We hopped over to Tampa to meet good friends. It was a quick trip, but always a fun time can be had along the Gulf coast. The only way to make it better is to take our boat and fish, but alas, that will have to wait for another day and time.
This visit we stayed at Floridan Palace Hotel, located In the north end of the downtown Tampa core. It was designed by a prominent Tampa architect and built in 1926. In 1996 it was added to the U.S. National Register of Historic Places.
It has old world charm and I couldn’t resist a few facts:
- At the time it was built, it was the tallest building in Florida, remaining the tallest building in Tampa until 1966.
- The hotel’s bar, the Sapphire Room, was a popular nightspot during WWII for serviceman who were training nearby. It’s still open, being recently refurnished but only on the weekends.
- During the 1960s the hotel and clientel declined and eventually closed its door in 1989. Current owner purchased it in 2005 and after 7 years, had a grand re-opening.
The Floridan’s original sign was found in a rooftop storage room during cleaning and after being restored was placed back on the hotel’s rooftop one more,
Now on to the primary destination for our time in Tampa…………Bern’s Steakhouse.
We had visited once before with two other couples (affectionately called the Clermont Supper Club) and after some deliberation…….Eric and I decided that first visit was 12+ years ago.
With any fine steak, wine is a good accompaniment. While not exactly my thing, the adults at the table shared a bottle. I ordered sangria – yes, that is my thing. 🙂
Waiting for our friends, I did a little research about Berns:
- Opened in 1956 by Bern Laxer and his son still owns and operates the restaurant (which during our tour of the kitchens we saw him, apparently an uncommon occurrence).
- 1996 Wine Spectator listed it as a tie for best steakhouse in US.
- 2010 the restaurant was deemed a ‘Top 50 All American Icon’.
- An interesting fact found on the internet…..there is only 1 window in the entire establishment, not accessible by patrons.
Appetizers can be ordered but why! Every meal comes with French onion soup, salad, meat of choice, accompanied by fried onion strings, a green vegetable and another plated veggie of the day. Almost forgot the baked potato – topped with your choice of butter, sour cream, bacon and chives – or all of the above!
I ordered a Pinot noir reduction sauce to accompany my filet mignon while Eric shared a ribeye with Warner. I had a fabulous dressing on my amazingly, interesting salad: champagne citrus vinaigrette – yummy. Can you tell I really, really liked my salad. 🙂
An option when making your reservation is a tour of the kitchen and wine cellar. Our waiter, Victor (bottom right), led us to the kitchen while a wait-staff in training, explained the various stations.
We were able to see the meats as they were cut and weighed before being grilled.
They have a bakery, coffee bean roasting room, salad prep and a service bar and probably much more I am forgetting. We saw this interesting tray and our guide said they grow their own sprouts daily to top the salad.
Then it was on to the ‘wine cellar’. With Florida’s high water table, a cellar is a bit of a tease. You walk down a ramp and then you are greeted with this.
And more of this.
This is the largest wine collection in the world, having acquired over 600,000 bottles. The cellar holds 100,000 while a nearby building houses 500,000+ bottles. They have a catalog system that works for them and yet our guide shared they occasionally come across bottles that were never inventoried. It is a LOT of wine!
Their madeira, some from the 17th century, were on this shelf, ready to be poured.
Interesting wall covering. The walls are lined with newspapers, then sprayed to keep the wine cellar insulated. Let me tell you, it was pretty chilly down there. We were ready to get back upstairs to the warmth.
To finish our meal, we booked time in the dessert room.
Tables are sized for various party sizes, with each table feeling some privacy in their private wine-barrel shaped room. The desserts are fabled and fabulous. Here’s a sampling from their menu. This is only one page of three listing their desserts.
Between the seven of us, there was quite a selection to behold. First shown was a baked Alaska, you can slightly see the blue flames at the bottom of the dessert. I ordered the King Midas carrot nut cake while Eric made his way through the Macadamia Nut Sundae. Dennis was the smart one and ordered brie cheese, accompanied by strawberries.
We were universally stuffed! Warner timed our meal which beat our previous long meal with them, occurring in Normandy, France. This meal start to finish was 3 hours and 42 minutes.
Tuesday dawned bright and clear. Eric and I stopped at a nearby bakery for a morning pick me up.
Dennis plans fun activities and this day was no exception. While this was not their first visit, it was ours. Full confession……………..I was not a participant, just an active watcher.
Eric was a little rusty in the first round but redeemed himself on the second round. BTW – he admitted later in the week, he was a bit sore from using muscles not commonly being worked.
Notice in the far distance another (square) building? That’s what I want to do on a future visit………sky diving in a controlled environment.
How could I forget the injectable donuts? The donuts may have been the draw for some in our crowd, more so than the golf – just saying. An order (24 holes) came with your choice of your selection of two injectable flavors: vanilla, raspberry or chocolate. OR, you could order all 3 flavors for an extra dollar – you can see our choice. 🙂
Before heading home, our last stop was lunch at La Teresita Restaurant. It is a collection of buildings and first decision to be made was which way to enjoy the restaurant. We chose option 1.
First to arrive is Cuban bread, slathered with butter. We quickly demolished this basket.
I ordered the daily lunch special of roast pork and it did not disappoint. My sides of choice were black beans and French fries. Needless to say, we brought home leftovers for our work lunches this week.
All too soon it was time to say our goodbyes. We love their visits to Florida and when plans allow, we get together to catch up. We need to get up to NYC to see their new place. Who knows, maybe this Fall!?!
If you made it this far through the post, you know I’ve been absent from the blog for a considerable amount of time – for me. After the New Year, our weekends and exploits hadn’t seemed blog-worthy and didn’t want to waste the time to write them or your time to read them. I’m back 🙂 with a few trips coming down the road. Stay tuned.