Authors Posts by Ricky Ly of TastyChomps.com

Ricky Ly of TastyChomps.com

871 POSTS 14 COMMENTS
Florida native Ricky Ly founded TastyChomps.com in 2008 as a local Orlando food blog dedicated to finding the tastiest bits and pieces of Orlando as well as around the world. His first book, Food Lovers' Guide to Orlando: The Best Restaurants, Markets & Local Culinary Offerings (Food Lovers' Series) is available now on Amazon.com and Barnesandnoble.com. Photography is taken using a Canon EOS 6D and a Sony Nex-3. E-mail him at tastychomps(at)gmail.com. Google

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We dropped by this little “Greek” cafe on the corner of Lake Underhill road and Chickasaw Trail the other day for lunch. I am a big fan of gyros, filled with juicy slices of meat stuffed inside a nice toasty pita and a slathering of white tzatziki sauce.

Service was nothing exceptional, in fact, we had to get up to get our checks at the end of the meal as the restaurant appeared to be rather understaffed that day and we were tired of waiting.

Food also was nothing exceptional, though I did enjoy their crunchy, crispy fries. My gyro was satisfactory, but could have used more meat and a less thick of a pita bread slice.

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The house salad, with an order of dolmades (stuffed grape leaves)

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Stuffed grape leaves – mostly rice

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The chicken pita, slightly dry

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A good pita, though certainly not the best nor the most memorable

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Athena's Grill on Urbanspoon

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Off of Park Avenue on Morse Blvd, Croissant Gourmet, run by French Pastry Chef Francois Cahange, is one of the many joys that I think of when wandering around Winter Park’s popular shopping and restaurant area.

In addition to some of the best French pastries in town, also serves up some very delectable sandwiches, quiche, crepes, and salads for lunch.

Two display cases hold the wonders of Croissant Gourmet: fruit tarts topped with raspberries and blueberries, éclairs, Napoleons, assorted croissants, apple turnovers, macarons, and many more all made fresh and locally.

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The beautiful pastry cases
The beautiful pastry cases
Jalousy pastry
Jalousy pastry
Almond Croissants
Almond Croissants

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Plain croissants
Plain croissants
Strudel
Strudel

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We are proud to announce the start of the Orlando Foodie Forum presented by Tasty Chomps! on Facebook.

The forum is an open discussion forum talking about food and drink in Orlando! Everyone is welcome to post ~~ just no spamming/trolling.

Here, members will also be privy to exclusive invitations and announcements as well as lively discussion about favorite eats and restaurants around town. Feel free to join in!

https://www.facebook.com/groups/orlandofoodieforum/

join_forum

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The Thornton Park restaurant group has been very busy lately with the opening of the new Soco at Thornton Park. We recently received notice that they will be opening a new restaurant near Citrus called North Quarter Tavern. Press Release below:

North Quarter Tavern (NQT) is a new chef-driven neighborhood tavern that will be located in the North Quarter District in Downtown Orlando. The team from Citrus Restaurant developed the concept. The kitchen will be under the direction of Chef Matt Wall from Citrus Restaurant. Chef Matt has been with Citrus Restaurant for over five years and is looking forward to bringing an exciting new concept to the neighborhood. NQT will be located on the ground floor of Nora, a luxury apartment building that opened in November 2014. The address is 861 North Orange Avenue. NQT is scheduled to open in 2015. For updates or to join our mailing list, please visit www.northquartertavern.com.

Chef Lucas Reid who is at Citrus now will take over for Chef Matt Wall once he moves over to NQT.

Citrus Restaurant features regionally inspired new American cuisine. While Citrus is not “historic” or “citrus themed”, the restaurant name is meant to respect Central Florida’s heritage. The Citrus Restaurant concept reflects an interpretation of Florida flavors and ideas like fresh, clean, local and independent. The restaurant is stylish and inviting and sets an energetic and lively tone for the emerging Uptown District.

Citrus Restaurant has won numerous awards for its Power Lunch, and on any given day the dining room is a veritable Who’s Who of politicians, business people and local celebrities.

So while other restaurants might look at lunch as a secondary meal, Citrus considers it just as important as dinner.

Speed is an essential element at lunchtime, says Chef Matt. “You have to be fast, but you have to keep the quality of the food at a high level.”

“Just because its lunch, with all the hustle and bustle of the work day, doesn’t mean there isn’t time for a great meal in the middle of all the chaos.”

We recently dropped by for dinner at a friend’s birthday gathering and were delighted by the ambiance as well as the quality of food.

Definitely need to drop by another time for their “power lunch.”

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Crispy Calamari, jalapeños, artichokes, lemon, pickles, house sofrito 13
Crispy Calamari, jalapeños, artichokes, lemon, pickles, house sofrito 13
Crispy Calamari, jalapeños, artichokes, lemon, pickles, house sofrito 13
Crispy Calamari, jalapeños, artichokes, lemon, pickles, house sofrito 13
Ahi Tuna Tataki, local cantaloupe, kumquat purée, korean hot pepper, local petite greens, wasabi aioli, ponzu 15
Ahi Tuna Tataki, local cantaloupe, kumquat purée, korean hot pepper, local petite greens, wasabi aioli, ponzu 15

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House Aged Chimichurri Ribeye, caramelized onion, arugula salad, brown butter mashed potato, chimichurri 32
House Aged Chimichurri Ribeye, caramelized onion, arugula salad, brown butter mashed potato, chimichurri 32
Country fried red fish with grits in a tomato sauce
Country fried red fish with grits in a tomato sauce
House Aged Chimichurri Ribeye, caramelized onion, arugula salad, brown butter mashed potato, chimichurri 32
House Aged Chimichurri Ribeye, caramelized onion, arugula salad, brown butter mashed potato, chimichurri 32

Citrus Restaurant on Urbanspoon

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My lunch buffet plate

Royal Indian Cuisine recently opened just north of Howell Branch Road on Semoran Blvd / SR 436 in Casselberry in the former location of Brick and Fire Pizza.

I recently visited for lunch, when they serve a lunch buffet for $9.95. Though they had a buffet cart with various vegetarian and meat dishes available for self-serve, the service was still quite courteous and genial.

I found the food to be quite good, from the garlic naan bread, biryani rice, tandoori chicken, and paneer to the chicken tikka masala. All in all, I would visit again, and maybe ask for some more spice in my dishes.

I think my favorite was the paneer masala dish, which reminded me a lot of tofu. Paneer is an unaged, non-melting Indian cheese or curd cheese made by curdling heated milk with lemon juice, vinegar, or any other food acids

They are open Tuesday through Sundays for Lunch Buffet: 11.30 AM-3.00 PM and Dinner: 5.00PM-10.00 PM

Royal Indian Cuisine - Closed Mondays
Royal Indian Cuisine – Closed Mondays
Fruits, chutneys, yogurts
Fruits, chutneys, yogurts
Vegetarian and Meat dishes
Vegetarian and Meat dishes

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Lovely fluffy naan
Lovely fluffy naan
My lunch buffet plate
My lunch buffet plate

http://www.royalindianorlando.com/

Royal Indian Cuisine on Urbanspoon

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MoonFish on Sand Lake Road, Orlando’s restaurant row near the International Drive and the Orange County Convention Center, features a blend of Pan-Asian, Cajun, Pacific Rim, and Floribean flair with Prime and Choice mid-western aged steaks cooked over a natural wood-burning pit and an intriguing sushi menu.

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With USDA Prime and Choice steaks aged on the premises and ten species of the freshest, just-caught fish flown in daily from all over the world, the restaurant strives to ensure the best possible dining experience. Seafood and steaks are flame-grilled over a 1200-degree Florida citrus and oak wood fire.

7525 W. Sand Lake Road
Orlando, FL 32819
407.363.7262

Happy Hour: 4:30pm-6:30pm

Happy Hour Menu – http://www.moonfishrestaurant.com/assets/2/7/HHMF.pdf

Sushi Rolls

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Double Spicy Tuna $8.48
Spicy tuna topped w/ sliced tuna & a spicy mayo

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Volcano $7.98
Real king crab, avocado, cucumber topped w/ spicy seafood

California $4.48
Real king crab, avocado & cucumber

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Super Crunch $5.98
Shrimp, avocado, tempura fried, w/ smoked salmon

Shrimp Tempura $4.25
Crispy shrimp w/ avocado & cream cheese

Yum Yum $5.95
Flash fried yellowtail tuna w/ cream cheese

Rising Sun $7.48
California roll topped w/ tuna, escolar & a spicy sweet sauce

Makimono
Veggie $3.50

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Fried Calamari $6.50

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Tuna Taco $1.75ea
Shrimp Cocktail $2.00ea

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Apalachicola Raw Oysters 65¢ ea
Wood Grilled Oysters 90¢ ea

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PEI Mussels $5.50
Cioppino style with vodka tomato broth, Thai red curry cream, or simmered in “Barracuda Brown” signature
beer with fennel and orange zest.

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Drink Specials

Draft Beer $3.50
Florida Lager and Barracuda Brown
Thomas Schmitt “Kabinett”, Riesling $7.00
Laetitia “Firefly Ridge”, Chardonnay $7.00
Laetitia “Wildfire Ridge”, Pinot Noir $7.00
Red & White Wines $4.00
Select wines by the glass
Cocktails & Martinis $4.00
Featuring Svedka Vodka and Bacardi Rum
Grey Goose Cocktails $6.00
Grey Goose Martinis $9.00
Fresh Fruit Infusions $4.00
Fresh fruit infused spirits, creating anenticing blend of flavors & aromas

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MoonFish on Urbanspoon

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Idaho Potato-wrapped Red Snapper - over a Rich Leek Fondue with a Veal Glace de Viande and Red Wine-Cassis Butter Reduction - $37.00

The Flying Fish Cafe located on the Disney Boardwalk features “New American” cuisine with an emphasis on seafood with an open kitchen where guests can watch chefs and cooks work diligently and skillfully in crafting their dishes nightly – from popular specialties like the potato-wrapped red snapper, crispy crab cakes and char-crusted New York strip steak.

The kitchen is led by James Beard Award nominated Chef Tim Keating, who continues to change and update the menu seasonally with the freshest ingredients – so you never know what might be on the menu that evening.

The decor harkens back to the Atlantic City boardwalk theme – featuring golden parachuting fish, fish scaled columns, and a ferris wheel and rollercoaster motifs.

Be sure to save room for the caramelized banana napoleon and seasonal, house-made sorbets! If you are feeling adventurous, you can try the Flying Fish Cafe’s banana napoleon recipe at home here – but let the chefs take care of this for you here.

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Crispy Togarashi-scented Calamari and Florida Rock Shrimp - Spiced Green Papaya, Wakame, and Vegetable Julienne with an Asian-inspired Dipping Sauce - $15.00
Crispy Togarashi-scented Calamari and Florida Rock Shrimp – Spiced Green Papaya, Wakame, and Vegetable Julienne with an Asian-inspired Dipping Sauce – $15.00
Crispy Togarashi-scented Calamari and Florida Rock Shrimp - Spiced Green Papaya, Wakame, and Vegetable Julienne with an Asian-inspired Dipping Sauce - $15.00
Crispy Togarashi-scented Calamari and Florida Rock Shrimp – Spiced Green Papaya, Wakame, and Vegetable Julienne with an Asian-inspired Dipping Sauce – $15.00
Crispy Maine Coast Jonah Crab Cake - Savory Vegetable Slaw, Roasted Red Pepper Coulis, and Ancho Chile Rémoulade - $17.00
Crispy Maine Coast Jonah Crab Cake – Savory Vegetable Slaw, Roasted Red Pepper Coulis, and Ancho Chile Rémoulade – $17.00
Crispy Maine Coast Jonah Crab Cake - Savory Vegetable Slaw, Roasted Red Pepper Coulis, and Ancho Chile Rémoulade - $17.00
Crispy Maine Coast Jonah Crab Cake – Savory Vegetable Slaw, Roasted Red Pepper Coulis, and Ancho Chile Rémoulade – $17.00
Roasted Epcot Eggplant and Tomato Bisque - Florida Coastal Shrimp, Sun-dried Tomatoes, and Fennel with Herb Crème Fraîche, and Basil-infused Oil - $10.00
Roasted Epcot Eggplant and Tomato Bisque – Florida Coastal Shrimp, Sun-dried Tomatoes, and Fennel with Herb Crème Fraîche, and Basil-infused Oil – $10.00
Chef Tim Keating of Flying Fish Cafe
Chef Tim Keating of Flying Fish Cafe

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Leek, Fontina, and Truffle-laced Trofie "Macaroni & Cheese" - Leek, Fontina, and Truffle-laced Trofie "Macaroni & Cheese" - $13.00 , Fines Herb-roasted Wild and Cultivated Mushrooms - Fines Herb-roasted Wild and Cultivated Mushrooms - $9.00 , Aged Gruyère and Parmigiano-Reggiano-Potato Gratin - Aged Gruyère and Parmigiano-Reggiano-Potato Gratin - $8.00
Leek, Fontina, and Truffle-laced Trofie “Macaroni & Cheese” – Leek, Fontina, and Truffle-laced Trofie “Macaroni & Cheese” – $13.00 , Fines Herb-roasted Wild and Cultivated Mushrooms – Fines Herb-roasted Wild and Cultivated Mushrooms – $9.00 , Aged Gruyère and Parmigiano-Reggiano-Potato Gratin – Aged Gruyère and Parmigiano-Reggiano-Potato Gratin – $8.00
Char-crusted Angus New York Strip Steak - Haricot Verts, Roasted Fingerling Potatoes, Pearl Onions and Beech Mushrooms with Classic Sauce Foyot - $43.00
Char-crusted Angus New York Strip Steak – Haricot Verts, Roasted Fingerling Potatoes, Pearl Onions and Beech Mushrooms with Classic Sauce Foyot – $43.00
Idaho Potato-wrapped Red Snapper - over a Rich Leek Fondue with a Veal Glace de Viande and Red Wine-Cassis Butter Reduction - $37.00
Idaho Potato-wrapped Red Snapper – over a Rich Leek Fondue with a Veal Glace de Viande and Red Wine-Cassis Butter Reduction – $37.00

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Caramelized Banana Napoleon - Crisp Phyllo, Banana Mousse, Crème Caramel, Exotic Fruit Coulis, and Bitter Chocolate - $8.00
Caramelized Banana Napoleon – Crisp Phyllo, Banana Mousse, Crème Caramel, Exotic Fruit Coulis, and Bitter Chocolate – $8.00

“As a young chef, it is just about the food – at the end of the day, make sure it tastes good and cook from the soul” – Chef Matthew Cargo, chef di cucina, Prato

Chef Matthew Cargo is an Orlando Native and currently the chef di cucina at Prato in Winter Park, Florida since its opening three years ago. He recently traveled to California for one month apprenticing under two Michelin Star restaurants which included Quince SF (2-Michelin Starred) and Meadowood Napa (3-Michelin Starred).

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A Boone High School graduate, Cargo went on to attend the Le Cordon Bleu OCA and then accepted a position as a line cook at Luma on Park in 2009 where he met Chef Brandon Mcglamery.

Chef Matthew Cargo told us, “His philosophy about food and techniques were very inspiring to me as a young Chef, and he mentored me to push myself through the ranks of the kitchen to gain the knowledge and fundamentals that we preach and practice day in and day out.”

“He called me one night three years ago and asked me do you have your passport? We’re going to Italy next week for 12 days and we’re going to open a new restaurant and you’re going to be the chef de cuisine.”

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He’s been chef di cucina of Prato ever since. It’s been a whirlwind three years, and so it was due time to take a short break and some travel.

“We’ve got a chef driven menu at Prato, it’s been a growing experience for me and Brandon as well. We work with what we have, what’s in season, and what space we have with creative freedom,” Chef Cargo said.

“My trip to Cali was a soul search “Sabbatical”. Prato is a beast of a restaurant – the numbers are huge and we are super successful, but I felt that at the time that Prato was not what Brandon and I wanted it to be. With a small kitchen and 170 seats, I have always continued to push and strive to make Prato great because it’s very close to my heart and soul.”

“Chef [McGlamery] said in the beginning I’m giving you this restaurant because you have earned it, good luck kid – he has always supported me 100%. It’s a story to you young inspiring chefs – hard work pays off.”

“I was 29, tired and struggling to hold my team together, questioning the food I was doing. I want it always to better, push, push – most people can’t do that everyday, but I did.”

prato1 He went to California this past summer, unpaid,  and stayed in hostels while working at Quince SF and Meadowood Napa.

“I realized that food is great, but Orlando is my home and I want to be apart of making this city know for food like LA, SF, NY – with all of us, I believe we can make difference!”

“I went to California in search of what food should be and how the caliber of a chef is judged. I wanted to work in the most intense driven kitchens to see if Michelin star cooking was the end all be all, most importantly well respected in every aspect. What I came to discover is that I lean to more of soulful/honest cooking, which is Prato.”

“I want Orlando to be known – we’ve gone a long way in the past few years – we keep pushing and try to be part of the community – together with Cask and Larder, Ravenous Pig, all these restaurants are all here to make the community.”

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What are some of your favorite dishes on the menu right now?

Ribollita for sure, it’s a peasants dish (stew/soup) kind of twist layered with toasted ciabatta and topped with a poached Zenn Naturals Golden Egg and Serrano Mostarda.

Madai Snapper Crudo, Buttermilk Panna cotta, castlevatrano olive fritto.

Meatballs are always OG status.

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What are you planning for the coming winter season?

Stick with what’s available and hopefully score some white truffles!

Where do you dine when not at Prato?

Grandma’s house, C&L (Cask and Larder), King Cajun Crawfish, and the Patty melt at the Hideaway.

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What are some interesting facts about yourself that most people might not know?

I’m an Amateur Hand Model.

Growing up, what were some of your favorite childhood eats?

“Canned pears topped with miracle whip and cheddar cheese”…trust me.

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Barnie’s CoffeeKitchen, led by CEO Jonathon Smiga and Executive Chef Camilo Velasco, has made a remarkable transition in the past few years from a mall staple with over 110 shops to 2 company owned neighborhood coffee shops in Winter Park and Downtown Orlando.

Barnie’s CoffeeKitchen has joined coffee’s “third wave” movement, allowing for greater care and attention to the brew, from the sourcing to the brew method, whether it’s pour over or drip cones.

They’ve also expanded their reach into the online sales world greatly by offering not only their special branded coffees by the bag, but also have kept up with the times by having Keurig style single serve coffee cups and instant brewsticks, all with their signature flavors.

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The Kitchen part of Barnie’s CoffeeKitchen in Winter Park is often overlooked or as some would say, one of Winter Park’s best kept secrets.

The food churned out by Chef Camilo Velasco in the tiny space behind the coffee brewing stations at Barnie’s CoffeeKitchen is nothing short of awe inspiring.

Even though they have the typical to-go type sandwiches and salads you’d expect for a coffee shop, on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday evenings, the cafe turns into a sort of intimate chef’s tasting room with all sorts of culinary delights that excite and intrigue the senses.

On a recent visit to Barnie’s CoffeeKitchen, over some fanciful dinner conversation with the rather fascinating Mr. Smiga and accompanying marketing team, I was surprised and delighted on several occasions by what came out from the tiny kitchen in the back of the room that night.

Barnie's CoffeeKitchen CEO Jonathon Smiga with Executive Chef Camilo Velasco
Barnie’s CoffeeKitchen CEO Jonathon Smiga with Executive Chef Camilo Velasco

Chef Velasco’s dishes are some of the best on the competitive Park Avenue, where countless other restaurants vie for Winter Park customers. The Zellwood corn chowder, for example, is chockful of local Zellwood corn and crunchy, crispy chorizo bits, like bacon, in a rich, creamy broth, a nod to Chef Velasco’s Latin roots.

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Chef Velasco, a protege of the James Beard acclaimed award winning chef Norman Van Aken of Norman’s, has honed his craft here and demonstrated great skill and technique in his new fall chef’s menu dishes, from the potato gnocchi with duck confit to the local grilled pompano, delicate and shimmering on top of baby bok choy in a roasted red pepper, coconut broth.

Each dish on the menu is graciously paired with a thoughtful wine suggestion as well, each glass tempered to accentuate the flavors or complement the richness of a dish.

Save room for dessert, the olive oil cake and Sicilian pistachio gelato with macerated berries is a sweet delight, and almost too pretty to eat. Almost.

Give the chef’s dinner menu a try this fall, you might be surprised by what you’ll find tucked inside the coffee shop on a Park Avenue street corner.

Loch Duart Salmon Tartare - Pickled ramps, salsa verde and radish - 11.oo
Loch Duart Salmon Tartare – Pickled ramps, salsa verde and radish – 11.oo
Zellwood Corn Chowder - Spanish chorizo - 7.oo
Zellwood Corn Chowder – Spanish chorizo – 7.oo
Potato Gnocchi  - Duck confit, brown butter, and sage - 10.oo
Potato Gnocchi – Duck confit, brown butter, and sage – 10.oo
Florida Pompano, Roasted red pepper, coconut milk broth, and baby bok choy - 16.oo
Florida Pompano, Roasted red pepper, coconut milk broth, and baby bok choy – 16.oo
Olive Oil Cake and Sicilian Pistachio Gelato With macerated berries - 7.oo
Olive Oil Cake and Sicilian Pistachio Gelato With macerated berries – 7.oo

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For more information about hours and menu, visit http://barniescoffeekitchen.com/pages/our-cafe

Barnie’s CoffeeKitchen
118 S. Park Ave, Winter Park, FL 407.629.0042

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Café Boulud at The Brazilian Court on the island of Palm Beach opened in July 2003, steps from Worth Avenue and stretches of white sandy beach. I visited recently with my family to try out their dishes for lunch, and thought the food that I found was good, though not particularly remarkable.

It was fresh, yes, and tasty, yes, but it seemed to be missing some complexity in flavors. But I suppose they are trying to cater to their clientele, particularly the lunch crowd in Palm Beach. The service was attentive and polished, as expected.

Since moving to New York from Lyon, France in 1982, Chef Daniel Boulud’s culinary accolades over the course of three decades have included James Beard Foundation awards for “Outstanding Restaurant,” “Outstanding Restaurateur,” “Best Chef, New York City” and “Outstanding Chef of the Year.” Daniel, his flagship New York City namesake, was awarded three Michelin stars in the 2010 Michelin, the book’s highest rating, and is consistently ranked among Restaurant Magazine’s “World’s 50 Best Restaurants.”

The menu at Café Boulud in Palm Beach “reflects the chef’s four muses. La Tradition highlights classic French dishes, while La Saison features courses in harmony with the season. Le Potager offers the bounty of the vegetable garden. Le Voyage is Daniel Boulud’s interpretation of various world cuisines.”

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Smoked Salmon Mirroir – Crispy Fingerling chips, chives, creme fraiche, caperberries, salmon roe $20

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COBB SALAD
chicken, corn, avocado, tomato, blue cheese
egg, bacon, buttermilk dressing
22.

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Croque Monsieur Panini – Grilled Ham and Gruyere on Sourdough with a side of marinated tomato salad – $15

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CLASSIC AMERICAN CHEESEBURGER
shiny sheet’s “best of palm beach”
20.

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Cafe Boulud on Urbanspoon

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Boardwalk Bakery at Disney’s Boardwalk was recently renovated and expanded, allowing for a greater selection of baked goods, soups, salads and sandwiches to a selection of beverages, both hot and cold. The setting is like what you’d find maybe at a 1920’s bakery shop along New Jersey’s Boardwalk area with checkered floors and capped attendants.

Some of their sandwich offerings include the Maine Lobster Roll, roast beef, oak grilled salmon, and pork loin while their baked goods run the gamut from apple tart to fruit tarts, cupcakes, napoleons, croissants and danishes.

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Maine Lobster Roll – with Buttered Chive Mayo, on a Split Top Roll with choice of Cucumber Salad or Chips $16.29

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BoardWalk Bakery on Urbanspoon

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Fried Pork Chop before being smothered

Located on Carter Street just west of downtown Orlando and east of Orange Blossom Trail, Nikki’s Place is one of the last few places specializing in soul food in Orlando. The place itself is small and humble, with only a few dining tables and a minimally decorated space. The walls are adorned with various newspaper clippings and photos with community leaders and celebrities who have visited over time.

Despite its humble setting, quite a few Mercedes and Lexus cars were parked out front, and a few folks from the city could be identified eating inside. I wondered to my dining companion that afternoon if this was like Orlando’s own version of Freddy’s BBQ joint from the House of Cards, where Mr. Frank Underwood would go to scheme his political ascent over a plate of ribs.

The restaurant actually has quite the history as outlined in the Nikki’s Place article by Orlando Sentinel’s Heather Mcpherson. Although known as Nikki’s Place since 1999, the restaurant was originally opened in 1949 and was known as Roser’s Restaurant. The restaurant continues in the tradition of serving good Southern comfort food, simple and straightforward.

Courses here for lunch come with two sides as well as a freshly baked cornbread muffin. Diners can choose from a list ranging from chitterlings to ox tails, fried chicken, smothered rib tips, pork neck bones, pig tails and pig ears, all the wonderful bits and pieces that make traditional Southern cuisine so delicious.

My dining companion ordered the Fried Tilapia with sweet rutabagas and collard greens ($8.25) while I ordered the Fried Pork Chop with mac and cheese and collard greens ($9.00).

Portions are not outrageous as some other soul food places have known to be, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing. It was just the right amount to be full but not overstuffed, particularly the side portions.

My collard greens and mac and cheese were both very good while my pork chop was fried to a nice juicy crisp. I had actually wanted the smothered pork chop, and the staff were kind enough to bring a small cup of the gravy and onions to smother my pork chop in after inquiring.

Overall, a very enjoyable lunch and will likely return to this neighborhood spot to try some of their sweet potato pie.

On Wednesdays, they have a $5.00 Wednesday plate special including Smothered Steak, Rib Tips, BBQ Riblets, Fried Wings, Turkey Necks, Beef Stew, And Meat Loaf.

Closed Tuesdays.

Nikki's Place on Urbanspoon

Entrance
Entrance
Interior of Nikki's Place
Interior of Nikki’s Place
Menu at Nikki's Place
Menu at Nikki’s Place
Menu at Nikki's Place
Menu at Nikki’s Place

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Fried Tilapia with rutabaga and collard greens
Fried Tilapia with rutabaga and collard greens
Fried Pork Chop before being smothered
Fried Pork Chop before being smothered
Smothered Pork Chop with mac and cheese and collard greens
Smothered Pork Chop with mac and cheese and collard greens
Nikki's Place Owner and Chef, Nick Aiken Jr.
Nikki’s Place Co-Owner and Chef, Nick Aiken Jr.
Orlando City Mayor Buddy Dyer with Nikki's Place Owner and Chef, Nick Aiken Jr.
Orlando City Mayor Buddy Dyer with Nikki’s Place Owner and Chef, Nick Aiken Jr.

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Chili Jam Fried Rice with Beef and Fried Tofu - Sweet and Spicy

This tiny Thai restaurant has been on Aloma for as long as I’ve known – and it’s been suggested that this is the first Thai restaurant in Orlando. It was long past over due for a visit so I went with a friend recently for lunch to check out their offerings.

I must admit, I am not the biggest fan of Thai food. I don’t know why but the noodle and rice dishes I have found in Orlando’s Thai restaurants have been more subdued or just rather bland than I am accustomed to – after a few bites, I’d get bored with my dish.

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For some reason, I have this feeling that the dishes have been “dumbed” down a notch to not offend any Western sensibilities – read: less of the “Thai hot” flavors. I am not a fan of scorching Thai hot either, but maybe a medium between the two extremes of hot and mild/bland is where the real authentic flavor is.

Anyways, I was happy to discover that Thai Villa’s dishes stay true to the Thai palate and were quite full of flavor.

I make it a point to look for and order the “Stuffed Chicken Legs” each time I see it on a menu at a Thai restaurant. It’s one of my favorite Thai dishes – a whole chicken drumstick and wing that’s been stuffed with a mixture of ground pork, noodles, and mushrooms, and then grilled or fried. The ones here are fried and are an ample serving for two – they hit the spot, tasty, fresh, and filling as an appetizer.

For my lunch, I ordered the chili jam fried rice with beef and crispy tofu, while my dining companion ordered the traditional chicken pad thai. My fried rice was very enjoyable with nice sweet chili spice flavors and the crispy crunch from the fried tofu. A little dash of crushed peanuts from the house spice jars and it’s a hit. The chicken pad thai that I sampled from my friend was also quite good.

I can see why this place is packed for lunch, and would definitely return.

Closed Wednesdays.

Thai Villa on Urbanspoon

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Stuffed Chicken Wings
Stuffed Chicken Wings
Chicken Pad Thai
Chicken Pad Thai
Chili Jam Fried Rice with Beef and Fried Tofu - Sweet and Spicy
Chili Jam Fried Rice with Beef and Fried Tofu – Sweet and Spicy

Washington Shores Fish Market is not really a seafood market per se, but rather more of a neighborhood fish fry joint. Located in the Washington Shores neighborhood, just west of John Young Parkway right next to a Lynx bus stop, the unassuming shop, in somewhat sketchy locale, sells up loads of fried fish and shrimp for a value price.

You order up at the window, where the orders are fried fresh to order. Expect to wait maybe 10-15 minutes in your car or at one of the picnic tables outside. Classic Street Food.

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You can order from a list of fish and seafood including grouper, catfish, Nile perch, shrimp ranging from $6 to $9. They also have sides for order from cheesy grits to hush puppies and coleslaw. The portions are all very generous, fresh and hot from the frier.

The daily special includes fried basa fish with bread and fries for $5.75, which comes with about 5-6 big pieces of fried fish fillets. The steak fries are crispy and delicious as are the fried fish. The fish breading is perfect.

Washington Shores Fish Market on Urbanspoon

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Walt Disney World’s Swan and Dolphin Executive Chef Robert J. Ciborowski graduated from the California Culinary Academy in San Francisco and began his career in Los Angeles before traveling for positions as far away as Japan, Hawaii and the Bahamas.

Before coming to the Swan and Dolphin, he most recently held executive chef positions at Mantra Restaurant in Palo Alto, Calif., and with the Kapalua Land Company in Maui, Hawaii.

We interviewed him recently for our Orlando Chef’s Spotlight series to find out more about him and new happenings at the Swan and Dolphin.

Chef Robert was born and raised in southern California alongside his two brothers and sister. His father was an officer in the Marine Corps, but his family was fortunate that he didn’t move have around a lot.

Chef Robert told us, “My mother also worked so my grandmother helped raise us. She came here from Italy and spent a lot of time teaching us how to make fresh gnocchi, ravioli and pastas. Growing up in an Italian household, the kitchen was the heart of the house. It’s a big influence on who I’ve become.”

Robert Ciborowski, Executive Chef
Robert Ciborowski, Executive Chef
What are some of your favorite dishes on the menus at the hotel?

I love so many of the different items we make, so it’s hard to choose just one. Here are my favorites from each of our signature restaurants:

  • Kimonos – Dragon Roll (Giant Crispy Shrimp and Tuna)
  • Il Mulino New York Trattoria – Costoletta di Vitello Milanese (Veal Milanese)
  • Shula’s Steak House – 22 oz. Cowboy Ribeye
  • Todd English’s bluezoo – Yellowfin Tuna Tartare
  • Cib’s Smokehouse – Handcrafted Bacon
What are you planning for the coming fall and winter season?

You shouldn’t be eating a tomato in the middle of winter. Yeah, you can get tomatoes from the southern hemisphere, but why fly them in when you can get something that’s locally grown? With any menu change, our goal is to use ingredients that are indigenous to that time of year and incorporate them into the scope of what we already do in the food and beverage department, from restaurants to banquets.

Where do you dine when not at the Swan and Dolphin?

I love gourmet food, but I also enjoy authentic, rustic-style food. It’s more about what I want to eat, rather than where I eat. If I’m looking for a hotdog, then I try to go to a place that makes a really good hotdog. I am very particular – if I’m paying for food, then I want it to be good.

My family and I go to Cask & Larder every year for Father’s Day and I also enjoy Hillstone for the view. Some of my other favorites include Prato, Luma and Ravenous Pig.

Executive Chef Robert Ciborowski on line
Executive Chef Robert Ciborowski on line
What are some interesting facts about yourself that most people might not know?

My family is very important to me –my brothers and sister, my parents, wife and son. I think you’re a better chef when you can balance your home life and professional life. If you don’t, then one of them will suffer. I’m a firm believer in making sure my team and the staff here is able to take some time away from work to become a better husband, wife, son, etc.

One of my favorite places to live was Napa Valley. The Napa region has the ideal climate for growing vegetables and its proximity to the water makes it a great place to source local fish.

As a kid and even now as a chef, I hate being dirty. I know it sounds weird, but I don’t like having dirty clothes.

Growing up, what were some of your favorite childhood eats?

Every time someone had a birthday, we were allowed to ask for our favorite meal. I always asked for homemade pizza. I also loved my mom’s beef stew.

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Saturday, December 13, 2014
7:00 pm – 10:00 pm

NORMAN’S is hosting an elegant reception to honor the late Charlie Trotter. The evening will feature hors d’oeuvres presented by renowned local chefs, as well as culinary stations by Chef Norman and his team.

The event will also feature a silent auction to benefit The Trotter Project.  Chef Charlie Trotter’s vision and
values inspired thousands of alumni, guests, family and friends.  In the spirit of giving back,  The Trotter Project is creating a series of charitable initiatives and programs centered around the culinary arts, service, education and excellence.

Guest chefs include:
Chefs James and Julie Petrakis, The Ravenous Pig and Cask & Larder
Chef Hari Pulapaka, Cress Restaurant
Chef Greg Baker, The Refinery
Chef Scott Hunnell, Victoria & Albert’s
Chef Brandon McGlammery, Luma on Park and Prato
Chef Timothy Keating, Flying Fish Café
Chef Greg Richie, Cityfish Restaurant
Chef Ryan Vargas, Tchoup Chop
Chef John Rivers, 4 Rivers and The Coop
Chef Kathleen Blake, The Rusty Spoon
Chef Kevin Fonzo, K Wine Bar
Chef Jerome Bocuse, Les Chefs de France and Le Bistro de Paris, Epcot
Chef David Serus, The Ritz-Carlton Orlando, Grande Lakes
Chef Stephane Cheramy, The Ritz-Carlton Orlando, Grande Lakes

Sommeliers will be pairing wines accordingly.

Event is $200 per person, plus tax and gratuity. Reserve your space by calling (407) 393-4333.

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Menu

CANAPES AND CHAMPAGNE RECEPTION

HOG’S HEAD CROSTINI
Shell Pea Hummus and Turnip Chow-Chow
Chefs Julie and James Petrakis, The Ravenous Pig

UMAMI-LACED FLORIDA DAY-BOAT SPINY LOBSTER
Mote Marine Siberian Caviar & Avocado
Chef Timothy Keathing, The Flying Fish Cafe

TUNA
Sumac ~ Black Radish ~ Celery Root
Chef Scott Hunnel, Victoria & Albert’s

AHI POKE
Uni Chawan Mushi ~ Truffle
Chef Ryan Vargas, Emeril’s Tchoup Chop

RABBIT AND BLACK TRUMPET MUSHROOM BOUDIN
Mushroom Marmalade ~ Burgundy Truffle
Chef Kevin Fonzo, K Restaurant

CENTRAL FLORIDA SURF ‘N TURF
Canaveral Royal Red Shrimp Salad ~ Duch Bolognese
Chef Hari Pulapaka, Cress Restaurant

SLOW ROASTED BARBECUED PORK BELLY
Buttermilk Biscuit ~ Jalapeno Jelly
Chef Greg Richie, Soco Thornton Park

STONE CRAB AND TOBACCO CURED MULLET
Yuzu Mojo ~ Celeriac Puree ~ Sorrel
Chef Greg Baker, The Refinery

“CANNED” SWORDFISH TARTARE
Hot Sauce ~ Brioche Crust
Chef David Serus, The Ritz-Carlton Orlando, Grande Lakes

QUAIL EGG “SCOTCHIES”
Italian Sausage ~ Mustard & Pickled Vegetable
Chef Kathleen Blake, The Rusty Spoon

CHESTNUT-BROWN BUTTER STUFFED CHICKEN WING
BAY SCALLOP
Chef Brandon McGlammery, Luma on Park and Prato

FOOD STATIONS

CAVIAR
Black Osetra ~ Siberian Sturgeon ~ Sevruga
Traditional Garnish
Russian Standard Vodka

KEY WEST PINK SHRIMP CEVICHE
“Salsa of Life” ~ Avocado
Patron Tequila Silver

AUSTRALIAN WAGYU RIBEYE
Annatto Potato Confit ~ Romanesco ~ Shiraz Essence
Tolaini “Valdisanti,” Cabernet Blend, Tuscany, Italy
Master Sommelier: Laura DePasquale

CHILLED SEAFOOD
Stone Crab Claws ~ Razor Clams ~ Oysters
Galerie Naissance Sauvignon Blanc Napa Valley
Master Sommelier: John Blazon

FLORIDA COBIA
Winter Truffles ~ Corn Crema ~ Charred Baby Corn
Walter Hansel Estate Chardonnay, Sonoma
Master Sommelier: Brian Koziol

ROASTED PIG
Chef John Rivers
Clarendon Hills Grenache, McLaren Vale, Australia
Master Sommelier: George Miliotes

DESSERTS AND PASTRIES

Chef Stephane Cheramy, The Ritz-Carlton Orlando, Grande Lakes
Chef Jose Detres, NORMAN’S
Champagne Laurent-Perrier Demi-Sec, NV, France
Master Sommerlier: Eric Hemer

SCOTCH
MaCallan 12-15 Years

COGNAC
Remy Martin XO – VSOP

RHUM
Brugal 1888

BOURBON
Eagle Rare – Blanton’s

CIGAR ROLLS

CHEF-FOUNDER: NORMAN VAN AKEN
EXECUTIVE CHEF: ANDRES MENDOZA
GENERAL MANAGER/WINE DIRECTOR: YUSUF YILDIZ

“ONE SHOULD ALWAYS BE A LITTLE IMPROBABLE”
—OSCAR WILDE

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Led by James Beard Award nominated Chef Tim Keating, The Flying Fish Cafe on Disney’s Boardwalk features “New American” cuisine with an emphasis on uber-fresh ingredients, seafood and steak specialties such as the potato-wrapped red snapper, crispy crab cakes and char-crusted strip steak.

Chef Tim Keating of The Flying Fish Cafe
Chef Tim Keating of The Flying Fish Cafe

One of our absolute most favorite desserts is the caramelized banana napoleon, a decadent dessert made with layers of crispy phyllo dough, banana mousse, and creme brulee custard.

Chef Keating and the Disney team has graciously shared with us the recipe for the very popular caramelized banana napoleon below:

Caramelized Banana Napoleon at Flying Fish Cafe – Disney’s Boardwalk

Serves 8

Phyllo Pastry
15 sheets frozen phyllo dough, thawed overnight in the refrigerator
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, melted
Confectioners’ sugar

Crème Brûlée Custard
1 quart heavy cream
1 cup sugar
12 egg yolks
1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise and scraped, seeds reserved

Banana Mousse
1 1/2 cups white chocolate chips
3 egg yolks
1/2 teaspoon powdered gelatin
1/4 cup banana liqueur
2 cups heavy cream
3/4 cup mashed ripe banana

Assembly
Banana slices
Confectioners’ sugar
Chocolate shavings

For phyllo pastry:
1. Preheat oven to 350°F
2. Brush one sheet phyllo with melted butter, top with a second sheet, bush with butter, and repeat with a third sheet. Place a fourth sheet on top, brush with butter and lightly dust with confectioners’ sugar. Repeat process with fifth sheet. Cut into 8 equal rectangles.
3. Repeat process twice more with remaining phyllo sheets, creating a stack of 5 at a time.
4. Turn a sheet pan upside down and cover with parchment paper. Place the squares on the prepared sheet. Cover with another sheet of parchment paper and top with another sheet pan to firmly press the squares while they bake.
5. Bake 10 minutes. Lower oven temperature to 180°F and bake another 10 minutes or until squares are lightly golden brown.

For crème brûlée custard:
1. Preheat oven to 300°F.
2. Whisk together cream, sugar, egg yolks, and vanilla bean seeds in a large bowl. Pour into an 8×8-inch square baking pan. Place the pan inside a larger roasting pan. Place both pans on the middle rack of the oven. Pour water into larger pans until it reaches halfway up sides of smaller pan.
3. Bake 60 to 70 minutes, until sides of custard are set but center still jiggles slightly. Cool to room temperature. Press a layer of plastic wrap directly onto surface of custard and refrigerate overnight.
4. Cut into 8 rectangles.

For banana mousse:
1. Place white chocolate chips in a heatproof bowl set over a small saucepan of simmering water, making sure bottom of bowl does not touch water. Melt chocolate, stirring frequently. Remove from heat and set aside.
2. Sprinkle gelatin over banana liqueur in a small bowl and set aside for 5 minutes. Microwave 10 seconds, stirring gelatin into liqueur.
3. Beat egg yolks in the bowl of an electric mixer until light yellow in color.
4. Add liqueur mixture to egg yolks, beating well to combine. Add white chocolate beating well to combine. Set aside until cooled to room temperature.
5. Whip heavy cream to soft peaks, then gently fold into white chocolate mixture. Fold in banana purée.
6. Refrigerate at least 1 hour before serving.

To assemble:
1. Spoon banana mousse into a piping bag or a zip-top bag with one corner cut off. Pipe a small dot of mousse on each serving plate.
2. Top with a phyllo piece, then a piece of crème brûlée custard and another phyllo piece.
3. Top with a layer of banana mousse and sliced fresh bananas.
4. Top with a third phyllo piece and more banana mousse.
5. Garnish with confectioners’ sugar and chocolate shavings

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This recipe has been converted from a larger quantity in the restaurant kitchens.
The flavor profile may vary from the restaurant’s version.

All recipes are the property of Walt Disney Parks and Resorts U.S., Inc.,
and may not be reproduced without express permission.

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Once upon a time, Halal Philly Cheese Steaks and Gyros occupied the space on the corner of Colonial Drive and Semoran Blvd.

There it was, since 1996, this corner mom and pop type place serving up hot, fresh philly cheese steak sandwiches and gyros.

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Then in 2012, the shop moved to this location on East Colonial near Goldenrod Road. This was because of the new overpass interchange built in that location to prevent pedestrian accidents/deaths (named one of the top 10 deadliest intersections in America a few years ago by Transportation of America).

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The space inside this strip mall spot is sparsely decorated, save for a fantastical space mural on the wall. The Philly cheesesteaks are out of this world, it subtly proclaims.

The space mural - foolish earthlings don't know how good they got it here
The space mural – foolish earthlings don’t know how good they got it here

The menu is also rather limited in scope, with gyros, salads, cheesesteaks, and burgers making up the majority of menu. But, the flavors are there – hot, fresh, griddled meat and cheeses all melting and sizzling together on the stovetop, handled with care by the friendly and welcoming owner/cook Mr. Iskender aka Alex Kurnaz.

The fries also arrive hot and fresh, crispy.

If you so desired, you could even get a philly style gyro sub sandwich.

Either way, it’s a good place to go if you are hankering for a great sub sandwich and hot fries without the pretenses.

Follow them on facebook at https://www.facebook.com/HalalGyro

Mr. Iskender aka Alex Kurnaz of Halal Philly Cheesesteaks and Gyros
Mr. Kurnaz of Halal Philly Cheesesteaks and Gyros
Philly Cheesesteak - big and fresh
Philly Cheesesteak – big and fresh
Gyro
Gyro
Burger, a favorite of Mr. Ali Kurnaz, son of Mr. Kurnaz
Burger, a favorite of Mr. Ali Kurnaz, son of Mr. Kurnaz

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Menu at Halal Philly Cheesesteaks and Gyro
Menu at Halal Philly Cheesesteaks and Gyro

Philly Cheese Steaks & Gyros on Urbanspoon

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Maybe you don’t want to cook at home this Thanksgiving. Maybe you’re on vacation here in Orlando and want to find a way to have a Thanksgiving feast while you’re here.

Well, lucky for you, here is a list of Thanksgiving events going on in Central Florida this 2014:

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Taproom at Dubsdread in College Park
Thanksgiving Day features oven roasted herb crusted prime rib, roasted turkey with gravy, glazed ham, all the trimmings and desserts – Adults $31.95, Children under 10 $11.95. Reservations Required.
Here is the menu in pdf

Highland Manor in Apopka is also having a Thanksgiving Feast (it’s managed by the folks at Dubsdread). Same menu as Dubsdread it appears, but here is the menu in pdf.

Fogo De Chao on International Drive
This Thanksgiving, start an exciting new tradition for your family at Fogo de Chão. Along with succulent roasted turkey breast we’re serving up scrumptious pork chops, fresh sweet potato casserole, cranberry relish, roasted veggies and more, all included as part of the full churrasco menu. So make your reservations now. You’ll be thankful you did.
LP2_Thanksgiving_2014_04

Norman’s Orlando at Ritz Carlton
From 5-9 p.m. a four-course menu featuring pan cooked fillet of gulf pompano, Lake Meadow farm turkey roulade, Mexican-style barbecued pork chop and aged New York strip. Cost is $110 adults, $45 children ages 12 and younger.

Taverna Opa Orlando will add a Grecian twist to Thanksgiving.
Forget the Turkey and indulge in lamb with a four-course meal for $25.

2014 Thanksgiving Menu - Taverna Opa

THE ALFOND INN THANKSGIVING 2014
November 27th, 2014
11:00 AM – 3:00 PM
in our Park Avenue Ballroom

$69.00 per Person
$24.95 Children ages 3-12
Children under age 3 are free.

For reservations, please call (407) 645-6604.

DISPLAY OF ANTIPASTO AND TAPAS
Sundried Tomato Goat Cheese
Traditional Hummus
Spanish Tomato Bruschetta
Marinated Artichokes, Olives, Peppers
Vegetarian Tofu Pasta Salad
Oven Roasted Beets, House-made Ricotta Cheese
Grilled Marinated Garden Vegetables, Balsamic Reduction
Roasted Chicken Salad, Celery, Walnuts, Green Apple
Pumpkin and Pear Salad, Goat Cheese, Champagne Vinaigrette
Caprese Salad, Pesto
Assorted Charcuterie Board, Bread Sticks
Cured Olives, Pickled Vegetables

SELECTION OF CHILLED SALADS AND FRUITS
Greenhouse Lettuce, Assorted Vegetables, House-made Dressings
Classic Caesar Salad
Boutique Cheeses, Fresh and Dried Fruits, Walnut Bread

HOT SOUP
Pumpkin, Cinnamon Crouton

FRESH SEAFOOD DISPLAY ON ICE
Shrimp, Oysters, Crab Claws, American and French Cocktail Sauces, Horseradish Cream
Vodka Lime Cream, Roasted Garlic Aioli, Green Apple Mignonette
California Roll, Pickled Ginger, Wasabi, Soy

HOT BUFFET

Seafood Ravioli, Lobster Creme Sauce
Grouper, Stir Fried Vegetables, Ginger-Lemongrass Sauce
Chef Bill’s Roasted Chicken, Natural Jus
Local Fall Vegetable Medley, Herbed Butter
Rosemary-Garlic Roasted Potatoes

CARVING STATIONS
Sea-Salt Herb Crusted Strip Loin, Chianti Glaze, Freshly Grated Horseradish
Puff Pastry Crusted Salmon, White Wine Sauce
Local Wild Mushroom and Truffle Oil Risotto
Carving of Local Turkey, Cranberry-Cumquat Sauce, Bread & Sausage Stuffing
Giblet-Sage Gravy, Roasted Sweet Potato Puree, Roasted Brussels Sprouts
Whipped Potatoes, Green Bean Casserole
Honey-Lavender Roasted Ham, Pear Chutney

DESSERT STATION
House-made Traditional Thanksgiving Pies, Tarts and Roulade
Chef Ronnie’s Fruit Tarts
Classic Tiramisu
Eggnog Cheesecake
Lavender Crème Brulee
Ricotta Amaretto Cake
Crepe Station, Assorted Toppings

American Q – traditional Thanksgiving favorites with a Southern barbecue flair.
The rodizio-style restaurant presents a menu of updated seasonal classics including Chipotle Pumpkin Chorizo, Cider Brined Turkey Breast, and Spiced Acorn Squash during a weekend-long Thanksgiving buffet, all served on the flatbed of a ’51 Ford pickup. Thanksgiving Menu here


American Gymkhana (www.americangymkhana.com)

Available Thursday November 27 – Sunday November 30

Starter

Thanksgiving Chaat - sweet potato crisp, dried mango, spiced sweet potato, lime yogurt foam, cranberry mint chutney – $9

Entrees

Masala Stuffed Poussin – minced chicken, spiced collard greens, cranberry chutney, purple potato hash- $20

Tawa Butternut Squash- caramelized pistachios, cashew gravy- $16 (vegetarian)

Dessert

Pumpkin Samosa- cream cheese green chili ice cream, maple clove drizzle –  $9

Cocktail 

American Harvest Sour – $13
As an ode to the traditional flavors of Thanksgiving and the fall season, the American Harvest cocktail pairs perfectly with our holiday menu specials

Ingredients
2 Oz Kentucky Bourbon
1 Oz Apple Cider
3/4 Oz Lemon Juice
1/2 Oz homemade Cinnamon syrup

Method: shaken
Glassware: Rock or old fashioned
Garnish: Apple slice

Thanksgiving
Emeril’s Tchoup Chop Thanksgiving – http://www.emerilsrestaurants.com/article/spend-thanksgiving-us-emerils-tchoup-chop
Emeril’s Orlando Thanksgiving – http://www.emerilsrestaurants.com/article/spend-thanksgiving-us-emerils-orlando

Celebrate Thanksgiving at Eddie V’s Prime Seafood
For the first time, Eddie V’s Prime Seafood will be open for business, 11 a.m. – 9 p.m., on Thanksgiving Day. The restaurant will feature its full, a la carte dinner menu as well as a traditional Thanksgiving turkey dish with all the seasonal sides and a special Pumpkin Pie dessert. Guests also will enjoy special pricing on Roederer Champagnes by the glass and bottle to help celebrate the occasion. Traditional Thanksgiving Turkey Dish (Special Entrée Option) – Sliced turkey, homestyle green beans with bacon, brioche stuffing, glazed acorn squash, pan gravy with Mirepoix Brunoise, cranberry sauce, mashed potatoes, and turkey gravy on the side. Price per person: Adults: $32, Children (14 years & under): $15. Thanksgiving Dessert -Pumpkin Pie with whipped cream and praline sauce.- Price per person: $8

WHERE:
Eddie V’s Prime Seafood
7488 W. Sand Lake Road
Orlando, FL 32819

Eddie Thanksgiving

Celebrate Thanksgiving at The Capital Grille
The Capital Grille, known nationally for its dry aged, hand-carved steaks and extensive, award-winning wine list, will open on Thanksgiving Day. The restaurant will feature its full, a la carte dinner menu, as well as a traditional Thanksgiving turkey dinner entrée option with all the trimmings and a Pumpkin Cheesecake for dessert. Traditional Thanksgiving Turkey – Slow Roasted Turkey with Brioche Stuffing, French Green Beans with Marcona Almonds, Sam’s Mashed Potatoes, and Cranberry Pear Chutney – Price per person: $36 for adults, $15 for children 12 and under. Thanksgiving Dessert – Pumpkin Cheesecake – Price per person: $10

WHERE:
The Capital Grille
Millenia: 4200 Conroy Road Orlando, FL 32839
I-Drive: 9101 International Drive Orlando, FL 32819

Seasons 52, the fresh grill and wine bar, will be open on Thanksgiving Day.
The restaurant will offer a traditional Thanksgiving dinner with all the trimmings, including Plainville Farms roasted turkey, traditional herb stuffing, Yukon Gold mashed potatoes, maple-glazed butternut squash, French green beans, house-made cranberry relish and a signature pumpkin pie mini indulgence dessert for $26.95 per adult. A children’s portion, as well as the full dinner menu, will also be available. The restaurant will serve until 8 PM. Reservations are recommended.
WHERE:
Orlando: 7700 W Sand Lake Rd, Orlando, FL (407) 354-5212
Altamonte: 463 E Altamonte Dr, Altamonte Springs, FL (407) 767-1252

Let Cooper’s Hawk Winery & Restaurant do the work this Thanksgiving! On Thursday, November 27th from 11:00am to 9:30pm, the restaurant will be serving a seasonally-inspired menu for lunch and dinner. The menu includes a traditional Thanksgiving feast featuring Slow Roasted Fresh Amish Turkey, Mary’s Potatoes, Pan Gravy, Herb Stuffing, House-made Cranberry Sauce and Spiced Pumpkin Cheesecake Pie with Fresh Vanilla Whipped Crème. The dinner costs $24.99 for adults and $9.99 for children 12 and under. An optional Wine Flight featuring Cooper’s Hawk varietals, Blanc de Blanc Sparkling Wine, Riesling, Malbec and Cranberry Fruit wine will be available for $14.99. Reservations may be made by calling (407)956-3400 or (407)374-2464.

THE WESTIN ORLANDO UNIVERSAL BOULEVARD TO OFFER A HOLIDAY THANKSGIVING STAY PACKAGE AND FEAST IN FIORELLA’S CUCINA TOSCANA
Start a new Thanksgiving tradition with your family and friends. The AAA Four-Diamond Westin Orlando Universal Boulevard is now offering a holiday Thanksgiving package that includes a two-night stay in a one-bedroom suite and a mouth-watering Thanksgiving feast in Fiorella’s Cucina Toscana. Local guests who don’t wish to book the hotel’s stay package can still enjoy the endless buffet in hotel’s restaurant. Fiorella’s Cucina Toscana will be offering a Thanksgiving Day feast on Thursday, November 27 from 2:00p.m. to 9:00p.m. The menu will be featuring an antipasto station, made-to-order interactive entrée creations from the open kitchen, a carving station and decadent desserts prepared under the culinary direction of highly acclaimed Executive Chef Robert Mason. “Executive Chef Robert Mason has designed an incredible homemade Thanksgiving buffet at an affordable price for the entire family,” states Mike Magnelli, General Manager. “His Butternut Squash Bisque, Oven Roasted Turkey with Giblet Gravy, Cornbread Stuffing and Garlic Mashed Potatoes will sure to satisfy everyone’s appetite.” The price is $29.95 for adults, $15.00 for children 4 – 12 and children under 4 eat free. Complimentary valet parking for restaurant patrons. Reservations are strongly recommended and can be made by calling 407.233.2950.

RosenPlaza_TG_Brunch

RSC_Tgiving

RC_TG_Brunch

Celebrating its inaugural year, Holidays on Ice at Rosen Centre is Orlando’s only professionally produced poolside, outdoor, theatrical ice skating extravaganza. Nowhere else in Orlando – or perhaps the world – can guests sit outdoors next to a beautiful Olympic-size tropical swimming pool, surrounded by swaying palm trees, enjoying average December in Orlando highs of 72.9° F – all while watching an incredible ice skating and light show. This intimate and totally unique setting places guests as close as an arm’s length from a cast of six highly sought-after competitive and professional skaters, hand selected from around the United States especially for the Rosen Centre show. And bonus…if you enjoy Thanksgiving Buffet at Rosen Centre, admission to Holidays on Ice at Rosen Center is $5 (vs $25 regular price!)

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Chef Mark Jeffers, Chef de Cuisine of the newly opened Highball & Harvest at the Ritz-Carlton, was born in Port Orange Florida, but spent a lot of time in North Carolina while he was growing up. You can see much of the influence from his upbringing in his cooking today.

Recently, we had the chance to interview Chef Jeffers for our new series, the Orlando Chef’s Spotlight Series, about his past adventures to the future at Highball & Harvest.

“I started cooking at a young age, and always had a knack for “concoctions” as I used to call them.” Chef Jeffers told us recently through an e-mail correspondence.

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He later moved to Tallahassee for college and bar tended in a martini bar while going to school. He grew to love the process of combining different and unusual (at the time) flavors in drinks.

“Creating balance of flavor/acidity/depth in a cocktail is essentially the same thing.”

He eventually took a leap and moved to Orlando to go to Le Cordon Bleu, and used that as a jumping platform to land a job at the Ritz-Carlton at Orlando Grande Lakes Resort, spending the next 6 years working his way around the hotel at various capacities from Supervisor, Sous Chef, Banquet Chef, Chef Tounant, and now Chef de Cuisine at Highball and Harvest.

What are some of your favorite dishes on the new menu?
I love the Grouper dish. It is so simple, yet the flavor combination is really delicious. The rich and spicy Hominy ragout with Andouille sausage, Perfectly blackened grouper, finished with lemon juice and parsley, and the Pickled Okra to help create a balance for the creamy sauce is fantastic.

What are you planning for the coming fall and winter season?
I also love the my new baby back rib dish I put on the menu. Smoked Ribs, that I finish in the oven for a pull-apart tender texture. I made an apple sorghum BBQ sauce that creates a beautiful candied lacquer. I paired them with my southern interpretation of a good German spaetzel (“Baby Dumplings”) and braised red cabbage (red wine cabbage)

H&H Baby Back Ribs
H&H Baby Back Ribs

Another favorite new dish that just made the menu is my Southern Style Surf-n-Turf. Citrus Brined Cobia, Braised Pork Belly, Squash Puree, Brussel Sprout Slaw. A beautifully balanced dish fit for the fall.

H&H Surf & Turf
H&H Surf & Turf

The last 2 dishes that I mentioned are new additions to my fall menu, but a few other things I’m working on include….a Braised Lamb Shank, Creamy Grits, and Carolina Mushrooms. Another nice dish is my crispy skinned trout with spaghetti squash and sunchoke puree with sorghum popcorn.

H&H Back Porch Ceviche
H&H Back Porch Ceviche

I also added my interpretation of a ceviche- Back-Porch Ceviche: Royal Red Canaveral Shrimp, Pickled Tomatoes and Sweet Potato Chips from Whisper Creek Farm (on property)

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Where do you dine when not at Highball and Harvest?
My favorite restaurants in Orlando to go to when I’m not at H&H are Prato, Hawkers, and The Ravenous Pig, but I have a soft spot in my heart/stomach for authentic Mexican.

There is a tiny hole in the wall taco place near work off OBT called El Tenampa – $1.50 tacos with tripe, beef tongue (lengua), belly, and all the typical other meat choices. Super simple with 2 soft corn tortillas cilantro and minced onions. Another perk is that they always have 2 for 1 margaritas. ( I recommend knowing a little Spanish if you go….This place is REALLY authentic if you know what I mean)

What are some interesting facts about yourself that most people might not know?

  • I’ve been chased by a bear in Canada (maybe provoked)
  • I HATE sharks (but used to surf at the shark bite capital of the world…New Smyrna Beach)
  • Somewhere out there, there is a video of me breakdancing…Hope that never surfaces (long time ago)
  • I secretly want to have Bear Gryll’s life.
  • My dream job involves a cooking show

Growing up, what were some of your favorite childhood eats?
My mom used to make all different kinds of casseroles that she found in magazines and cookbooks. Some were better than others, but the highlights were a chicken pot pie casserole and a tuna noodle casserole. My dad used to love making fried chicken on the weekend, (while my mom made herself a grilled chicken). Really Good.

My go-to sandwich I would make for myself was a pan fried bologna sandwich with American cheese on toasted white bread with pickle relish and mustard.

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Highball & Harvest
The Ritz-Carlton, Grande Lakes
4012 Central Florida Parkway Orlando, FL

(407) 393-4422
www.highballandharvest.com
HOURS
Daily – 6:30 a.m. – 10 p.m.
Bar – Daily – 11 a.m. – Midnight

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The Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Food & Wine Classic returned for the fifth year to the Epcot Resort Area hotel October 31 – November 1, featuring more than 40 food and wine stations; 10 food and wine seminars and the opportunity to meet the masters behind the culinary magic.

Amidst a backdrop of live entertainment, celebratory surprises and even some spooky fun on Halloween night, guests enjoyed numerous opportunities to sip and savor all weekend as they stroll along the hotel’s causeway.

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The two-night event offerED an enticing array of culinary options from the hotel’s award-winning signature restaurants: Il Mulino New York Trattoria, Shula’s Steak House and Todd English’s bluezoo, as well as wine and spirits sampling from around the globe.

The food selections are as innovative as they are enticing, ranging from Italian arancini, marrying Carnaroli rice, Osso Buco and spicy tomato sauce, and the Asian-inspired grilled scallops with puffed rice, edamame and ponzu jelly; to barbeque handcrafted bacon, accented with sweet potato puree and caramelized onions.

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And, the hotel’s World Champion Pastry Chef, Laurent Branlard, provides intrigue on the sweeter side with finishing touches like a chocolate crunch Napoleon with hazelnut daquoise and chocolate whipped cream, and a lemon peel mousse dome with blueberry cream and lemon angel food cake at its center.

Truly world class desserts and some of the finest we’ve ever tried.

Celebrity Chef Todd English of bluezoo
Celebrity Chef Todd English of bluezoo

To add to the event’s appeal, guests can enjoy a meet and greet with celebrity chef Todd English, the namesake of the hotel’s Todd English’s bluezoo restaurant.

Guests can also meet and enjoy world-class desserts from the hotel’s very own executive pastry chef, Laurent Branlard, the world’s only two-time World Champion Pastry Chef.

Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Food & Wine Classic
Tasting Menu – Saturday, Nov. 1, 2014

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TENDERLOIN, ROASTED GARLIC MASHED POTATOES, SAUCE BORDELAISE Presented by Shula’s Steak House
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GRILLED SCALLOP, PUFFED RICE, EDAMAME, PONZU JELLY Presented by Cabana Bar & Beach Club
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TAQUERIA-CORN TORTILLA, BARBACOA OF BEEF, ORGANIC VEGETABLES, CHEDDAR CHEESE, LIME WEDGE, LETTUCE, ONION, SHAVED RADISH, PICO DE GALLO, ASSORTED HOT SAUCES Presented by Picabu
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BLACK PEPPER CAMPANELLE, PARSNIPS, PANCETTA, TRUFFLE-PARMESAN BRODO
Presented by Il Mulino
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SHRIMP COCKTAIL STEAMROLLER
Presented by Todd English’s bluezoo
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FISH ’N’ CHIPS: BEER BATTERED SUSTAINABLE BASS, TARTAR FOAM, VINEGAR “CHIPS”
Presented by Garden Grove
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SPICY YELLOW FIN TUNA, NORI, SEASONED RICE
Presented by Kimonos
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DESSERT
Presented by Laurent Branlard, Executive Pastry Chef, Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Hotel
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CHOCOLATE DOME BAVAROISE, CARAMEL CREMEU, CHOCOLATE FLOURLESS CAKE, MILK CHOCOLATE GLAZE
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RASPBERRY COMPOTE, YOGURT PANACOTTA, JAM FILLED RASPBERRY, RASPBERRY MARSHMALLOW
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ORANGE PEEL AND GRAND MARNIER CREAM PUFF, ALMOND SABLE, CHOCOLATE COATED ALMONDS

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Kimonos for sale at this booth

The Orlando Japan Festival is an annual event put on by the Japan Association of Orlando, the local Orlando Japanese community, and is one of my favorite events of the year – where you can have a taste of the street food from Japan like takoyaki octopus balls to gyu don beef rice bowls, and of course sushi, all while enjoying traditional Japanese cultural entertainment. It’s a wonderful event to take the whole family.

The event, which was once hosted at the Rangetsu building on International Drive, is now put on at the Hunter’s Creek plaza just south of SR 417 on John Young Parkway for the past few years.

There are amazing traditional performances like the 100 Drummers taiko performance performed by Matsuriza of the Disney Epcot Japan Pavilion, Koto (Japanese harp player), traditional Japanese Dance, Tsugaru-Shamisen, the age-old iconic Tea Ceremony (symbolic of Japan’s oldest traditions), Japanese Calligraphy (shodo), Martial Arts demonstrations, as well as a chance to try-out real Japanese Kimonos.

My favorite aspect of the festival is the many Japanese Food Stalls staffed by the local Japanese restaurant community including Rangetsu, Sushi Tomi, Japan Food Aki, the Disney Epcot Japan Pavilion’s Mitsukoshi, and more.

For more information, visit: http://www.jorlando.org/14-japan-fest.html

Below are a few photos from the event:

Japanese Books on sale at the Festival
Japanese Books on sale at the Festival
Visitors purview the selection of books
Visitors purview the selection of books
A young samurai in training with his friend
A young samurai in training with his friend
JTB Travel Agency here in Orlando for all your Japan travel needs http://online.jtbusa.com/
JTB Travel Agency here in Orlando for all your Japan travel needs http://online.jtbusa.com/
JTB Travel Agency http://online.jtbusa.com/
JTB Travel Agency http://online.jtbusa.com/
Mr. Harris Rosen of Rosen Hotels welcomes guests to the Orlando Japan Festival
Mr. Harris Rosen of Rosen Hotels welcomes guests to the Orlando Japan Festival
Mr. Rosen donated $100,000 to Japan in 2011 after the Tsunami
Mr. Rosen, a huge supporter of the local community, including the Japanese, donated $100,000 to Japan in 2011 after the Tsunami
Mr. Rosen donated $100,000 to Japan in 2011 after the Tsunami
Mr. Harris Rosen of Rosen Hotels
A young samurai getting geared up
A young samurai getting geared up
Samurai gear in show
Samurai gear in show
Japanese street food - includes a fish shaped mung bean dessert, squid, octopus balls
Japanese street food – includes a fish shaped mung bean dessert, squid, octopus balls
Japanese street food - includes a fish shaped mung bean dessert, squid, octopus balls
Japanese street food – includes a fish shaped mung bean dessert, squid, octopus balls
Grilled squid
Grilled squid
Kimonos for sale at this booth with Izumi and Yuni Sakurada and friends
Kimonos for sale at this booth with Izumi and Yuni Sakurada and friends
Wild Jack Horse Mackerel Nigiri Sushi from Mitsukoshi of Epcot's Japan Pavilion
Wild Jack Horse Mackerel Nigiri Sushi from Mitsukoshi of Epcot’s Japan Pavilion
Mitsukoshi team of Epcot's Japan Pavilion
Mitsukoshi team of Epcot’s Japan Pavilion
Palm reading at the Orlando Japan Festival
Palm reading at the Orlando Japan Festival

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Matsuriza Taiko Drum Team
Matsuriza Taiko Drum Team
Rangetsu of Maitland team
Rangetsu of Maitland team
Foods from Rangetsu!
Foods from Rangetsu!
Aki of Japan on International Drive - Selling their Curry Rice!
Aki of Japan on International Drive – Selling their Curry Rice!
Chika - Aki of Japan on International Drive - Selling their Curry Rice!
Chika – Aki of Japan on International Drive – Selling their Curry Rice!
Aki of Japan on International Drive - Selling their Curry Rice!
Aki of Japan on International Drive – Selling their Curry Rice!
Kiko Japanese of Melbourne
Kiko Japanese of Melbourne
Mochi rice balls
Mochi rice balls
Okonomiyaki
Okonomiyaki
Chef Hidehiko of Sushi Tomi on John Young and Sand Lake selling onigiri, futomaki sushi
Chef Hidehiko of Sushi Tomi on John Young and Sand Lake selling onigiri, futomaki sushi
Chef Hidehiko with his wife Reiko of Sushi Tomi!
Chef Hidehiko with his wife Reiko of Sushi Tomi!
Chef Hidehiko with his wife Reiko of Sushi Tomi!
Chef Hidehiko with his wife Reiko of Sushi Tomi!
Mikado Sushi of Hunter's Creek
Mikado Sushi of Hunter’s Creek
No-Face (???? kaonashi, lit. "faceless"), a spirit in the Japanese animated film Spirited Away
No-Face (???? kaonashi, lit. “faceless”), a spirit in the Japanese animated film Spirited Away
No-Face (???? kaonashi, lit. "faceless"), a spirit in the Japanese animated film Spirited Away
No-Face (???? kaonashi, lit. “faceless”), a spirit in the Japanese animated film Spirited Away

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Green Tea Ceremony with Mr. Harris Rosen
Green Tea Ceremony with Mr. Harris Rosen
Green Tea Ceremony with Mr. Harris Rosen
Green Tea Ceremony with Mr. Harris Rosen
Asia Trend Magazine booth
Asia Trend Magazine booth
The Food Court is packed
The Food Court is packed

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Cosplay, a popular form of expression through costume at the Japan Festival
Cosplay, a popular form of expression through costume at the Japan Festival
Junichi and Mimi
Junichi and Mimi
Kid's games at the festival
Kid’s games at the festival
Cosplay, a popular form of expression through costume at the Japan Festival
Cosplay, a popular form of expression through costume at the Japan Festival
Cosplay, a popular form of expression through costume at the Japan Festival
Cosplay, a popular form of expression through costume at the Japan Festival
Cosplay, a popular form of expression through costume at the Japan Festival
Cosplay, a popular form of expression through costume at the Japan Festival
Young Japanese girls in Kimono
Young Japanese girls in Kimono
Matsuriza Taiko drumming team
Matsuriza Taiko drumming team

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Lisbon, Portugal — Andrew Zimmern is off to Lisbon to discover a diverse and unexplored European cuisine. The episode will air November 3, 2014 at 9 p.m. next week on the Travel Channel,

While Andrew will dine on lots for fresh fish from Portugal’s hundreds of miles of Atlantic Coast, he will also try a few recipes involving snails.

Pasteis de Belem - Photo credit to Turismo de Lisboa
Pasteis de Belem – Photo credit to Turismo de Lisboa

Andrew Zimmern finds that “caracois” is a fresh seasonal cheap eat in Lisbon from June to September. It is not unusual to see signs go up outside of restaurants declaring “Há Caracóis” – or “we have snails.” The dish is originally from the Alentejo and Algarve Regions, south of Lisbon. Snails are often flavored with laurel, thyme, garlic, onion, olive oil, salt and oregano.

Portugal’s Cuisine

With miles of Atlantic coast, Portugal has lots of fresh fish and seafood that is often grilled or served in a simple sauce of olive oil and butter. One of the staple Portuguese meals is “bacalhau”–a dried, salted cod. There are so many ways to serve what is commonly called “the faithful friend” that it is said there is a cod dish for each day of the year. Another countrywide favorite is grilled sardines.

Andrew Zimmern and Mena-Almeida dine at her home overlooking the Atlantic Ocean in Sao Lourenco near Lisbon
Andrew Zimmern and Mena-Almeida dine at her home overlooking the Atlantic Ocean in Sao Lourenco near Lisbon

While fresh fish and seafood defines a great deal of the nation’s cuisine, the taste of each region holds its own specialties.

The North is known for its staple “broa,” a rich, dark cornbread. “Broa” is served along with the simplest meals. Also common in the north are Presuntos, or smoked ham, and handmade sausages. Roasted tripe is another staple, often served with beans.

Ameijoas à Bolhao Pato -  Photo credit to Cervejaria Ramiro
Ameijoas à Bolhao Pato – Photo credit to Cervejaria Ramiro

The Centro de Portugal Region, between Porto and Lisbon, is home to platters of octopus rice and “chanfana” goat meat stewed with wine.

All of Portugal produces outstanding artisan cheeses, but the country’s crowning jewel is the rich sheep’s cheese known as “Queijo da Serra,” from this region’s Estrela Mountains. Other great cheeses are from Sabugal and Rabaçal.

The wide-open Alentejo region and the coastal Algarve region each have distinct dishes. “Migas” or breadcrumbs, rich sausages and dark hams are popular in the Alentejo. The Algarve specializes in spicy, grilled seafood, and marinated carrots are another popular dish.

Barnacles  - Photo credit to Miguel Carvalho
Barnacles – Photo credit to Miguel Carvalho

On Portugal’s Madeira Island, a favorite dish is “Milho Frito,” which is fried cubes of polenta. In the Azores, limpets (a shellfish) and croques (a small mollusk unique to the Azores) are local specialties.

Seafood - Photo credit to Cervejaria Ramiro
Seafood – Photo credit to Cervejaria Ramiro

Bizarre Foods focuses on regional cuisine from around the world that is typically perceived as being exotic, or bizarre. In each episode, Zimmern focuses on the cuisine of a particular country or region. He typically shows how the food is procured, where it is served, and, without hesitation, eats it.

Portugal is a country of contrasts that boasts some of the most unspoiled natural vistas, the richest traditions, the most intoxicating culture, the most adrenaline-pumping adventures, and the most serene retreats in all of Europe.

https://www.visitportugal.com/en/experiencias/gastronomia-e-vinhos

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SpringHill Suites is encouraging social media fans to share all forms of art that they see in their daily lives.

To get the sharing started, the brand launched an “Art Is Everywhere” site that offers participants a chance to win 1 of 8 prizes by uploading pictures related to contest themes.

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The new theme (Oct 22- Nov 4) is “Too Beautiful to Eat? Almost.”

Post pictures of your culinary adventures – anything food related. Participants will be entered to win a $450 gift card to Plated.com.

As a BONUS, Spring Hill Suites is partnering with TastyChomps.com to have a mini contest of $50 among just our readers!

Fans can enter on Twitter or Instagram using the hashtag #ArtIsEverywhere and tagging @SpringHillSuite and @SpringHillSuites, respectively. Or, by visiting ArtIsEverywhereGallery.com to enter via Facebook, Twitter or Instagram.

to enter our mini-contest, tag @tastychomps to your twitter and instagram pics

Tweet the photo with #ArtIsEverywhere and tag @SpringHillSuite
Instagram the photo with #ArtIsEverywhere and tag @SpringHillSuites
Visit ArtIsEverywhereGallery.com to enter via Facebook

This post, and it’s accompanying giveaway, was made possible with the help of SpringHill Suites by Marriott. To learn more and for official contest rules, visit ArtIsEverywhereGallery.com.

twitterinstagramsprings instagramspringhill

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Peruvian cuisine reflects the history of its people – from the ancient Incan empire to the Spanish conquistadors who took their place and later, African and Asian (particularly Chinese and Japanese) immigrants – all have left their mark on Peruvian cooking, making it one of the earliest forms of “fusion cooking” in the New World.

This blend of cultures has made Peru what some have called the gastronomic center of South America, an up and coming place for new and avant garde cuisine. Chef Nobu Matsuhisa, famed for his own forms of fusion cooking, first came up with the form after moving to Peru in the 1970s and finding ingredients missing for Japanese cuisine, substituted local Peruvian food products in his dishes.

The four traditional staples of Peruvian cuisine are corn, potatoes (of which there are 3800 varieties in Peru alone), and other tubers, Amaranthaceaes (Quinoa, Kañiwa and kiwicha) and legumes (beans and lupins). Quinoa in particular has enjoyed a resurgence in popularity recently, bringing new attention to Peruvian cuisine and culture.

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Locally here in Orlando there are quite a few restaurants serving up the popular Peruvian dishes from pollo a la brasa (rotisserie style chicken) to ceviche.

On Semoran Blvd, just south of SR 408, you can find Ceviche House Orlando (a sister restaurant to Ceviche House on Orange Blossom Trail in South Orlando), specializing in dishes from Peru’s Pacific coast, once ruled by the Chimu tribe before being absorbed by the Incans.

The location is inside a former Pizza Hut, and for some inexplicable reason, also says that they serve Mexican food here, but a quick review of the menu did not show case any tacos or tortilla dishes.

Complimentary cancha, or toasted corn nuts, are served complimentary alongside some green salsa for dipping.

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Anticuchos are brochettes made from beef heart marinated in a various Peruvian spices and grilled, often with a side of boiled potato or corn. They are commonly sold by street vendors and served shish kabob-style, but one may find them in creole food restaurants.

Here at Ceviche House, the anticuchos de corazon are deliciously grilled sliced beef hearts marinated in a panca red sauce, a splash of red wine vinegar, a hint of cumin and the golden touch of Inca yellow peppers, Peruvian corn and sliced golden potatoes.

Anticuchos de corazon - grilled marinated beef hearts
Anticuchos de corazon – grilled marinated beef hearts

Choclo, a large kernel corn also referred to as Peruvian corn or Cuzco corn (named for the capital city of the Inca empire: Cuzco) is served as a side to many of the dishes here, it’s a little milder and softer than our sweet corn, definitely an interesting and different take on corn.

Ceviche, a South American dish of marinated raw fish or seafood typically garnished with herbs and served as an appetizer, consists generally of bite-size pieces of white fish (such as corvina or white sea bass), marinated raw in lime juice mixed with chilis.

SONY DSC CEVICHE MIXTO (The treasure chest of the sea)
A mixture of octopus, squid, shrimp, white fish, red onions, citrus juices, cilantro, rocoto pepper

SONY DSC PECHUGA DE POLLO A LA CHORRILLANA – Grilled chicken breast served with sautéed red onions, fresh tomatoes, wine reduction, white rice

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Causa is a mashed yellow potato dumpling mixed with key lime, onion, chili and oil. Varieties can have avocado, chicken, tuna (typically canned) or even shellfish added to the mixture, usually served cold with hard boiled eggs and olives. Here, we tried the crab causa, made with the yellow potato mash and layered with fresh crab.

Chifa is a term used in Peru to refer to Chinese cooking, in which Peruvian and Chinese ingredients are fused to cantonese culinary tradition – chaufa mixto (fried rice) and lomo saltado (stir fried beef with potato) are common staples in the Peruvian kitchen. As a self proclaimed fried rice expert, this was truly some of the best fried rice I ever had in Orlando – the rice was just the right texture, fresh yet crispy, just enough soy sauce with out being too salty, great balance of flavor with the ingredients of shrimp, beef, and chicken. Very nice.

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Peruvian stile stir fried rice mixed with beef, seafood and chicken in a chaufa sauce with a drizzle of sesame oil

Overall, Ceviche House brings a little taste of the big flavors of Peru right here in Orlando and should be added to your list of places to try – it’s like traveling the world without leaving home.

Ceviche House · Fine Peruvian Cuisine on Urbanspoon

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Chef James Slattery is the Executive Chef of Big Fin Seafood Kitchen on Orlando’s restaurant row, winning multiple awards for the restaurant including Critic’s Choice in the Orlando Sentinel’s Foodie Awards for Best Seafood in 2014.

Recently, we had the chance to interview Chef Slattery for our new series, the Orlando Chef’s Spotlight Series, about his fascinating past and the upcoming future at Big Fin Seafood Kitchen.

The menu at Big Fin is never really new per se, but it is ever changing – seafood, like produce, has seasons.

Right now, the restaurant is focused on the biggest and the best Stone Crabs available. This is what has made Big Fin the best Seafood Restaurant in Orlando.

Chef Slattery tells us he makes it a point to never be complacent, always following the trends, and trying to do his part in helping make Orlando more than just a tourist destination but rather a tourist and food destination with great local chefs doing wonderful things in the Florida kitchen.

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Chef Slattery wasn’t always a chef, however.

His first job, after earning two chemistry degrees from UCF, was actually as an analytical chemist with a local environmental lab.

But it was rather mundane work and he soon felt like something was missing.

One night in 1998 in a hotel room in North Carolina, on a sales trip for the chemical company he was with at the time, Slattery was flipping through the channels when he came across a 24-hour network devoted to food.

It was close to 8 pm and as he sat in the hotel room eating Chinese take-out, a program came on called Emeril Live! on the Food Network.

It was actually the premier night for Chef Emeril’s new show.

Several months later Orlando began carrying the Food Network and he became a constant viewer.

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“Chef Emeril was mesmerizing, funny and most of all – pulled a passion for cooking from me that seemed to be dormant, just waiting for the right time to reveal itself,” Slattery said.

“In October of ’98, Emeril Lagasse, who was opening his first restaurant at Universal’s City Walk, was in Orlando promoting one of his cookbooks. I changed my travel plans (still working as a chemist) and I went to the book-signing.”

“I waited in line for hours. When Chef Emeril was signing my name, I asked Chef Emeril, “What would it take to work in one of your restaurants?”

He stopped, looked up and said, “James, I look for passion. I want people in my restaurants to love what they do.”

A couple of months later, while working as a prep cook at Universal’s Lombard’s Landing, he was able to finagle an interview at the about-to-open Emeril’s.

He went into the Home base offices and handed Chef Zachary Martin his resume that contained six pages – and no mention of any cooking background.

Chef Zack sort of laughed.

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“Chef Zack quizzed me about culinary terms and techniques; of course I couldn’t answer any of the questions unless I had learned it from the Food Network.”

“Zack later admitted to me that he felt I had the personality and the drive they were looking for. After all, I was a clean slate!”

“They hired me, and after several weeks of training, I was made a butcher. That’s when my chemistry background really kicked in.”

The Chef’s really didn’t understand that, being a chemist, he was very good with weights and measures.

“That’s really what butchering was all about. I was able to pick up knife skills fairly quickly and with the amount of work, there were plenty of chances to improve on a daily basis.”

Over the next three and a half years, “James the butcher” worked on his way through the various stations in the kitchen as well as pastries and sauces to become “James the chef”.

By the time Chef Emeril opened Tchoup Chop at the Royal Pacific Resort in 2003, he had successfully been promoted to sous chef. A year or so after Tchoup Chop opened he was promoted to executive sous chef.

Three years later, he decided it was time to graduate from Emeril’s “culinary school” and accepted the position of chef at the soon to open A Land Remembered at Rosen Shingle Creek in 2006.

He has since opened 2 other concepts and as of today, Chef Slattery is celebrating his 5th anniversary as the Executive Chef of Big Fin Seafood Kitchen .

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“I always try to explain when asked about my career change, that a chemist doesn’t want to see a straight line on a chromatogram, and as a cook, your taste buds detecting food being flat in flavor is like the chromatogram having no spikes. But I also don’t want to see huge spikes of flavor on my palette, this would mean too much of one spice or flavor component. So my taste buds and sense of smell are just my “chromatograph” for creating foods and flavors with a better balance.”

“My scientific background helps in other ways. When I am working on a new recipe, I never add more than one ingredient at a time or change the amount of more than one ingredient at a time; otherwise if there’s something that’s off, just as with being a chemist, I won’t know what changed the flavors.”

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What are you planning for the coming fall and winter season?

My focus is currently on creating a seafood tasting menu that is paired with wines and spirits. I want to take advantage of more locally sourced seafood and produce that is only available in small quantities and is seasonal. I am working with our owner and bar manager in creating a new drink menu that falls in line with the trend of craft cocktails. We want people to understand that our cocktails are designed for our food and for the style that I cook with.

Where do you dine when not at Big Fin Seafood?

When I am not working I try to find new restaurants such as a recent trip to Pig Floyd’s. But I always have my standbys of my favorite Vietnamese, Korean and Chinese restaurants.

What are some interesting facts about yourself that most people might not know?

A lot of people don’t know that I am also a musician. My middle school, high school and some college days were spent in band playing saxophone. I love all kinds of music, especially jazz. If I could have 2 careers and not worry about paying bills, I would love to be in a small jazz ensemble playing in a small bar and running in the back to fix meals for the guests.

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Growing up, what were some of your favorite childhood eats?

Another fact is that my love of Asian cuisine comes from my early childhood where I spent the first 9 years of my life on Guam in the Philippines. This is where my love for certain comfort foods comes from as in Pancit, Kelaguen, lumpias, etc..

But one last thing I need to make clear, my mother is a great cook and is a world renowned chemist and between her, Charlie (my first job in high school), Chef Emeril, Chef Bernard and Chef Zack as well as the early PBS days of the afternoon cooking shows and eventually the Food Network, these are my influences and have helped make me the Chef I am today.

Big Fin Seafood Kitchen
www.bigfinseafood.com/
8046 Via Dellagio Way, Orlando, FL 32819
(407) 615-8888
Photos Courtesy of Big Fin Seafood Kitchen

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Off of Park Avenue on Morse Blvd, Croissant Gourmet, run by French Pastry Chef Francois Cahange, is one of the many joys that...