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Florida Matters: Tampa Bay's Foodie Scene

It's that time of year when our waistlines tend to expand. Now that we've put the turkey and cranberry sauce away and are getting ready for those office parties and holiday dinner outings, is there a better time than now to place a spotlight on some of the more interesting places to eat in the Tampa Bay area?

We'll tuck into a main course ranging from soul food to Bern's Steak House's new Epicurean Hotel - with an after-dinner look at our local wines. First, we take a visit to an urban farm, where some of our holiday goodies (at least the veggie variety) are coaxed from the earth. And we'll end with a look at what making it to the Big Time of cable TV has done for some of Tampa Bay's more interesting eateries - and what that's done for their reputations - and bottom line.

First, what do freshly harvested salad greens, university accounting majors and weekly loads of manure from the local zoo have in common?

They are all integral parts of the community created around Sweetwater Farm.

Florida Matters' Bobbie O’Brien put on her jeans and walking shoes to take us on a tour of the Sweetwater urban organic farm and education center located in Tampa’s Town and Country neighborhood.

Now that we've learned how to grow some of our holiday food, let's check out how it's prepared at one of the Bay Area's more interesting restaurants.

Harlem's world famous Sylvia’s "Queen of Soul Food Restaurant" now has a location in St. Petersburg. It opened in November on the ground floor of the historic Manhattan Casino on 22nd Street South in St. Petersburg. As Florida Matters' Lottie Watts found out during a recent dinner, the restaurant is about good food - and bringing people together.

Then, lets have a side course at one of Tampa's signature upscale restaurants.

People come from all over the world to savor the food and wine of Tampa’s Bern’s Steak House. Now, after a great meal, they’ll have a place to lay their heads. The Epicurean Hotel is set to open later this month across the street from the legendary steak house. The hotel is a collaboration between Bern’s and Mainsail Lodging and Development.Before all the finishing touches are in place, Florida Matters' Dalia Colón offers a preview of the appetizing amenities.

We've sampled our main course and found a place to rest our well-fed bodies. But what about finding what to drink with those holiday meals?

Winemaking continues to grow in Florida, with more than 30 bonded - that means licensed or sanctioned - wineries scattered throughout the state.

Florida Matters' Mark Schreiner traveled to one such operation in Pasco County, where they’re not making exactly the kind of wine you might expect to find in the Sunshine State.

And finally, let's catch up with some of your favorite local restaurants that have reached the rarified air of cable television.

The Food Network, Travel Channel and Cooking Channel have all highlighted great places to eat in the Tampa Bay region.

Florida Matters’ John O’Connor asks why local restaurants have been featured so often, and what happens after the close-up. More often than not, he find out the entire Tampa Bay "foodie" scene benefits.

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