After visiting OE myself, I can say that it's all of those things.
I truly believe that Oxford Exchange is the most beautiful building I've seen in Tampa. It looks like a place I would have frequented in NYC or popped into in London. Instead, it's right here in Tampa, in my backyard.
OE was gorgeously decorated for the holidays, and they introduced the local bloggers to their book shop, coffee bar, tea bar, retail boutique and samples of delish food from their executive chef, all while they
OE's executive chef, Erin Guggino, created some lovely appetizers for us to sample while we enjoyed the evening's festivities. The first was a dried fig topped with goat cheese and a walnut. It was delicious, light and flavorful. The second option was a butternut squash soup shooter, which was smooth and delightful. My taste buds demanded more, but alas, I was not going to be a piglet and gulp down 5 more. Though I could have, and probably would have if there hadn't been so many darn people around carrying smart phones and fancy cameras to capture said pig-out. The chef was wonderful enough to give us copies of the recipes for these dishes, so we can recreate them at home anytime. Perfecto!
|Erin telling us about her nom-noms|
After that, we stepped up to the tea bar, and sampled a delicious peppermint bark tea by TeBella Tea Company, a local, family-owned tea company. They paired the tea with some yummy artisinal chocolate, which certainly didn't hurt. It tasted just like Christmas!
From there, we had an opportunity to meet the ladies behind my favorite locally-based candle company, Seventh Avenue Apothecary. I began raving about their candles to other bloggers, only to find that one of the sweet owners was standing behind me! She heard me praising their products, and she told me that she thought I was only doing that because she was standing nearby. OF COURSE NOT!! I love, love, love their soy candles, which have a crazy-long burn time and come in a variety of unique, amazing scents. My favorite is Tuscan Cypress and Fig... I have two of these sitting in my home fragrance stash as I type this, because I cannot live without it.
|Pyramid O' Happiness|
|The lovely ladies behind Seventh Avenue Apothecary|
We also had a chance to try a fabulous dandelion dark chocolate and Buddy Brew Coffee pairing. I don't usually like black coffee, but this coffee was so flavorful that I'd drink it without my favorite cream and sugar.
After this, the hosts of the evening offered tours. I was in tour group number two, so I browsed around the boutique to see what types of items they carry. I was surprised at how gorgeous the store was and how it was filled with exciting finds for those hard-to-shop-for friends and family members. I plan to visit the boutique in the upcoming week to purchase a few final Christmas gifts.
Here are a few pictures of OE's lovely retail space...
Next, our tour group was up, so we met upstairs and saw the meeting space, event rooms and work spaces for those with memberships to their club. For $50/month, you get access to their work space room, complete with vintage-y desks, private phone-call booths, a copy center and servers to bring you beverages and food from the restaurant downstairs. It's like working at Starbucks, but waaaay more chic and exclusive. Here's a peek and several meeting and work space rooms at OE...
|My, what a big table you have!|
Next, we went back downstairs to see the restaurant and conservatory. Here's the beautiful conservatory, which features a fountain made from centuries-old Italian aqueducts and a retractable roof.
|That's one purty roof.|
|Love this hallway between the book shop and coffee bar.|
I also am doing a quick and easy giveaway, with lovely items courtesy of Oxford Exchange. Up for grabs is a lovey book, The Art of the Handwritten Note by Margaret Shepherd and a package of Sugar Paper letterpress notecards.
To win, just leave a comment on the blog telling me your favorite reason to send a handwritten note by Thursday, December 19. The winner will be chosen via a random number generator. (None of that fancy-schmancy Rafflecopter business this time around!)