Ravens at Buccaneers, Sunday Oct. 12, 1:00 p.m., Raymond James Stadium, CBS
As a former resident of Tampa, allow me to clear something up: there's no such city as Tampa Bay. Tampa Bay is, like our Chesapeake, a big body of water forming an indentation of the shoreline, larger than a cove but smaller than a gulf. It's also a term used to describe the entire region, which includes the cities of Clearwater and St. Petersburg.
Tampa conjures fond memories for Ravens fans. It was at Raymond James Stadium in the lightning capital of the country (or is it?) that Baltimore beat the Giants in Super Bowl XXXV (Jermaine Lewis might still be running). But the team that usually occupies RayJa? No one would call the Bad News Bucs super. During its inaugural season in 1976, Tampa Bay failed to win a single game. How much better are they now? Not much. The Buccaneers struggled to a 4-12 record last year, and this season they've managed just one win of their five games.
What to Eat: The Cuban sandwich, a delicious layering of ham, roast pork, salami, swiss cheese, mustard, and pickle on Cuban bread, is Tampa's official sandwich (take that Miami). It's hard to find one in Baltimore. Little Havana on Key Highway has a serviceable version, but for a truly authentic taste you'll need to drive about a half hour south to the fabulous Cuba de Ayer in Burtonsville (15446 Old Columbia Pike).
If that's too far, make your own. This is how Chef Gerardo Gonzales of Tapas Adela and Anastasia in Fells Point honors the Cuban sandwich tradition: "Use thin-sliced smoked ham and sliced roasted pork, swiss and provolone cheeses on ciabatta bread. Add sliced pickles and a healthy portion of both mojo (see below) and mustard, then warm it in a Panini press or on the grill until the cheese begins to ooze out."
- 1 cup olive oil
- ¾ cup and two tablespoons of fresh lime juice
- ¾ cup of orange juice
- ½ cup of chopped fresh cilantro
- 8 minced garlic cloves
- 1 tablespoon of grated orange peel
- 1 tablespoon of dried oregano
- 2½ teaspoons of ground cumin
- 1½ teaspoons of salt
- 1½ teaspoons of pepper.
What to Drink: Gasparilla is an annual parade and Mardi Gras-like celebration of debauchery that takes place each winter in Tampa. People dress up like pirates, elbow one another out of the way to catch beads thrown from floats, and drink copious amounts of alcohol. Pandora's Punch packs that requisite alcohol, and it actually tastes good. (Recipe from the Tampa Bay Times.)
- chablis or chardonnay
- lemon-lime soda
- pineapple juice
- club soda
- pineapple, lemon and lime garnishes
Fill a tall glass with ice. Fill halfway with white wine, one shot of vodka, a splash of lemon-lime soda, and a splash of pineapple juice. Garnish with a lime wedge or a pineapple wedge.
If You Go: Raymond James Stadium is located on the outskirts of Tampa on a Route 40-like stretch of road jammed with chain restaurants and strip clubs. If a mediocre steak from Outback and a lap dance at Mons Venus is your thing, then hey, more power to you. If not, head to Columbia Restaurant (2117 E. 7th Ave.) in the Ybor City neighborhood. I can't validate its claim as Florida's oldest restaurant, but I can assure you that it serves a delicious Cuban sandwich in a delightful old-school environment. The main stretch of Seventh Avenue is crowded with bars, restaurants, shops, and boutique cigar houses that sell hand rolled sticks. Downtown, Hattricks (107 South Franklin St.) is a sports bar housed in a three-story brick building that dates back to 1907. TVs and sports memorabilia are everywhere. The Hub (719 N. Franklin St.) pours the stiffest drink you'll ever have.
The community of Davis Island is located in Hillsborough Bay. It's an eclectic mix of middle class houses and mansions (including Derek Jeter's, dubbed “St. Jetersburg"), and its cute little main stretch reminds me of a more laid back Canton Square. Yeoman's Road Pub (236 E. Davis Blvd.) has a huge selection of international beers and microbrews, and often great live music.