Here are some pictures from an unforgettable night and congratulations to all of the winners. Best of Orlando is hosted by Orlando Weekly in order to recognize all of the locally owned businesses in The City Beautiful.
Here are some pictures from an unforgettable night and congratulations to all of the winners. Best of Orlando is hosted by Orlando Weekly in order to recognize all of the locally owned businesses in The City Beautiful.
From August 17 to October 31 on select dates, Disneys Magic Kingdom is hosting their annual Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party! The event kicks off at 7 p.m and lasts until midnight. We got a chance to check out the new entertainment, dining, attractions, merchandise and specialty foods.
There are six different dining locations in the park; Main Street U.S.A, Adventureland, Frontierland, Liberty Square, Fantasyland, and Tomorrowland. Throughout these locations, you can find the new treats that Disney whipped up this year.
Here are the desserts:
Here is a look at additional desserts that can be found in the park –
Just like the treats, you can find new event merchandise at select locations throughout the fun filled land. There is Emporium (Full Event Collection), Curtain Call Collectibles (Costume Pieces), Big Top Souvenirs (Full Event Collection), and Frontier Trading Post (Event Trading Pins).
Be sure to visit the Treat Locations within the park. The spots you’ll want to hit are :
The entertainment is another treat you don’t want to miss. Here is the listing:
There will also be Special Disney Character Appearances all around the park.
Some famous attractions are filled with HALLOWEEN FUN! They are enhanced especially for the event. I went on Space Mountain and the ride was said to be “darker than usual” inside the tunnel that the coaster goes through. Other enhanced rides are Pirates of the Caribbean and Mad Tea Party.
Another cool aspect about Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party is their Allergy-Friendly Offerings. There are special treat bags you can pick up. You can also visit Town Square Theater or Liberty Square Ticket Office which are the allergy-friendly centers.
A handy tool to pick up before entering the park is the park map. It pin points where all of the event highlights are. I recommend going more than once. There is so much to see and do. Above all, my favorite was the Happy Hallowishes Fireworks. It was one of the best firework shows I have ever seen. Take advantage of the season and have fun!
We got a sneak peak of the 2018 Epcot International Food and Wine Festival. This 75 day long festival has 95 new food or beverage experiences. There’s a load of different kinds of family friendly fun that’s being launched this year such as candy sushi, the Disney Du Jour Dance Party, three different new market places, nine new artists for the Eat to the Beat concert series, brand new seminars and having brunch with one of the celebrity chefs.
First thing’s first, what’s on the menu this year? Let’s have a look.
Shown above is the Butternut Squash Ravioli with Brown Butter Vinaigrette, Parmesan Cheese and Pumpkin Seeds by The Wine & Dine Studio.
Another item is the new Brunswick Slider: Slow-braised Beef Brisket “Pot Roast Style” with Horseradish Cream and Crispy Fried Onions on a Potato Roll with Pickled Vegetables on the side by Hops & Barley
For those with a sweet tooth this will surely satisfy. On the left side of the plates is Maple Bourbon Boursin Cheesecake with Maple Bourbon Cream, Caramel and Pecan Crunch by The Cheese Studio and on the right is Chocolate Picante: Dark Chocolate Mouse with Cayenne Pepper, Chili Powder and Mango by Flavors from Fire.
Below is another dish from Flavors from Fire. They showcased Charred Chimichurri Skirt Steak on a Smoked Corn Cake with Pickled Vegetable Slaw and Cilantro Aioli.
Brazil featured a Moqueca: Brazilian Seafood Stew featuring Scallops, Shrimp and White Fish with Coconut-Lime Sauce and Steamed Rice shown below.
A flight of beer was also given out for us to try. It was a red, green and blue, none of which had food coloring in it. Red was the most approachable, green was stronger and blue was the strongest.
Besides the food and alcohol, we got to look at this years merchandise for the festival. John Rivers, founder and owner of 4 Rivers Steak House was also there to talk about his new food truck that he will be opened at Disney Springs and his new creation he’ll be serving. “Mexican places have taco salad but it’s kind of boring. Well, not boring, it’s very traditional. With people walking around, it would be very hard for them to eat. So, we came up with a different idea- we put it into a cone,” says Rivers.
After I was done with the event, I enjoyed the five free fast passes given to us on our admission ticket. I was also given a goodie bag containing a 25 dollar gift card to use anywhere in Epcot (that was well spent) , chocolates, pancake mix, an exclusive Disney bottle opener and more!
Dave Kesting, general manager of Disney festivals says, “you wont be able to do it all in one day. Pace yourself, look a lot at the passport, find the items that you would like to see and use that as your guide to go around the festival.”
Drive Shack hosted their Caddyshack 28th Anniversary where guests from all over Orlando came out to golf, indulge in food and simply have a good time.
We also got a chance to ride in their ball collector out on the course while answering “Ballzoni Trivia”. I was asked questions based on the movie Caddyshack. While taking some laps on the course, our cart was at the mercy of golfers hitting their balls at us! If I answered a question wrong, Matt Franca , (my driver who is also the Drive Shack bar manager), would stop the cart and honk the horn for players to hit their balls at us. Luckily, our cart barely got hit.
The menu was kept simple and there was something for everyone. It consisted of soft pretzels, beef sliders, parmesan truffle tots, cheese quesadillas and chicken tenders.
I asked Franca why Caddyshack was chosen as their theme an what the inspiration behind the menu was.
He answered, “It’s such a fun crazy environment to work at, just like in the movie, everyone is really high energy and upbeat and it’s something we’ve just embraced since we opened…part of our core values at Drive Shack is to have fun. It’s bright and open; that’s what Caddyshack was about. If you go to the making of Caddyshack, there’s some really cool documentaries on there and it was just partying and a ton of fun. That’s just what we do here at Drive Shack. That’s why we really love Caddyshack and ran with it. A lot of the foods are just really easy to eat.”
They had their beer specials as well, so they wanted something that went well with that. They wanted the menu to cater to everyone.
His closing remarks on Drive Shack were, “Drive Shacks been opened for about 3 months now. We’re opening a bunch more locations soon. Theres a ton to be learned here. The gaming we created here really is revolutionizing this market in this industry. It’s getting a ton of people involved in golf that may not have gone out to a golf course and played 18 holes. It’s bringing a lot of family and just friends together. It’s a social aspect that’s extremely exciting. The games are incredible. There’s just so many different specials that we’re offering. We’re doing a draft party on August 16th.”
Overall, Drive Shack is the place to be to have a great time and kick back with a group. It is a family friendly environment and you won’t be disappointed with their good eats.
Drive Shack Orlando
7285 Corner Dr, Orlando, FL 32827
We were invited to La Tavola, which are Italian dinners based on its culture and cuisine. Well- known local chef Kevin Fonzo, formerly of K Restaurant, prepared fresh cooked Italian dishes that were paired with Franciacorta – currently the best “sparkling wine” in Italy.
There were five flights of wine. The first four flights consisted of two wines and the fifth was a single wine. Here is the menu as follows:
Wine Flight 1– DOCG Franciacorta La Valle Naturalis Extra Brut 2012 & DOCG Franciacorta Ricci Curbastaro Extra Brut
Wine Flight 2– DOCG Franciacorta Lo Sparviere Saten & DOCG Franciacorta Villa Franciacorta Saten 2013
Wine Flight 3– DOCG Franciacorta Majolini Brut & DOCG Franciacorta Ronco Calino Brut 2010
Wine Flight 4– DOCG Franciacorta Bonafidini Opera Rose & DOCG Franciacorta Antica Fratta Essence Rose 2011
Franciacorta: Flight 5 – DOCG Franciacorta Ferghettina Pas Dosé ‘Riserva 33’ 2010
Cheese, pastrami,sliced bread, olives, and roasted peppers were set on the table as a warm up.
Here is a look at the dishes that were prepared and served by Chef Fonzo.
The chef says he chose these dishes because it was more about feeling comfortable at the table and the food went with every kind of wine. It’s like going to an Italian grandmother’s house on a Sunday. He wanted it to be casual and encourage conversation.
“To me all the food tonight was from the heart. It’s food I grew up on,” says Fonzo. He is from New York but his grandparents are from Italy. His favorite dish that he served was the the tomato sauce and meatballs because that’s his comfort food.
Rashmi Primlani, creator of The Primlani Kitchen and presenter of the dinner shares her thoughts, “Italy is an enchanting land of endless discoveries, dreams, & vino. Like India, Italy is one country where regionality is not only accepted, it is encouraged, revered, and passionately pursued.”
“What makes Italy particularly alluring is unlike the yuppies of the west, who voluntarily surrendered tradition for consumerism; Italians, including the champions of change, the younger generation, confidently and with great pride wear their cultural identity as a comfortable cloak or second skin, while crusading their local region onto contemporary stature. Speaking of Italian Wine, Franciacorta – Italy’s leading sparkling wine region’s quality conscientious producers, driven by passion and unwavering pursuit of perfection, undeterred by the wind or fashion, are forging exhilarating beauties dipped in sensuality and finesse. The single recurring note that dance in our minds – Franciacortais so much more than simply a toasting wine, it indisputably belongs on the dining table as every day affordable luxury, that marries well with all international cuisines, be it a family style meal or 12 course gourmand culinary experience. It’s our duty to share the love for Franciacorta!”
At the end the night, Fonzo brought out some fruits and sweets along with different cheeses as something light on the stomach since we all ate until our bellies were full. There was no strict pairing as we could mix and match freely to our liking.
It was a night well spent with other local food and wine lovers. We laughed, mingled and shared moments together as we broke bread around the large wooden table. It was an intimate and homey experience. The wine had an approachable taste and it’s true, it can be served with anything or you can drink it alone. It is not too harsh and the sparkling aspect gives it an enjoyable bounce and personality that you’ll love.
Facts about Franciacorta Wine as provided by the Franciacorta Blend of Passions presentation –
The 1st Italian Sparkling Wine
produced exclusively through
second fermentation in bottle
to gain DOCG in 1995.
As for its current market:
I had the honor of tasting nine different sakes from distilleries all over Japan. The tasting was hosted by the Consulate-General of Japan in Miami and UCF’s Rosen College of Hospitality Management.
Douglas Mueller, owner of a Japanese cafe and grocery store in Jacksonville, led the tasting. Mueller claims to have gained his experience from traveling through Asia. He has picked up a lot of knowledge from the locals who live there. Sake will differ in taste depending on what region of Japan you are in. The beverage usually has an alcoholic content of 14-17 percent. Since sake is made out of rice, the grains are milled to a certain degree.
He began by saying sake was served from a whole range of temperatures. You cold drink it either hot or cold. The temperature will affect the taste. Drinking it hot will give a rounder taste. However for premium sake, it is normally served slightly chilled. There were two grades of premium sake; Ginjo and Daiginjo. The grains for Ginjo sake are 40 percent milled away and it is considered to be “super premium sake”. Daiginjo is at least 50 percent milled away and is classified as “ultra premium sake”.
Mueller describes these as the “Nine great sakes of Japan”.
milled to 23 percent, alcohol content is 16 percent by volume, serving temp is 50-50 degrees fahrenheit.
2.) Junmai Daiginjyo
milled to 35 percent, alcohol content is 16 percent by volume, serving temp is 41 degrees fahrenheit.
3.) Junmai Daishinsyu
Milled to 38 percent, alcohol content is seven percent by volume, serving temp is 50 degrees fahrenheit.
Milled to 40/50 percent, alcohol content is 16 percent by volume, serving temp is 50-59 degrees fahrenheit.
5.) Aizu Homare
Milled to 40/50 percent, alcohol content is 16 percent by volume, serving temp is 41-50 degrees fahrenheit.
Milled to 45 percent, alcohol content is 15 percent by volume, serving temp is 41 degrees fahrenheit.
Milled to 50 percent, alcohol content is 15 percent by volume, serving temp is 50-59 degrees fahrenheit
8.) Mizubasho Pure
Millled (n/a), alcoholic content is 13 percent by volume, serving temp is 41-46 fahrenheit.
9.) Kishu Umeshu
Milled (n/a), alcoholic content is 20 percent by volume, The brewing begins the day the plums are picked, that’s why there is no milling.
According to Lexi Grant from Pierson Grant “the ultimate goal is for sake to become a staple of Orlando’s restaurant, catering and hospitality industry, allowing both residents and visitors to experience sake and Japanese culture in Orlando”.
32 local brewers came together at the Central Florida Top Brewer Festival on May 17. All of the brewers had to draw four ingredients out of a hat to come up with a beer. They chose a one grain, one hop and two other random ingredients. Each brewer got a chance to show their creativity. Guests were given three beer caps and chose their top three brewers by giving them one of their caps. At the end, the attendees and the judges score come up with an overall score that determines the winning beer. “We quickly determined that we were making a brown ale, more of a dessert style because we wanted to insert some caramel malts in there,” states Josh Greenberg, co-owner of Wolf Branch Brewing. Greenberg goes on to say they partnered with The Glass Knife which is a dessert shop located in Winter Park, Florida.
They wanted to partner with someone in the community who did exceptional dessert pairing. The Glass Knifes’ Executive Chef, Stuart Whitfield, decided to put together a small tart dessert. The center of the tart contained lemon boysenberry cream.
The winner of the competition was Intracoastal Brewing Company. Their competing beer was called “Rip Current”. It contained biscuit, comet, elderberries and oak chips. According to Intracoastal, their beer was “brewed with lactose then fermented on huge amounts of black currants and elderberries with a touch of vanilla beans and American oak chips”. Rip Current was actually my favorite beer out of all the ones I tasted. Its unique red color led into an almost sour taste which worked well for this beer.
“We definitely wanna continue this festival. We wanted to collab with bloggers, restaurants… just any local business that’s gonna be able to be highlighted for the creativity and awesomeness,” said Oscar Bowen, co-founder of the Central Florida Top Brewer Beer Festival.
Sharing some of the other beers I tasted…here is the “Attack of the Killer Tomatoes” by Bowigens Beer Company. The ingredients are, (as stated by Bowigens), “red x, cascade- cryo hop, tomato, dandelion root”. The style is Bloody Mary Gose.
Here is the “Candyman, Candyman, Candyman” by Deadly Sins Brewing. According to Deadly Sins, their ingredients are “Munich, Newport, jellybeans and limes.
Here is the “Peep This MF!” by Hood’s Up Brewery. They state their ingredients to be, “flaked wheat, centennial, watermelon and marshmallow peeps”.
Bowen says they would like to have at least 80 vendors at the next festival. He would also like to make it an annual fest.
On May 11, Wild Florida hosted Wild Paint Night Out where folks were able to meet two albino alligators, indulge in hearty BBQ and paint their hearts away. The goodies at the buffet was provided by Chomp House Grill which is the restaurant located right inside of Wild Florida. Cole slaw, baked beans, deep fried brownies, their signature alligator and pulled pork/pulled chicken sandwiches were on the menu. Executive Chef of Chomp House Grill, Ramon Ayala, said that the creation of the menu came from “just playing around with it and being creative.” Ayala adds that he only does these dishes for banquets and events only.
Besides the savory food, we got to venture back in the park itself and visit all of the animals. I got to see lemurs, porcupines, several gators, zebras, snakes, foxes and plenty of wild birds. The freely roaming peacocks were also a memorable sight to see.
Above all the animal encounters I had, my favorite interaction was getting to go inside the habitat where the two albino gators were. The gators names were Blizzard and Snowflake and they were surprisingly more friendly than I expected. I was able to walk right up to the rim of the pool where they were kept. Staring directly into their glazed eyes with nothing but open space in between my being and their floating bodies was unlike anything I had experienced before. I was captivated by how majestic and peaceful they were. They did not hiss or growl. Both gators just swam up to the rim where I knelt.
Afterwards, I proceeded to the event room where dozens of canvases and brushes were set up next to plates of paint. The objective was to paint a picture that copied a picture of an albino alligator that was already painted on a canvas. At the end, the best painting done by an adult and child were given recognition. I did a pretty decent job with my painting and I am very happy with it.
Overall, Wild Florida has a lot to offer in terms of getting outdoors and experiencing a real taste of Florida. The interaction one gets with the animals is very hands on. There is something to look at everywhere you turn. Also, towards the end of the event I was able to catch a gorgeous sunset over the lake. It was definitely a sight to see.
Wild Florida also offers boat rides to guests. According to their website, they offer deals for Florida residents in which you can get 15 percent off one hour airport tours. As for anyone in the military, a teacher or a first responder, you can get 15 percent off of the boat rides and other events.
Visit Wild Florida’s website at wildfloridairboats.com or drop by their location at 3301 Lake Cypress Rd, Kenansville, FL 34739.
As I walked through the doors of Del Frisco’s, I was immediately captivated by a vibrant atmosphere. Their upstairs bar, where the event was hosted, offered a great venue. It was the perfect setting for wine tasting and mingling with guests.
The winemaker himself, André Hueston Mack, greeted guests and conversed with them about his Maison Noir wines. According to Mack he has been working with Del Frisco’s for the past three years and they have been a huge aid in getting his business off the ground. “They were really one of the big anchor accounts in New York that really put me on,” says Mack. This is the second meet and greet of its kind, the first one was held in Charlotte, North Carolina. Mack likes the “hang out” vibe that meet and greets have to offer which is why Del Frisco’s decided to hold the event in such manner. There is less pressure and overall it is a relaxing stage for people to sample wines and foods. At this tasting, there were six wines in total. They read directly off of his menu as follows:
2017 Love Drunk Rose (left)
“100% single vineyard fruit (77% Chardonnay with 23% Pinot Noir) from McMinnville AVA Vineyards, some of the oldest and best plantings, produce fruit of consistently outstanding quality. An intoxicating rosé. Much like new love, it clouds the brain, causes the eyes to sparkle, cheeks to glow, blood pressure to rise, and lips to pucker.”
2015 Knock on Wood Chardonnay (right)
“100% Chardonnay, all stainless-steel and no malolactic fermentation. Procured from hillside vineyards in Yamhill-Carlton AVA, reminiscent of the grand crus of Burgundy’s Cote d’Or. It benefited from a very long and cold fermentation – almost two months – resulting in a lean and mean wine with perfume of honeydew melon and pear surfing huge waves of minerals, bringing a nice tide of racy starfruit to the finish.”
2015 O.P.P. Pinot Gris (Other People’s Pinot Gris) (left)
“The 2015 vintage was Oregon’s hottest and largest harvest on record, producing lush round fruit with balance acidity! We would like to introduce our take on Pinot Noirs favorite mutation: The 2015 Other People’s Pinot Gris is like Juggling Apples, Pears and Peaches while dancing to Pharell’s ‘Happy’ – enthralling, upbeat, fresh and deluxe”
2015 O.P.P. Pinot Noir (Other People’s Pinot Noir) (right)
“The 2015 Other People’s Pinot is classic Oregon Pinot- earmark Willamette Valley. It is accessible, a great value, and stays true to the character of vineyards from which it was born. Earthy, spicy, floral, herb-framed flavors of cherry with gingery wood spice tones.”
2013 XL Pinot Noir (left)
“Nuff Said…A special bottling inspired by Andre ‘Mouton Noir’ Mack’s 40th Birthday”
Horseshoes & Handgrenades Red Blend (Oregon Syrah, blended with Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot from Red Mountain Washington) (right)
“Fruit-driven, full-bodied complex red blend sourced from Southern Oregon and Red Mountain Washington. The rich, ripe, voluptuous fruit comes from Oregon Syrah with just enough Washington Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot to give it complexity and structure.”
There were also hors d’oeuvres prepared by Executive Chef Greg Thompson in order to compliment the taste of the wines.
HEIRLOOM BRUSCHETTA Fresh Mozzarella, Sweet Red Onion, Basil & Balsamic Glaze on Ciabatta Toast
JUMBO LUMP CRAB STUFFED OYST Lemon hollandaise and Hackleback Caviar
LAMB CHOPS AND BACON Tender Lamb Served with Light Sauce & Seared Bacon with Garnish
Each dish was very unique and offered their own personality when tasted with each wine. And likewise, each wine portrayed a different character depending on which appetizer it was paired with. My favorite pairing was the HEIRLOOM BRUSCHETTA with the Knock on Wood Chardonnay. It was a match made in heaven. The smoothness and deep taste to the chardonnay soaked into the thick mozzarella and it was a soothing sensation upon my tongue, very rich. I also enjoyed the pieces of seared bacon. Since they were fatty bits, it melted in your mouth and unleashed a savory classic bacon flavor. I also enjoyed the slight crisp shell in which the piece of meat was enclosed in due to being seared.
The upstairs bar and veranda room is a suitable place for holding parties and functions according to Del Frisco’s Sales & Event Planner, Jo Truett. It satisfies both an indoor and outdoor experience. The outside patio overlooks International Drive and provides a warm welcome to friends and family. Del Frisco’s hopes to host events similar to this one in the future more frequently. Overall, it was a great experience and something to look forward to if you want to unwind and meet new people while indulging in scrupulous food and wine.