As I looked out over the 2012 Taste of New Tampa, I made a promise to myself to be more involved with the event next year.

Way more involved. With fewer than 20 restaurants participating for the first time in recent memory (probably ever), I realized that without plenty of restaurants — and yes, beer and wine always helps — there is no Taste.

So, the day after the 2012 Taste (see pages 1, 18 and 52-53), I called my good friend and New Tampa Chamber of Commerce president Rachel Haviland and told her that although I hadn’t done so in many years (and certainly never without the help of my entire staff), I wanted to make an offer to take control of the 2013 Taste, which just happens to be its big 20th-year milestone anniversary!

The years that I was either the Taste co-chair or the president of the old New Tampa Community Council, which was the organization that started the Taste but morphed into the New Tampa Chamber a few years ago, we never had fewer than 25 restaurants, plus beer, wine, soda and other beverage providers, and I believe we peaked at somewhere between 40-45 eateries.

The sad part is that there are so many more restaurants locally these days, although many of them are regional and national chains that don’t necessarily feel a compulsive need to receive so much good will from the communities they serve because their national and regional marketing helps them overcome any shortcomings they may have locally on an ongoing basis.

Even so, I know we can and will do better next year. I just couldn’t let a 20th anniversary go by without trying to make the 2013 Taste of New Tampa® the biggest and best ever!


A Different Set Of Taste Award Winners

I think the idea of having a “Best of Taste” competition was a great addition to the event and I applaud judges Ernest Hooper of the Tampa Bay Times and Chef Ricardo Castro, CEC, from the Art Institute of Tampa for their honest effort to pick this year’s winners.

In fact, since I heard there would be judging this year, I also picked my own favorites and actually had the same three “Best of Taste” winners in the “Entrée” category — La Cubanita Café, Café Olé and Kobe Steakhouse — in the same order as the judges (see page 18 for their complete list).

Where I first departed from the judges was in the “Appetizer” category. I didn’t know there were going to be three categories beforehand, but if I regularly ate pizza as an appetizer, I don’t know think I could keep off the 50 lbs. I lost more than five years ago.

I therefore pitted Marco’s and Papa John’s Pizza, the Coffee Beanery Café and Tijuana Flats against the “Entree” restaurants and none of them finished in my top three — although I do agree that Marco’s White Cheesy Pizza was very yummy.

I also picked the same three winners as did the judges in the packed dessert category, although I had the amazing Betty’s Cakes, located in Dade City but with a Wesley Chapel/ Wiregrass location possibly coming soon, as not only the best of the desserts, but the overall “Best of Taste” winner. If you’ve never sampled the spider or vanilla cake served at the taste from Betty’s, I assure you that you’ve been missing out on both the moistest cake and most perfect frosting in town.

I had Bruster’s Real Ice Cream second and Ph.D.-sserts and the judges’ favorite The Baker’s Gallery tied for third. Oh, and feel free to please tell all of these restaurants where you heard about their awards!


A Video Taste & More?

For those who don’t know, my B.S. degree from the University of Florida isn’t actually in print, but in broadcast journalism. I have written everything from radio and TV commercials to a TV pilot based on the renowned world boxer rankings of The Ring boxing magazine, so transitioning the Neighborhood News into a multi-media production company, while imposing from a technology standpoint for me, is actually a dream that I would like to make a reality…soon.

To that end, my crew and I filmed much of this year’s Taste and will put a five-minute recap of the event — and shorter video packages on some of the participating businesses — on our website ( by the time you receive this issue.

Our videos, which can be linked to any website and will be promoted in our print editions on an ongoing basis, will be the same type of truly journalistic “advertorials” for businesses that you’ve come to know and trust in print…only with elements that can’t be reproduced in any print medium.

I hope you’ll check out our first foray into video production and call our office manager Nikki Bennett at 910-2575 to set up an appointment to discuss affordable videos and multimedia promotion packages for your business or upcoming event.

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