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Laura Reiley, Times Food Critic

Laura Reiley

Laura Reiley is the Tampa Bay Times' restaurant critic and a former critic for the San Francisco Chronicle and the Baltimore Sun. She is the author of four books in the Moon Handbook series: Florida Gulf Coast; Walt Disney World and Orlando; Tampa and St. Petersburg; and the Paradise Coast. She has cooked professionally and is a graduate of the California Culinary Academy.

Phone: (727) 892-2293

Email: lreiley@tampabay.com

Twitter: @LReiley

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  1. McDonald's soft serve in Florida is made with handshakes and happy cows

    Consumer

    Floridians licked nine million McDonald's vanilla cones last year.

    All those swirled, reduced-fat soft serves. All those drips caught just as they roll down the side of the cone's paper sleeve. All those car seats in receipt of the ones that escaped.

    Those who saw the 2016 Michael Keaton film The Founder about McDonald's entrepreneur Ray Kroc have a vague idea that the multi-billion-dollar empire's success was about switching from real ice cream to something called INST-A-MIX, a space-age product like Tang....

    A rotary filler machine works at a pace of 30 bags a minute as an ice cream mix is bagged at the Dairy Mix, 3020 46th Ave N., in St. Petersburg. DIRK SHADD   |   Times
  2. Sunday Supper returns with 25 chefs, food fests galore

    Food & Dining

    Save the date: SUNDAY SUPPER

    This just might be the dinner of the year. The Bern's family of restaurants has organized a James Beard Foundation fundraiser to fund the Bern Laxer Memorial Scholarship for culinary students in the state of Florida for a number of years. But this week they announced the second annual Sunday Supper on Nov. 12, an epic evening bringing together 25 of our most notable local chefs....

    CLEARWATER BEACH Wednesday (10/18/2006) A pile of fresh Florida stone crab claws are ready for transport to Frenchy's Original Cafe on Clearwater Beach. The claws will be among hundreds offered during Frenchy's 22nd stone crab festival, which runs from Friday to Sunday at the restaurant at 41 Baymont Street, on Clearwater Beach.
  3. Locale Market changes yet again, rebranding the restaurant as FarmTable Cucina

    Food & Dining

    When Locale Market opened in Sundial St. Pete in Dec. 2014, it was the most-hyped, most-anticipated gourmet market/food hall/culinary playground Tampa Bay had ever seen. Since then, celebrity chef-owner Michael Mina has done what every entrepreneur does in the face of challenges: tinker.

    It's happening again. On Thursday FarmTable Kitchen, the second-floor restaurant, will be rebranded as FarmTable Cucina, a full-service 100-percent Italian restaurant....

    Chef Michael Mina and chef Jeffrey Hileman work in the kitchen at Farmtable Kitchen in 2016. EVE EDELHEIT   |   Times
  4. Restaurant review: Noble Crust's second location is a boon to booming Wesley Chapel

    Food & Dining

    WESLEY CHAPEL

    Wesley Chapel is said to be one of the fastest growing areas in the country, due to the perfect cocktail of available and affordable land, broad but upwardly mobile demographics and easy access to other parts of Tampa Bay. And while malls and brick-and-mortar retail centers have taken a big hit in the past couple years, largely failing to stem the tide of online shopping, the Shops at Wiregrass is booming....

    A plate of Rigatoni and Short Rib Ragu with creamy burrata and Calabrian chili at Noble Crust in Wesley Chapel.
  5. Vinoy reinvents Fred's Cellar for one night Thursday as a fundraiser for Puerto Rico

    Food & Dining

    The Vinoy Renaissance St. Petersburg Resort's Fred's Cellar has been underutilized for some time, starting as a private club for members and more recently re-envisioned as a speakeasy. But here's something — for one night only — that seems to be a glorious repurposing of the grand space.

    Thursday it becomes a Puerto Rico Pop Up Restaurant benefitting those affected by the recent hurricanes. The evening will feature a plated menu featuring traditional Puerto Rican cuisine such as empanadas, pastelon casserole, carne frita and coquito flan, all washed down with craft pina coladas featuring local favorite Don Q rum....

    The pink tower of the historic Mediterranean Revival-style Vinoy Renaissance St. Petersburg Resort and Golf Club. SCOTT KEELER    |      TIMES
  6. Chef behind Ricky P's is taking over the kitchen at Tampa's Roux

    Food & Dining

    Rick Parsons has been moving around St. Petersburg for some time.

    First he was brick-and-mortar free, testing out the local culinary waters with a booth at the Saturday Morning Market for his Cajun-Creole stylings. Then he put down roots in the In Your Belly Deli space, opening the eponymously named Ricky P's. What was mostly a po' boy joint, it was swiftly joined by a second humble location inside Bob Lee's Tire & Mobil Co. further down Fourth Street N. Then he took on the large and ambitious space that had formerly housed Savannah's Café in the EDGE District. He closed that down after 4 and a half years when rent skyrocketed and relocated last year to Bayview Plaza, renaming the project Ricky P's Creole Kitchen....

    Rick Parsons prepares New Orleans-style po boy sandwiches at his business in 2009. SCOTT KEELER   |  Times
  7. From Brews by the Bay to the Slider Showdown, this week is all about food fights

    Food & Dining

     

    DRINK FOR THE FISH: BREWS BY THE BAY

     

    Dive into the Brews by the Bay beer and food festival, a benefit for the Florida Aquarium's education, animal rescue and rehabilitation programs. Enjoy the aquarium's exhibits as you nibble dishes from restaurants like Ciccio Water and Bavaro's Pizza, sip coffee from Buddy Brew and try treats from Nothing Bundt Cakes and beers from local and regional craft breweries. There is also live entertainment. 8 to 11 p.m. Friday. $50 advance, $60 day of; $45 members. 701 Channelside Drive, Tampa. (813) 273-4000....

    Lounge in sofas and armchairs while you enjoy top-shelf cocktails, a culinary feast and entertainment, intimately illuminated with LED towers and lamps.
  8. Restaurant review: Bob Heilman's Beachcomber on Clearwater Beach is an oldie and, yes, still a goodie

    Food & Dining

    CLEARWATER BEACH

    The packet's front is stamped: "LIBRARY MATERIALS MAY NOT BE CHECKED OUT OVERNIGHT." It is chubby, gapping with yellowed St. Petersburg Times clippings date-stamped, the restaurant name underlined in red grease pencil. Bob Heilman's Beachcomber had a whole lot of clippings in 1959, the year a fire gutted the restaurant on Mandalay Avenue and they rebuilt, bigger and better, Clearwater Mayor Alex D. Finch presiding over the ribbon cutting. There was a safe crack and a burglary, both in 1963. And then there were the accolades and reviews....

    Bartender Matthew Moscato of Tarpon Springs makes a Crown Royal Manhattan for a customer at Bob Heilman's Beachcomber in Clearwater Beach.
  9. Alessi Bakery rolls back prices to 1912 this week

    Food & Dining

    This weekend, Tampa's historic Alessi Bakery throws its own birthday party, and it will require a lot of candles.

    Alessi has been operating almost continuously since 1912, when Nicolo Alessi, originally from Italy, opened a bakery on Cherry Street and delivered Italian and Cuban bread by horse and wagon. It is as much a part of the fabric of Tampa as Gasparilla or Cuban sandwiches or scachatta (a Sicily-by-way-of-Tampa culinary oddity, cold, pizza-ish bread squares). Come to think of it, four generations of Alessis have sold a whole mess of Cubans and scachatta every Gasparilla....

    Alessi Bakery in 1996. Times files.
  10. After delays, Bulla Gastrobar open in South Tampa

    Food & Dining

    IRMA RELIEF: HOG'S BREATH IN WESTCHASE

    Tampa Bay Brewing Co., one of the region's oldest independently owned and operated craft breweries, will host a daylong fundraising event and concert to benefit the Florida Keys in the wake of Hurricane Irma. The brewery seeks to raise $25,000 through on-site sales, a silent auction and a three-hour ticketed concert on Saturday. Proceeds will go to the Community Foundation for the Florida Keys....

    Bulla Gastrobar, a Florida-based restaurant by Centurion Restaurant Group, joined the mix of bars and eateries in the South Howard corridor. Known for its fun, communal atmosphere, imaginative cocktail program and contemporary takes on shareable Spanish cuisine, Bulla opened last Thursday at 930 S. Howard Avenue in Tampa at the Morrison.
  11. Tampa's the Hall on Franklin has a little something for everyone

    Food & Dining

    TAMPA

    In the way it took many of us a while to understand that a contemporary food truck was capable of driving metaphorical circles around the old-school "roach coach," there's a learning curve with the food halls that have proliferated in American urban centers. They are not, for instance, like mall food courts or a collection of flea market vendors. And yet most of them are not precisely sit-down restaurants either....

    Clockwise from top left are the Cali signature melt from Melt Shoppe, oysters from Heights Fish Camp, a dessert tapas tray from Bake’n Babes and kimchi waffles from North Star Eatery.
  12. This Florida family is making apple jelly from only fruit traced directly to Johnny Appleseed

    Cooking

    Paul Bunyan, not real.

    John Henry, possibly real.

    Johnny Appleseed, totally real.

    This American legend, born John Chapman, was a missionary for the New Church and a nurseryman who introduced apple trees to big swaths of Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Ontario and what is now West Virginia. He was born in 1774 and died in 1845, and somewhere between 1837 and 1845 he planted an apple tree on the property of the Algeo family in Nova, Ohio....

    Florida’s climate doesn’t lend itself to apples, but for the Meyers, this Oregon-Florida collaboration is a way to produce a Florida apple product.
  13. Tampa Bay's best coffees and deals for National Coffee Day

    Food & Dining

    Let's get caffeinated.

    Friday is National Coffee Day and loads of the usual suspects offer special deals (Dunkin' Donuts, the industry goliath, selling more than 1.9 billion cups of hot and iced coffee globally every year, is offering a sweet deal: BOGO on a medium or larger hot coffee). But it's a good moment to consider all the great coffee we have in the Tampa Bay area these days, some stalwarts like Kahwa and Buddy Brew (also doing a BOGO on cold brew), but with many newcomers. Oh, and fun fact: Americans now buy more cold coffee drinks than hot....

    Ty Beddington demonstrates the pourover method at Buddy Brew in Tampa. [Times 2012]
  14. Three ways to get your beer on this weekend: Halfway There Beer Festival, Oktoberfest

    Food & Dining

    BEER O'CLOCK:

    Could it be that Irma made folks thirsty? With October(fest) approaching, there are a bunch of ways to heft a pint or two in celebration of the season.

    HALFWAY THERE BEER FESTIVAL

    On Saturday, Tampa Bay Beer Week presents the Halfway There Beer Festival at the Coliseum in St. Petersburg. This event brings together breweries, brewers (both professional and home brewers) and enthusiasts. It seeks to spotlight some of the best craft breweries, national and international, with a focus on beer made right here in the Tampa Bay area. More than 50 breweries and homebrew clubs will be pouring both one-offs and old favorites. Noon. 535 Fourth Ave. N, St. Petersburg. $50-$75. tampabaybeerweek.com....

    Fresh glass of beer; iStockphoto.com
  15. Florida brewers have made an Irma IPA to help hurricane victims

    Bars & Spirits

    Craft beer drinkers, prepare for Irma IPA.

    What started with spaghetti models has ended with 15 barrels of Irma-themed beer, produced as part of a statewide collaboration in St. Petersburg this month. Brewers expect sales of the beer to earn tens of thousands of dollars in aid to Hurricane Irma storm victims in Florida.

    It may be one of the first times both brewers and vendors have pulled together to brew for charity....

    Green Bench, 7venth Sun and Coppertail have collaborated on an Irma IPA, labeled pictured here, with 100 percent of the proceeds going to Feeding Florida.