hey tampa bae

BESITO: actually legit mexican food

Stacey Oswald1 Comment

I'm a big fan of Tex-Mex. My parents lived in Texas back in the day, so I grew up eating guacamole and fajitas on the reg. Plus, my favorite chain restaurant is Chili's, and I pretty much exclusively drink margaritas (and wine- but I'm referring to cocktails here). So yeah, it's safe to say that I consider myself heavily immersed in the Tex-Mex game. This also translates to Mexican food, but I've discovered that it's pretty hard to find authentic Mexican food that isn't sketchy AF. 

Enter Besito, one of the best Mexican restaurants I've been to that just so happens to be next to a mall. Typically, you find a lot of shitty chains and generally sub-par spots by malls, but Besito is the exception to the rule. I was struck by the atmosphere upon walking in- their interior decor is on point, but sitting outside on the patio is equally pleasant, thanks to the greenery, fountain, and hanging lights. I would definitely choose to sit inside if I came to Besito on a hot date, but I went with my mom, so sitting outside was perfect for the vibe we were trying to achieve. 

Their cocktail menu is pretty solid- hello margarita de tamarindo with a chipotle salted rim. I'm also easily won over when a cocktail menu includes a tequila menu. In my opinion, it proves that Besito knows their shit and can actually make a decent margarita. However, when I went most recently, we chose to skip cocktails and go straight for nomz, because it was lunchtime and I was ravenous, per the usual. We started with the tableside guacamole, which is 100% the move. This guacamole is next level, and I'm a sucker for tableside preparation. You can just tell that this place serves fresh, quality food, right off the bat, and I love that (I rhyme). Then, we went ahead and ordered three different entrees, because we wanted variety and didn't want to choose. Obviously, this was way too much food for two people, but do I regret it? Def not. 

All of our entrees were bomb, but I have to start by raving about the Budin de Mariscos, AKA a tortilla pie loaded with cheese and stuffed with seafood. Our waiter described it as Mexican lasagna, and that is a perfect way to imagine this dish. I'm a huge cheese lover (aren't we all?), and after eating this, I was able to discover that I'm obsessed with queso chihuahua. It's salty, a lil sweet, and it lends itself so well to melting. I definitely went a little too hard in the paint when I was eating this dish, because I had very little room left for our other entrees, which were also great. But again, did I regret it? Still nope. 

Also on the table were the Mixtas Enchiladas and the Calabaza quesadillas. Oh, and a bowl of soup that came with one of our entrees, which was very pretty, but just meh in terms of taste. I'm actually not a huge fan of enchiladas- I don't love corn tortillas or enchilada sauce, so I tend to avoid them. But our waiter raved about them, so I decided to branch out. These were stuffed with skirt steak, grilled chicken, chorizo, and plantains, and man, they were great. I blame the guajillo cream salsa (whatever that is) for completely making this dish. The quesadillas are a great vegetarian option, as they're stuffed with squash blossoms (cool, right?), roasted green chiles, and mushrooms. Oh, and guess what? MORE QUESO CHIHUAHUA. I was in cheese heaven. 

The manager actually gave me a tour of their kitchen before I left, which was awesome. I got to see everything being prepared, and I was beyond impressed by the fact that they don't have freezers. Everything is made fresh, and you can tell by the quality of the food. This is not your typical shitty mall restaurant, and it's also not some random, basic-ass Mexican joint. This place is too good to be true for its location and its cuisine, and I will definitely be back. See ya real soon, Besito! PS- how cute are the complimentary churros? 

review of SPROUTS

Stacey OswaldComment

Sprouts just opened up in South Tampa (on Dale Mabry, ironically right next to the Publix), and it's a game-changer. Think of all the best things about Whole Foods and Trader Joe's, add in a dash of Publix, and then put all of that under one roof: now you have Sprouts. I was shocked to find so many of my favorite items, from Rebbl drinks to Perfect bars, all in one place. Typically, I have to hop around from grocery store to grocery store, hoping to find a majority of the items I like and ALWAYS over-spending. I can already tell that Sprouts is going to be my new go-to grocery store, though TJ's will always have a special place in my heart. Mainly for their wine selection. 

I spent $100 on a cart load of groceries, which included some high-priced items (think Slow Press Chardonnay and 5 different flavors of Rebbl). I was overall very pleased with their prices, and I was happy to see a great many deals being offered around the store- note the major savings on fish in the pic below. I'm not sure how many of these were related to their grand opening, but either way, it made for a pleasant shopping experience. 

I was most excited to see some high-quality produce, including CHERRIES (my fave) and peaches! Most grocery stores around Tampa aren't able to offer good produce on the cheap, so I was beyond excited to find cherries at a reasonable price. I'm used to spending $10 for a bag, though, so it might not have been alllllll that great. However, their produce is a huge step up from TJ's, and probably on par quality-wise with Whole Foods. 

They have tons of fun, healthy-ish items around the store, and I plan to sample a ton of them when I have more time (and money). This time around, I sampled the Cookie Dough Enlightened ice cream, and it blew my mind. A big improvement from Halo Top, which I also love dearly. And while I wanted to try to preservative-free versions of my favorite cookies, I decided to refrain. I'm planning on baking my world famous chocolate chip cookies tomorrow, and I didn't need to have two delicious sources of sugar sitting around. 

In addition, their cold meat selection is on point. Bacon Lover's Turkey Breast anyone??? I've tried this brand's Buffalo Chicken as well, and it's fantastic. The flavor is truly off-the-charts, and it's made similarly to Boar's Head, so you can't even feel guilty about it. I was also impressed by their case of prepared food, as well as their salad bar. I plan to utilize both in the near future, because ain't nobody got time for cooking every night. 

Overall, I give Sprouts an A+, and I can't wait to go back soon. Like probably tomorrow. No shame in my game. 

mary berry's CHERRY cake

Stacey Oswald1 Comment

First of all... am I crazy, or are "glacé" cherries not a thing in America? 

I've heard of maraschino cherries (obviously), but glacé was a new one for me. Apparently they're the same thing as maraschino cherries, except they're candied in sugar syrup. Honestly, they sounded disgusting to me, and Publix didn't have them, so I went with the always classic maraschino. Also disgusting, but hopefully less sugary. 

 
 

I'm glad that this was my first recipe- it was super easy, especially because I didn't receive the abbreviated instructions that the bakers get during the technical challenge. So I kindaaaa cheated, but there's really no way around it when I'm baking my way through the show. Oh well! 

To be honest, I was expecting not to like this cake. As mentioned, I hate maraschino cherries, and the recipe seemed bland and overall pretty boring. But the result was lemony, just sweet enough, light, fluffy, and absolutely delicious. Mary Berry was on point with this one!

I ended up baking the cake for less time than it said in the recipe- more around 30 minutes. I honestly would bake it less if I were to try this recipe again, because mine could be a touch less dry. Also, the recipe doesn't tell you to cream the butter with the sugar first before adding the dry ingredients, but definitely do that if you're making this at home. 

 
 

I got a nice distribution of cherries by coating them in flour, so I was stoked about that. Next time, I would also like to give the cake more time to cool before glazing- my glaze ended up getting mostly absorbed into my semi-warm sponge. But I was rushing to get done before teaching a yoga class, and there's only so much a girl can do. 

Below, you can find my version of the recipe, with those little tidbits above added in. You can find the original copy here, via PBS. Stay tuned- my matcha swiss roll is coming up next! 

 
 

Mary Berry's Cherry Cake

Ingredients: 
a handful of maraschino cherries, pitted and quartered
1 cup self-rising flour
3/4 cup unsalted butter, softened
3/4 cup sugar
Zest of 1 lemon
1/4 cup blanched almond flour
3 large eggs
for decoration: 
3/4 cup powdered sugar
Juice of 1 lemon
Flaked almonds
More cherries (I didn't do this) 

Directions: 
1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a bundt tin (any shape is fine) with butter. I used coconut oil spray. No shame in my game.  
2. Prepare your cherries. Rinse cherries in a sieve, then pat dry with paper towels. Toss in flour. 
3. Cream butter with sugar, then add eggs. Slowly add lemon zest and flour, then beat for two minutes until fluffy. Fold in the cherries. 
4. Spoon batter evenly into tin and bake for 25-30 minutes, until golden brown. Leave to cool in the tin for 10 minutes, then allow to cool on a wire rack. Seriously guys, let it cool. This was my mistake. 
5. Mix powdered sugar with lemon juice until no clumps remain. Drizzle over cake and decorate! I didn't feel like putting a ton of almonds or cherries on my cake, so I didn't. You do you! 

 
 

PS... don't judge me for my messy kitchen. I can only bake if I'm allowed to leave chaos in my wake ;) Thanks for always cleaning up after me, Paul!