The “Unleash Your Palate” Tampa Bay Food & Wine Experience, the most exotic wine and food event of the year, will be taking place in Downtown Tampa from February 16-19, 2012. This four-day food celebration showcases the area’s phenomenal wine and spirits producers, along with local chefs and restaurants through special events and connections with some of the Tampa’s most popular dining destinations.

Date: Saturday, February 18, 2012
Hours: VIP -Noon to 1 p.m., General admission -1 p.m. to 4 p.m.
Admission: $100 VIP, $75 General admission, $85 at the door

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The Grande Experience Tasting showcases some of the world’s finest wines from the most talented winemakers, as well as masterfully created dishes from the Tampa Bay area’s most skillful chefs. Participants are invited to peruse the exhibit tables and sample culinary creations from local restaurateurs and purveyors while sipping on a glass of wine or spirits, letting their imaginations roam and creating their own flavor combinations. Still looking for more? Attend a Grand Tasting Village Seminar and learn how to taste and judge wine like a pro, where the world’s greatest wine is the one you like best.


Mini Treats

Location TBA
Date: Friday, February 17, 2012
Hours: VIP -7 p.m. to 11 p.m., General admission – 8 p.m. to 11 p.m.
Admission: $45

Hosted by MINI Cooper and sponsored by Puff ‘n’ Stuff Events Catering and The International Culinary Schools at the Art Institutes, this nighttime rendezvous is a complete festival for the senses. Participants will be invited to ride along in a 2012 MINI Cooper through Tampa Bay’s historic Ybor City. Music and décor provided by Carsmetics of Tampa offer the perfect atmosphere for a dance party. And what would a party be without delectable finger foods? The Mini Treats event is designed around the concept of a “perfect bite.” Local chefs and restaurants will be presenting some of their most popular bite-sized works of culinary art to complete the festive ambiance.


Pricing: $11-$30
Hours: Mon to Thurs -11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m., Fri to Sat -11:30 a.m. to 11 p.m., Sun -11:30 a.m. to 9 p.m.

The Wine Exchange Bistro & Wine Bar offers a casual, relaxing environment for those looking for a break from the norm. Whether going solo at the bar or catching up with friends on the patio, wine lovers can sample over 40 different wines by-the-glass from all over the globe or enjoy a mixed drink from the fully-stocked bar. The bistro also offers delightful lunch and dinner menus, including appetizers (try the baked brie), soups, salads, pasta, pizzas and meat and seafood entrees. The menu features both American and Italian specialties, from smoked baby back ribs and chili rubbed plank steak to chicken piccata and gnocchi.

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Price: $10-$15
Hours: Fri to Sat -11:30 a.m. to 2 a.m., Sat to Sun -5:30 p.m. to 2 p.m.

TAPS Wine, Beer and Eatery is the winner of the 2011 Best of the Bay award and offers a selection of over 250 beers from all over the world, 30 of which are available on tap, in addition to over 100 wines. Diners can also choose from a diverse menu of appetizers and entrees, including tapas, salads and sandwiches. An upscale bar with a casual atmosphere, it provides the perfect environment for business lunches as well as lazy days with friends and family.

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Price: $9 – $25
Hours: Mon -Noon to 12 a.m., Tues to Thurs -4 p.m. to 10 p.m., Fri to Sat -4 p.m. to 11 p.m., Sun -Noon to 9 p.m.

Vincenzo Longo is the owner and chef of Vincenzo’s Grill and specializes in Italian cuisine. The restaurant offers separate breakfast, lunch and dinner menus, along with an extensive wine and beverage list capable of pleasing any palate. The breakfast menu features traditional American-style dishes such as western omelets, buttermilk pancakes and healthier choices like the egg white omelet and fresh fruit plate. The lunch menu begins at 11 a.m. and features soups, salads and pasta dishes, as well as staples like burgers and sandwiches with an Italian flare. The Calabrese Panino (hot pressed sandwich), for example, is layered with thinly sliced prosciutto, fresh mozzarella, roasted peppers and saba (a sweet syrup made from grape juice). It is the dinner menu, however, that really steals the show. Traditional Italian dishes such as lasagna, chicken marsala and eggplant parmigiana are served, but Vincenzo serves up some exquisite unfamiliar dishes as well. The chicken or veal gorgonzola comes in a white wine gorgonzola cream sauce with mushrooms and asparagus. Mangia!

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Amanda Mole has been writing since she was old enough to hold a pencil and cooking since she was tall enough to reach the stove. She believes that food provides more than just vital nutrients: it is an irreplaceable part of countless cultural and social activities. As a Tampa Bay resident for the past 21 years, she is well acquainted with the incredibly diverse range of restaurants, bars, and food festivals that the area has to offer. Her work can be found at

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