Monday, November 12, 2012

My 200th Blog Post: Of Chateaubriand, Chairs, Crepes, Cute Men, Clay and Chihuahuas ... My Love Letter to Tampa Bay Favorites

Hello LilyOnTheLam.Com Readers: 

Happy 200th Blog Post!  For those of you who have been reading since my early days (waaaay back in 2010), thank you for sticking with me!  And for those of you who are more recent to Lily-Land, welcome and I hope you'll stay awhile.

Of Chateaubriand ...

It is very late Sunday night/early Monday morning.  My friends JP and TW are in town from Minnesota and treated a group of us to dinner at one of my absolute most favorite restaurants in Tampa Bay - Bern's Steak House.  I love it so much I could lead both the kitchen and the wine tour.  If we're playing Bern's Steak House trivia, I will beat your arse like the sad little girl you are (no matter if you're biologically male or female).  Just warning you.

For dinner at Bern's Steak House, I always get the 7 ounce chateaubriand with the gorgonzola fondue sauce on the side.  It is sublime.   It is beyond sublime.  It is sublime's hotter and more tantalizing cousin.  TW picked out the best wines to accompany our meal - we couldn't have done better if a master sommelier was dining with us!  I loved watching our wonderful server decant the red wines by candlelight so as not to pour sediment into the decanter.  For a girl from the blander suburbs of Minneapolis, I was feeling "oooh la la" fancy!  

After dinner, we headed upstairs to the Bern's Dessert Room for Grand Marnier Centenaire and our table split the flambeed tableside Bananas Foster, the King Midas Cake with homemade Macadamia Nut Ice Cream and the Chocolate Peanut Butter Truffle.  Seriously every restaurant should have a dessert room.  I don't care if you're a Subway or a Domino's - I want to see your dessert room!  But until then I will make due with the romantic ambiance that is Bern's Steak House's Dessert Room (a.k.a. "The Harry Waugh Dessert Room.")  Decadence, decadence, decadence and I loved every minute of it.  

However with all that food, fine wine and liqueur in my belly I am WIDE AWAKE.  I have been putting off writing in my blog because it is my 200th blog post and I wanted to write something very special and moving ... well, moving for me at least.  But the PRESSURE of writing an Aaron Sorkin-esque blog post that would make the masses weep was paralyzing ... and hence, no blog post.  

But I am fueled on a million calories right now (did I mention that the Bodacious LLBB took me to club level seats at today's Tampa Bay Buccaneers vs. San Diego Chargers game as well?  Barbecue chicken nachos plus dinner at Bern's = my pants will not fit tomorrow.)  So here I am wide awake and a 200th blog post has needed to be written for quite some time now ... so here goes ...

Instead of writing one meaningful blog post that makes the nation weep, I am instead going to write about several things that make me happy -- in this particular blog post - chateaubriand, chairs, crepes, cute men, clay and chihuahuas ... and I'll throw in some recommendations along the way.  

Side Note:  This post originally was going to be called "Of Chateaubriand, Chairs, Crepes, Cute Men, Clay, Chihuahuas and Cats" but the cat stories have some celebrity name-dropping and hence deserve a blog post all on their own.  Yes the story of my cats include celebrities - why are you surprised??  I will save the cat/celebrities post for another date, but feel free to read the following blog posts if you'd like to read some shameless celebrity name dropping ... 

My 150th Blog Post: Stealth Name Bombing and Why I Love Kristen Johnston

A Space in my Heart for (Kevin) Spacey and Charo, Part One

A Space in my Heart for (Kevin) Spacey and Charo, Part Two

Now back to today's post ...  

I hope you enjoy this 200th blog post and if not ... well, check out the previous 199.  I personally recommend the non-Pulitizer Prize winning blog post: "Why It's Not A Good Idea To Get Drunk And Go To The Asian Dollar Store" or "Pink Was the Color of My Itchy Discontent."    

Of Chairs ...

One of my favorite furniture stores in all of Tampa Bay is The Iron Pelican Antiques and Home Decor on Central Avenue in St. Petersburg.  I am currently re-doing my living room in a Morticia Addams Boudoir meets Moroccan Mad Hatter Tea Room theme.  (What?  You didn't see that in the latest decorating magazine?  Look again.  I am so avant garde, you need a time machine to catch up with me!)  The Iron Pelican has amazing finds - and at half the price of what you would pay in trendy South Tampa.  (It pays to drive over the bridge into Pinellas County, people.  Trust me!)  I plan on posting pictures of my redecorated living room when it is complete, but until then let me show you my latest acquisition from The Iron Pelican:

The moment I saw these chairs I told the owner "Add them to my bill - I NEED THEM."  Which by the way is the same thing I said about these black velvet gilded chairs I also bought from The Iron Pelican - and they make me smile every single time I see them.  The owners of The Iron Pelican are now used to seeing me foam at the mouth with rabid delight over their furniture.

The running joke is that I have bought so many chairs I will need to turn my living room into a cabaret to be able to find use for all these chairs.  Well if I have to, I will!  

These gorgeous silver chairs with the lovely blood red pleated satiny poofs are like art to me.  I had to have them!  But the question is - will I ever let anyone - human or feline - ever sit on them?  The puffy seat is so perfect, I think I would scream if even one butt cheek were to attempt to lower itself upon the satin exterior.  I have no clue how I am going to keep people from sitting on them.  They are chairs for heaven's sake -- and most people do believe that chairs are for sitting on (those fools!)  I picture myself hiding these chairs in my bedroom with a little electrified barricade around them.  It's not a seat, it's art!  

So if you have any suggestions on how I can keep people from sitting on these chairs or suggestions on how I can be less obsessive-compulsive neurotic, please feel free to add them in the comments section below.  

Of Crepes ...

Down the street from The Iron Pelican is probably the best reason to be alive in America - The Crepe Bus.  Ybor City's La Creperia Cafe has sprouted a second location serving savory and sweet crepes from a silver bus in St. Pete.  (Which by the way is also down the street from The Taco Bus in case you're doing a progressive dinner of all food courses served from buses.)  

I love, love, love La Creperia Cafe.  Their savory crepes have almost like a buckwheat flavor to them - hearty and just the right flavor to accompany a multitude of savory toppings.  And their sweet crepes -- sigh ... heaven sent loveliness.  I also enjoy Crepe-ology in Safety Harbor, but my absolute favorite crepes are from La Creperia Cafe.  (P.S. I didn't do well in biology, but I always get an A+ in Crepe-ology.)

The crepes at La Creperia Cafe's Crepe Bus are huge and very filling.  I highly recommend going with a friend who has similar tastes as you - order one savory crepe and one sweet crepe and share, because unless you have a champion eating contest stomach it is quite difficult to have both a savory crepe and a sweet crepe in one sitting.  But don't let me rain on your parade - go for it!  

After purchasing the lovely silver chairs above, I went to La Creperia Cafe's Crepe Bus for their Muffaletta crepe.  I love a good Muffaletta (looking for good olive salad for your Muffaletta?  Head over to Mazzaro's Italian Market in St. Petersburg - also grab some fresh cannoli, fresh made pasta and a million other delicious items they sell there too!)

Of Cute Men ...

While I was at La Creperia Cafe's Crepe Bus, there was a worker (Crepe Chef?) who stayed behind to help the new Crepe Chef learn how to work the register.  More Senior Experience Crepe Chef (a.k.a. MSECC) had the most gorgeous eyes.  I was thinking to myself "Amazing, filling, delicious crepes and good-looking men??  This is a WIN-WIN!"  Then MSECC turned to me and said "Would you like your receipt, Ma'am?"  

Ma'am?  MA'AM????  

And with THAT, the magic spell cast by his jaw-dropping gorgeous eyes was broken - completely shattered.  I adjusted my shawl, grabbed hold of my walker with tennis balls on the bottom and limped away.  My fantasies of hooking up with a Crepe Chef and spreading Nutella and bananas in parts of the body no Health Code would approve of, evaporated before they could germinate in my steamy subconscious.  I at least had a delicious Muffaletta crepe to cry my sad, lonely tears into ... and then eat with glee.

Of Clay ...

After buying chairs, ordering a crepe, realizing I bear the visage of someone who should be called MA'AM, eating the crepe and choking back old lady tears; I then went to the Morean Arts Center for Clay.  

First, let me preface this next story with the following ... I have no talent whatsoever.  I really wish I did.  I have the soul of a struggling artist within me - but when I was reincarnated into this life I forgot to pack my talent.  Grave mistake.  So sadly, I spend this lifetime trying to create beautiful things and then realize I have no such aptitude to do so.  (But I do draw one heck of a mean stick figure!)  

In one particularly amnesiac moment, I decided to sign up for a pottery class at the Morean Arts Center for Clay.  I say amnesiac because I had evidently forgotten I have no artistic talent whatsoever and that I abhor feeling inadequate when I do things that remind me I have no talent.

The pottery class was called Foodies and you would shape clay into serving vessels for food.  Well I fancy myself an amateur foodie and I could always use more serving plates, so sign me up!  I didn't really think about how clay would get transformed into finished pieces -- magical fairies, perhaps?  Who needs to bother with the small details anyway?  I had my credit card and was registering!

Unfortunately, there were not a lot of people who shared my "hey I could use some more serving dishes" mentality.  Since the class did not have enough people signed up, the good people at the Morean Arts Center for Clay decided to put me in the beginner's wheel throwing pottery class.  

Wheel throwing?  That doesn't sound simple, easy or fun.  My lack of talent was screaming!!!  I was instantly intimidated.  Scenes from the movie "Ghost" popped into my head.  Not only did I forget to bring any talent, I also forgot to bring my own personal Patrick Swayze.  What the heck had I gotten myself into??  

But I wasn't going to let my lack of talent stop me ... at least not for the first class and so I headed to the Morean Arts Center for Clay.

I would like to say that I was wrong about my devastating lack of artistic talent and that I took to the potter's wheel like a Frenchman to a wheel of Brie.  I would like to say that.  The instructor told me I wasn't squeezing the clay hard enough and wasn't turning the wheel fast enough.  Oh yeah?  Well ... whatever!  (Yeah, I'm not good with pottery or quick comebacks!)  

Perhaps it was my "drowning, helpless baby seal in a vat of molten lava" expression that made my instructor help start me off with "centering the clay."  I used my fingers to "open up" the clay and before I knew it, I had a bowl.    

I know a bowl might not seem too exciting - hell, I have a whole cupboard full of them ... but to me, this first piece of wheel thrown pottery was like Michelangelo's David.  I oohed and ahhed over said bowl as I tried to ignore that I somehow had covered myself head to toe in what I deem "clay juice" (a.k.a. muddy water).  How could one get so filthy making a small bowl?  Evidently, my talent is for making a disgusting mess.  Um, yay me.

I photographed my bowl from every angle known to man.  I would have bought it champagne and a steak if it would have let me!  Oh bowl, you are so beautiful.

I felt like an artiste!  Obviously I had found my calling.  I would be the Andy Warhol of cereal bowls.  

The instructor helped me center another piece of clay and I made another bowl that pretty much looked like the first one.  Yes, more evidence that I was a wheel-throwing pottery genius.  BOWLS FOR EVERYONE, MY FRIENDS!  BOWLS FOR EVERYONE!

Then I tried "throwing clay" on my own with no help and I produced a sad looking floppy candleholder.  I had visions of friend Nicky G. calling me and saying: 

"Oh did you hear Atlanta had an Earthquake?  Oh it was terrible!  That beautiful floppy candleholder thing you made me perished in the great quake!  No no, don't make me another - it will just remind me of how sad I am that the first one shattered into a billion pieces.  Yes, Atlanta has earthquakes.  Why are you questioning me?"  

My Instructor looked at the floppy sad candleholder type thing on my wheel with pity.  I stuck out my chest and said "I meant to make it like this!"  I was still just as proud of this piece as my instructor-assisted bowls.  I declared to the class that THIS IS ART!  I think my Instructor declared that I was nuts under her breath.  

I very much enjoyed my time at the Morean Arts Center for Clay.  I firmly believe that it is important to push yourself out of your comfort zone every now and again.  You may just surprise yourself.  Or at least get some cereal bowls out of it.

If you're looking for an outlet to express your creativity (whether you have talent or not!), you should check out the Morean Arts Center classes.  They also have painting, sculpture, jewelry making classes and more.  And if classes are not your thing, go see the Chihuly Exhibit at the Morean Arts Center near downtown St. Petersburg - it is amazing!

Of Chihuahuas ...

As I was putting away my extra clay, I saw this chihuahua sculpture.  I contemplated stealing it, but my ethics prevailed. (That and my Instructor said "DON'T STEAL IT!")  However ever since spotting this crazy colorful kaleidoscope of a dog, I have been saying "Yo Quiero Taco Bell."  Thanks a lot, little clay chihuahua.  You have invaded my brain!

Happy 200th Blog Post, Readers!  I hope you enjoyed this post - a sampler of some of my favorite things in Tampa Bay, Florida.  I hope you continue to read my blog and as always, I welcome your comments and feedback.  Thank you for reading!

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