Tag Archives: food

The Refinery

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 I am a New Tampa-ite, so traveling south of Busch Blvd. makes me
somewhat uncomfortable, and my general comfort zone consists of the
college area hang outs near where I work and the yuppie young
professional joints closer to the Wiregrass Mall. It’s sort of slim
pickings for non-chain that have excellent, reasonably priced food. So
when people at work and in the blogosphere started raving about this
laid-back small restaurant with a focus on local produce and
sustainability I stood up and listened. The Refinery in Seminole
Heights is a kitschy and quirky establishment in what I’m pretty sure
is a renovated mid-century era home. I visited last week with a few
friends for Girl’s Night Out.
I am one of those irritating people who always tries to find the
bright side. It probably makes me bad at writing reviews of anything
because not only do I hate writing negative comments, but I can
usually find at one positive thing. I’ve been mulling over my recent
Girl’s Night Out at The Refinery for close to a week now hoping time
would help me characterize the experience more positively, because if
I’m being honest I’ve never been had an establishment that I’ve heard
such wonderful things about be such an overall disappointment.
Let’s start with the pros.
I really did love the atmosphere. The kitchen was open to the dining
room, they serve water and soda out of Mason jars, the plates were
eclectically mismatched and chipped, and I loved the grapey purple
paint on the walls (I’m trying to decorate my apartment so seriously
it was like my favorite thing about the whole visit). I could
definitely see this as a fun place to hang out and grab something to
eat before heading off to The Independent or another neighborhood hang
out. They wait staff, or at least our waiter, was also very
knowledgeable about the menu.
Now onto the rest.
While knowledgeable I didn’t find our waiter especially pleasant or
helpful. He seemed to think we were a bother to him and he was
molasses in January slow about ev-er-y-thing. Seriously.
The wine and beer list was very limited. I will say it up front. I am
a HUGE Cigar City Brewery fan. So I was somewhat, ok clearly a lot,
disappointed that at a restaurant that claims to be about local food
there were only two Cigar City brews on the menu. Additionally, I just
felt like the beer menu leaned more towards craft IPAs, generally not
a personal favorite, without a well rounded selection of other types
of beer.

Strawberry Panzanella

The food was sort of hit and miss. My salad, Strawberry Panzanella,
was fantastic. The strawberries were super sweet and ripe, which
surprised me as it is not Florida strawberry season, and they paired
well with the peppery greens. Though the Tomato Saffron Vinaigrette
tasted like olive oil to me.  For my entrée I ordered Ale Braised
Chicken which smelled divine, but ended up being very dry and over
cooked. The barley however was perfectly cooked and the hop gravy was
excellent and provided the good ale flavor I was missing in the
chicken.

Ale Braised Chicken with Hop Gravy

The Refinery’s menu changes weekly, based on the local season, but two
items are ever present; the 5-Spice Hanger Steak and the Burger. My
friend Nina ordered the burger. Her words were it lacks flavor. Also
her French fries, while tasty, were cold. This is a personal pet peeve
of mine. I will send French fries back if they are not burn your
finger tips hot.

Refinery Burger and French Fries

The best dish on the table hands down was the Mushroom Ragout, ordered
by my friend Kim. I expected more of a dark sautéed mushroom and
garlic with olive oil, but what was presented was a bright and acidic
tomato based ragout over smooth polenta. It was excellent.

Mushroom Ragout with Polenta. The crappy Iphone pictures do not do this dish justice. I apologize.

My overall verdict at this point is general disappointment and a sort
of “Meh” feeling. I will probably give The Refinery another shot;
maybe in the spring or summer when in season produce isn’t limited to
Cabbage and Oranges. For now though thumbs down.

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Epcot International Food and Wine Festival: Recap Three

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Ok so, I’m down to the last three countries from my first trip to the Food and Wine Festival. Tonight I’m covering South Korea, Poland, and Puerto Rico. I’m just gonna get right to the food.

South Korea:
Lettuce Wraps with Roast Pork and Kimchi Slaw. Damn good was my first thought, HOLYCRAPTHAT’SHOT was my second. The heat wasn’t right up front it sort of hid and hit you in the back of the mouth. I gave the second half of my wrap to BFFMandy cause it was too hot, but overall it was fab. I also had Honey Ginger Tea. It was cool and refreshing. It tasted a lot like the flavor of chai tea. B+

Poland:
I love Pierogies. I especially love this pierogie; which was serve with kielbasa and caramelized onion. The dumpling was hot and crispy on the outside and smooth and creamy on the inside. The onions were my favorite parts, they were perfectly caramel-y sweet with a sour finish. Yum-O! A

Puerto Rico:
I did not eat in Puerto Rico, I drank. The Bacardi Frozen Torched Cherry Colada. It was cool and creamy with coconut and cherry flavors. It was out of this world. Probably my favorite drink of the day. A+

That’s all of the reviews for the first round this year, but I’m going back tomorrow.

=)

Epcot International Food and Wine Festival: Recap 2

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So I previously covered, Greece, Canada, and Ireland. Tonight: France, Australia, and South Africa. Let’s just get right down to the food.

France:
Escargot! There a a bunch of other French words in the name of this dish, but it basically comes down to escargot with butter and parsley over brioche. If you’re rolling your eyes at my excitement or internally cringing; STOP! I mean it do not write this off until you’ve tried it. The escargot come in little bread bowls and are topped with butter, garlic, and parsley. This is the dish that made me love escargot and I don’t lie about good food so just try it. I also had the Cosmo Slush. It was pretty good; equally sweet and tart. A+

Australia:
I have previously always skipped Australia, but this year we stopped by and had Seared Barramundi with Blistered Cherry Tomatoes, Arugula, and Lemon Oil.  The fish was good firm, but not dry, and lemony. The fish was extremely good, but the salad was odd. I expected the salad to be warm, what with the whole blistered tomatoes thing, but it was cold. It was ok, just odd. B-.

South Africa:
South Africa had one of my favorite plates of food, despite the fact that I couldn’t finish it. We had the Seared Beef Tenderloin with Sweet Potato Puree and Mango Barbecue Sauce. The beef and the sauce were well paired, but very spicy. The sauce was sweet to start but had a definite kick at the back end. The sweet potatoes were smooth, creamy, with just a hint of a spice I could identify ( I found out later it’s ginger.) A-

Only three countries left in my first foray into this year’s festival: South Korea, Poland, and Puerto Rico.
=)

Happy 15th Anniversary Food and Wine Festival!

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So as previously mentioned, BFFMandy, BFFMandy’s Mom, PZ, and I went to the Epcot International Food and Wine Festival. This was not my first time at Food and Wine, my family and I have gone since I was in college, but the is the 15th anniversary, so there are new kiosks and tons of options for fun. Now, let me state up front that I am lame and I forgot my camera. I didn’t realize until I was almost to the theme park. So no pictures, but I’m going again this weekend so there will be pictures eventually.

Ok so I know that all the maps of Epcot start the World Showcase in Mexico, but I’m a rebel and I prefer to start in Canada. I’m not actually a rebel, I do this because the World Showcase usually opens around 11AM and if you start in Mexico you spend all afternoon with the sun in your eyes; if you start in Canada you’re walking with the sun at your back (or side) in the afternoon. This doesn’t have anything to do with my recap of The Food and Wine Festival except if you’re looking at the festival guide I’m recapping in reverse.

First up:
Greece:
Greece is a perennial festival favorite. This year PZ and I had Chicken Souvlaki with Tzatziki, though I seriously considered the Spanikopita because it is to. die. for.  But back to the chicken. They were making it fresh as we ordered (we were just lucky), so the chicken was piping hot. The tzatziki was cool and garlicky and the pitas were warm and perfect for folding around the chicken or sipping up extra sauce. All in all an A.

Canada:
You know what I had in Canada. The Canadian Cheddar Cheese Soup. This soup is deliciousness in a bowl; it doesn’t matter that I’ve had this soup at home at least a dozen times there is something about having it at Epcot. I’m actually fairly certain the published recipe isn’t exactly the same as the restaurant recipe. The texture at the park is ridiculously smooth and creamy. I also had a glass of Chateau des Charmes Riesling, it was light and fruity it would;ve been a better match for the Maple-glazed Salmon, but what-evs. A+ 

Ireland:
Lobster and Scallop Fisherman’s Pie. Does that say enough? No? It was very good, the potatoes were creamy, peppery, and just the right amount of crispy on the top. The inside had a good amount of seafood in the relatively small dish, I got two scallops and several large pieces of lobster in a creamy tomatoey lobster bisque. Accompanied by a perfectly poured Guinness and eat in the shade next to the World Showcase lagoon, we couldn’t stop talking about what great weather we lucked into. A

That’s all for tonight. Up later this week, France, Australia, and South Korea.
=)