This past Tuesday I attended the Hyde Park tour with my newest foodie friend Blaire from Dreaming Ingredients. Blaire won a ticket to this tour from my blog and her blog should be in everyone's Google Reader. She's not only hilarious, but she really knows her food- two marks of the perfect food blogger, in my mind.
Our first stop was Irish 31, the pub I've been meaning to visit. We sat outside on the patio with live music and with the great weather, it was a perfect first stop to meet some new people.
Irish 31 certainly set the tone for the rest of the night, in a positive way. I was hoping that every other place would be just as good (and they were)! I mentioned in my food truck post that I'm a newbie to Shrimp and Grits. Thank you, Irish 31, for continuing my love for this perfect combination. The trio we were presented with consisted of a take on Chicken Pot Pie, a perfect sample amount of their Pot Pie made with celery, carrots, onions, mushrooms and peas in a rich gravy and topped with a bite-sized puff pastry; Legendary Boxty, a perfectly crispy rolled mashed potato ball, lightly fried and served with a housemade horseradish sauce; Shrimp and Grits, sauteed tiger shrimp with red tomatoes, onions and herbs on top of velvety grits.
Each dish seemed to be made with such precision, from conception to presentation. The smooth mashed potatoes paired nicely with the slightly spicy flavor of the horseradish. Since the potato ball was fried, there were different textures going on in this dish that I appreciated.
I could have continued to spend my evening on Irish 31's patio, sipping my drink, eating their food, and listening to the live music, but it was time to walk the block to Piquant, a new French restaurant and bakery that took the place of Sophie's Bakery & Cafe. Sophie's was eclectic and certainly had its charm, but I have to say that I'm so glad Piquant is in existence. In fact, I went to brunch yesterday and will be posting about it tomorrow. From the moment we walked into Piquant, I knew it would become a favorite restaurant of mine- the decor is classy, light and welcoming. I can picture myself sitting in their cozy reading area with my book and some tea when I just want some time to relax.
At this stop, we were able to sample their peach-infused iced tea, chocolate croissant, almond croissant and a delightful passion fruit meringue. The croissants were flaky and delicate, with the almond croissant having almonds and honey on the outside and almond paste on the inside. The passion fruit meringue had such a mixture of flavors. There was a tartness and a sweetness and it was served atop a crispy shell. The meringue turned out to be the highlight of my evening. It was so light and airy and really cleansed the palate.
The third stop of our Hyde Park tour was Wine Exchange, a bistro and wine bar. I've been to Wine Exchange many times and I always opt for something with mushrooms. I was excited when a plate of two salads were placed in front of me instead. It's times like these that force you to step away from your go-to dish and try something new. Wine Exchange offered a Cuban Salad and a Grape-Pecan Chicken Salad.
The Cuban Salad consists of iceberg lettuce tossed with ham, swiss, tomato and green olives with a Cuban vinaigrette dressing. This salad reminded me very much of the 1905 salad from Columbia. Normally I don't like comparing one restaurant's dish to another restaurant's dish, but in this case, it's to point out just how great this Cuban salad is. Everyone in Tampa has heard of and most have experienced the 1905 salad and it's delicious and popular and amazing...and the adjectives go on and on. For Wine Exchange to have something similar is something I definitely want to highlight and congratulate them on because it's different enough to be unique to Wine Exchange, but similar enough that anyone who likes a good vinaigrette salad needs to try this one.
The Grape-Pecan Chicken Salad features the Wine Exchange's signature chicken salad over mixed greens and tossed with pecans, celery and grapes, with an herb vinaigrette. Our dish was served with a white wine blend from Stark Raving. Blaire said that she thought this combination would be perfect for a quick and light lunch and I completely agree.
The final stop on our tour was at Timpano Italian Chophouse, a place I have visited before and love. In fact, Blaire and I have plans to visit again for a full meal and some cocktails.
We arrived to Black Skillet-Roasted Mussels, tossed with EVOO and sea salt; Fire-Roasted Meatballs, with housemade marinara and basil chiffonade; and Mozzarella Bocconcini, served with Pomodoro sauce. This was my first time eating mussels (I know, it's basically blasphemy), but it's because of Timpano that I will continue to try mussels at other area restaurants. Bravo. One thing my readers should know is that when I go to Timpano, I grub. This is why no pictures exist of my food but rest assured that it was savory with perfect punches of flavor.
I strongly recommend all of these restaurants and can't wait to feature some additional items on this blog.
With Cigar City and Bayshore tours coming up, be sure to sign up for a Dishcrawl event soon!
And with a thank you to Tracy for being a fantastic Dishcrawl ambassador and Blaire for being the kind of foodie you can laugh with and learn from, this blog post is over. Fin.