The Restaurants at My End of the Universe

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    The Restaurants at My End of the Universe Tampa Bay restaurants

So full


We ended up at Longhorn Steakhouse tonight after we couldn’t find parking at the restaurant we had planned to go to.  I was shocked that we didn’t have to wait for a table at 6pm on a Friday night.  Of all the chain restaurants, I think Longhorn has become our favorite.  The food is consistent and the flavors are there.  We started off with one of their new appetizers, the sweet chili calamari.

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This was some perfectly cooked calamari.  I couldn’t stop eating it even though the sweet chili sauce had my tongue tingling.  I would definitely order it again.  After bread and salads, out came out entrees.  Loren got the 6 oz Renegade sirloin with asparagus.

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He said the steak was very tender and tasty.  Unfortunately, the asparagus was a little too far on the tender side.  He likes his asparagus much crisper.  I ordered the half rack of baby back ribs.

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They were very tender with a slightly sweet sauce.  I really enjoyed them.  And even though we were both stuffed at this point, I just couldn’t pass up the dessert sampler.

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This is the dessert to get here.  Chocolate stampede, caramel apple goldrush, and strawberry cheesecake.  Yum!  I devoured the chocolate stampede.  It’s layers of chocolate mousse on a chocolate cake.  So good!  Loren favored the caramel apple dish and the cheesecake was pretty darn tasty as well.   We had to roll ourselves out of the restaurant.  Total bill with a drink was $55 and worth every penny.

Longhorn Steakhouse
35645 US Highway 19
Palm Harbor, FL
(727) 781-9300

Longhorn Steakhouse on Urbanspoon

 

Food4/5
Service4/5
Atmosphere3/5
Value3/5
3.7/5

Stealthy Waitress


We normally don’t even try to go to Bonefish on the weekends because they’re so busy, but surprisingly, we were able to walk in and get a table at 6pm without a wait.  They have a new menu, but we stuck with the specials and tried the Wagyu Beef & Ginger potstickers.

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These were interesting.  The ginger flavor bursts in your mouth from the first bite.  I found the filling to be a bit too mushy though.  I wouldn’t have had any idea what kind of meat it was if it wasn’t listed on the menu.  It was very soft and the only flavor you really tasted was the ginger.  Don’t get me wrong, they were tasty, but just had a strange mouth-feel to them.  I can’t resist the crab and corn chowder here so I had to order a cup of it.

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It has some nice bits of crab on top and a smooth, thick, creamy texture.  It’s got a little bit of heat and one of my favorite things on the menu.  Honestly, I need to just stop ordering entrees here and stick with the appetizer menu.

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I ordered the wild caught sockeye salmon, Lily’s way, with a side of broccoli and Jasmine rice.  I shouldn’t have bothered with Lily’s way, which is goat cheese, artichoke hearts, spinach and a lemon basil sauce.   It really didn’t enhance the salmon in any way and I ended up scraping it off.  I like goat cheese, but it’s too overpowering for salmon.  Honestly, I’m not sure that cheese goes with any type of fish.  The fish was nicely cooked, but the dish was way overpriced for what it was.

Loren ordered the Ahi Tuna Belleair.

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It also came with goat cheese, artichoke hearts, sun dried tomatoes and the same lemon basil sauce as mine had.  He ordered it rare and it was way overcooked.  The absolute center was almost close to rare, but that was it.  He ended up taking the goat cheese off as well.  Overall, the food just wasn’t up to par from what we expect here.

We were seated at a table and instead of coming at us from the front of the table, our waitress would always walk up from behind in between us and it startled me every time.  She was stealthy.  She was very nice and I’m sure she came to that part of the table so she could hear us, but it just made me twitchy.  Total bill with a drink was $64.

Bonefish Grill 
2519 McMullen Booth Rd
Clearwater, FL
727-726-1315

Bonefish Grill on Urbanspoon

 

 

 

 

Food2/5
Service3/5
Atmosphere3/5
Value2/5
2.5/5

One Roll at a Time


We ate here once before when it was called Koba Sushi.  Now, it’s called Faceless Samurai, but it looks exactly the same inside.   It’s not a very big restaurant and we were there way longer than it should have taken to get four rolls.  The first thing we noticed were the children, of I’m guessing someone who works there, playing loudly at the table next to us.  Not exactly the way we wanted to spend our quiet night out.

We ordered four rolls which came out one at a time with way too much time between them.  The problem is that we order rolls specifically for ourselves and there are some I don’t eat and some that Loren doesn’t really like, so the way the sushi came out, one of us inevitably was waiting to eat while the other one was eating.  We also don’t like having to eat one entire roll at a time, we much prefer to mix and match pieces throughout the meal.

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The sushi was just ok.  Nothing out of the ordinary, good or bad.  We got a Mexican roll, a California Roll, a Spicy Tuna, and a Rainbow Roll.  We also ordered some salmon, but we never got it.  Loren also ordered a drink and had to ask again for the waitress to actually bring it out.  She seemed friendly, but was completely scattered and not paying attention to anything that was going on.  Total bill was $50 and there’s no reason for us to go back.

Faceless Samurai
3428 Tampa Rd
Palm Harbor, FL
(727) 772-5622

Faceless Samurai on Urbanspoon

Food3/5
Service1/5
Atmosphere2/5
Value2/5
2.1/5

Big Breakfast


We were over in Tampa and stopped at the Three Coins Diner for breakfast.  They were pretty busy this morning , but luckily we got a table without a wait.  It’s not a big restaurant and looked to be filled with locals enjoying a hearty breakfast.

Loren went for a Belgium waffle and bacon.  Wouldn’t be breakfast without bacon, right?

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Big fresh waffle and tasty bacon, what more could a guy ask for?  I went for the pancakes, eggs and some hashbrowns.

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The pancakes were light and fluffy, just the way pancakes should be.  There was more food on our plates than either of us could eat.  It was typical diner food, with typical diner prices.  You don’t go home hungry.  Three Coins is open 24 hours, so you can get your fill any time of day or night.  Total bill with a drink was $19.

Three Coins Diner
7410 N. Nebraska Ave
Tampa, FL
813-239-1256

Three Coins on Urbanspoon

Food3/5
Service3/5
Atmosphere3/5
Value3/5
3.0/5

Orlando Food Tours


My sister & I met in Winter Park yesterday for a walking food tour.  I had done one in New York years ago and it was a lot of fun, so we decided to check out what Orlando Food Tours had to offer.  We met our guide, Kiel, and the other ladies in the tour outside of Prato on Park Avenue at 11:30am to start our 3 hour tour.

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Prato is a modern rustic Italian bistro.  They weren’t too busy at 11:30am, but it sounds like you need reservations if you want to get in there for dinner.  There was bread & dipping oil on the table and we all dug in while our pizzas were in the oven.

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The bread was fresh and had an almost spongy texture which was perfect for sopping up the oil.  I was a little surprised that there weren’t an herbs in the oil.  Then the pizzas arrive.  First to the table was the Fiorentina.

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It had spinach, prosciutto, and fontina cheese.  All of the ingredients tasted very fresh and were very fragrant.  There was something in this dish though that tingled my tongue.  I don’t know if it was the cheese or the prosciutto, but there was a little spiciness there that I wasn’t expecting.  The second pizza was the “Widowmaker”.

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This one had caciocavallo cheese, a rustic tomato sauce, fennel sausage and an egg cooked right in the middle.  I loved the rustic tomato sauce.  It was so fresh and flavorful.  We took the middle piece with the egg, split it open & passed it around the table for everyone to taste.  The funniest thing was watching everyone trying to cut the slices from the pizza.  Our knives just couldn’t make clean work out of the crust.

Prato on Urbanspoon

Now that we all had our pizza fix, we walked over to Ancient Olive for our next tasting.  We were all a little hesitant at first because I don’t think any of us ever put much thought into olive oil or balsamic vinegar and certainly never went out of our way to taste different ones.  This tasting shop had an amazing selection of different combinations and flavors.

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James was our expert in the shop and he told us more than you ever knew existed about olive oil and balsamic vinegar.  We tasted two oils and learned that you taste the same way you would wine.  You take it in your mouth, breathe in a slurping sort of gulp of air and then breathe out your nose.  It was quite a sensation.  You could taste grassy or peppery notes in the oil.  He also said something to the affect of what you get in the grocery store is pretty much akin to lamp oil since its polyphenol levels  have degraded over time.  James also has one of those English accents where he could have been reading the phone book and we’d have listened to him for hours. This was by far the most interesting stop on the tour.  The shop is a tasting shop, so you can go in at any time and taste the different olive oils and balsamic vinegars.  James was a phenomenal host with a lot of knowledge to share.  They also have some other locally sourced products such as jams, honey, drink mixes and a bunch of other stuff.  We got to taste one of the black tomato jams over goat cheese, some locally spiced pickles and a local sourced margarita mix.

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The jam was really tasty.  Lots of flavors that blended wonderfully with the goat cheese.  It would be perfect over toast points or pita chips.  Yum!  The pickles were really spicy to me.  I tasted a couple of the other oils and was just amazed at the difference between these fresh oils and balsamic vinegars compared to what I’ve had my entire life.  There just is no comparison.

The Ancient Olive on Urbanspoon

After the Ancient Olive, we took a little walk through Winter Park and Kiel told us some of the history of the buildings.  We stopped outside of Casa Feliz which has an interesting history.

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This isn’t where the house was originally built.  Someone had bought the property and planned to demolish the home.  The city and a “friends” group managed to raise the funds to save the home and relocate it in its entirety to its current location.  It went through a restoration and can now be rented out for functions.  We walked back by and learned about the Morse museum and then headed into the Spice & Tea Exchange for our next food stop.

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This stop had some spicy hummus, which I didn’t try, but my sister really liked, a freshly brewed iced tea, and some blackberry salted caramel brownies that were divine.  I got a recipe card for those and plan to make them soon.  The shop has a large selection of spices and teas.

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There were things that I’ve only seen and heard of on the Food Network or in cookbooks and they were all there in the shop.  This shop as well as the others all had fantastic aromas as you walk in the door.

The Spice & Tea Exchange on Urbanspoon

We then walked next door to Orchid Thai Cuisine.  This was my favorite food stop.

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At this stop, we had chicken satay that had a peanut sauce with a strong lemongrass flavor that I really liked.  The chicken was tender, though it did not want to easily come off of the skewers.  We also had a sampler with spring rolls, dumplings, curry puffs, and golden purses which are similar to crab rangoons.  Everything we tried was fresh and flavorful.  The golden purses were the biggest hit at the table.

Orchid Thai Cuisine on Urbanspoon

We took a quick walk over to Central Park where we saw the last remnant of the original train station, then it was off to Kilwin’s for some dessert.  I got the impression that the staff forgot we were coming, but they quickly scooped out our sample of turtle fudge and ice cream.

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Kilwin’s has a nice selection of chocolates, fudge, caramel apples and ice cream.   The fudge and ice cream were good, but I think I would have preferred to taste one of their caramel apples.  Kiel said when there are at least 8 in the tour group, that’s what they sample.

Kilwins on Urbanspoon

Our last stop on the tour was Sassafras Sweet Shoppe where we got cotton candy.

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This is our tour guide Kiel before he handed over the sweet, sticky, strands of sugar.  I felt like this was a throw away stop on the tour.  The candy shop had some interesting vintage candy, but there’s nothing terribly interesting or food worthy about cotton candy.  For both Kilwin’s and Sassafras Sweet Shop, no one from the shop interacted with us.  What makes a tour interesting is the stories behind the locations and the food.

Sassafras Sweet Shoppe on Urbanspoon

Overall, though, we all really enjoyed the tour.  James & the Ancient Olive was the most interesting stop since he really engaged with the group.  I liked the food at Orchid Thai the best.  I’d definitely recommend taking the tour if you’ve got a few hours to spend walking around Winter Park.

Orlando Food Tours

800-979-3370

facebook/OrlandoFoodTours

twitter.com/OrlandoFoodTour

 

 

Food4/5
Service4/5
Atmosphere4/5
Value4/5
4.0/5