Monday, March 31, 2014

Darwin Brewing working toward April opening

Darwin Brewing Co., will not make its March opening goal and instead
is targeting an April opening date. CHARLES SCHELLE/Bradenton Herald
Drive by Darwin Brewing Co.'s building on 17th Avenue West and a banner promotes "Opening March 2014" across the gates. Don't expect a brew today on the final day of March, though.

The brewery is targeting opening in April, said Jorge Rosabal, head brew master on Monday. Darwin Brewing, 803 17th St. W, received its federal brewery license last week and is waiting on its state licences and permits, Rosabal said.

The exterior is nearly complete during a visit Monday afternoon, with the work by Bradenton firm Fawley Bryant Architects bringing a fresh industrial look to the property, which housed a tired Bradenton Press warehouse. A carpenter continued sawing away Monday to complete the bar area, while the back room looked to be a work in progress with a few spare parts lying around, but all the important piping is there along with kegs and the rest of the brewing system.

The bar is operated by chef Darwin Santa Maria, who is bringing Andean-inspired beers here, some of which are already being produced at his Darwin's on 4th restaurant in Sarasota.

Keep tabs both on and for a soft opening date and grand opening announcement. It's likely going to be during the third or fourth week of April.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Taco Bell launches breakfast today

Taco Bell's Waffle Taco with sausage and egg. Provided photo

I guess Taco Bell's breakfast gives new meaning to wake and bake.

You don't have to be high to order steak and eggs at Taco Bell at 7 a.m., the food is actually pretty good.

Thursday marked the first day Taco Bell launched its breakfast menu nationwide offering the Waffle Taco, an A.M. Crunchwrap, hash browns, coffee and Cinnabon Delights, which are hot pastry puffs filled with a warm cream cheese filling. The menu is available from 7 a.m. to 11 a.m.

I decided to try it out for myself this morning on the way to work, and since tacos are never a good driving food, I declined to try the Waffle Taco. It just seemed like disaster waiting for me.

Instead, I went with the A.M. Crunchwrap with steak. They offer a choice of bacon and sausage, too. The food was hot, crunchy and a good breakfast food to have one hand on the wheel and another shoving that glorified Hot Pocket down my mouth. It wasn't greasy, surprisingly, and the hash brown delivered a better crunch than the toasted wrap. The wrap definitely needed some salsa, which I attempted to put on at a stop light, but you can't do too much before it ends up on your shirt.
The A.M. Crunchwrap I tried this morning.

But the Cinnabon Delights were something else. It's a hot puffy pastry ball with cinnamon sugar that once you bite into it, the dam breaks and the hot cream cheese filling comes pouring out. These could easily become addictive. I'm fortunate my meal only came with two. I don't know about ordering a cup of these sugar bombs.

The coffee was OK. It had a different taste to it that I had difficulty grasping what exactly it is, almost an alcohol flavor to it. A coworker thought it tasted weak, though. Jury's still out on that one.

Overall, the breakfast seems like a decent option compared to Jack In The Box from the West Coast.

Have you tried out the Taco Bell breakfast? Drop your review below.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Goodbye Sweetbay, Hello Winn-Dixie

Sweetbay no more, the Winn-Dixe signs are up at the
5802 14th St. W store in Bradenton. Photo provided
The end of Sweetbay is near my friends, and the signs are here.

Winn-Dixie installed its sign at its 5802 14th St. W location this week to make it official. The store along with the location at 2501 Cortez Road West is due to reopen Friday as Winn-Dixie while the West Bradenton Sweetbay store at 5805 Manatee Ave W and Palmetto location at 515 Seventh St. W are scheduled to close at 1 p.m. Saturday and reopen the following Friday.

The final days of Sweetbay turned out to be a bit of a supermarket sweep. I visited the Palmetto location Tuesday with the hopes of ordering one last sub for old time's sake, but they were out of bread. The deli line was packed as deli, bakery, meat and produce are all offered at 50 percent off. A man in front of me ordered two whole blocks of cheese while others ordered roast beef, salami and other deli meat two pounds at a time.

The meat department is barren and all that was left in the produce department includes some onions and a couple odds and ends. If you're lucky, there might be a stray cake somewhere in the bakery for cheap.

Do you plan to shop at the converted Winn-Dixies? Drop a line in the comments.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Revisiting Baldwin Park

Green areas are incorporated within Baldwin Park's village 
center, surrounded by businesses and apartments. File photo

Read more here:
When colleagues Matt Johnson, Grant Jefferies and I rolled into two Orlando developments recently, we didn't really know what to expect.

Sure, we've seen pictures and poked around on Google StreetView, but you can't feel the energy of a neighborhood without visiting and talking to people. That's why we hit the road on March 10 to learn more about Baldwin Park and Avalon Park in Orange County. The trip was to see the potential look and feel of Whiting Preston's proposed Crossroads development.

The result of that trip was detailed in three stories and a photo gallery in Sunday's paper, and I'll post the links below. Of course, there wasn't enough room to post everything that people had to say, so here's some other nuggets that folks offered up in Baldwin Park. All the good stuff in Avalon Park was already used. Sorry.

So, here...we...go...

"Do you feel like you're in Florida here? It has a Midwest feel. It does to me, maybe that's what drew us because we're from Ohio." -- Jennifer Violand, who recently moved to Baldwin Park with her husband from Sarasota. She said the town reminded her of Carmel, Ind., the wealthiest town in Indiana and suburb of Indianapolis.

Since Violand lived in Sarasota, I asked her if she ever shopped in Lakewood Ranch because it's the closest thing Manatee County has to the Crossroads but is quite different. "I haven't really been there. When you say Lakewood Ranch, I've only really been to the Publix there on University. I heard the traffic's terrible."

Here's more from Dale Petersen, resident and vice president of Baldwin Park Residential Owners Association with more to say about living there:

"I've been here just about 10 years. My wife and I were empty nesters and we're looking to downsize. My daughter, who is an urban planner, she talked us into taking a look into Baldwin park and when we did, we fell in love with it and bought a place." "You're never more than two blocks to a park. It's front-porch living. It's those things that make a community more personable."

"We lived in a beautiful 4,000-square-foot home with a pool in suburban Orlando and never once in the 10 years that I lived there saw my neighbor across the street."

Larry Nordman was getting his hair cut at Kennedy's All American Barber Club and offered his insight on the community.

"This community was hit with residential real estate debacle like all the rest. There was a pause perhaps in the build-out. To some extent this commercial is dependent upon resident growth."

"Considering what this was, the community was pretty excited to see something like this come in."

 Johanna Stewart, manager at Farris and Foster's Famous Chocolate Factory:

"From my experience, we do have regulars that live here and come in, but it's not like they make gigantic purchases on a normal business. A lot of our business is drawn from outside of the neighborhood and outside of Orlando like Apoka and Lake Mary just because of what we sell."

 "We get tourists coming in here all the time thinking this is Park Avenue in Winter Park, and they have a bunch of shops there where you can stroll the street. We don't because we're basically food related. We need more places to walk around and see what's being sold."

 Javier Fong, who was walking his dog Hannah:

 "When we saw the house that we bought, on Bennett, we really liked all the upgrades that they had. We were selling our house in Oviedo. We did a 1035 Exchange. My father had a property is Leesburg that he sold and we needed to buy a house to do the 1035 Exchange. My mother really liked the house that we bought, and that's why we moved."

Read and see more about Baldwin Park and Avalon Park:

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Siesta Key named third best U.S. beach by TripAdvisor

Anna Maria Island may be the third best island in the U.S.
but its beaches don't rank on TripAdvisor.
File photo by Grant Jefferies
Florida might have as many beaches as Hawaii in TripAdvisor's latest Top 25 U.S. Beaches, but none are in Manatee County.

Siesta Key ranked third, the highest in Florida, and Lido Beach, also in Sarasota County ranked 22nd, according to the 2014 list released Tuesday. Lanikai Beach in Oahu, Hawaii was the top beach.

“We are thrilled to share this news,” said Erin Duggan, Director of Brand for Visit Sarasota County.  “We are honored so many visitors to our shores love their experience here and are willing to share it with others.”

TripAdvisor survey of 13,000 U.S. travelers found that 81 percent plan to take a beach vacation in 2014, compared to 69 percent that did in 2013. Summer is the most popular season for beach vacations with the most popular months being: July (23%), August (20%), June (19%).

“For those fed up with the long cold winter, there’s really no better cure than an escape to one of these award-winning beaches,” said Barbara Messing, chief marketing officer for TripAdvisor. “Even if you can’t go to one of these stunning beaches soon, just looking at the photos will take you away for a moment, until you can plan a trip.”

Siesta Key dropped from No. 2 to No. 3 from last year's beach rankings. Other area beaches that made the list include Saint Pete Beach at No. 9, Caladesi Island State Park in Dunedin at No. 11 and Clearwater Beach at No. 21.

What's strange is how Anna Maria Island can rank third among U.S. islands, but none of its beaches rank at all in the Top 25. What gives? Was it the dredging equipment? Surely surveyors can come back and see there's enough sand on the beach now.
Here is the complete list

Travelers’ Choice Top 25 Beaches in the U.S.

1.       Lanikai Beach, Kailua, Oahu, Hawaii

2.       Ka'anapali Beach, Lahaina, Maui, Hawaii

3.       Siesta Key Public Beach, Siesta Key, Florida

4.       Hanalei Beach, Hanalei, Kauai, Hawaii
5.       Wai'anapanapa State Park, Hana, Maui, Hawaii
6.       Wailea Beach, Wailea, Maui, Hawaii
7.       Hunting Island State Park, Beaufort, South Carolina
8.       Manini'owali Beach (Kua Bay), Kailua-Kona, Island of Hawaii, Hawaii
9.       Saint Pete Beach, Saint Pete Beach, Florida
10.   Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve, Honolulu, Oahu, Hawaii
11.   Caladesi Island State Park, Dunedin, Florida
12.   Poipu Beach Park, Poipu, Kauai, Hawaii
13.   Ko Olina Lagoons, Kapolei, Hawaii
14.   St. Augustine Beach, Saint Augustine Beach, Florida
15.   Ogunquit Beach, Ogunquit, Maine
16.   Race Point Beach, Provincetown, Massachusetts
17.   Bahia Honda State Park and Beach, Big Pine Key, Florida
18.   La Jolla Cove, La Jolla, California
19.   Pensacola Beach, Pensacola, Florida
20.   Beach at Panama City, Panama City Beach, Florida
21.   Clearwater Beach, Clearwater, Florida
22.   Lido Beach, Sarasota, Florida
23.   Assateague Beach, Assateague Island, Virginia
24.   Kapalua Beach, Kapalua, Hawaii
25.   Navarre Beach, Navarre, Florida

Monday, March 17, 2014

Sweet deals at Sweetbay as grocery store discounts food before Winn-Dixie conversion

Sweetbay, 5802 14th St. W, will close Saturday and reopen
March 29 as Winn-Dixie. File photo by Paul Videla
Shoppers looking for a way to cut down their grocery bill will be in luck this week if they head to Sweetbay.

The first round of stores to convert to Winn-Dixie are set to close Saturday for a remodeling, and discounts on food are continuing to be offered. For stores closing Saturday, private label brands  like Hannaford, My Essentials, Taste of Inspirations are 50 percent off this week with the exception of bread, milk and eggs.

Products in the produce, deli, bakery and meat departments are now 25 percent off. Good luck finding any of the private label food left over.

During a trip to the Sarasota Midtown Plaza Sweetbay on Sunday, the 50-percent products were all but picked over. I couldn't find any of the usual private label items I buy like soup and spaghetti sauce. However, the deals in the meat, produce and deli/bakery departments are worth it. Grab some meat and an ice cream cake for cheap and stick it in the freezer for later. The Sweetbay location I went to was also thin on supply of hamburger and chicken, but there was still enough fresh items to go around. I saved more than $15 just from the discounts, so get it while it's gone.

Bradenton stores at 5802 14th St. W, and 2501 Cortez Road West, are due to close Saturday and reopen March 28 as well as Sarasota stores at 2881 Clark Road, 4230 Bee Ridge Road and 1325 S. Tamiami Trail. Stores at 5805 Manatee Avenue in Bradenton and 515 7 St. W in Palmetto are expected to close March 29.

Employees will be working to transform the store in a week’s time, keeping the layout of the stores similar to Sweetbay, and receive training on doing things the Winn-Dixie way.

“Upon reopening as a Winn-Dixie, we believe customers will be pleasantly surprised to see that we have been working hard to provide the fresh, quality products they want at prices they can afford,” said Joey Medina, Winn-Dixie’s regional vice president, in a news release. “Plus, we will offer a suite of in-store savings programs, like the “fuelperks!” rewards program, which lets customers earn incredible savings at participating Shell stations every time they shop with their Winn-Dixie Customer Reward Card.”

The conversion is part of the acquisition of 30 Sweetbay stores by Bi-Lo, parent company of Winn-Dixie. The Tampa headquarters for Sweetbay will close at the end of the conversion while employees in good standing at stores that remain open will be offered to stay on with Winn-Dixie. To avoid monopoly concerns, the Federal Trade Commission ordered to have another chain acquire locations, resulting in 12 Sweetbay stores in Florida, Georgia and South Carolina to be sold to Rowes IGA Supermarkets,HAC, Inc., W. Lee Flowers & Co., Inc. and Food Giant.