Categories
Florida

Florida of the day: Bobcat goes shark hunting on Vero Beach

Headline: Damn, Florida nature, you scary! / Photo: Bobcat dragging a shark along a beach

Click the photo to see the Circle of Life at full size.

Definitely FloridaWhile going for an evening walk on Vero Beach, photographer John Bailey noticed a bobcat staring into the water. It was watching a shark in the shallows dining on some smaller fish.

You might think that the bobcat would’ve gone for some of the fish the shark didn’t get, but this is Florida, where no idea is a bad one, and where it’s almost the law that your reach should exceed your grasp in high-larious, newsworthy ways.

So the bobcat went for the shark instead…and won. It pounced on the shark, and pulled it onto dry land, where it became clear that it had caught a four-footer. That’s when Bailey snapped this photo.

Because Bailey is from Florida, he decided to get a better shot by moving closer to the hot killer-on-killer action. In the process, he scared off the bobcat, which suddenly let go of the shark and high-tailed it into the nearby woods.

It’s still less scary than Florida Zombie Cat.

Headline: Distance between me and Sharknivorous Florida Bobcat: JUST UNDER 3 HOURS / Image: Google Map showing route from Tampa to Vero Beach

Categories
Florida

At Tampa’s makerspace, The Hive: Creatives Alliance’s “ART:STORIES” featuring Monique Guggino, filmmaker and actress

art stories w monique guggino

On Tuesday, April 7th at 6:30 p.m. in the Tampa makerspace known as The Hive (located on the third floor of the John F. Germany Public Library in downtown Tampa), Tampa’s Creatives’ Alliance will host another event in its Art:Stories speaker series, and this one features my friend (and bridesmaid at my wedding) Monique Guggino!

wicked window productions

While most people are content to spend their evenings and weekends vegging out in front of a TV, computer, or mobile screen, Monique, her husband Gian, and a group of dedicated Tampa creatives are hard at work making dark, amusing movies under the banner of Wicked Window Productions. They all have day jobs, and there’s no money to be made, but I completely understand their drive to spend spare time making cool stuff.

Here’s a quick one: Wicked Window’s darker take on Alice in Wonderland…

Here’s a longer, more one: Psychman’s World, a paranormal parody of the ’90’s kids’ science show, Beakman’s World. I’m pretty impressed by how spot-on their version of Beakman is, from the set and gratuitous sound effects, right down to Gian’s eerie impression of the show’s host:

You can see more Wicked Window Productions works on their YouTube page.

Find out more about what’s happening with Monique’s films and in Tampa’s creative community and join us at The Hive on Tuesday, April 7th! Once again, it’s located on the third floor of the John F. Germany Public Library in downtown Tampa (900 N. Ashley Drive) and it starts at 6:30 p.m.. Here’s how Art:Stories events’ schedules go:

  • 6:30 – 7:00 p.m.: Networking and introductions
  • 7:15 – 8:15 p.m.: Speaker
  • 8:15 – 8:30 p.m.: Mix and mingle

Categories
Florida

Our excellent dinner at Edison: Food + Drink Lab

edison food drink lab

Anitra landed a new job, which in my books is the perfect excuse to celebrate with a night out featuring great food and drink. We decided to try a place we’ve never been to before: Edison: Food + Drink Lab, located on Kennedy Avenue in Tampa’s up-and-coming North Hyde Park neighborhood.

Edison’s chef and owner is Jeannie Pierola, the former chef at legendary Tampa steakhouse Bern’s and its spinoff fine-dining place SideBern’s (which has since closed and reopened under a new name, Haven). After leaving Bern’s and SideBern’s in 2007, she opened a series of pop-up kitchens that combined fine dining with playfulness, a theme that continues with Edison, where they seem to be very willing to combine ingredients in interesting and unusual ways.

The place was booked solid from 6:00 to 8:30, but through OpenTable, we were able to make a reservation for 5:30, which turned out to be a good time to book: early enough to beat the rush, but late enough that the restaurant was in full swing. Our waiter and the kitchen were very helpful with Anitra’s wheat/barley allergy, and it turned out that most of the dishes — the notable exception being desserts — could easily be altered to suit her. If you have to avoid gluten but still want fine dining, you’ll want to add Edison to your list.

And if you’re of the “bring on the gluten!” persuasion, you’ll still want to add Edison to your list. It’s that good.

Appetizers

We started out celebratory dinner by sharing a couple of appetizers, one cold, one hot:

appetizer 1

Click the photo to see it at full size.

Our cold appetizer was avocado leaf-seared yellowfin tuna. It was served with homestead green mango salad, fish sauce caramel, and tamarind peanut crunch, but what put it over the top was an aji amarillo sorbet. The sorbet was a mix of spicy, sour, and sweet, and it was perfect. I want sorbet pairings for all my food from now on.

appetizer 2

Click the photo to see it at full size.

The hot appetizer was the Edison take on Oysters Rockefeller. These came in a creamy butter sauce, and the kitchen substituted the traditional bread crumbs for almond flour crumbs, and then they kicked it up a notch by adding small cubes of their own homemade thick-sliced bacon. Such an dish called for bourbon, and speaking of which…

Opening cocktails

drink 1-2

Click the photo to see it at full size.

My starter cocktail was the Don’t Sweat da Technique. Based on an exclusive-to-Edison batch of Angel’s Envy bourbon and Avuá Amburana Cachaça, it was topped off with Carpano Bianco vermouth, Cynar Digestivo, Jack Rudy aromatic bitters, a very nice marinated cherry, and one of those giant artisanal cocktail ice cubes that I’m sure was made with panda tears and had a very precisely-calculated melting profile. It was Don Draper-worthy.

drink 1-1

Click the photo to see it at full size.

Anitra started with a Fire from Lima, which happens to the bar’s signature cocktail. A creation of bartender Ryan Pinés (pictured below), it starts with heavily cilatro-infused Fontana Pisco as its base, lime juice and jalapeño simple syrup for mix, and is topped with a froth made of egg whites.

Photo: Bartender Ryan Pines at the edison food + drink lab's bar serving a Fire from Lima.

Photo by Creative Loafing. Click the photo to see their article featuring Ryan Pinés and the Fire from Lima.

Our waiter made it a point to check up on us after the drinks arrived, and again after the appetizers showed up.

Mains

main 1

Click the photo to see it at full size.

For her main, Anitra had the duck confit. The duck was perfect: quite meaty and not as fatty or greasy as you might expect, and it was fork-tender — no knife needed. If you love duck, you must try this dish. If you don’t like duck, the way Edison does it just might change your mind.

The duck came with cooked greens, an excellent risotto, and the kicker: a strawberry-rhubarb sauce that added the right amount of sweet and sour to the dish.

main 2

Click the photo to see it at full size.

I was hungry, so I wanted something hearty. I went with the Moroccan veal tagine, which featured a fork-tender veal shank — the same cut you’d use for osso bucco — stewed in a rich, sweet and savory sauce with chickpeas and couscous and served with wilted greens and carrots in a deep dish. I’d gladly order this again, if it weren’t for everything else on the menu that I’d like to try on future visits.

Dinner cocktails

drink 2-1

Click the photo to see it at full size.

Anitra’s dinner cocktail was the Wisconsin Pride, made with Death’s Door vodka and Edison’s own Mexican cocoa. It was topped with foam made with Kringle Cream rum (which is made with Wisconsin cream, hence the cocktail’s name) and very thin almond slivers. Yes, it’s choco-licious, but not in a “chocolate choo-choo” way; it transcends the dismissive term “girl drink”.

drink 2-2

Click the photo to see it at full size.

My dinner cocktail was the Smashed Rickey, based on Martin Miller’s Westbourne Strength Gin and finished with basil, grapefruit juice, agave nectar, and Fever Tree Bitter Lemon Soda. It was a nice contrast, cutting through my meaty, saucy main.

Again, the waiter dropped by the table after we were served our mains to make sure everything was to our satisfaction.

Dessert

dessert

Click the photo to see it at full size.

We shared the one gluten-free dessert: a very nice cranberry sorbet. It was served on a bed of pistachios that were crushed so finely that we had to check with the waiter to make sure they hadn’t served us the sorbet on a bed of crumbled pastry by mistake. This was the only point of our evening when it took time to get out waiter’s attention, as the restaurant was at its busiest.

Verdict

edison dining room

I’m not surprised that Edison: Food + Drink Lab is considered to be in Tampa’s top ten restaurants. Here’s what the editors of Tampa Bay Times’ 2015 edition of Top 50 Restaurants in Tampa Bay (where Edison occupies the number three spot) have to say:

Settling into its third year, Jeannie Pierola’s Edison has found such a nice groove. The kitchen is dense with talent, from Allie Beasman who has been promoted to chef de cuisine, to pastry chef Erin Kelly (watch out for her new riff on milk and cookies using the anti-griddle). On the beverage side there’s bar manager Ryan Pinés who took the full bar (a late addition) from zero to 60 swiftly (and added house-bottled and barrel-aged cocktails) and new wine director Tyler Westlund, who has introduced wines on tap and will launch a fresh wine dinner series in Feb. Tampa-native Pierola is self-taught, with passion and curiosity that continually allows her to create mash-ups and juxtapositions that have to the power to shock as much as charm.

Both the food and drinks were excellent and interesting, and the service was quite good. The menu is really intriguing, and we want to go back and try different dishes and cocktails next time. Our waiter was helpful, and the kitchen was flexible enough to accommodate wheat-free dietary restrictions with the appetizers and mains; if they could be as flexible with dessert (not easy, I’ll admit), they’d be perfect.

Photo: Leather wallet, filled to bursting with US $20 bills.

The only real downside to Edison is that it’s not cheap — but hey, excellence rarely is — especially if you go there in full celebratory mode like we did. With two appetizers, two mains, two cocktails each, a shared dessert, and tip, the bill came to $200. While you might not want to drop that kind of bank every date night, if you’re in the Accordion Bay area and want to celebrate something special, I strongly recommend Edison: Food + Drink Lab as a venue for doing so. Special events call for special food and drink, and that’s Edison’s stock in trade.

Edison: Food + Drink Lab (edison-tampa.com), located at 912 West Kennedy Blvd., Tampa FL 33606. Open for lunch Monday through Friday from 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. and dinner Monday through Saturday from 5:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m.. You can book reservations at (813) 254-7111 or via OpenTable. You can also check out their Facebook page.

Categories
America Florida

I had no idea there was such a thing as cookie icing

Photo: A grocery shelf with a selection of several tubes of cookie icing.

Click the photo to see the sugary goodness at full size.

I snapped this photo at my local Publix. I suppose that these are for decorating or spelling out messages on those giant cookies, but I’m also sure that there are some people who buy these because cookies alone aren’t diabetes-inducing enough. You could also use these to liven up your next Catholic mass by icing those bland communion wafers.

Categories
Florida

How my day began

how i started my day

Click to see the life-giving elixir at full size.

Pretty nicely, I must say. The background is the view from my yard this morning; the foreground shows part of my complete breakfast.

In case you’re wondering, the cold brew mix that Trader Joe’s sells is pretty decent. Cut with water or milk, it makes a decent iced coffee, livens up a protein shake, and I’ll bet that it makes for some good mixed drinks and shots. At about $8, it lives in the cost-benefit middle ground between brewing your own and going to your local coffee shop.

Categories
Florida

The unofficial photos from Anitra and Joey’s wedding

anitra - joey wedding 01

The blog’s been quiet for the past couple of weeks, but I have a good excuse: I married Anitra on Saturday, March 7th, 2015, and the wedding and everything related have been keeping us busy. It’s been a week since the big day, we returned from our honeymoon yesterday, and we’re both back at work this morning after ten days well outside reality.

We won’t get to see the official wedding photographer photos for about another week, but that doesn’t mean that there aren’t any photos. I’ve compiled this “album” from pictures snapped by Yours Truly, best man Eldon Brown, “father” of the groom Dr. Domingo de la Fuente, bridesmaid Elizabeth Cannon-Dang, Rob Strickler, and guest and unofficial wedding cruise director Marichka Melnyk. Thanks for the photos, folks!

We had the big event at the Grand Plaza Hotel, which hosts its wedding ceremonies right on the beach:

grand plaza

Here’s an overhead view of their ceremony areas. There are two sets of palm tree “aisles” down which happy couples can march:

birds eye 1

Here’s a closer look at ours, the southwest-facing aisle:

birds eye 2

Here’s a scene from the wedding rehearsal, with Anitra’s uncle and our officiant, Rabbi John Fischer giving best man Eldon some instructions:

anitra - joey wedding rehearsal

Fast-forward a day to the next morning, and we’ve got Eldon giving me the traditional best man gift of booze, which in this case was a hard-to-find and very delicious Canadian whisky, served in the most appropriate vessels we could find:

drinks 01

And here I am with my father-in-law, who was greatly amused by the whole thing:

drinks 02

Male bonding:

drinks 03

We don’t buy into this “you can’t see the bride before the ceremony” nonsense. With a bride like this, I want to see her as often as possible!

anitra - joey wedding 05

Here we are from another angle:

anitra - joey wedding 05b

Time to head to the lobby, where our big event was already posted:

lobby sign

A quick gathering of Team Groom, featuring my mom, Yours Truly, and my groomsmen Eldon and Richard (who’s also my brother-in-law):

anitra - joey wedding 05d

I was ready to get the party started:

anitra - joey wedding 06

Here’s the last photo I snapped as a free man! It’s of my view of the “aisle” before I made my way to the front:

anitra - joey wedding 05c

And here’s my last walk as a free man:

anitra - joey wedding 05aa

I was raised Catholic, she was raised Protestant, the officiant’s a rabbi, and the ceremony combined Jewish and Filipino wedding traditions. Here’s a Jewish tradition, where the bride walks around the groom three times, in a process I call “circling your prey”:

anitra - joey wedding 05a

Post-ceremony parasol pix with the bridesmaids:

anitra - joey wedding 02

And now the bridesmaids and groomsmen:

anitra - joey wedding 03

Here’s the mandatory “Ocean’s Eleven” pic:

anitra - joey wedding 04

Here’s where we had the reception: the Presidential Ballroom, located on the Grand Plaza’s penthouse level:

ballroom 1

As my friend George put it, it’s a classic James Bond villain’s lair waiting to happen, and it’s also reminiscent of the reclusive billionaire’s hotel from Diamonds are Forever:

ballroom 2

ballroom 3

Here’s a closer look at the “sweetheart table”:

ballroom 4

A quick welcome to the guests before we all descended on brunch:

speech

Here we are at our Star Trek-like table, with me sitting at Mr. Sulu’s post, and Anitra as Chekov:

anitra - joey wedding 09

Of course there was some accordion playing:

anitra - joey wedding 10

Anitra looked amazing, but in my opinion, she always does:

anitra - joey wedding 07

love this photo:

anitra - joey wedding 08

Here’s the wedding “cake”:

cupcakes

At the end of the reception, a couple of hours before sunset…

sundown

…we made our way to Bongo’s Beach Bar, where we had the less formal, unofficial part of the day that stretched well into the night:

anitra - joey wedding 11

aftermath 2

anitra - joey wedding 12

anitra - joey wedding 13

anitra - joey wedding 14

Here’s a view from the bridal suite the next day:

suite view

Before we left, we went for the first of many walks on the beach as husband and wife:

beach next day anitra

beach next day joey

…and when we got to our car, we saw that one of the guests left us a geekily appropriate gift: a pair of twenty-sided fuzzy dice:

dice

Categories
Florida

Our wedding site, for the curious

wedding site 1

Now that the event has taken place and we’re husband and wife, I’ve opened up the Anitra and Joey wedding site to the public. It wasn’t all that hidden in the first place, since it lives at AnitraAndJoey.com.

It’s got all the details about where and when, plus a little background info about each of us and how we met:

joey met anitra

 

The location was the wonderful St. Pete Beach, located on a barrier island just off the coast of St. Petersburg, Florida, and the venue was the Grand Plaza Hotel, a striking building reminiscent of the Whyte House, the hotel owned by reclusive billionaire Willard Whyte from the James Bond film Diamonds are Forever. The wedding took place at 11 a.m. and was followed by a brunch reception, which in turn was followed by an after-party at Bongo’s, a bar right on the beach:

wedding site 2

wedding site 3

If you’re feeling particularly wacky or generous and have a couple of bucks to spare, our Honeymoon Fund is still open:

honeymoon fund

Also: if you’re thinking about having a wedding in the Tampa Bay area and want to know about my experiences talking to various vendors and venues, feel free to drop me a line at joey@joeydevilla.com.