Monday, March 4, 2013

Tampa: Culinary Conundrum, One In A Series

Todd Sturtz' New Book
We got a gent here who wrote a book all about the Tampa, Florida food scene. Yes, you read that correctly, Tampa AND food scene all in the same sentence. Now, mind you, I admire someone, anyone who has enough passion to actually write a book on any subject and especially when the challenge is great to make that book relevant based on the subject matter. He and Jeff Houck have taken on a Mt. Everest challenge.

  That being said, he posted it on as a spot and at Datz Deli, he must work there or something and when I commented on the post that writing a book about Tampa's food scene it was like writing about say, Kentucky Wildcats Football. Great league, just suspect whether the team in that league is great.

Jeff Houck, Tampa Food Writer
I typically will not buy a book like this....more on the recipe side of the ledger if I buy a food book but hope his tome does well. His professionalism is a bit suspect however in that the comment I made was met with anger and a death wish for one and then defensiveness of "YOU are worthless, so my work is good" meme. Sad that he would allow himself to go overboard like that. Wonder what he would do if someone told him the book stunk. I have since apologized for any offense taken and asked where the book is available. And aw Leslie, no invite to mingle with the beautiful peeps in South Tampa at Datz? I drank a bottle of San Pellegrino over that snub and cried into my cheesecloth.

 So I decided to investigate and find out where Tampa REALLY stood in the world of great cuisine and foodie reverance. Since I was born on the Gulf Coast and grew up eating great seafood and in my life have lived in some great cities for eating I am more than qualified to make such judgments I feel, but to make sure I am digging in to see for sure. My favorite eating city is still by far, New Orleans and I have lived there along with Atlanta, NYC area, Chicago, Dallas, Destin and visited many other cities, islands and a few countries as well...Italy, Germany, Austria, Vietnam, Monaco, Canada, Mexico.

Columbia Restaurant, Ybor City
(From their website)
One thing I notice here in the Foodspotting universe is mostly subjectivity, which of course is going to be the main ingredient in any "review" but I see a lot of "connection" to the place as the reason for liking it or loving it. That is great to some extent but does not cure the ills of a place like Tampa, in my subjective opinion. One example I will use is The Columbia Restaurant, Ybor location, for this one. If you are from out of town and come in to eat here, I believe you are much more inclined to love or like it due to it's beautiful building, entertainment value, history and maybe one or two items on the menu. Now, if you are local and have been there a few times as I have, the veneer starts to fade and the real issues with the place come to light, rather quickly. Do I avoid it all together? No, I hit the bar for a couple of cocktails and an app or salad but not for an entire evening meal. Why? Last trip I was there for the full boat it was a business dinner for clients and out of town guests. The service was abysmal and the server actually told ME not to order paella, instead recommending a shrimp dish that was not even Red Lobster worthy and I am sure was warmed up in the microwave. And that night at least, the Sangria was literally red colored water. I do not know if we were chosen as the sucker table of the evening but that was the last straw for me.

This will be a series so stay tuned. Next up is an investigation into some of the top ranked lists around the world and USA on food and eating. Let's see where Tampa shines....or does not.