What better way to enjoy an evening in downtown Tampa than a Food and Wine Tour, pairing fine wine with delectable cuisine on a walking tour to some of the city’s finest restaurants. The evening offers something for everyone, whether you are a tourist here for the first time, or a Tampa Bay resident gaining a new perspective on the city. Restaurants range from elegantly formal to cozy family-owned with recipes passed from one generation to another.
The evening begins with the elegance of champagne hosted at the Oxford Exchange, a juxtaposition of vintage and modern Tampa. Once a horse stable, the brick interior walls are still held together with horse hair. From the high leather ceilings, to the hand laid Italian marble floor, this building takes you back in time. Downstairs houses a restaurant and an eclectic gift shop ranging from $5.00 souvenirs to a $60,000 Louis Vuitton trunk. Upstairs is a modern open spaced, member-based collective of shared office and meeting areas that can be easily converted to a wedding venue.
Stepping outside, the tour proceeds to the University of Tampa, with a brief visit to the Henry B. Plant Museum, originally a hotel of Victorian opulence. Across the lawn is the statue Sticks of Fire, representing the Native American name for Tampa.
Malio’s Restaurant, the next stop, is housed in the River Gate Tower, one of the oldest limestone buildings in the country. In an atmosphere of modern elegant simplicity, guests are treated to Malio’s specialty, Shrimp Teresa, paired with Santa Margarita Pinot Grigio.
Moving from restaurant to restaurant, the pace is easy, and the distance is broken up into intervals, totaling a little under a mile and a half. Kimberly, the tour guide, is at once gracious, informative and unobtrusive.
Outdoors once again, a warm breeze greets the guests as they cross the bridge and enter Riverwalk. Dusk has fallen, and lights shimmer along the river. Up ahead is the entrance to River’s Edge. If you like mac and cheese, you’re in for a treat. Their Lobster Mac and Cheese is the best ever, paired with Chamisol Chardonnay, and served at tables overlooking the view of the river. Time to leave for the next stop. Haven’t finished your wine? No need to gulp. Riverwalk is an open container area of the city, and your restaurateur will gladly provide a to-go cup.
Next stop, Spain – Toma, where a generous tapas sampler awaits. Crabmeat stuffed Spanish peppers, empanadas, and jambon on crusty bread, paired with red or white Sangria. On special nights, the venue offers live music. Moving on, you might not expect French pastry in a pizza shop. But here at Tam Piz Gourmet Pizza, is a surprise French Crepe Bar. You will be treated to a demonstration of how to prepare crepes, followed by French pastry dessert and coffee. Settle back and enjoy your last stop, knowing you have experienced some of the best food and wine that Tampa has to offer.
A special thanks to Kimberly McAvoy, tour guide
For more information, visit:
Tampa Bay Food and Craft Beer Tours. www.tambabayfoodtours.com or call 813-310-4401
By Amy Bryant
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