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The Cocktail Countdown

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I ate mayo. Yup, you read that right. I ate mayo and I didn't even complain. That is the level of my dedication to trying anything (within reason of course).

So, The Cocktail Countdown presented by Tasting Tampa. January 19th. Five restaurants. Ten specialty cocktails paired with tasty nibbles. Tampa Bay Brew Bus chauffeuring us through the streets of Tampa. Magical? Hilarious? Scrumdiddlyumptious? You bet your sweet ass it was.

Before I get started let me share some things. I've been to quite a few Tasting Tampa events (they're probably sick of me, to be honest) but no two events are the same. Each is a new adventure. You meet the most amazing people who truly appreciate all the creativity and hard work that goes into these events. Which is why I love the restaurants that participate. Most don't need the extra PR nor do they financially benefit but they do it for the love of food and sharing their craft with those who'll be grateful. Once again, thanks to Tasting Tampa for bringing us all together.

But I digress. Back to the countdown...

Hold up, I need to preface the rest of this post by stating what should be obvious. What's to follow could also be a small study on the effects of alcohol. My clarity will absolutely diminish by the end. You tell me how many notes you're taking whilst drinking your ninth cocktail. To sum up, I'm going to keep this simple so please enjoy the pics and brief descriptions I'm able to provide. Moving on.

We began on the patio at Pelagia Trattoria. If you haven't been you are seriously missing out. It was beautiful outside, breezy and a great start to the afternoon. That's right y'all. Day drinking. This party started at 2pm. My introduction to Tasting Tampa was a 13th Step dinner at Pelagia Trattoria so it was quite fitting to start here. Not only that, I sat next to a couple I met at that very dinner. I adore them and we've stayed in touch. I could tell it was going to be a good day. On to the food and drink!

Self-infused Honey Jack with house made ginger ale and fresh lime paired with a BLT Bite. The drink was my favorite of the day. Refreshing with a kick. The bite was an heirloom tomato filled with bacon and mayo served on an arugula pesto made with arugula fresh from Pelagia's garden. The bacony goodness, ripe tomato and fresh arugula made me forget all about that evil mayo.

The Pelagia Equinox (go for the house infused grappas, stay for the food) and duck breast with golden quinoa and a blueberry reduction. There's more to that duck dish but I haven't perfected my shorthand. The drink was a bit on the sweet side for me but combined with the duck it was perfection. Easily my favorite pairing of the day.

We left the fabulous Pelagia and strolled up the stairs to Zen Bistro. I've done my time (and sake bombs) at the Westchase location but hadn't been to the International Plaza spot. We loaded in and took over the place.

The drink was Buddha's Hand served with Angry Hamachi and Supersonic Spicy. The rolls were awesome. I was happily familiar with the Spicy and the seared Hamachi with the fresh jalapeno was so tasty and textural. As for the cocktail, I enjoyed the muddled blueberries.

Next up was Vietnamese Meatloaf (more like meatball) on Prawn Chips. I'm half Vietnamese so I won't say much about this dish. There was flavor. I'll never turn down a meatball and I love me some prawn chips. I will say that it was a little hard to eat. I never quite caught the name of the drink but it had vanilla vodka, chocolate bitters, Cointreau and orange juice. It was an odd pairing but I enjoyed it on its own. For some bizarre reason it reminded of a Vietnamese iced coffee. I have no idea why.

Time to roll! Who doesn't love getting on a luxury bus and being offered beer or water? I chose one of each. I was in it for the long haul.

On to Ciro's Speakeasy and Supper Club. Sexy and intimately lit, I was seriously rethinking bringing a female friend. I'll be back... if I can get the password.

Oysters and a Russian Spring Punch. I could have eaten a platter of these oysters and would have had they let me. They actually placed a plate of four down then rescinded when they realized we were only two at the table. Lesson here folks is when someone gives you oysters you eat them and eat them quickly.

Beef Tartare and a fantastic drink that I do not know the name of. It was strong, delicious and I drank both and let my friend finish the Russian Spring Punch (not that it wasn't good). If any of my fellow Countdowners can offer up some details please comment.

We're going to Datz, baby!

I love Datz. And not just because they were nice enough to provide us with menus. I love Datz because when I moved to Tampa from South Florida two years ago I was searching and hoping for some interesting restaurants. I went to Datz, had some Duck Sliders with Duck Bacon and Caramelized Onions and I knew life would be okay. It's been on ongoing love story for too many reasons to bring up right now.

A playful and tasty mimosa. But I truly hate to say that the ceviche wasn't up to my table's standards. We were tough critics, ceviche aficionados, if you will, so we were a bit underwhelmed. It hurts to say that but I've gotta be honest. Another factor is that our collective love of Datz had our expectations sky high.

If you cannot appreciate a cocktail called Honey Badger then you are the opposite of Batman. It was served with Smoked Pork Satay.

Back on the bus. We're all buzzed. I claimed the last beer. BOOM! We're going to Grille One Sixteen South Tampa.

Once again intimately lit but this place is beautiful. I loved the ambiance and wasn't even cranky that they were pitting my drunkenness against my limited photography skills. I have no idea what the drink was, something to do with lavender and we had some Tuna Tartare. Honestly, we were served the dessert first but when we got a hold of this we didn't even care. It was worth the wait. I vaguely recall the cocktail being tasty as well but I won't even pretend that I know. I actually don't know which cocktail went with what. Let me just stop and say that I'm a very responsible drinker but I was having such a great time that note taking went out the window.

What is this drink? I don't know. But that's a house made doughnut. And that rind has a tongue-like quality to it.

The Brew Bus brought us safely back to our origination point. To say that it was an interesting ride back would be an understatement. It was hilarious. And if you didn't believe me about the amazing people you meet here's a story for you. A Countdowner gave another his watch. That's right. Gave it to him. He admired it (as did I, which is how I learned the story) so he GAVE it to him. Wow.

All that in roughly four hours. We ended the day with hugs and intoxicated affection. And I couldn't be more grateful to have been a part of it. See you all next time?

(I may have enjoyed some drinks while writing this so as to provide some accuracy... or something like that.)

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