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Self Nurturing: GrillSmith Of Tampa, FL

Well I just don’t care what others may think, I think that eating really good food falls into the “self nurturing” category!  There’s no denying that I am a “foodie”, whatever that may mean.  To me it means that I take absolute delight and pleasure in eating exquisite food, especially when it is perfectly presented and superbly served.

So let me introduce you to GrillSmith of Tampa, Florida.  My husband and I ended up there by “default”.  Best default I’ve experienced in a long time!  We were on a trip to Tampa (Musings- The Muse Is Back) and needing to go to Mass, we googled to find out which Catholic church was closest to the Westin Hotel where we were staying. We found Christ the King on South Dale Mabry Street.

Next in order was to google and find out what restaurants were close to the church.  There were a couple, one name that I recognized from a chain across Florida and which I wanted to try, and the other was GrillSmith. (I remember thinking “Oh, that sounds like your typical ‘sports bar’).  When we came out after Mass, we looked around and Richard saw GrillSmith just down the road.  I had a moment of disappointment but decided it wasn’t worth making a fuss about.  Was I glad!

When we walked in we were greeted by the hostess and the shift manager.  The ambiance was low-light (not dark) and warm.  It was very spacious inside and although it was quite full it did not give the appearance of being crowded.  Glancing quickly around me as we were seated I noticed that there was a wide cross section of all ages: young people, young couples, families with children, older couples.  Spanning the width at the end of the restaurant was an impressive bank of “grill stations”.

We were quickly approached by our server, Tom, who soon let us know that he had a sense of humor and a good sense of service.  The menu was extensive but not overwhelming and offered such a unique variety of dishes that I was salivating moments into reading it.  We needed more time to make our selections so Tom delivered the drinks and gave us our space.

Segments of the menu were labeled Small Plates (appetizers), Grilled Tortilla Pizzas, Fresh Salads, Fitness Plates, Steakburgers and Sandwiches, Pasta, Food On The Fire, Steaks and Chops, and Desserts.  There were maybe five or six offerings in each segment.  Each one sounded more succulent than the other.  I would mentally choose one then read another and change my mind!  Everything was so tantalizingly described.

We eventually narrowed our choices down, choosing to share an appetizer – Sticky Thai Wings (we chose the smaller portion; six rather than a dozen, and lived to regret it!!).  You’d think that wings were wings?  Not so my friends.  Some wings are good, some are excellent, and some are pure heaven – as were these.  They were served to us in the form of an artistic mini-mountain, abundantly drizzled with a sesame-honey sauce sprinkled with sesame seeds.  However, because they had been marinated in a citrus five spice hot chili there was the most marvelous under kick to the overall flavor:-).  

You remember at the beginning of this posting I declared myself to be a “foodie”?  Well, my husband is the opposite.  Don’t get me wrong; he enjoys good food, but he doesn’t “rave” about it!  Some dishes elicit slightly more excitement than others for him but he’s mainly an “it’s fine” or it’s good” kinda guy when you ask him how his food is. Very, very occasionally he’ll pronounce a “really good” about the food.

By the time he’d finished his first wing he was “mmm-mmmm-mmning” it.  After the second wing he was licking his fingers and said something like “gosh these are soooooo good” followed by “this sauce is reeeeally good”.  And as he polished off his third (and last!!), he made a comment along the lines of “Babe, you must dip your bread in the sauce”.  High compliments from the likes of my husband!

Our main courses arrived.  Richard had decided on the Margarita Grilled Tortilla Pizza. It arrived sizzling and looking delicious.  I think (I didn’t check this out with him) that he was a little disappointed when he saw it.  Maybe he was expecting something a little more substantial looking.  I know I was.  But when he bit into it all disappointment (real or imagined) and doubt disappeared.  He was back at that “mmm-mmmm-mmning”, and as he finished it I heard another, “This is reeeally good”.

My final choice had been from the Fitness Plates.  I figured if I was going to indulge I might as well make it healthy indulgence!  Tom served me the Avocado Salmon.  This was the best grilled salmon I have ever tasted, and laced over the top of it was a divine crushed avocado and wasabi concoction.  The salmon was accompanied by smashed cauliflower and fresh grilled vegetables. I have had mashed cauliflower before, and it was OK.  This was another one of those “heaven” moments; it was delicious!

In between our courses and as I was enjoying each bite of everything, I had been discreetly eyeing the various dishes that were being served to our fellow diners.  The presentations were wonderful and some of them quite curious.  I totally forgot to ask Tom what the small bamboo baskets were piled high with something – delectable I’m sure.  Perhaps a mountain of lightly battered calamari??

For the moment GrillSmith is only located in the Tampa area.  I’ve checked out their web sight and there are five existing restaurants in the Tampa, Clearwater, Lakeland area.  A sixth location will open up this fall in Brandon.  I’m hoping that they will eventually expand out across the State.  In the meanwhile,  if you’re in the Tampa area don’t miss out on this fine and exciting dining experience.  And for those who are wondering, prices are very reasonable for this kind of quality and service. (Our bill for an appetizer, two “mains”, freshly baked breadsticks, and unlimited soft drinks was $42.)

Musings: The Muse Is Back

I’m never quite sure what happens to me when my normal routine is disrupted.  All I know is that it seems to take me forever to re-find myself, to get back into my everyday patterns and the activities that I love doing.  Sometimes the disruption is a “going away” thing; a trip, a vacation, a retreat.  Sometimes the disruption is caused internally; an emotional hiccup, a hormonal hill, an unexpected trauma.  The journey back is more difficult when the disruption is a “double-whammy” – a trip AND an internal shift.

Last weekend Richard and I took a trip.  We mounted our much-loved Harley and hit the road.  First stop was Orlando where we spent the night and participated in Night of Joy at Disney’s Hollywood Studios.  (That experience will be a posting of its own.)  We had a great ride and even though we encountered some of the usual backed-up traffic on I-4, we arrived safely.

On Saturday morning we slept in a little after our late night at the concerts and, after breakfast, we got back on Harley fully kitted out in our rain gear.  There was a steady drizzle of rain which wasn’t too bad, but the closer we got to Tampa the harder it came down.  We were glad to reach our destination – the lovely luxurious Westin on the Causeway – change into dry clothes, order up some room service, and just relax.  Later in the evening we took a cab to Mass at Christ the King church, then crossed the road to eat at GrillSmith on South Dale Mabry Hwy. (Another separate posting on this experience!)

On Sunday morning we prepared for the other highlight of this trip: the Tampa Bay Buccaneers game against the Dallas Cowboys.  Richard and I are die-hard Cowboys’ fans and this was a great game to be able to travel to.  The weather was reasonable even though showers were promised.  We had our rain ponchos and what’s a bit of water if you can get to see the “Boys”!!  (The game will be another posting!)

We happily prepared for our trip home (the “Boys” won after an exciting game that could have gone in either direction until the fourth quarter).  Apart from a short we-are-lost detour at the beginning of the trip (unfamiliar city roads and road construction!), and a small shower closer to home, we had another great ride and arrived home safely at about 10pm.

Now that was a fabulous weekend; no hiccups, no problems, and a very happy ending.  It just carried a simple “disruption” tag to my usual routine.  So why on earth did I wake up on Monday morning feeling like I was sliding down some treacherous slippery hill of grayness?  I guess if I could answer that question, and especially if I could offer a solution, I could get very rich very easily!

Thank God that I have done a lot of personal growth and spiritual growth work over the last thirty years.  At least this puts me in a position to be able to actually recognize that I was on this slippery slope.  It allows me to know myself enough that I am aware that geographical and time disruptions to my routine affect me in ways that perhaps other people do not experience.  I am also willing to put a name to that slippery slope, that most people avoid because they feel it carries too much stigma: depression.

I feel blessed that I have built a support system of incredible friends and that I know to reach out no matter how small the hiccup or hill may seem.  I do not want my hills to grow into menacing mountains that I cannot surmount.  I also feel blessed and grateful that the depression that I suffer from occasionally is not acute and does not require medication.  I also recognize that if I did not have the self awareness that I have worked so hard to achieve, and if I were not willing to take action and ask for support and help, I could easily spiral into deeper depression.

Many people out there, especially those in the male category, refuse to even consider that they may be depressed.  I think it is time to concede that as human beings, with all the in-built emotions and hormones (yes, you guys have crazy hormones too!!) and all the external stress that we deal with on a daily basis, it is normal for us to have “ups and downs”. In our “ups” we are high on happiness and excitement.  In our “downs” our happiness is pushed down, de-pressed.

Sometimes it requires nothing spectacular to de-press our feelings.  It can be something as simple as the end of a special occasion (a trip, a celebration) or even a split second thought or memory that triggers a series of other thoughts that take us down.  And sometimes all or any of this can take place on such a subconscious level that we cannot put our finger on what is causing our “down”, our de-pression.

So on Monday my plan had been to get up and immediately hit the computer and share all the wonderful experiences of the weekend and whatever else the Muse presented.  But somewhere on that slippery slope Muse had jumped off the wagon and I was left with “gray”.  Plan of action: pray, call a friend, go meet with some people who didn’t think I was crazy and who understood exactly what I was going through.

And that is how I am very blessed.  I have gathered around me people who are available to me, who care about me enough to give me their time and their invaluable friendship, who are willing to listen, to share their own experience in similar circumstances.  With their help, it has taken me four days to fully come back up and feel normally enthusiastic about each day.

I have been patient and gentle with myself.  I have not “self-bashed” myself because I haven’t written anything since Saturday.  I have allowed myself to be “lazy” and focused on doing just the absolute essentials on my schedule.  And lo! the Muse is back.  More postings to follow!!!!