A fresh take on white linen dining at Armani’s in Tampa Bay

Due to my relationship with Tampa Bay Bloggers, I was invited to Armani’s to try their new Happy Hour, where they shared several menu and cocktail options with us. All opinions are my own.

In Tampa Bay we are blessed with a never-ending roster of restaurants from the beaches to Ybor City to South Tampa. When most people think of a restaurant in Tampa, they think of Bern’s, but most people who live here know that one of the best special occasion restaurants is Armani’s, located atop the Grand Hyatt Tampa Bay.

It is perhaps one of the top three restaurants one thinks of when they think of anniversaries or other special events. The restaurant, known for its Northern Italian cuisine and floor to ceiling windows with amazing views, has been awarded 4 Diamonds award for many years.

So I was pleased to find that they are extending their hours to include a happy hour with reduced cocktail prices and a more extensive appetizer menu.

Last week several of the Tampa Bay Bloggers and I were treated to an array of their offerings, and it was certainly a treat.

The very polite and professional waiters offered us a choice of several cocktails, including the Terrace Mule (similar to a Moscow Mule, but named after their amazing terrace and view) a peach martini. They also have several wines available on the happy hour list as well.

I have to admit Plate Girl can be a snob about these things, and I really appreciate nice dishes, heavy silverware and the glasses or crystal that restaurants use. So I was delighted to be served in the Terrace Mule in cut crystal glass. But it is Armani’s, so one wouldn’t really expect less.

Plate Girl also likes tablecloths at restaurants, and Armani’s is the epitome of a white-tablecloth restaurant. There is elegance everywhere, but at the same time, a welcoming atmosphere and friendly staff.

We were lucky to have general manager Michael help with the serving and explain the different entrees.

Armani’s is known for its antipasto, and they even have an antipasto bar from which guests can select from 45 items. Our antipastos included shrimp, baby clams, carpaccio, olives, roasted garlic and more. One can make a meal of this.

After this we were served Bison Carpaccio ($9) with truffled yolk frivolezza, pickled red onion, smoked sea salt and crostini. The carpaccio was sliced ever so thinly and practically melted in your mouth. I would definitely order this on my own.

Next served were the crispy pork belly ($10), lamb ragu tortellini ($11) and grilled and chilled octopus. ($10)

Of course, Plate Girl loved that they were served on different specialty plates, one even looking as if it were made of slate.  Taking the time to pair a special serving dish with the food almost brings a tear to Plate Girl’s eye. That’s the type of attention Armani’s pays to details.

The crispy pork belly is served with course ground white polenta and marinated local tomatoes. It was indeed crispy on top, which made it extra delicious. I had to go in for a second helping.

 

The lamb ragu tortellini was made with herbed caprino fresco cheese and lamb essence. I liked the tortellini but for some reason I’m not a fan of lamb. To be fair, the other bloggers really enjoyed it, so it was probably just me.

The grilled and chilled octopus was made with garlic-milk braised fennel puree, carrot top pesto and prosciutto vinaigrette. I have had octopus at least a handful of times in my life (starting at age 12) but I have to say seeing the tentacles is always a bit off-putting. Bravely, I told myself I would at least try it. And… it was delicious! The grilling gave it sort of a smoky flavor I really enjoyed. I admit again I went in for seconds and thirds.

After the long process of each of us photographing the food, and slightly less long process of us eating the food, we all went out to the terrace to enjoy the sunset. The terrace is expansive and gives a view to the east, where one can see planes arriving and departing from Tampa International Airport, the south – where one can see the boardwalk among mangroves of the Grand Hyatt property, leading to Oyster Catchers restaurant and the pool area as well as a wonderful panoramic view of Tampa Bay. Looking to the west toward the beaches, once can see the sunset on the horizon.

The terrace is large enough so that visitors can stroll from east to west side to get two very different but both amazing views. There is plenty of seating, as well as prime outdoor couches with a fire pit.

 

Since attending, I have to admit I’ve been trying to tell most of my friends they need to go, my networking groups they need to have events there, and my husband that he needs to take me again. Generously, Armani’s included at 25% off card for my next visit, so I think that will be happening quite soon.

 

Checking out the new Wyndham Grande Clearwater Beach

As a member of Working Women Tampa Bay, I was invited to the new Wyndham Grande Clearwater Beach on a weekday evening to tour the Pallavi Spa.

Located just north of the Hyatt Clearwater Beach, the resort opened late last year. Rooms seem to run about $228 a night during July.

Of course I had to explore other parts of the hotel too, including the pool and the restaurant, Ocean Hai.

The entrance:

As soon as you pull into the drive, you step up several steps to see this:

And believe me, you feel like you’ve reached nirvana.

 

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A peek into Waldorf Astoria Orlando

Although my main passion is tablescapes and entertaining, I also like to share my travels to hotels and restaurants, and share elegant surroundings.

Recently I visited Orlando, which is only two hours away from Tampa Bay , and stayed at the Hilton Bonnet Creek resort. The hotel is connected by the conference venue to the Waldorf Astoria Orlando. They each have their own pools and restaurants, but guests are free to use any of them.

I’m so glad I took the time to wander over to the Waldorf, which I had never stayed in. After strolling the long marble hallways, we turned to find a lovely tuxedoed waiter  in tails and a large silver platter of champagne flutes.
  Ahhhh, heaven.

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Hilton Bonnet Creek Pool, Bar the Best Parts

I had the opportunity to attend a conference this past weekend at the Hilton Bonnet Creek resort in Orlando.

My view from my window was amazing, overlooking the expansive lazy river and golf course.

The conference was filled with great speakers, informative classes, a chock-full expo and lots of networking, but I was glad I had the chance to sneak out in the late afternoon of the second day to cool off in this great pool.

lazy river window

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Hyatt Sarasota provides sunny and tropical December getaway

Living in Florida means we get to enjoy hotels and venues like the Sarasota Hyatt. It also means we get to enjoy them in the middle of December for a quick vacation.

Situated in the middle of town close to the marina, the hotel is easy to get to and check in to. The lobby was decked to the hill in hot pink and lime green — eeeh!! I just loved it.

The pool area is an oasis, and although there are high towers on two sides, the palm trees are lush, full and the focal point of the area.

The staff at the pool bar were most friendly, and they offer a large Hurricane Category 5 cocktail that is very good and lives up to it’s name. We had burgers here too and thoroughly enjoyed ourselves.

The hot tub next to a large rock structure and waterfall really helped us to get away from it all.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Having a quiet breakfast inside, we overlooked the sunny pool patio. The linens were just beautiful, made by French company Garnier-Thierbaut. I tried to buy some, but they apologized and said they weren’t for sale. Luckily, I was able to find the linen company online easily.

I’m looking forward to returning to this hotel and enjoying a sunny getaway.