Bartaco – Hyde Park, Tampa

Bartaco Logo

I was invited to a special blogger night at Hyde Park Village, and was glad to be able to stop into Bartaco which opened recently.

Bartaco Menu + Happy Hour

Bartaco serves everything tapas style, so each taco is 3-4 bites. With my “dietary needs” our server was very helpful to give me a few suggestions to try.

Bartaco - Drinks!

Drinks – I had the pink drink named Cecilia, a take on the margarita with guava.

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Everything comes out as its done. First up was the black bean salad, spicy cucumber salad and mushroom mole tamale. This was my first ever tamale (!) and I loved it. I’ll be ordering it again. (Isn’t it funny how less photogentic foods often taste the best?)

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I ordered two of the cauliflower tacos. The tacos are unexpensive and two with a tamale was plenty. I like places I can go and try a few different things and not be over ordering. Also three hot sauces – get on that habanero!

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I’m looking forward to coming back and sitting outside with friends. I’ve already read some reviews and want to try the plantains and veganize the falafel. Lets meet up.

Gasparilla Music Festival – March 10th 2012 – Downtown Tampa

http://www.gasparillamusicfestival.com/

I had the amazing opportunity to volunteer and attend the Gasparilla Music Festival this past weekend.

A few weeks beforehand I decided to sign up to volunteer since in my experience I get more out of an event if I’m apart of it, and it’s a great way to meet some new local people. The Thursday before the Festival I met up for the Box Office training. The first thing I noticed was that the people organizing this event were ORGANIZED. After volunteering at quite a few local events, I always feel like that’s one thing that is always lacking.

The next thing that completely took me back is the Gasparilla Music Festival is a Non-Profit 501c. Their mission is to create a sustainable community event for the Tampa Bay region while promoting arts education and benefiting local organizations and businesses. —  Yes, yes, yes! Supporting the Tampa community!

I arrived around 2PM. My shift started at 3, but I wanted to check-in, grab a beer, wander around & change into my volunteer shirt. The morning had started pretty rough, it was dreary and overcast. By the time I got there, things really had cleared up. The sun was shining and people were coming in by the droves!

The Festival had so much great food that really focused on what Tampa has to offer. Each local restaurant focused on one or two items, which was nice! It gave festival-goers the option to try lots of things.

The Festival had three stages. Two main stages, one in Curtis Hixon, and the other in the corner of Kiley Gardens. The third stage was the Kiley Gardens Amphitheater to showcase local acoustic/singer/song writers.

I ended my shift at roughly 7:30 and went to meet up with friends.  The sun had set, and this is where the magic began. Walking around the park, I felt that familiar sense of pride I have, I love Tampa. (Side note: If you’re newer to Tampa, Curtis Hixon Hall once stood on these grounds. Artists like, Bob Dylan, David Bowie, The Who, Led Zeppelin, Rush and Cat Stevens played there!) The lighting was fantastic and created a wonderful atmosphere. I stood at the top of the amphitheater just taking it all in for awhile.

Ra Ra Riot closed the day on the main stage. They were a fun group with tons of energy. Hello string instruments!

I really enjoyed that this festival gave me the opportunity to hear of a lot of bands I hadn’t heard of before. I really enjoyed the Distinguished Men of Brass and Rebirth Brass Band, who I would have never heard of otherwise! I hope this is something to stay with the festival over the upcoming years.

Overall this was a great night, and I can’t wait to see what Gasparilla Music Festival has to offer for future. I look forward to volunteering again and rocking out :]

Some bands that played:

The Groves
The Lee Boys
Alvin “Youngblood” Hart
Deer Tick
Lee Fields & the Expressions
Ra Ra Riot
Infinite Groove Orchestra
Kaleigh Baker
Have Gun, Will Travel
Spam Allstars
Tortured Soul
Rebirth Brass Band
Rich Whiteley
Amber Lynn Nicol
Geri X
Distinguished Men of Brass

http://www.gasparillamusicfestival.com/

What to Wear to Gasparilla?

Ah, the eve of my hometown’s biggest holiday… Gasparilla!

From Wikipedia:

The Gasparilla Pirate Festival is an annual celebration held in the city of Tampa, Florida. Held each year in late January and hosted by Ye Mystic Krewe of Gasparilla and the City of Tampa, it celebrates the apocryphal legend of José Gaspar (Gasparilla), supposedly a Spanish pirate captain who operated in Southwest Florida.

The theme is an “invasion” by Gasparilla and his men, which begins when the “Krewe” (made up of residents of the city) arrives on a 165′ long pirate ship, the Jose Gaspar, in Tampa Bay and land near downtown Tampa.

The mayor of Tampa then lends the key of the city to the pirate captain and a parade ensues down Bayshore Boulevard, one of Tampa’s major streets. The krewes throw beads, coins and other items while shooting blank pistols from floats during the parade. The average attendance for the event is over 400,000 people.

The age old question is, “What do I wear to Gasparilla?”

GASPARILLA

Allie Style:

Shoes: However cute you think those 3 inch pirate boots are… You’re going to be hiking all over town, probably walking 5 to 7 miles, at least. Oh & you’ll be wasted. Just say NO & grab something conformable. Also, yes, we live in Florida, it’s 75 degrees… but rethink the sandals. There are HUGE crowds & you’re feet will get stepped on, beer will spill, you may step in dog doo, no sandals.

Pants: Feel free to wear shorts, skirts, jeans, whatever. You have to think here, will you be just attending the invasion? (11am) The parade? (3pm) & after parties? (5pm++++) I typically choose to wear jeans, it’s still cool enough to not feel grosso. Also, you don’t look like a dirty pirate when evening rolls in. (Walking around downtown + of Tampa in skirts/shorts, you’ll get mud, dirt, yucky stuff on your legs.

Shirt: Tank top, strapless, cardigan, pirate themed tee, will all work. There will be sun, think about your shoulders!

Jewels: I like glitter & shiny things. Pirates like booty after all ;)

Etc: Sunscreen, TP & hand sanitizer (porta-potties), backpacks filled w/ snacks + flasks, sunglasses!

Some advice from my good (& more stylish) friend Lindsay:

Having gone to Gasparilla pretty much since I was a fetus, I’ve got knowing what to wear and what to bring down to a science. If you are a wanderer, like me, who enjoys trekking several miles up and down Bayshore to party hop, comfy shoes are essential! I also like to make sure I have a large purse to carry around my booze, bottles of water, and my beads when they get to heavy to wear.

Rather than going full-on “pirate”, I’m a fan of a more subtle approach. These are two options using black and white striped tops and skull accents. The one on the left is more casual and appropriate for walking, and the right would be better suited for viewing the parade from a house party or VIP tent.

Gasparilla Wench

If you see yourself as less of a pirate and more of a wench, this outfit has a vintage and feminine feel, with a dress that gives a nod to a traditional pirate shirt, boots that would be perfect for pillaging and plundering or walking along a parade route, and a wide brimmed hat to protect you from the sun.

Are you going to Gasparilla? What will you be wearing?

Restaurant: GrillSmith (Multiple Locations, Tampa)

Last Thursday Gregg & I had the opportunity to attend a VIP Tasting Event ­ at GrillSmith in South Tampa.  I thought I’d share my favorites from the things we tasted. (I developed a very precise smiley-face rating system, each of the ones I’m sharing received 4+ smiles)

Stoil Ravioli – Stuffed with grilled chicken, spinach and creamy ricotta cheese tossed in a Stolichnaya Vodka tomato cream sauce.

This was my favorite dish of the entire night. I really wished it photographed better. I hardly ever eat pasta, but this was so delicious, & I definitely went back for seconds. 

Chicken Milanese – Sauteed, herb-crusted chicken finished withe a lemon-butter white wine reductions, sun-dried tomatoes, golden raisins and capers, dressed with arugula and pine nuts in our lemon-feta vinaigrette, served over seasoned rice.

I love anything with citrus, so this was a HUGE winner for me. I’ve never had Chicken Milanese before, the sauce was outstanding. I even asked if they could make this with grilled chicken – they said yes!


Spicy Thai Chicken – Lightly battered, flash-fried chicken cutlets tossed in sriacha aioli, served with hot and sweet honey glaze.

Gregg & I talked about this one a lot.  This chicken reminded me of Bonefish’s “Bang Bang Shrimp”.  I was glad this wasn’t slathered in sauce, it was still crunchy. :) On Gregg’s notes there is “win” written by “sriacha aioli”, this dish still could have been spicier for me, but none-the-less yummy!

Voodoo Cheese Fries – Creole seasoned fries finished with a New Orleans style white barbecue sauce, smoked Gouda, cheddar and Swiss cheeses, Andouille sausage and green onions, served with cilantro sour cream for dipping.

This is pretty much what I wish I could eat everyday all day. It’s dangerously delicious. I want to buy creole seasoning asap.


Smoked Salmon Bruschetta
–  Smoked Norwegian salmon with capers, fresh basil, red onions, Parmesan cheese, sun-dried tomatoes and GrillSmith’s own lemon-feta vinaigrette on toasted crostini.

Last but not least… I did not try this. (I know, I know, not a big seafood/fish fan) But! This was Gregg’s favorite dish. Actually everyone’s favorite dish – the whole table kept going on & on about it how wonderful it was.

This made me laugh, Gregg was my +1, so they gave him my last name! ;)

GrillSmith did an amazing job with the entire night. I was glad to be able to try their new menu items.  When I have thought of  GrillSmith in the past, I think I really shrugged it off because I figured it was just a chain restaurant,  but GrillSmith is definitely anything BUT mediocre.

There are six Tampa locations and you can view their menus as well as location addresses on their Website. You can also find them on Facebook & follow them on Twitter.

Disclosure: All food was provided by GrillSmith Restaurant free of charge.

Seminole Heights Tweetp #2

Tomorrow is the Seminole Heights Tweetup!
Don’t be discouraged if you don’t live in the Sheights. :)
Everyone is welcomed!
We’ll be meeting up at 8pm for beer & conversation.
I’ll be bringing nametags. (So dorky)
Feel free to e-mail/tweet me if you have any questions!

Ps. Please feel free to being your pups as The Independent is dog friendly!

RSVP HERE:
http://twtvite.com/shtu3

Train Day 2011; Tampa Union Station

Hello! This past Saturday was Train Day! Train Day is all about bringing life to the rich history of how trains have transformed America. The free event feature live entertainment, interactive & educational exhibits, kids’ activities, model trains & tours of Amtrak equipment.  I was probably the most excited person in Tampa for this event. I love the railways, even though I have never taken a train trip! This will be remedied ASAP.

Here is some photos from the day.

I’m shocked how cheap rail is. From Jacksonville to Charleston ROUND, w/ two nights in a hotel there, was UNDER $300 per person! I think it would be a perfect vacation! OR an awesome 5 day? Tweetup ;)

Here is some photos from the sleeping car they had on display.


Cabin window, bottom bunk folded up.

Bottom Bunk, folded up.

Sink, very tiny -cute!

The dining car downstairs.

Toilet/Shower combo, every man’s dream in life.

Overall the event was awesome. I had a great time, there was lots of swag. :) Please take some time to stop & check out  Tampa Union Station. It’s a beautiful building that was opened in 1912 & served railroad passengers through the Great Depression & both World Wars. In 1974—it was added to the National Register of Historic Places. It’s a GORGEOUS building, with so many intricate details. It also makes you feel like you’re stepping back into time. :)

Also!!! attached is an amazing open space building called the “baggage building“. I have been posting that link everywhere, it would be an awesome stop for a coffee house, bar, restaurant, art gallery…etc. Tampa Union Station will anchor one end of a planned rehabilitation of Zack Street into an “avenue of the arts”.

#PizzaOvenTweet

Hey Tampa People!

Just a quick notice, after talking to a bunch of people on twitter it’s decided that we are all getting together at 6pm on Sunday at ThePizzaOven on Waters. I’ve never been, but have heard from multiple people that this place rocks. I’m excited to see everyone there! I’ll be bringing name tags so we call all be geeky together & write our twitter names!

Directions are here: http://bit.ly/9ovkeM

& Make sure to follow @ThePizzaOvenTPA


Msg me if you need anything else or have questions!