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Bacon Wednesday Happy Hour. Need I Say More?

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No, I don't need to say more but I will anyway. And you'll be glad I did.

After a lovely evening enjoying Brews & Bites at The Sail Pavilion on the Riverwalk my libation loving friends, Crystal and John T. Fox, and I were looking for liquid delight.

Sidebar: Keep'n It Reel food truck is freaking awesome. I had grouper sliders and hand cut fries. The grouper was fresh, delicate with a nicely seasoned crispy crust and the fries were addictive. The sliders were offered with three sauce options but I went au naturale and squeezed a dash of Sriracha on top. I'm in love with this truck.

But back to my purpose for writing this post. Due to Crystal's brilliant researching skills and some very positive online comments we decided to check out Domani Bistro Lounge in Seminole Heights. Only open for about six months this place had a really nice vibe to it. Spacious, tasteful decor, warm and inviting, this joint is going to blow up.

We grabbed seats and began drooling over the menu options. Sadly, we arrived too late to dine but I am extremely excited and anxious to make a return visit. We were greeted by a very friendly and enthusiastic bartender (who come to find out after some Facebook stalking this morning is actually Owner / Proprieter Brian Bosco). It was his 30th birthday and our timing was lucky enough that we got to sing Happy Birthday to him. Passionate and funny, you can tell this guy loves what he does.

The drink menu is diverse and playful and the same could be said of the food menu. We ordered up and I couldn't help but ask about the infusions and magical elixirs noted at the bottom of the cocktail menu. Brian started rattling off an impressive list, much longer than we were expecting. He brought me a sample of the pineapple vodka, which is crazy dangerous being that it's so smooth, tastes exactly like pineapple juice and is still 80 proof. I also got to try the mango jalapeno vodka which only has three jalapenos per quart (I saw the proof) but has a hell of a kick. Spicy without being obnoxious, it had the fresh jalapeno flavor I crave. I would love to cook with it. Something light and shrimpy.

I'm going to wrap this up because I plan to revisit ASAP and post a full recap but in the meantime check out their website and Facebook page. You'll note why I titled this post Bacon Wednesday Happy Hour... because Domani has a BACON WEDNESDAY HAPPY HOUR. Most recently featuring a Spicy Caramel Bacon. You now know where to find me on Wednesday afternoons...

Below are shots of our drinks. I had a Moscow Mule served in a copper mug which made me deliriously happy. My pal, Crys, had a steaming mug of awesome made with salted caramel whiskey and had a cinnamon stick resting inside. John, quite the mixologist himself, was in heaven with his favorite gin. Good times, great conversation and excellent company.

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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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Acid. It's good for you.

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Acid. I'm currently obsessed with it. And I'm not talking the kind I dropped when I was seventeen and watched 'The Wall' for the first time. I'm talking the kind of acid that balances out a dish and makes you come back for more until every bite has been devoured. Currently my obsession is with lemon. Obvious, I know but it took me a long time to come 'round to the lemon. I've always been a lime-y kinda gal but lately I've been ramping up my fish intake, hence the newly found lemon fascination.

I've always sought out balance because it's muy importante not only in cooking but in life. So after decades of cooking to just now fully understand the potential of the precious little lemon is quite honestly disappointing. I should have grasped this concept much earlier but hey, you learn from your mistakes and move on, yeah?

Tonight I made crispy, skin on trout (because crispy fish skin is freaking fantastic and it's all about texture, y'all) in a lemon butter caper sauce alongside an herbacious salad with heirloom tomatoes dressed in a citrus vinaigrette. Citrus makes for a sexy dress. It was awful and I absolutely did NOT savor every single bite.

So, point is, kids, get your lemon on. You probably already know this but it's crazy versatile. A surprisingly delicious use that I'm all about is roasted asparagus with lemon zest and freshly grated nutmeg. Stole this recipe from Alton Brown, that foodie genius. The asparagus tips come out crispy while the stalks are still tender and juicy. The lemon zest and nutmeg balance each other out and give this fantastically simple dish depth. Fair warning: you will want to eat the stalks right out of the pan. All of them. Recipe can be found here at Food Network. Enjoy!

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It's My First Time

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So, here goes. The first official post of the blog I've been slacking on for... ever. This won't be a perfectly written blog nor will it be clean and pretty. What it will hopefully be is appetizing and entertaining.

Anyone who knows me is well aware of my passion for the culinary world. I love to cook, the kitchen is my happy place, restaurant menus turn me on (yes, I meant it that way) and I try and be as adventurous as possible when dining out. I'll taste anything once. I'll taste things more than once, such as mayonnaise, just to be sure. I've always loathed it and it seems I always will. Don't try and reason with me, "Oh, it's just eggs and oil". Suck it. I've given it a go numerous times and the love affair between mayo and me ain't gonna happen. But for the handful of items I detest, there really isn't much I won't eat. What do I adore, you ask? The pig, of course. Oh, the pig is indeed a magical and delicious creature. Its belly being my favorite protein. Pig belly in my belly makes me a happy girl. I also get down on some cheeks. Nearly any cheek cooked right is damn delicious. I myself have a healthy set of cheeks so if we're ever in a "you must eat your neighbor to survive" or "I've been waiting too long for a table" situation, you may feast upon on my cheeks and rejoice (preferably after I've died from starvation or frostbite).

To give you a little history, I had a super dysfunctional youth but meals were always what brought my family and I together. I may not have had the most nurturing family but I was definitely surrounded by excellent cooks and started cooking at a young age. I was then spoiled by having an extremely talented chef for an older brother who expanded my culinary knowledge and interest. I had my first bite of foie gras at age 20 (practically an old lady) at what used to be The Gaucho Room in Miami Beach, where my brother was sous chef. I had no clue what it was but I'm comfortable declaring it as my first foodie adventure. And while he had the honor of cooking a dinner at The James Beard House, I kicked his ass in the Great Lasagna Cookoff of 2001. I also was engaged to the most passionate chef I've ever met. He so loved what he did and we had many foodie adventures together, from Las Vegas to Puerto Rico and countless other locales. He is unfairly no longer with us but I will carry on and continue to cook, eat and travel in his memory.

I am currently based in the Tampa area where there is an awesome food scene growing, seemingly unbeknownst to the rest of the culinary world. There is such a diverse culture here living in a city bordered by farms and the Gulf that it totally makes sense. Right now is Tampa's time. We've got talented and passionate chefs, a food truck explosion, Cigar City Brewing is blowing minds and expanding with their tasting room and soon to be open gastropub (conveniently located three minutes from my work) and my favorite restaurant, Wimauma, now into their second year, is killing it. I've yet to leave sober, hungry or at a reasonable time. Check out Chef Gary Moran's Twitter. Seriously. Lastly, I have to give a huge shout out / thank you to the folks at Tasting Tampa who have been keeping me culinarily sane since my move from South Florida to Tampa. With all their adventures and 13th Step dinners they are shining a big fat spotlight upon the Tampa food scene. They also gave me my first writing opportunity which can be found on their site. Learn about them, stalk them, they're fabulous. Just don't take up one of my spots at their events. I will cut you.

So, to wrap this shit up because your attention span is surely waning, I love food. I love many things but I seriously love me some food. This blog will be mostly for writing about my adventures dining out as well as in the kitchen. I'm also getting into photography so I'll be posting shots that will hopefully make you want to lick your screen. In addition, I have a concert addiction, I love to travel, I'm an entertainment junkie (quality stuff, of course) and a lack of common sense in the world pisses me off so I may sometimes rant randomly about non-food related stuffs. Don't like it? Don't read it. Constructive criticism is always welcome and seeing as this is the internet I'm sure you nuts won't hold back. I do not work in the world of grub. My career is completely unrelated so keep that in mind when reading my posts. I'm no expert, just an avid fan. But you can always feel free to tell me to shut the hell up. Like right meow.

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