What's cooking in the Tampa Bay food scene: Farm to fork, Sono Cafe, Restaurant BT

Food pornA few things that bear reporting on the food and wine scene in Tampa Bay. Farm to fork dinners, brunch at Sono Cafe and Restaurant BT opened new location.

Farm to Fork
I had the immense pleasure of being invited to a Farm to Fork wine dinner at Cafe Dufrain this past week. This concept — crafting full dinners using only locally-sourced ingredients — has been a sensationally popular trend in bigger cities but, as is the norm, Tampa catches on, ahem, a bit later. But, to give ourselves a bit of a break, it hasn’t always been that easy to find local meat. Produce, yes, but beef, pork and other protein? Not so much. However, Ferrell Alvarez, Executive Chef, and Ty Rodriguez, General Manager, at Cafe Dufrain are very passionate about bringing fresh and local to your mouth. They persevered.For this dinner, they partnered with Pasture Prime — a sustainable farm in Central Florida that raises grass-fed Wagyu cattle, Berkshire and Mangalitsa pigs, free-range chickens and heritage turkeys — and Oasis Farms, a hydroponic fruit and vegetable farm in Carrollwood (BTW, they have weekly farmer’s markets… info on their website). Bring these together and you’ve got the “Divine Swine” Farm to Fork dinner, with dishes like the ethereal Mangalitsa Ceviche with backyard citrus, smoked paprika chicharron and mixed tomatoes (served with Gruet Blanc de Noir from New Mexico). Up until 2001, Pasture Prime was a dairy but they changed directions when they found out about Wagyu cattle and Oasis Farms is run by Tampa natives Dave and Cathy Hume. Ty said, due to the massive success of this first dinner, they will be hosting another one soon. Don’t miss it. Other restaurants that have had Farm to Fork events: Ella’s Americana Folk Art Cafe, Cafe Hey and the Suncoast Food Alliance hosts them in the Sarasota/Bradenton area.

Sono Cafe
Now that the weather is nice (with the strong exception of this blistering week), the best restaurant view in Tampa belongs to Sono Cafe in the Tampa Museum of Art. Practically on the banks of the Hillsborough River, the shaded patio overlooks the newly christened Curtis Hixon Park and University of Tampa. On a clear day, you can’t help but relax. It’s great for lunch if you work downtown but, due to parking nightmares, I’m glad they decided to open for Sunday brunch when street parking is readily available. The Poe garage helps a bit (but no validated parking for Sono, so you gotta fork over $2.50). Operated by the folks at Mise en Place, the food is solid. My recent brunch outing had a slight kitchen misstep (my fritatta wasn’t heated all the way through) but I highly recommend the ricotta pancakes and any of the paninis. Great coffee drinks as well. More information on their Facebook page.

Restaurant BT
I’ve yet to go (headed there on Wednesday) but I’ve heard good things about the re-opening of Restaurant BT on South MacDill. I’ll report back. More info on their Facebook page.

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