By Mary D. Scourtes
Feedback feeds Kim Bailey. Indeed, critics fuel the passion that keep him in the kitchen night after night.
Criticism? More than welcome, says Kim, so long as it’s constructive. If it helps build constancy, he’ll take it. Especially if it helps him beat the curse linked to his present location, in the heart of downtown Davis Islands. (He moved from Hyde Park Village). A baker’s dozen restaurateurs tried their luck on the suburban boulevard. Does Bailey have what it takes? So far, Bailey’s is doing well. “I don’t like changes,’’ he told me on the phone. He encourages his kitchen staff for their working-together mojo so that the addicting mashed potatoes you order today taste as great as those you tasted two weeks ago.
The most charming pert of Kim? He shares compliments about his competition. He regularly sends e-mail blasts about his rants and raves (his latest lunch finds at colleagues’ establishments).
“I love Capital Grille’s Seafood Cobb, Wright Gourmet’s ham sandwiches, and the hamburgers at Tahitian Inn (read review) and 5 Guys,’” he says. Kim keeps a recorder to compile ideas for his food talk show (listen in on Saturdays, 11 am to noon, on WWBA 820 am).
“I have a horrible memory but I’m a good thief,”’ he quips. When he tastes others’ fine dishes, he takes the concept to his kitchen to tinker with it, then serves the dish on his menu while giving credits to his sources. A salted caramel brownie he savored at Sophie’s, a French bakery in Hyde Park, recently got reworked a bit, then was garnished with a robe of chocolate sauce and whipped cream.
He keeps his staff busy between the restaurant and catering assignments. At last weekend’s Sea Grapes benefit at the Florida Aquarium, for instance, he garnered praise for 800 servings of shrimp and grits, while employees at the restaurant pleased 200 guests for graduation dinners on the comfortable courtyard and kept operations running smoothly during five family functions scattered elsewhere.
The best part? “I love the end and seeing it all come together,” he adds.
While his restaurant menu changes weekly, patrons won’t let him take fried Key West pink shrimp, lump crab cakes, Mom’s best meat loaf, and creamy, broccoli-cauliflower mash off the menu.
However, no staples stick around for dessert, since he rotates seasonal favorites. Bailey keeps five in his lineup, and always spotlights one chocolate wonder. His spin on Nordstrom’s sensational white chocolate bread pudding recently was dunked into a sweet soup, made even more delectable with a raspberry coulis. There’s no shortage of ideas as Kim draws from a repertoire of 200 sweet favorites.
His credo is to keep it fresh so expect plenty of summer favorites throughout his May menus. He’s working up a Sunday brunch menu to debut this summer.
On the breezy courtyard, we kicked back to forget the stresses of the week as we enjoyed a supper al fresco. Sipping cocktails, we enjoyed a complimentary black bean hummus with crostini. The entrees were pure Southern comfort. Butternut squash ravioli set the standard with a natty, pan-seared spinach dolled up with toasted hazelnuts, goat and mascarpone cheeses. A flavorful, grilled salmon perched atop a pleasant feta, yellow squash and grape tomato couscous. Fork duels began over baked shrimp stuffed with lump crab. Pan-seared Chilean sea bass topped baby spinach, smacked with herbs and olive oil. Wonderful mac and cheese and broccoli sides completed the meals.
Kim’s homage to Bern’s Steak House is a warm “Kim Midas” carrot cake, with macadamia nut ice cream drizzled with caramel sauce and fresh whipped cream.
Although dinner felt like an indulgence, the entrees were priced $16 to $20.
Bailey’s offers just enough temptations to tantalize, but not so many they overwhelm.
Find it: 238 E. Davis Blvd. Tampa
Way to Pay: MC, V, Discover
Hours: T – Sat. 11:30 am – 2 pm; W – Sat: 5:30 pm – 9:30 pm
Reservations: (813) 254-8018; (800) 977-9423
Kim started a wonderful thank you for those kind souls who are caregivers to the sick or dying. Ask him: he gives a free dinner for two to reward those who put others ahead of themselves.
Do not read if you really want to shake 10 pounds because chef, caterer, chief bottle washer, author, Kim Bailey wrote more than we need to know about dieting, with “The North Beach Diet: Add Belly and Hip Fat Instantly with Batter Fried Twinkies and More…”
“Nothing says summer more than a delicious barbeque, perfectly paired California wines and handcrafted beers,’’ says Mark Heimann, executive chef of Marchand’s Bar & Grill. He is excited to offer a new, three-course summer menu to baseball fans at the Renaissance Vinoy Resort and Golf Club in St. Petersburg.
The barbecue-themed recipes, paired with a choice of Pinot Grigio, Pinot Noir, Chardonnay or Old Vine Zinfandel from Gnarly Head Wines or local craft beers from the Cigar City Brewery in Tampa, runs through September. The summer menu is priced at $19.25 per person, and reservations are suggested by calling (727) 824-8072. More information.
Soups, salads and sandwiches and of course, cool confections, are now served at Sophie’s French Bakery & Café. You may remember it as Amelie’s, which I wrote about as a hit at the Taste of South Tampa. The bakery, at 1633 W. Snow Ave. in Hyde Park, changed its name about a week ago. www.sophiesbakerycafe.com