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Food Fight Series 3: Jeff Gigante and Chef Jason Saldutti of Forbici Modern Italian

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When in Rome, eat pizza. When in Tampa, eat Roman-style pizza. Jeff Gigante, well-known Co-Founder of Ciccio Restaurant Group, is opening his own restaurant in Hyde Park Village called Forbici Modern Italian. Forbici (“Scissors” in Italian) is going to be a vibrant, lighter take on Italian cooking with everything from pasta to wines-on-tap. But the real star of the show is their Roman-style pizza (The 5800 square foot space will even have a grab-and-go pizzeria on the side). Wait until you hear them explain just what makes it so rare and so special.

Who better to work the kitchen than Jason Saldutti? Jason was raised in his family’s pizzeria in Orlando. As a young man he branched out to other pizzerias and Italian restaurants, and notably was Executive Chef at Brio Tuscan Grille.

So listen along as Jen discovers her new health-food, we consider the appeal of pre-digested meals, and Torrey briefly makes listeners think that the chef has been stabbed during the “Make Me Cry” onion-chopping contest.

Featured Wine: Selvapiana Chianti Rufina
Featured Restaurant: Forbici Modern Italian

Food Fight Series 2: Lee Jasper of Dr. BBQ

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Not many BBQ resumes come better than Lee’s. He (and I’m not making this up) left the Texas oil fields to study real barbeque under Pitmaster Roy Perez at Kreuz Market in Lockhart, TX. You know, the one that opened in 1900.

That’s some slow cooking

When you hear Lee speak, you know right away that he’s as Texan as… I don’t know. Texas toast? So what on earth could lure him out to humid St. Petersburg? Easy: the Perrys, Dr. BBQ, and something called the BEAST.

Suzanne and Roger Perry (excellent neighbors and owners of Datz, Dough, and Roux) have teamed up with the famous Ray “Dr. BBQ” Lampe to open Dr. BBQ, a new restaurant in St. Pete. From an impeccable foundation rooted in traditional barbeque, they’re not afraid to explore regional variations or to branch out into some new and wild territory. But you better believe they’re still smoking with “ol’ hickory.”

So join us as we interview the real McCoy, only a few weeks from opening the new restaurant, as he talks about all things barbeque and competition. As a bonus in this series, you’ll get to see how well Lee does in the infamous “Make Me Cry” onion-chopping contest.

Featured Wine: Arnot-Roberts Touriga Nacional Rose
Featured Restaurant: Dr. BBQ
1101 1st Ave. S, St. Petersburg, FL 33705

Food Fight Series 1: Cliff Barsi, VP of Food Service & Social Enterprise, Metropolitan Ministries

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“At the Wine Bar with Cru Cellars” is doing a special series on this year’s Tampa Bay Food Fight tampabayfoodfight.org. Cru Cellars is proud to host a food table and to donate a lot of the wine to this great cause. Benefitting Metropolitan Ministries’ Inside the Box Culinary Arts Program, the audacious goal is to raise enough money to fund 100 scholarships to turn at-risk students into valuable kitchen professionals. And how they’re going to do it is amazing.
Some of the Bay’s biggest names in food are assembling at Armature Works in Tampa to battle it out (in a boxing ring) in a Top-Chef style cooking competition. It’s St. Petersburg vs. Tampa, and pride is on the line. Also, you know, the 100 scholarships.

So we’re starting this series where it all began: Chef Cliff Barsi.

(Ding ding) Let’s get ready to… driiizzzle!

Cliff won first prize ($25,000) in a non-profit business-plan competition in 2012, and with that he launched Inside the Box Catering. Retail locations popped up (checkout the one at Armature Works), Grab & Gourmet cafes appeared (including at the Tampa and Orlando airports), and now they’ve launched Dough Nation (cookie dough and ice cream!). It’s a massive empire, built to serve a massive need.
Proceeds fund many of the 1.6 million meals that Metropolitan Ministries serve each year to hungry and homeless people in Tampa Bay. Not only that, but Inside the Box also provides on-the job training to people who were once homeless. So, yeah. A little more important than a cooking competition between Tampa and St. Petersburg. But screw St. Pete. (kidding)
Please consider donating to: http://www.metromin.org/

Cru 12: Sarah Belyeu, Wine Director and Manager of edison: food+drink lab

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Jennifer, Sarah, and my umbrella

Is she a cheese-maker from Brooklyn? An organic farmer from Oklahoma? A genetic preservationist from St. Augustine? Yes!
A love of all things organic brought Sarah to wine, and wine brought Sarah to the attention of Chef Jeannie Pierola. That’s a pretty simple explanation for a really fascinating story, but you can’t expect much from the show notes.
When she isn’t juggling wine bottles at one of Tampa’s best restaurants, she’s helping to launch two new projects: swigamajig divebar and fishkitchen, and Counter Culture. On this podcast, Sarah spills the beans on those new restaurants, the difference between wine that’s grown versus wine that’s made, and what it’s like to work with Chef Pierola.

Featured wine: Clos de Luz “Azuda”

Featured Restaurant: El Puerto Restaurant and Grill
(813) 248-8222
1623 E 5th Ave., Tampa, FL 33605

Cru 11: Randall Grahm, Owner/Winemaker of Bonny Doon Vineyard

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Randall Grahm, a.k.a. The Rhône Ranger, is the famous wine-maker and owner of Bonny Doon Vineyard. He’s in the Vintner’s Hall of Fame and was named Wine and Spirits Professional of the Year by the James Beard Foundation.

Hi-Ho, Silvaner!

When he started his quixotic quest to create the perfect Burgundian Pinot Noir in California some 30 plus years ago, young Randall had no idea that he was charging at windmills (winemills?). His own toughest critic, he soon discovered that there were grapes out there that were much better suited to the Santa Cruz Mountains than Pinot Noir. Was he shattered? Did he despair? (Spoiler) No! Viva the Rhône Revolution!

True Revolutionaries don’t rest on their laurels. In his quest for originality in wine, this mad scientist has set up a new polycultural lab in San Juan Bautista where he’s embarking on one of the biggest viticultural experiments in California’s history. Find out why Randall is taunting God, Jeff Goldblum from Jurassic Park, and any aspiring sommelier hoping to get a handle on the California grape scene by creating 10,000 new, funky, sterile grape varieties.

Cru 10: Gregory W. Van Hoesen, Owner of City Beautiful Beverage Company

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Natural Wine is on everyone’s tongue, so we reached out to an expert: Gregory W. Van Hoesen. He’s the founder of City Beautiful Beverage Company, Florida’s leading source of Natural Wine.

Gregory has made quite a name for himself in the Natural Wine world. Hear his take on what makes a wine “natural”, and why he’s fallen so deep for them. And where does a visiting foodie go to eat when he comes to Tampa? We’ll review his pick: Rooster & the Till.

Featured Wine: Dm. des Deux Ânes
(Also mentioned: Robert Sinskey POV, Joseph Drouhin Beaune Clos des Mouches, and Dm. Tenard Burgundy 2014)

Featured Restaurant: Rooster & the Till
6500 N. Florida Ave., Tampa, FL 33604
(813) 374-8940

Cru 9: Dave Madera, Director of Operations at Caledon Concepts

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Never heard of Caledon Concepts? If you live in the Tampa Bay region, then you already know them by their restaurants: Cevíche and Rococo. When Dave joined the team, he was charged with re-vamping the wine programs at all four different restaurants. Cevíche and Rococo would both seem to have rigid rules for what makes the list, but Dave introduced some flexibility while still keeping the needs of each concept in mind.

25 years in the Tampa restaurant scene (including 12 years at Mise en Place) will teach you a few things (like how to handle a spewing porron without getting drenched in wine, and the best way to sell a bottle of 1904 Château Lafite Rothschild.)  Join us for a fun adventure through one of Tampa Bay’s larger signature restaurant groups. Bonus points if you can pick up some of the noise our kitchen makes sprinkled throughout this episode.

(Orlando, Tampa, St. Petersburg)
Rococo Steak
655 2nd Ave S, St Petersburg, FL 33701

Featured Wine: St Innocent Villages Cuvée Pinot Noir

Featured Restaurant: FarmTable Cucina
179 2nd. Ave. N.
St. Petersburg, FL 33701
(727) 523-6297

Cru 8: Ryan Rugg

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Ryan has a thumb in every bottle: he’s made hundreds of wines over the years for customers at a custom crush facility. But he’s also worked on estate wines from Texas to Australia to Sonoma. Not enough for you? How about the time he spent in a Berkeley wine shop? Now Ryan brings all this experience to selling wine wholesale. It’s rare to meet anyone in the wine business with so much experience in production, retail, and wholesale. Join us as we explore wine from a broader view.


Featured Wine: Tenuta delle Terre Nere, Etna Rosso

Featured Restaurant: Brick & Mortar
539 Central Ave., Saint Petersburg, FL 33701
(727) 822-6540

Cru 7: Jacqueline Smith, Assistant Wine Director of Cru Cellars

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In 2014, when she was 21 years old, Jackie dove into the wine game in a big way. In just a few years she was already Assistant Wine Director of the (ahem) best wine bar in Tampa Bay, and had established herself as one of the experts of the natural wine scene in the area.

Fresh off her successful mastery of the Level 3 WSET, Jackie sits down with us to talk about the value (or lack thereof) in wine certification courses. With the programs offered by the International Sommelier Guild, Court of Master Sommeliers, Society of Wine Educators, and the Wine and Spirit Education Trust, what is an aspiring Somm to choose? And what about the person who just wants to get deep into wine, without turning it into a career? (Answer: Cru U)

Featured wine: Dm. Diochon Moulin-à-Vent, Beaujolais 2016

Featured Restaurants: Bodega
1120 Central Ave, St. Petersburg, Florida 33705
(727) 623-0942

Intermezzo Coffee and Cocktails

1111 Central Avenue, St. Petersburg, FL 33705
(727) 342-0156


Cru 6: Brooke Palmer Kuhl, Director of Bern’s Winefest and Kira Jefferson, COO of Bern’s Steak House

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And you thought the Golden Ticket for the Wonka Factory was hard to get. As oenophiles wrestle in the streets for tickets to this year’s Bern’s Wine Fest (just a few short days away), Jen snagged Brooke Palmer Kuhl, Director of Bern’s Wine Fest, and Kira Jefferson, COO of Bern’s Steak House, for a fun chat about hospitality, excellence, and the world-famous tasting overload.

Brooke Palmer Kuhl is Director of Public Relations and Director of Bern’s Winefest. She’s also the Founder and President of r.s.b.p. Events +PR, where she manages public relations and events for celebrities, politicians, and prominent restaurants. All this after earning a degree in Molecular Biology and while finishing a Master’s in Environmental Science.

Kira Jefferson is Chief Operations Officer of Bern’s Steak House (and self-professed Cheese Nerd). Raised in her family’s Mexican restaurant, Kira served her way through college before becoming General Manager of the Big City Tavern in Ybor. From there she became Assistant Manager at Bern’s Steak House before transitioning to SideBern’s, where she became General Manager. Kira was also the Project and General Manager of the team that opened SideBern’s replacement: Haven. Today, as Bern’s COO, she manages the daily operations and policies.

Tune in to hear how the James Beard Award winning team (and guardians of the largest private wine collection in the world) throws a party.

Featured Wine: Ridge Estate “Monte Bello Vineyard”, Cabernet Sauvignon 2014
Featured Restaurant: Bern’s Steak House
1208 S. Howard Ave
Tampa, FL 33606
(813) 251-2421