Cobb Luxury Theatre opens in St Pete

When I first moved to St. Petersburg about 18 years ago, there were 2 movie theaters in the vicinity of Tyrone Mall – one in the mall and one across the street from the mall. They both closed at some point, and people on the west side of St. Petersburg were unhappy. They either had to drive south east to downtown and go to movies at Sundial, or east to Pinellas Park to the Park Place cinema.

Cobb movie theatre opens in st pete

Cobb Ribbon Cutting – Hi Mayor Kriseman!

The other day, I was driving with Brian from Tyrone Mall to Total Wine, and we saw a sign for Cobb Theatre. I got a little excited, but I had heard rumors of a Cobb Theatre in that area for over 2 years. This time, however, there was actual construction going on – right in the big empty parking lot on the edge of Tyrone Mall. The same big, empty parking lot where I took both of my girls to drive for the first time right after receiving their driver’s permits!

Now instead of a bunch of parking spaces there is a Buffalo Wild Wings and a Cobb Tyrone Luxury 10. The Tampa Bay Bloggers were invited to a sneak preview of the new theatre, and I attended the ribbon cutting 2 days before it opened. In exchange for a fun night out and 2 goodie bags, I agreed to inform all you guys about the new theatre.

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When you walk in, you’ll see first that there is a kitchen area, bar, and bistro. That’s because there is a full menu, full bar, traditional movie goodies and a party room to eat at while enjoying your time in the theatre. If you want to eat a full meal while watching your movie, they’ll give you a tray that fits in the cupholder of your seat – quite well I might add.

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On the night of the ribbon cutting, I tried beef burritos, fresh made cheese pizza, a Habanero Lime chicken wing, sautéed shrimp soft taco, Acqua Panna bottled water, soft serve make-your-own sundae and a few sips of the refreshing Italian sparkler Lunetta Prosecco.

I didn’t get to try the dynamite shrimp, but I hear they are awesome! I also need to try the flatbread with figs, Caramelized Onions and Brie Cheese!

Me with my sweet potato yummy goodness on my special tray

Me with my sweet potato yummy goodness on my special tray

And just when I thought I tried it all, more desserts came out – Housemade Bread Pudding with White Chocolate Chips & Bailey’s-Cognac Caramel Sauce. These little bites were mushy and sweet! But the best of the best were the sweet potato hushpuppies with Marshmallow Dipping Sauce! They tasted like french toast sticks – with a crisp to the outside and mush in the middle. These are what carried with me into the theatre to eat during the movie. And some may have been dipped in my ice cream. Now, don’t go thinking this was all just for the ribbon cutting. You can enjoy these goodies with your next movie too – plus lots more! Burgers, beer, coffee, raisinets, icees… The full menu is online here.

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IMG_7415When you step into the theatre, the red pleather seats are all reserved, reclining seating. There’s a button to push that leans your seat back and pops out your footrest, and another to bring the seat back to normal. And if you press the button but let go after just a second or two, you can recline it to just your perfect level – it’s not an all-or-nothing recline. Love that! So if you need to adjust mid-movie, you can and your back won’t start to hurt!

I saw “Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice”, mostly because I wanted to see Israeli actress Gal Gadot portray Wonder Woman. I’ve been asking for a live action Wonder Woman film for years, and someone finally agreed with me! Here’s a timeline from Entertainment Weekly with rough dates of when to expect the next 10 DC movies. Fellow Tampa Bay Blogger Caitlyn stayed and enjoyed the film and cushy seats with me.

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When my kids were little, we used to take advantage of free summer movies for kids. Cobb has a program like this, and their summer schedule is already online here.

Regular Ticket Pricing:
Adult $11.00
Matinee (4 pm and earlier) $8.00
Child (ages 3-12) $7.75
Seniors (60 & older) $8.00
Student/Military (With Valid ID.) $10.00
3D: Add $3.00

I plan to go online with my daughters and reserve seats for the movie Mother’s Day on Mother’s Day.

This place is going to be a great date night location for me and Brian too! Learn more about the Tyrone Cobb location here, or follow them on Facebook here. NOW OPEN!

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Fantastic Ekphrastic – Art in St Pete

Last night I attended the last of four showings of Fantastic Ekphrastic, which ran February 19 and 20, 2016, at 5:30pm and 8pm. All proceeds from the event benefitted Keep St. Pete Lit.

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When I got invited to attend the event, I did 2 things before RSVPing. First I looked up the definition of Ekphrastic: a literary description of or a commentary on a visual work of art… Then I looked up a description of the event so I knew what I was getting myself into. I had heard of it when it was up for a Best of the Bay art event award, and knew it had sold out last year and was BELOVED – But I did not know what it WAS.

  • Audiences walk into a space with 16 visual artists’ pieces set up around the perimeter and chairs in the center.
  • Each art piece is interpreted by a local writer who has just seen the artwork for the first time and is compelled to write an accompanying piece – poem, play, short story, etc.
  • These writings are then presented in dramatic readings by captivating local performers.

Brian and I decided we hadn’t had an artsy night out for a while, so put our names down for the final show – Saturday night at 8pm. We started with dinner at Red Mesa Cantina (duck taco, empanada and grilled chicken quesadilla shared), dessert at Swah-Rey, and then headed to Soft Water Studios for Fantastic Ekphrastic. I was already enjoying looking at art just walking to our car and down the street to these local hangouts!

IMG_5916IMG_5920Although guests certainly arrived after us, I probably would have liked to have been there about 15 minutes earlier to view the art up close a bit longer before the readings began. (Which basically means we should have split one of the massive pieces of cake at Swah-Rey instead of ordering one for each of us. Brian’s tummy regretted that later. And to continue this aside, they do offer $1 tasters of the cake in mini-cupcake form and two of those are probably what I could have ordered for myself, but I had been avoiding artificial sugar for a while and wanted to treat myself to a real piece of cake.)

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We peeked at the art, then we took our seats and the real fun began. Pre-written pieces about the art were read aloud by local performers. Everyone also had a ballot, and we were asked to vote on our favorite collaboration.

12747439_10153362180849109_444692525208414989_o“I am in awe of the creative collaboration that makes St. Pete such a wonderful city,” said my friend Maureen McDole in her open remarks. The event is her brainchild. In the past it has been referred to as “a literary moshpit of creativity.”

One thing that was particularly interesting to me was that my favorite painting in the room did not get my vote because it was not my favorite collaboration. It was this painting of the moon:

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It’s “First Moon” by Carol Mickett and Robert Stackhouse. The writer of the corresponding piece was Matt Jackson. A bit from his piece that I jotted down was, “I tell it of its greatness, but it has no such thoughts of itself.”

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The striking image above, and on all of this year’s marketing for the event, is Saori Murphy’s “Identifiability,” one of the pieces featured in the show. Glòria Muñoz wrote about this piece, and a quote I scribbled down was, “We’re all on the verge of inventing something, aren’t we?”

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Artist Carrie Jadus wrote about her piece above, Doppelganger, (which she also photographed), “This painting is about my own worst enemy. One whom I have (hopefully) engaged in a friendly battle with this time. A beautiful ekphrastic piece was written about this by St Petersburg’s Literary Muse, Maureen McDole.” The quote I scribbled down from her piece was, “Nothing but light.”

12418924_10153362181394109_8200291652924444413_oBrian voted for Bikini Atoll Bombshell: Lance Rodgers, artist / Becca McCoy, actor (pictured) / Sheila Cowley, playwright. My little quip from this was, “I made $250 last week.” She was referencing the military men being so bored they were betting on lizards catching moths. It was the People’s Choice winner of best creative collaboration for the event.

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This piece got my ballot. The painting is “Daddy Wouldn’t Let Me Dance” by Judy Dazzio. The piece read was written by David Warner and performed by 4 people: Eugenie Bondurant, Paul Wilborn, Kylin Brady and Peyton Jones. Kylin Brady performed a few of the pieces throughout the evening, and I just adored her. She had a great presence and incorporated so many senses into her acting, actually moving me to tears. Poking through her Facebook later I see she’s actually a dancer and has tons of funky style. WCW for days…

Another piece she read was written by Sheree Greer and accompanied the painting “Beautiful” by Carolina Cleere (below.)

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That piece played off the premise of “The Best Advice We’d Give Our Younger Selves — In 3 Words.” The girl in the painting would go to yard sales and find ‘treasures’. Among them were a silver mirror with pearl-like handle and a blue-eyed, yellow haired, one-armed doll that smelled like strawberries. What would she tell her younger self? Fuck that doll… no, use the mirror. No. You are beautiful.

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This piece is “Sall & Son” by Cora Marshall. John Pendygraft wrote about it, and nailed the description of the mothers expression, calling her “tired, steadfast, worried, resolute, uncertain and determined.” I see all of that!

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This is “Unfamiliar Landscape” by Sharon Norwood. R. MonaLeza, famous locally for her open mic poetry, wrote of an African-American little girl starting a new, mostly-white school and getting bullied. The note I wrote down does not hold the emotion of the piece, but I liked the alliteration of it. She described the boys on the slide during recess as “shimmying down the shiny metal chute.” Say it out loud. Doesn’t that sound pretty?

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And the quote that I think wrapped up the whole night the best accompanied the piece of art I admired the least. “Miracle Down the Way,” a diptych by Carol Dameron, had a piece written about it by Barbara Riddle. I wrote down the emphatic,

“We live in the lives of others who have seen our work.”

Which is kind of the whole point of having actors read from writers written from visual art. B-I-N-G-O!

Brian and I are on the left

Brian and I are on the left

12771877_10153362180034109_934410147000006888_o 12771622_10153362181364109_6661142112674993412_o 12742638_10153892254362567_7879345507635605342_n 12734279_1107515659260225_3743346004476956133_n The artwork and writing from Fantastic Ekphrastic will be on display at Soft Water Studios until Sunday, March 13th, so you can drop by and check it out!

The event was Directed by Bob Devin Jones with Music and Sound by Matt Cowley. Sponsors included: Beth Morean, Soft Water Studios, Russell Property Group, Sylvia Rusche Insurance Agency, Inc, Creative Loafing Tampa, photoxo, Fisher & Sauls PA, Keep Saint Petersburg Local, The Studio@620, Kathleen McDole, The Hubbard Family, Doyle Wealth Management, The Amsterdam, and Many Happy Return$, Inc.

Keep St. Pete Lit has programs throughout St. Pete including free LitSpace writing classes at Morean Art Center for adults, the curated used book store called Bookspace inside Bloom Art Center and the LitSpace Writer’s Residency at Craftsman House Gallery. They also deliver books to children through the Bluebird Book Bus and host an adult book club at the MFA.

*Disclaimer: I didn’t take any of these photos. I stole them from Facebook. I have no intentions of discrediting someone’s work, rather I hoped to give my readers a sense of the evening the best way possible. Also, my tickets to the event were free because of friends involved with the show, but all opinions are my own and I was not asked to write this post.

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Flying over Leeds Castle

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Get in the trees!

When our family ventured to London last June, we researched fun things to do with TEENS beforehand. Traveling with older teenagers is not like traveling with tiny children – but they aren’t quite like traveling with a set of contemporaries either.

adventure-GoApefamilyOne of the fun adventures my husband stumbled across online was Go Ape, a tree-top adventure that lets you “get in touch with your inner Tarzan.”

Their course includes a high ropes course adventure with a zip line at the end of each challenge. Our family had done a ropes course at Dollywood, but certainly not in treetops near a castle! And it did not include ziplining. (After only three years, Dollywood removed the two-acre Adventure Mountain multi-level rope course, so don’t go looking for it now…)

While at Dollywood, I found myself gripping the ropes tighter than I thought I would, getting a little stressed about falling despite the harness and safety wire. It was still an enjoyable trip, though, so when Brian recommended taking a train to Kent for the day and trying the Go Ape course, followed by a castle tour and hedge maze large enough to actually get a little lost in, we were all really excited about it.

On the train from London to Kent you can read, nap, chat, and enjoy views like these!

On the train from London to Kent you can read, nap, chat, and enjoy views like these!

We prepped by reading their website. The text and photos promised breathtaking views of the beautiful area surrounding Leeds Castle (near Maidstone), and “obstacles that will get the hairs on the back of neck bristling”. It also said the high ropes courses were approximately 40 feet above the forest floor and zip wires were over 800 feet in length – and my favorite part “leap off our Tarzan Swing and tackle our crossings whilst enjoying some of Britain’s most breathtaking scenery“.

Gorgeous castle grounds

Gorgeous castle grounds

raffi apeAlso thanks to the website, we knew how to get there, how early to arrive before our scheduled flight time, and what to wear – something you don’t mind getting grubby that covers your stomach and an emergency rain jacket. Appropriate close-toed footwear with soles with good grips – no sandals or slip-off shoes. Long hair should be tied back. And they recommended gloves, so I grabbed a pair of those $1 stretchy Target gloves for each of us. (I was the only one who wore them. I thought they were to avoid rope burn, but they were really to prepare for bad weather – and we had GORGEOUS weather!)

You can bring scaredy-cat friends who don’t want to participate to enjoy the forest grounds and take photos for you. You can also bring little ones: the Tree Top Junior Adventure includes up to an hour of exploring the tree tops for 6 – 12 year olds to enjoy.

We arrived right on time, locked up our belongings, signed insurance waivers, and got fit into our safety harnesses.

Brian steps into his safety harness

Brian steps into his safety harness

An adventure begins with a safety briefing. There was a group of teens there celebrating a friend’s birthday, and we had our safety talk together. That was nice, because you could see the information repeated a few times so it would sink in despite your excitement.

Then there are a couple of easy obstacles to try near the start, so the safety person can make sure you are doing them correctly, and so someone can back out if they are too uncomfortable.

Then you are led by signs through the forest from obstacle to obstacle, climbing at the start of each one, and meeting the ground after each one with a fun zipline down!

My daughter ascending to an obstacle

My daughter ascending to an obstacle

All of us enjoying the course

All of us enjoying the course

DD1 gets ready to zipline down!

DD1 gets ready to zipline down!

DD2 wanted me to take photos and videos of her throughout the course, but my hands were shakey from the height and from gripping so hard, and I was worried I would drop her iPhone! That didn’t stop her from making her own videos and taking selfies up high in the treetops without fear.

teen happy on ropes course

At one point my nervousness got the best of me. I ziplined down to the ground and took photos for a few minutes, and then finished up the course with the rest of the family. I just needed to feel solid ground for a few minutes, and my daughters applauded me when I stuck with it and climbed back up! #gotMyBack

Here are some more visuals of our tree-top Go Ape adventure:

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“I’m so glad we did this instead of Harry Potter, mom!”

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At the end we all received certificates of completion, as a memento to the fun you just survived. Just a short walk from the course is Leeds Castle, known as the Queen’s Castle and “the loveliest castle in the world“, where we planned to have a picnic lunch.

Enjoying the walk to the castle

My family walking to Leeds Castle on a gorgeous summer day in the UK

With peacocks roaming and sheep wandering, you’ll feel like you’ve gotten away from it all! I loved much of the art inside the castle as well.

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Outside the castle an animal show geared towards young children was going on. We went into the hedge maze while many of the other guests are occupied. It’s NOT an easy maze.

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couple in hedge maze near leeds castle

The maze ends in the center, where you take steps down to an underground grotto!

Grotto near Leeds castle

In the grotto

On our way back to the meet the shuttle to our train, we spotted pre-wedding photos happening on the castle grounds. The castle was closing as the wedding caterer arrived.

wedding at leeds castle, kent, uk

This was certainly one of the best days of our London vacation in the summer of 2015! We had active time and passive time, we worked individually and as a team, we got exercise and enjoyed the amazing beauty around us. If you take a family trip nearby, I recommend a day trip to Kent, Leeds Castle and the GoApe treetop zipline adventure for sure!

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Chicken Drop Bingo

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A few years ago I met Marilyn McCloskey. Someone told me about a 5k in downtown St Pete at the base of The Pier that needed volunteers. They knew I was tapped into the local running scene and might be able to help out. That was before Running 4 Brews had a team at virtually every race in Tampa Bay.
Somehow I managed to rope in the Cross Country team of Shorecrest Preparatory School to volunteer. The team needed an annual service project, and the kids were seasoned 5k runners, so it made sense.
Last week at the 2015 Iconic Women of St. Petersburg “Celebrating Women with Vision” Awards luncheon, I bumped into Marilyn again. She remembered me. She said that not only did we have great volunteers who brought supplies for the course, like huge water jugs, but after I shared the Facebook event she was contacted by two people who knew me who knew someone who had Huntington’s and asked Marilyn for people to contact for medical assistance locally.
Apparently, Marilyn has a much better memory than I do. That was YEARS ago. But I remembered reading something much more recently on Facebook about an upcoming event to support the Huntington’s Disease Society, and I asked what she was up to. That was when Marilyn told me about Chicken Drop Bingo.
“Win a CRAPLOAD of Money” at Chicken Drop Bingo! the flyer earnestly proclaims. It’s meant to be funny, but if you don’t know what Chicken Drop Bingo is, there’s some explaining left to do.
Basically there’s a giant bingo board. Instead of having your own board, like in traditional bingo, this is a large shared board. You put money down on a square, like in Vegas. And then a CHICKEN wanders around the board. People call out and cheer and try to get the chicken to walk around the board and POOP on the square they put money on. If it drops on your number you’re the winner!
$5 buys you a numbered square. It’s FREE to watch, and just $5 to play, so you can bring friends and have a silly time supporting a great cause!
When: Saturday, May 16th, 2015. 3:00-6:00 p.m.
Where: Quaker Steak & Lube, 10400 49th Street North, Clearwater, FL 33762
15% of food sales will be donated to HDSA. There will also be drink specials and auction Items.
And back to my recent luncheon – Congratulations to Marilyn on being a finalist for the Community Service Iconic Woman of the Year!! Marilyn says, “I volunteer for HD in memory of my sister Connie, and for all those out there who are fighting the disease or worried they might have it!”
Be there – buy a square!
Learn more about the crazy day on their website – or Facebook event.
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MacDill Foodies Crawl

Last week I was lucky enough to “crawl” up MacDill Ave, Tampa, with the Tampa Bay Bloggers to some of the best gastropubs/eateries in town!

The Datz family has introduced both Dough, a dessert place, and Roux, a Cajun & Creole Restaurant – and all three come highly recommended — by me!

Hosting a group of bloggers is a great way to try out new menu items and get honest and varied opinions. Here’s what I thought of the great dishes we got to try:

DSC_1817We started at Roux for drinks and appys. I hadn’t been to Roux since a sneak preview before they completed their walls and bar, and I enjoyed looking around first to see the great decor. I’m a big fan of fleur de lis and NOLA, so it is always fun for me to see bits of New Orleans in the Tampa Bay area.

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We had three appetizers to try and three drinks to choose from. I loved the Abita beer-battered Crab Beignets, which had 4 different flavors of remoulades to dip them in, but they were divine plain. The had just the right fried beignets crunch on the outside and melt-in-your-mouth center. Not too seafood tasting.

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I split a Boudin Ball, which was served over creole mustard crema. They are a little larger than a golf ball, smaller than a lemon, but I knew there was a lot of food to come so I only ate half. I could have easily eaten 4-6 with a small cup of gumbo as a meal!

There were also Char-Grilled Oysters. They was so much better than the raw on-the-half-shell oyster I had eaten years ago (which was my first and, up till now, last oyster.)

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IMG_0198As far as drinks go, they have a refreshing hurricane served over mounds of crushed ice:
Kraken Dark, Siesta Key white, orange juice, passion fruit purée, pineapple, lime and bitters. There’s the traditional NOLA Sazerac made from Rittenhouse Rye, Pernod Absinthe, Peychauds, bitters and lemon peel. And last but not least is my light, girly favorite the French 75 (shown): The Botanist, lemon, champagne and lemon zest served in a champagne flute.

Then 8 bloggers piled in my mommy-van to zip up the road to Datz.

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This self proclaimed Foodie’s Theme Park is going to up their shock value this year with more “stunt food”, foods with layers upon layers of goodness that take them over the top. Read on to see the sneak peek that we got!

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IMG_0203We were greeted with some house-made, flavored popcorn and what Sandbookwich.com calls “2015’s first new food trend”, Buffalo Cauliflower. The whole head of cauliflower was roasted, then lightly battered and fried, then tossed in buffalo sauce and served with blue cheese dressing. I’m not much for blue cheese, but the rest of this dish was amazing! We kept it on the table and I kept taking more nibbles throughout the night when there was a lull in food-stuffs.

There were two drinks specially prepared for us that night. “#HotSex” pronounced “hashtag hot sex” was a blend of dry gin and something-something with a chili pepper on top. Some tried the “Love Stinks“, which was Bombay sapphire, raspberry liquor and a dirty cherry dropped inside. I didn’t try either since at some point mentioned above I became the driver.

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IMG_0207When we were settled with drinks, our server (Chops) told us about two dishes that were not on the menu that they were featuring that night. One was the Cheesy Todd: a cheese burger with your basic pickle-tomato toppings, but instead of a bun it is served between two mac&cheese patties. Yes, fried mac and cheese with beef and cheese in between. And a side of house made chips with blue cheese drizzle. I decided to volunteer as tribute and ordered this dish for the table. I left the bottom mac&cheese patty intact to bring home to DD1, then cut the top “bun” and burger into 4 pieces to pass around. The burger was expertly prepared, and the mac and cheese patty did not fall apart into separate noodles when we bit into it, which was my concern.

inside the cheesy todd

inside the cheesy todd

IMG_0211The 2nd item not on the menu was the Hungryman 2.0: two pork chops with mashed potatoes and gravy topped with bacon.

Denise, a Datz regular, introduced me to the Desi Arnaz Cuban Salad: iceberg lettuce, tomatoes, swiss cheese, ham, spanish olives, spanish vinaigrette- “It’s a gluten free cuban sandwich on top of a salad” she said. I liked it even though I don’t like olives. It was NOT skimping on the toppings for one bite. It even had two delicious pieces of pressed Cuban bread on the side. The bread was soft and full of amazing grill flavor!

Outdoorsydiva.com was on my right, and she ordered “on the lam(b)“, grilled maple soy glazed lamb chops over roasted butternut squash. Let me tell you, that squash was the tastiest thing I have eaten in 2015! Flavored by the braised lamb drippings and lord knows what other Datz magic, I could have eaten just a bowl of that for dinner. Maybe with a piece of that pressed Cuban bread to scoop it up with… mmmmm….

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IMG_0216After mixing and matching and trying each others yummies, we went next door to Dough for boozy shakes and dessert. Boozy shakes are just what they sound like – adult milk shakes. Like a chocolate peanut butter shake with kahlua and whipped cream. It actually tasted more like Butterfinger to me, but the one I tasted had only half the booze added, by request. But they add their own secret twists to these, and they taste like no creamy goodness you’ve ever had before. They also make all of their gelato in house with fresh ingredients. TIP: If you come with the kids for just gelato, come in the back door and they won’t see all the donuts, cupcakes and chocolates first.

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They said more stunt food is coming, and I’m guessing that soon the brownies will do their own tricks. Someone ordered the last bacon brownie of the day while we were there.

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My dessert was a raspberry cheesecake donut. I think it was a housemade donut, and the hole was stuffed with cheese cake flavored cream filling, and on top was a blob of raspberry pink sticky glaze stuff.

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I brought home dessert for my girls too. A raspberry macaron for DD1 in honor of her upcoming France trip:

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And a Funfetti cupcake for my rainbow girl, DD2:

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See inside Dough’s chocolate cheesecake dome here.

Ending the night with a hug from RunDMT

Ending the night with a hug from RunDMT

I’m pretty sure I rolled home on my new belly tire.

Next time you are asked for a restaurant recommendation, you have three readily available on the tip of your tongue! Datz, Dough and Roux!

Disclaimer: I was invited to dinner by these three establishments and provided with food and drinks in exchange for a review. All opinions are my own. Thanks to the Tampa Bay Bloggers for organizing this wonderful night!

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