Authors Posts by Dana Spencer

Dana Spencer

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New Jersey native turned Orlando girl, Dana Spencer is a graduate of The University of Delaware, and a former middle school teacher of eleven years. Dana enjoys seeking-out new Orlando restaurants and foodie events with the company of her husband, two children, and when feeling courageous, her crazy puppy, turning her eating adventures into written word. When not eating, you can find Dana writing women’s fiction, reading, occasionally going to the gym, and enjoying time with her family and friends (while eating). You can follow Dana on Instagram at @danaspencer06

There is nothing better than playing hooky.  Leave your responsibilities, your obligations, your worries behind and go play!  This is exactly what my husband and I did on a Friday afternoon while the kids were in school.  Granted, my husband took the day off from work and I work from home, but still, it felt delightfully naughty of us to take some time for just us two.  Especially, time spent at Disney Springs, “hiding out” at Enzo’s Hideaway. Sometimes you just need an escape, and that’s how we felt dining at Enzo’s, an old rum-running underground tunnel during the prohibition era, that was later turned into a restaurant by Enzo himself when he accidentally stumbled upon it. Maria and Enzo, a lovely, Italian couple, new to Orlando straight from Italy (Enzo literally flew in on his airplane), here to bring us three divine places to eat: Maria & Enzo’s Ristorante, Pizza Ponte, and Enzo’s Hideaway.  All three eateries located in Disney Springs, but Enzo’s Hideaway is not as obvious to find, given the mystery of its origins.  This “secret location” can be found below Maria & Enzo’s Ristorante, underground, giving it a very cozy and romantic feel, but also perfectly welcoming to families and friends of all ages.

Entrance to Enzo’s Hideaway at Disney Springs

Our amazing waiter told us this heart-warming backstory about Maria and Enzo, and how their three restaurants came to be.  Personally, I love when Disney does this with its establishments.  It makes the dining experience even more special (that might be my own opinion, but I am a storyteller after all).  Rumor has it that the original concept of this speakeasy included a password-only entrance; hence, the window in the top-center of the door.  The idea was scrapped, but the door remains.

Enzo’s Hideaway Speakeasy-Style Door

Once inside, diners are whisked away to another time period, listening to popular music by classic Italian crooners (Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, and more), seated under vintage-style Edison bulb lighting, at mahogany wood tables and booths with red-cushioned seats, while curiously reading the graffiti decorating the “tunnel” walls.  I couldn’t help but feel we stumbled upon an old, Italian restaurant on the streets of the Bronx or Brooklyn.  Any minute Martin Scorsese is going to walk in and start filming.  I can see my Italian relatives scurrying around their deli and restaurant in Toms River, New Jersey, while I hang-out behind the counter with my accordion-playing, great-grandfather who calls me bella.  I’m home.

Enzo’s Hideaway Mock Bar – Prohibition Style
Enzo’s Hideaway Dining Room
Enzo’s Hideaway Graffiti-Themed Walls
Enzo’s Hideaway “Gambling Room”
Enzo’s Hideaway Table Setting

Now, on to the best part of our secret date – the drinks and food!  I’m a sucker for anything with Prosecco in it (Prosecco by itself too), so, it didn’t take long for me to notice the Luciano Spritz on the menu, made with Solerno Blood Orange, Aperol, blood orange juice, and Villa Sani Prosecco.  However, the Sangria, also caught my attention.  What is a girl supposed to do with this dilemma?  Order two drinks when it’s barely past noon?  Sadly, this is not an option, when picking up kids from school is involved.  I got it!  Demand, no, politely ask my husband to order the Sangria – problem solved.  Enzo’s Sangria made with a house blend of Malbec, Burgundy, Apricot and Peach Brandy, seasonal fruits, and cinnamon spice simple syrup is refreshingly sweet and smooth. It complimented the bubbly, soured-sweetness of my Luciano Spritz nicely.  Both drinks were the perfect accompaniment to our appetizer – Salumi e Formaggi for two.  This antipasto platter is made-to-order, with fresh cuts of meat and cheese sliced in front of you at Enzo’s very own “deli counter”.  The platter consists of 24-month-cured Prosciutto, Salame Piccante, Finocchiona, 24-month-aged Parmigiano-Reggiano, Pecorino Romano, Fontina, olives, pickled vegetables, bread sticks, and a mustard fruit spread.  The meat, cheese, pickled vegetables, breadsticks were all delicious, but the mustard fruit spread really took me by surprise.  A spread I have never seen or tried before, but can’t wait to have again.  Sweet from the fruit, but spicy, almost like the taste of horseradish – a perfect pairing with each of the three cheeses.

Enzo’s Hideaway Luciano Spritz
Enzo’s Hideaway Sangria
Enzo’s Hideaway Salumi e Formaggi

As we fork-fenced over our antipasto, a truce was called just in time to peruse the lunch menu.  Another quandary – everything looks good!  My husband ordered the Polpettine – classic meatballs with polenta, and I chose the Porchetta and Provola Panini – pork roast, provolone, grainy mustard, pear aioli, spicy cherry peppers, and arugula.  If you like the combination of salty and sweet, this panini is for you.  The pork and provolone was tender, the aioli tangy, with peppery arugula, and a zesty kick from the mustard and cherry peppers.  As the loving wife I am (sharing is caring), my husband and I exchanged plates halfway through the course, as he finished my panini, I enjoyed the meatballs and polenta. The polenta was so soft it practically melted in my mouth, and the meatballs were delicate, yet hearty, gently swimming in a luscious tomato sauce.

Enzo’s Hideaway Porchetta and Provola Panini
Enzo’s Hideaway Polpettine

Our secret lunch almost complete, our waiter asks us if we will be having dessert.  As they say, when in Rome – yes! He recommends his favorite dessert on the menu – Maritozzi con Panna.  Imagine a sweet roll stuffed with cream and Nutella, sprinkled with powdered sugar – forget imagining it, have it now!  I don’t think my explanation can clearly justify how fantastic this dessert is, but, I’ll give it a try.  The bread reminds me of a dense dinner roll that has been dusted with powdered sugar, while the cream is velvety, but not overly-sweet, which makes sense when paired with the Nutella, whose job is to make everything sweet.

Enzo’s Hideaway Maritozzi con Panna

We left our secret rendezvous with huge smiles on our faces, and full stomachs to match.  I am absolutely in love with Enzo’s Hideaway and plan to return very soon.  The dinner menu has even more delectable entrees to pick from, including a pasta dish with a thick meat sauce made with beef short ribs (I’m having that).  Enzo’s Hideaway also offers a late-night dining experience on Thursdays through Saturdays through 2am, featuring prohibition-style cocktails and a special late-night menu (I’ll need an afternoon power nap to enjoy this).  In conclusion, whether you’re playing hooky or not, Enzo’s Hideaway is the perfect spot to get “lost”, leave the stresses of life behind, and unwind, speakeasy style.

 

https://disneyworld.disney.go.com/dining/disney-springs/enzos-hideaway/

https://www.patinagroup.com/enzos-hideaway

 

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Typically, I’m not a VIP kind of girl.  Just ask my husband about our very first date at Wendy’s when I couldn’t have been happier with my chocolate frosty (yes, I was only fifteen years old, but my love of Frosty’s remains the same).  However, on a beautiful night in Orlando, date night with one of our best couple friends, attending Beard In Baldwin Food & Wine Festival in Baldwin Park, you have to go VIP all the way!  After all, purchased tickets benefit The James Beard Foundation National Scholars Program, and grant you admission to a private cocktail event inside The Osprey Tavern (one of my favorite restaurants).  VIP or not, this festival on Saturday night, April 14th, was worth every penny, considering the insanely delicious food and drinks we tried from some of the best restaurants in the Orlando area.  My bucket list (restaurants I plan to visit – I’m not into bungee jumping) has grown tremendously!

I could go on and on about every dish, every drink, from every restaurant we tried (seriously, there wasn’t one thing I didn’t like).  But, in consideration of your time and my rambling, here is a glimpse of a few fantastic eats:

Tamale Co.
Mole Tamale – Mexican Sauce Cooked with Chocolate Abuelita Banana, Mexican Spices and Seeds
Bites & Bubbles
Salmon Cake with Lump Crab, Champagne Citrus Sauce and Micro Greens
Orlando Meats
Reuben Tartine with Pastrami, Sauerkraut, Thousand Island Dressing, Rye Bread
Dixie Dharma (Vegan)
Beet Tartare – Beet with Macadamia, Spring Onion, Nettle Oil
Black Rooster Taqueria
Fish Taco – Beer Battered Fish, Organic Corn Tortilla, Red Cabbage, Mayo, Avocado, Cilantro, Radish, Lime
Highball & Harvest
Duck Pot Pie & Stuffed Squid – Wild Onion Bisque, Duck Rillette, Corn Smut Cracker
Terralina Crafted Italian (Opening Soon at Disney Springs)
Nonna’s Pork Ragu – Over Polenta Topped with Pecorino Romano Cheese
SOCO (Southern Contemporary Cuisine)
Duck Confit on Foie Gras Buttermilk Biscuit
Partner/Executive Chef Greg Richie of SOCO

The VIP event inside The Osprey Tavern not only included specialty hors d’oevres and cocktails, but a close-up view of several prominent chefs preparing the dishes: Jeremiah Langhorne (The Dabney in Washington, D.C.), Frank Anderson (The Rez Grill, Seminole Hard Rock Tampa), Soraya Caraccioli-Kilgore (MadLab Creamery in Miami), and Jeremy Ford (Stubborn Seed in Miami).  These terrific chefs worked alongside Chef de Cuisine, Elek Kovacs and Pastry Chef, Kristy Carlucci of The Osprey Tavern.  I can’t forget to mention Master of Ceremonies, Chef Norman Van Aken of NORMAN’S at the Ritz Carlton Orlando, 1921 in Mount Dora, and Three Restaurant and No. 3 Social Rooftop Bar & Lounge in Miami. I was among culinary celebrities!  Thanks to the open kitchen inside the beautiful Osprey Tavern, I had an up-close view of the chefs hard at work on their signature plates, before they were magically whisked out to attendees by the professional and polite waitstaff (shout out to Frankie of The Osprey Tavern).  As we dined on these freshly-made hors d’oevres, we also enjoyed an array of cocktails, wines, and champagnes, while mingling around the beautiful bar that takes center stage in the restaurant.  The Osprey Tavern is cozy and inviting, but also elegant.  Imagine a visit to grandma’s house, after grandma won the lottery, and completely renovated her home to look like a classy cottage in The Hamptons. Here’s a “taste” of the VIP event:

The Osprey Tavern Bar
The Osprey Tavern Open Kitchen
Chefs In The Osprey Kitchen
Dessert Table by Chef Kristy Carlucci
Banana Nutella Tartlets by Chef Kristy Carlucci (My Favorite Dessert)
Orange Cardamom Shortbread Cookies with Chocolate Topping by Chef Kristy Carlucci
Woodford Manhattan – Woodford Reserve Bourbon, Vermouth Mata, Angostura
‘In A Garten” – Basil Infused St. Augustine Gin, Raspberry Chamomile Syrup, Lemon Oleo, Lime
Bearded Redhead – Pineapple Infused St. Augustine Vodka, Cappelletti, Lemon
Autumn Olive Farms Pork Belly by Chef Jeremiah Langhorne – Grilled Ramps, Pickled Spring Onions, Black Garlic, Mustard and Dill
Warm Celery Root by Chef Jeremy Ford – Crackling Maitake, Mustard, Herbs and Blossoms
Smoked Trout Dip by Chef Frank Anderson – Poblano-corn Vinaigrette, Tortilla
Roasted Pheasant Roulade by Chef Elek Kovacs – Charred Corn Relish, Spring Ramps, Foie Gras

I will never forget my night attending Beard in Baldwin; especially, the fabulous food and drinks.  The VIP experience gifted my husband and me with a personal look at several outstanding chefs bustling in the kitchen, and the chance to mingle with other foodies like ourselves (one couple shared a memorable story of their wedding reception inside The Osprey Tavern – “I think it’s time for a vow renewal” – I said to my husband).  Being a VIP has grown on me, and to my family’s dismay, I may not be such a low-maintenance date after all.

 

Source:

Beard In Baldwin

Restaurants Mentioned:

Tamale Co.

Bites & Bubbles

Orlando Meats

Dixie Dharma

Black Rooster Taqueria

Highball & Harvest

Terralina Crafted Italian

SOCO-Southern Contemporary Cuisine

The Osprey Tavern

 

 

 

 

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Olivia’s Cafe at Disney’s Old Key West Resort is no spring chicken.  Opening more than two decades ago, Olivia’s may not be the new kid on the block, but this somewhat hidden Disney gem with mouthwatering food will never go out of style.  Words like glamorous or trendy may not be the first to come to mind, be that as it may, the restaurant is a class-act with a comfortable, family-friendly atmosphere, a laid-back Florida Keys feel, and filled with staff that make everyone feel at home.  After my recent dinner here, I can’t help but wonder – Why don’t I come here more often?

A Friday night outing with close friends on vacation from New Jersey, during the typical chaos of spring break in Orlando, at the most sought after vacation destination in Florida, can be stressful to say the least.  Layer in five energetic children that have spent a very long, hot day in the park, finding a place that is family-friendly but also appealing to a grown-up’s palate (not that I don’t enjoy Disney’s chicken fingers and mac-n-cheese) was a must for all of our sanity.

In a uniquely Disney way, Olivia’s Café came to the rescue!  After the typical musical chairs that comes with a large group trying to navigate a restaurant table, we take our seats.  The kids are all happily plugged-in to electronic devices (desperate times call for desperate measures), and the first question our cheerful waitress asks – Would anyone care for a drink?  All four adults answer in unison – Yes!!!  I ask the waitress, as a foodie usually does, to please bring me one of their most-popular, signature cocktails, and a few minutes later, she gifts me with a Turtle Krawl.  This sweet, but not too sweet cocktail tricks your senses into believing you’re lying on a white-sand beach, and not watching your son spill his entire glass of soda all over the table.  Pineapple and orange juices blend nicely with the tang of lime juice, while three different rums (because one is never enough) marry together in beautiful coconut rum, spice rum, and white rum harmony.

As the Turtle Krawl works its magic granting peace among us four, the waitress suggests many appealing appetizers, but when she says onion rings from the “secret menu”, that’s it! Onion rings are most often a good pick to begin with, onion rings from a “secret menu”, they have to be even better…and yes, they were amazing!  Crunchy, salty, fried, golden rings with a pop of sweet from the cooked onions.  We ate our “secret menu” onion rings feeling like VIPs.  Well, that was us, until we slowed down enough to look up from our munching to see that several other tables also had them.  The jealously subsided faster than it was felt, most likely because of how delicious these secret menu onion rings are.

When it was time to order our entrees, I perused the menu of several dishes that I imagined were all incredible: Plantation Key Pork Chop, Tortuga Seafood Stew, Seven Mile Sea Scallops.  Finally, after several minutes of waffling, I asked the waitress, yet again, for Olivia’s most popular entree, and she recommended one dish that gets a lot of attention: Southernmost Buttermilk Chicken.  After eating this dish, I can clearly see why this southern jewel is the most popular girl in the class, and not in a mean girl kind of way.  Boneless chicken breast so tender, I envision it marinated in the buttermilk for days, and so delicate I barely used my knife to cut it.  The chicken’s crispy exterior is perfectly complimented by the southern gravy that has a perfect amount of spice and is smooth as silk.  Tender and crunchy chicken, creamy southern gravy, nestled on top of crisp green beans and buttery, smooth mashed potatoes.  Comfort food to the max.

I managed not to eat my entire dinner plate, considering the fact that I wanted to unbutton my jeans, a clear warning sign of when to stop, but…there’s always room for dessert!  Our waitress made the kids’ day with DIY sundaes, and she made my day with Banana Bread Pudding Sundae.  It was so sweet of her to bring my husband an extra spoon to share, and he really did put up a good fight, but that dessert had my name written all over it.  A warm bread pudding with a Bananas Foster topping and a scoop of vanilla bean ice cream that slowly melted on top…heavenly!  The bread pudding was moist (sorry, I hate that word too), the bananas foster was syrupy and luscious, and the ice cream was velvety, sweet.  A perfect ending to our dinner.

A successful dinner in the books, I will not let too much time pass without returning to Olivia’s Cafe.  Kids, or no kids, it is a perfect spot for a delicious meal and a serene atmosphere.  A classic Disney resort restaurant, I hope you venture to soon, and if you’ve already been, go again…and order the Turtle Krawl.

Olivia’s Cafe

Disney’s Old Key West Resort

1510 N Cove Rd. Orlando, FL 32830

https://disneyworld.disney.go.com/dining/old-key-west-resort/olivia-cafe/

 

 

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