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All Posts By

Jen Bingham

Cru 16: Hope and Jason Ruhe, Owners of Brick & Mortar

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A true Power Restaurant couple, Hope and Jason have been hustling the Tampa Bay food scene almost all their lives. They’d been everywhere before starting their own successful business: In Bloom Catering in 2004. Ten years later, St. Pete didn’t know what hit it when they opened Brick & Mortar and started attracting national attention for their exquisite food.
Jen and Torrey have been great friends with the Ruhes ever since they designed Cru Cellars’ first food menu (as well as the Northern Michigan Cru menu, which is a story in itself). Hear how they’ve escaped fires, shipwrecks, and drunken college students in their efforts to deliver great food to Tampa Bay.

Featured Wine: Vina Sastre Tempranillo Ribera del Duero Spain
Featured Restaurant: IL Ritorno
and Bern’s Steak House

Cru 15: Shaun C. Wright, Fine Wine Manager (North Florida) of Southern Glazer’s Wine & Spirits

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Ever wonder why you can’t find the same wines in every US state?  Curious about alcohol’s 3-tiered distribution system? (3 Tiers: Licensed Producer, Licensed Distributor, Licensed Retailer.)  Shaun takes us through the red tape, protections, and confusion that sprung up after Prohibition.  Best of all, he picks CRU CELLARS as the Featured Restaurant, and delivers an impassioned defense of distributors and how they’re more than just middle-men.

Featured Wine: The Hilt Pinot Noir Sta. Rita Hills CA

Featured Restaurant:  Cru Cellars

(813) 831-1117

2506 S. MacDill Ave.

Tampa, FL 33629


Cru 14: Joel Davis, Owner of Commune + Co. hand crafted coffee, and Union coffee and tea bar in Armature Works

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Jen and Jackie talk to Joel about what makes him tick.  Of course he obsesses about the quality of the coffee he serves, but it’s his love for people that makes his business such a magnet for the coffee community in Tampa.

Joel is not a roaster: he’s a multi-roaster (he curates selections from the best roasters in the country).  But don’t underestimate his creativity.  Fed up with the shortfalls of traditional cold brew coffee, he perfected his “Pressure Brew” after years of experimentation.

So come get blown away with his blind tasting and learn about coffee terroir, Direct Trade, and tricycles.

Featured Restaurant:


Cru 13: Kendrick Lindsey, Wine Steward at Cru Cellars

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Check out our surprise Exit Interview with Kendrick Lindsey! Kendrick is Wine Steward at Cru Cellars and an opinionated authority on the Tampa dining scene at large. Listen in as Kendrick finally tells the owners at Cru what he really thinks before he leaves for a new job in Virginia. We crack open the perfect wine for the occaision: “Flying Solo.” And just what is this new secret project of his?

Featured Wine: Dm. Gayda Flying Solo Red
Featured Restaurant: Shrimp Boat
1020 Bloomingdale Ave., Valrico, FL 33596
(813) 571-5858

Food Fight Series 19: Chef David Benstock and General Manager Ronald Randall of IL Ritorno

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Chef David is the Owner and Executive Chef of IL Ritorno, a modern Italian restaurant in St. Petersburg. He’s cooked at the James Beard House, and he’s been recognized by The Washington Post, Southern Living, Wine Enthusiast, USA Today, the Tampa Bay Times. He’s worked for celebrity chefs (including Wolfgang Puck), in Michelin star restaurants, and in Italy.

In fact, just as Chef David left The Modern in NYC to come to St. Pete, Ronald Randall was hired there. Eventually Ronald also left NYC for Florida and two years ago joined IL Ritorno as General Manager and Sommelier. While his wine list obviously needs to skew Italian, he’s managed to diversify things with some wines from around the world.

Within the last year they underwent extensive renovations and doubled the size of IL Ritorno. Now Chef David has a much larger kitchen to play in, and Ronald has a full liquor license to play with. Sit back and discover why you’re unlikely to find a heavy cream sauce in IL Ritorno, but you just might find a bottle of oft-maligned Merlot.

Featured Restaurant: IL Ritorno
Featured Wine: Elena Walch, Alto Adige, Schiava 

Food Fight Series 18: Chef Tyson Grant of Parkshore Grill

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He’s been named “Best Chef of Tampa Bay” in three different years by Tampa Bay Magazine. Chef Tyson was also appointed as a Chef Ambassador to the Deputy Mayor’s “Healthy St. Pete” initiative (Chef Tyson uses Zoe’s Edible Garden at All Children’s Hospital to educate kids about healthy eating and where food comes from).

Parkshore Grill has been in St Petersburg for more than a decade, and just earned the Wine Spectator Award of Excellence for the 7th year. As a Chef Ambassador for Niman Ranch, Chef Tyson serves natural meats, sustainably caught seafood and organic, local produce. Now he’s launched Parkshore Grill Catering.

As someone with a front-row view of the changes on Beach Drive (and all of Tampa Bay) for the last decade, what does he think of the local eating scene? And how will he extract revenge from the Food Fight for shorting him out of time last year?

Featured Restaurant: Parkshore Grill 
Featured Wine: Ancient Peaks Cabernet Sauvignon