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Where to Rent Baby Gear ‚Äď Pack Less Play More – Gulfport, Treasure Island & St Petersburg

3 Simple Steps For All The Gear Your Baby Needs

We know traveling with your baby or toddler can be stressful! They crave their routines and traveling is anything but that!

Cribs, car seats, stollers, high chairs, booster seats, pack n plays, bouncers, booster seats – I could go on and on.

Even if your car would hold all these items or the airlines would let you check them all, do you really want to? 

Enter Pack Less Play More. This “easy button” business helps you order your baby equipment online, have it delivered to your vacation rental and they’ll pick it up after you leave. ¬†Three simple steps:

  1. Choose
  2. Reserve
  3. Secure Checkout

Fun in the sun and surf

Cleaning and Sterlizing

Babies and toddlers are messy! One of the reason we refer our guests to this wonderful company is the care they take in cleaning and sterilizing their equipment after each use.  

Pack Less Play More cleans their rental items with  100% all-natural cleaning products.  You can read about how the clean cribs, strollers, car seats, toy boxes, high chairs, booster seats, and bouncers here.

The Process is Easy and Packages are Available

The process is easy Рjust click and reserve. Have it delivered before you arrive.  

Packages are available too, with fun names like the “Everything is Covered Package” or the “Biggest Bang Package“.

A few baby-oriented beach items are available too. Sand toys, Kidco Go-Pods. and Beach Baby Cabana & Sunshades.

Chili Verde – Mexican Paradise Found Right Here in St Petersburg

This Newcomer is Getting Attention

The food at Chili Verde is awesome. Awesome as in I think about it even when I am not there. Awesome in that I think about it even when I have leftovers in my fridge.

Awesome in that I check my leftover container multiple times to make sure no one in the household is stealing bites. (Or worse, eating all of it!)

Just go knowing there’s no memorable atmosphere, no famous chef, no killer margaritas and no hour-long wait. Just authentic food you may never forget.

You can get your tacos crispy

How I Found It

Ironically, my journey to Chili Verde started at VIP Lounge in Treasure Island.  After yet another trip to VIP where the wait was an hour or more in the middle of a weekday afternoon, Terry and I took to Yelp and Google. We were starving and we wanted Mexican. Now.  Deciding that both Agave and Chili Verde sounded like solid options, we let the direction the car was already headed make the decision for us. Chili Verde it was.

We drove onward, me chattering on about how it must be new because I drive that way all the time and I couldn’t place it.   We arrived at the appointed location and turned left into…a former gas station?

You know what I‚Äôm talking about. ¬†Once a gas station in appearance, always a gas station in appearance. And not what I was expecting. ¬†But my stomach, 170+ reviews on Yelp and almost 700 ‚Äď yes, seven hundred ‚Äď reviews on Google with an average rating of 4 1/2 stars suggested we give it a shot.

My Trifecta – Enchiladas Verdes made with ground beef, steak and chicken quesadilla and those beans!

And what a shot it was. ¬†I had the Enchiladas Verdes made with ground beef. I love enchiladas ‚Äď chicken enchiladas, cheese enchiladas, spinach enchiladas, seafood enchiladas ‚Äď you get the idea. ¬†If you love enchiladas you‚Äôve probably tried them every way imaginable. ¬†Enchiladas to me always seem decadent. ¬†Lots of cheese, usually.

The Enchiladas Verde

Chili Verde’s Enchiladas Verde are different.  Maybe it is the delicate corn tortillas that seem as though they were made seconds before moving on to the their enchilada destination.  Maybe it is the generous smothering of the light verde sauce. Maybe it is the delicate unmelted grated cheese on top of the mound of shredded lettuce piled on top.  After almost a dozen servings of this same dish, I’m still not sure.  But trust me, it’s good.

Accompanying the enchiladas are rice and beans.  I’m not a huge rice fan, but I usually end up eating it all.

Now for the beans.  I love beans.  Whole, refried, churro-style, black, pinto, you name it.  These are quite decadent and I have taken to ordering an extra side.  I want to know and don’t want to know how they’re prepared. I’m afraid my nutritionist might not approve…

Close-up of the enchilada goodness

The Quesadillas

Equally delicious but definitely heavier and more filling are their quesadillas.  We usually get the steak-chicken combo, and get an extra to take home nosh on.

This is the combo steak-chicken quesadilla with everything

Steak combo quesadilla – In case the first photo didn’t snag you

The Tacos

The tacos are little bits heaven.  Traditional Mexican street tacos with tortilla, meat, onions and cilantro.  If you want tomatoes, lettuce etc you can ask for it American style.

They’re sold individually, but I bet you can’t eat just one. ¬†Order 3 and try the Barbacoa. ¬†It is truly moist, flavorful and tender.

St Pete Foodies named Chili Verde one of the 10 Best Places to get tacos in St Petersburg Florida in 2018.  https://stpetersburgfoodies.com/restaurants/best-places-in-st-petersburg/10-best-taco-places-in-st-petersburg-fl-2018/

Barbacoa Tacos – looks pretty healthy to me!

 

Insider Tip: Yep, it used to be a gas station

Whatever you do, don’t let that deter you.¬†¬†

Hmm. I wonder what this used to be?

In 2018 St Pete Foodies included Chili Verde as a notable newcomer on its list of the 10 best St Petersburg restaurants list.  Since my personal favorites Red Mesa Restaurant and VIP Lounge are on that list I knew they were on to something.  But I was already on to Chili Verde.  And so were a couple of my friends! When I was so gracious to share my Chili Verde discovery with a couple fo so-called friends, guess what? They already knew.

My dream at present is to make it there some day before 10 am, so I can try the Chilaquiles.

I don’t believe the Cydesdales are real

The Details

Chili Verde, 2801 22nd Ave N, St Petersburg, Fl 33713-4248. ¬†They’re open late.

Yelp

Facebook page

Trip Advisor

It’s a small Mexican market too

Insider Tip: Second location coming to the Skyway Marina Village shopping center!

Stay tuned for more info

VIP Lounge & Mexican Restaurant – Treasure Island

Popular Gem Tucked Away

If you are new to the area, here’s what you need to know about VIP:

  • The food and atmosphere are addicting (watch out, waistline)
  • It has a cult-like following (do they put something in the food so I can’t stop?)
  • They don’t take reservations or call ahead orders (who wants to wait, right?)
  • It’s a TI landmark that is hard to find at night (maybe you shouldn’t be driving at night?)
  • VIP has an insane number of “regular” patrons (will there be any room for little ole’ me?)
  • Parking may be tricky. Free parking impossible really.  (I thought the best things in life were free?)
  • It’s small so best for smaller groups (But I want to go with all my Facebook friends?)

Chicken Tinga Tacos

Why You Should Go

However, if these things sound like reasons not to go, think again:

  • Tomorrow is always a great day to start a diet.
  • Yeah, they do put stuff in the food. Spices.  Peppers. Cheese. Tortillas.  It’s a restaurant, not a grocery store.
  • If you don’t want to wait go in the afternoon! You are on vacation so your day probably started late anyway.
  • I bet your Uber or Lyft driver can find it. Better yet, put the address in your GPS map app and then just stop your car in the middle of the road when she says you have arrived.  Take your time looking around while you hold up traffic. Its cool – everyone does it.
  • VIP is friendly but not clique-y. It isn’t high school all over.  You’ll be welcome.
  • Free parking? Even love isn’t free.  There are diamonds, Tinder subscriptions, diapers…
  • All 12 of your real Facebook friends will fit.  For those of you with thousands of Facebook friends, they’re probably already at VIP.  You don’t really know all those people anyway.

The chips are so good you don’t need the queso and guac, but get them anyway

Because VIP has been around since the 70’s, locals and visitors who have been coming here for years have grown with the restaurant. It’s a true Rapisardi family affair, and one that’s focused on making your experience here as memorable as possible.

Two words: The Three Amigos

The Food

So here’s one thing I always forget between visits to VIP: The food can be spicy.  Really spicy.  So much so that your beverage of choice will become your BFF.  And if that BFF involves a VIP margarita, you may need a “Lyft” or Uber home.  Even items that aren’t labeled spicy are spicy, so you know if they mark an item “Spicy” AND mark it “No Returns Please“, they mean it..

Can’t handle spice? Then ask your server about the menu item you’re considering or eat from the Gringo menu. Gringo food includes the mandatory chicken tenders loved by children everywhere, along with hot dogs and hamburgers.

VIP Enchiladas

Insider Tip: Better for small groups

It’s pretty small inside and very popular.  Even at off times you’ll have trouble seating a large party.

VIP Perfect Meal

I’ve heard the fajitas at VIP are phenomenal.  I’ve only smelled them, and always too late when I’ve already ordered. (If you’ve had them feel free to leave a comment below and tell us what you thought.) Having lived much of my life in Texas, I have a thing about fajitas.  The best place in Austin for fajitas used to be the Hyatt Regency on Town Lake. And it was THE place for runners to go post Cap 10K.  Then Pappasito’s arrived on the scene, with garlic butter poured over tender, sizzling fajitas.  That’s the bar VIP fajitas have to beat.

I’ve also heard folks get quite emotional talking about their Wet Burrito.  It’s actually the Tinga Chicken tacos that make me cry.

If you could only feel the heat this dish packs

The Parking

So more about parking.  Because let’s face it, you’re at the beach so parking is limited to begin with.  But then you put it in a tiny little center next to Ricky T’s Bar & Grille and Sweet’s n’ Treats ice cream shop, and put it right on Gulf Blvd where Central Avenue comes over and you can imagine the difficulties.

Paradise parking has a large lot located behind VIP, where Park Place dead ends at 106th Ave.  It’s paid parking but unless you have a parking fairy on  your shoulder this will be your only shot.

However, if you park back in this lot and walk in through the back entrance (through the patio section), you’ll likely see cars parked 3 deep.  Don’t be tempted, dear tourist.  This is not for you.  This is for those locals I mentioned earlier that frequent VIP so often that other frequent patrons know who’s car is whose and therefore who they can park behind and block in. I only wish I could drink margaritas and eat Mexican food so often that I could be a regular there.

Anyway, walking in through this entrance also means you will walk through the kitchen to get to the dining area.

Chips up!

Insider Tip: One small bathroom

So maybe go before you go, if you know what I mean.  And don’t wait until the last minute.  It’s all nice and friendly until a line forms for the potty.

One word: Mango.  Your reward for a life lived well.

The Details

VIP Mexican American Cuisine  – 10625 Gulf Blvd, Treasure Island, Florida  727-360-5062.  Enhance your visit to the VIP by visiting their website, Facebook page and Trip Advisor!

Visit the news page of the website to find out about special events (Cinco De Mayo is one) and daily specials.

Website

Facebook page

Trip Advisor

New Restaurant – Mano’s Italian Grill

Is our pretty little town big enough for not one, but two fine Italian restaurants? Happily I think the answer is an enthusiastic YES! 

Those of you familiar with Gulfport know that we have been blessed to have Pia’s Trattoria in the heart of the Waterfront District for a long time now. Pia’s is a personal favorite of mine and is a linchpin in our 3-Day Dining Guide to Gulfport.¬†

However, early in 2019 I started hearing amazing feedback about an Italian newcomer on the scene, Mano’s Italian Grill & Pizza. I was finally able to give it a try last month. ¬†It’s tough work trying out new restaurants, but someone’s gotta do it.

Aracini di Rosa – that’s fancy Italian for rice balls.¬† (I think!)

First, let me apologize for the photos. These are just the photos of the dishes we were able to photograph before attacking them. ¬†We were seriously hungry, seriously excited to finally eat at Mano’s and seriously hoping to finish dinner before the thunderstorm moved in. ¬†

Who am I fooling? Half the time when I go to try out a new restaurant specifically for the purpose of recommending it (or not), I actually forget to take photos before we dive in. ¬†And if I do remember, I have to hurry under Terry’s glare while I stand between him and the food just placed in front of him.

To the point though, these rice balls were wonderful.  Definitely a must-try and not something I would normally order.

Terry chilling and waiting for the fun to begin. Mano’s patio is great for enjoying a quiet meal outdoors.

I should have led with a photo of the iced tea.¬† It’s that good.¬† Don’t add lemon.¬† No need to mess with perfection.

Let me close by saying I can’t believe I’m actually going to mention the iced tea. ¬†Does anyone go to a restaurant, much less an Italian restaurant, because of the iced tea? Well we do now. Or we would.

If you’ve ever tried Republic teas in the bottles, you may have a sense of what I’m talking about here. ¬†Republic teas are perfection in my view – clear, crisp, so ick or bite on the tongue.¬† Mano’s iced tea is that without the fancy flavorings. A home run.¬†

Mano’s Italian Grill & Pizza is now closed on Mondays for parties and special events.

Mano’s is located at 5802 28th Ave S, Gulfport, 33707. ¬†They’re in the little shopping center that looks out over Wood Ibis Park. ¬†Watch waterfowl frolic by day and the fountain light up by night.

manositaliangrill.com   

727-440-7176  

Open at 4 pm daily except Mondays.

Or check out their Facebook page for tons guest photos of dishes.

Beach Snoballs in St Pete Beach

Sugar And Soft Shaved Ice Fuse In Shivery, Sweet Awesomeness

Do you know anyone who doesn’t like shaved ice

Me neither. 

It just seems so indulgent. One, it’s sweet.  Two, it’s so cold.  Three, it’s so soft. Four, it just seems a little naughty.  (After all, didn’t your mother tell you not to eat snow? More than once?)

Well, hold on, because we’re about to take naughty to a whole new level.

It is a grave error to assume that shaved ice consumption requires hot weather.

Beach Snoballs in St Pete Beach is the purveyor of these delightful icy desserts they call Snoballs.    

Ever run out of syrup with a sno-cone? It’s just so sad! Hopeless even. That doesn’t happen with Snoballs. With finer ice than that found in Sno-cones, there’s no fighting between the syrup and the ice.  Ice and syrup are one.

Spike It!

You adults know what I’m talking about.  Add a little warmth to counteract all that coldness.

You can find Pina Colada, Margarita. Bahama Mama (my favorite) and more.  Or just add a shot to any flavor. Or two. Or three to any Snoball. Terry likes to go big on the Bahama Mana.

Have Fun Choosing

Add Some More Sugar!

Flavored syrups made with real sugar not enough carbs for you? It’s OK, we get it.

Then how about you add ice cream.  Yes, to your shaved ice.

Still not hitting the sugar receptors on all cylinders? You can add that food of the gods, Sweetened Condensed Milk.  Or Caramel Sauce, Chocolate Sauce or Whipped Cream.  

Experiment!

Ready for adventure?  No training wheels for you. You can build it yourself.  You pick a size, decide whether or not you want to add ice cream, choose up to three flavors and then select your toppings.

Do you find 60 flavor choices and over 25,000 combinations a bit, err, overwhelming after a simple day at the beach? Not to worry.

You can let someone else do the heavy-lifting and try one of the Signature or Specialty snoballs.  These include such creations as Salted Caramel Deluxe, German Chocolate and a Tangerine Dream.

The menu includes little icons to let you know which combos are their best sellers.

Pure and simple Bahama Mama! Watch the video and keep an eye on the spoon in the video below

Locally owned by just the nicest people (a mother daughter team), you won’t be disappointed.  Unless they’re closed.

Visit them at 7350 Gulf Blvd, St Pete Beach. Weekdays from 2 pm to 10 pm and weekends from noon to 10 pm.

Note to you old-timers.  Beach Snoballs used to be located on Treasure Island where Middle Grounds Cafe is.

Where to Buy Fresh Seafood ‚Äď Gulfport, Treasure Island & St Petersburg

When Freshness Really Counts

As any chef or good cook will tell you, one of the keys to cooking success is to start with the freshest ingredients.

And I think there’s nowhere where that’s more important than fresh seafood..

We’ve all taken that stroll through a supermarket reeking of questionable seafood products and bleach, only to find our appetite and enthusiasm taking a dip. Or nosedive. ¬†No pun intended.

Well worry not, we’ve got you covered! Read on for how to buy fresh fish and where to buy it in the Gulfport, Treasure Island, St Pete Beach and St Petersburg area.

“Listen, are you breathing just a little, and calling it a life?”

Mary Oliver

How to Buy Fresh Fish

Step 1: Go to a local and reputable seafood shop. ¬†See the next section “Where to Buy” below.

Step 2: Ask what the freshest fish is or what the catch of the day is.

Step 3: If you decided to buy anything other than what they tell you is freshest or the catch of the day, make sure what you’re buying isn’t “previously frozen”.

Step 4: Make sure the flesh is firm and shiny. ¬†It should provide resistance when touched. Don’t go poking it with your uncovered finger, however. I saw one source that said the fish should look as if it might jump up and swim away. If only, the fish is thinking. If only…

Step 5: Sniff it. Yes it’s ok. ¬†Fish isn’t supposed to smell fishy. It should smell fresh.

Step 6: If the poor creature still has its head intact, check the eyes. ¬†They should be clear, not cloudy. ¬†(You know, so he can see better…)

Step 7: Gills if present should be bright pink and wet. No slimeyness.  Ever.

Step 8: For fillets or steaks, make sure the meat doesn’t separate from itself.¬† If it does it isn’t fresh.

Step 9: If the fish still has its skin, make sure the skin is not discolored.  No brown or yellow edges. Mostly this means even, consistent coloring.

Line ’em up

Where to Buy #1 – Key West Shrimp Company

We get it. ¬†You’re not in Key West. ¬†And no, I don’t know why. But I do know that the entire business is a family affair, with their own boats and own stores. ¬†One shop is located in St Pete Beach and the other in Madeira Beach.

“Most of our fish was swimming less than 24 hours ago.” Says it right on the website. You’d have to fish for it yourself to get it any fresher. ¬†Like them on Facebook to find out what their specials and fresh catches are.

Read about their dedication to sustainability here. ¬†And check out products available in their online store here. ¬†(Fish Spread fans will find some things to love here!)¬† You can even ship some home if you’d like.

10 am to 6 pm every day.  St Pete Beach location is 7217 Gulf Blvd Ste 13 (727) 873-3913.  Madeira Beach location is 215 150th Ave. (727) 592-1885

Perfect Salmon

Where to Buy #2 – Mid-Peninsula Seafood

‚Äč

Both a restaurant and a full-service fish market.   Looking for something special? Call them! They just may be able to deliver.

Not sure which fish to buy? Visit their Fish School for tips on cooking and information on origin.

Mid Peninsula Seafood’s restaurant is one of my faves. Soups, sandwiches, dinners and big orders to feed a gang. ¬†Fish Spread is available and something you don’t see just anywhere – hushpuppies! They call them Cornpuppies!

Find the full menu of prepared foods here.

Follow them on Facebook.

They’re gone fishing on Sundays. ¬†Just keep that in mind.¬† Open Monday – Saturday 11 am – 9 pm.¬† 400 49th St S, St Petersburg, FL 33707

Insider Tip: The Seafood Watch App

Download the app for your phone.  Sustainability at your fingertips!

Where to Buy #3 – Gulf Coast Seafood

Gulfport has two outstanding places to buy seafood.¬† “Fresh From the Boat“.

Gulf Coast Seafood began by providing products to stores, resorts and restaurants over a large part of Florida.  In response to repeated requests over the years, they are now selling to the public with their own retail shop!

Fresh fish in display cases. ¬†Frozen products are vacuum packed). Head on over and catch tonight’s dinner.

Follow them on Facebook.

4921 9th Ave S, Gulfport (727) 321-1068   Open from 10 am Р6 pm Monday through Friday. 10 am to 4 pm Saturday

Chances are they have what you fancy

Where to Buy #4 – Don’s Dock & Wild Seafood Market

Don’s Dock has a wonderful fish market in addition to provide bait, ice and other gear you need to go fishing.

You can call¬†727-391-3223 for the Catch of the Day, see where your sustainably-caught seafood is coming from “Track Your Fish” and more.

Sauce and seasonings available too.  Online seafood market coming soon.

Check out the photo gallery for sample wares.  Those babies look ready to go home with you.

Don’s Dock Wild Seafood Market is located at 215 Boardwalk Place E, Madeira Beach, Fl. (727) 391-3223

Insider Tip: Sustainable Seafood?

View the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch Consumer Guide here.

Recipe Suggestion: Perfect Salmon

Note: This cooking technique can be used on other varieties of fish too.  Just use your seasoning of choice!

Ingredients

  • Salmon filets, not steaks
  • Olive Oil
  • Soy Sauce
  • Maple Syrup

Spray or rub a small amount of olive oil on the bottom or skin-side of the fish.  Massage soy sauce into the top of the fish.  Place the fish skin side down on a small metal tray.  (Sizzle platters are perfect for this.) Pour a modest amount (approximately 1 T) of maple syrup over the top of the fish and spread it around.

Place the salmon in a COLD oven.   Now turn the oven on to 400 degrees and set a timer for 25 minutes. Your fish will be moist and flaky and the soy sauce maple syrup on top provides a slight crunch.

Enjoy!

Perfect every time

Disposing of Fish Parts – How to be a Good Neighbor!

No matter how fresh that fish is when you get it, eventually it won’t be.¬† If you have leftovers (or leftover “parts”), please don’t just toss them (bagged or not) in the trash can and let them marinate until trash day. Please help keep the trash cans clean and smelling the best they can by refrigerating your excess in a plastic bag and tossing out the morning of trash pickup.

Insider Tip:

Visit Allrecipes.com

For an amazing assortment of delicious seafood recipes

February St Petersburg Area Events Splashy

February Recurring Events

Gulfport: First Friday ArtWalk

St Pete: First Friday

St Pete: Second Saturday ArtWalk

Gulfport: Third Saturday ArtWalk

Gulfport: Tuesday Fresh Market

St Pete: Saturday Morning Market

Gulfport’s Get Rescued, Gulfport

Continuing into its 16th year, this event is one of the largest animal rescue events in the state.  All profits benefit participating non-profit rescue groups.  From 10 am to 6 pm Gulfport’s historic waterfront district is overtaken by these organizations to raise awareness and find homes for pets.

Learn about pet health, see training demos, find a new friend and participate in the pet parade with your beloved companion.  The event is free and parking is available in the area.

The 2020 event is on Saturday, February 22nd in the Historic Gulfport Waterfront District.

The event’s website is here.

St Pete Beach Seafood & Music Festival

Fresh and local ingredients means the St Pete Beach Seafood & Music Festival should be on your list

2019 marks the second year for this new event.  Held on Corey Avenue in St Pete Beach Feb 1-3, 2019.

Expect a laid-back vibe with live music, shopping marketplace and tasty foods. ¬†This food won’t be your normal craft-fair food. ¬†Instead it will be food cooked onsite using fresh ingredients and seafood dishes from Florida¬† coastal waters.

Hours, directions, parking information and a list and schedule of musical performers can be found on the event’s website.

2Cool Art Show – Gulfport

February 1-2, 2020 at the Gulfport Casino at 5500 Shore Blvd.  The 2Cool Art Show is hosted by the Professional Association of Visual Artists.

Thirty-five juried artists will participate in 2019, showing and selling a variety of hand crafted visual and functional works in paint, wood, ceramics, photography, metal, glass, mixed media and jewelry.  Admission and parking are free!

There’s a sister event to this show in July, for summer visitors – the Cool Art Show.

Check out the 2nd annual Peace. Love and Pride festival

Gulfport Peace, Love & Pride Festival – 2020

2019 was the inaugural year for this event celebrating Gulfport’s commitment to diversity.¬† 2020’s event will take place on February 16, 2020 from noon to 5 pm in and around the Gulfport Casino.

You can read more about the inspiration for this new event here.

Gulfport has two juried art festivals during the month of February!

4th Annual Gulfport Fine Arts Festival

Formerly know as the Gulfport Masters, this festival takes place in Veteran’s Park at 5350 31st Ave S in Gulfport.

The event takes place February 8-9 in 2020 from 10 am to 5 pm both days. ¬†It is also a juried event. ¬†If you don’t know what a juried event is, it means that artists have to apply and their works are determined to be found worthy of entry by a panel of judges. ¬†The process of reviewing the submissions is intended to raise the quality of the show and help the event stand out from the sometimes busy field of art and craft shows.

Visit the events Facebook page for a short video about this year’s event and a preview of a few artists participating this year.

Florida Strawberry Festival

Did you know about Florida’s love affair with the strawberry? No, not the orange. (Or any citrus, really.) ¬†The strawberry! ¬†The first time I visited the Florida Strawberry Festival I thought it might be somewhat unique. ¬†It’s not. ¬†There are strawberry festivals all over the United States and even some in Canada, Australia, Italy and Japan. You can find a website with links to worldwide strawberry festivals here.

But we’re talking about the Florida Strawberry Festival, held in (where else?) Plant City, Florida in late February and early March.¬† 11 days in all.

The website is https://flstrawberryfestival.com.  You van find out about rides & attractions, musical talent and visit the livestock show.  Visit the website and signup for updates via email including 2020 dates!.

Clearwater Sea-Blues Festival

I don’t know about you, but for me blues festivals always seem to come with hot & steamy weather.¬† In Summer.

Summer can be a four-letter word in the South. So how about a blues festival in February, and in Florida. Seems hard to pass up. 2020’s event takes place Feb 21-23.

I suggest liking them on Facebook to get updates on the festival.

Cupid’s Undie Run 5K

A bunch of strangers in their underwear.

Running. What could be better than that? I’m sure everyone will look like a model.¬† Not.¬† ¬†But hey at least you’re not doing the run in Minnesota. Or Philadelphia.¬† Or Chicago.

But in all seriousness, the proceeds go towards the search for a cure for neurofibromatosis, a genetic tumor disorder that affects 1 in every 3,000 births.¬† They run in their undies because those affected with NF can’t cover up their tumors to feel more comfortable, so why should we?

The 2020 St Pete run is Feb 8.  Find out more here.

Yum!

St Pete French Fry Festival

So what’s the first thing that comes to mind when I say St Petersburg?

French fries?

I didn’t think so.

Still, there must be something to it, because this festival goes for 2 days.¬† This isn’t Fred and a few buddies getting together to celebrate pomme frites.¬† I think of chocolate for Valentines Day.¬† The Gulf to Bay Food Truck Association thought potatoes were more fitting.¬† Go figure.

Straub Park, downtown St Pete.  Find info on their Facebook page here.  And send some pictures, will ya? Feb 14 and 15, 2020

St Petersburg Super Greek Festival

Lots of towns have Greek festivals, but St Pete has a Super Greek festival.¬† I’ll be there, doing my super greek version of Rick James’ “Super Freak”.

While just sampling a wide assortment of Greek food should be enough incentive by itself, at the Super Greek festival you can also shop, watch traditional Greek dance performances and send the kids on some amusement rides.

The 2020 dates are Feb 21- Feb 23 at St Stefanos Greek Church, located at 3600 76th St N in St Petersburg.  Check out the facebook page here.

Florida Food & Brews Festival

Feb 1, 2020 England Brothers Park, 5010 81st Ave N, Pinellas Park.  (Rain date Feb 8)

Enjoy fantastic food. Sample some of the areas best craft brewers. Support local rescues. Be entertained.  What more could you want?  Find them on Facebook

St Petersburg Fine Art Festival

The 7th Annual St Petersburg Fine Art Festival showcases original artwork by more than 100 artisans from throughout Florida and across the United States.¬† It really is a don’t miss event, and given that the event spans 2 days you really have no excuse not to go.¬† Dates in 2020 are February 22-23. Location South Straub Park, St Petersburg.

Night Market St Pete

For night owls, vampires or just those who are otherwise not afraid of the dark, there is the Night Market.¬† It’s located in the St Pete Warehouse District next to 3 Daughters Brewing and its held sort of whenever they feel like it.¬† The next one is February 27th, 2020.¬† And about 2 weeks after that, so mid-March, they’ll let you know when the next one will be.¬† So I suggest following them on¬†Facebook¬†or something so you can stay in the know.¬†¬†

The Wholemeal Cafe, Golden Bay, New Zealand

There’s a Whole Lot to Love

I’m writing about The Wholemeal Cafe in Takaka because I believe that if you are lucky enough to find yourself traveling almost anywhere in Golden Bay, you should make a stop at The Wholemeal Cafe.
I’ll go so far as to say that you should visit The Wholemeal even if you’re as far away as Nelson. ¬†We actually planned our first visit from Texas.
You just have to be prepared for “the hill“.

” I like coffee culture. It’s got integrity. After all, we are legal drug dealers, so why not have integrity?”

Wayne Green

The Granddaddy of Kiwi Cafe-Culture

If you’ve spent any time traveling in New Zealand, you’ve no doubt experienced New Zealand cafes. ¬†I think the concept is slowly catching on in the U.S., but in many destinations here they’re missing entirely. Or you have to really work to find them.
Not so in NZ.  There are cafes everywhere, with many serving simply outstanding food.
And in my opinion, none does it better than The Wholemeal Cafe in Takaka.

Pinwheels can be seen in the upper left and lower right of the display case

A Brief History of The Wholemeal Cafe

The Wholemeal Cafe started out life as The Wholemeal Trading Company in 1977, as a sort of bulk food co-op. ¬†The current owners took over more than 25 years ago and have “gently guided” Wholemeal to what it is today.
Located in the small, but exceptionally sited township of Takaka, The Wholemeal Cafe is a feast for the eyes and the stomach.
In 2000 they expanded into other parts of the old theatre building and the cafe took on the space and shape it still has today.
The Wholemeal Cafe is a place for the young and the old; for hipsters and hippies; for tourists and locals.

Fresh, tasty and unpretentious cafe-culture food

What You Should Eat at The Wholemeal Cafe

Anything.
Seriously, whatever strikes your fancy. ¬†I’ve had everything from coffee to baked goods to wraps to salads to breakfast to meet pies to fish/chips.
So hopefully you get the picture. ¬†It’s all good. Really.
So my typical MO is to go for breakfast, getting a quiche or eggs, along with the infamous Flat White coffee.  But I never leave without lunch to go in the form of a scone, or meat pie, whatever delectable fruit-filled bar they may have, a pinwheel, a salad of some sort, and a wrap.
I’m not really a wrap fan.  The only places I will eat them are at The Wholemeal Café and at T and Me Tea Company in Gulfport, Florida.  (Which is sadly no longer in business.  Come back? Please?)  Wraps not on the menu but you’ll see them in the display case.  If you’re lucky, they may have one or two leftover from the previous day and you can get those at a discount.

Insider Tip: The Wholemeal Trading Co. Green Salad Dressing

You’ll want some.¬† It’s self-serve, on the counters at all times in those ketchup/mustard-style squeeze bottles.¬† So no need to ask for dressing “on the side”. and definitely no judgement for how much of it you’ll be wanting to put on your food.

The Flat White was gone before I finished taking the photo

Whatever you decide, make sure to at least get at least one item that you can put the Wholemeal Trading Co. Green Salad Dressing on.  This might be the most perfect, both tasty and versatile, salad dressing on the planet.

About the only items this would not go well on would probably be any fruit bar or scone, or of course, not in your coffee. Or maybe in coffee would be ok.  Other than that, I think everything else is fair game as a potential vessel for this outstanding dressing.

The only caveat to getting lunch to go is that The Wholemeal is a responsible restaurant. Therefore, it isn‚Äôt chock-full of ‚Äúto-go‚ÄĚ packaging. ¬†I‚Äôve put the dressing on my wrap before leaving the caf√© before, and wasn‚Äôt thrilled with the effect when I delayed eating for several hours. ¬†So earlier this year they gave us a to-go coffee cup that we put the dressing in and covered it with plastic wrap. Needless to say this might not be the best set-up if you have an active day planned. ¬†So if you‚Äôre traveling with a small close-able container, you‚Äôll be set and you can add your dressing at the perfectly precise moment..

It’s a bit of a gathering place – check the local bulletin board to find out what’s going on

When To Go

This part is a little trickier.¬† Wholemeal Caf√© opens early ‚Äď between 7:30 am and 8:30 am most days.¬† But they also close early too, around 3 or 3:30 pm.
But it seems like they may now be staying open for dinner on Fridays, at least until around 8 pm.

Insider Tip: The Wholemeal Cafe cookbooks

Now there are three.  We have the first two.  The third came out earlier this year. Both of the first two contain the salad dressing recipe. For several years Terry and I ate this salad dressing on our salads every single day.  It was the perfect icing on the cake for our salad.  (Recipe to be shared later!)

Filling the display to start off the day

How to Get There

The Wholemeal Caf√© is in the burgeoning metropolis of Takaka, the largest town in the Golden Bay region with a population of just over 1100.¬† (After you‚Äôve been in New Zealand awhile, you‚Äôll start to think of towns like Takaka and Motueka as big. And Motueka IS big ‚Äď population almost 8,000!)
Just don’t be misled by the number of kilometers (104) between Nelson and Takaka. The kms don’t begin to tell the story.  In between those two towns is Takaka Hill. (If you spend much time in the region, you may see some cute t-shirts with references to The Hill on them.)

Insider Tip:¬†Trust me, you’ll want a container

As is the norm in New Zealand, The Wholemeal Cafe runs pretty lean in terms of to-go packaging. ¬†So you may want to bring small container if you’d like to take some green salad dressing for later.

The road through Takaka Hill is very steep with many bends.  But on good weather days the views over Tasman Bay and Golden Bay are simply stunning.  There’s no need to rush and there are plenty of places to turn out if the traffic behind is pressing you.

Takaka is going to be on your way if you’re heading up to Onekaka, Pupu Springs, Collingwood or the Farewell Spit from Nelson.  And frankly, it’s a great central place to stay, and more affordable for trips in Abel Tasman National Park than places in Kaiteriteri.

The Dressing

” Simple recipes handed down can become timeless treasures, enriching our identity and our culture.”

Wayne Green

Leave a comment below and tell us if you’ve been to The Wholemeal Cafe!

Tampa Bay Times (tbt) review of Coffee Grounds in Treasure Island

After living without power for 4 days in the aftermath of Irma last year, a tbt correspondent visits Coffee Grounds Cafe and Dessert Bar in Treasure Island and finds an eclectic coffee bar cocktail bar combo.

The venue sported an unusual selection of spirits when it first opened, so we’d love hearing from you, if you go, as to whether that is still true or if they have gone traditional.

Coffee Grounds is not air-conditioned, but should have a decent breeze making it comfortable enough.

Anywho, this is a relatively quick read of the review by Justin Grant, so take a look here.

Coffee Grounds website is here.

They are located at 10927 Gulf Blvd.  727-820-1909

Pinellas Farmers Markets

A more thorough post on the area’s Farmers Markets is forthcoming, but for now here is a snapshot of local farmers markets.  You’ll find everything from creative breads to veggies and fruits to jewelry and seafood.
Some markets are only seasonal, while others operate year-round.  Please make a note of the dates and times. But with all these to choose from, one of them is bound to fit in your schedule.