Last evening, we celebrated The Trout's birthday by going with friends to Tampa, to a restaurant we have long been wanting to try. In fact, we had reservations for New Year's Eve, when I came down with the worst cold, so we had to cancel. Last night, we made it and enjoyed every moment.
Bern's Restaurant in Tampa, is well worth the drive. From the moment you walk in, you know you are in a special place. If you care to do so, check the menu at their website. It is a large book and the waiter explains everything with a great sense of humor.
Prime steaks are what we wanted last evening. They are sold by the ounce and by thickness and cut. You choose. The kitchen guide told us that they trim the steaks and it takes 4 pounds of meat to get to the 1 pound of steak they find acceptable for serving. Along with this you get French onion soup, two side vegetables, their signature deep fried onion rings, a baked potato with all the toppings you want, and a salad with a wide choice of dressings.
They grow their own vegetables on a 14 acre farm. It is the job of the newest, young employees, to keep the farm producing.
The wine list is a very heavy book, but a condensed version of the most popular wines is available. After dinner, we got a tour of the kitchen. Can you imagine? What restaurant lets you tour the kitchen and explains each station and what is going on?
And then a tour of the wine cellar. They have the largest wine cellar in the WORLD. Attached to the restaurant is a cellar kept at 50 degrees F holding 100,000 bottles of wine. Across the street in a separate building, 900,000 bottles are kept at ideal temperature. Some of the wines are old and well-aged, including a Madeira from 1907. Bottles from the 1950's. Our guide said that even wine connoisseurs from France come to their restaurant for wine that is no longer available in Europe. I should add, the wines are very fairly priced. The price at time of purchase holds and no mark up after that.
Do you think this is the end? Far from it. Now we are escorted upstairs in the restaurant, to the dessert room. Rounded half barrels with a table and chairs and a lot of privacy invited us to rest. On the wall was a music selection where we could push a button and listen to classical music, jazz, you name it.
Then came the dessert menu. We decided to share a Framboise Macadamia Decadence. Chocolate cake, raspberries, macadamia nut sorbet, raspberry sorbet. Well, you get the picture. Coffee and the birthday boy had an Armagnac.
A lovely evening and a birthday to remember. As usual, I get too involved in taking everything in, so the only picture I remembered to take was the French onion soup. Not a large bowl, but just the right size. No bread except for thin spelt cracker bread and Parmesan toasts. I liked this idea, because it is so easy to fill up on good, warm, bread and not be able to enjoy the rest of the meal.
I hope if you are near Tampa one day and feel the urge for something out of the ordinary, you will remember Bern's Restaurant.
The island S. Francesco del Deserto
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