Five to Try January – Two More Down!

As those of you following me know, I have embarked on a mission to knock off five new things to learn or try every month this year, a new creative project for 2011 that I’m calling FIVE TO TRY. So far, I’ve begun a new 6-week art class at the Carrollwood Cultural Arts Center, which I return to tonight after my first week of oil painting (our second and final week of oils is tonight, in fact). And between yesterday and today, I’ve tackled two more on the list… a new restaurant —  make that  two and my own little battle of the Thai restaurants and a new gallery/museum.


Thai-ing One On…TWICE!

First of all, I’d like to just say that much as I’m quite happy to see everybody trying new things, I’m all for adding new vocabulary words, too, and good going, Conan O’Brien, for trying to get folks to embrace the word “thrice!” I don’t have an actual tie-in to my story since mine involves TWICE not THRICE, but I just wanted to go on record supporting this latest effort to make America smarter. Good luck with that, Conan. You have a long road ahead of you.

Now, back to the main topic at hand…Thai. Eating it and eating lots of it. Often. Okay, I didn’t plan on eating Thai food for lunch two days in a row. It just happened. And I’m not complaining. I don’t complain about anything as delicious as Pad Thai Tofu. Who would?  A crazy person, that’s who.  I usually have my favorite Thai spots – one in S. Tampa, one in New Tampa, one in Carrollwood. With all of my favorite spots, who needs to explore and find new ones, right? Wrong. That’s entirely the point of Five to Try…there’s always something new to try, and this year, I’m going to learn that firsthand.

So Tuesday, I joined my charming friend Wendy of I Know My Plan for a nice business lunch over in Tampa Palms and a restaurant I’d never tried, Thai Ruby. The decor reminded me of one of my favorites (Thai Terrace near Dale Mabry and 275), and the food was pretty good, too. Certainly pretty enough to earn a thumbs up. Don’t ya think?

And if you’re a Thai restaurant, there’s one easy way to score big with me. A nice little soup and munchy before the meal – and when you bring mine especially made for little vegetarians like me, you really win big… then follow up lunch with a tasty little donut for a sweet after-thought. Mmm. I like it. Service was good. Setting nice. Price reasonable. Yes, I’d recommend it . It’s just a few doors away from Peabody’s, so you can even follow-it up with a little eight-ball if you’re so inclined.

I wasn’t.

Then today, it was time for Thai Ruby to take on the competition… and I had to search far and wide, even across a long long bridge to get together (okay, not really – just the Howard Frankland). My groovy friend Ester of made the suggestion to meet up at Bangkok No. 9 off Central Av. in downtown St. Pete. I had tried another Thai restaurant further down the road with some success, so I was optimistic.

It didn’t help that I got there about 20 minutes late, something that’s not the most unusual thing for me but really late for me regretfully. Thankfully, I gave her the heads up and we arrived within minutes of each other.

And the service again was very pleasant, the food tasty and wow, what huge portions. I  must say that I was a little disappointed that there was no before snack or donuts afterward, so points docked for missing out on that opportunity to dazzle me, but I do think I liked the taste of the Pad Thai just a little bit more than Thai Ruby’s.

It did lose points for appearance though. A bit fugly, don’t you think?  Same dish as yesterday but presentation leaves a bit to be desired.

But afterward, we shared a little of their green tea ice cream and found heaven on a plate in the form of three quickly melting scoops! Wow, was that tasty.

I still have the rest of my Pad Thai Tofu in a container in my backseat. Since I don’t usually carry utensils in my car, I’m not quite sure how the heck I can enjoy the rest of this dish tonight as I work until my evening art class. But I just had to take it. It’s the principle of the thing, you see…

So in the battle of Thai Ruby New Tampa vs. Bangkok No. 9 St. Petersburg, the winner is…

well, if I can keep my eyes shut, Bangkok No. 9, but if I’m looking at the whole package, ambience, apps, dessert included, good price, convenience and proximity to my Wesley Chapel home, etc., well, duh. Thai Ruby wins that one.


A New-seum for Moi…Florida Craftsmen Gallery (St. Pete)

I’ve been saying for some time that I was going to check out this downtown St. Pete gallery, so what better time than when I’m just down the block eating fugly Thai food and not getting a parking ticket (inside joke for Ester!)

As I walked through the front door, I was so impressed with how friendly the staff was. They greeted me promptly and welcomed me to the gallery. I don’t know why when I imagined the work at the Florida Craftsmen Gallery, I pictured woven baskets, earth colored clay, and lots of brown and bland colors – no idea why, I just did. But it was so colorful, bold and eye-catching as I peeked inside the corner museum off Central Ave. It was a pleasant surprise.

I struck up a little conversation with the hostess, and she showed me to the Gallery’s latest show celebrating fashion and innovative use of materials. I use the term “innovative” loosely. REALLY loosely.

Here’s one dress made up entirely of surgical gloves. (I won’t say what I thought it was made of because you readers are going to begin thinking I’m a perv after my last blog about my first art class.)

How do you like this one? Different, huh?

Funny, I don’t have anything like that hanging in my closet…

Perhaps I should pick one up… at Discount Auto Parts?

This was just one exhibit on display. Much of the art throughout the Florida Craftsmen Gallery was more traditional, colorful glass pieces, unique handcrafted jewelry, interesting home accessories and items that were pretty to look at but quite a bit out of my price range. Still, I appreciated the work, time and talent that went into them.

If you happen to be visiting one of the many restaurants down busy Central Av. in downtown St. Pete, be sure to leave yourself another 20-30 minutes to jog down the street to check out one of the many art galleries or museums like the Florida Craftsmen Gallery or Morean Arts Center. They are free but certainly welcome and deserve our donations.

See what the area’s most creative minds have churning in their noggins. You might be pleasantly surprised at what you find.

Or you might recognize it as something under the hood of your car.

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