Next month marks the 6th anniversary of this blog and while I am super elated, I must say, I am also sad that the last two years this blog has been neglected. I have been over extended with work and family obligations and I did the worst thing possible…I put work before my passion and have been regretting it ever since. While I can’t turn back time, I CAN take a few steps back and go back to my roots and rekindle that spark that led me to create this website. I sat down one day and thought about who I was six years ago and why I started my blog. It was April of 2010 and I was working at a CPA Firm. Tax season had just wrapped up and I was ready for a break from working 6 days a week in preparation for the big 4/15 deadline. As I sat at my kitchen counter drinking coffee, I began to reflect on my life and the fact that I was still homesick after moving to Tampa in 2003. 7 years had gone by and I was still unhappy. While I knew that moving back was not an option, I decided to channel my energy into trying to fall in love with Florida rather than hating it. Suddenly a light bulb went off and I had an idea to start sharing my love of places that made me happy. That particular day “My Other City by the Bay” was born and I had no idea of what was in store for me. Since I began, I have traveled to Los Angeles, Seattle, Miami, San Francisco and many other places in Florida all in thanks to my blog. I should be so much further ahead in the blogoshere, but hey, it is never to late to start over. Today I am honored to share my latest obsession….4 Rivers Smokehouse.
I first heard about 4 Rivers when I saw them getting ready to open up a location in South Tampa a few miles from where I live. While I have not yet made it to the South Tampa location, I have heard nothing but rave reviews and after sampling some of their food at an event, I knew I had to go and fulfill my BBQ fantasies. One day while going through email, I came across a press release for 4 Rivers announcing a “bake-over” for their sweet shop which showcases their gorgeous in-house desserts. Intrigued, I reached out to them about writing a feature on my newly revamped blog. They invited me to their Carrolwood location and I went this past week with my kids.
OMG! I am still thinking about their “lip-smacking, finger-licking, who cares if you have sauce all over your face” food.
My kids and I made the trek to North Tampa (hey, when you live in South Tampa, anything North of Kennedy is a hike) and as soon as we parked the car, the three of us were drawn to the intoxicating scents that teased everyone in the parking lot. It was around 1 pm and the place was PACKED. We got in line and gazed at their menu while trying to make a decision, as everything sounded so dang good. My eyes lit up when I saw that they had a Santa Maria Tri-Tip Stacker, as it brought back delicious memories of backyard grilling with my dad back home in California. I knew what I wanted and literally got teary eyed when I was presented with my sandwich. Smoked aged beef finished over an open flame and served with their Smokehouse chimichurri sauce on grilled bread, it was life-changing. As we say in California, it was hella good. 4 Rivers certainly brought me back to some of my favorite flavors from California and this “stacker” made my list of Tampa Bay favorite dishes.
With so many sides to choose from such as mac n’ cheese, collard greens, potato salad, fried pickles, sweet potato casserole and cornbread, I knew I would have to limit myself so I could save room for dessert. I choose three (hey, I can eat) and went with smokehouse corn, collards and smoked jalapenos. Holy S&%t were they good! I devoured them in record time. If a picture speaks a thousand words, than I think this picture of one of my jalapenos speaks a million.
My son Rocco, a.k.a. “The Nutella Fella,” is a budding food blogger and documented his visit on his site. Be sure to read his post called “Wingin’ It at 4 Rivers Smokehouse” and see what his take was on what is now one of our new favorite places. Rocco absolutely loved their smoked chicken wings and was kind enough to give his mamma a bite. Wings are one of my favorite game-day, lazy Sunday foods and there is nothing I like more than grilled wings. As I imagined, they were perfection with sweet and smokey flavor.
Now to another highlight of our visit….their Sweet Shop. I am a girl with not only a sweet tooth, but an addiction to baking. I despise frozen desserts in restaurants for many reasons. As a young girl, I developed a passion for baking and love the feeling of pouring my heart into a recipe and tasting the sweet results. Nothing, and I mean nothing, compares to made from scratch desserts. Being that is was first time, I was not sure what to expect other than the amazing things I have heard about their desserts such as their Mountain Dew and Doritos® Cupcake and the Coca-Cola and Potato Chip Cupcake. One thing that immediately caught my eye were their whoopie pies. I have been trying to perfect my whoopie pie recipe and have been experimenting with seasonal flavors. 4 Rivers really set the bar high on this one. I took one home and enjoyed it over three days with my morning coffee. Yes, they are that huge! I don’t think I could eat an entire one in one sitting but the beauty of these giant whoopies is that you get to enjoy them longer.
My son loves anything red velvet and he chose one of their cupcakes. Thankfully he let me have a bite and let’s just say I would drive all the way back to Carrolwood for one of these beauties.
I did not get to try their Bayou Bars but have heard such incredible things that I will have to order one on my next visit.
These Birthday Cupcakes caught both of my kids eyes and it looks like my son’s 10th birthday (on 4/15) dinner will be at 4 Rivers.
As a child, I have such vivid memories of going to Disneyland and enjoying desserts at all of the little cafes. To this day, I still smile when I think about those desserts and the Sweet Shop at 4 Rivers reminded me so much of those glorious days as a child taking a drive down to Disneyland in Anaheim, CA. There were so many more desserts that I wanted to try such as their Spotted Cow Brownies and Buckeyes, but if I had one more bite of anything I think I would have lost the button on my pants. After my visit, I have decided I need to go back and focus purely on their desserts. I am thinking of planning an “sweets and tweets” meet up with fellow bloggers to showcase their magnificent desserts.
In honor of the rebirth of my blog and my incredible time at 4 Rivers, I have a gift card to give to a reader. I want to do this the old fashioned way, so if you want to win, just comment on this post and tell me what you most want to try at 4 Rivers. I will be picking a winner on March 31st, so be sure to share with your friends.