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Jeff Houck

The Tampa Tribune’s food writer since 2005, Jeff Houck covers the way people live through their food. He also hosts the Table Conversations food podcast and believes that everything crunchy is good.

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Chad Johnson Plans Elevage ‘Pop-Up’ At SideBern’s [Preview Flavors Of Epicurean Hotel]

Posted Sep 20, 2013 by Jeff Houck

Updated Sep 20, 2013 at 06:21 PM


Food lovers hungry for the Epicurean hotel to open on South Howard Avenue will get an early taste next month of the culinary resort’s flavors.

Chad Johnson, the executive chef at SideBern’s who will manage the Epicurean’s food operations, plans to create a pop-up preview featuring items from the hotel’s upcoming Elevage restaurant.

From Oct. 15-19, dishes planned for Elevage’s menu will be previewed at SideBern’s, Johnson said Friday.

“We want to create a little buzz,” he said. “We want to give everyone a taste of what we will be doing down there.”

The Epicurean is a joint partnership between Mainsail Lodging & Development, Bern’s Steak House and Marriott. Mainsail is building the 140-room hotel across from the steak house with a culinary theme, while Bern’s is providing the land and parking garage. Staff from the Bern’s restaurants will handle the food.

Marriott is already booking lodging reservations. When it opens Dec. 18, the Epicurean will feature Elevage, the Chocolate Pi patisserie, Bern’s Fine Wines & Spirits and a theater kitchen on the first floor, as well as a rooftop bar called Edge Social Drinkery.


The a la carte menu during the preview week will feature nearly 40 choices of comfort food in a fine-dining atmosphere, most of which will be dinner entrees. About a dozen will be side dishes served as small plates. The savory omelet carbonara will offer a glimpse of the breakfast menu. The lunch menu’s Duck Duck Goose burger, made with a ground duck patty filled with foie gras and goose confit and topped with currant ketchup, also will make the menu. Foie also finds itself into the matzo ball soup - each matzo ball is filled with foie instead of smaltz. Chicken consomme will be poured tableside into the bowl from a French press that also contains chilis and lemon thyme.

Appetizers will offer unique takes on classic hors d’oeuvres and canapés such as lobster roll-flavored pâte à choux and venison or ducks.

“I’m still fooling around with the idea of a take on pigs in a blanket,” he says. “Might be venison in a blanket or duck in a blanket. If you can tell me a more classic American hors d’oeuvre than pigs in blanket, I’m all ears.”

Lasagna made with lamb shoulder, spinach, chestnuts and Taleggio cheese, as well as marinated salmon roasted in cedar paper will be among entree choices.

Desserts by chef Kim Yelvington include a play on shortcake with raspberries and plums and whipped buttermilk as well as variations of root beer floats with Coca Cola ice cream and house-made cherry soda.

Epicurean Hotel Food Launch

Spirits director Dean Hurst plans several classic cocktails made with barrel-aged syrups made in-house.

The Old Fashioned, for example will use the syrup aged for seven weeks in a whiskey barrel instead of the traditional sugar.

“There’s so much great cinnamon flavor and tannins in the cocktail from that,” Hurst said. “It’s still 100 percent an Old Fashioned. It’s just been just modified by one of the ingredients.”

He also plans to do a grilled lemon sour, where the juice from the grilled lemon would be squeezed and strained into a whiskey sour

“They are little things that make the cocktail better but you wouldn’t know the difference in technique,” he said. “That’s what we want.”

Epicurean Hotel Groundbreaking

Johnson says he’s excited to unleash ideas on the plate that have been in formation for a long time.

“This menu has been spinning out of my head for a year now into notebooks and on napkins and whatever I could write on,” Johnson said. “The hardest part is narrowing down the menu.”

For pop-up reservations, call Monday at (813) 258-2233.


* * * * *


* Epicurean hotel goes eclectic with food.

* Epicurean hotel set to break ground across from Bern’s

* The Bern’s legend: Separating fact from fiction

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