Thanks everyone for your help and advice
I had an excellent long Valentines Day weekend in St. Pete / Sarasota.
Weather wise it was a gorgeous sunny weekend, and gloriously cool - no overbearing Florida sun and humidity of summertime.
First stop after the airport:
Mazzaro's Italian Market
- Goal was to get hotel room fridge nibbles and a snack to tide us over till dinner.
Purchased for the room:
- duck proscuitto (wow!)
- several other lunch meats and cheeses,
- the best bottle of Merlot I've ever had.
- Did not at all like Mazzaro's caprese hot sandwich. Glad we just got 1 to split. It was shockingly bland. By the time we checked out and opened it up at the picnic table outside, half of the bread was soggy.
Yelp reviews rave about their sandwiches. I wish we had purchased a cold one vs hot.
From there we walked to the Mazzaro's kitchen store where I found a couple cool finds - a grill gadget I've been looking for, and wine bottle toppers in the shape of poppies. Most importantly, at the counter was Viktoria Richard chocolates displayed like jewelry. They are pricey, delicious, beautifully shaped chocolates designed with icing that glistened in handsome gradients. My favorite included "chocolate pretzel caramel" in the description.
From Mazzaro's, we went to our hotel (Grand Plaza) on St. Pete beach.
Spinners is the restaurant atop the hotel that rotates for a 360 degree view of St. Pete.
A dinner reservation opened up at 5:30pm, and the hotel actually called to inform of this after I asked to be put on a wait list on Monday of same week. We grabbed it since that aligned nicely with sunset at 6:10pm. It was a spectacular sunset and view throughout dinner.
Food was either serviceable (grouper) or good (their specialty steak). I would return for a lunch (I heard someone rave about their coconut chicken things) and the view.
For Saturday breakfast before the Sarasota Art Festival, we ate at Marchands restaurant in the Vinoy Rennaissance. I enjoyed the lobster hash off the menu, and everyone else had the buffet and raved about the omelettes.
Upon arriving in Sarasota and finding parking, we came across the farmers market before the art festival, and were pleasantly waylayed for over an hour there. LOVED the pickles we purchased from the pickle guy, LOVED the kettle corn. Normally kettle corn is nothing special, but it just tasted so fresh and delicious. Totally enjoyed the "pork broth shots" from the foodie place in the middle aisle.
It was a beautiful day for an afternoon of nonstop art festival strolling. We were ready for our reservation at Salute early at 4:45pm.
Buschetta appetizer - not at all interesting or tasty compared to about any other bruschetta I've ever had. Odd... bruschetta is so easy to do well.
Tricolore salad - beautifully plated, huge. Had a balsamic dressing that tasted extra special vs my standard balsamics.
Loved the entrees - two handmade pasta dishes - the mushroom papperdelle and spinach ricotta agnolitti (half moon pasta). Both had that fresh handmade pasta taste cooked perfectly al dente and with delicious flavors and sauces.
Sunday morning we were able to get a Marchands brunch reservation at 12:30. Perfect timing for a morning fitness stroll on the beach and then checking out of the hotel. Sunday brunch at Marchands was an impressive spread of expensive proteins, both land (prime rib, pork) and sea (crab claws, shrimp), beautifully prepared brunch and breakfast items, the omelette station with the expert omelette preparer, and best of all, the bloody mary bar.
The Bloody Mary buffet bar ($9 extra) at Marchands was so much fun I'm surprised it's not illegal :-). You pick out your vodka, and then you are confronted with a jaw-dropping array of high-end bloody mary accompaniments arranged in 2 tiers along the bar. ex: 2 types of bloody mary mix, 3 different types of bacon strips, 7 different types of pickled veggies! (my favorite = pickled peppers), shrimp, horseradish, powdered seasonings, etc... Everyone else had 2 courses down from the buffet and I was still enjoying the bloody mary bar.
Stayed with relatives who lived near Dade City the following week, and totally enjoyed 2 adorable lunch places in Dade City:
- City Market Bistro:
Most flavorful and interesting tomato bisque I've had in eons.
Warm wood toned interior. Unique antique headboards behind the booth tables.
Good Cuban sandwich. Not the best I've ever had but tasty.
Purchased a box of their homemade red sangria. $40 for 3 quarts with a srparate container of fruit for adding into each glass. We enjoyed an evening glass of Sangria the rest of the week.
- Lunch on Limoges:
Very unique place. Part antique store, part clothing store, part lunch cafe. The place was packed. I didn't have a reservation and got the last table.
Had the lunch special - a delicious crab stuffed shrimp and a fried avocado appetizer.
Dade City was unexpectedly beautiful. Saw a scene from one of the roads (S-579?) that could have been out in a movie. A football field size piece of land with massive oak trees, tons of moss, lots of shadows cast. Would have made a great high res black and white. Wanted to stop and pull over but a big Range Rover was close behind.
Thanks St. Pete - Sarasota - Tampa area for a great weekend.
Mazzaro's - first 3 (big car pic above + chocolates below)
Spinners - remainder in this post