First Stop, Tampa!

On Sunday May 31 I set out for my first real "life on the road" work trip. 

For the most part, I really like travelling for work, and I know I'm incredibly lucky that I get to do it. 17 days was a long time though, I will say! And eating at really nice restaurants for breakfast lunch and dinner sounds really awesome, and it is, until you feel gross. 

"Just choose something healthy on the menu and don't eat too much!" you may be thinking. That's what I thought every morning when I woke up too.  Trust me, it's not as easy as it sounds. 

I guess now is a good time to mention that I couldn't really run at this point (and spoiler alert: I still can't). My IT band was killing me ever since the Brooklyn Half and I knew I needed to take it easy if I was going to start training for the Suffolk County Marathon in July (spoiler alert: That's definitely not happening anymore). I am however proud to say I exercised almost every day that we were on the road - whether it was abs and arms, the elliptical, or going for a 2 mile jog (maybe I shouldn't be proud of that but we were right on a pretty river trail!) 

DAY ONE - May 31
JFK --> Tampa
First things first, of course, was lunch. I started out healthy - ordering this delicious summer salad with spinach, strawberries, blueberries, grilled chicken, etc. 

Oh yeah, and a side of sweet potatoes with a maple syrup dipping sauce. 

The hotel in Tampa was right on the water and I had a balcony! There was a running path all the way from our hotel to the Amalie Arena (about 3 miles there and back). 

After we unpacked we headed to Target to stock up on snacks for the crew trailers. Oh dear, so many snacks. Please, take a look at what would be my temptations for almost 3 weeks. Constantly there. Peanut Butter.  Nutella. Reese's. Poptarts.  Gummy vitamins? 

(Biggest temptation? FROSTED ANIMAL CRACKERS)

At one point, one of my coworkers put a sign listing how many calories were in each type of chocolate in the candy bowl. Yikes. Wish I could say it stopped me... 

When we were done with that, we dropped it all off at the arena to our trailers (yes, we work out of trailers - glamorous~!) It was HOT and HUMID like WHOAH. 

Then, we headed back to the hotel to work on our laptops for a little while and watched this thunderstorm roll in. Working for a little while turned into working for a lot and realizing crap it's 9 p.m. we should eat dinner.  So we headed down the hotel lobby restaurant and grabbed something quick. 

I ordered this salad with grilled salmon, sliced apple, celery and avocado ranch dressing.

DAY TWO - June 1
Work day in the trailers. 

Look what they delivered at lunch time! Dear lord. 

Dinner Monday night was at a tapas restaurant in the hoppin' Tampa neighborhood of Ybor City.  Columbia Restaurant is Florida's oldest restaurant. We walked in and were blown away by how large it was! 

We ate lots and lots of tapas and drank lots and lots of sangria and THEN we all ordered entrees. 

I ordered the Pompano en Papillot - Boneless fillet of Pompano with seafood stuffing of shrimp, crabmeat, artichoke, butter and white wine, wrapped in parchment paper and baked. Served with yellow rice.

I also needed a side salad BECAUSE it's famous and they prepare it table-side. 

USA Today named it "One of the 10 Great Places to Make a Meal out of a Salad." That spoke to me. Because a salad CAN BE A MEAL. 

When this salad came out, it made me really nostalgic, because it was served in the same dish that my favorite salad of all-time is served in.  It's from an Italian restaurant near my house on Long Island and I love it because it comes with cheese and salami and a delicious BEAN SALAD. I'm sorry, I need to cool it on the caps. 

(This is really not a pretty picture, I apologize) 

DAY THREE - June 2
Another work day at the arena. 

Dinner was perhaps the most over the top dinner I've ever experienced. Like their website says, it truly was a "unique culinary experience." 

To start, when we boarded the free shuttle van at the hotel to go to dinner, the bell-hop informed one of my coworkers that he wouldn't be allowed in wearing shorts, and should change into pants - unless he wanted to go to Bern's "pants room" to rent a pair. 

When we walked in, we were blown away by how massive the restaurant was and how fancy it was inside - in an old fashioned kind of way. 

Next, we sat down and were informed that after dinner, there is a separate "dessert room" - the waiter asked if we would like to make a reservation for the dessert room after our meal - to which will all emphatically answered yes. 

The menu was ridiculously extensive. You could tell this place was a legit steakhouse because of the way they listed their steaks - by thickness and weight and categorized by each cut. They even had an entire chart for you to figure out how you like your steak cooked! 

But this place didn't just have steak - they had EVERYTHING. 

And guess what each entree comes served with? I don't think you're ready for this. I really don't think you. We had to check with the waiter to make sure we were reading it correctly. 
French Onion Soup
Baked Potato
Onion Rings
Vegetable Tasting 

Mind. Blown.

That all seemed incredibly overwhelming to me - plus I knew there was a DESSERT ROOM to follow. 

So after PLENTY of shared appetizers, I ordered a Bern's Steakhouse Cobb Salad and a Lobster Surf Roll.

Perhaps my favorite part was the side I insisted on ordering for the table - CARROT FRIES! Be still my heart. 

The Cobb Salad was delicious as well and loaded with lots of different things - crispy onion straws as you can see, asparagus, eggs, AVOCADO, mushrooms, tomatoes, black olives, onion, and their homemade dressing.  

The Lobster Surf Roll wasn't my favorite thing ever, but it was very different, which I could appreciate. It was served with Coconut lime ponzu and mango tobiko.

Once we were sufficiently full - it was time to head to the Harry Waugh dessert room. Bern's is like a maze - one our way to the dessert room, we passed the ginormous kitchen (which you can go on a tour of if you want your meal to last 5 hours instead of the 4 it took us!) 

We were led to our own little cask enclosed booth/room. Casks are wood that have something to do with where they store alcohol or something...I could research it, but there's a lot of catching up to do and if you really care you can Google it yo'self! 

The point is, we were in our own cozy little room where we noticed there was a phone with buttons that let us control what type of music played in the room. 

Then the waitress informed us that if we picked up the phone, Kenny the house piano player would take requests and we could have it play into the room. Well, of course everyone wanted to make a request after that. It kept us quite entertained. Thanks Kenny! 

Looking back, I wish I had ordered the Macadamia Nut Sundae, or "The Best Sundae in the world." Because I tried a bite of my coworkers, and let me tell you, it really was the best. 

I ordered the Banana Cheese Pie but I must say, I prefer my dad's made with instant pudding mix. 

A bunch of us also split the Brown Sugar which came with 3 different desserts ~moderation~. The Chocolate chip cookie dough cheesecake, cookies & cream ice cream sandwich, and warm brown sugar blondie. 



DAY FOUR - June 3
Game Day! 

Look at how cute the catering desserts were in Tampa! 

And look at the concoctions I make myself to try to not eat chocolate... 

(Banana + Peanut Butter + Raisins + Coconut Flax Granola)

DAY FIVE - June 4
When we got back to the hotel after a day of work, we were greeted by this beautiful sunset! 

(I love Long Island sunsets more than anything, but I gotta say - this one was a winner!) 

Eventually, we headed out to dinner at a restaurant I had found online that looked right up my alley. Farm to table. With a wall in the restaurant that grows kale! It was called Boca and it was definitely my favorite meal. 

For a drink, I got something delicious with tequila (at least I think, it's usually a safe bet that that's what I ordered!)  

For appetizers, we all split:
Yellow Fin Tuna Tartare
Brie & Apple Flatbread
Sweet Potato Gnocchi 

Dear Sweet Potato Gnocchi,
You came served with earthy Oyster mushrooms, fresh butternut squash, crisp broccolini and rich sage cream and micro parmesan.  You changed my life.


For dinner, I really wanted the House Kale Salad with pear and sunflower seeds, but they were out of Kale so I just told them to make a tasty salad and THEY SUCCEEDED. 

I also took a picture of other people's meals because they were so bright and pretty. 

(The were the special of the night. Holy cow.) 

(Yellow fin tuna with kimchi fried rice, coconut broth, baby bok choy and a sweet soy reduction) 

Want to guess if we ordered dessert?

We did. 

We got the BEET CAKE which was like carrot cake but made with beets! It was pretty tasty, except for the beet puree on the side that looked like sweet raspberry sauce but actually just tasted like dirt. I like beets, and I get offended when people say they taste like dirt, but the sauce really did taste like dirt so OKAY FINE maybe sometimes beets taste a little earthy. 

We also got the seasonal fruit cobbler which was SO SWEET. For normal humans it probably would have been too much, but for someone with a sweet tooth like mine, it was delicious. 

So do you want to hear a funny story?

My mom recently visited family in Florida and while she was there, she texted me from brunch and said, "Lauren, I'm at this really cute place with lots of vegetables and lettuce growing on the wall and also huge Bloody Mary's. You would love it her!" My mom knows me really well. Because turns out, it was the same restaurant! Too funny. 

(You're right Mom, I like plants growing on walls! And fresh ingredients! And brightly colored food! And restaurants that are vintage chic and in old gas stations!) 

To be continued...