Archive | 11:02 pm

A Visit to “Greek Town” in Historic Tarpon Springs, FL

1 Jun

Lively gossip outside the Halki Greek Market along Athens Street.

These bright purple eggplant were eye-poppingly beautiful.

Sea salt imported from the motherland of Greece.

This meat and cheese counter gave me flashbacks to my grandparents’ small town grocery store (Justice Grocery) in Hopewell, VA.

The world famous spongedocks at Tarpon Springs, FL.

Locally harvested sponges of all shapes and sizes are sold on the sidewalks.

A statue dedicated to the brave FL sponge divers from days gone by.

We brunched at Costas Greek Restaurant in Tarpon Springs.

The bread is baked fresh daily by a little Greek bakery just down the street.

This “gi-normous” sesame seeded loaf (just $2) came home with us.

Stuffed grape leaves topped with a tart lemon butter sauce.

The tangy grape leaves were packed with rice and spicy meat inside.

We also dug into a massive wedge of flaky spanikopita (spinich pie).

We were totally stunned at the portion size of these pan-fried smelts — massive! Squeeze some lemon juice and sprinkle a little sea salt on top. Then devour the whole fish (bones, tail … everything!). We found that dragging the smelts thru a little extra virgin olive oil was also pretty darn tasty. No rules, people — just enjoy. “OPA!!!”

Our two boys loved dipping this crispy calamari into the bowl of cinnamon-scented, red marinara sauce provided by the fine folks at Costas. Nice touch!

This decadent, honey-drenched dessert treat (“Kataifi”) put an exclamation point on our late morning feast. We plan on returning soon to sample some flaming cheese and chargrilled octopus tentacles (they look simply delicious!).

To learn more about the Historic Tarpon Spring Spongedocks, please take time to peruse their community website …

1905 Salad at The Columbia Restaurant

1 Jun

The entry to the Columbia Restaurant off of St. Armand’s Circle in Sarasota. The Florida-based restaurant chain was originally founded in the historic Ybor (pronounced EEE-BOR) City section of Tampa way back in 1905.

Outdoor patio dining offers some great people watching.

Inside dining at Columbia is open air and quite elegant.

The colorful menu celebrates the restaurant’s impressive longevity.

The eatery’s decor and wall treatments are very tastefully done.

Each diner receives their own mini loaf of crusty Cuban-style bread.

We opted for the fried calamari appetizer with a lemon mayo for dipping.

The 1905 Salad (my favorite) is assembled by your waiter at tableside.

Only a large photo does this legendary salad justice. It is just loaded with garlic, julienne strips of baked ham, good earthy slabs of swiss cheese, big flecks of black pepper, red tomato chunks, finely grated romano cheese, and lots of pitted green olives. The secret to the salad dressing’s tang is a blend of fresh squeezed lemons, extra virgin Spanish olive oil, and Lea & Perrins Worcestershire sauce.  

The Columbia now has 7 Florida locations. Get to one ASAP and thank me later. And as a parting word of wisdom, please don’t forget that breath mint after your meal. The 1905’s garlic dressing is pretty potent stuff that will keep the vampires away for days!