Safety Harbor’s Parts of Paris Bistro always a great dining experience

It was a very special night for us tonight.

We were almost giddy as we headed off to Safety Harbor to our favorite local restaurant – Parts of Paris Bistro. We first found “PoP” in December 2015 when a local friend and Safety Harbor resident told us she had had one of the best steaks ever.

A very unstuffy and quaint entrance on fourth avenue in Safety Harbor, with French and Floridian flags to greet visitors.

We fell in love with it the first time we visited. We’ve been for a Sunday brunch, or to pop in for a couple extra large hand-crafted martinis, and often for an amazing meal of steak, boullebaise, grouper or mussels.

When you find PoP, it feels as if you’ve discovered it yourself. However, they are known by many and they have been awarded the OpenTable Diner’s Choice award from 2012-2017 for five consecutive years and have been featured in many publications and dining guides.

Love the white table linens.

So tonight we were especially excited that we had gathered 10 loyalty cards since we first started dining with them, and were now to be awarded a free meal.

 

We have watched the bartenders make hand-crafted martinis at the bar, as they’ve explained it courteously in detail, but we just can’t replicate it. No matter where we go, what special liquors, fruits or garnishes we buy, we cannot duplicate their martinis.

The pear martini, just one of several specialty martinis they make here.

We were ready to order the steaks, which we always enjoy, and the owner came over to tell us to make sure we order two appetizers as well, as these were also included in our free meals.

My husband often gets the French onion soup and we usually get the chevre chaud salad that includes beets and walnuts, but the owner suggested charcuterie. We had had it several times before and loved it, so we decided to order it again. It has  different items each time, and this night featured several  types of country style pate, fois gras torchon, duck liver mousse, cured salmon and house pickles, as well as mustards. ($18).

I ordered the steak steak char-grilled filet with bearnaise sauce ($36). The steak just melted in my mouth. There is a choice of two sides which are always delicious: The green beans are heavenly but tonight they weren’t available. I was very pleased with my choices of  Lyonnaise pototoes and bacon and carrots

It may look like the sauce is smothering my steak, but it was a perfect amount for this very thick cut.

My husband ordered steak fritas, sliced New York strip steak with summer squash, bearnaise sauce and pommes fritas. ($29)

By now we were pretty full from the charcuterie but it was too delicious to stop.

We also had our choice of desserts which included:

  • plateau de dessert
  • les fromages
  • crepe Suzette
  • mousse au chocolat
  • creme brulee
  • baies et creme glacee (ice cream with berries)
  • truffe au chocolat
  • crepe nutella

Usually if we order dessert, we get the creme brulee and split it. Since I had made homemade strawberry ice cream this summer, I wanted to try their homemade glace, or ice cream, to see how mine compared. So we took them up on their offer and devilishly ordered two.

Surprise. We loved it.

We love the ambiance of this old refurbished 1936  bungalow, which somehow reminds you of a ship or a boat house. The artwork, maps of Paris and several Eiffel Towers are dotted throughout the cozy venue. I’ve tried to count the Eiffel Towers  but there are so many, and some of them are hidden or small, so it’s difficult to find them all.

One of my favorite things about Parts of Paris is the music, which always seems to soak through to the soul. Whether it’s jazz, Bosa Nova, French or Frank Sinatra, it always makes you feel like you Just Want To Stay.

For such a small venue, there are many secret niches. Along with the dining room and bar, there is a front patio with heaters in the winter and fans in the summer, as well as a patio furniture area for groups to hang out and chill. The dining room can get rather raucous sometimes, but I think they like it that way – like a big happy family with everyone enjoying their food and company.

From the very first time we visited – from a quiet low-key appetizer, to a birthday celebration – we have always enjoyed the impeccable service from each of the staff members. We love Jeff the bartender (who doesn’t!?) and Chris and Sonny are our favorite waiters. You will be delighted with any of the warm and welcoming staff.

Remember to make reservations as they can get very busy.

Bon appetite!

Jeff, John, me and Sonny

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.

 

Continue reading “Checking out the new Wyndham Grande Clearwater Beach”

Farmtable Kitchen at Locale Market impressive in both fare and decor

Farm Table Kitchen, located inside Locale Market at SunDial in St. Petersburg, FL.

I went for a business lunch recently and my  associate  suggested Farmtable Kitchen at Locale Market. I had heard about the market but I must have been sleeping under a rock for two years,  because I didn’t know about Farmtable Kitchen.

Continue reading “Farmtable Kitchen at Locale Market impressive in both fare and decor”

It’s Officially Summer as Tropical Smoothie Cafe Celebrates National Flip Flop Day June 16

Since I started working with marketing for the local Tampa Bay Tropical Smoothie Cafe team, one of my favorite times of year is mid-June.

That’s because  everyone gets rewarded for wearing flip flops! And in Florida, that’s a no-brainer.

Some flip flop gals in the St. Petersburg cafe in 2016.

Tropical Smoothie Cafe started celebrating National Flip Flop Day many years ago, and offers a free smoothie to customers on that day!

Customers wearing flip flops on June 16 from 2 p.m. – 7 p.m. at Tropical Smoothie Café receive free, limited edition Sunshine Smoothie in 20th anniversary souvenir cup.

 

“National Flip Flop Day creates a mini vacation from everyday life by encouraging customers to kick back and wear flip flops while enjoying a freshly made smoothie. Customers wearing flip flops into Tropical Smoothie Café between 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. will receive a free, limited edition Sunshine Smoothie in a 16-ounce, 20th anniversary souvenir cup. There are no strings — or in this case — shoe laces, attached.”

I decorated some of the tables in the Cafes with tropical colored plates, plants, tropical fruit and funny big sunglasses. 

 

 

 

 

Food, wine and friends around the table for Sunday Supper Movement

Due to my relationship with Sunday Supper Movement and the Food and Wine Conference, I was invited to attend a dinner and cocktails at Orlando’s Spanish Tapa Toro restaurant. All opinions are my own. 

Upon entering the Tapa Toro Spanish restaurant in Orlando, I feel like I stepped into a Barcelona restaurant.

From the Gaudi-inspired tile mosaics, to the bull-inspired chairs, to the music and Flamenco dancing. The elaborately prepared huge portion of Paella was amazing, the sangria and other cocktails delicious. Chef Wendy and staff were impeccable and worked so hard to keep all of us delighted with flavors.

 

The mosaic tiles reminded me of Gaudi artwork in Barcelona.

Refreshing Gingerbeer melon cocktails with mint awaited the guests.

 

The Little Lamb offers his and hers to make everyone happy

 We found a great meal at this new gastropub, The Little Lamb, which is  located right in my neighborhood.

There’s a friendly, low-key vibe but also many of surprises for the palate.

I’m amused by the difference in these “his and hers” choices we made: Mine – charcuterie and prosecco; his – burger and fries and beer.

Something for everyone!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Including dessert!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sarasota’s Cafe L’Europe an enlightening treat

Going to St. Armand’s Circle in Sarasota is always a treat. In December, the circle is lit up, the nights are cool and people are out in full force enjoying what the region has to offer.

I’ve been to Columbia, Shore and Venice restaurants, but had never been to Cafe L’Europe before .

What a treat! I had crusted mahi mahi and prosecco.

They also feature a gorgeous cocktail of the day, which they go to great lengths to make tasty, colorful and festive. They also post these on their Instagram account so you can follow along.

My favorite part was wandering through the different rooms (Um, maam? Your dinner is served) to see the gorgeous wrought iron and especially the very different chandeliers.