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Friday, May 20, 2011

WMNF's Tropical Heatwave 2011

Several years ago, I attended my first WMNF Tropical Heatwave and I had an amazing time. The Tampa Bay area public radio station hosts this festival every year, bringing in eclectic musicians from around the country (and sometimes, visas pending, the globe!). When I returned to Florida just six (wild and crazy) months ago, I already knew I would be attending the next Heatwave.

The weather on Saturday could not have been more perfect. We had some pretty strong rainfall in the morning and early afternoon, and to my memory, rain like that usually cools down the temps but amps up the humidity. Not on this day! By the time my friend and I arrived in Ybor City, it was the perfect temperature, and there was even a slight breeze! Perfect weather for romping around from venue to venue.

We kicked off our scavenger hunt of sounds with the Two Man Gentlemen Band, who not only had a fun, vintage sound, but rocked the look from their three-piece suits to their vintage guitars. They were fun, bouncy, and a little crass, and I liked them a whole lot. Here's an idea of their sound:

The Carolina Chocolate Drops were one of two bands I had heard of before Heatwave. Some of you may be familiar with their cover of "Hit 'Em Up Style." Unfortunately, they didn't sing this at Heatwave, otherwise I would have called my friend Brandon IMMEDIATELY.

But there WAS some bad-ass "mouth music."

They were delightful.
Toward the end of their set, we stopped by the Lettuce Eat Healthy vegan hot dog cart, which was just outside the area the CCDs were playing. Jim, the owner, is a really cool guy and I was excited to see his cart at Heatwave since I'm rarely in St. Petersburg, where he primarily operates.

I went with a simple little dog with kraut, grilled peppers, and Daiya. Lettuce Eat Healthy offers a whole bunch of fixin's!

My friend went with the Philly cheese-"steak," which is a whole lotta sammich!

Neither of us had ever had a "real" (meaty) Philly cheesesteak before, so we couldn't compare it to that, but this was a very good sandwich. It had a certain sweetness to it that added another layer of flavor.

I would, of course, love to see some gluten-free breads offered in the future. As it was, I peeled back much of the bread from my little soy dog. Aside from that, this was a delicious little detour and it fueled us up for our next stop: Peelander-Z! Unfortunately, there was some misinformation on what time their set started, so we missed the first half. I'm so glad we caught the remainder of the set, though, because these guys are HILARIOUS and AWESOME.
All of my pictures from their set are blurry because they are so high energy, and I was hanging off of a ledge during their set, which made it difficult to steady the camera.

There were props, costumes, lights, screaming, spitting, dancing, and various other craziness. I LOVED IT! Seriously, if Peelander-Z are coming to a city near you, GO GO GO!

We closed out the evening with a most beautiful surprise. I really liked the name of this next band, and that is the main reason we went to check out their set. It was such a lovely finale to Heatwave: Miss Tess and the Bon Ton Parade.
Their set was outside on the PLAY Lounge courtyard. Look at how picture-perfect this was: icicle lights, palm trees, cool breeze, a perfect Florida night with some truly lovely music. Miss Tess has a gorgeous, soulful voice. These youtube videos just don't do her justice.

So WMNF, you did it again: another AMAZING Tropical Heatwave. I'm already excited for next year's!

Monday, May 16, 2011

Consciousness & Columbia

In the Great Blogger Black-Out of 2011 (gosh, I hope there isn't another one this year), my last entry about Consciousness Blossoms and the city of Dunedin was devoured. I hope Blogger found it delicious. Rumor has it that Blogger is working to bring back those missing entries, but I'm not counting on that, so I'm going to revisit my meal at Consciousness Blossoms, and throw in another Tampa meal for you to feast your eyes upon.

Consciousness Blossoms is located in Palm Harbor, Florida. I had heard great reviews on their breakfast menu, but breakfast isn't usually my thing, so I was excited to make it out there on a Friday night, the one night they are open for dinner.

Their menu is very sandwich-heavy, which means it's very bread-heavy, but I was happy to read that they offer gluten-free millet bread. Good to know for next time. But since I was there for dinner, I went with their special. When in Rome, right? The special includes soup, which was tomato peanut on this night (the other, vegetable soup wasn't vegan). It had a little kick to it, but was delicious! Great flavors.

I'm not a fan of most mock meats, so for the special, I subbed out the mock duck in exchange for tofu. I love mah tofu.
This dish is how I would define comfort food. It reminds me of a dish I would prepare at home, if I ever had the time to actually cook a whole meal these days. It was simple and delicious and just what I needed.

If you're curious about the mock duck, here ya go.
There were mixed review on the "duck." Some people hated it, some people thought it was okay, and I think just one person at the table liked it. I tried it, and it was... different. I was happier with my tofu, though.

Two ladies at the table ordered sandwiches, which looked lovely. Here's the Buffalo Tempeh...

and the Rueben with soy cheddar

Though there were mixed feelings on the mock duck, I think everyone was pretty satisfied with their meals. I would be interested in returning.

Last Sunday was Mother's Day, but also my best friend Kate's birthday. She and her husband came up to Tampa and I met them for lunch at the famous Columbia Restaurant in historic Ybor City. The Ybor City restaurant is their largest location, and probably their most ornate. This restaurant is absolutely gorgeous, but I only have pictures of the food to show you (this time).

At first, I was just going to go with a bowl of black bean soup or gazpacho but, in the spirit of "Go Big or Go Home," and for the sake of the blog (the things I'll do for you readers), I went with the one vegan entrée on their menu.

The Vegetarian "Cubana," which is vegan as-is.

What a great plate! Can I just say how much I love asparagus? I love it a lot. And the roasted little cherry tomatoes were pretty great, too. The platanos and the yuca reminded me of some of my meals in Jamaica.
The tostones were kind of dry, but mixed in well with the rice and beans. This was a perfectly filling meal, but paled in comparison to my delightful dining companions.

And like I said, this restaurant is impressive in its beauty. Even though there are limited options for vegan eats at Columbia Restaurant, those limited options are still good, and it's worth it just to sit in this gorgeous restaurant.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Hungry Vegan Traveler's Day Off

I had possibly the best Wednesday ever this week.
I love flip-flop tan lines, don't you?
I learned that chickens love Sabra hummus!
The perfect beak-shaped bite

The day included a trip to Gourmet Pizza Company (hooray for vegan gluten-free crust!)

My friend is fostering kittens right now.

Lots of laughin', skirt-wearing, swimsuit sportin', sunshine soakin', pizza eatin', and kitten cuddlin'. What a great day off!

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

My First Vegan Swap

I co-organized my first vegan swap last month and I received some delicious things! But first, the non-edibles:
My sender is from the DC area, so she sent lots of local goodies. I love this cherry blossom reusable bag! (FYI - I'm about as nerdy about reusable bags as I am about postcards.) Compassion Over Killing is headquartered in DC. Check out this big, bad-ass mug!

She also sent some goodies from Sticky Fingers vegan bakery! It was a few years ago that I first visited Sticky Fingers (pre-blog days, so I don't have any good pictures to share).
Unfortunately, the carrot cake didn't quite survive the journey from DC to FL, but it smelled phenomenal!

And THEN, she included some homemade goodies! Cadbury Creme-style chocolate hearts (FANCY!)

And, the show-stopper, big fat homemade PEANUT BUTTER CUPS! HOLY GOODNESS!

I actually received this package about two weeks ago, but I was wrapped up in vegan PB cup bliss and couldn't fathom blogging (or doing anything else) until they were gone.

Needless to say, I loved everything my sender put in the package. I am happy to say that my first vegan swap was a success!