nassau for our third day out. Although I have been to Nassau more times than I can count on my hands, I have never been snorkeling there. We tried last year, only to arrive on the Island during an awful storm, which led to an entire day of day-drinking. Oops.

This time around, I was not too thrilled to get into the water, it was very wavy and cold. We already paid for the excursion so I forced myself into the water. We were joking that we could have saved our ice bath for this day. It was so beautiful with fishies everywhere you looked. I have never seen anything like this and I live in Florida. Keri and I found ourselves saying "Hi Fishy!!!" over and over.
We house hunted a little on the way back. I will take this one please, boats included.
Once off the boat, we ventured over to Senor Frogs, as is our tradition. This is the first time I have ever liked a chair shot at this location although I cannot figure out why my dress is over my knees.
We found ourselves a crazy bartender:
Who made us a very lethal drink, it was a long island with cranberry juice, aka a Long Beach, aka a Frog Buster.
We decided to feast on some table-side guacamole. It's pricey at $12 but worth every penny. He used two whole avocados and it was the best guac either of us have ever had.
Then, felling really good thanks to the long beach, we got some additional Senor Frog shots, just because.
Our too short visit to Nassau was over, although it is never too late for one more Kalik Gold.
Here is my tip if you are in the Nassau port during dinner time: Even if it is the night of your Captains dinner, go over to Paradise Island (Atlantis) and dine at Nobu. Seriously the best sushi you will ever have in your life, thank me later. That has been our tradition over the years but we could not go this time around due to the fact we left the dock at 3:00.

For dinner that night, we had jerk pork loin, which was a little spicy for my tastes but had a delicious Indian influence to it.
Keri got the Roasted Red Fish, which she did not care for at all.
For dessert, we had Tiramisu which was pretty good. One thing Carnival had going for them this cruise was the desserts.
This night, we went to the midnight Mexican buffet, danced like we thought we were rock stars and did a little gambling. I didn't want to do too much since we still had a few additional nights left on the ship. All in all, day three was a pretty fun day.

Runners World Facebook Page made my day

Seeing this thumbnail on Runners World's Facebook page showcasing our medal collection truly made my day:
My best friend Keri's medal collection was also was featured. She has a coordinating wine glass for each of the medals in her collection. That's true Run for Wine dedication!

I may have to re-post my Gator photo next month when we receive these:

Running Both the Rock n Roll Half Marathon in St. Petersburg and the Rock n Roll Half Marathon in New Orleans will give us the below Rock Encore Medal! That's 6 additional medals to add to our collection within the next four weeks! I guess it's time to invest in a medal hanger.