Pigs in the Park: BBQ, BEER & BLUES!

Pigs in the Park: BBQ, BEER & BLUES inaugural event kicks off Friday night at E.G. Simmons Park.

Talk about barbecue! It'll all be here - ribs, chicken, wings and more.

Come taste the mouthwatering food of Smokin' Gun BBQ, Smokin' Pigs, Hydro Harvest Farms, The Mullet Shack, Ribs on the Rail and others.

It'll be a blast!

WHAT: Pigs in the Park: BBQ, BEER, BLUES & Redfish Tournament

* Down-home, slow-cooked BBQ

* Smokin' blues by Sarasota Slim, The Bottomfeeders, Gypsy Hyway and the Top Shelf Blues Band

* Fishing tourney, including prizes

* Children's fitness area

* Jumbo the Clown

WHEN: Friday, April 1, 6-10 p.m.; Saturday, April 2, 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.

WHERE: E.G. Simmons Park, 2401 19th Ave N.W., Ruskin

COST: $2 per carload park entry fee; free admission and parking

INFO: Call (813) 645-3808.

I recently visited Earl Thompkins of Ribs on the Rail, who works from his mobile grill on Saturdays at Progress Village. I wrote a Table Scraps column about him. Look for it in today's SouthShore News & Tribune or at www.southshore.tbo.com.

Earl shared one of his favorite barbecue sauce recipes:


40 ounces ketchup

32 ounces mustard

12 ounces Louisiana hot sauce

32 ounces honey

Mix the first three ingredients together and simmer on the stove for 20 minutes. Let cool for 10 minutes, and then add honey. Mix well. Pour or brush sauce over cooked meat for best taste.


Dinner at Riverside Bar & Grille

The Riverside Bar & Grille covered deck overlooking the mouth of the Little Manatee River makes a fine stop on a spring evening.

For a starter, my partner and I enjoyed an order of blue mussels in a delicate Parmesan garlic sauce, served with warm crusty bread to mop and mop and mop. This was great. More, please.

Filet mignon with wild mushroom madeira sauce, steamed vegetables and mashed potatoes.

Fresh corvina with mild wasabi beurre blanc. I would have liked to tasted more "wow" in the wasabi sauce, but it was a good-size piece of fish cooked to perfection.

Riverside Bar & Grille is fresh, enjoyable and unpretentious. Owners Chef Ted and Courtney Hastings are charming, the space is relaxing, the seating comfortable. And the short walk to the river behind the restaurant makes for a serene opening or finale to the meal.

Riverside Bar & Grille
1 Pier Drive
Ruskin, FL 33570
(813) 641-1600


Roasted Florida sweet onions

Welcome, spring!

Sunday night I used up the last of the Florida sweet onions I recently got from John Lawson at Hydro Harvest Farms in Ruskin. We were having family over for a simple hamburger dinner.

While I was looking for a side dish for my burgers, I remembered the recipe John shared for roasted onions.

As my son-in-law Ben came through the door, he said, "Mmm, something smells good. What are you cooking?"

Buttery and tender, the onions tasted as good as they smelled. I especially liked the ones I soaked in balsamic vinegar. Try them as a new side dish.

The preparation takes only a few minutes. If you're using smaller Florida onions, like I did, add only a quarter of a beef bouillon cube, and bake them for 45 minutes.


4 Florida sweet onions
4 cubes beef bouillon
4 tablespoons butter (substitute balsamic vinegar for less calories)

Preheat an outdoor grill on medium heat and lightly oil the grate, or roast in the oven at 400 degrees for one hour. Peel each onion and core out the center. Drop a beef bouillon in the core of each onion and cover the bouillon with 1 tablespoon of butter. Wrap tightly in aluminum foil to keep in the juices.

Hydro Harvest Farms
1101 Shell Point Rd. E.
Ruskin, FL 33570


Lunch at Ikea was väldigt bra or "very good" in Swedish

I've made several trips to Ikea lately, since we moved several weeks ago. We went from a cavernous kitchen with lots of cabinetry to a smaller one with about two-thirds less.

Shopping at Ikea is kind of a nightmare for me. I feel like I'm walking around in circles the entire time I'm there.

After an hour of wandering, we had worked up an appetite and needed to take a load off. This is when it got good. Lunch:

Our reward for meandering the maze of furniture displays was the Ikea cafeteria. It was a welcome haven with unexpected cafeteria fare-- a plate of gravlax beautifully arranged on a lettuce-lined dinner plate. Thin, lightly smoked slices of cured salmon were edged with fresh dill weed and a tangy mustard dill sauce. It was light, fresh and delicious.

This is a Princess Cake. I think the reason I got this was because of its name and the greenish yellow fondant that resembled a tennis ball. What the heck is a Princess Cake? Basically, it's a little ball of frozen cream with raspberry jam and white cake. Väldigt bra!


Top Chef All Star Tiffany Derry at the Rolling Pin in Brandon

Call me a sucker for southern chefs like Tiffany Derry. I couldn't wait to watch her in the kitchen this season on Bravo's Top Chef All Stars, after growing to love her when she competed in Season 7.

So when I had a chance for a pre-elimination chat with her this week, you could say I was rather excited. Only hours before her final episode aired, she was teaching a cooking class at the Rolling Pin Kitchen Emporium in Brandon.
We all wanted to ask her if she ended up being named Top Chef, since the show is still airing and she is in the final four. But she was under contract to stay mum, and she did.

I learned later that night she was sent packing after coming up short in a conch elimination round.

"Tonight's challenge was the most fun and CRAZY; I mean crazy!" she laughed.

She wasn't kidding! I watched the show later that night.

Dropped onto a beach for a conch dinner with three and half hours to prepare it, the cheftestants suddenly realized there was no actual conch to cook. Instead, they had to grab a snorkel and go get it.

I asked if contestants are allowed to bring secret ingredients with them to the competition, and if so, what did she bring? She told me she didn't bring anything on Season 7, because she didn't know what to expect. For Season 8, she packed mole powder from Mexico, preserved lemons and a pressure cooker.

When I asked her if she had any advice for aspiring young chefs, she said, "I have plenty! Keep your head down and keep cooking. It's the same advice my teacher used to tell me."

"Don't chase money, perfect your craft and learn the skills you need in a restaurant," she added.

It's apparent that Tiffany is passionate about her food.

She made a fresh baby beet salad with goat cheese mousse first, and then, pictured below, prepared roasted halibut with chorizo sauce and fennel salad. An unusual, red wine-braised short rib and creamy polenta with fig and prosciutto dish followed. Her dessert was bananas foster.

I wish I could tell you how yummy it all tasted, but there were so many people there, those of us taking pictures missed out.

Tiffany's co-opening a restaurant in August called Private Social. The "private" end of the restaurant will offer a quiet dining room with a chef-driven menu, while the "social" area will feature louder music and diners can order from a menu of small plates to share.

I can't wait for the next time I'm in Dallas.


Would-be chefs make gourmet foods

Teens aren't usually renowned for making nutritious, home-cooked meals, but 15 students showed the judges they were hot stuff at the first South County Career Center culinary arts competition.

Three teams of five students were challenged during the Iron Chef-inspired cook-off to create an appetizer, entree and dessert in 60 minutes.

Read about this culinary arts battle in my weekly Table Scraps column from today's SouthShore News & Tribune newspaper.