Authors Posts by Ricky Ly of TastyChomps.com

Ricky Ly of TastyChomps.com

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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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Spice Burgr recently took over for the space at the downtown Orlando Plaza that once belonged to grilled cheese sandwich shop Meltz. If the name “Spice” rings a bell, it’s because the owners of Spice Burgr are the same as the owners of nearby Spice Modern Steakhouse at Lake Eola.

It’s a counter service restaurant – order at the counter and the order is delivered to you when ready. I guess it’s the next evolution of the fast food restaurant with better ingredients. The decor is anonymous – minimal and white – and rather forgetful. The staff was friendly enough, but at times they appeared a bit lost and unsure about who ordered what when the orders became ready.

I ordered the Traditional – always a good base to start off with, I supposed. It was all right, juicy and slightly flavorful but nothing to denote any memorable “spice” moment. The fries came out hot, but needed a little salt. It was $5.95. I’d have to go back to try their other burger varieties and choices like the California Spice burger – topped with lettuce, tomatoes, sliced avocado, pico, cheese, “Burgr sauce” on a buttered bun and a side of fries. There is also a Burger of the Month, or BOM, that changes monthly.

Overall, Spice Burgr just did not leave much of an impression – spicy or otherwise – on me.

Spice Burgr - One of Many, Many new burger joints in Orlando
Spice Burgr – One of Many, Many new burger joints in Orlando
The decor - modern, sleek, boring
The decor – modern, sleek, boring
The Traditional Burgr
The Traditional Burgr

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Spice Burgr on Urbanspoon

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On a recent trip overseas, my wife and I stayed over at the SkyCity Marriott at the Hong Kong International Airport. It was a bit rainy that evening so we decided to forgo the excursion over to the main part of the city and just settled in at the hotel before heading out to our next destination, which was Bali at the time.

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Dining options are limited at the Marriott, but there is one nice restaurant there called Man Ho. Mostly empty that evening, but it had some sleek modern decor. We came for one thing – Hong Kong style roast goose. These succulent roast poultry is similar to the roast duck we might find at Tasty Wok hanging in display cases around town at the Asian supermarkets – but the roast goose is on another level – juicy, bursting with flavor. I don’t know why it hasn’t crossed overseas yet, but here’s to hoping it will one day.

Man Ho - inside the SkyCity Marriott at Hong Kong Intl Airport
Man Ho – inside the SkyCity Marriott at Hong Kong Intl Airport

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Roast Goose at Man Ho
Roast Goose at Man Ho
Black Bean squid
Black Bean squid

The next morning, we awoke early to catch our flight out. The airport itself has a flurry of dining amenities, from fast casual ramen to the classic Hong Kong dim sum. Some popular Hong Kong eateries and coffee shops (known as cha chaan teng) like Tsui Wah and Cafe de Coral also have outposts here – selling sort of “Western” influenced Asian dishes like macaroni noodle and beef soup and stuffed rice in lotus leaf. Couldn’t find the legendary French toast this time around though.

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We were flying – through a combination of points and finagling – first class on Cathay Pacific (one of the BEST airlines I’ve ever flown on in terms of service and comfortability) and after a quick breakfast stumbled upon their first class lounge, The Bridge.

Should’ve stumbled upon it earlier – we should have realized that Hong Kong is their main hub and headquarters. Food and amenities for days.

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Cathay Delight - the signature drink of Cathay Pacific -  made with coconut milk and kiwi juice
Cathay Delight – the signature drink of Cathay Pacific – made with coconut milk and kiwi juice
Cheers!!
Cheers!!

The Winter Park Farmers’ Market is one of my favorite weekly farmer’s markets here in Orlando.

Located just a block away from bustling Park Avenue, it’s the perfect Saturday morning outing for both friends and families to stroll around and grab little bites to eat or take home, before or after a meal on the Avenue.

It’s held at the old train depot, now the Winter Park Historical Musuem located at 200 West New England Avenue every Saturday morning from 7 a.m. to 1 p.m. and is usually packed with folks walking their dogs and is a great opportunity for people watching.

Some of my favorite things to get here are the freshly popped kettlecorn – the best found in the city – from Mountain Kettle Corn, lovely croissants from Chez Vincent, fresh fruit jams from Ginger Jams and Jellies, artisan breads from Olde Hearth Bread Co, and a delicious breakfast bagel inside the Winter Park Farmer’s Market building.

Winter Park Farmers’ Market
200 West New England Avenue
Winter Park, Florida
407-599-3275

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You wouldn’t know it by driving by this little Mexican grocery store – but inside these red and yellow bodega bricked walls there is a little kitchen that serves up some very authentic Mexican street food from tamales, tortas and tacos to shrimp cocktails, menudos and tostadas.

Jalisco is a region on the west coast of Mexico known for being the “heart” of Mexican culture. A classic dish for the area includes the pozole, a kind of spicy, meaty corn-based stew, as well as menudo, a traditional Mexican beef tripe soup.

Here at Tienda Mexicana Jalisco on Goldenrod Road, in addition to the typical list of tacos, there are “caldos” or “soups” and “guisados” or “stews”. My favorites are the tostadas, fried tortillas topped with beans, cheese, salsa, lettuce, and your choice of meat – which range from the familiar carne steak and al pastor pork, to the more exotic like lengua (beef tongue) and cabeza (roasted beef head) – though they are known to be “out” of the more rare meats.

You order at the counter – Spanish helps, for sure, but there is also an English menu. As is typical at these roadside grocery eateries, you pay not at the kitchen counter, but instead, take the pay stub to the main grocery cashier to pay and then get a receipt there for the meal. It can be a little confusing for first timers.

After you’re done paying, take a seat, and when the carne or carnitas are done sizzling on the griddle and the tacos and tostadas and soups are all prepared, they bring the plates out, fresh and ready to be enjoyed.

Simple and satisfying. Watch the heat from the hot sauce, though.

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Fried snapper

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Daily lunch specials

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The grocery market part of the grocery store

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Seating area – a lot of the working crowd during lunch time

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Mexican pastries – a lot of bread – for sale

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Pay for your meal, or buy a phone card, at the register

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Tacos – carne, lengua, al pastor – watch out for the red sauce – it’s spicy

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Simple onion, cilantro, and a dash of lime for my street tacos

Tienda Jalisco on Urbanspoon

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Christner’s Prime Steak & Lobster Restaurant on Lee Road is Orlando’s quintessential steakhouse. Formerly Del Frisco’s, the restaurant is darkly lit with wood overtones and a decidedly clubby, intimate old school feel. Probably not many interior upgrades since the 1990s, but here it’s all about the classics: steaks.

The menu is emphasizes steak and lobster tail, with a salmon and a few shrimp and pasta dishes, plentiful sides like lobster mac and cheese and creamy spinach, soups, and salads. Lobster tail, luscious and fresh, carved tableside, is a luxurious add-on option to your steak. From prime ribeye to filet mignon and porterhouse cooked in butter, Christner’s has your carnal cravings covered.

On a recent visit, for a friend’s birthday, I ordered the Beef Wellington and was very impressed. Beef Wellington is a preparation of filet steak coated with pâté, a pate of butter, mushrooms and black pepper here at Christner’s, which is then wrapped in puff pastry and baked – flaky and delicious.

If you are lucky, you might find master magician Kostya Kimlat and his merry friends roaming the halls and entertaining guests with their craft.

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House baked bread

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A porterhouse – 20 oz. – with cold tail lobster tail

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Carved table side.

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A happy camper

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Beef Wellington – perfectly cooked

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Mr. Kostya Kimlat delighting the table guests

Christner’s Prime Steak & Lobster
christnersprimesteakandlobster.com/
729 Lee Road, Orlando, FL 32810, United States
(407) 645-4443

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Yuki Hana Japanese Fusion, in Oviedo, just off of Aloma at Tuskawilla, serves Japanese modern cuisine with a fresh twist on classic dishes and a vast selection of delectable sushi, fresh sashimi, and signature rolls created by chef and owner Eddison Chen.

Yuki Hana Fusion’s menu represents chef Eddison’s nearly 15 years of experience including many years working with some of the best Japanese master sushi chefs in New York – where followers there have said Eddie “is devoted to maintaining the purity of his vision—-that is not to be simply good but transcendent.”

We were recently invited to visit the modern and sleek Yuki Hana to sample some of their dishes and were quite surprised and delighted by what they had to offer, a step above the typical sushi places in the area for sure. I would say it ranks among the best in Orlando in terms of its quality and taste.

We started with a glass of the Bunraku Kinmai “Dancing Gold Flakes” sake, while the gold flakes are believed to “enhance good fortune”, the sake itself had a smooth, rich flavor, slightly sweet and one of the best sake I have had the pleasure to taste.

Geoduck is in season and chef Chen made great use of the ingredient in two dishes sampled this evening. Also known as giant clam, the geoduck is a very large, edible, saltwater clam native to western United States. Distinctively shaped similar to the male genital, the geoduck can go for $150/lb in Asia where it is a delicacy.

We started with a geoduck miso soup made with both geoduck and little clams, as well as enoki and shitake mushroom. The soup was rich and flavorful, and had the mushroom and clam textures went well together.

Next, the geoduck served two ways – tempura and sashimi style with an orange lemon confit, crispy and soft – very good.

Uni was also in season – sea urchin is creamy and custardy and is often an acquired taste, but can be very wonderful if served fresh as it is here at Yuki Hana with a topping of quail egg.

Some Asian – Latin fusion is also present here at Yuki Hana, executed well with dishes like the Oxtail tempura avocado taco with a Korean spicy gochujang pickle sauce.

They’ve recently updated the menu, adding dishes like the Kanpachi Crudo with Hawaii yellowtail, black garlic, basil oil, tobiko, cucumber, lava salt, lemon confit, and togarashi and the Madai, Japanese sea bream with mango, avocado, cilantro, mustard seed vinaigrette, shallot chips, and furikake

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Geoduck miso soup made with both geoduck and little clams, as well as enoki and shitake mushroom.

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Geoduck Two ways

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Oxtail tacos – braised oxtail, house Asian slaw, tempura avocado, gochujang pepper sauce, cilantro, lime wedge

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Fresh, live uni sea urchin – available now in winter season – served here with raw quail egg.

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Nigiri sampling – fresh sushi topped with lovely accoutrements

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Dessert is handled here by Chef Eddison’s gracious wife Ping, who has picked up quite the skillset of pastry and dessert making from her travels around the world. The banana bread pudding I sampled was crispy, crunchy and delicately soft and sweet at the same time – definitely one of the best desserts I’ve had in Orlando.  Photo Dec 11, 7 35 30 PM

Do visit Yuki Hana in Oviedo soon, for the lovely ambiance, fresh and innovative sushi and kitchen dishes, as well as wonderful desserts – I know I will be returning very soon!

Yuki Hana Japanese Fusion on Urbanspoon

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Discussing the latest in Orlando food and drink this week

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

Camilo in the Kitchen series debuts via Barnie’s CoffeeKitchen

Chef Camilo Velasco is one of my favorite chefs around town, and also, I believe, one of the most underrated. A protege of Chef Norman Van Aken, Colombian born Chef Velasco delights and surprises the diners at Barnie’s CoffeeKitchen each week with his chef’s menu.

In this first episode of this new series, Chef Velasco talks about his three favorite dishes on the Barnie’s CoffeeKitchen menu. The next episode will be focused on wine and wine pairings.

“This new web series positions Camilo as a thought leader in Culinary Arts and share his passion for cuisine from coffee growing regions worldwide. Other interests such as wine, rare & hard-to-find coffees and farming techniques will be topics he covers. Expect to see two-three new episodes each month. He will also provide insights on family-inspired dishes from his hometown Cali, Columbia. Expect guest stars from time-to-time from the world of coffee & cuisine.”

Restaurant Openings
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Izziban BBQ and Sushi has opened on East Colonial just west of SR 436/Semoran in the location formerly of Mr. Sisters, right across from Hot Dog Heaven on the lake. They are known for their all you can eat yakiniku grilled meat barbecue which includes a salad bar and unlimited selection of apps and sushi, ranging from $19.99 at lunch time and late night happy hour to $29.99 at dinner time. 5310 E Colonial Dr
Orlando, FL 32807 Phone number (407) 270-8811 http://www.izzibansushi.com/

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Quickly Boba and Snow has opened featuring not only traditional boba milk tea and snow desserts in “chubby cups”, but also Hong Kong style egg waffle puffs and Taiwanese popcorn chicken – not to mention their awesome mural wall created by local artist Boy Kong. 3214 E Colonial Dr, Orlando, FL 32803 Phone number (407) 270-4570 https://www.facebook.com/quicklyorlando

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The Meatball Shoppe has opened at 7325 Lake Underhill Rd, Orlando, FL 32822, Phone number (407) 270-6505 http://www.themeatballshoppe.co/ Hours: Monday – Saturday, for lunch or dinner, 11 AM – 8 PM.

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1st Spring Oriental Supermarket – the eastern sister to the wicked supermarket of the west – 1st Oriental Supermarket, 1st Spring Supermarket is set to make many folks who hate the trek out to Pine Hills very happy. They will be opening a bakery, kitchen, and live seafood section soon, they say before Chinese New Year is here. 10681 E Colonial Dr, Orlando, FL 32817 Phone number (407) 292-3668 1stspringorientalmarket.com

Restaurant Closings

  • Maria Bonita Mexican restaurant on East Colonial has closed.
  • Burger and Beer Joint by UCF has closed via Scott Joseph’s Orlando Restaurant Guide
    – the price point was too high for the college crowd and the burgers were just way too slow coming out of the kitchen. This place was originally a Perkins for many years, then Ichiban, a short lived Chinese/Japanese buffet, and Culpepper’s most recently.
  • California Burrito on East Colonial has also closed, also via Scott Joseph’s Orlando Restaurant Guide

Coming Soon

  • The Osprey Tavern in Baldwin Park
  • Swine and Sons Provisions in Winter Park
  • Valentine’s Day – Saturday February 14 – Book your reservations ASAP
  • Berghoff’s Beer Hall at Artegon Marketplace on International Drive
  • Black Rooster Taqueria in Mills 50, former location of Tony’s Deli via Bungalower

Upcoming Events

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CLEARWATER BEACH UNCORKED 2015

Clearwater Beach Uncorked is delighted to announce its 4th annual  food beachfront spectacular to be held on February 7th and 8th, 2015, from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m., beneath the Hyatt Regency Clearwater Beach Resort and Spa.

Clearwater Beach Uncorked, described as the finest beachfront culinary event on Florida’s west coast, is brought together by sponsors: Hyatt Regency Clearwater Beach Resort & Spa and Publix. Clearwater Beach Uncorked will bid the ultimate pre-Valentine’s Day beach getaway complete with delicious tastings from the area’s most renowned restaurants. Guests of the event will have the privilege of mingling at this exquisite paparazzi filled event sure to satisfy anyone’s cravings. For more information, visit http://clearwaterbeachuncorked.com.

Clearwater Beach Uncorked will donate a portion of the proceeds from ticket sales to the University of South Florida Sarasota-Manatee College of Hospitality and Technology Leadership. This year’s sponsors include: Publix, Duncan Hines, Florida Department of Citrus, Hefty, Philadelphia Cream Cheese, Planters, and Reynolds.

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DOWNTOWN FOOD AND WINE FEST AT LAKE EOLA
February 21 and 22, 2015

The Seventh Annual Downtown Food & Wine Fest is set for Saturday, February 21 and Sunday, February 22, 2015 for more than 30,000 foodies and wine lovers to experience unique local cuisine paired with wines from around the globe.

Date / Time: Saturday, February 21 (noon to 9 p.m.) and Sunday, February 22, 2015 (noon to 7 p.m.)

Location: Located in the heart of downtown Orlando at Lake Eola along Robinson Street

Tickets: Admission is $15 per person, per day with advance online purchase. Admission at the door is $20 per person, per day. Admission for children under age 12 is free. For all-weekend Fest fans, a two-day ticket is available for $20 per person with advance online purchase. Food and beverage tickets are available at the Fest for $2 each; food and beverage offerings range from one to four tickets.

“The Downtown Food & Wine Fest is one of our Downtown’s signature cultural events, showcasing the best of Orlando’s culinary scene. Events like this continue to expand Downtown’s offerings and bring more and more people to our urban core to celebrate the beauty, diversity, and vibrancy of our community,” said Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer.

For more information on the Downtown Food & Wine Fest:
Visit www.DowntownFoodAndWineFest.com

For more upcoming events, check out our newly created Orlando Foodie Calendar! shoot us an email if you want to add anything at tastychomps (at) gmail.com

Bonus

In case you missed it, here is the link to our segment on WESH 2 Sunrise News on CW 18 this week, talking about the Chinese/Vietnamese Lunar New Year: http://www.wesh.com/news/lunar-new-year/30735308

and the link to the Guide to Lunar New Year in Orlando 2015 

See you next time on Wesh Sunrise News on CW 18 !
See you next time on Wesh Sunrise News on CW 18 !

A lot of comparisons have been made with the newly opened Mamak to another local Asian street food restaurant in town – namely, Hawkers Asian Street Fare just up the road on Mills Avenue.

The menu of small plates and craft beers look awfully familiar, and there is some history among the owners of which we do not know the full details. But, there are plenty of cases of restaurants having similar menus – examples range from the many local Vietnamese pho shops to Italian and Indian restaurants.

The main crux and differentiation of each lies in their execution of the dishes.

For that reason, I am happy to have Mamak in town because of the very distinct and robust flavors in their dishes, particularly in their curry dishes.

Their decor is modern and chic, with dark woods and a long communal table perfect for a night out with friends – more like a scene out of New York City than Orlando, but if it were to be in any place in Orlando, it would be in Mills 50.

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Here’s what we recommend to get at Mamak:

Top 5 Dishes to Try at Mamak

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1. Mamak Roti Canai – Start off with this Malaysian roti toasted till golden brown, crispy on the outside, fluffy on the inside and served with an addictive spicy curry sauce.
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2. Wonton with hot sauce – plump little wonton dumplings bursting with flavor in a nutty, spicy wet sauce.
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3. Maggi Goreng – Stringy, bouncy Maggi noodles, stir-fried with shrimp, chicken, eggs, and veggie, in a spiced brown sauce. This dish reminded me the most of the nasi goreng noodle dishes I had while in Indonesia recently.
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4. Malaysian Coconut Kari – Malaysia’s most popular dish, your choice of chicken, beef, or tofu and veggies, tossed in a fragrant curry cooked with freshly ground spices and chunky potatoes, served with jasmine rice and sliced cucumber.
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5. Seafood Haw Fun – This rift on the popular beef chow fun is topped with piping hot seafood and veggies instead of beef and scallions. The thick rice noodles and the seafood make for a wonderful combination and tastes so authentic and real, you’d think you were on the streets of Southeast Asia after trying.

BONUS  – Here are some other dishes at Mamak, though good, not as essential to our list of top 5:

Nasi Goreng Indonesia - hot Spicy sambai fried rice with shrimp, chicken and onions, topped with a fried egg. I think the nasi goreng kari fried rice may be a better option - that kari sauce is so good on everything.
Nasi Goreng Indonesia – hot Spicy sambai fried rice with shrimp, chicken and onions, topped with a fried egg. I think the nasi goreng kari fried rice may be a better option – that kari sauce is so good on everything.
BBQ Roast Pork - better else where in Mills 50, these tasted a little off on our visit.
BBQ Roast Pork – better else where in Mills 50, these tasted a little off on our visit.
Malaysian Asam Kari - Your choice of protein, tamarind infused coconut curry cooked with freshly ground spices, tomatoes, bell peppers, carrots and onions, served with jasmine rice and sliced cucumbers. This dish was a bit mild compared to the coconut kari version, so it's a good choice if you like mild flavors
Malaysian Asam Kari -
Your choice of protein, tamarind infused coconut curry cooked with freshly ground spices, tomatoes, bell peppers, carrots and onions, served with jasmine rice and sliced cucumbers. This dish was a bit mild compared to the coconut kari version, so it’s a good choice if you like mild flavors
Char Kway Teow -Malaysia's most popular street dish, wok-fried rice noodles, with shrimp, chicken, eggs, bean sprouts, and chives.
Char Kway Teow -Malaysia’s most popular street dish, wok-fried rice noodles, with shrimp, chicken, eggs, bean sprouts, and chives.

Mamak Asian Street Food on Urbanspoon

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We just finished celebrating New Year’s here in the states, but in a few weeks the local Asian American community here in Orlando will also be celebrating the Lunar New Year.

It’s one of my favorite times of the year, not just for the festivities but also for the great food that goes along with the holiday celebrations.

I remember gathering around at home growing up with my uncles, aunts, cousins, and grandma around the family dinner table having a huge feast, praying to our ancestors and the gods for a lucky and healthy new year. My favorite dishes were the fried egg rolls and roasted duck, Hakka style, filled with Chinese spices, herbs and wild mushrooms.

This year the Chinese/Vietnamese Lunar New Year’s Official Date is Thursday February 19th, 2015 – but the celebrations begin much earlier and last almost all month.

This is the year of the Sheep/Goat and those people born in the year of the Sheep / Goat are said to be “tender, polite, filial, clever, and kind-hearted. They have special sensitivity to art and beauty, wise, gentle and compassionate and can cope with business cautiously and circumspectly.”

Luckily for us here in the Central Florida community, we are home to the largest ethnic enclaves of Asian Americans in the entire state, particularly around the Mills 50 district with shops, restaurants, and markets all getting ready to celebrate the Lunar New Year.

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Lunar New Year Traditions
  • Eating dinner together as a family – people journey from wherever they are, to come home and have dinner. Every year this time marks the largest mass migration of people when workers in the cities travel home to their home villages to visit their families again.
  • Giving/Recieving Red Envelopes - filled with lucky money from elders to the young. Asian culture is big on karma so want to start off the year doing good things for others and hope for good things to happen to you in return later in the year. Universal balance.
  • Clean the house before the new year start the year new, and pay off all your debts
  • Big parades with lots of firecrackers. The loud noise “scares” away any evil spirits so you can start off the new year fresh.
  • On that Thursday, February 19th if you have lunch in the Mills 50 area, you will see the Wah Lum Kung Fu Lion Dance team “blessing” each business with their lion dance and fire works.

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What to Order – Traditional Chinese Dishes for New Years

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Eat
  • Noodles – The longer, the better – the noodles represent longevity and long life
  • Dumplings - They are shaped like little gold nuggets, symbols for good fortune and wealth
  • Fish – The word “yu” sounds like “abundance” in Chinese, so your new year will be abundant with good luck – eat whole fish so that your whole year is full of good luck
  • Fried Spring Rolls – The name also sounds like “good fortune” in Chinese, eat it for a lucky new year
  • Oranges are also plentiful during new years because the name and look of the orange is similar to gold. So giving oranges as a gift is also quite common, as it the giver is seen as wishing prosperity on the receivers.
  • Vietnamese Banh Tet – Bánh tét is a Vietnamese savoury but sometimes sweetened cake made primarily from glutinous rice, which is rolled in a banana leaf into a thick, log-like cylindrical shape, with mung bean or mung bean and pork fillings, then boiled. It is a must have traditional food in Vietnamese Lunar New Year. It demonstrates the importance of rice in the Vietnamese culture as well as historical value. During Vietnamese Tét, family members would gather together and enjoy feasting on bánh tét, the central food of this festive Vietnamese holiday to celebrate the coming of spring.

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Drink
  • Wash it all down with a glass of Baijiu
  • Baijiu – traditional clear grain spirit made from sorghum and wheat
    • The number one drink in the world at about 40-60% alcohol
    • Like Vodka to the Russians, Rum to Puerto Rico, Baijiu is to the Chinese
    • It’s drank at almost all meal gatherings in China.

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Chinese baijiu - Credit-PassportsandCocktails-com

Say Happy New Year!
  • Vietnamese – Chuc Mung Nam Moi
  • Cantonese – Sun Lien Fai Lok
    or Gung Hay Fat Choi (Literally : Congratulations on your Prosperity – have a prosperous new year)
  • Mandarin – Xin Nian Kuai Le
Places to Celebrate:
Local Orlando Restaurants:
    • Ming Bistro – Chinese Dim Sum – Great for Families/Friends/Groups
      1212 Woodward Street #6, Orlando, FL (407) 898-9672
    • Chuan Lu Garden – Authentic Sichuan cuisine – for spicy food lovers
      1101 East Colonial Drive, Orlando, FL – (407) 896-8966  http://chuanluyuan.com
    • Tasty Wok – Chinese street food / barbecue and noodles
      1246 East Colonial Drive, Orlando, FL  (407) 896-8988
    • Chan’s Chinese Cuisine – Dim sum and traditional Chinese cuisine 
      1901 East Colonial Drive, Orlando, FL (407) 896-0093
    • Golden Lotus Chinese – Dim sum and traditional Chinese cuisine
      8365 South John Young Parkway, Orlando, FL (407) 352-3832

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Local Markets – Pick up New Year goodies
  • Saigon Market
    1232 East Colonial Drive, Orlando, FL 32803, United States
    (407) 898-6899
  • Tien Hung Market
    1112 East Colonial Drive, Orlando, FL 32803, United States
    (407) 849-0205 http://tienhungmarket.com/
  • 1st Oriental SuperMarket
    5132 West Colonial Drive, Orlando, FL 32808, United States
    (407) 292-3668 http://1storiental.com

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Street Food Festivals/Events

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Vietnamese New Year Festival by the Vietnamese Catholic Church
Saturday January 31 and Sunday February 1 at the Central Florida Fairgrounds
Orlando Foodie Forum facebook group meet up on that Sunday Feb 1 at 10:30AM
– Try the pork meatballs, sugarcane juice, Vietnamese banh mi, other street foods
http://www.philipminhparish.org/

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Vietnamese New Year Festival by the Vietnamese Community of Central Florida
Saturday February 7th – Sunday February 8th at the Central Florida Fairgrounds
– Street food and also Miss Vietnam of Florida Pageant on Sunday

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Vietnamese Vegetarian Food Festival at Bao An Temple

Sunday February 15th, 2015 8am – 2pm (local cultural acts, lots of vegetarian Vietnamese food for sale)
and the new years eve celebration is the night of February 18th (they have singers, performers, food for sale)
Bao An Buddhist Temple – 5788 North Apopka Vineland Road, Orlando, FL 32818, United States

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Dragon Parade and Lunar New Year Festival
at the Orlando Fashion Square Mall – Sunday February 22
http://www.centralfloridadragonparade.org/

See you next time on Wesh Sunrise News on CW 18 !

See you next time on Wesh Sunrise News on CW 18 !

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Discussing the latest in food and drink in Orlando this week

New Food Trend? The Fast Casual Pizza Movement arriving in Orlando soon

This week on the Orlando Foodie Forum we discussed a new food trend ready to hit Orlando: The Fast Casual Pizza Movement, a la Chipotle.

In a recent article on BusinessInsider, Pizza Studio, a franchise that launched in 2012 and currently has 30 locations around the country had a year-on-year revenue growth of $2.5 million in 2013… and $11.5 million in 2014. According to Forbes, they’re “adapting the quick and made-to-order model, championed by Chipotle and Subway, to pizza.”

“For a fast-casual restaurant, Pizza Studio is competitively priced—$7.99 for an 11-inch personal pie—but its product is way more personalized than at most pizza joints. Customers choose their crust, sauce, cheese, and unlimited toppings which includes meats, vegetables, and seasoning. What’s more, the options are good. You can build your ideal pizza on a rosemary herb or whole grain and flaxseed base, sprinkle it with feta or goats cheese, throw on three different types of peppers and nitrate-free pepperoni, and then finish it with Old Bay Seasoning or truffle salt. Those are the kinds of ingredients you’d expect at a higher-end pizzeria, and yet Pizza Studio doesn’t sacrifice affordability or speed: high-tech convection ovens mean each pie only takes two minutes to cook.”

Recently, newcomers Pie Five Pizza Company and Blaze Pizza have started to put their finishing touches to their fast casual pizza shops near UCF. Topp N Pie Pizza is also expected to open near Waterford Lakes soon.

The Dallas based Pie Five, which takes over the space once occupied by Greens and Grille on University, promises to have pizzas ready within 5 minutes and is looking to aggressively expand to over 25 locations in Florida within the year.

Pie Five Pizza
Pie Five Pizza
via Gannett Newspapers
via Gannett Newspapers
Image via Yelp
Image via Yelp

Blaze Pizza which promises “Fast-Fire’d Custom Built Artisanal Pizzas” is set to open at the new Plaza on Alafaya and University near Bar Louie’s, priced at a very competitive $6.85 for a 12 inch personalized pizza, all oven cooked in under 180 seconds (3 minutes).

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There have been other “personalized” pizza places open in Orlando, most notably Pie-Fection in the Universal area and Chomp Chomp Pizza (no affiliation) in Winter Park. Chomp Chomp closed last year and is now a Marco’s Pizza. Lisa Wilk of TasteCookSip.com tells us, “Pizza was good, crust was meh. Like manufactured, refrigerated dough. Great oven, though.” To hear and participate in all the latest in Orlando food – join the Orlando Foodie Forum on Facebook today :)

Image via Zagat
Image via Zagat

In Other News

Orlando was also recently mentioned in Wine Enthusiast magazine and New York Times as one of the top places to go in 2015, particularly for our developing food scene!

Top 10 Best Wine Destinations in 2015 by Wine Enthusiast Magazine

“Expect the unexpected in Orlando. Shrugging off its just-for-kids image, it sports brag-inducing eats and world-class wine experiences, particularly in new neighborhoods like the Mills 50 District and Winter Park. Ricky Ly, author of The Food Lovers’ Guide to Orlando, points to nominations of several local chefs for James Beard Foundation awards to illustrate the city’s culinary chops. “From hidden speakeasies like The Pharmacy, to the Basque-style restaurant, Txokos Basque Kitchen, serving cola-and-wine-braised kalimotxos pork belly, there is something to be found for every wine and food lover just outside the theme park gates.” ”

New York Times Travel lists Orlando as one of the Top 52 Places to Go in 2015
Untrammeled oases beckon, once-avoided destinations become must-sees and familiar cities offer new reasons to visit.

A pork porterhouse at the Ravenous Pig restaurant.  Credit Jon Whittle
A pork porterhouse at the Ravenous Pig restaurant. Credit Jon Whittle

“Beyond Mickey Mouse: a Disney destination matures.

Disney World will no doubt remain the biggest draw to Orlando, but the city is growing up thanks to a string of civic developments, including the $429 million Dr. Phillips Performing Arts Center, the 62-mile-long SunRail commuter train, both opened last year, and a coming 19,500-seat soccer stadium set to open this year. But the most surprising development is the food scene. East End Market, and its stalls selling locavore fare and artisanal baked goods, opened in 2013. Last year saw the opening of Txokos Basque Kitchen, whose chef was nominated for a James Beard Award. Not to be outdone, two fellow Beard nominees, James and Julie Petrakis (The Ravenous Pig, Cask & Larder), announced the February opening of Swine & Sons Provisions, their market/restaurant hybrid. Theme parks are expanding adult options as well: the elegant Four Seasons Resort Orlando at Walt Disney World opened in August 2014 and features a golf course, a rooftop lounge and an adults-only pool. Adam H. Graham”

North America Chowzter Awards 2014

Also, this weekend is the North American Chowzter Awards 2014, where local Orlando restaurants 4 Rivers Smokehouse and Chuan Lu Garden were both nominated. 4 Rivers was nominate for Best BBQ for their smoked angus brisket while Chuan Lu Garden was nominated for their Chongqing La Zi Fried Chicken. Chowzter is a global network of the world’s most celebrated food experts and writers, all searching for the tastiest Fast Feasts on the planet. Prepared by passionate and inspired artisans, Fast Feasts are locally sourced, freshly prepared, served hot on the spot and enjoyed immediately. The best of these Fast Feasts reflect the local culture, history and traditions of their cities and countries of origin. The awards are held in New Orleans this year which I will attend as a Chief Chowzter for Orlando.

Now Open / Coming Soon in Orlando

Urban Tide is the new coastal concept opening in the restaurant space formerly known as Napa at the Hyatt Regency Orlando on International Drive. Guest feedback inspired the hotel to create the new seafood-focused restaurant after they learned that their trademark rights to the name “Napa” would expire at the end of 2014.

Chuy’s, the Austin-based restaurant famous for its authentic and crave-able Tex-Mex menu, today announced it will hire an estimated 170 new employees, including full-time and part-time positions, for their third location in the Orlando area. Chuy’s newest restaurant is scheduled to open in February 2015 and will be located at 6688 S. Semoran Boulevard, minutes from the Orlando International Airport.
Chuy’s will be hiring a variety of positions, including front-of-the-house hosts, servers, bussers and bartenders. The restaurant is also hiring kitchen staff to help prepare its made from scratch dishes and signature sauces. Among the positions available at Chuy’s, the tortilla “experts” illustrate the restaurant’s commitment to authentic and fresh Tex-Mex. By making each hand-rolled tortilla to order on a comal located in the main dining room, they offer a peek at the philosophy of freshness that sets Chuy’s apart. Chuy’s staff can expect high volume with lots of fun. Interested applicants should apply at the hiring RV located at the future restaurant site at 6688 S. Semoran Boulevard Monday-Saturday from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. To learn more about employment at Chuy’s, please visit Chuys.com/#/employment.

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Tin Roof is a live music joint where people can hang out, drink and dine, and enjoy live music almost every night of the week. Located at I-Drive 360, Tin Roof’s outdoor seating offers some of the best views of the giant observation wheel. Music fans will be able to hear some of the top local and regional bands; foodies will find a killer menu filled with unique dishes bursting with flavor. Headquartered in Nashville, this is the company’s 14th location and its first in Florida.

WHERE: Tin Roof is located at 8371 International Drive at I-Drive 360. Parking is available in the garage or by valet for free.

Bar

Toby Keith’s I Love This Bar & Grill is proud to officially announce its opening at Artegon Marketplace, the newest retail, restaurant and entertainment attraction in Orlando, Fla. The Artegon Marketplace launch marks the final restaurant opening of 2014 for Boomtown Entertainment. As Phoenix-based Boomtown Entertainment continues to expand in further markets, the nationally-recognized hospitality group, is proud to be an anchor store at the 1.1 million-square-foot shopping attraction and artisan marketplace.

Toby Keith’s I Love This Bar & Grill’s menu extends from traditional southern cuisine mixed with American classics. Shareable tasty bites include “T.K.’s Smokehouse Nachos” while mainstay entrees consist of fan favorites, from the “American Solider,” a signature fire-grilled burger to “Chicken Fried Steak,” served with sweet corn succotash and mashed potatoes. The iconic 95-foot guitar-shaped bar offers a selection of beers on tap, moonshine, martinis and margarita drinks. An extensive signature cocktail list includes “The American Girl,” “Red Bullfrog” and Toby’s own “Blue Mezacalita” featuring Toby’s premium Wild Shot Mezcal.

Upcoming Events

 

Christner’s Prime Steak & Lobster (“Christner’s”), a steakhouse staple in Central Florida is refreshing its bar program with a menu featuring new cocktails set to unveil at its inaugural Christner’s Craft Wars. All about the bar, on Saturday, January 17 from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m., three of Christner’s resident bartenders will go head-to-head in three rounds of craft cocktail making with the winner dueling it out for charity and bragging rights.

For $20, guests will gain access to the event. All cocktails will be judged based on originality, taste and the uniqueness of its name; the three rounds of cocktail creations include the Christner’s Classic; the bourbon cocktail and the “secret ingredient” mixed cocktail.
Christner’s bartender’s Jeannie Rudnick, Kyle Laufenberg and Stacy Word will be partnered with three local charities –Central Florida Food and Outreach, Florida Hospital Diabetes Institute and Runway to Hope – and the bartender with the most tips at the end of the three rounds will select the cocktail of his/her choice to be featured as a limited-time-only drink on Christner’s bar menu. Tickets will be given back to all attendees in the way of “tipping tokens.”

All guests are asked to RVSP via e-mail to Christners@rockawaypr.com.

WHERE: Christner’s Prime Steak & Lobster – 729 Lee Road | Orlando, FL
WHEN: Saturday, January 17 at 5:30 – 7:30 p.m.
COST: $20 per person of which, $10 of which is donated to charity

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Ajinomoto Pork and Vegetable Pot Stickers (Gyoza) are one of my favorite things to make when I am in a rush – they’re tasty, easy to make, and only take a few minutes to cook.

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The dumpling was first created in Northern China about 1300 years ago, and the Japanese term “Gyoza” comes from the Chinese name “Jiao-zi.”

The dumplings became popular in Japan particularly after World War II when returning Japanese brought back their love of the dish after returning from their rather devastating occupation of China.

In Japan, Gyoza are pan-fried while in China they are more commonly steamed or boiled. They’re popular around Chinese New Year time because the shape is similar to gold ingots or taels, and who (especially among the Chinese) doesn’t love gold?

Ajinomoto, the food company who brought MSG and the flavor of “umami” to the world back in 1909,  produces about 800,000,000 pieces of gyoza each year.

These crescent shaped dumplings are crispy on the bottom, yet also somehow juicy on the inside.

My first encounter with Japanese gyoza was on a recent visit to Tokyo where, in the rather haute Ginza district, I stumbled upon TenRyu ( Address: 2-6-1 Ginza, Chuo-ku, Tokyo, Website: http://bimi.jorudan.co.jp/shop/1022/), a Japanese/Chinese restaurant – whose name not surprisingly translates to “Sky Dragon”, yes we love our dragons no matter where our restaurants are in the world. This little Beijing style restaurant founded in 1949 was famed for making their jumbo gyoza stuffed with pork, fresh Chinese cabbage, and onion, of which they apparently sell 5000 a day.

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TenRyu’s dumplings were literally the size of my hand DSC08473

 

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Directions
1. Place gyoza dumplings in a non-stick pan. Add 2 oz water (no oil needed)
2. Cover with lid and cook for approximately 5 minutes.
3. Remove lid and cook until bottom is golden brown.
4. Serve while hot

Apparently, the Ajinomoto folks have created a new gyoza product with “EZ-ice” where you don’t even have to add the water for added convenience. Great for camping, I think.

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Teak Neighborhood Grill looks like your average every day American neighborhood pub or bar with a nice list of beers and cocktails, sticky wooden floors, bright neon liquor signs and flat screen TVs, and probably not much else when it comes to food.

But you’d be overlooking one special thing about Teak if you thought that – their surprisingly good list of special, jaw-droppingly delicious half pound Angus beef burgers.

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Burgers featured on the list include the mountainous Drunken Monk ($12), a burger topped with Angry Orchard onion jam, roasted cherry tomatoes, smoked bacon, herb mayo, provolone cheese & Teak chips topped with melted white cheddar cheese served on pretzel bun.

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Truly adventurous (read: masochistic) eaters can go for THE CHALLENGE ($40) – 2 full pounds of Angus beef, 9 slices American cheese, 9 slices Swiss cheese, 9 slices provolone cheese, 24 slices smoked bacon, 2 fresh fried mozzarella rounds, 4 beer battered onion rings, tomatoes, lettuce, Danny’s beanless chili, cheddar cheese sauce & sliced jalapenos…enough to possibly make even Man Vs. Food’s Adam Richman wary.

I had the PB&J burger on this particular visit, a burger topped with almond butter, peanut butter, orange marmalade, crispy potato strings, and provolone cheese on toasted pretzel bun. The burger was ooey-gooey and fun to eat, with just the right amount of sweetness from the orange marmalade, though the peanut butter could have been smoother.

One area of improvement recommended – service, which was rather brusque and inattentive, with long periods of waiting for both our food and our drink refills, but this could easily be remedied with some training or oversight.

The food makes it worth visiting, though, and everyone in our party enjoyed their hearty, delicious burgers.

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PB&J 11 – almond butter & peanut butter, orange marmalade, crispy potato strings & provolone cheese on toasted pretzel bun

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Engine Oil 11 – sautéed peppers & onions, imperial stout glaze, over easy egg, Swiss cheese & crispy potato strings served on pretzel bun

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Children of the Corn 11 – smoked Gouda, tomato & smoked bacon mayo topped with creamed corn & crispy potato strings on pretzel bun

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Teak Neighborhood Grill on Urbanspoon

Sapporo Ramen is one of my favorite places for Japanese ramen noodle soup here in Orlando. After having visited Tokyo and trying some of the most popular ramen shops there, I can comfortably say that Sapporo Ramen is among the most authentic ramen in town, and rivals some of what I tasted in Japan.

Sapporo is a city on the northern Japanese island of Hokkaido, known for their cold weather, the home of the Sapporo Brewery, and the founding place of the miso ramen.

Miso ramen became popular around 1965, featuring a broth that combines copious amounts of miso and is blended with oily chicken or fish broth – and sometimes with tonkotsu or lard – to create a thick, nutty, slightly sweet and very hearty soup.

The Spicy Miso Ramen
The Spicy Miso Ramen

Miso ramen broth tends to have a robust, tangy flavor, so it stands up to a variety of flavorful toppings: spicy bean paste, butter and corn, leeks, onions, bean sprouts, ground pork, cabbage, sesame seeds, white pepper, and chopped garlic are common. The noodles are typically thick, curly, and slightly chewy.

Recently, Sapporo Ramen introduced a new spicy miso ramen along with a curry noodle ramen to their line up of ramen which includes tonkatsu, miso, and shoyu. I found it to be quite flavorful, with just enough spice to be not overwhelming, and great when paired with the sweet corn and salty bamboo shoots.

Another thing I like about Sapporo is their variety of Japanese street food items offered from the takoyaki octopus balls topped with quivering bonito flakes to the imagawayaki desserts, a pancake like bun filled with sweet bean paste.

Creamy Pork Tonkotsu Ramen
Creamy Pork Tonkotsu Ramen
The Kitsune Udon topped with fried tofu skin
The Kitsune Udon topped with fried tofu skin
Imagawayaki dessert
Imagawayaki dessert

Sapporo Ramen
5080 W Colonial Dr
Orlando, Florida
(407) 203-6777
Tue – Sun: 11:30 am – 8:00 pm
Check out their facebook page at Sapporo Ramen

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Artegon Marketplace takes over the space which once held Festival Bay mall. It’s anchored by Bass Pro Shops, Ron Jon Surf Shop, Sheplers Western Wear and Toby Keith’s I Love This Bar & Grill, as well as one of the world’s largest comic book stores, Gods & Monsters, but also offers 165 artisanal shops filled with unique, handcrafted goods and foods.

Recently, a man tragically fell to his death on the Artegon Sky Trail Ropes Course, which remains closed while investigations go on update – the zipline and jump are closed, but the Skytrail itself is now open – Thanks Ken Storey!.

On our recent visit to Artegon, we were surprised and excited for what we found, a place for locals and tourists to Orlando to browse and pick up gifts that are unique and artful.

I think with time, it may be a must see destination, particularly for those lovers of art and crafts.

Not a lot of food product vendors yet, but hopefully that will change.

It reminds me of visiting an art festival but indoors, or a real live version of the online store Etsy, but in Orlando.

Seito Sushi in Baldwin Park is easily one of my favorite sushi restaurants in town – with fresh seafood and quality ingredients, as well as gorgeous settings, they have always been on top of their game here in Orlando.

Recently, Jason Chin, the proprietor of Seito Sushi in Baldwin Park, along with new chef Austin Boyd, have crafted a re-working of the lunch menu at Seito to showcase the talent of both the kitchen and sushi offerings and take the restaurant to the next level, emphasizing freshness and seasonality with a menu that changes often.

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Chef Austin Boyd with Seito Sushi owner Jason Chin
Chef Austin Boyd with Seito Sushi owner Jason Chin

From new ramen dishes to braised beef buns, the menu exhibits creativity and experimentation with many things that work. One of the most controversial decisions on the new menu has been, surprisingly, the removal of the bento box options, which would allow the kitchen to focus more on the new dishes, but also has turned off some customers who looked forward to the combination lunch boxes. Change is always hard at first, but they hope that with time the lunch crowd will grow to love the new menu.

Housemade dumplings with chopped apple
Housemade dumplings with chopped apple

The tonkotsu pork ramen, dumplings, and the ceviche roll were standouts from our group.

Three ramen options are available on the menu – the tonkotsu pork ramen which features crispy braised pork belly, soy egg, and house pickled ginger; the shoyu ramen, a soy sauce chicken broth based ramen with chicken thigh; and the gyu ramen, beef pho based broth (yes, some Vietnamese influences there) with cilantro oil, beef brisket, and sprouts.

I really enjoyed the tonkotsu pork ramen’s crispy pork belly which had a nice crunch to it, though the ginger could have been more pickled.

The tonkotsu pork ramen which features crispy braised pork belly, soy egg, and house pickled ginger
The tonkotsu pork ramen which features crispy braised pork belly, soy egg, and house pickled ginger
The shoyu ramen, a soy sauce chicken broth based ramen with chicken thigh
The shoyu ramen, a soy sauce chicken broth based ramen with chicken thigh
The gyu ramen, beef pho based broth with cilantro oil, beef brisket, and sprouts
The gyu ramen, beef pho based broth with cilantro oil, beef brisket, and sprouts

Some mixed reviews on the curry braised beef bao buns, which may work better with crispy pork belly filling instead of the wetter beef.

Curry braised beef bao buns
Curry braised beef bao buns
The salmon ceviche nigiri with citrus cured salmon, a refreshing highlight with wonderful lime and citrus zest flavors
The salmon ceviche nigiri with citrus cured salmon, a refreshing highlight with wonderful lime and citrus zest flavors
The Orlando Foodie Forum - Join us soon!
The Orlando Foodie Forum – Join us on facebook!

The new lunch menu is available now at Seito Sushi in Baldwin Park, and changes often. New rollouts will be coming soon this spring, and we have also received news that the upcoming Osprey Tavern will open in early 2015 as well. Lots of changes, for the better, in little Baldwin Park.

Here’s a look at their lunch menu (changes daily):

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2014 has been a remarkable year in Orlando, seeing some of the most openings in recent memory as well as many closings. Overall, the quality and depth of the Orlando food scene has without a doubt increased. Here are some of our favorite moments from 2014 locally here in Orlando as well as abroad, and a few favorite new restaurants that we grew to love over the year.

Our Top 23 Favorite Food Moments and Restaurants of 2014

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1. 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 where members are also privy to exclusive invitations and announcements as well as lively discussion about favorite eats and restaurants around town. We’ve had a great time already with a special lunch at Seito Sushi in Baldwin Park previewing their new lunch menu with many more meet ups to come. Feel free to join in!

2. Interview with Chef Matthew Cargo of Prato – He just returned from working at some of the best restaurants in the world in California, and returned home to make Orlando’s food scene and Prato better than ever with an authentic, honest approach.

3. The fried basa fish and fries platter from Washington Shores Fish Market

4. Chaufa mixta and other Peruvian favorites at Ceviche House

5. Braised Lamb neck with hand cut arugula pasta, ras el hanout, pistachio gremolata by Chef Wade Camerer of Biergarten Restaurant at EPCOT Food and Wine Festival’s Party of the Senses

5. My wife, May, and I showing off the Epcot Food and Wine Festival for ABC’s The Chew

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6. The Szechuan peanut wontons and beef coconut kari at Mamak Asian Street Food.

7. Parker House Rolls, made from Khorasan wheat (Egyptian old-world grains) served warm and made from scratch by the new Highball and Harvest pastry team.

8. Bull & Bear’s Frittes are crispy, delicious hand-cut Idaho potatoes soaked in malt vinegar and water then cooked in beef tallow; tossed in homemade garlic powder and served with garlic aioli and all natural ketchup. The frittes are so good they hardly need any aioli or ketchup for dipping.

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9. Kappo at East End Market is one of the new shining stars of 2014 and one of my personal favorites, particularly for their chirashi bowls – as beautiful to eat as they are to look.

10. Fried Shrimp and dirty grits with chicken liver, jamon, and shallot at Txokos Basque Kitchen at East End Market for brunch.

11. The hot, fresh donuts from Sip and Dip Donuts in St. Cloud

12. Judging all the chef inspired fish tacos at the Bite Nite Orlando event hosted by Orlando Weekly

13. The members of GoFLA, including restaurant owners, writers, suppliers, artisans and promoters, gathered  at East End Market to kick-off the organization and sign the Sunshine Plate manifesto to promote the remarkable bounty of Central Florida’s fields, waters and producers.

14. The Vesuvia Pasta with Butternut Squash, Spinach, Fresh Pear, Ricotta Salata, Roasted Pine Nuts at Fiorenzo Italian Steakhouse at Hyatt Regency Orlando.

15. The duck confit khao soi curry noodles and scallop hotate nigiri at Sushi Pop in Oviedo

16. The blueberry cobbler at P is for Pie Bakeshop in Audubon Park.

17. Gyro Lamb doner sandwich – Döner served in a “tombik pide” (“fatty” pita) at Cappadocia Turkish Cuisine on Semoran Blvd.

18. Pastries and desserts from US Pastry Competition Champion Chef Yoshikazu Kizu of Ritz Carlton Grande Lakes Resort

19. Chicken and Waffles – Nashville hot chicken, cornbread waffle, cheddar, sweet relish, chive crème fraiche, smoked honey at Cask and Larder

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20. Santa Maria Tri Tip Steak sandwich from Four Rivers Smokehouse

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21. Hanging out with the crew at WESH 2 Sunrise News – Michelle Imperato and Stewart Moore along with Jason Guy, Jazmin Bailey, and Amy Sweezey

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22. Nigiri sushi plate at Yuki Hana in Oviedo

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23. Being featured in Travel and Leisure Magazine

We are looking forward to many more happy food moments in 2015! Cheers!!

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Gyudon, literally beef bowl, is a popular Japanese dish consisting of a bowl of rice topped with beef and onion simmered in a mildly sweet sauce flavored with dashi (fish and seaweed stock), soy sauce and mirin (sweet rice wine).

In 1899 Eikichi Matsuda opened the first Yoshinoya restaurant, at the fish market in Tokyo’s Nihonbashi district.

Gyudon can be found in many Japanese restaurants and some fast food chains specialize exclusively in the dish. The largest gy?don fast food chains in Japan are Chikara Meshi, Yoshinoya Matsuya, and Sukiya.

Last year, during our visit to Tokyo, we visited one of the many chains available around the city and absolutely loved the sweet and salty flavors of the simple beef rice bowl.

At Chikara Meshi, the bowls were about 300 yen (a little less than $3 USD) and came with a few tasty slices of gyu beef over rice. You ordered at the machine – a vending touch screen – and are issued a ticket receipt. After a few moments, a attendant brings out the bowl orders for your party at the bar stool dining area.

Locally in Orlando, folks can get their gyudon fix on at any number of the Japanese restaurants around town, but I particularly recommend the renditions at Sapporo Ramen, Aki of Japan, Sushi Tomi, Hanamizuki, and Sushi Kichi.

Shibuya - One of Tokyo's busiest wards
Shibuya – One of Tokyo’s busiest wards
Tokyo Chikara Meshi
Tokyo Chikara Meshi
Tokyo Chikara Meshi
Tokyo Chikara Meshi
Dining area inside Tokyo Chikara Meshi
Dining area inside Tokyo Chikara Meshi
Tokyo Chikara Meshi
Tokyo Chikara Meshi
Vending / Touchscreen Ordering machine atTokyo Chikara Meshi
Vending / Touchscreen Ordering machine atTokyo Chikara Meshi
The beef bowl
The beef bowl
Gyudon beef rice bowl at Tokyo Chikara Meshi
Gyudon beef rice bowl at Tokyo Chikara Meshi
Corn sides
Corn sides

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They also serve mapo tofu bowls
They also serve mapo tofu bowls
Yoshinoya another beef bowl chain
Yoshinoya another beef bowl chain
Matsuya
Matsuya

Ingredients

1 medium onion
10-12oz (300-350g) beef, thinly sliced
1 1/2 cup Dashi
4 Tbsp soy sauce
3 Tbsp sugar
2 Tbsp Sake
1 tsp ginger, grated
pickled red ginger (Benishouga)
steamed rice

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Instructions

Slice onion thinly, and cut sliced beef in 2″ width.
Boil Dashi in a pot and add sliced onion. Cook for 3-4 minutes. Add soy sauce, sugar, and Sake and cook another 3-4 minutes. Add grated ginger.
Add sliced beef in pot and stir. Cook about 5 minutes.
Pour meat and sauce over rice and top with pickled red ginger.

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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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