Best Of 2022

The Garrison Brothers bourbon dinner as part of ‘Whisk(E)y Tampa Foxtrot’ was a master class transforming Texas BBQ into fine dining while perfectly matching a portfolio of artisanal Texas bourbon. Florida stone crab claw on jalapeño cornbread smothered in smoked honey beurre blanc. Foie gras-duck hot links, sweet hot mustard, compressed cantaloupe, charred cactus, and surprising black tahini. Shredded goat legs with masa in delectable pumpkin-guajillo pepper broth. Magical 76-hour Wagyu beef brisket, hominy, turnip greens and fig BBQ sauce. Flakey, sweet pecan pie, roasted stone fruit with ancho-tinged caramel and ultra creamy buttermilk ice cream. Big Johnson energy, for sure.

Food & Drink

Food & Drink
William Dean Brown, aka Bill Brown, left the dot-com world for chocolate long ago. Then he spent time studying chocolate-making with some of the best chocolatiers in the world. Opened in 2007, Brown named his chocolate shop after his father and grandfather, William Dean. Located in Belleair Bluffs, every chocolate is handmade, and it shows. CL food critic Jon Palmer Claridge gave WD five stars in 2012. Consistency isn’t easy, and Wiliam Dean continues to be the best chocolate in town.
In November 2021, I was just a wine guy food critic with less than a handful of whiskey. But an invite to the Garrison Brothers dinner changed my life. In just a few hours, a door opened and I tumbled end over end down the proverbial rabbit hole. I’m a taster, not a drinker. But one whiskey book led to three and a growing desire to explore. My collection grew to include Irish and Scotch. Podcasts and more books followed, which meant adding Japanese, Tennessee, bourbon outside Kentucky, plus two kinds of tasting glasses. WTF 2022 is Nov. 8-11. If you can find a ticket, be forewarned.
The mid-south section of St. Pete, along 4th and 6th streets, has long been a commercial dead zone. But in the spring of 2021, up popped a restaurant that mixes terrific seafood-centric fare, with good service and generous helping of fun—a winning combination that suggests the place might be around for a while. Mullet’s Fish Camp, set in a 101-year-old house, offers indoor and outdoor dining and has an area in the back with a small stage where live acoustic acts perform. By the way, the “Mullet” in the name refers to the cheesy men’s haircut, not the (nasty-tasting) fish. How Campy is that?
Winner: SoHo Juice Co.
2. Sweet Soul
3. Raw Smoothie Co.
Winner: Bern's Steak House
2. Rooster & the Till
3. The Black Pearl Dunedin
Family-owned and operated since 2009, Taste of Punjab is some of the best Indian food in town. That’s right, some of the best Indian food is hidden in a plaza off Walsingham in Largo-almost-Seminole. Samosas, butter chicken, plus extensive vegetarian offerings. Chief amongst them? Taste of Punjab’s Aloo Gobi. Cauliflower and potatoes simmered in tomatoes, onions, and spices. Served with basmati rice, but I recommend you invest in some of the fresh naan for dipping. There’s an entire bread menu: chutneys, curries, all the good stuff.
Winner: Yummy House
2. Hawkers: Asian Street Food
3. Ichicoro Ramen
Winner: St. Pete Bagel Co.
2. Clearwater Bagels
3. Dunedin Bagels & Deli
Winner: Mazzaro's Italian Market
2. La Segunda Bakery
3. Gulf Coast Sourdough