first friday st pete
St Pete and Clearwater are renowned as holiday destinations for sun and sand. Rightfully so. But after spending a month in St Pete and living like a local, I learned the so-called ‘Sunshine City’ has as much – if not more – to offer as its sugar sand-covered coastlines.

Read on for the 411 on block parties, local trends, some of the best food anywhere in America, and more.

first friday st pete
st johns pass
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sea salt st pete
It’s time to judge a book by its cover, my treasured foodie friends; Sea Salt is every bit as exquisite as its 22-foot tall wine tower, marble-topped raw bar, and general sweeping sumptuousity.

Naturally, I walked in skeptical. I have visited (and generally refused to review) a number of restaurants with a severe imbalance in style and substance. The meretricious disappointments are part and parcel of food writing.

Sea Salt is one of those glittering, infallible exceptions.

The chef and owner, Venice-native Fabrizio Aielli, is committed to excellence across the board – quality ingredients, quality staff, and quality menu curation that changes by the day.

It is perfection with a soul and – as the name would suggest – an international destination for all things sea and salt (the restaurant sells and serves 130 varieties of the latter).

Perusing the menu over a glass of Schramsberg Vineyard’s sparkling Chardonnay-based Blanc de Blanc, it almost felt rude to feign refusal of the oyster menu so my date and I kicked things off with the raw bar’s Tartufata (black truffle, burrata & leeks) and Kona Kampachi (avocado, red onion, capers & sweet chilli truffle sauce).

They were, without a doubt, the most flavourful oysters I have ever had and the start of a truly unforgettable culinary adventure.

Entrusting our uber knowledgable sommelier with all subsequent liquid decisions, we soaked up an inadvisable amount of Sriracha & truffle-infused salts into olive oil-soaked sourdough and settled in for the night.

Everything on the menu, defying logic and seeming possibility, tasted even better than it looked. From
Diver Sea Scallops (with cauliflower puree, apple, fennel, radichio & an incredible vandouvan curry nage), to Octopus (with smoked paprika, beluga lentils, chorizo & tomato marmalade), to Saffron Cavatelli (with Maine lobster, green peas & an ingenious mascarpone-prosecco sauce), to homemade ravioli (pack with tender braised veal and ricotta in a black truffle sauce), every flourish mattered.

By this point, the sommelier’s phenomenal choices (highlights of which included Delaporte Sancerre with the scallops and Caparzo Brunello di Montalcino with the Cavatelli) settled in and had me waxing lyrical – a tad too vehemently, perhaps – about my love of surf and turf.

Before I knew it, the chef had sent out an off-the-menu ode of his own; their yellowfin tuna (atop seared Hudson foie gras, black venere rice, wasabi pea aioli & a carrot-white soy emulsion) and the most unbelievably tender black Angus fillet mignon (cushioned by burrata-whipped potatoes and a Cabernet Bordelaise). Paired with a glass of Bootleg’s luscious Merlot/Petit Sirah/Cabernet Sauvignon/Syrah/Zinfande red blend, I reached ecstasy’s inevitable breaking point.

From start to finish – hostess to waitress – I could not have asked for more from Sea Salt.

But I suppose since my takeaway box of gourmet, silken chocolates from Norman Love (I live for the “Hot Dark”) lasted all of 24 hours, I’ll have to return at every opportunity over my final two weeks in St Pete to do exactly that…

YOLO and then some.

sea salt st pete
sea salt st pete
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st pete street art
Less than twelve hours after returning home from Italy, I hopped over the Atlantic to embark on a week-long rediscovery of St Pete in Florida.

As I’ve mentioned before, my go-to approach when getting to know a city is walking as much of it as I can so was pleased to schedule myself in for Florida CraftArt‘s St Pete Mural Tour as an adult introduction to a part of America I hadn’t seen for over ten years.

The two-hour tour took our small group of enthusiasts, locals and tourists through the backstreets of St Pete’s ‘Arts District’ – centred, appropriately, around Central Ave – and matured into the most inspiring city initiation imaginable.

Though I would never have expected it (based on misconceptions I will delve into in an upcoming blog), St Pete’s arts scene is thriving. During the recession, the city’s artists took the opportunity to own and rent studio space cheaper than ever before and manifested a progressive community of their very own.

With government assistance, the city’s walls have become powerful canvases. A compelling collection of metaphorical graffiti art, societal commentary, and love letters to the city from the esteemed likes of Ricky Watts, Sebastian Coolidge, Man Made Murals (their comic-inspired “Saint Tampasburg” is an illusory feat), and more.

Personally, highlights included the giant shark mural by LA-based Shark Toof, a ‘Man vs. Ape’ collaboration between artists Bask and Palehorse (much of Bask’s contribution was influenced by the themes in George Orwell’s 1984), and a touching memorial to St Pete’s own Bill Correira. The latter – dedicated to the artist better known at Woo – began as an overnight portrait project from friend and fellow artist Derek Donnelly as soon as word of Woo’s unexpected death hit him in 2012. In the four years since, members of the city at large have contributed personal pieces to the memorial, immortalizing Woo in a glorious underwater permanence.

It took less than the two full hours to feel intoxicated by the creativity, community, and art in St Pete, and this was only the beginning…

st pete street art
st pete street art
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