Friday, November 9, 2012

Catching the Buzz at the 5th Annual Sustany Event

Have you caught wind of the Sustainable Buzz running through Tampa? It’s kind of like a caffeine buzz without the crash, and with a side of environmental awareness.

I reveled in that eco-friendly high last night during the 5th Annual Sustainable Buzz event at the Straz Center. The event focuses on raising awareness and promoting the culture of sustainability in the Tampa Bay. The foundation promoting this event, Sustany,  embraces the multivariate nature of sustainability, with areas focusing on sustainability education, architectural sustainability, waste reduction, alternative energy development, and community and cultural improvement. All of these goals are collectively aimed at increasing the quality of life in Tampa Bay, and promoting local Floridians as stewards of their environment.

Event-goers enjoying the spread!
The blur is to represent the buzz... you don't even have to be literate to
get it! Yes!
As promised, this event not only got your brain working, but your stomach, too, with a variety of locally and sustainably produced beer, wine, and food. As you can imagine, this event had my name written all over it (if you’re having trouble coming up with why, may I suggest some light reading).

My friend Tristan, fried-banana eating beauty turned pizza eating beauty, joined me on this Thursday night food adventure, and we both left pleasantly full and giggly! Here's how we got there!

Entering the Sustany event, we grabbed a complimentary wine glass, wearing the Sustany logo, and made our way to the first stop for a Cigar City End of the Summer Pale Ale: a delicious, copper colored libation, with yummy notes of citrus! It was nice to revel in the final tastes of summer (fall is finally joining us in Florida, now if only we could get the results of the election…).

Glasses, soon to be filled with delicious libations!
Now, if you are a fan of eating dessert first, I am virtually high-fiving you. It’s a delicious concept that I was thrust into as I entered the event. May I introduce Viktoria Richards chocolates. These delectable little nibbles are handmade by the beautiful Victoria, and sold through her website. One of my particular favorites was her Pinot Noir chocolate, using wine from the Keel and Curley Winery in Plant City. Victoria recommended, and Tristan later swore by, her mint chocolate, which could easily be confused with eating a mint leave, it was so herbaceous and fresh. All of these beautiful chocolates are works of art, I almost felt bad eating them… no, no I didn’t.  

The beautiful, edible jewels!
We moved on, and were greeted by the smiling faces of The Wine Studio, a new mini bistro and wine bar featuring wine (okay, that was a given), food, and art, all in a cozy, neighborhood setting. They offered us a lovely gazpacho, one of their signature soups at the bistro. It was light and delicious, overflowing with fresh vegetables. It was perfectly balanced, with the brightness from the vinegar base mellowed out with a dollop of crème. They are located on Henderson Boulevard and boast 8o different wines from all over the world, a variety of beers, and a yummy menu of appetizer style dishes, as well as pizzas and sandwiches, all categorized by their perfect drink companions (this is good for novel wine tasters like me; while I know good food, I’m still getting grape legs). All items are ranging from $4 for smaller appetizers to $17 for larger items! If you’re in serious need of a refuel, they offer a Chef’s dinner special Wednesday-Saturday!

Delicious gazpacho! Light and fresh!
Next, we had the pleasure of meeting the ladies of Duckweed Urban Market, a purveyor of all things delectable, open daily from 10am-10pm. Their store offers a variety of local, gluten free, and specialty products, along with products that fulfill your everyday needs. All dietary restrictions are welcomed at this market, located on the corner of Franklin and E. Polk, next to the hub. My camera forgot to take a picture of the delicious Sassy Cucina spreads and dips they offered, so I will describe them to you. Listen, as I seduce your taste buds: we tried a delicious feta spread. Its yogurt base lifted the feta up on a pedestal of delight, allowing my mouth to worship its cheesy lusciousness (that’s my best stab at Daniel Steel worthy seduction). If you want to take it to another blissful level, add their olive spread. Oh, the things I would do to that delicious, chunky tapenade (is that a food oxymoron?). I cannot wait to check out this store and see what these ladies are offering to Tampa foodies like myself!  Oh, and Mondays they give 10% off wine and beer. I mean, who doesn’t need a bottle or a six-pack after a Monday? (a recovering alcoholic).

Duckweed is the smallest flowering plant in the World! Cute!
We continued on, stopping to pick up a slice of the garden pizza and barbeque chicken pizza from Sally O’Neal’s gourmet pizza!  In summary, I will be ordering some pies from this place very soon.

This pizza was so flavorful, with it's yummy barbeque sauce, pepperocinis,
and bacon!  
Pizza in hand, we refilled our Sustany glasses with some delicious Lemarca Prosecco at Johnson Brothers Liquor Company.

Oh, and just to appease my inner glutton, I also picked up a yummy ahi-tuna sandwich, with pancetta, lettuce, and tomato. Spoiler: it was delicious! You honestly can’t go wrong with fresh ahi-tuna, or pancetta, for me. I can’t wait to check out Fire soon!

…okay, and I had some stew from Irish 31, which was so nice for a crisp, fall night. I couldn't stop! Ha! It was so delicious. I likened it to being hugged by a Polar Bear while holding a koala. Ah, the warmth, and pure happiness!

After filling our bellies (oh, there is still room) we made our way to Vintage Wine Cellars so Tristan could get her red wine fix, and I tried out the new sparkling saki, Zipang, at the Gekkeikan table. It was so refreshing, and only made with 4 ingredients (goodbye, hangovers!); I urge you to look for this yummy, bubbly concoction at your local liquor store.

Now, don’t stop holding your breath yet, there are plenty more stops on this food and drink journey.

You know Mangroves, the club in Soho that you can count on for your late night mingling and dancing kick? Well, they also serve up some delicious grub as a boutique restaurant. Who knew? Well, certainly not me, I’m not from here! (ß southern accent) Tristan and I grabbed some truffled mac n’ cheese, and a slow-braised Taiwanese short rib, and were pleasantly surprised; who knew there was delicious food being served just feet away from where I have shaken my moneymaker at an inappropriate hour.  

Truffles and Mac n' Cheese... a food match made in heaven. 
We also grabbed a beer from the guys of Special Hoperations: average Joes, turned home brewers. They are passionate about their brews and enthusiastic about offering you a taste of their delicious hobby. If you want to be part of the brewing club, check out their website. You don’t have to quit your day job, you just have to be passionate about beer and have some time to spare for brewing one of your own! 

EVOS was offering a delicious Strawberry Walnut Gorgonzola Salad with organic greens and raspberry lime vinaigrette, and spreading the word that fast food can have a conscious, both environmental and waistline related. Make sure to check out new items at their Soho location, including a Wild Alaskan Salmon Burger with fresh dill spread and the Monterey Dog with fresh avocado & chipotle mayo, both on a fluffy, organic bun.

We had a chance to grab one more slice of pizza, this time from Pizza Fusion, a franchise focused on providing customers with organic, eco-friendly pizza. We tried the bruschetta pizza, and I applaud the chewy crust and fresh ingredients!

There is no way that box will fit in your fridge! Looks like I'll just
have to eat it all :)
Our final, gut-busting stop was The Baker’s Gallery. This actually turned out to be one of our favorites. From the alluring pull of delicious, from-scratch cupcakes, to the infectious laughter of Gene and Philippe, who passionately described and showed pictures of the shop's work. If you have ever wanted to eat your shoe, this place will make your dreams come alive. Gene’s sister, Alexandra Auguste, is the mastermind of this operation. Haiti lost some extremely talented bakers when these women came to Tampa. I was taken aback after tasting the Bavarian Cream cupcake. The cupcake is like a delicious texture party in your mouth, with the moist cake, smooth sugary icing, and the rich Bavarian cream that filled the middle. I was sold. We came back twice; we couldn’t help it! You can get these cupcakes, and many more delectable flavors, at their shop on Bruce B. Downs. Be sure to check out their beautiful cakes while you are there. Oh, and for those of you who have had unpalatable fondant on cakes before, these ladies use a sugary delicious bakers modeling clay. It’s like fondants cuter, nicer sister.

I need on of these in my kitchen at all times; good thing The
Baker's Gallery sells mini and full size cupcakes! My dreams
will come true!
Bavarian Cream Cupcakes, you've made a believer out of me!
They do a variety of cakes, from elegant wedding cakes, to fun cakes like this one!
After picking up a souvenir photo at the Prints Charming Booth, we were on our way, leaving enlightened and FULL. Yes, all capitols.

I really don’t know how we managed to eat the amount we did, but I am glad that I was able to participate in such a worthy cause. We should all promote a more sustainable Tampa, whether through supporting vendors who keep its tenants in mind, or participating in events like the Sustainable Buzz. It’s a high you can feel good about. 

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