Saturday, July 02, 2005

Tampa Redux - Part II

When I last left off, I was sharing my experiences at DNAP's annual stockholder meeting. One thing to note, I had the distinction of not only being the only black person in the room but also the youngest. Everyone else in the meeting appeared to be in their mid-40s to late 70's. That's not to say that other young folks or even black folks aren't in the stock (well actually I recently hoodwinked a black friend of mine into the stock - funny, he's not really talking to me anymore....*LOL*). It's just that none of them decided to attend the meeting.

So moving on. After the meeting, my intention was to drive myself to a local Tampa Border's and basically get recommendations of places to eat and do things. I wound up somehow getting lost. I was also getting pretty hungry since I only had a couple muffins for breakfast earlier. I decided to stop at a Coney Island like place called Hi-Tide. Hi-Tide was a seafood eatery that serves among other seafood dishes, shrimp, scallops, catfish, etc. I ordered a combo dish from them and I have to say that it wasn't half bad. I guess I could've been hungry too.

I left Hi-Tide and managed to find my way to Border's. I spent the next three hours pouring through several Tampa guide books and also listening to various CDs. I wound up getting hooked on Amerie's latest offering. It was just this "one thing" about her hit single that I couldn't get out of my head. It was so addicting that I went to a local Wal-Mart the next day to pick up the CD for an insane $14.95 (that included tax). After that, I played the single enough times to ween it off my system. Can I get my $14.95 back? *LOL*. Funny aside, I paid for the CD with a $20 and was only supposed to get $5.05 in change back. The lady was about to give me $15.05 back. As tempting as it would've been to take it, I wouldn't have been feeling guilty the whole time, especially since she appeared to be a really nice lady. If she were an asshole, I might not have felt as guilty. Fortunately she caught herself just as I was about to correct her.

So back to earlier times...After Border's I drove to a city called Safety Harbor and checked in at their local resort and spa. I didn't actually try any of their spa activities and I wanted to cancel my reservations but unfortunately due to my recent credit card issues, I wasn't able to. The resort was OKAY. My room was large but it was mostly just empty space. The biggest issue was a fucked up toilet seat that wasn't screwed all the way. Getting to my room itself was practically a workout and one of the longer hallways reeked of "old stale carpet". Speaking of which, I did stick to my workouts and went to their "cardiovascular" and "weight" rooms, both adequately supplied.

The next few days consisted mainly of treating myself to numerous dinners at places recommended by some of the tourist books I picked up & checking out a few museums and malls (one of which I visited before in 2003). Nothing really exciting happened on the trip. Actually if anything did, I'd have to record it in a separate blog...*LOL*.

So here's the list of places I visited over the course of my 4-day trip:

Thursday night
Bracci Restaurant: This wasn't on the recommended list but like Hi-Tide, was a random drive-by. I was looking for something other than Wenchies (Wendy's) to dine at. The place was described by my friendly waiter Chris as a Bistro/bar hangout. The atmosphere was dark and dreamy, a perfect date place. When I arrived, they were just about to close the kitchen. Luckily the maitre'd was kind enough to seat me. He said he took pity of me because I looked hungry. (Probably lonely too...*LOL*) I ordered a pricey (my friend Eugene claimed moderately priced $19.95, tax and tip not included, though that doesn't pale to how much I spent on the last restaurant I went to, but I'm jumping ahead of myself) but very tasty alfredo bow-tie pasta dish w/shrimp and scallops. I wished they had given me more than six seafood pieces (3 shrimp/3 scallops) but other than that, it was a very tasty meal.

Friday - day and night
Skwyay Jack's: Like the Frommer's site linked states, it's the place Cracker Barrel wishes they were. I enjoyed my breakfast there and the wait staff was very friendly. I could tell they had a lot of regulars, which says a lot for a restaurant. I ordered some O.J. and for my breakfast ordered a pork and corn meal mash w/scrambled eggs and hash browns. It came with a corn muffin. Very delicious and for under $7 (not including tax and tip), was relatively economical.

Salvador Dali Museum: This museum, featuring primarily Salvador Dali paintings, hence the name, boasts to have over 55 oil paintings, 18 drawings, 13 watercolors, and 22 prints among its collection. Mr. Dali from what I read seemed to be a prolific yet troubled man who expressed himself through art. A lot of his painting were of sexual nature, some bordering on bestality. One painting was based on a greek myth where a woman is impregnated by a swan. If it's any consolation, the swan was really Zeus in disguise. Weird. Dali's wife appeared to serve as his muse since she was featured in several of his paintings as various mythical characters. I thought that was sweet. Admission was $13, though I wish I were a student as their admission was $5. But it was worth the $13. I even picked up a few postcards from their gift shop that I'll frame up. Eventually.

Museum of Fine Arts: After Salvador's, I drove over near St. Pete's Pier area & stumbled upon this museum. It was a nice enough museum & I couldn't beat the $5 admission price, even though I'm not a student. They had the typical museum displays, including several rooms with nice crystal pieces. I don't think it impressed me as much as Salvador's (probably because I'm not the biggest museum person and two in a day is daunting for me...*LOL*) but it was cool.

4th Street Shrimp Store: WARNING!!!! Lower the volume before checking out this website. According to Frommer's, it was recommended because of their reasonably priced dishes and their generous seafood portions. I looked for the most unusual thing on the menu, basically something that I would remember having, and decided on the Shrimp Hoagie. When it came out, I was impressed. Basically it was a bun filled with fried shrimp and tomatoes. Best thing, there were plenty of shrimp. Looks like Frommer was right. I've had much worse with my $5. I'd definitely recommend this place.

Columbia Restaurant: My words would provide absolutely no justice to the excellent food and service received at this restaurant. The picture on the website's Ybor City page pretty much describes its decor. It's a very nice place once again to take a date. I had for dinner Spain's national dish called paella. Basically they fry in a "paella" pan a healthy serving of rice, peas, peppers, asparagus, chicken, beef, and pork. You could also have seafood or other types of paella's. The dish takes 30 minutes to prepare and the server brings it out to you still in the pan and then they serve it to you on the plate, being sure to save the asparagus pieces as a garnish of sorts. The paella I ordered came along with a sample of red wine (I couldn't tell you which one as I'm not a wine person...*LOL*). The cost of this elaborate meal...$25. It was definitely worth the money and if I had to choose one place to revisit next time I'm in Florida, this is it. They deserve all the accolodes that they've gotten. I didn't think I'd have room for dessert but I couldn't leave there without trying something. I decided to order another famous Spanish dessert, their Natilla Espanola. It's described as a rich Spanish custard topped with cinnamon. Rich indeed. To top it off, they also have a separate room for their bar where they entertain you with various acts. Unfortunately I went too late to enjoy a show.

Saturday day and night
Frog Pond Restaurant: This place, located on the Florida coast city of Redington Beach, definitely is a crowd favorite. I drove to their restaurant for breakfast and was surprised by the crowd of people waiting for breakfast. I signed my name and waited for my "party of 1" table. Surprisingly my wait was less than 15 minutes (eating alone has its perks...*LOL*). Despite its froggy name, none of their numerous dishes in fact have any frog in it. The place, however, is adorned with every frog item you can think of. It was a "ribbit-ing" site (ha...I crack myself up sometimes). I was excited upon seeing an omelette containing mushrooms and krab. Notice I typed krab, not crab. Unfortunately when I asked my server, krab was in fact imitation crab, hence the spelling. I disappointly ordered their Frog Pond Quiche. That turned out to be a good choice as the quiche was to die for plus they gave a generous side of fruits alongside with it. I also got hash browns. It was a nice meal, though I don't know if it justifies the crazy crowds.

The Beach: When you're on the coast of Florida, what else is there to do. I didn't have any beach gear on me so I was content enough to walk along the coast and pick up seashells. The beach I was at wasn't crowded at all. The sun was beating mercilessly, though, and I wound up leaving after an hour, having my fill of sun and not wanting skin cancer. At least I can say I've been to the beach, something I haven't done in ages.

International Plaza: I spent the rest of the afternoon hanging out at this particular mall. I mostly did window shopping at Brookstone, Sharper Image (anyone know if their Ionic Breeze really provides cleaner air), Dillard's, and Fields among other places. It's a good place to waste time basically. *LOL*.

Crabby Bills: They had a location at one of their Radisson's. I had their Broiled Combination Platter, which consisted of fish, scallops, stuffed crab, and shrimp. It also included two sides. I ordered green beans and rice. It was adequate, though the service was pretty good, so I can't knock them too much. Plus the location had a nice ocean view, even though I had to endure some second hand smoke. That may have played into my views of the place...*LOL*.

Sunday day and night:
Jasmine Thai Restaurant: The place was just opening when I arrived for breakfast. The service was very good and I enjoyed the order of soft-shell crab curry. Very delicious and for $14, pretty reasonably priced. The order includes an egg roll and wonton soup. The restaurant is a bit cramped but they make good use of their space.

Tampa Bay Performing Arts Center: I went to their historical TBPAC to see a performance of CATS. It was my first time seeing a broadway performance in years (seeing Chicago the Movie doesn't count...*LOL*). I really enjoyed the performance. They put a lot of effort in design and acting. The one downer, kinda, a lady in the back couldn't stop talking at times about her love of CATS. It was cute at first, especially when she playfully scratched me as I took my seat and made a "CATS" joke, but it was a bit distracting during parts of the performance. On the subject of CATS, it was one of those shows that I wanted to see a long time ago but didn't get around to. I lucked out that CATS was playing at TBPAC during the time period I was in Florida. The one I went to was their 2nd to last performance in Tampa.

Bern's Steak House: This was my last major stop during my Florida visit. Very high class restaurant. Luckily since I was dressed up a bit from my earlier visit to TBPAC, I fit in, though once again, one was the loneliest number. A couple older ladies sitting at the next table besides me took pity on me and chatted for a few minutes before leaving. The waiter was very nice as well, though I forgot his name. This was the priciest of my excursions. For a starter, I ordered their Tasting of Three Soups, namely Vichysoisse (a cold soup containing caviar, truffle oil, and fried potato), French Onion, and Lobster Bisque. I loved the Bisque the best and wished I had ordered a bowl of that alone. The experience of having all three, the order I listed them was the same the waiter recommended, was great, though. For my main dish, I ordered their special of the night, Surf & Turf. The Surf was alaskan crab meat while the Turf was a 16 oz. New York Steak. That proved to be the most expensive dish at $45. It was pretty filling, though. I managed to save a little room for dessert, capping the evening with a $10 creme brulee. Yeah it was pricey as hell! My total bill came out to $96 (including a $23 tip...half of which, they automatically charged. I gave the extra $10 just because the waiter was very, very nice.) It was overall a very enjoyable evening and a perfect way to end my trip.

So concludes my trip to Tampa. I definitely enjoyed it.



Blogger Marz said...

EWWW AMERIE. But touch is my song. (" DOn't be afraid to touch, I know you think I'm a good girl". LOL)

DOesn't not taking the money from screw-ups make you feel like a good person. Like you were raised with morals?


WOW. That love for seafood is a tad outrageous. (LOL)


9:05 PM, February 18, 2006  

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