Restaurant Spotlight

Casa Cosenza

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Tucked into a small shopping plaza off of Tampa Road in Oldsmar, you’ll find this family owned, authentic Italian piece of paradise, Casa Cosenza. I had the great honor of dining here on Saturday night and can’t wait to return.

J. and I walked in and were warmly greeted by the owner, who recognized J. from his visit there the week before. They were crowded, but a few tables were quickly taken apart to accommodate our small party. The atmosphere here is warm and comfortable, with wooden floors, and white tables and chairs, it feels like a small summer cottage. A large bookcase in the back of the restaurant is home to many travel books and a large screen TV that plays scenes of Italian cities and countrysides while soft Italian music plays in the background. If you’re lucky, you’ll be able to see some pasta made first-hand in a small corner near the kitchen.

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We were served complimentary bread and oil to start. The menu is full of authentic dishes (and in authentic Italian!). They are very accommodating with their menu as well. Their goal is to create the best experience for you, so if there is something you may want but not see on the menu, just ask! We asked if they could make us a fresh caprese salad and they happily obliged. While hard to go wrong, it was probably the freshest tasting caprese salad I’ve ever had.

 

J. ordered the “risotto cacio e bIMG_8775lend 5 pepe e sesamo” (risotto with cheese, 5 different types of pepper (seasoning), and sesame). The dish was heavenly. The rice was soft and every bite just melted in your mouth. There was a nice sweetness, toned down by the pepper, that made this dish very filling. It was topped with large cheese crisps that added that bit of texture you wanted. Our waiter recommended a glass of the montepulciano quattromani red wine to pair with the risotto. The wine was heavy, but smooth, and paired nicely with the pepper of the risotto and helped balance out the sweetness.

I went for the “pasta fresca del giorno” (homemade pasta with fresh tomatoes, olive oil, parmesan and pecorino cheese). I couldn’t wait to try that homemade pasta and it did not disappoint. Boxed pasta just does not compare. It was not overdressed with sauce, and the tomatoes added a nice pop of fresh acid. A simple dish, but pasta shouldn’t be overly complicated. I ate every last bite.

Along with their food made fresh daily with authentic ingredients, you just know that a lot of care, pride, and love is going into everything that is served. Their own website says it best – “In our cooking we use only the finest ingredients imported from Italy, and all our dishes are made fresh to order because we are dedicated to sharing with you what real Italian food tastes like.” This is not your quick get in-and-out type of restaurant. Come here to sit and stay awhile. Relax, enjoy yourself, your company, and your food. It won’t disappoint.

Until next time!

–BrunchBabe

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Recipes

Raspberry Custard Pie

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Last week, J.’s company hosted their annual pie making competition. Fun right?! It’s always a fun day and I love trying out new baking recipes to enter into the contest. I find a variety of options and let J. make the final decision. This year, we decided on a raspberry custard pie that won us third place!

Raspberry Custard Pie

  • Pre-made pie dough
  • 2 TBSP all purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1 pound raspberries
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

(I used pre-made pie dough for sake of saving time on a weeknight. Feel free to make your own!)

Preheat your oven according to the packaging. Unroll the dough and fit into a pie dish. Press the dough firmly into the bottom of the dish. I like to use a fork to crimp the edges for a little extra pizzazz. Prick the bottom of the dough with a fork and let it bake in the oven according to the directions.

While the pie dough is baking, rinse your raspberries and in a bowl toss them with 1/4 cup of sugar and 1/4 tsp salt. Be sure to mix the berries well to evenly distribute the salt and sugar.

In a separate bowl, mix together the flour and 1/2 cup sugar. Add the egg and cream and whisk to combine.

Take the crust out of the oven and change the heat to 350 F (if necessary). Spoon in the berries and then pour the custard on top, filling just below the rim of the pie. Cover the edges of the pie with tin foil to make sure they don’t burn. Place the pie in the oven until the custard begins to set (about 45 – 50 minutes). Use a fork or toothpick to test it – it should be a bit wobbly, but not completely liquid. Let the pie cool and then refrigerate the pie for a least 2 hours to finish setting.

Serve cold and enjoy!

I enjoy this pie as it was not overly sweet. The raspberries are very tart and the amount of sugar doesn’t overpower it, but the berries are complimented nicely by the soft custard. If you’re looking for a sweeter pie, I recommend adding more sugar or switching out half of the raspberries for blueberries or another sweeter fruit.

Until next time!

–BrunchBabe

P.S. Don’t forget to check us out on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest & Instagram!

Recipes

Sausages with Onion Relish

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Although I’ve yet to make it out to Tropicana Field this season, with baseball season in full swing, I thought it’d be fun to bring the ballpark home. Not wanting to do just hot dogs or sausages in a bun, I decided on this fun spin to try. For anyone with a grill – this would be a great summer cookout meal too!

Sausages with Onion Relish

  • 1 large sweet onion
  • 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 2 TBSP brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1/2 tsp Italian seasoning
  • 2 sausages (I used mild Italian)

Finely chop up your onions. In a small saucepan, add your onions, balsamic, brown sugar, water, and Italian seasoning. Bring it to a light boil (medium-high heat) and cook for about 20 minutes (stirring often) until the sauce thickens.

In a skillet (or grill pan) cook your sausages on medium heat. Cook these for about 20 minutes, turning occasionally to brown all sides.

Serve these in a bun or without and top with the onion relish. The relish adds a acidic sweetness that cuts through the fat and salt of the sausage. I served mine with asparagus (which was also delicious with the relish topping!)

Until next time!

–BrunchBabe

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Restaurant Spotlight

Marlow’s Tavern

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This past weekend we were meeting J.’s family for dinner. Looking for a midway point for us all, we stumbled across Marlow’s Tavern, off of Dale Mabry Highway in Tampa.

Marlow’s Tavern takes that classic tavern atmosphere and puts a modern twist on it. The restaurant has an urban feel with a black, white and red color scheme, modern furniture and lighting. It was rather dark in there, which of course lends itself to that warm tavern feel. With a handful of TVs along the wall, J. quickly commented it would be a great place to watch Sunday football. IMG_8431

We started off with the asparagus fries and fresh burrata mozzarella as appetizers for the group. The asparagus fries were lightly battered, fried, and served with a tarragon citrus aioli. They were perfectly crisp without being too heavy (you could still actually taste the asparagus!) I easily could have eaten the whole basket myself. (Side note: I want to try to make these myself at home!)

The mozzarella was served on top of a roast tomato and eggplant caponata, topped with a parsley olive oil and served with toasted ciabatta bread. The roast tomato and eggplant caponata was a delicious sweet, acidic bite that paired nicely with the heavy, creamy cheese. The eggplant I thought could have been a little more finely chopped, the chunks of it were much larger than the tomato bits. The bread was toasted well, enough to stand up to the soggy toppings. I do wish, however, we had either been served more bread, or the pieces had been cut into smaller pieces. With a group of 8 we were ripping the bread apart for everyone to get a bite.

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For dinner, I ordered the banh mi chicken wrap, filled with grilled soy glazed chicken, napa cabbage, picked veggies, fresh cilantro and firecracker sauce. The grilled wrap held up to every bite which I consider a huge feat, especially considering the amount of liquid that was in this wrap. There was a nice balance of the sweet soy glaze and heat of the firecracker sauce and it needed the texture from the cabbage and veggies.  The chicken was cooked well and there was a good ratio of chicken to cabbage to veggies. Probably the most unique (non-American) dish on the menu, but I was a big fan.

I ordered my wrap with a side of chick pea fries. I’d never had these before so I don’t have much to compare them to other than an idea in my head. I’d call these more of chick pea cakes than fries, although the outsides were crisp, the insides had a soft texture much like a grit cake. There was some added heat to these that gave them nice flavor, as chick peas can be pretty bland on their own. Overall, I liked them and I think are a good pairing for any sandwich.

All of the dishes were modern twists on some classic fare that are certainly worth checking out. And if you like J.’s idea of watching Sunday football there, you’re in luck because they also served Sunday brunch.

Until next time!

–BrunchBabe

P.S. Don’t forget to check us out on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest & Instagram!

 

 

Recipes

Spaghetti Squash “Pasta”

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In an attempt to make healthier dinners for J. and myself, and to make sure we are getting our daily servings of vegetables, I am always looking for new ways to incorporate veggies into our meals. A favorite of ours that we discovered a handful of years ago is the beautiful spaghetti squash. The squash gets its name by its thin, stringy insides, that when cooked properly, does resemble a thin angel hair pasta. The flavor (while not exactly like pasta) is mild and can easily take on the seasoning and flavors of whatever it is paired with. Tonight, we went super easy with spaghetti and meatballs.

Spaghetti Squash “Pasta”

  • 1 spaghetti squash
  • 1 cup marinara sauce (I used Bertolli)
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Meatballs (store bought or make your own! Check out my recipe for classic meatballs)
  • 1/4 cup shredded Parmesan cheese

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. Cut your spaghetti squash in half (this is probably the hardest part). If you can, try to cut it in half across the longest part, that is best. Worst case, you can keep this whole, and cut it after it’s cooked, but I found this takes a little longer to cook.

If you’ve cut your squash in half, scoop out the seeds from the center. Place the squash face down in a baking dish and bake in the over for 50 – 60 minutes.

When the squash is done, it should be tender enough to be able to take a large spoon or fork and easily scoop out the insides. If you hit resistance in scooping, stick the squash back in the oven for 10 more minutes.

While the squash is cooking, fix your meatballs. Once the squash is done, scoop out the insides into the skillet with your meatballs. Lightly season with salt and pepper. Top with your marinara sauce and let everything meld together until the sauce is warmed through, around 5 – 10 minutes.

Plate and top with Parmesan cheese! Voila! A pasta-like dish, with a fraction of the calories.

P.S. These work well as the noodles in pad thai as well!

Until next time!

–BrunchBabe

P.S. Don’t forget to check us out on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest & Instagram!

Restaurant Spotlight

Brady’s Backyard BBQ

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J. and I stumbled across Brady’s Backyard BBQ, in Safety Harbor, several years ago when we were in search of a halfway point to meet for lunch. Ever since, it’s been our go-to BBQ place. This past weekend, we were meeting some friends over at Crooked Thumb Brewery and thought of no better place to grab dinner beforehand than Brady’s.

Brady’s is a little joint restaurant right off of Main Street. There is a bar that you can access from outside or inside the restaurant.  Inside, you’ll find picnic tables (complete with red and white checkered tablecloths) to give that backyard feel. The walls are adorned with license plates, beer, and BBQ signs. Very casual, but exactly what’d you’d want in down-to-earth Safety Harbor (and in from BBQ joint).

They have a smoke room behind the restaurant where they smoke all of their meat. Everything is fresh and you can tell the meat has taken it’s time smoking for hours and hours in the back.

I got their pulled pork sandwich with sides of black eyed peas and cornbread pudding (and chips and a pickle). Their pulled pork is shredded into large chunks and just melts in your mouth. It does not taste overly smokey which I love because it doesn’t overpower it – you can still actually taste the meat itself. This is from them smoking the meat low and slow in red oak and light alder wood (not the typical hickory or mesquite you may find elsewhere).

They have three types of BBQ sauce – regular, hot, and mango. I’m a big fan of the regular and mango. Neither or overly sweet, and the mango adds a nice fruitiness that’s just different and fun. J. of course loves their hot!!

Usually I get their baked beans, but unfortunately they’d run out so I got black eyed peas instead. They were cooked well and served in a spicy sauce that definitely had a kick to it. But their cornbread pudding – that is the real star side dish here. The consistency is just perfect, solid enough to hold its form, but softer than a normal baked good. Light and sweet with a little texture added with corn kernels baked right in. I get this every single time I come to Brady’s and my mouth waters just thinking about it. I truly can’t talk it up enough.

J. got their brisket sandwich (and cornbread pudding). Their brisket is phenomenal. Just like the pork, it just melts in your mouth. Not overly salty, nor overly fatty. You don’t need to put much BBQ sauce (if any) on it at all. The flavors of the meat itself are just enough.

So the next time you find yourself over near Safety Harbor, you have to stop by Brady’s! Their slow smoked BBQ will not disappoint.

P.S. They also have takeout and catering options!

Until next time!

–BrunchBabe

P.S. Don’t forget to check us out on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest & Instagram!

 

Recipes

Mexican Breakfast Hash

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Sometimes you just want breakfast for dinner. It’s easy, and comforting, but still a bit out of the norm to feel like a special treat. J. and I used to have it all the time in college (probably just because it was quick and easy) but as we’ve moved into the real world, we kind of forgot about it. So last Saturday, we decided we’d revert back to our old ways, and with some leftovers we had, whipped up our take on a Mexican breakfast hash.

Mexican Breakfast Hash

  • 10 small honey golden potatoes
  • 1 small shallot
  • 4 eggs
  • Splash of cream (or milk)
  • 1/4 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese
  • 1/2 avocado
  • 1/4 tsp dried cilantro
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Salsa (optional)
  • Sour cream (optional)

Mince your shallots and dice up your potatoes. Begin to saute the shallots in a skillet on medium heat. Spray your skillet with PAM (or a little butter or olive oil)  and add the potatoes. Cook the potatoes until they are soft (around 15 minutes). Lightly season with salt and pepper.

While that’s cooking, slice up your avocado and place to the side.

In a bowl, crack your four eggs. Add in a splash of cream and whisk with a fork. Season with salt and pepper and add in the cheese. Mix lightly and then pour the mixture on top of your potatoes in the skillet. Use a spatula to scramble your eggs and combine everything together. The eggs should cook within a few minutes. (Be careful not to overcook, as eggs continue to cook after they are off the heat.)

Serve your hash and top with the sliced avocado and cilantro. For an extra kick feel free to also top with some hot sauce, salsa, or sour cream. I made mine vegetarian, but some crumbled chorizo, sausage, or bacon would also be delicious in this dish! Just be aware of your salt if you do add meat, since breakfast meats bring plenty of salt themselves.

Until next time!

–BrunchBabe

P.S. Don’t forget to check us out on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest & Instagram!

Restaurant Spotlight

Surf Shack

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Last week was my grandma’s 90th – YES 90TH – birthday and we wanted to take her somewhere fun for dinner to celebrate. To try to meet halfway between my house and my aunt’s, we settled on an old favorite from when we lived in Westchase – Surf Shack Coastal Kitchen.

Surf Shack pretty much looks like how you’re picturing it with a lot of blue and wall sized photos of waves and water along with some industrial elements like metal tables and a garage door window that can open up to access the front patio. It’s a very coastal vibe and casual atmosphere which was exactly what we were looking for.

I started out with the blueberry passionfruit sangria and their buffalo chicken eggrolls. This sangria is definitely on the sweet side, but the mix of flavors is one of my favorites and is served with fresh blueberries on top. The buffalo chicken eggrolls are made with the buffalo chicken, jack and cheddar cheese, deep fried in an eggroll shell and served with chipotle ranch. These definitely have a kick to them, but the ranch helps to mellow it out. The eggrolls always come out perfectly crisp, that creates that great sounding crunch when you bite into them.

For dinner, I decided on tacos (which is my typical go-to here). I went with one filet mignon taco – with marinated tenderloin in garlic tomato salsa topped with cheese and haystack onions, and one blackened mahi taco topped with surf slaw, pico de gallo and cilantro lime aioli. I opted for getting both of my in lettuce wraps, but you can get them in normal tortillas too (made with an 80/20 blend of flour & corn tortilla).

 

 

 

Recipes

Mahi and Lemon Escarole

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What is escarole, you ask? That was J.’s question when I told him what was for dinner. (If you’re interested, you can find out more about this bitter green here.) I told him we needed to eat more vegetables and not to worry, he’d like it. Truth was, I’d never had it either. But by the end of the meal, I got the biggest compliment of all – he said he’d gladly eat it again!

Mahi and Lemon Escarole

  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 10 small honey golden potatoes (halved or quartered)
  • 3 TBSP minced garlic
  • 1 head of escarole (chopped into pieces)
  • 10 oz mahi mahi
  • 2 TBSP lemon juice
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Chili powder (optional)

Heat the olive oil in a large deep skillet to medium heat. Throw in your chopped potatoes and the minced garlic and let those cook for about 10-15 minutes until they begin to soften and brown. Add the escarole, season with salt, pepper, and lemon juice and continue to saute the vegetables until the escarole begins to wilt and the potatoes are cooked through.

Bring a separate pan to medium heat. Season the fish with salt, pepper, and a dash of chili powder. Cook the fish for about 4 -5 minutes per side.

Serve by plating the potato escarole mix and then top with your fish. Finish off with a light drizzle of olive oil and more lemon juice, if desired.

The escarole is a bitter leafy green and pairs beautifully with the acid from the lemon and the more neutral flavors of the potato. When cooking it down it didn’t get quite as “slimy” as other greens can, so still held up to the potato as well. The perfect bite was getting a little bit of everything on your fork. The added heat from the fish brought everything together.

I can’t wait to try this recipe again, maybe next time with a completely different flavor profile (I’m thinking chicken with some pine nuts and Parmesan cheese on top! Stay tuned!)

Until next time!

–BrunchBabe

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Restaurant Spotlight

Craft Street Kitchen

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Ever since J. and I saw the “out of business” sign at B.D.’s Mongolian Grill, we couldn’t wait to see what was going up in its place. And then once we saw the name – Craft Street – we knew this was going to be our kind of place. After having it on our list of places to go for months, last weekend we finally made our way over to Craft Street Kitchen in Oldsmar.

Craft Street Kitchen is all about serving up “seriously” fun food in a good atmosphere. It was busy when we got there, so we opted to sit on their covered outdoor patio. Inside the restaurant was a large wooden bar (that you can access from the outdoor patio as well). The walls have exposed brick and chalkboard signs with different food and drink specials, creating an industrial farmhouse gastro pub feel.

For both food and drinks, they try to keep the ingredients local. That can add some random variation to the menu depending on what may or may not be fresh, but I love that they focus on working with local, and sustainable farms, wherever possible.  These fresh ingredients are made into a fun and playful menu for guests to enjoy.

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We started out our meal with the fried green tomatoes. These were served with tomato bacon jam, wheat beer pimiento cheese and fresh arugula. The tomatoes were very fresh and juicy and the acid of them paired nicely with the creamy pimiento cheese and sweet tomato bacon jam. However, I wasn’t the biggest fan of the breading. It was a little heavy, wasn’t cooked all the way through in some pieces, and didn’t stick well to the tomato itself. It made it hard to get one cohesive bite. These might have just been a little rushed due to how busy it was.

For dinner, I got the craft burger, and inspired by the fried green tomatoes, added the tomato bacon jam and pimiento cheese to it.  It was enormous! The burger was cooked and seasoned well. The juiciness of the burger mixed with the cheese and jam, made the bun kind of wet and it fell apart a bit, but that didn’t stop me from going at it with a knife and fork. The flavors all together mixed perfectly, nothing overpowering the other, or adding too much salt in any one bite. With so many toppings to choose from for their sandwiches, I consider that an amazing feat! It was a really good burger that I would definitely order again.

Oh and those sweet potato tots. The best I have ever had. Crunchy on the outside, soft of the inside. They were slightly sweet and came with a maple syrup dipping sauce. If you don’t like the saltiness of some sweet potato fries – then I highly recommend these.

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J. got The Melvin – house brined corned beef, with swiss cheese, Guinness cabbage, sweet potato tots, fried pickles, and relish aioli on jalapeno cheddar bread. Seriously a whole meal right on the sandwich! The best thing about this sandwich was all of the different textures. The crunch of the bread, fried pickles and cabbage, paired well with the rest of the ingredients. The cheese, tots, and aioli gave the sweetness and creaminess to match the briny flavors of the rest of the sandwich. And woah – that bread had a kick!! A unique twist on that Irish favorite.

Our waitress was attentive and super friendly. She gave great recommendations on the menu and for our craft beers. After dinner, we switched to the inside bar for another drink and received great service there as well. All in all a fun and unique dining experience, and the perfect weekend hangout spot.

Until next time!

–BrunchBabe

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