Events Editor, Handyman, Appreciater of all Things Bright and Beautiful

Tara's Roti Shop

I'm an omnivore, which doesn't keep me from ordering the vegetarian sampler when I get lunch at Tara's Roti Shop, a Trinidadian place long on charm and one of Tampa's little-known culinary gems. The sampler includes cabbage, curry potatoes, syrupy fried plantains (the best I've had in Tampa), phoulouri (deep fried balls of batter made from chickpea flower) and a double. Doubles, born in Trinidad and Tobago, are two flaky, pastry-like breads made from yellow chickpea flour that sandwich a fresh chutney-like filling of green chickpeas. If you haven't had one, your life is lacking. Tara, who's often found taking orders and overseeing the cooking, is a sweet, sassy woman who's sharp with customers, especially the ones she likes. She's rightly proud of her restaurant and the fact that everything she serves is handmade and made with fresh ingredients. Even the chickpea flower is ground with a hand-crank grinder. This old-fashioned care is evident in the consistency and quality of the food. And even though the menu isn't extensive, everything's good. Several nonvegetarian dishes worth trying: collard greens with oxtail, crab calloo and curry chicken with coconut rice. A roti, in case you're wondering, is a starchy pocket of chickpeas, potatoes and curry chicken wrapped in a round, griddle-cooked flatbread. It's also delicious but rather heavy, whereas the vegetarian sampler is the perfect amount of food and offers unique, complementary tastes. Try a dab of the hot sauce with the phoulouri and to drink, order a Shark Bite Ya Bottom.

Tara's Roti Shop, 8916 N. Nebraska Ave., Tampa, 813-930-8272.


Xtreme Juice's Wheatgrass Shot

I've never been a joiner, as they say, but I am an ardent member of Xtreme Juice's Wheatgrass Club. Presently my club card has seven heart-shaped stamps out of 10 numbered pineapples leading toward an 11th wheatgrass shot for free. And if carrying this card in my wallet in the same flap as my insurance and Social Security cards doesn't spell commitment, I don't know what does. I go to Xtreme Juice once a week for a shot of the green stuff, believing that it is an adequate substitute for the fresh vegetables I do not eat enough of. Although there's a lack of empirical evidence to support its merit, a shot of wheatgrass is widely billed as being the nutritional equivalent of one to two pounds of raw broccoli. And since I was raised in a fast-food culture, this sounds like an efficient option to me, particularly since I don't much care for broccoli. Xtreme Juice serves the shots in both one- and two-ounce plastic cups with an orange wedge to chase the tart taste. Consider it a virtuous, healthy twist on shooting tequila with lime slices to suck. There aren't any immediate obvious effects of drinking a shot of wheatgrass, although for about half an hour afterwards I tend to think I smell like I just mowed the yard. But the benefits, as I perceive them, are that my body has more of the nutrients it needs to function properly, and my metabolism can get to work burning off all the bad stuff I eat. Parents of children who hate vegetables, this is the answer to your woeful wishing.

Xtreme Juice, 619 S. Dale Mabry, Tampa, 813-879-6033 or

San Antonio Pottery

Few people know that there's a San Antonio, Florida. And fewer know that's where the area's best potter, Jack Boyle, has his studio. It's not hard to find, and the evidence of Boyle's talents is plain. He creates gorgeous functional and decorative works, everything from pitchers and vases to casseroles and pots, all richly glazed in earth tones, arguably the signature aspect of his pottery. Favorite pieces include his mugs, bowls and ongoing series of winsome fish — handsome ornaments created to scale, though sculpted and shaded somewhat whimsically. Boyle, a native of St. Petersburg, earned a degree in fine arts at USF, where he discovered ceramics by hap, signing up for a course in pottery on a whim. He's now worked at his San Antonio studio for more than 25 years and built a fair reputation through taking part in art and craft shows throughout the year, such as the most recent Gasparilla Arts Festival. If you can catch Boyle in his studio, it's enjoyable to watch him at the potter's wheel. He keeps odd office hours, however, so it's best to call to make sure he's in before heading out.

San Antonio Pottery, 11903 Curley St., San Antonio, 352-588-4228 or

Inkwood Books

Housed in a cute South Tampa bungalow, Inkwood is a fine independent bookstore with a good selection of works by local authors. Readings here are cozy events done simply, as they should be. After a brief introduction, someone reads to you, a treat some of us will never outgrow. Following this, you're generally allowed to ask whatever questions have been percolating during story time. And after that, the visiting authors will gladly increase the value of your copy of their latest book with a signature and perhaps a personalized note. Frequently these events allow readers to get some good background on a particular book, but for me the nice thing about hearing my favorite authors read is that from then on, whenever I read their work, I hear their voice, and the book tends to resonate more. For the same reason, I love books on tape. Most notable author to recently read at Inkwood: acclaimed novelist Cristina Garcia (Dreaming in Cuban, Monkey Hunting). To find out what upcoming readings are scheduled at Inkwood, you can stop by the store and pick up a newsletter, visit or check The List in this very publication.

Inkwood Books, 216 S. Armenia Ave., Tampa, 813-253-2638.

Dead End Beach

I have no trouble giving up the location of my favorite beach. Beachgoers want quiet, uncluttered scenery, a physical and visual respite from the mania of life. And that does not describe my favorite beach at all. If you drive Cypress Street west until it dead ends at the Bay West Commerce Park, then drive around to the opposite side of the corporate park, a nondescript lane borders a patch of crabgrass and sandspur weeds. Beyond that is a narrow strip of skuzzy beach that looks out on the Howard Frankland Bridge, where the vehicles pass near enough to determine certain makes and models. Planes to and from Tampa International Airport fly loudly overhead. And on any weekend afternoon, there's frequently a non-nuclear family or two spread out from the buggy sand to 100 yards offshore, where the water's still shallow enough to wade. The thing to do is bring a boom box, listen to classic rock, stand purposefully where the water can lap your calves and drink a beer, glass-bottled no less. Meanwhile, someone's unleashed mutt huffs in and out of the water, sniffing kids and tramping sand on your beach towel. Out here, I've seen a Budweiser deliveryman park the company truck and walk out in his uniform for a little on-the-clock R&R. I've seen a guy punch his woman in the face for some unknown reason. And I've seen some really pretty needlefish, mullet and Spanish mackerel. To me, this is Tampa Bay, and it's not entirely ugly.

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