Sunday, June 26, 2011

She's Packed Up Her Bags....

...and she's heading out to EUROPE!

My best friend Ashley and I are hitting up 5 countries (8 major cities) in three weeks, meeting up with friends and family along the way.  Sadly, Harvey (my Mac) had to stay at home for this trip so I'll see you lovely, lovely people on the flipside, when I'm back stateside. See what I did there?

In the meantime, if you are looking for some domestic travel, check out my favorite places to visit in St. Petersburg.

Love to all,
~the "I'm finally jumping the pond" gal, Jess

Thursday, June 23, 2011

An Ode to St. Pete...

...and all it's delicious eats! (and things to do, and places to stay!)

Regardless of if you have been reading my blog for 2 years or 2 weeks, you have likely picked up on the fact that I adore, love and cherish St. Petersburg, Florida. St. Pete is my "birthtown" -I can't call it my hometown, because my parents moved when I was one, so I don't actually remember living there as a child- and I moved "back" in the fall of 2008 to work at the Children's Research Institute. That is also the time when I made my blog public, after writing it's predecessor over at Zanga all through college.

I honestly loved living in St. Pete. The local, vintage vibe of the downtown and old northeast regions, mixed with the nearby beaches and hustle of Tampa, all washed with sea salt laden breezes is truly a "perfect fit" for this gal. So, when I moved back to my actual hometown to start my new career of teaching, it was very bitter sweet. I knew I was going to miss my gem of a condo, my yoga studio, my favorite bars, and all the wonderful dinning establishments and other random eateries, but I reminded my sad self that it was all only 2.5 hours away, just waiting to be visited.

In May, nearly 2 years after I moved away, I finally made good that promise to visit, as bestie Christine and I took a girls weekend away to celebrate my 25th birthday. Here is a rundown of our adventures, plus a few of my other St. Pete suggestions.


Seeings as my condo is now rented by someone else, Christine and I opted to stay downtown and got a great deal at the Ponce de Leon Historic Hotel. This hotel is a "boutique" hotel, and each room is done slightly differently. I loved our tiny little room, with it's quirky mix of vintage and modern finishing.


Other suggested lodging: The Vinoy on the Bay 

Speaking of the bay, walking along the bay and Beach Ave, taking in the harbor, marina and wildlife is one of my favorite St. Pete past times.

After strolling the harbor, you will need Gelato:

My favorite gelato shop in the whole state just happens to reside on Beach Ave. So we stopped in. 

Thank you Paciugo, thank you.

If strolling isn't enough of a "workout" for you, please swing by my home yoga studio: Yoga Moves. I dragged Christine to the 10am Saturday class, and it was totally worth setting the hotel alarm clock. If you love Iyngar style yoga, and getting in touch with the roots of all yoga poses, go take a class with Denise, you will not regret it.

If you are looking for Beach Time here are my suggestions:

For easy (paid) parking and "beach amenities" (aka showers, restroom, water fountains) and a more "family friendly" vibe the public St. Pete Beach is a great option. Gulf Blvd- across from the Dolphin Shopping Plaza

If you are looking to spend more time with young professionals than young families while soaking up the sun try hitting up Treasure Island instead. Parking can be more tricky (you likely will have to "valet park" in one of the two nightclubs that are closed during the day-obvs- and walk the few blocks to the beach access), but you can bring coolers (be subtle....the signs say "no coolers" but it's not enforced), there are public volleyball nets and most people set up cornhole, etc. Everyone is friendly and it's a good time.

But you guys know me by now. I'm really only here for the food. And my, my does St. Pete have some wonderful eating options. The following are all located downtown, walking distance from either the Ponce or Vinoy (or any of the other lodging options downtown).

The Eats and where to get them:

The Garden If you can, sit out on the patio, even in the heat of summer, the lush garden patio is cool, green and tropical perfection.

Z-Grille Oh Z, I love zee. Seriously, all cheeseballin' aside, Z-Grille might be my hands down favorite restaurant. They have a modest menu that changes frequently and hello, daily deviled eggs. Which I've raved about before.

Cafe Alma is another local favorite. They have a wicked good Sunday Brunch with a Bloody Mary bar. Oh and they also have great late night tapas and a wonderful beer selection.

Lucky Dill Deli is another favorite, for both locals and tourists alike, thanks to it's Dagwood Challenge. I wasn't down for copious layers of meat and cheese, but breakfast sounded good. And it was.

Kahwa Coffee is another great place for a quick breakfast or lunch. My panini sandwich went unphotographed, as I was fighting off seagulls for it. Bold, feather boy, but not very smart. You don't mess with this gal's sammy.

Other great food/drink establishments:

Red Mesa and The Cantina are owned by the same family and they are both fantastic. The Cantina turns into a "club" scene later at night, if you want to dance the night away. Cantina (link is my previous review) is also downtown, but Red Mesa (link is an older review I did, no pictures though, sniff) is in northern St. Pete, closer to where my condo was and I frequented this wonderful restaurant very often.

The Independent also holds a very special place in my heart. This beer and wine bar (link is another old review, with few pictures) is where I first cultivated my love for imported and craft beers, not to mention a great many conversations at the central table, super conductive for meeting people!  

And honestly that is just the tippity, tip-tip of St. Pete's cultural world. I miss my beloved 'burg quite a bit, but as of right now have no plans that would have me returning to live there, sadly. Until then, I can dream of salt breezes, yoga bliss and food heaven, all served on cobble stones and lapping bay waters.

Love to all,
~the "home is where the heart is, or maybe even where you were born" gal, Jess

PS. Yes, it is only a 2 hour drive from Gville, but food oriented gals that Christine and I are, we couldn't "road trip" with empty stomachs. That and I really shouldn't go Fresh Market hungry.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Burger Rivalry

I've toyed with going vegetarian (well, pescetarian actually) off and on for the last two years of my life. Every time I think I'm ready to jump ship something meaty and delicious smacks me back in the face and reassures me of my delicious choice to be a flexitarian for life!

Case in point. A burger that could possibly knock Columbia Burger off it's pedestal ranking of World's Best Burger*.

Just where does this knockout champ reside? Why, Relish of course. Relish is a now franchised quick serve burger restaurant that originated in good old Gville. The concept is simple: pick your burger (as in number of patties, veggie or chicken breast), add cheese, bacon or a fried egg for a tiny extra charge and then layer that baby up with as many toppings and sauces as you desire. Basically the burger place of my dreams, says the Condiment Queen.

I started with the Single Tasty (1 fresh, never frozen ground beef patty) with cheese. Then began the layering of the bun. (PS. You can lose the bun and do more of a "salad" which I actually might do next time, as I ended up only eating about 1/2 of my bun in the long run).

I created a monster. A beautifully, delicious and super messy monster:

Bottom(s) Up, aka, what the heck is on this thing?
  • bottom bun
  • dill pickle rounds
  • pineapple
  • burger with cheese (American)
  • Thai chili sauce
  • guac
  • tomato
  • shredded lettuce
  • top bun with "tomato relish" which is really more of a fussy 1000 Island Dressing
Served alongside the best fries I think I've ever had (seriously) with jalapeno ranch dressing and a camera shy Killian's Red.

Healthy? Not really. Worth every calorie? Heck yes!

Don't worry Columbia Burger...I'll still come visit. After all, a good scientific study must have a minimum of three trials with consistent outcomes, so I still have quite a bit of greasy, messy and oh so tasty research to do!

Love to all,
~the "now this only child can see why a little sibling burger rivalry is so wonderful" gal, Jess

*Jess' World, that is!

Monday, June 6, 2011

Starve a Fever, Feed a Cold?

Or is it the other way around? I could never remember.

Oddly enough when I have sore throat, nothing makes it feel better than food. Yes, I know I am werid. Thank you very much.

Here is what I fed my summer cold over the weekend:

72% dark chocolate and Wensleydale cheese with apricot

The best tasting antioxidants around! 

Sweet Milky Tea

 Soothing on a sore throat and opens up airways with the heat.

Wasabi Explosion Mix from Fresh Market

This tasty blend of rice crackers and wasabi peas clears out my sinuses and tastes like crunchy sushi! 

Love to all,
~the, "I really hope this is my only cold of the summer" gal, Jess

Sunday, June 5, 2011

So, this is what being a teacher feels like...

My first class of "babies" graduated last night.

Each of the 56 seniors that walked across the grass last night holds a special place in my heart. Yes, it was an incredibly small class this of the smallest in the last 20 years at my school of employment and yes, we still hold graduation on the football field, classy. Most of them I taught for the last two years. Some were only in Beta with me and a few just figured out my class was the place to be, and I kept having to kick them out of my classroom during bell changes. 

Was the ceremony a touch too long? Was it hot, humid and nat-ridden? Did it take up what should have been my first Saturday night of the summer? Was I sick and suppressing sniffles and coughs the 2.5 hours we sat on the field, surrounding our senior class? Yes. 

Would I have been anywhere else? No way. For someone who used to claim she "hated kids" I love this bunch of brats incredible young men and women and can't wait to see them succeed in their own way.

Love to all,
~the proud "momma" teacher herself, Jess

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

A Memorable Memorial Day Weekend

4 women.
1 man.
2 dogs.
And 1 incredibly memorable weekend.
(with virtually no pictures to prove it. now that is a good time)

So take my word(s) for it:

In a hot kitchen.
It was a hot mess.
But a damn tasty one.
Oh and wine.
Copious amounts.

Scrambled eggs with leftover fondue cheeses.
Pumpernickel toast.
Playing on the man's ipad.
Possibly obsessed with ipad.
Not sure why I need an ipad.

Migrate to pool.
Bad-ass margaritas.
Spray sunscreen is amazing.
So is Pinnacle Whipped.
With rootbeer.
Rainclouds roll in.
Guac Time!
Back to pool.
Who cares that the ball is deflated?
I'm a Hors. yo.

Light the grill.
Made this.
Concoct amazing orzo pasta salad.
It will be made again stat, will share recipe then.
Grill chicken, tofu and veggie skewers.
Pour wine.
Copious wine.

Loaded Questions.
Dirty Minds.
Proof: worry stones, tummy, how they walk, stanky leg, humor, multiple partners, chef,, President George W. Bush, Hearts and Lips, Monogrammed Bottle of Lube, my principal (boss), hair scrunchies, our first unchaperoned date, Great American Status, you smell like my dead grandfather-yummy, puss in boots, Lady and the Tramp

Ginnie Springs.
Crazy Rednecks.
Coolers too big for their floats.
Two cases of Yingling.
Wannabe Publix Subs in the Prius.
Cute Pharmacy Boys.
Dusty feet.
Great Outdoors.
Free Beers.
BBQ Pork on Nachos?

Blastin' Gaga and Brit-Brit.
Heavenly showers.
Fudgie brownies with whipped cream.
Gypsy weddings!

Veggie Feta Omelets.
More ipad.
More Gaga.
End of weekend.
You know where you are going?
Love you.

There you have it folks. Yet another, my weekend is better than yours post. 

I.Have.The.Best.Friends. Period. 

Love to all,
~the, "why isn't every weekend 3 days long? I could get used to this" gal, Jess