By Java and Dune

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Clearwater City Grill

401 Fort Hariison, Clearwater, FL
Tel: 727-408-5160

My friend invited me to see the renovation of this landmark restaurant across the street from the Clearwater Courthouse. Apparently, there have been many incarnations of this place over the years. It started out as one of those silver bullet diners years ago and oddly enough the bar of the Clearwater City Grill is still housed in its shell. Exposed brick and comfy booth seating round out the interior.  A lively professional crowd from the Courthouse and surrounding offices make up the crowd. I decided to try the Amazing Sedona Taco which are touted as the best fish tacos on the coast, maybe in the world. They were delicious and plentiful. Served on a long board reminiscent of all things California, these tacos start with grilled flour tortillas and are topped with cabbage, guacamole, tomato and cheddar and Monterey Jack cheese, salsa is served on the side. The fish is well seasoned but not overdone, and they're shredded making them super easy to eat. At  $7.95, you couldn't ask for a better deal. Other menu choices show great creativy, offering classic diner food with a twist. The next time you find yourself in downtown Clearwater, I suggest you give this place a try.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Jazz Jamm

Vinoy Resort, 501 5th Ave NE, St. Pete., FL. Tel. 727- 894-1000

Meet 2 hear the beat
written by guest SK

Rick Gee offered up a change of pace Friday night at his monthly Jazz Jamm at the Vinoy. The Celestial Orchestra is a 10 piece Latin jazz group with a beat and a message: 'tropical music with a message to honor our supreme being'.
The group's co-founders, Andrew Maldonado, Dr. Frankie Bermudez and Juan Santana gave a spirited performance, mostly Latin swing wtih a strong horn section and a wide variety of drums, maracas, grourds and other percussion instruments. Early in the set they changed the beat to a be-bop standard called Green Dolphin Street then returned to their Latin roots. The first few numbers seemed excessively loud limiting the subtlety of the thythm. But once they toned down the amps, the beat was contagious.
A highlight of the night came with the three solo riffs by the very young, very talented keyboardist from Columbia, David Cubilos, whose tight chords and changes delighted the audience.
Thanks once again to Rick Gee, who is working hard to bring good jazz, with a variety of sounds and moods to St. Petersburg. Bring it on, Rick, we're just getting warmed up.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

E & E Stakeout Grill

100 N. Indian Rocks Road, Belleair Bluffs, FL 33770
Tel: 727-585-6399

I hadn't been to E & E Stakeout Grill for dinner until last night, but have alway loved lunches there. It is a bit of an extravagence for lunch. The dinner menu is slimmer, but the fare is still quite good. I took some out of town friends there last night in an effort to procure some decent seafood for them without the traffic and chaos of the beach in Springtime. The lure of seafood had me for a moment and there were many fine choices however, it was the steak special that drew me in. I  usually like to try the chef's special and Chef Erwin's choices didn't disappoint. Filet mignon medallions perfectly cooked and topped with roasted tomato and Bernaise sauce, what's not to love?  I chose to double the veggies and forgo the potato.  All was delicious but slightly tepid. I blame that on our outdoor seating, surely a trek from the kitchen. Also, my friend ordered something off the menu, almond crusted grouper which the chef was happy to make. My friend was pleased, in fact he said he loved it, so it was worth asking for something special. My other comrade had a decent steak, but I don't think he'll write home about it on postcards of Florida. E & E Stakeout offers a full bar and the crowd takes their mixed drinks seriously. This affluent area among the "Belleairs" has a dearth of restaurants, so the joint was jumping. The owners have a hand in great dining experiences around the county including, Guppy's on the Beach in Indian Rocks Beach and Mystic Fish in Palm Harbor. Under $20 for lunch, dinner under $30, and a 15% gratuity is added for you.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Verducci's Pizzeria Trattoria

7736 Blind Pass Rd., St. Pete Beach, FL. Tel. 727-363-790

The old Fortunato's was recently renovated to become the new Verducci's on St. Pete Beach and it's a definite improvement. The bigggest change is a very creative and appetizing new menu, thanks to it's Neapolitan owners. A welcome addition to the beaches. Listed under each category on the menu; appetizers, entrees, salads, pizzas, subs, strombolis and calzones is a large selection.
Of course, there's still work to be done. What's the saying....Rome wasn't built in a day? The servers, though pleasant, are obviously in training. One of our inquiries that needed confirmation from the boss was...Do you serve Pellegrino or Perrier? The answer was no, but after a minute or two the answer was.. Yes, we do! A definite desire to serve, but still learning.
Our three entrees, Gnocci, Shrimp, Eggplant Parmesan were consumed without hesitation. The salad was large so that went with us. The wine list is a good one and our choices were excellent. We spent a little more, but you could probably get a nice meal for under $20.
One thing the owners must think about improving is the entrance. A large take out counter with lots of paper cups and supplies greet you at the door occupying most of the first room, but you'll be asked immediately where you'd like to sit, so don't be put off. Stay and choose the second room and you'll be fine. A restaurant in St. Petersburg recently closed because it had an obvious take out counter at the door concealing the wonderful ambiance and delicious dining further inside. Very sad.
Oh, and try the pizza. I've been told that it is authentic.
I like their slogan too... Cuciniamo con amore. I think it's true.