by Christina Cush | November 24, 2016

Gasparilla Brunch

Arrr.S.V.P. for party inspiration from Tampa’s annual winter fête


Each winter Tampa overflows with pirate-themed parades and revelers. Can’t get to The Big Guava this winter? We discovered a treasure-trove of Gasparilla social secrets from Andy Huse, a University of South Florida associate librarian and archivist.

Gasparilla Brunch (clockwise): scrambled eggs, picadillo, guava tarts, picadillo on cuban bread; Photography by Jessie Preza; Flowers by Mardee Morris
Gasparilla Brunch (clockwise): scrambled eggs, picadillo, guava tarts, picadillo on cuban bread; Photography by Jessie Preza; Flowers by Citron of Jacksonville Beach; Picadillo prepared by Chef Brian Mahoney.

“The Tampa elite, around 1904, wanted a Mardi Gras, without the religion,” Huse explains. “They made up the story of a pirate named Jose Gaspar. The parade was a very exclusive event until around 1992.” Eventually, the Krewes (groups that build parade floats) became super inclusive, and Gasparilla has now far outgrown its original posh purpose.

Huse drops anchor with friends in South Tampa to take part in the day-long parties that punctuate the parade route around Bayshore Boulevard. At these house bashes, he says, you’ll munch all day on bbq, crawfish, black beans, grilled wings, mac ‘n cheese, calzones, enchiladas and sciaciatta (Cuban pizza).  “Every hour something comes out of the kitchen,” Huse says. Like a good guest, he brings a big meal. “It’s a long day of rum flowing, so I make a hearty breakfast,” Huse adds. He feeds his ship of fools with a batch of picadillo (made the night before) scrambles up two dozen eggs on site, and serves fresh Cuban bread and guava tarts (from Ybor City’s La Segunda Central). His menu floats for a boatload of seasonal events calling for a feast, like New Year’s Brunch or the Super Bowl.

Andy Huse shares his Tampa-fied version of this Cuban “Sloppy Joe,” loaded with tangy olives, peppers, and garlic. He incorporates olive brine to zip up the flavor profile and, with some raisins, adds just enough sweetness to balance the savory. You can temper the spice factor by adding hot sauce or cayenne as it cooks, keeping your merry mateys’ preferences in mind. For brunch, raise the flag and fire the cannons: slice open some Cuban bread, spread on some picadillo, and add a dollop of scrambled eggs.


Serves a big group
  • 6 pounds ground beef
  • 5 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 large onions, diced
  • 5 large bell peppers, seeded and diced
  • 15 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
  • 4 teaspoons dried oregano
  • 18 bay leaves
  • 3 teaspoons cumin
  • 2 32-ounce cans whole peeled tomatoes, crushed and chopped
  • 1 can crushed tomatoes
  • 1 14-ounce jar of sliced pimento-stuffed olives
  • 2 tablespoons olive brine (to taste)
  • 2 3.5 ounce jars of capers, drained
  • 1 1/2 cups raisins
  • 3 tablespoons white vinegar
  • 1 1/2 cups red wine, such as burgundy
  • 1/2 cup ketchup
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 2 tablespoons lime juice
  • Hot sauce (to taste)
  • Salt and black pepper (to taste)

PREPARATION: Brown the meat, set it aside, and drain the remaining grease in the pot, leaving a bit to sauté the onions and peppers until soft. Add all the tomato products, garlic, and spices and cook for 2 minutes. Mix the meat back in and simmer for 5 minutes. Add capers, olives, raisins, wine, sugar and vinegar. Then partially cover and simmer for one hour. Adjust the flavor with cayenne, salt, pepper,
hot sauce and the olive brine before serving.

La Segunda Central Bakery

— Location —
2512 N. 15th St.
Ybor City
— Hours —
Mon-Fri 6:30 A.M.–5 P.M.
Sat-Sun 7 A.M.–3 P.M.