After a tough day of exploring the mangroves of Weedon Island (actually a peninsula) for crabs and birds to photograph, I needed somewhere to eat. Noble Crust looked as good a place as any. Their tagline is: Seasonal Italian Southern Soul. I asked what this meant and was told that they make Italian-style meals sometimes using ingredients from the southern USA. It is seasonal because they use local, fresh ingredients that are in season, and therefore have to mix up the menu every few months. That sounded good enough to me.
I love mushrooms, so I settled on ordering the mushroom pizza to share. It was amazing. Each slice actually got better as I ate it. The pizza was made with a thin crust cooked just short of burnt (the way I like my toast) and covered with mozzarella, parsley, and giant chunks of soft, juicy mushrooms. The only thing that could have made it better was red pepper flakes (which they provided).
Afterwards, I ordered something I don’t remember the name of because my eyes stopped on the word Nutella and wouldn’t move after that. What I got was sweet hazelnut madness. It had ice cream, cookies, hazelnuts, and was covered with Nutella.
8300 Fourth Street N, Saint Petersburg, Florida
It’s hard to know where to begin on this one. There are trails and boardwalks. In some places, the boardwalks stretch quite a distance in nearly straight lines while all around is green. It is only from the observation tower that I was able to see Saint Petersburg, Tampa, and all the way across the bay to the Big Bend power station just peeking above the treetops. The boardwalks lead to several observation platforms that jut out over lagoons where birds feed. Some are completely enclosed by mangroves. Others are open to Tampa Bay only by narrow straights. There is only one extreme corner of one platform in the park the picture below could have been taken from. If the photograph had better resolution, you would be able to see all the way to Apollo Beach.
Haslam’s Book Store on Central Avenue in Saint Petersburg is big. How big? Big enough to contain more than 300,000 books. Books cover nearly every inside surface from top to bottom, and for those of us that love books, being in Haslam’s is like being a kid in a candy store (or like anybody in a candy store, really). Often coming in brightly-colored covers just like candy, every book contains an entire world of fun that can last many weeks or longer (and yet has zero calories).
Haslam’s is so big that they actually have a store map. One could otherwise be lost for years between the seemingly endless shelves. It would not surprise me if there were still customers in the back that haven’t seen the sun since opening day. There might be generations of descendants of the original book browsers deep in the bowels of the place (hmmm…that sounds like an idea for a book).
Haslam’s was started in 1933 by John and Mary Haslam and is now in its third generation of the family and at its fourth location. The owners have been active in the community, conducting field trips, book fairs, and once even had a show on PBS.
One can find practically any subject covered in Haslam’s. There is an entire room devoted to history. There is a room for psychology and self-help. There are sections for computer science and for physics. There are lots of art books. There are new books and old books, including rare books perhaps not found anywhere else you are ever likely to be. There are long-forgotten science fiction and fantasy titles from the forties, fifties, and sixties. Each book opens up a new world, and Haslam’s is a world of books. Haslam’s is a hidden treasure itself filled with many smaller hidden treasures.
2025 Central Avenue, St. Petersburg, Florida
Whether you just want to sit on the porch in the shade of the trees with a coffee while you write your next novel, meet your friends for pesto chicken wraps in the cozy indoor nook, or wander from room to room enjoying the sculptures, pottery, glasswork, woodwork, jewelry, and paintings of local artists, at The Craftsman House in Saint Petersburg, you can do all three in the same day. At least, this is what I would do if I went again. Everything is for sale, including the stone-like salt shakers and the glass spheres decorating the dining room window. Where else can you find pasta salad (an amazing work of art itself), beer, wine, apple cider (cold, hot, or hard), roast beef sandwiches (haven’t tried them yet), and squash that looks like this?
I would probably eat a lot more squash if it were always that pretty. On second thought, I’d probably break my teeth that way. Never mind. I also do not recommend eating the flowers, the lobster, or the gnomes – unless of course you have metal jaws like those guys below.
There is an open pottery studio on site and sometimes concerts. Check the website for hours, menu, and special events.
2955 Central Avenue, St. Petersburg, Florida
Amy Webb may not always be mad, but she has always been a potter. Before she turned it into a business, plant care was her life-long hobby. Now she decorates public and private spaces with her living artwork. Her company offers maintenance, delivery, and on-site arrangement of container gardens anywhere in Pinellas County. She can give décor advice and knows how to pick out the right plants that will last.
A little art always helps to bring a space to life, but plants offer even more. Sometimes I like to go to the park and just stare at the complex, interwoven textures and shades of green climbing over each other in a desperate race for sunlight. I love the diversity. Flowers are merely a bonus. Bringing them in to a backyard, lobby, or outdoor restaurant means I won’t have to go out of my way.
Originally an art major, Amy soon switched to biology. Now she not only knows which plants make the prettiest arrangements, but also knows all about which plants grow best next to which plants, their tolerances to sunlight, and how often they should be watered. This vast reservoir of knowledge she combines with her passion for digging in the dirt to produce living, growing sculptures for any venue.
“I consider my work to be living art, and the amount of knowledge and creativity it takes to successfully design plants is both fulfilling as a creative outlet and mentally stimulating. I also love being filthy and physically tired at the end of the day- it's truly gratifying.” – Webb
Hops and Props is a cozy, friendly bar serving smoked food and carrying beers from several Florida breweries. There are propellers on the walls and lights shining through the bar counter. They have the best meatloaf ever. Heavily smoked, containing sweet peppers, and served with coleslaw and a tangy sauce it was just what I needed that day. The pineapple hard cider was good too. Hops and Props is a stone’s throw from the Saint Petersburg Museum of History and the Museum of Fine Art.
335 Second Avenue NE, Saint Petersburg, Florida
Written by Daniel Noe, WayOutLife.com
It may be an art museum, but it’s actually a history museum. There are paintings and sculptures from Africa, Asia, Europe, and the Americas – some over 500 years old. It is impossible to get through it all in only two hours. With its high ceilings, fancy wallpaper and mirrors, and incredibly diverse collection, the museum is a work of art itself.
Salvador Dali lived from 1904 to 1989 and is best known for his surreal paintings, many of which have ended up at the Dali Museum in Saint Petersburg. Longtime friends of Salvador and Gala Dali, Reynolds and Eleanor Morse donated their collection to the original museum in Ohio in 1971. It was moved to Florida in 1982. The current building opened in 2011.
Artists often bring a degree of symbolism to their work, though some deny it. Others are mysterious about the meanings or insist that one must find their own meaning. Sometimes the meaning is obvious. Sometimes it is hidden. Dali’s work is overflowing with symbolism and fortunately for us he made much of its meaning known through various writings, such as his 1942 autobiography The Secret Life of Salvador Dali. The wealth of information available is staggering; I’m still trying to process it.
Sometimes you just need some sugar, and the rest of the time, you also need sugar. Swah-rey is a dessert bar with real barstools that also serves wine, beer, tea, and delicious Kahwa coffee roasted right here in Tampa Bay. They have a variety of cakes, pies, cheesecakes, macrons, and what they call minis, which are bite-sized cupcakes often set atop a small glass of matching beverage. You can try a lemon mini perched over a shot of ice tea or a coffee mini perched over espresso. The pies also come in glasses, as if pie isn’t already the best thing invented no matter what it comes in. They have peanut butter chocolate cake, espresso cake, orange pie, and key lime cheesecake. They have carrot cake with coconut, pineapple, and pecans in it. What else could you ask for? Steak?
There is even a nook for your pooch and desserts called pup cakes. Pup cakes are made with peanut butter, eggs, bacon, carrots, oats, honey, and other ingredients that pups like.
2105 Central Avenue, Saint Petersburg, Florida
Written by Daniel Noe, InkDoodler.com
LOCAL TAMPA BAY