New Year's Eve restaurant spots and events for Tampa Bay 2012

Shrimp and Crab Cakes at Cafe Ponte

If old acquaintances are not to be forgotten, don’t choose a forgettable place to ring out the old year.  Check out these ideas to ring in New Year’s Eve 2012 in Tampa Bay.

Bailey’s Restaurant: Enjoy Kim Bailey’s famous lamb chops, filet of beef, lobster and more. He offers two seatings and his great food is perfect for those who live on Davis islands, cause they can stumble home.
238 E. Davis Blvd. Tampa FL; (813) 254-8018; www.BaileyCatering.com

Café Ponte: Chris Ponte’s 5-course meals includes such entrées as Margret duck breast with a nine spice, ginger sweet potato pan cake; short ribs with parsnip puree and rainbow chard, lamb loin with goat cheese crusted, mushrooms and filet mignon. Reservations begin at 5:30pm.
13505 Icot Blvd #214, Clearwater FL ; (727) 538-5768; www.cafeponte.com

Marchand’s at Vinoy Hotel: You’ll find fare such as  Muscovy duck, herb-grilled filet of beef and fine seafood at this plush stop in this historic downtown St. Pete stop. Reservations are strongly suggested.
501 5th Avenue NE · St. Petersburg FL; (727) 894-1000; website

Pelagia Trattoria: Executive Chef Andrew Basch offers a modern twist on Italian cuisine with locally sourced foods. The first seating is at 5 p.m. and last is at 10 p.m. Andrew’s butter-poached Maine lobster served with butternut squash “pappardelle,” roasted leek and parsnip soup, and an appetizing tuna tartar with garlic chives make me hungry.
The Renaissance Tampa International Plaza Hotel, 4200 Jim Walter Blvd. (or 2223 N. West Shore Blvd.), Tampa FL, (813) 313-3235 or www.pelagiatrattoria.com.

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Restaurant News

Farewell to Hapa: I’m sad to say that a wonderful restaurant, Hapa’s, closed last week. Tucked into a little shopping center in Oldsmar, chef Brett  Austin Gardiner hoped to find clients from both sides of the bay. Brett, who used to cook with Wolfgang Puck, opened the place in 2005 with his wife Nina Gardiner. She is a professional chef herself, who he met in 1995 at the Scottsdale Culinary Institute Cordon Bleu.

Hapa, which means a harmonious blend of flavors, is no longer, but chef Brett’s artistry can be found at the acclaimed Pelagia Trattoria (see above). He has taken on the role of sous chef.

“I’ve worked from the bottom up,” Brett told me and now he is joining a friend who knows about those early years.

His new boss, former co-worker Andrew Basch, has been executive chef at Pelagia for about a month. The two worked their magic at Oystercatcher’s at the Grand Hyatt Tampa Bay when Brett was the sous chef.  Andrew left Oystercatcher’s to work with Brett at Hapa. Then Andrew moved to Pelagia to work with Fabrizio Schenardi for a few years before Schenardi moved on to the Four Seasons in St. Louis.

What’s sad for Oldsmar is good for Tampa.

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