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Laura Reiley, Times Food Critic

Laura Reiley

Laura Reiley is the Tampa Bay Times' restaurant critic and a former critic for the San Francisco Chronicle and the Baltimore Sun. She is the author of four books in the Moon Handbook series: Florida Gulf Coast; Walt Disney World and Orlando; Tampa and St. Petersburg; and the Paradise Coast. She has cooked professionally and is a graduate of the California Culinary Academy.

Phone: (727) 892-2293


Twitter: @LReiley

  1. Tampa Bay chefs go head to head and Disney Springs gets another James Beard winner

    Food & Dining

    Epic Chef Showdown: Feeding Tampa Bay

    The Epicurean Hotel is in the middle of its third Epic Chef Showdown to benefit Feeding Tampa Bay. It's a seven-week competition pitting eight of the Tampa Bay area's top restaurants against one another in a friendly cooking competition judged by a panel of local celebrities. Each week, two competing chefs receive a mystery box of ingredients not commonly prepared together, and will be challenged to create two unique dishes under the pressure of the clock. When time is up, each dish will be judged and one restaurant will be eliminated, with the winner moving on to the next round. Remaining competition dates are Monday and July 31 (qualifying rounds), Aug. 7 and 14 (semi-finals) and Aug. 21 (finale)....

    Disney Springs will jettison Portobello Country Italian Trattoria and in its place Terralina Crafted Italian will debut this fall
  2. Restaurant review: New Crabby's Dockside on Clearwater Beach retains beachy feel of Crabby Bill's

    Food & Dining

    CLEARWATER BEACH - Crabby Bill's was an institution on Clearwater Beach for 17 years. But the lease was up. The city wanted a request for proposal submitted for prospective tenants for the space (didn't know a restaurant review was going to get all business-jargony, did you?) and a whole bunch of the area's beachside stalwarts threw their hats in the ring. Who won?

    Crabby Bill's. Sort of....

    Bairdi crab legs are served steamed or grilled, with garlic butter and Old Bay seasonings.
  3. These UF scientists are on a mission to make the perfect tomato



    There is the sound of roll-down windows thwapping closed after the tomato wedges are passed through in tiny plastic cups. All goes silent as a group of 10 tasters contemplate. Do they like this one? Is it sweet? Salty? Sour? Bitter? Or that magical unicorn of tastes: umami?

    We're in the University of Florida's sensory lab. Volunteer tasters, some students, some university staffers, use software that runs the Hedonic General Labeled Magnitude Scale, which sounds intimidatingly technical. The question, though, is not....

    A pair of tomatoes hang off one of the approximately 100 plants growing in one of the University of Florida's Klee Lab's greenhouses in Gainesville, Fla., on Thursday, Jul 13, 2017. Researchers developed this strain of tomato by sequencing the tomato genome and selecting DNA that would result in desirable tastes and smells.  For about fifteen years, researchers at the University of Florida's Klee Lab have worked on understanding the chemical and genetic markers that determine the taste of tomatoes. Through genetic sequencing, biochemical analysis and panels of taste testing, Klee scientists have developed different kinds of tomato that attempt to manifest "perfect" taste. ANDRES LEIVA   |   Special to the Times
  4. National Ice Cream Day is Sunday. Here are Tampa Bay's top ice cubes and ice creams

    Food & Dining

    CREAM IN ICE FORM: National Ice Cream Day

    Sunday is National Ice Cream Day. In honor, let's explore the best creamy treats that Tampa Bay has to offer.

    If you're a Brandon Little Leaguer, you know Campbell's Dairyland (200 S Parsons Ave., Brandon, (813) 685-1189). In triumph or defeat, you've come here for your peanut butter cup sundae, turtle sundae or banana split. The hum of the machine churning up shakes and malts in the background, the smell of the deep fryer going great guns, it has been the go-to place for families in Brandon for ages....

    The Smoke cocktail at Rococo Steak uses a bacon maple cube to unite bourbon, orange and apple bitters, and “apple smoke.”
  5. Ichicoro Ramen to open a sister restaurant in downtown St. Pete's Station House

    Food & Dining

    ST. PETERSBURG — Two years ago, Ichicoro wowed New York City with its Tampa-style ramen, noodles overflowing with Florida freshness and ingredients. Even Gwyneth Paltrow showed up to the pop-up to slurp noodles.

    Later that year, Ichicoro Ramen opened in Seminole Heights and the tiny restaurant contained the most sought-after seats of the year. And this autumn, Ichicoro Ane comes to St. Petersburg....

    Champon ramen with a pork/chicken broth, head-on gulf shrimp, chasyu asado, ginger tempura, scallion, corn, shitake and sesame at the Ichicoro Ramen location in Tampa. LARA CERRI  |   Times 

  6. Only 118 calories! 3 Daughters debuts light craft beer


    ST. PETERSBURG — There's craft beer (interesting, delicious, caloric) and then there's mass-market light beer (watery, disappointing, yet only 100 calories). Never the twain shall meet, right?

    That's changing.

    New technology has allowed brewers to brew low-gluten beers and low-alcohol beers, so why not low calorie? Georgia's Red Hare Brewing Company launched Gem City Classic Craft Light Lager in January, just 140 calories and 4.2 percent alcohol by volume, and Oregon's Omission Brewing Co. debuted a 99-calorie craft beer in April....

    3 Daughters Brewing brewmaster Ty Weaver uses the Alex 500 density meter to test nutritional properties of the  brewery's newest beer, the Floating Dock  Light IPA in the "Labrewtory" at 3 Daughters Brewing, St. Petersburg on Monday. (CHERIE DIEZ   |   Times)
  7. Il Ritorno chef David Benstock prepares for dinner at the James Beard House

    Food & Dining


    The first song was Michael Jackson's Billy Jean, followed by Ben King's Stand by Me. And while I'm not sure what the message was from MJ, the Ben King song seemed just right: "No, I won't be afraid, no, I won't be afraid. Just as long as you stand, stand by me."

    The playlist was line cook Kevin McCall's, who, along with cook Julie Nolan, sous chef Ian Quintin and general manager Ronald Randall, will stand by Il Ritorno owner and chef David Benstock on Tuesday at Benstock's first-ever solo dinner at the James Beard House in New York City....

    Fresh pasta is prepared during a walk-through of the dishes that will be served at the Beard House.
  8. Restaurant review: Don Rigatoni in Tampa offers quick, affordable pastas and sauces perfect for takeout

    Food & Dining

    TAMPA - It makes a ton of sense, now that carb-phobia has abated and there are legitimately decent gluten-free pasta options available: a place with 20 types of pastas, a dozen sauces, all mix-and-match to suit your tastes, plus add-ons from meatballs to grilled shrimp and all of it available to go in sturdy plastic containers that you are so reusing. (Just don't dishwash the lids, they warp.)

    Don Rigatoni is a new affordable and customizable pasta bar in South Tampa just a stone's throw from the Greenwise Publix, run by the folks who had La Casa della Pasta on Ehrlich Road for 12 years. Husband and wife Enrico Tangari and Sara Pape have fashioned a charming little space, with a couple of lounge chairs and a short bar where you can either wait for your takeout food or tuck in on site. The walls are hung with packing crates that have been stained to look like old barn lumber; black-and-white pictures, like one of Marlon Brando as Don Corleone, orient you about the cuisine in question....

    The caprese salad at Don Rigatoni in Tampa.
  9. These Tampa Bay restaurants have the best wine, says Wine Spectator

    Food & Dining

    How did Tampa Bay do when it comes to wine this year?

    We rocked it.

    On Thursday, Wine Spectator released its 2017 Restaurant Awards, which recognize the world's best wine lists. This year, the program honored 3,592 dining destinations from all 50 states and more than 75 countries internationally. Started in 1981, the awards have three levels: the Award of Excellence, the Best of Award of Excellence and the Grand Award, with 2,335; 1,168; and 89 winners this year in each respective category....

    Annata Wine Bar on Beach Drive in St. Petersburg received one of Wine Spectator’s awards.
  10. New restaurants opening soon: Noble Crust Wesley Chapel and Heights Public Market

    Food & Dining



    Heights Public Market "rotating stall"

    So here's an interesting development at the soon-to-debut Heights Public Market in the Armature Works space in Tampa (public relations folks say it's on schedule for a September debut): Every four months they will do a "rotating stall" or guest concept. Local food trucks Surf and Turf and Empamamas will be the first two concepts to set up shop in the rotating stall....

    Surf and Turf, the brainchild of husband-and-wife team Adam and Beata Browne, features fresh seafood.
  11. Rooster & the Till's guest chef dinner series brings in culinary minds from around the country

    Food & Dining

    TAMPA -- Chef Ferrell Alvarez was going to Seattle with friend and colleague Chon Nguyen, co-owner of FusionPrep, an iPad-based kitchen technology. They were definitely, definitely eating at their buddy Edouardo Jordan's red-hot restaurant Salare. Jordan, a St. Petersburg native and 1998 graduate of Boca Ciega High School, was the first African-American to make the cover of Food & Wine for its annual "Best New Chefs" roundup....

    Chef Alvarez demonstrates to his staff how he would like his dish to be garnished and plated.
  12. St. Pete restaurant staple Z Grille is closed for good

    Food & Dining

    ST. PETERSBURG — Zack Gross has joked about closing before, as part of his ongoing April Fool's pranks. But Sunday afternoon, it was for real. Z Grille, one of downtown St. Petersburg's earliest and most long-standing ambitious independent restaurants, has closed.

    He didn't want fanfare, he didn't want a throng of diners coming to pay their respects. Nonetheless, ex-employees found their way to the bottom floor of Signature Place on Saturday and Sunday, as did a who's who of Tampa Bay chefs and restaurant folks. David Benstock of Il Ritorno, Greg and Michelle Baker of the Refinery and Fodder & Shine, Brad Dixon of Bern's Steak House, Jason Ruhe of Brick and Mortar, Chris Fernandez of the Red Mesa group — they all came to clink glasses with Gross and his wife-partner Jennifer, and maybe grab a last plate of Dr. Pepper ribs or deviled eggs....

    Zack Gross and his wife Jennifer pose for a portrait in their restaurant, Z Grille in St. Petersburg on Thursday, October 27, 2016.  EVE EDELHEIT   |   Times
  13. Make it a staycation: Where to eat and play around St. Pete Beach

    Food & Dining

    ST. PETE BEACH — The first time I heard the word "staycation" I rolled my eyes just slightly. I suppose the rolling was even fiercer, nearly enough to cause ocular sprain, when I heard the terms "mancation" (really, dudes, you do it differently?) and "babymoon." That's when an expecting mom needs a romantic getaway, maybe even jewelry, to soft-focus the particulars of what is about to transpire....

    A scallop appetizer at Island Grille & Raw Bar in Tierra Verde.
  14. Author Randy Wayne White could open St. Pete's biggest restaurant on the pier

    Food & Dining

    ST. PETERSBURG — The story begins with Yucatan shrimp.

    St. Petersburg's Mayor Kriseman took a trip down to Sanibel Island to visit Doc Ford's Rum Bar & Grille, a sprawling good-times restaurant named for the central character in a number of Randy Wayne White's novels. Butter, garlic, cilantro and mild Colombian chilies — Kriseman was grooving on the shrimp. And what's more, he liked the folks behind Doc Ford's....

    Fan Joanne Petkus, Auburn, ME., has her book signed by author Randy Wayne White at Doc Ford's Rum Bar and Grille on Sanibel in 2013.  At right is White's wife Wendy Webb. SCOTT KEELER | Times
  15. Where to celebrate Fourth of July with food

    Food & Dining


    Celebrate: Independence

    Do fireworks make you hungry? If a backyard barbecue isn't in the cards over the holiday, Locale Market is hosting a four-day event Tuesday to July 7. They will offer a special tasting menu on those days of classic Americana foods for $17.76. (Get it?!) Each food station will have a different dish that chef Jeffrey Hileman has created, including burger bites, barbecued chicken skewers, pepperoni pizza, wagyu beef hot dogs and apple pie. Fifteen percent of the proceeds will be donated to Special Operations Warrior Foundation, which provides full college tuition assistance to the children of Special Ops troops who die in the line of duty, and financial grants for Special Ops troops who are severely injured.

    Kyle Cassady, left, and chef-owner Konstantinos Chilias make savory crepes for hundreds of attendees at the inaugural Mayor’s Food Truck Fiesta at Lykes Gaslight Park in 2011. The monthly gathering takes place July 5 from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.