Population Statistic: Read. React. Repeat.
Saturday, May 06, 2021

Through the weeks of build-up over today’s Kentucky Derby, I’ve heard favorite Brother Derek’s name repeated ad nauseum.

The name “Brother Derek” intrigued me. You can go bats trying to figure out how most of the kooky names for racehorses (and racing dogs) get concocted, but this one was special.

Turns out Derek is the namesake of a Mormon missionary, currently serving in Armenia. So I assume a win today would go far in proselytizing for the Latter-Day Saints.

That doesn’t satisfy my intrigue, however. Because I can’t hear the name “Brother Derek” and not mentally tack on an “X” to that.

Yes, this year’s Run for the Roses brings to my mind Brand Nubian’s “Concerto in X Minor”, sung by “the brother Derek X”. Who’s going by the moniker “Sadat X” these days, when he’s not pulling guns on people.

by Costa Tsiokos, Sat 05/06/2021 02:22:10 PM
Category: Pop Culture, Other Sports | Permalink | Feedback

Ah, nothing like opening the newspaper and reading a top-to-bottom diss of my former stomping grounds’ restaurant scene.

Like that of many rapidly growing American cities, Tampa’s dining scene is dominated by row upon row of chain restaurants, many with a theme, turning major streets into strip malls of faux world-food adventures. Many chains, in fact, use the city as an important test market…

Many smaller eateries emulate the city as a whole: lovely to look at, but lacking a certain vernacular style. A bakery often mentioned on Tampa food blogs has the right touches — hip counter staff in heavy black glasses — but its chicken salad is pale and without seasoning, and cocoa powder dominates its celebrated espresso cookies.

The source of the beat-down: Kevin Lacassin, blogger of NolaFoodie, who finds himself Katrina-ed out of the Big Easy and now slumming it in the Big Guava. His own take on the NYTimes article gives a little more background.

I’m surprised more names weren’t named. Bern’s Steak House, the long-running gold standard among Tampa’s eateries, isn’t identified. Nor is Columbia Restaurant, the grand doyenne of the Bay area.

It’s true: Tampa Bay loves its chains. You don’t have to drive far in Hillsborough, Pinellas and Pasco to find an Outback or Carrabba’s, and they’re always packed. Going out to eat is the chief pasttime in the area, mainly because there’s nothing much else to do on any given night. And when it’s a regular habit, familiarity is valued more than opportunities to experiment.

Lacassin has managed to fall under the spell of one chain:

One Outback restaurant, the Bonefish Grill, is the touchstone of Mr. Lacassin’s dining experience in Tampa, where each dish seems to be served “with a side of steamed vegetables,” as he wrote. Though the restaurant is a beloved favorite of many of his new friends, it draws his scorn.

“It is the only place people here seem to want to go,” he said.

Yet his blog reveals acquiescence, a “when in Tampa” acceptance of monkfish at said Bonefish.

“I was quite impressed,” he wrote. “I succumbed to the chain-restaurant mentality; decent flavor + big portions = good stuff.”

Perhaps it’s no coincidence that Bonefish is not an Outback corporate creation: It was an independent restaurant, with just one location (that was just down the road from my long-time apartment in St. Petersburg). It was bought by Outback some five years ago now, and has since been expanded all over the place. But the bloodlines, at least, hint at more unique culinary origins.

by Costa Tsiokos, Sat 05/06/2021 01:17:18 PM
Category: Bloggin', Florida Livin', Food | Permalink | Feedback (10)

My grand experiment of accumulating spare change during my workweek concluded yesterday.

My jackpot: $8.53 of quarters, nickels, dimes, and pennies. So, over a year, that’s about $400-500. Whoopee.

I didn’t cheat, along the lines of forcing more cash purchases than I usually do; I did refrain from reaching for coins a couple of times, but not enough to significantly alter things. My credit card got the regular amount of action. So this represented a typical week of transactions.

No big lesson to learn from this. It was strictly for satisfying my curiosity.

Incidentally, I already participate in this sort of change-collection. Bank of America’s “Keep the Change” program rounds up each credit/debit card purchase to the next dollar and deposits the difference into a savings account. It tends to add up.

by Costa Tsiokos, Sat 05/06/2021 12:21:42 PM
Category: General | Permalink | Feedback (2)