I’ve just been down to Saint Petersburg, Florida, for my elder niece’s wedding.
Let me just say one or two things about Florida: by and large Florida is not my type of state. Tooling around the Everglades ten or so years back was awesome, but most of the towns and cities lack personality. Well, not downtown Saint Pete, as just discovered. Many of the buildings are of an older style that add sort of a Spanish personality. (I hear that Saint Augustine, the earliest European-settled spot on the Eastern seaboard, is also long on personality and history. Maybe I’ll stop in, some day.)
However, due to reasons of climate, I’ll not be moving down there. I like seasons, thank you. I like not feeling like the out-of-doors is one big damp unventilated bathroom after a crew of strangers have been splashing around in a hot shower or tub — in October. I like a landscape where there are hills larger than the artificial ones created for the sake of making overpasses. There’s a lot about much of Florida which feels plastic. However, the Saint Pete’s downtown area is truly worth a visit, or perhaps a stay. And the food is good.
Ah, yes, this is a food blog. Check.
We had two lunches outside at a tapas/cheviche establishment near my brother’s condo. Above is their rendition of calamari. Tender, a very light breading, a garlic aoili dip, and an extremely fresh and crisp salad. We had this both days in a row.
Especially good on the first day (well, I only had one bite as we were sharing) was a tuna cheviche, as depicted next. Apologies for the blur; camera seemed to want to focus on the table, shame on it!
It may be my imagination, but I think the second lunch they put a bit more spicy mayo on it than they did the first day. It’s not the spicy which brings on reservations, but the mayo. I think the fish could have stood more on its own without the coating. (Above photo is from the second lunch there.)
The first night there, my brother took Dad, Nancy, myself, and his family to the Z Grill. Absolutely superb coleslaw! I mean, the rest of the food was good, yes, but the coleslaw was crisp, served with a light vinigrette, and no mayo whatsoever. Ah, the simple pleasures!
The rehearsal dinner was sit-down at the Parkshore Grill, where I took the portobello option. Very good, not too heavy, and accompanied by another fresh salad of pleasure.
The wedding was my dietary undoing, mainly the ongoing rounds of sausage-stuffed mushroom caps, spanikopita morsels, vats of crabcake-artichoke dip, and cheeses. And that was before the meal started. Another excellent fresh salad, followed by my chosen salmon entree. This would have been fine, but I had my cake and ate it, too. It was goooood.
Just want to note that the wedding went off effortlessly (which means behind the scenes there was a lot of effort expended, of course. The bride was overjoyed and radiant. I wish the happy couple many years of marital bliss!
The Sunday after, I stuck to my food plan: I cooked one egg florentine for myself in my brother’s condo, and for lunch I opted for the hot and sour soup and a “spring” roll from the local take-out Chinese eatery. (No, lots of people apparently think that spring rolls are simply skinnier egg rolls with the same amount of deep fried breading and much less of any nutritious (or tasty) filling whatsoever. Unfortunately, this was a place like that.) Dinner was at the American Brassierie where I ordered a seafood and salad greens appetizer and a side of roasted asparagus. (I also finished off the other half of Nancy’s octopus appetizer.) This was a decent food intake day, and I lost a pound overnight, yay.
Monday we went over to Tampa, to meet up with my second niece and her mother at a traditional Portuguese meat haven named, I think, BoiZoi. There’s a salad bar for starters (or if you don’t want the meat, you can stick with that, as did Nancy).
This was a special circumstance, so I broke my usual rule of not eating non-grass-finished beef. Probably for the first time in a year and a half (excluding maybe once or twice when I was served it in someone’s home).
The servers run around with marinated roasted or grilled meat on skewers, some cuts wrapped in bacon. They slice off portions to those who request. There’s chicken and pork and lamb and beef. Probably about eight different cuts of beef, two each of the other forms of meat. The marination skills of the chefs are excellent, and the servers do their utmost to serve meat to the done-ness of the intended recipient, a true challenge at this table where my ex-sister in law wanted shoe leather, er, pardon me, well-done, and Dad and I prefer rare/medium-rare (red but warm all through). I didn’t try everything. The lamb cuts were my favorites, especially the leg of lamb with that perfused marinate enriching it, with just a hint of citrus.
Now to hike around a lot!