Loosen Your Belt – Dine Tampa Bay Coming Up in August

Oystercatchers Key Lime Pie courtesy of: Dine Tampa Bay’s – Tampa Bay Taste Bud Blog

Do you ever get intimidated by the daunting task of trying new restaurants around your town, knowing where to start in finding them, and most importantly what to order when you get there so you get a true taste what the chef is most proud of?

The Basics: Dine Tampa Bay is a two week event from August 3rd-17th that allows you the opportunity to visit over 100 of the bay area’s top award winning restaurants and enjoy a prix fixe, 3-course meal that includes some of their signature dishes.

Price: $25, $35, $45…you choose

It’s So Easy: The Dine Tampa Bay Website makes this adventure so much fun, and the over-organizer in you will definitely appreciate the user-friendly search criteria available. You can simply pick a price, choose a restaurant, and reserve your table…all online. Or you can even narrow things down by cuisine and neighborhood.

It’s easy to view the menus and a map for each restaurant. That will come in handy if you decide to sleep in your car and spend the two weeks trying every restaurant, needing to chart the most efficient course. That would be an admirable goal indeed!

Whether you enjoy one or all, let me know here or on Twitter where you went and what your thoughts are!

Here are Sample Listings from 3 of My Favorites:

The Melting Pot of Tampa

The Melting Pot of Tampa

13164 N Dale Mabry Hwy., Tampa, FL, 33618

(813) 962-6936 | Website  $25

I used to live on Melting Pot fondue when up in Ocala, but Tampa is where it all started! Includes a salad course, 3 choices of meat fondue, and your choice of chocolate fondue including my favorite the Flaming Turtle.  Menu

Cassis American Brasserie

Cassis American Brasserie

170 Beach Drive NE, St. Petersburg, Florida, 33701

727-827-2927 | Website  $35

Cassis American Brasserie serves up “Continental Comfort Cuisine” in a vibrant, friendly atmosphere. Chef, Jeremy Duclut, revisits American classics with an innovative twist, and flavors his cuisine with subtle elements from his traditional French training. Since I lived nearby the town in Provence that is the namesake for this restaurant, I had to include it. All of their food is simple yet unique…I’m looking forward to starting with the cantaloupe soup with crispy Prosciutto de Parma. Menu

Oystercatchers

Oystercatchers

2900 Bayport Dr., Tampa, FL, 33761

(813) 207-6815 | Website  $45

Oystercatchers is located on the shores of the Grand Hyatt Tampa Bay and has one of the best brunches in town and is where we had our engagement party! For this package though, I would suggest the fresh catch blackened with one of their signature sauces like a fruit chutney, and don’t forget to finish it off with one of the best Key Lime pies in Tampa. Menu

Question: Which Dine Tampa restaurants would you like to try?

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For the latest commentary on business, culture, food, travel, and great deals in Tampa, Atlanta, and anywhere in between, as well as some of my own personal banter, please follow me on Twitter.

Question: How do you utilize Twitter to update your blog readers?

Get Rid of Gridlock? Part 2 – Case Study Tampa

courtesy of Beltline.org

On July 31st, Atlantans will vote on the Atlanta Beltline and Transportation Referendum mentioned in Part 1 of my post Get Rid of Gridlock. We struck down a similar measure in Tampa/Hillsborough County over a year ago. There are many who criticize Tampa residents for not being forward thinking and not caring about mass-transit. I’m not one of those, I think everyone in Florida realizes how useful a regional transit system would be, they just want it to make common sense first and be done right. Here are four reasons in my opinion why the pitch for a tax might work in Atlanta and didn’t work for Tampa:

1) The BeltLine is truly visionary, they have done a great job with videos, renderings, and maps communicating what the BeltLine will be. Progress is already being made. They are turning vacant land into parks along the BeltLine so people can begin to imagine the possibilities. Runners are already having races along the BeltLine. The project is also very innovative, and a fascinating reuse of existing infrastructure that yearns for revitalization.

2) As mentioned above, Atlanta has been able to collaborate across 10 counties to come up with a plan and a referendum. The Tampa Bay Area has not been able to do that, with authorities in every county butting heads against each other and regional authorities that couldn’t get consensus from the counties. On Hillsborough County alone there were at least 4 groups involved in the lobbying for the tax and they did a pathetic job of creating one coherent vision with one common set of renderings/maps. And that was just Hillsborough County.

3) Atlanta already has the experience of MARTA and its citizens rally around mass-transit in theory especially due to Atlanta traffic. Atlanta sees the future and wants to grasp it. It is part of the culture. There seems to be less of a concern for frivolous spending in Atlanta and more of a sense of trust in local government and public/private partnerships. Recently, local media and government cracked down on the spending/accounting of the BeltLine team before anything egregious happened. All parties are working together on transparency, and that will be critical.

4) None of the plans for light rail in Tampa Bay made any sense financially, although no public transportation plans ever really do in terms of dollars and cents. The value of course are in the long term intangible benefits for future development and economic growth that can only be estimated, and in my opinion this was not done effectively by the agencies involved in Hillsborough County.

I think Tampa has a lot to learn from cities like Atlanta about collaboration, innovation, and planning. In this case though, I think the team in Atlanta could learn some good lessons from what did not work here in Tampa.

Question: What else is holding Tampa back?

Get Rid of Gridlock? Part 1

Atlanta Beltline – courtesy of BeltLine.org

Sound familiar Tampa? In just 11 days, Atlanta will be voting on a public transportation referendum that proposes a regional 1% sales tax across 10 counties. This sounds similar to the recent Hillsborough county tax referendum that we voted down last year…or does it?

The Atlanta BeltLine is the 1999 brainchild of Georgia Institute of Technology graduate student Ryan Gravel from his master’s thesis, a plan for a 22-mile loop that would connect 45 historic Atlanta neighborhoods, promoting in each greater access to mass transit, public parks and recreational trails. Much of the BeltLine makes use of abandoned track from previous local railroads. Ambitious in its scope, the BeltLine project hopes to grow the local economy by $20 billion dollars, create some 30,000 jobs, reclaim 1,100 acres of brownfields, and develop more than 5,000 affordable housing units for working families over the next 25 years. For more information, check out the BeltLine Tour or Maps of the Project.

Here is a video from the Referendum website from the BeltLine as well as a brochure from the Opposition so you can make an informed vote. According to the Beltline website, if the referendum passes, it would build roughly five miles of new transit on the east and west sides of Atlanta BeltLine and another five miles across midtown and downtown on city streets, connecting to MARTA rail in three locations. It would also connect transit to the existing West End Trail and run transit alongside the Eastside Trail, now under construction.

Question: What are your concerns about the Atlanta BeltLine Referendum?

Atlanta Chef Joe Rego on Chopped

Joe Rego of Opera, courtesy of Atlanta Eater

The Executive Chef of Opera, Joe Rego, formerly of South City Kitchen, Sotto SottoFritti, and Allegro, will be featured tomorrow in the Food Network show Chopped . According to EaterWire author Carly Cooper, Joe explained that “it was a very intense competition, and hopefully I will make Atlanta proud. However, after the competition airs, nothing will change the way I cook or work in Atlanta. It just inspires me to do better in my culinary profession. It’s a learning process every day.”

I really enjoyed Joe’s work at South City Kitchen and look forward to going dancing at Opera sometime soon…remember the days as 1150, but first let’s see the showdown on Chopped. I find it to be the most respectable cooking challenge on TV these days.

Question: What’s your favorite cooking show these days?

Keep Your Shoes On

Airside C Terminal at Tampa International Airp...

Airside C Terminal at Tampa International Airport (Wikipedia)

As anyone who has traveled through Tampa Airport knows, it is one of the top ranked airports in the entire world. Anyone who has traveled through Atlanta Hartsfield knows that it has the most domestic flights. The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) announced earlier this week that Tampa International Airport will now join Hartsfield as one of the 18 airports that has implemented TSA Pre✓™, a passenger prescreening initiative, used to make frequent travelers’ lives easier and focus resources on the travelers that the agency is much less familiar with. In Tampa, select Delta Air Lines frequent flyers and members of U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Trusted Traveler programs are now eligible to participate in the initiative when traveling domestically. Airlines currently participating in other airports include Alaska Airlines, American Airlines, Delta Air Lines, United Airlines, and US Airways.

According to TSA, “if TSA determines a passenger qualifies for TSA Pre✓™, information is embedded in the barcode on the passenger’s boarding pass. TSA reads the barcode at the designated checkpoint, and the passenger may be referred to the TSA Pre✓™ lane to undergo expedited screening, which could include being able to leave on shoes, light outerwear and belts, and allowing laptops and 3-1-1 compliant liquids/gels bags to remain inside carry-on baggage.” That said, TSA always incorporates random and unpredictable security measures throughout the airport and no passenger is guaranteed expedited screening.

To learn more, and sign up for the program, check out the TSA Website. I love the Tampa Airport Facebook Page!

Question: Will this initiative be valuable to you? What are some innovative ways they can make occasional travelers’ trips through the security lines even smoother?

A Wing Challenge You Could Die For

Back in high school we used to run out to Hooters during lunch time and order 50 wings, take them back to school, and then race to see who could eat the most before the bell for class rang. Here might be a Tampa food eating challenge that rivals that one for indigestion!

I love wings! I like them with just about any sauce. Grilled and Fried naked are my favorite…the more well done the better. Well not far from where I grew up and located on Bell Lake, is Rapscallions, a neighborhood restaurant and bar that features the Davy Jones Wings Challenge. For only $12.99 you get wings doused in their original Black Beard’s Revenge hot sauce, featured on the Travel Channel‘s Man vs. Food show. You even have to sign a waiver beforehand and have to be 18 or older. You eat the wings in 30 minutes or less and you can’t water it down with any other food or drinks. You then get to sit for 5 minutes and savor the pain before being awarded with your picture on their Wall of Fame. I’ll be honest, you don’t go here for the atmosphere just to make history and meet nice folks.

No chance I’ll ever be trying this, but it is nice to dream big! I still remember enjoying the original Buffalo wings at Anchor Bar in Buffalo, NY near where my grandfather was born.

Rapscallions
4422 Land O’ Lakes Blvd
Land O’ Lakes, FL 34639
(813) 235-6511

Question: What is your favorite wing place? How do you like them?

Here is a video of a guy taking his best shot at Rapscallions:


Something Worth Fighting For

On this 4th of July, we all celebrate the bold and courageous step our founders made in declaring independence from Britain. Liberty was at stake, but after the start of the Revolutionary War so were property, lives, and even states. Have you ever thought how just one battle or turn of events could have changed the course of history and even the physical shape of our country? You may not be aware of the battles for Georgia and even Florida during the Revolution. Below is a brief history.

Georgia

In the early days of the war, Savannah and Augusta were easy targets for the Loyalists to hold for the British and defend. But Elijah Clarke reformed his brigade in the Spring of 1781 and joined with a group of South Carolina militia under the command of Micajah Williamson as he was obsessed with the idea of freeing Augusta. Augusta was an outpost connected to Savannah by the 80 mile River Road. On May 20, 1781, Clarke and Williamson got welcome support from General Andrew Pickens, in command of a group of South Carolina militia and Lieutenant Colonel Henry “Light Horse Harry” Lee, who had learned tactical cavalry support under Casimir Pulaski. A second group of Continentals, under the new Commander of the Southern Department Nathanael Greene was laying siege to Ninety Six not far from Augusta. Clarke and the other Georgia commanders were greatly relieved at Lee’s arrival. On May 21, Lee and Pickens raid Fort Galphinton on Silver Bluff, securing a significant amount of British stores including munitions.On May 25 they took Fort Grierson, and on June 5 the patriots secured Augusta. Grierson, who had been so abusive to the upcountry Whigs, was killed after the surrender of the city.

By July 3rd, 1781 (notice the date) almost every outpost along the Savannah River had been abandoned by the British allowing Georgia colonialists to regain most of their lost territory. Enter General Anthony Wayne, widely regarded as one of the best American generals during the Revolution, who after a supporting role in Cornwalis’ surrender at Yorktown Wayne headed south to assist the patriots of Georgia. Although outnumbered two to one, Wayne soundly defeated his British opponents in Georgia, culminating what was one of the most brilliant campaigns of the Revolution.

Florida

In September of 1779 the Spanish, who had joined the war on the American side, retook British West Florida. There were three engagements though between Americans and the British and Tories near today’s Jacksonville. The Battle of Thomas Creek, the Skirmish of Alligator Creek, and the Tories of Cow Ford.

In Cow Ford, my apparently 4th great grand uncle Captain William Cone, of the Richmond County Militia of Georgia, gathered a party of men in 1781 and drove the Tories back into Florida after they advanced into Georgia. But then Captain Cone, William Williams, and two of his men were captured by the British and imprisoned in the fort Castillo de San Marcos in St. Augustine. In 1783, Captain Cone and his men managed to escape. For his work in driving the Tories back into Florida, Captain Cone and his men were granted 200 acres of confiscated land on the south side of the Great Ogeechee River in northeastern Georgia.

English: Photo of the Castillo de San Marcos f...

Photo of the Castillo de San Marcos fort in St. Augustine, Florida, USA. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

After the loss of Savannah the Spanish walked into St. Augustine and claimed the city with little resistance from the British. February, 1783, marked the official cession of hostilities and on September 3, 1783 the Treaty of Paris was signed, ending the Revolution. The 13 colonies had defeated the most powerful nation in the world.

If you are interested in learning more about battles in Georgia and skirmishes in Florida here is where I found the information excerpted above. Thanks to Randy Golden and the Florida Society of the Sons of the American Revolution.

I also want to thank my other ancestors who were Revolutionary War Veterans for helping our founders achieve our liberty and all those veterans who have preserved it since. May God Bless America! Happy 4th of July.

Joy in Both Places

Joy in Both Places

Now I can listen to my favorite Christian music station in both Tampa and Atlanta. Check out their perfect combination of inspirational music, celebrity interviews, upbeat morning show with Dave, Bill, and Carmen, and evenings with JR. I highly suggest it! Don’t live in Tampa or Atlanta, listen online at http://www.thejoyfm.com

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Tea Party Time

English: The Supreme Court of the United State...

The Supreme Court of the United States.

The Gadsden flag

The Gadsden flag (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Scratching your head over today’s decision by the Supreme Court to uphold the healthcare law because it is in fact a tax?

Were you kind of looking forward to breathing that big sigh of relief when the healthcare law would be deemed unconstitutional and Congress could go back to the drawing board?

Did you originally like some of the elements you heard about when the law was first passed, but since then decide that our government had way overreached and that maybe you were witnessing the creation of a government behemoth that might just start taking away your liberty under the pretense of helping those less fortunate?

I suspect that a lot of people feel this way, and that we are going to witness the re-awakening of a sleeping giant called the Tea Party that never really went anywhere. For your information here is a list of Tea Party Organizations in our fine cities:

Tampa 

The Tampa Tea Party – website or Facebook

Tampa 9-12 – website or Facebook

Tea Party Express – website

Atlanta

Atlanta Tea Party Patriots – Facebook

Atlanta Tea Party – website

Southern Belle Politics – blog

South Atlanta Tea Party – website or Facebook

Question: Do you think the Tea Party has been effective in creating a positive dialogue that did not previously exist?