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A singles scene, a kitchen, and places in between

Tampa columnisthooper
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© St. Petersburg Times, published May 6, 2001

Itook another foray into the singles scene Thursday night with an exploration to Borders Bookstore on Cypress and Dale Mabry.

Rumor had it this was a good place for men and women to meet, but it was hardly a hot spot on this night.

Still, with a group of single friends in tow, I quickly concluded that choosing the right book is tantamount to meeting that right someone. Avoid any book with the word "dummies" or "idiot." Beer For Dummies would be an extremely bad choice. Women also should avoid The Rules, and men and women should stay out of the self-help section.

We're still debating the children's section.

* * *

She was standing in the middle of the A La Carte Pavilion ballroom Friday night at the fundraiser for Mayor Dick Greco's Beautification Program.

There was pasta-wrapped shrimp, coconut chicken and Jamaican-seared sirloin, yet Ann Poonkasem was eating a few neatly sliced strawberries.

What else would you expect from a Plant City native?

Actually, we should probably expect more in the coming months from Poonkasem, the reigning Miss Tampa. She has a music degree from University of South Florida and is working on a second in communications. Poonkasem also has a show-stopping singing voice.

But most important, she has a chance to become Miss Florida and compete for Miss America. The state pageant is next month in Orlando.

* * *

Speaking of the A La Carte, the Tampa Bay Convention and Visitors Bureau will have a luncheon Tuesday at the former Egypt Shrine Temple to present the Ambassador Award to AAA Auto Club South president and CEO Robert R. Sharp.

Sharp has worked with AAA since 1961 and has been instrumental in enhancing the city's tourist industry.

* * *

The folks in Brandon are handing out a different kind of honor Monday. Ensign Richard Bensing, one of the 24 crew members involved in the U.S. spy plane incident in China, will be saluted at his old high school in the Brandon High auditorium at 2 p.m.

* * *

You will find some of the world's most modern cooking equipment at the Columbia Restaurant's new 5,000-square-foot kitchen.

The stainless steel machines are fueled by heart, however. The Gonzmart family opened its new kitchen at the historic Ybor City restaurant in an emotional ceremony Friday morning.

Adela Gonzmart, family matriarch, took a torch that had been lit on the old kitchen's gas stove and then passed it through three generations: to sons Richard (the president) and Casey Gonzmart (chairman), then grandchildren Casey Jr., Lauren and Andrea, who took the torch and lit the stove in the new kitchen.

It's actually four generations when you consider Lauren is pregnant with twins.

The ceremony will not soon be forgotten, especially for Andrea, who graduated from USF with a business management degree Saturday and will begin her apprenticeship in the new kitchen.

Just remember, Richard Gonzmart said, they passed the torch, not the gas.

* * *

I learned at Borders that if I continue to write about the singles scene, I cannot be presumptuous. I asked one guy in front of the magazine rack if he thought the bookstore was a good place to meet women, only to learn he wasn't there to make a connection.

He already had a boyfriend.

- Ernest Hooper can be reached at (813) 226-3406 or His column appears on Wednesday, Friday and Sunday.

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