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/

Restaurant: Soobak (Davis Island, Tampa)

After seeing Carlo’s Eats post about this sushi place close to my place, I knew I had to take my sushi loving boyfriend… STAT!

Above photo was my dinner the “Tempura Tofu Bento Box”. ($8.25) We added a miso soup for BF for an extra dollar, — it was miso soup, nothing to rave about.  The salad was basic- romaine, carrots and cucumbers with a great ginger dressing. The tofu came with sauteed broccoli, onions and mushrooms. I enjoyed the tofu, although wished the tofu was cubed a bit smaller. They were about two bites each, a bit unwieldy with chopsticks! I don’t typically enjoy/eat plain white rice, I tried a bite and it seemed good.

Here is why you come to Soobak…

…the sushi!

This was Gregg’s dinner. He got a sunomono salad, which is seafood medley, romaine, cucumber, scallions, masagao & a rice vinegar dressing. ($4.95) Gregg was happy with the amount of seafood on the salad, most places are pretty skimpy. He ordered the veggie roll ($4.95) and the Mexican roll.($5.95) I got to try a bite of his veggie roll, it was very good, I enjoyed the texture of the wakame (edible seaweed) in the roll, I had never experienced that in a veggie rolls. Gregg is the  sushi aficionado & rated Soobak an 8 out of 10. (Which means we’ll be back!)

Soobak also has frozen yogurt. ($.49/oz.) I considered myself lucky because they had a non dairy watermelon flavor. I added pineapple & these juice “bursts”. (I really hope this is molecular gastronomy, fingers crossed.) It was tart & I enjoyed it very much.

I had two problems with Soobak.

The first problem, which is a very common problem now that I’m vegan — is the lack of options. There was 5 options for a vegan. Honey Garlic Tofu, Tempura Tofu, Veggie Roll, Miso Soup and Edamame. I really was hoping they’d have a few different variations of veggie rolls. I do accept that I’m not the norm, so this is really only an issue with me.

The second problem is the size of Soobak. It is TINY. Like, uncomfortable tiny. Like, 4 tables tiny. Like, getting froyo & bumping into people dining tiny. I don’t know if we’ll go back to sit down & dine, but I can see myself picking this up on the way home for dinner, running over on the weekend for a quick lunch, or biking over  to get my frozen yogurt fix.

Overall, I am excited about Soobak. The entire time we were there it was bustling & people were picking up to-go orders non-stop. I hope they flourish, move to a bigger location and add more options. Soobak knows how to make sushi!

Soobak on Urbanspoon

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.

Duckweed Urban Market – Downtown Tampa

Friday evening I stumbled upon an amazing store that is just opening!

Duckweed Urban Market is located downtown on the corner of Franklin Street & E. Polk Street, next to The Hub and below the Sweatshop Urban Gym.

Duckweed carries a ton of local products, just from browsing I found many local brands! Buddy Brew Coffee, TeBella Tea, tons!!! of different types of Sami’s Bakery breads and Intensity Academy’s delicious hot sauces & sauces.

We met Derek who was manning this shop, he is incredibly knowledgeable! (Please make sure to say hi!) Every time I “Ooohed!” or “Awwed” at something usually he’d mention that it was either also made locally or it was special ordered. He made sure to point out a soda named “Hotlips” which has fruit pulp in it!

What was nice was, that among the truffle oil, quinoa “burger” mixes, gluten free awesomeness, numerous of delicious cheeses, freshest produce I’ve seen in Tampa… they also have staples! Out of eggs? Drop in on your way home. Need milk? Just walk over. Yes, they also had cheapie macaroni & cheese too :P

I loved that Duckweed has everything I have been dying to try! I will obviously be a regular here! Derek also mentioned they soon plan to carry beer & wines!

Here is some pictures to share:

Omg how cute is the front of this place?!

They even have animal food! :)

Duckweed Urban Market:

305 E Polk Street, Tampa, FL 33602

Website

Facebook

Twitter

***Big thank you goes to Renee! for taking all these pictures while I was chatting it up w/ Derek!<3 <3

I have the best friends

Last Thursday (June 23rd, 2011) my friend Oz texted me the above photo of my friend Bridget & this message:

“Bridget and I left you a gift. 27:56:53.20, -82:27:42.51, or there abouts. Rsvp”

I was immediately excited because Oz knows I love to geocache & those were GPS coordinates!

This morning we decided to find it on the way to Gregg’s office. The building in the background of the picture is of University of Tampa, so we knew to look in the park across from the campus. (Curtis Hixon)

We got to the park, and the cords were pretty far off. Gregg saw the fence that Bridget is leaning on, it was the only one in the park without a wooden top rail.

We to that spot, & wedged between the concrete there was an altoids tin. We had found the cache!


Inside was a note from Oz & two antique dice, which on one of them the 1 is a skunk! Also he typed up the directions to a game called “Mia”; which I am going to try to learn tonight. :)

This is probably one of the most awesome & creative things friends have ever done for me. I already am thinking of ideas of how to get them back!

Freshley’s Cafe – Seminole Heights

There has been a lot of tweets/mentions of Freshley’s Cafe that has just opened in Seminole Heights last week. Freshley’s offers breakfast & lunch Monday through Saturday, I woke up this morning knowing I wanted to stop by on the way to Gregg’s office to check out all the hype.

Freshley’s is located at the northwest corner of Florida and Hillsborough in Seminole Heights.

Have I mentioned I love airstreams?!

It is surrounded by a ton of newly planted plants, as well as a cute dining area with shade. (I wonder if they have wi-fi? ;)

I sneaked a picture of the inside. :) It’s a Mother, Daughter and Grand Daughter team!

Showing all the cute plants in bright planters. So cheery!  Gregg has coffee :)

This is the specials board, condiments table, and tea! (Sweet & Unsweet)


Gregg got “Good Morning New York”
– Smoked salmon, light cream cheese, red onion, sliced tomato, and capers on fresh Pumpernickel bread. $5.95
It got raving reviews from Gregg.

I got the “Egg White Frittata”
– Baked Arugula, garlic, green onions and turkey sausage (salmon was a choice too), served on wheat toast, with fresh fruit. $4.50

Can I say how EXTREMELY OVERJOYED I am? Freshley’s food was amazing. They have healthy portions. Food is perfectly seasoned. Fresh. Good pricing. -There was BLUEBERRIES in their fruit salad. When have you ever seen that?

I will for sure be a regular at Freshley’s Cafe. :)

Find them online: Website | Twitter | Facebook

Tampa Etsy Craft Party

This past Friday was the Tampa Etsy Craft Party!

I actually can’t believe I didn’t blog about it beforehand. Quick summary, I saw the week before that no one was planning anything for the 2011 event, so I started contacting people, & before you know it, we were all knee deep in planning! There was an amazing group of people who made this possible. Thank you KC, Jenny, Sarah, Jess, Kaye, Amanda & everyone else who brought treats, crafts, or just their awesome self! Oh! & HUGE thank you to Mindclay! The lent us a super dope space. Photo explosion starts… now!









Haha me in close proximity to a computer, coffee, cutest baby & sister/bff … of course!

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!

Restaurant: Ciro’s Speakeasy & Supper Club (Bayshore Boulevard, Tampa)

I’m still freaking out a bit. I don’t even want to write about this place because I want to keep this gem away from everyone but at the same time, I want to tell everyone in the area about it. I’m in love. I couldn’t even sleep when I got home because I was in such awe. (I got home at roughly 2am…)

Okay, I am getting way too excited. Beginning. It’s Oz‘s birthday. We had already been out to dinner @ Jackson’s Bistro. (Another post another day!) One of his friends wanted him to meet up w/ them at a “speakeasy”. As soon as I heard the term, “speakeasy” I was visualizing the Great Gatsby & terribly excited.

We parked on a random side street, & as far as we knew, the directions that were given to us “Find a random wooden door in a garden, & ring the bell”. After walking for a block or two, we found it.

There was no one outside. It was just a door. Us girls asked Oz to ring the bell. Shortly, the little peep hole opened up, someone looked outside, asked us who invited us! & then closed the door & let us in.

Wow! As soon I walked in, I was taken back. I looked at Gabi, & just BEAMED. We have been looking for a swanky place for ages now! A little hole in the wall jazz club. Swoon Swoon Swoon!

We were asked to sign in & read the house rules. I don’t recall all the rules, just to “speakeasy” & “if a man comes up to greet you, gently raise your chin & look away”. Super cute. The host walked us back to our booth, we had a party of 8, so it was a huge booth, we were all seated comfortable. The table in the booth, is actually a series of smaller interlocking tables at different heights. The booth was made out of the silkiest, smoothest leather (or faux leather?) There were privacy curtains. Red lighting. Candles. Are you ready…? Jellyfish tanks!

The setting is completely original, surprisingly intimate, and has a really laid-back vibe. I asked the host when entering how many people they could set, since upon entering it looked like a pretty small place. They said they can seat up to 75 & do rent out the place for private parties, they also have a *huge* booth for parties of 15+.

The food was amazing. We had ordered between this eight of us- 2 orders of truffle popcorn… Omg! It was delicious- popped in truffle oil, w/ garlic & other seasonings sprinkled on top -we all loved it, fries that are fried in duck fat served with garlic something? (compote?) & tamarind ketchup… YUM. Cheese fondue, which I only tried a bit of but was also divine. Dark chocolate fondue… served w/baby churros, fresh mango, kiwi, strawberries, peaches… fresh oysters & scallops… I’m not a seafood fan at all, but everyone who tried it said it was the best they’ve ever experienced.

The drinks were amazing. Everything is made “classically” -They use fresh, muddled fruit to craft customized, gourmet drinks, revived specialty cocktails from the early 20th century, & the bartenders will make you just about anything you ask for. The bartender, George was the most knowledgeable bartender I’ve ever experienced & a genuine conversationalist. (It does help that he was wearing a vest & his sleeves were rolled up & complimented Gabi on her “extraordinarily refined palate!” & said he could make me fall in love w/ my most despised liquor…. gin!) My first drink was named the “lycee love hotel”, I was a bit nervous about it because it had mint in it, but it was amazing & fresh. There were many drinks, I’m not sure I could remember them all, but the other drinks that really stood out was the rum sour (made with real lemon juice & egg whites instead of the run-of-the-mill sweet & sour most bars use!! Cocktail revival!) & a drink that was sweet & milky w/ habanero pepper… a kick but was so nice to sip on.

I have not one negative comment about this place! As soon as Gregg gets home, I’m taking him there…stat! (Oh, & everyone else I know.) Go now!

(All pictures come from another amazing review which you can read here.)