Tampa Bay Food Monster

…eating food since 1985.

Posts Tagged ‘dessert’

Smokey Bones’ Smoked Prime Rib

Posted by Tampa Bay Food Monster on December 6, 2012

steak is the best. it’s pretty much the best dinner ever. you get a steak dinner, and you feel like you’re tearing into an animal. there’s something primal about it. empowering. a steak dinner makes you feel like a king.

…but a prime rib dinner makes you feel like a god.

them smokey bones

i was given a so-very-kind invitation to come check out the new smoked prime rib dinner (¡¡¡LIMITED TIME ONLY!!!) at smokey bones. i have been to smokey bones before, long ago, and i recall it being a positive experience. “smokey” means smoked, and “bones” means meat, so one may infer that this is perhaps a barbecue type place. and, back when i visited the bones in my past, that would be a mostly accurate description. now, though…

inside the bone

oh. well according to this photograph, smokey bones is a rather low-key meeting place for the elderly, made entirely out of wood. but that’s not true! perhaps my photo skills are lacking. really, smokey bones has been completely remade in the image of the “kinda cool hip place”. it’s hard to describe exactly what it has become, partially because the restaurant now teeters between restaurant worlds. it’s kind of like a smokehouse meets an outback steakhouse. meets a late night club. there’s a huge bar. the lighting is low. lots of sexy cocktails. and some interesting placards, with information running the gamut between “servers are people too” and “hey boobs are pretty cool, right?” so yeah, a bit all over the place.

i do not dislike the makeover, but it is not the most comfortable. it can be summed up thusly: they played “we will rock you” by queen, and rather than play naturally through to the second part of the song, “we are the champions”, they played some sort of hard rock remix of “we will rock you”. the same song they had just played.

smoked wings

we began our meal with a nice appetizer, as recommended by the extremely kind and accommodating contact i had with smokey bones. i love wings. have i mentioned that before? big fan. i will start by saying that these wings are not traditional wings. they aren’t what you think of when you think of wings. instead, they are some of the most impressive non-traditional wings i have ever had. these bad boys are coated in rib rub and smoked, then fried, then coated in a DIFFERENT rub, then given a light sweet glaze. and they are incredible. super crisp outside, like fried chicken, with a delicious, steamy, tender smoked interior. perfect counterpoints to each other. salty and savory, and the glaze was spicy and sweet all at once. it was like eating ribs. tremendously good, and a must-buy for any visit to the bones.

smoked prime rib

and, of course, the smoked prime rib. prime rib – tender, juicy, melt-in-your mouth perfect beef. it is the most wonderful food i can imagine. dip it in au jus… what more could you ask for?

smokey bones’ smoked prime rib is a bit different, though. the rib is smoked in-restaurant for hours. the au jus is served on top, rather than on the side for dipping. and, to be quite honest, the whole thing is a disappointment. you would think that the ultimate in tender preparation would mix perfectly with the ultimate in tender meats. instead, you are left with a smokey monstrosity. one bite and you are overwhelmed with smokey flavor, masking the quiet, intrinsic beauty of the cut. the salt and pepper seasoning makes the edges just a bit too salty to enjoy properly. the au jus was a bit thick, almost more of a gravy than a juice. and, in spite of all conventional knowledge, the prime rib was not tender. it was not tough, but it was far more chewy than it should have been. the most enjoyable bites were those not dominated by the smokey flavor, found near the fatty portions of the rib. otherwise, this dish was sadly not worth ordering.

and i did not feel like a god. i just felt like a slightly disappointed man.

apple pecan crisp

the meal ended on an up note, however, with the apple pecan crumble. this delightful little dish was, again, recommended by my contact, and was superb. it’s basically what you get when you cross an apple cobbler with a pecan pie… which is just as amazing as it sounds. served super hot, with a lump of vanilla ice cream on top. the crisp crust played well against its hot sticky insides, melting the ice cream into a river of cool relief. a perfect dessert. the only thing i could ask for is more pecan goodness in a largely apple dominated dessert.

it was a good visit. the place has changed a lot, but it’s a kind of cool, hip change. the prime rib was a disappointment, but the dessert was great, and the wings warrant another visit all on their own. they also have a build-a-burger thing going on, with more options than you’ll ever need, which is probably worth checking out. and my friend got baby back ribs, which looked amazing. i’ll just have to realize my godhood elsewhere.

Smokey Bones Bar & Fire Grill on Urbanspoon

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Seasons 52 Fall Menu 2012

Posted by Tampa Bay Food Monster on October 18, 2012

as the summer ends and we bury those loved ones we’ve lost to the intense florida heat, the leaves turn slightly less green, the temperature drops to a brisk 82 degrees, and stars enter their ominous autumnal positions. thus begins fall, and along with the seasonal change comes the change of menus at seasons 52. finally, we can embrace the cozy food stylings of pumpkins and apples, cinnamon and cinna mon.

once again, i was invited out to the special “num num super tasting ‘012” event, to sample all the delicious foods and drinks, as imagineered by our favorite wacky duo, chef clifford pleau and wineman george miliotes. they were in good spirits, as ever, ending their pre-food presentation with pleau treating us to a special rendition of the major-general’s song, with particular phrases replaced by rhyming food references, and miliotes drinking heavily, slumped in a corner just off camera for the majority of the performance. sadly, sexy crowd favorite enrique iglesias was not available for his endorsement.

portobello mushroom flatbread

we began the evening, as always, with a bunch of flatbread and wine to get us ready for… lots more wine and food. the flatbread this time around was the portobello mushroom flatbread, flavor-blasted with all the cheese (specifically, gorgonzola, mozzarella, and blue cheese). there was also garlic and truffle cream. the mushrooms were nice and tender, and the garlic was pretty great (a clear and strong player), but the flatbread was a bit overwhelmed by the cheese, specifically the blue cheese. i just can’t take too much blue cheese! it just ruins my day. not their best flatbread; that title still belongs to the barbecue chicken flatbread.

the wine we began with was the vista hills orange pinot gris, an interesting, full flavor wine which i cannot seem to find anywhere outside of seasons 52 (internet, thou hast failed me). this guy was an intense, tart, acidic beast almost reminiscent of my father’s homemade wines. it also had the magic touch; that is, the more you drink it, the more the intensity drops, and the more you enjoy it! always a good sign.

hummusi

we were also treated to a delightful pair of hummusi, the “double hummus special” as i’m pretty sure they called it. there was a roasted red pepper, and a green edamame mint. i had the clear foresight to note the edamame mint was “fatty, wet” and the red pepper was “spiced, good, simple clean”. so, rather than getting bogged down in flavors and taste, let’s say the clear winner here was the edamame mint for being green.

cider-glazed grilled chicken skewers

our meal began with the cider-glazed grilled chicken skewers, which instantly appealed to me. what we have here, if you’re not able to see or infer from the name of the dish, is meat on a stick. meat on a stick, as we all know, was the ORIGINAL meal, as invented by keyrock selmon, cave man and master chef. it is simple and effective. this variant featured a lightly applied savory sweet mustard/cider glaze on moist, tender chicken, grilled, and set atop a tart bed of apple/cranberry/pumpkin slaw. it was an excellent combination, and really worked for me. the slaw was a great contrast to the chicken, both in consistency and flavor. the only thing i could ask of it is more glaze on the chicken.

the skewers were paired with the farrier andiron semillon, which was a nice tart and fruity wine, and a bit sweet. it seemed to be on the brink sparkling, and played well against the chicken (though not an intensely special pairing by any means).

maple leaf farms sesame duck salad

next was the maple leaf farms sesame duck salad. now, i love duck. lord love a duck. duck is the bird king. so i basically, by default, had to love this salad. and they did not make that hard for me. the dressing was amazing, a spicy/sweet ginger sesame, providing a mild slow, lasting burn. the duck – delicious, tender and juicy, practically a beef steak, and not oily (as some duck can be). there were pecans, giving it a nice nuttiness. overall impression: this is a great, spicy salad, all parts in a perfect balance.

the salad was accompanied by avanthia godello, a light, crisp, sparkling white wine. the wine was alright, but did not really blow me away at all, and again the pairing with the salad was pleasant but nothing illuminating.

piedmontese steak

and then they brought out this – the piedmontese steak! a fine addition to the autumn menu. it is a great piece of meat, as i explained last time i reviewed seasons 52. long and short of it – it’s a good steak and it’s healthy. and that’s the reason they kept it for this season’s menu from last season. BUT. i wish they had just stuck it on their regular menu and put something else on their seasonal menu. because that’s the whole point of having a constantly changing menu! not that steak doesn’t work any time of the year, any time of the day, but it’s just a missed opportunity. and unless the species of cattle responsible for this steak is quickly going extinct, it doesn’t really need to be stuck on any sort of limited-time list.

the wine was tilia bonarda, velvety smooth, nicely dry red. almost too dry on the finish, but not so much to ruin it. just lovely.

baby broccoli and mashed sweet potatoes

however, there was one difference between the steak this time and last – the sides. before, and as pictured with the steak, the sides consisted of asparagus and fingerling potatoes. but when brought out in group portions, the sides change to what’s shown above: mashed sweet potatoes and “broccolini”, which is a corporate name (it is generically referred to as “baby broccoli”, despite the fact that it is not baby anything). it is a hybrid between what we know as standard broccoli, and the chinese kai-lan, some leafy thing. i had never seen or heard of this monstrosity before, so this is all news to me. the result of the melding? nothing special. the flavor is broccoli meets asparagus in a boring explosion of meh. the sweet potatoes, however, were delightful, fluffy and deliciously sweet (but nothing over the top). it was a really solid side, and a good choice to bring this dish somewhat in line with my autumnal expectations.

manchester farms all-natural grilled quail

and our final contender for the evening was the exciting manchester farms all-natural grilled quail (seasons 52 apparently prides itself on name dropping). it’s quail! grilled quail. little bird. similar to pigeon. i like the idea. it’s beautiful. a fancy bird, for sure. but… they went a bit crazy on the seasoning here. the bird is a tiny thing, so much so that just eating it and maintaining some semblance of dignity is a difficult task for anyone who might call themselves a “food monster”, and it seems to really take on the flavor of anything that touches it. it was salted and given a balsamic glaze, but all i got was salt. the meat was tender, and i’m sure nice, but it was so salty that i was reminded of KFC’s fried chicken. and that is not a good thing.

however, it was accompanied by an awesome risotto, soft savory and warm, with a wonderful mushroom and garlic flavor. sweet chef pleau was totally flipping out over this risotto, punctuating its introduction in the webcast by jumping into a kiddie pool full of the dish, and crying as he rubbed it into his face. and he was right to – it was amazing. as i’ve said before, risotto just has a feel good, home-cooked aura about it, like a comfort food. always good. there was also sauteed spinach, which is another kind of homey-type food, which was nice and light, though the onions wee a bit mushy, which truly enraged me.

and instead of one wine, we were treated to two distinctly different reds, the michael david petite petit, and the glenelly cabernet sauvignon. each provided and example of a style, the former new world, and the latter old world (possibly spelled ‘worlde’). both were good wines. surprisingly, they each started up rather similarly, with a deep, dark fruitiness, but they finished on completely opposite ends of the spectrum. the petite petit was a bit smoother and sweeter, with only a slightly dry finish, and a bit of an astringent edge. the cabernet sauvignon was much a more serious, dry and intense finish, which i definitely preferred. neither had a significant interaction with the quail.

pumpkin pie mini-indulgence

and, as always, we finish with the mini indulgence desserts. the new addition for fall was something just short of the food of the gods: pumpkin pie. accompanied by two gingersnap cookies (one on top, and one plopped in the center to ensure cookie throughout), the pumpkin pie was spot on, a bit smoother than a real pie, but the precise flavor. the ginger snaps, not too hard but not too soft, played against the sweet pie and whipped topping extremely well, and brought out the spices in the pumpkin. i also had the german chocolate cake, which was super rich and had beautiful toasted coconut. the indulgences are always extraordinary.

coming away from the evening, i felt a bit let down. of course, all the food was enjoyable, and the duck salad and chicken skewers were particularly good, but i can’t help but feel the season was not nearly as well articulated through the food as it ordinarily is. which is disappointing, as fall is my favorite season. pumpkin pie, hot apple cider, butternut squash soup… turkey?? the holy grail of food holidays right at the end of fall! and i was disappointed by the reappearance of the steak, despite the fact that it’s delicious. and the wine pairing, for me at least, never seemed as impressive as my first visit in spring, when each wine shed new light on every dish. nevertheless, a good evening, always a good time, at a good restaurant.

Seasons 52 on Urbanspoon

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Seasons 52 Summer Menu 2012

Posted by Tampa Bay Food Monster on June 26, 2012

the seasons are changing! all 52 of them. they have now changed over to “summer mode”, also known as “nightmare mode” in florida. out with the free love and other hippie ideals of spring, and in with the scorching heat and stifling humidity of summer. not to mention, delicious summer foods! yes, summer is filled with distinct flavors. much as the pumpkin serves fall as its special bitch-fruit, summer has the watermelon! instead of winter’s irish hot cocoa, we have tom collins! but nowhere is the changing of the seasons more evident than at seasons 52, chain restaurant/place of worship, where they rework their whole menu to correspond with the current season, and to PLEASE THE GODS OF OLD. our local chapter was kind enough to ask me to come sample their new dishes.

we were, as last time, treated to a live web-cast of seasons 52 chef clifford pleau and wine enchanter george miliotes. it was, yet again, magical, and they walked us through the entire menu that we were about to sample ourselves. also, we learned that the chef likes wine for breakfast**!! omg you guys, seriously he said this lolololll.

**consumption of alcohol may lead to better dancing, increased socialization, and temporary happiness. despite this, tampabayfood.com does not endorse alcohol for breakfast. these guys can help: alcoholics anonymous.

so that was fun. OH AND WE WERE GIVEN A SPECIAL SENDOFF BY A CERTAIN POPULAR AND TOTALLY RELEVANT CELEBRITY:

ENRIQUE!!!!!!

(they’re not screaming about enrique, but that’s what we were all like, and probably what you’re doing right now.)

YES. if you weren’t already sold on seasons 52, now you have a b-list celebrity’s endorsement to convince you! you have to love it now! but, if you’re some lame stickler who only cares about how the food tastes, not who claims to enjoy it, let’s take a look at the menu.

bbq chicken flatbread

we began with wine and flatbreads. this time, they unveiled the amazing barbecue chicken flatbread, which kicked the other ones’ asses. probably because barbecue chicken feels more substantial than plum tomato or artichoke and goat cheese. the sauce and chicken were really good, but it was not too heavy, so it still retained its light appetizer feel. their flatbreads are good, though not the most amazing thing in the universe; don’t believe enrique’s lies.

we also were treated to some delicious cocktails before our meal, which didn’t happen last time. this, combined with all the wines we got (a glass per course) resulted in more intense inebriation by the end of the meal, and probably a higher opinion of the food. it was clearly a genius move on their part, and i love them for it.

watermelon refresher cocktail

the first was the watermelon refresher, which was, according to my notes, “SO FUCKING GOOD!” made with a white rum, this thing was like drinking a watermelon. it was juicy and sweet, with a lightly fruity flavor like a real watermelon. you would be tasting the same thing if you mashed a watermelon with your fist and licked its wet remains. except this is gonna get you krunk.

strawberry lemon cocktail

the watermelon refresher was quickly followed by the strawberry lemon cocktail, which was made with a darker rum than the watermelon. it was a very different drink. this one featured muddled strawberries, and as a result was a much more substantial drink, and far fruitier. it was a little bit tart. basically, it was like drinking a strawberry.

both drinks totally hit the mark and were delicious. choosing between them comes down to which fruit you like more.

lobster and shrimp spring rolls

the actual meal began with the very light lobster and shrimp spring rolls. the lobster and shrimp were excellent, very fresh. the rolls served as a conveyance for the three types of sauces they came with: the green, a very light, barely there sauce tasting of fresh cilantro and mint; the yellow, a buttery, creamy, lemony sauce; and the red, a sweet chile sauce with a hint of bite to it. all the sauces were good, and i kept alternating between them as i ate. the red was probably best, but really they all stood on their own.

the rolls were served with the hirsch #1 grüner veltliner, some kinda white wine. thing. it was a light, fresh, bright and bubbly wine with a bit of a spice to it that really complimented the rolls, and a lingering acidic burn. the overall impression of the dish was clean and refreshing, perfect for that 125° summer weather.

arugula watermelon salad

a nice arugula salad with watermelon was also served with the wine and spring rolls. the salad was great, served with a soft goat cheese, watermelon slices, and pistachios. there was a noticeable spiciness from the arugula, and the pistachios provided a good nuttiness. the watermelon was good, though it did seem kind of just chucked in there for “summersies”. but that cheese! jesus, it was so soft, so smooth… a perfect cheese. incredible. i would make sensual, quiet love to this cheese.

the wine played well off of the spiciness of the salad, bringing it back out a second time.

summer vegetarian tasting

next was an interesting dish, the vegetarian tasting, which consisted of several individual parts, all with a bit of a latin flair. these were served with the honig sauvignon blanc.

there was “the grains of life”, which is a terrifying title and possibly the basis of an indiana jones movie, but actually consisted of quinoa and farro, which are grains presumably grown in hell. the dish was served cold, which was a bit surprising and almost off-putting, but once we were warned, it actually seemed like the right thing to do. it was sweet, almost dessert-like, like a rice pudding. the wine brought out a bit of nutty flavor in the dish.

there was grilled tofu with a mango chutney, which had a good saltiness and spiciness to it. the mango didn’t do much for me and was kind of unnecessary here, though obviously the tofu is not going to stand on its own. there were tomatoes with cheese and a balsamic vinaigrette, which were extremely fresh tasting, with a good cheese.

finally, the last two parts were the most familiar: the chile relleno, and a taco. i love chile rellenos, and was a bit surprised by what we got here. usually they are fried chiles, and in fact that is what was shown to us during the webcast; however, this was not fried on the outside. it shocked and confused me, but instead of walking out, i decided to eat it anyway. it was good, and there was an almost meaty quality to its innards despite their being vegetarian (mushrooms, spinach, and cheese), but it wasn’t what i was expecting. the taco, with a nice, delicious guacamole, suffered from featuring black beans, something i personally just can’t get behind. others like it. i do not.

all in all, this dish has a lot of variety, and it’s really a lot of fun. it’s quite substantial for a vegetarian course, and i would get it again.

wild alaskan copper river salmon

next was everybody’s favorite, the wild alaskan copper river salmon. this was just a simple and beautiful dish, as salmon tends to be. it was soft, delicious, buttery… smooth and glorious. just slightly peppery. i could spend hours just eating this, growing fat and disgusting, without a care in the world. it’s good fucking food. it was served with a corn risotto, which always tastes like down home love to me. sweet and creamy. the whole meal was satisfying in the same way steak and potatoes is; a good, hearty meal.

it was served with the chehalem inox chardonnay, a sweet and syrupy wine that was prepared, rather than in wooden casks, in metallic ones, resulting in a completely unique flavor. it allows the fruit to stand on its own, and provided us with a lightly sparkly, acidic wine that worked well with the meal, especially the risotto.

piedmontese bone-in strip steak

finally, the piece de resistance, the piedmontese bone-in strip steak. bonin’ strip steak. aww yeah. so the joke with seasons 52 is that everything is super healthy. i don’t know the ins and outs of that sort of thing, as i do not fully understand how to assess even basic nutritional information, but apparently everything is within a certain “healthiness range”. and somehow, making use of all sorts of pacts with various gods, seasons 52 has delivered unto us a full 11oz steak that is somehow not supposed to cause you to die young. these “piedmontese” cattle, apparently named after a [seperate??] breed of cattle from italy, is so healthy that you can eat the entire cow and only suffer a mild stroke.

the steak is served with a red wine reduction sauce and mushrooms, with asparagus and “fingerling potatoes” on the side. these potatoes are tiny and weird and will haunt my dreams. the steak is great – straight up grilled beef. it’s not breathtakingly tender, but it’s a solid steak. well prepared, nice and pink on the inside. the mushrooms and sauce are non-intrusive, and compliment the beef well. this is a hearty meal, and i think the main draw is the fact that you have a gigantic chunk of meat that won’t put you in your grave. i don’t know what any of this has to do with summer, but it’s awesome.

the wine, the markham cellar merlot, was ridiculously smooth, warm, with a big flavor and legs for days. it needs the food to work properly, but there’s a nice fruity flavor waiting in there.

dessert shot "mini indulgences" carousel

and once again, we were treated to a giant fucking carousel of dessert shots. the mini-indulgences, as they’re known, come in a variety of flavors. i went with a couple fruity dairy types, starting with the blueberry cheesecake. this featured an almost upsettingly rich cheesecake base, which is quite possibly too rich to stand on its own as a cheesecake (luckily there wasn’t too much of it there). it was accompanied by perfect little blueberry dudes.

raspberry cannoli dessert shot

…and the raspberry cannoli, which is a new indulgence for seasons. this thing was perfect. i love cannolis, and this had great, sweet, creamy filling that wasn’t actually filling the shell at all. i dipped the crispy container into the cream, eventually demolishing it in a sugar-induced frenzy, and was forced to use a spoon like a heathen. it was incredible. and the fresh raspberries were a perfect touch.

the desserts were all served with jam jar moscato, a light, bubbly, drinkable, but definitely sweet wine. its alcohol does play against the sweetness of the desserts, which is nice. it’s a bit much for me, as sweet wines often are, but it was good.

and that’s it! whew! yeah, they threw a lot at us. by the end, we were all toasty, and the resulting DUI i received is a testament to that. totally worth it. the menu is solid, and, though at times stretching to be “summer-tastic”, was superb throughout. and the pairings, though not necessarily as illuminating as last time, still provided us with several outstanding, unique wines i’d never have had elsewhere. if for nothing else, checking back with seasons 52 every menu change for the wines is completely worth it. this place is great.

Seasons 52 on Urbanspoon

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Island Girl Cakes Lava Red Velvet Cake Pops

Posted by Tampa Bay Food Monster on May 25, 2012

all food, in theory, is better when served on a stick. corn dogs? better than un-corn dogs. stuff on a stick? better than stuff not on a stick. khlav kalash?? i don’t think it even exists off a stick. in fact, science has proven that the only form of food conveyance better than on-stick is on-ring. and onion ring. mmm… onion ring.

ay poppy

the island girl from island girl cakes (she might be a pineapple??) was kind enough to donate a full dozen of her lava red velvet cake pops to “the cause” (my mouth). let me start off by saying how beautiful these things turned out. with the plastic wrapping, they are actually pretty classy. i could see handing these out at fancy social events, like a bar mitzvah or anal bleaching. they also could potentially be used as small projectiles, to be chucked at guests of honor, such as the bride and groom of a wedding.

the inner cake pop

the insides are a decadent bloody mess of moist cake. rather than a nasty slimy interior, as a lot of cake balls seem to turn out, these pops were the perfect moistness, coming across like a real cake. the cake is rich, velvety, smooth, and delicious, balancing the thick white chocolate coating perfectly, melting together into a potentially addictive two-bite sized snack. these were actually really good!

island girl cake pops is an online shop, but they are based in tampa. they do a whole bunch of styles and flavors (standard “classics”, gourmet, holiday, and even custom), and their blog showcases some of their past work. the prices range from 25-30 dollars per dozen.

order at: islandgirlcakes.com

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