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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This Thursday, Orlando Weekly celebrated the Great Orlando Mixer – Orlando’s largest cocktail party in the city’s most elaborately decorated vintage venue – the Church Street Saloon, complete with 1920s costumes, hors d’oeuvres, live entertainment, and craft cocktails from the city’s top bars and bartenders.

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The winner of the 2015 Great Orlando Mixer winner was The Church Street Tavern – whose bartenders created a gin sticky, which included Cinnamon syrup infused grilled orange slices and St. Augustine gin blended with fresh squeezed orange juice – garnished with a cinnamon stick and orange twist.

The Hen House at Wall Street Plaza was runner up with an honorable mention going to Prato.

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St. Augustine Distillery provided much of the liquor for the evening, offering a Florida cane vodka, made with Florida-grown sugar cane, and a New World Gin, made with a blend of coriander, juniper, lemon peel and cassia.

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Food was provided by Seito Sushi at Baldwin Park, the new Urban Tide at Hyatt Regency Orlando, Segofredo, and Paxia.

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For more info, visit:
http://www.orlandoweekly.com/Blogs/archives/2015/03/27/and-the-winner-of-the-2015-great-orlando-mixer-is

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Participating establishments included:

Dexters Thorton Park
Lil’ Indies
Luma
Olde 64
Prato
Santiago’s Bodega
Sideshow
Stardust Video & Coffee
The Church St. Tavern
The Hammered Lamb
The Hen House
The Rusty Spoon
The Treehouse
W XYZ
World of Beer Downtown

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Church Street Tavern
120 West Church Street Orlando, FLO 32801
407-985-5833
Templeton Rye Cocktail Madhatten – Muddled fresh basil in a jalepeno syrup. Stirred Templeton Rye with a dash of the most original bitters and garnished with a cherry tomato. St. Augustine Gin Cocktail Gin Stickey – Cinnamon syrup infused grilled orange slices. St. Augustine gin blended with fresh squeezed orange juice. Garnished with a cinnamon stick and orange twist.

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Lil Indies
1036 North Mills Avenue Orlando, FLO 32803
Templeton Rye Cocktail Vira Jira- Earthy, rich cumin accents light oak and spice notes of Templeton Rye. The addition of lime juice gives this approachable cocktail the spirit of Middle Eastern flavors.
St. Augustine Gin Cocktail The Martingale – Nutty, bitter notes of Cardamaro and Averna draw out the flavors of hand ground herbs in the St. Augustine Gin moving the bright citrus notes of the gin front and center. The habanero shrub gently warms the earthy notes in the sumptuous sipper.

Dexter’s Thorton Park
808 East Washington Street Orlando, FLO 32801
407-648-2777
Templeton Rye Cocktail The Templeton – A warming mixture of Templeton Rye Whiskey with rosemary infused maple syrup and fresh squeezed lemon juice
St. Augustine Gin Cocktail The New Pear Fizz – A perfect blend between Ginger and pear smashed and served with fresh lemon juice and St. Augustine Gin.

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Luma on Park
290 South Park Avenue Winter Park, FLO 32789
407-599-4111
Templeton Rye Cocktail A Little R & R – Rhubarb bitters, powdered sugar, egg whites, soda & rhubarb stalk.
St. Augustine Gin Cocktail Ponce de l’Orange – St. Augustine Gin, blood orange, grapefruit, agave & basil.

Olde 64
64 North Orange Avenue Orlando, FLO 32801
321-245-7730
Templeton Rye Cocktail The Settle Down – 2 sugar cubes, 2 large basil leaves, 3 blackberries, dash of grated cinnamon, 3/4 oz of Templeton rya, 1/4 oz of Lemon Juice, 1/2 oz of Club Soda garnished with a slapped bay leaf.
St. Augustine Cocktail The H.M.S. – 2 cardamom pods, pinch of kosher salt, 3/4 oz of St. Augustine Gin, 3/4 oz of jasmin green tea, 1/2 oz Lime Juice, 1/2 oz Agave nectar, garnished with crushed bay leaf.

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Prato
124 North Park Avenue Winter Park, FLO 32789
407.262.0050
Templeton Rye Cocktail The Muddled Mexican – Templeton Rye, Mexican cola reduction, vanilla syrup, muddled orange/cherry & orange/cherry bitters.
St. Augustine Gin Cocktail Berried Treasure – Blackberry, rosemary simple syrup, lime & lemon bitters.

Rusty Spoon
124 North Park Avenue Winter Park, FLO 32789
407-262-0050
Templeton Rye Cocktail Templeton Rye: AZ-85 – Templeton Rye, ginger syrup & lemon juice.
St. Augustine Gin Cocktail St. Augustine Gin, fresh blueberries & lemon verbana.

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Santiagos’ Bodega
802 Virginia Drive Orlando, FLO 32803
407-412-6979
Templeton Rye Cocktail 12 Days – Templeton Rye, Cinzano Vermouth Rosso, fresh orange, cinnamon, Angostura bitters, orange bitter, and agave.
St. Augustine Gin Cocktail Aviles Street – Mandarin napoleon, luxardo cherry, lemon, fresh basil, raw honey.

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Sideshow
Wall Street Plaza 15 North Orange Avenue Orlando, FLO 32801
407-420-1515
Templeton Rye Cocktail Al’s Vice – A classic whiskey cocktail enhanced with homemade honey grapefruit syrup, orange bitters and a twist.
St. Augustine Gin Cocktail First Flower – St. Augustine gin mixed with homemade vanilla lavender syrup, lemon juice and lavender bitters. Spring has arrived!

Stardust Video & Coffee
1842 Winter Park Road Orlando, FL 32803
(407) 623-3393
Templeton Rye The Sting – Templeton Rye, fresh habanero/peach puree spiced with cardamom and secrets, fresh squeezed orange and angostura bitters garnished with a citrus peel.
St. Augustine Gin Cocktail Gidget Goes Hawaiian – St. Augustine Gin with muddled fresh ginger root, passion fruit juice and fresh squeezed orange, orange blossom water and grapefruit bitters garnished with a fresh basil sprig.

The Hammered Lamb
1235 North Orange Avenue Orlando, FLO 32804
407-704-3200
Templeton Rye Cocktail The Lamb Mae – Cherry, vanilla bean, and sage infused Templeton Rye Whiskey served over a king cube garnished with a lemon twist, sage leaf, and cherry.
St. Augustine Gin Cocktail The Lamb Jam – St. Augustine Gin, a pineapple sage syrup and seasonal Jam served over ice cubes.

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The Hen House @ Wall St.
11 Wall Street Orlando, FLO 32801
407-849-9904
Templeton Rye Cocktail Templeton Moon-RYE-se – A whiskey infusion of organic apples, cinnamon and vanilla. A hen house secret recipe.
St. Augustine Gin Cocktail Florida Fizz – A new school take on the old gin fizz, with some Florida twists. Made with locally sourced Florida Orange flower oil, Florida honey syrup and of course, St. Augustine Gin.

The Treehouse
68 East Pine Street Orlando, FLO 32801
407-205-2062
Templeton Rye Cocktail Blackberry Lemonade – Templeton Rye Whiskey, muddled blackberries, lemonade and mint.
St. Augustine Gin Cocktail Cucumber Gimlet – Gin, cucumber, lime, elderflower, and jalepeno.

W XYZ (a loft hotel)
500 South Orange Avenue Orlando, FLO 32801
407-380-3500
Templeton Rye Cocktail Compass Rose – A modern twist on a classical Admiral with rosemary lemon juice and Templeton Rye.
St. Augustine Gin Cocktail Ginarita – A refreshing spring time twist on a classic margarita, muddled cucumber and lime mixed to make this a must.

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World of Beer Downtown
431 East Central Boulevard Orlando, FLO 32801
407-270-5541
Templeton Rye Cocktail Capone’s Hideaway – Templeton Rye Whiskey pairs perfectly with a lemon-verbena shrub topped with champagne and garnished with a torched lemon peel.
Templeton Rye Cocktail Florida Sky – Florida take on an aviation cocktail made with St. Augustine Gin, creme de violet, hibiscus honey simple syrup, lavender bitters, and key lime juice.

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The team at the new Urban Tide restaurant at Hyatt Regency Orlando on International Drive
The team at the new Urban Tide restaurant at Hyatt Regency Orlando on International Drive

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Bento Asian Kitchen + Sushi has finally opened this week at the UCF / University location.

This is their 7th location in Florida, with other Bentos in Gainesville and Jacksonville.

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Bento Cafe was founded in Gainesville 13 years ago by University of Florida alumni Jimmy Tung, Johnny Tung and David Yu. This is the third location in Orlando, following the debut of Bento at the Plaza downtown and on Sand Lake Road.

The restaurant features entrees, such as Bento Boxes and noodle and rice bowls, alongside sushi options including sashimi, vegetarian or classical sushi varieties, with most of the dishes in the $7 to $9 range. There is also a full bar at this location.

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Some of my favorite dishes at Bento Cafe include the Chirashi sushi bowl, Spicy Korean chicken, teriyaki chicken, and the Cantonese pork chop. While in college, Bento Cafe was actually one of the first places where I tried many of the various cuisines from Asia for the very first time, at a very college budget friendly price. For that, I am forever grateful to them for opening up the doors to Asian cuisine, not only to me, but to thousands of college students around Florida.

We’ll be updating this post as more information comes in.

SPICY TUNA-SALMON DON 8.75
An assortment of fresh Sashimi on a bed of rice with masago, avocado, slices of cucumber, sesame seeds and wakame
Bento Asian Kitchen and Sushi
12101 University Blvd Ste 408
Orlando, FL 32817
(407) 658-8088

SUSHI HAPPY HOUR
Monday – Friday | 4 pm – 7 pm
Buy 2 rolls, get 1 Free!
SUSHI COMBO BOX
$8.75 from Open to 5 pm

Full bar at the UCF location
Full bar at the UCF location
Line is quite busy on the first day
Line is quite busy on the first day

Bento Café on Urbanspoon

Quickly Boba & Snow opened December 2014 in the Colonialtown Center strip plaza near the Orlando Fashion Square Mall, just north of the Orlando Executive Airport. It’s a little hidden, but word of mouth has gotten out and it’s been quite busy the past few visits I made there.

Spacious, and colorful – the interior’s visual highlight is that of local artist Boy Kong’s mural featuring the 12 animals of the Chinese Zodiac, racing in a frenzied fashion, possibly to grab some boba tea.

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Boba tea is a Taiwanese invention, made with syrupy sweet milk teas and small black tapioca pearls. It’s become quite popular in the US, particularly among the youth, who enjoy chewing and sipping on the drinks with their friends.

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Not only do they have boba, but they also make their own macarons in house – the owner is trained on the technique from a class she took while in Paris, France. They even make their own jumbo sized macaron ice cream sandwiches – great for Florida summertime eating.

Quickly is actually a franchise of an international chain of boba tea shops, so the menu is quite diverse.

Asian street food items feature here as well – from the egg waffle puffs, or gai dan ji, a popular Hong Kong street food, to the spicy popcorn chicken (my personal favorite!).

Definitely make a visit to Quickly Boba and Snow soon.

 

Quickly Boba & Snow
3214 East Colonial Drive, Orlando, FL 32803
407-270-4570.

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“Cooking comes from the heart,” Chef Henry Salgado said. “Being a chef involves much more than simply following a recipe. I see food as a celebration and cooking as a passion.”

Chef Henry Salgado is a 5th generation Floridian, from Tampa, and passionate about his Cuban-Spanish heritage. Through the years, he has turned his passion into a successful venture with both Spanish River Grill in New Smyrna Beach, and Txokos Basque Kitchen right here in Orlando at Baldwin Park’s East End Market. He’s been nominated multiple times for his work as Best Chef of the South by the James Beard Foundation Awards, and deservedly so.

Chef Henry grew up cooking with his Cuban grandmother and so was very much “into food” at an early age.

One of his favorite things to eat growing up was his “Cuban grandmother’s black beans and rice with a loaf of Cuban bread.”

In a recent interview, Chef Henry Salgado told us, “I was rail thin with a hallow leg and I ate everything I could get my hands on. I wasn’t a picky eater at all. I loved (still do!) to eat!”

Chef Henry Salgado began his career in foodservice at a young age when he took his first job as a busboy. By the age of 19, he had quickly moved up the ranks to become a corporate trainer for a national casual restaurant chain, and then went on to study at the Florida Culinary Institute in West Palm Beach, Florida.

“I cut my teeth at Max’s Grill in Boca Raton. I was very fortunate to work with many great chefs in South Florida as well as San Diego, at the Hotel Valencia and Wine Cellar and Brassiere. But when I landed in Atlanta and opened Horseradish Grill with Chef Scott Peacock and the late Miss Edna Lewis, it was a turning point in my career. That was when I became truly serious about my cooking.”

While at the Horseradish Grill in Atlanta, he fell not only in love with cooking,  but also the other love of his life, his wife Michele, and they eventually relocated to New Smyrna Beach, FL, where together they opened Spanish River Grill.

 “In the beginning we just wanted to be our own boss so we could surf and fish when we wanted. We had no idea then what was in store us and how my career as a chef would change.”

Henry’s specialty lies within the preparation of seafood, which he prefers to lightly season to bring out its natural flavors, rather than smothering it with overbearing sauces.

The Owners, Chef Henry and Michelle Salgado
Txokos’ Chef Henry and Michelle Salgado

Since opening Spanish River Grill, he has been nominated multiple times as Best Chef – South by the James Beard Foundation Awards (2012-2015) and in 2014, together with his wife, Michele, opened up Txokos Basque Kitchen at East End Market.

Here Chef Salgado explains the origins of “Txokos Basque Kitchen” while still under construction:

Chef Henry Salgado and Peter Lee of Txokos Basque Kitchen
Chef Henry Salgado and Peter Lee of Txokos Basque Kitchen

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

Chef Henry: Anything I can grill, smoke or roast on the Asador grill. If I had to pick one dish it would be the Duck 2 Ways, foie baked in potato puree, mushrooms and duck egg.

What are you planning for the menu this coming spring season?

What’s interesting for me is to take the great foundation of a traditional dish and make it new, make it exciting. I’m really into beans and stews right now. The Spaniards love beans, perfectly cooked. I’m also looking at asparagus for the spring, wood grilled (of course) with a poached egg and maybe tinta. Also, the Calcot, which is the spring onion. The Catalonians have a festival just for the spring onion season. The onions are cooked over a wood fire, rolled in paper and served with romesco. I add crushed marcona almonds.

Where do you dine when not at Txokos here in Orlando or in New Smyrna Beach?

Orlando has so many good places to eat but the food I crave is Asian. I love Thai, Vietnamese, Korean BBQ. In NSB there is a new little Thai restaurant that is pretty good. But when the weather is good, there is nothing like an afternoon at JB’s Fish Camp, drinking bloody marys and eating rock shrimp on the deck over looking the intercostal.

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

I wanted to be a professional soccer player. I had scholarships coming out of high school but where my peers were going overseas to play, I wanted to play in the US and there was no league at the time. I love to fish and surf, although I haven’t been on a board in a long time. I’m an avid race car enthusiast too!

What are you excited about here in Orando for 2015?

I’m really excited for the Orlando City Lions and our new stadium. But from a culinary take Michele and I both feel that Visit Orlando is doing an amazing job to help overcome the perception that Orlando is an attractions only destination with big hotel and large chain restaurants. There is an uprising of independently owned restaurants and local businesses here that deserve recognition and they’re (we’re) getting it. So it’s an exciting time to be a business owner here and part of the Orlando food scene. The NY Times chose Orlando as #13 in “51 Places to go in 2015″, sandwiched between St. Vincent and Zimbabwe. How cool is that?!

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Restaurant Openings / Pop Ups

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Emmabean Pop up at East End Market till March 22
Chef Jes Tantalo, Pastry Chef Emily Bose, emmabeanfl@gmail.com

www.emmabean.net
For a limited time, stop by the Kappo space at East End Market to get a sneak peek of all that Emmabean’s multi-tarian, american cuisine has to offer, including kids lunches, breakfast & on-the-go or take-home meals. Chefs Jes and Emily will be there cooking up a storm while the Kappo team vacation in Japan.

When: Now through March 22
Tuesday – Sunday from 11am – 3pm
Takeaway Items available throughout the day
Where: East End Market
3201 Corrine Dr., Orlando, FL 32803

Downtown Credo Coffee opens second location at Florida Hospital – https://facebook.com.com/downtowncredo
Downtown CREDO is a local 501c(3) non-profit with a mission to improve the quality of lives in our nation’s cities by cultivating networks of meaning, impact and community. The coffee shop has a “pay as you like” model, and after the growers and Credo’s employees are paid, the remaining income goes toward the advancement of four local nonprofit organizations including New Image Youth Center, which serves at-risk youth in Orlando’s Parramore neighborhood through after-school programs, Boys & Girls Club of Central Florida, Green Up Orlando, and Keeping Orlando Beautiful.

Insert coffee to begin. A photo posted by Krystle Nguyen (@krystlenguyen) on

Shish Co Mezze Grill in Maitland.

http://www.shishcomezzegrill.com/

Doner, Kofte, Kebab, Lamb Chops, Felafel & Turkish Egg Rolls!

via Eatlocalorlando.com

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New Pier 407 Cajun Crab & Seafood has opened in East Orlando
Pier 407 Cajun Crab & Seafood Inc has opened in the former location of Dawat Indian on Colonial Drive right in front of Boardwalk Bowl
10725 E Colonial Dr Ste B, Orlando
Number of Seats : 49
http://pier407.daxym.com/

Photo Feb 26, 5 31 37 PM

BurgerFi at UCF’s Plaza now Open

Photo Mar 04, 12 42 43 PM Photo Mar 04, 12 41 44 PM Photo Mar 09, 12 11 01 PM

Coming soon

Spoleto by UCF
12101 University Blvd, Suite 219 Orlando, Florida
http://spoletoitalian.com/
https://www.facebook.com/SpoletoItalian
“Spoleto, a popular chain of Italian restaurants in Brazil, Mexico and Costa Rica, combines the speed of fast casual service with the sophistication and gourmet-quality food of a favorite Italian restaurant including pasta, flatbreads, salads, and soups.”
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TOCA BOCA ORLANDO TO INTRODUCE AUTHENTIC SPANISH CUISINE ON INTERNATIONAL DRIVE

New Tapas and Paella Location From Owners of Taverna Opa Orlando to Create Sixty New Jobs
ORLANDO, Fla. — Husband-and-wife duo, Katerina and Vassilis Coumbaros, who also own the celebrated Greek eatery Taverna Opa Orlando, announced today the opening of a second concept, Toca Boca Orlando, a Spanish restaurant slated to open April 23 in the center of the city’s new tourism complex at the I-Drive 360. Toca Boca will pay tribute to classic and contemporary Spanish cuisine with a robust tapas menu and “paella pit,” which will act as a focal point of the restaurant. Complementing the fare will be a flavorful menu of more than 20 libations, which includes an expansive list of imported wines, in addition to a full collection of spirits and signature cocktails.

Inspired by the culture’s dedication to food and wine, the Coumbaros’ traveled to Spain and developed a menu that leads with indigenous ingredients with imported signatures, such as jamón, chorizo, olives, wines and cheeses. “Celebration is the Spanish way of life, and Toca Boca will pay homage to this by fusing food and entertainment under one roof,” said Katerina Coumbaros. “Vassilis and I were inspired by the architecture, the culture and the cuisine of Spain. Toca Boca is our way of bringing all these memories home.”
Paella, a Spanish-cuisine staple made of rice, green vegetables and meat or seafood; will lead the menu, with four variations of the dish – vegetarian, chicken, seafood or steak. Guests can also enjoy traditional tapas such as Buñuelos, fluffy salted cod fritters; Gambas al Ajillo, a classic tapas dish of shrimp sautéed in olive oil, garlic, paprika and a splash of brandy; Albondigas, a Spanish meatball made with veal and beef combined with Manchego cheese and seasoned with parsley, garlic and Spanish paprika; and Patatas Bravas, fried white potatoes served with a spicy tomato aioli. Guests can also choose from other fare including a Museo de Queso platter of Spanish cheeses, such as Manchego Cheese, Cabra al Vino and Mahon Cheese while meat-lovers can enjoy a selection of traditional cured meats with the Museo de Carne platter featuring Jamón Serrano, Lomo Embuchado, and Fuet.

Toca Boca’s bar will feature an extensive selection of Spanish wines, spirits and cocktails, with specialties such as house-made sangria, the Corazon de España (gin and tonic) and Tinto de Verano, a light red wine served in a traditional Spanish wine pitcher called a porron.

Tina Marie Interior Design spearheaded the restaurant’s design with Spanish accents of imported mosaic tiles and a wall dedicated to traditional and interactive art. Furnishings and light fixtures are inspired by Barcelona and are spread over 5,000-square-feet of space. Indoor and outdoor entertaining can be had with five rooms dedicated to a bar and four private dining rooms available for parties, celebrations and corporate dinners. On any given night up to 270 guests can enjoy an experience similar to Taverna Opa Orlando with food, fun and entertainment as Toca Boca transforms with live music and tableside flamenco dancers.

ABOUT TOCA BOCA ORLANDO
Toca Boca Orlando, a locally-owned and operated Spanish tapas concept with a focus on cuisine from the region, is located at 8441 International Drive in Orlando, FL. Toca Boca Orlando will be open daily for brunch, lunch and dinner Monday through Thursday from 11 a.m. – 11 p.m. and Friday – Saturday from 11 a.m. – 2 a.m. and will accept both walk-ins and reservations. For more information, please visit tocabocarestaurant.com.

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Toca Boca - Credit Tina Marie Interior Design
Toca Boca – Credit Tina Marie Interior Design

Restaurant Closings

100 Montaditos, the popular Spanish sandwich shop, has filed for bankruptcy nationally, and has closed the local Orlando Waterford Lakes location.

According to Bungalower, the Thornton Park location of Tijuana Flats is scheduled to close later this month.

According to Central Florida’s Good Eats, That Deli! Sandwich shop will close on Saturday March 28th

That Deli! Facebook
Well we did it again! 1st Place Best Sandwich, 1st place Best Take Out and 2nd place Best Deli! – WOW! The last 6 years have gone by so fast and what accomplishments! We wouldn’t have been able to do it with out all our fan base! We THANK all of you!
You know, When Wendy and I created the Deli back in 2009, our expectations were fairly low. Roy just wanted to have some fun, Wendy wanted a good place to eat! and it gave all our kids, at one time or the other a job until they could find something they loved on their own! It got some through school, others opportunities to get some great experience and even the other employees better opportunities to grow. It has been so fun and amazing! We never expected to win the awards we have won or even imagined getting invites to compete in the World Food Competition in Las Vegas for the past 3 years! As the years progressed the Deli took on a life of its own! It is like a Community Center, a ‘Cheers’ bar, or even the place for select customers to debate with Roy on Politics, Religion and Sports! what a journey!

We have watched children grow into young adults, went through all the happy times and sad times with some of the best customers any business could have ever known! We feel like we have formed a huge family and are so thankful for the opportunity to serve the community!

As we say this, we are saddened that we will be bringing the Deli story to an end for at least the short term. We have pondered and pondered resigning a new lease or moving on to a new adventure. With rising food and other costs including equipment repairs and upkeep, it became at best a break even venture most months. With Roy’s knees failing and all the kids on their own it was time to make the decision to close the Deli! Our last day will be Sat. March 28th. We are so heart broken as we feel we are letting our new fond family down. But please know how much we appreciate each and every one of you and after a short mini retirement, hoping we can maybe come back with something bigger and better! So don’t remove us from Facebook. In the mean time, please know how thankful we are to have met you and served you!

Until we meet again….

Roy and Wendy

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Whether you observe Lent or take the opportunity to challenge yourself to pump the breaks on avidly checking Facebook, we’ve got a foodie round-up to make the 40 days more palatable.

To positively channel cravings, we present a few ideas from our friends at Rockaway PR for places to try and alternatives to eat at local staples.

Lent Starts: Wednesday, February 18 Ends: Thursday, April 2

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Christner’s Prime Steak and Lobster

What to Order:
Christner’s Sesame Seared Tuna or fresh Salmon – The acclaimed restaurant’s menu also boasts made-for-sharing sides such as Osage Spinach and Skillet Potatoes & Onions
· Occasion: Date Night / Business Dinner
· Address: 729 Lee Road Orlando, FL 32810
· Website: www.christnersprimesteakandlobster.com


4 Rivers Smokehouse


What to Order:
Limited-time only Tuna Melt: Homemade tuna salad – lightly smoked albacore tuna – celery, chopped eggs, pickles, tomatoes and onion – and a nice touch of seasoning – served on a hoagie bun topped with melted provolone cheese—on Fridays during Lent, so get it while you can.
Only available on Fridays
· Occasion: Lunch break
· Address: All Florida locations: Winter Park, Winter Garden, Longwood, Jacksonville, East Orlando, Gainesville, Tampa and Orange Park
· Website: www.4rsmokehouse.com


The COOP

What to Order:
Go Southern at this Winter Park concept with Fried Catfish & Grits and sides such as okra
Occasion: Lunch break
· Address: 610 West Morse Blvd. Winter Park, FL 32789
· Website: www.asoutheraffair.com


American Gymkhana

What to Order:
French Toast Gymkhana stuffed with choice of cinnamon- raisin mawa paired with mocktails (sans alcohol)
Morning Glory: lychee puree, lemon and orange essence, splash of seltzer water
Jaswal: cucumber and lychee juice with fresh lime, topped with ginger beer
Occasion: Brunch
· Address: 7559 W. Sandlake Rd. Orlando, FL 32819
· Website: www.americangymkhana.com


American Q

What to Order:
Meatless Mondays at American Q: take advantage of the all-you-can eat flatbed buffet without meat every Monday for $19.95
o Grilled cauliflower steak; Vegetable brochettes; Smoked tofu chili; Seared Rare Tuna: spicy Napa, pineapple & honey almond slaw
· Occasion: Headed to Downtown Disney / Out with the Family
· Address: 1905 Hotel Plaza Boulevard Lake Buena Vista, FL
· Website: www.americanq.com

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Taverna Opa Orlando

What to Order: With more than a dozen of meatless options, Opa Orlando boasts:
o Hummus: Chickpeas, olive oil, garlic, and sea salt and pepper.
o Stuffed Peppers: green and red peppers stuffed with rice and infused with fresh herbs.
o Lavraki (Mediterranean Sea Bass): Daily imported served with lemon-infused rice and wild greens
o Thallasino – Seafood Pikilia: 7 oz. lobster tail, shrimp, scallops, mussels, calamari, king grab legs, and fish of the day in a tomato garlic sauce with white wine.
· Occasion: Date night, celebration, exploring I-drive
· Address: 9101 International Dr. Suite 2240 Orlando, FL
· Website: www.opaorlando.com


Soco

· What to order:
o Soco brings a contemporary flair to Southern cuisine with “Chicken Fried” Cauliflower Steak –Cauliflower Steak paired with garlic mashed potatoes, asparagus and vine ripe tomato Gravy.
· Occasion: Date night
· Address: 629 East Central Blvd. Orlando FL 32801
· Website: http://www.socothorntonpark.com/


Duffy’s Sports Grill

· What to Order: Join Duffy’s Sports Grill on Fridays for the Fish Fry, featuring one beer-battered filet with two sides and hush puppies for $9.95 after 5 p.m.
o Panko Crusted Dolphin Fingers; Chinese Chopped Salad with Sesame Tuna, Ahi Tuna Burger; Black Bean Veggie Burger
· Occasion: Lunch break/Out with the Family
· Address: 4158 Conroy Rd, Orlando, FL 32839; 951 Market Promenade Avenue, Lake Mary, FL 32746
· Website: www.duffysmvp.com

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Crimson Tavern at the Orlando Airport Marriott – A Six-Course Nose-To-Tail Tasting Menu Featuring Whole Local Lamb, Craft Beer & Cocktails

With a 2,500 square foot Chef’s Garden, Executive Chef Anthony Hull of Crimson Tavern works hard to continue the “farm to table” culinary movement.

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The team has even started to make the most of the fruits and vegetables on hand, by jamming and pickling, making hot sauce, pickles, jams, and chutneys from their garden and seasonal offerings. As the BBQ program grows, (the restaurant offers seasonal Friday Night Barbecues), a line of rubs and sauces will also become available.

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According to Chef Hull, “The main reason we are producing these products is to control what goes into them — not just from a flavor standpoint — but also a wellness aspect by eliminating additives and unnatural ingredients. And if we have a really good harvest, it is also a way to preserve the extra product.”

Executive Chef Anthony Hull also pulls from his own roots back in England and resurrects many old school cooking techniques to prepare much of what diners see on the menu.

We’ve always been fans of Crimson Tavern, especially their burgers and creative, seasonally changing dishes.

This past week, we were invited to check out what the team is capable of with an “Everything Lamb” dinner.

Some of my favorites included the chickpea fritter, crispy on the outside yet delicate and flavorful on the inside, and the pickled lamb tongue on arugula with pumpkin blossoms and apple vinaigrette. The meat balls were good, but the sauce could have used some more depth. House pulled ramen with lamb breast and belly was a nice touch, as was the roasted saddle and loin. Each item was paired with an appropriately complementary or contrasting wine.

Inside the Crimson Tavern
Inside the Crimson Tavern

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Everything Lamb Dinner at Crimson Tavern – Orlando Airport Marriott

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Chickpea fritter (olive oil, chickpea flour, ras al hanout)

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House smoked trout, horseradish garden chives, crostini

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Head Cheese – Lambs head, shanks, lamb stock, aromatics

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Meat Balls – Ground lamb leg, mortadella, house pomerola, tarentaise alpine cheese

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Peak organic simcoe spring ale

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Pickled lamb tongue – Hydroponic arugula, garden pumpkin blossoms, granny smith apple vinaigrette

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House pulled ramen, lamb breast & belly, lamb dashi, Kissimmee river oyster mushrooms, poached lake – Ramen Bowl, meadows pullet egg, crispy taro paired with St Supery unoaked chardonnay

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Roasted Saddle & Loin – Charred baby artichokes, cannellini beans, lamb reduction, arbequina olives paired with True Grit Petite Sirah

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Parksdale farm Strawberry Gelato – House spun gelato (house preserve, cream, whole milk), cardamom shortbread, strawberry basil flower salad

For additional information on Crimson Tavern, visit www.CrimsonTavernOrlando.com or call (407) 851-9000. The restaurant is located at 7499 Augusta National Drive in Orlando.

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You might have seen Lechonera Latina 1 a few times if you’ve ever driven down East Colonial right before Dean Road, hoping to fill up on some gas, only to find yourself at a Latin restaurant converted from a gas station.

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Don’t be too afraid – they have some of the best Latin style street food in East Orlando.

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Though they need to wipe down their counters and floors a little better, this greasy corner of the world does a few dishes quite well.

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Here as it is at Lechonera Latina 2, you order at the counter, pointing at desired dishes like stewed chicken or roasted pork, plantains, and a list of rice dishes (white, yellow, with beans, etc.). Or you can order off the menu.

I recommend 3 favorite dishes here:

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1. Pernil (Roasted Pork Shoulder) with yellow rice

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2. Tripleta Sandwich – Like a Cuban sandwich on steroids, these babies are filled with sliced ham, pork, and chicken between two long slices of Cuban bread.

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3. Mangu is a Dominican dish made from boiling and mashing unripened plantains, with a consistency almost of a potato puree. The dish is popular with breakfast and often served with eggs, slices of salty, savory salami sausage and grilled cheese (queso frito) as it is here at Lechonera Latina.

Boiled mashed plantains can be traced back to Africans in the Congo region who came to the island during the height of the slave trade. The original word was something akin to mangusi and referred to almost any root vegetable that was boiled and mashed.

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American Q is a new restaurant located just outside of Downtown Disney, spawned as a collaboration between the new B Hotels & Resorts and the acclaimed New York City restaurateur Jeffrey Chodorow of China Grill Management, bringing a “Brazilian rodizio” take to traditional American barbecue.

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With an industrial, farmhouse-chic vibe,  the flatbed of a 1950s cherry-red, Ford F1 pickup truck houses an all-you-can-eat appetizer and salad buffet with homemade soups and chili, a baked potato bar, peel-and-eat shrimp, a selection of hot and cold seasonal vegetables, and a variety of salads.

A delectable selection of smoked meats and poultry, from the Carolinas and Kansas City to Latin America, are carved tableside by “cowboy/cowgirl” servers.

We were recently invited to check out the new place and found some great barbecue, and lovely sauces, but also some areas that greatly needed improvement, particularly overall service and improving on the buffet bar.

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Upon arrival, we were greeted by our server, but were never explained the directions regarding the buffet vs. a la carte option. So we were a bit at lost what to do after sitting down and getting our drink orders in –  do we go to the buffet bar or do we wait to get our orders in so that the server knows what we are each getting?

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Our server was very nice, though, and was very cordial throughout the evening, and I am guessing it is more of a management or procedural issue. Hopefully they will improve on this soon.

Another area for improvement – the flat bed truck was impressive but the salads and even the mac and cheese were rather pedestrian and uninteresting, especially when compared to other rodizio buffet style salad bars in the area.

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The strongest aspect of dining at American Q: the smoked meats from the beef brisket to the turkey, all had great flavor, accentuated by the variety of barbecue sauces available at the table.

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DEVILED CRAB STUFFED EGGS – blue crab & rémoulade – the yolk was a bit runny for what I was accustomed to for deviled eggs

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JERK CHICKEN WINGS – mango chow and ALLIGATOR BOUDIN – roasted tomatoes, peppers & okra

The highlight of the meal
The highlight of the meal

TABLE SIDE CARVINGS
SLOW SMOKED TOM TURKEY DRUM WITH MAHOGANY GLAZE
BACON WRAPPED BONELESS CHICKEN THIGHS
HOUSE MADE SAUSAGES
SMOKED PORK SHOULDER WITH SPICED ONIONS
COLD SMOKED & GRILLED TURKEY THIGH WITH TURKEY CHORIZO STUFFING
CAROLINA STYLE FLANK STEAK
BRISKET OF BEEF WITH TEXAS BARK
PICANHA OF BEEF
VEGETABLE BROCHETTE

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JAPANESE OLD FASHIONED
Hibiki whisky, chai simple syrup & Angostura bitters

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HOUSE BAKED CORNBREAD – served at the end of the meal, apparently here at American Q it takes a while for cornbread to get to the table.

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CROISSANT BREAD PUDDING – warm apple compote, another highlight of the meal – dessert

American Q on Urbanspoon

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Local Orlando foodie news!

Look at the new digs – The Osprey Tavern at Baldwin Park

About to open any week now in Baldwin Park – gorgeous.

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Chef Eddie’s Restaurant Moving to Church Street

One of my personal favorite places for soul food in Orlando, Chef Eddie‘s restaurant is moving from their west Orlando location to the more centralized Church Street location in downtown Orlando. They are moving into the former location of Johnson’s Diner, which also briefly housed Fish n Loaves, and McKnight’s most recently. We spoke to the representatives at Chef Eddie’s who confirmed they would be moving to the location in just two weeks.

All the best of luck to them as they have always had great food – from red velvet waffles and fried chicken to the smothered pork chops and oxtails as well as great hospitality. Karaoke was a bit loud some nights but entertaining…

Visit them: https://www.facebook.com/chefeddiesrestaurant

Current Location:

3214 Orange Center Blvd, Orlando, FL 32805
Phone:(407) 826-1731

New Location:

595 West Church Street Suite E Orlando, FL 32805
(just a block west of the Amway on Church St)

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Hawker’s 3rd Location is coming to St Petersburg Florida

“Hawkers” Brings the Streets of Asia to St. Pete’s EDGE District

Orlando, Fla., (February 13, 2015) – It’s of=icial – Hawkers is expanding coast-to-coast… of Florida that is. The owners of Hawkers, a name derived from the term for street food vendors in Asia, have just announced their plans to join the EDGE district of St. Petersburg. Currently operating stores in Orlando and Jacksonville, Hawkers management anticipates a “mid-summer” opening for their St. Petersburg restaurant that will be located at 1235 West Central Avenue.

Guests will enjoy a menu full of small plates that includes the most popular street foods from regions across Asia: Hong Kong, Malaysia, Vietnam, Singapore, and Korea, to name a few. Each menu item is served with sharing plates, encouraging guests to experience new dishes together, as is the custom with traditional hawker centers. The difference? These street foods are served in a hip, trendy environment accompanied by dozens of local craft beer selections.

“We are rede=ining what “eating Asian food” means to mainstream Americans,” says co-founder Allen Lo, who contributes Malaysian in=luence to Hawkers’ menu. “Our goal is for guests to experience authentic flavors, unique to their palettes, in an environment that is as comfortable as it is exciting.”

Traditional noodle soups, wok stir-fried noodles and small plates =ill the menu with dishes ranging from $4-$9. A few of the most popular items include: Char Kway Teo, a Malaysian stir-fried noodle; Siu Yuk, a Chinese roasted, crispy pork belly; and their signature dish, Roti Canai, a Southeast Asian flatbread served. To accompany Hawkers’ extensive food menu, the St. Petersburg location will offer a craft beer selection with over 50 microbrews (many of which will hail from Bay Area breweries) as well as Asian-inspired.

“We all agreed from the onset that =lavors of this depth deserve only the best paired wines, beers, and cocktails,” says Kaleb Harrell, who procures an evolving drink menu for Hawkers’ guests.

To stay updated with the latest progress on Hawkers’ St. Petersburg location or to view a full menu of their current locations, visit Hawkers’ Facebook fan page at www.facebook.com/hawkersstreetfare.

Founded in 2011, Hawkers offers authentic Asian street food in a sharing-encouraged, full-service casual restaurant. With a menu that includes the most popular street food recipes from regions across Asia, Hawkers creates an environment that allows guests to experience unique cuisines at affordable prices with service that educates guests. For more information visit www.facebook.com/hawkersstreetfare.

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Sonny’s BBQ Readies for new Strategy for the next 50 Years

Sonny’s BBQ will reveal the grand opening of a brand new location on Archer Road in Gainesville, Fla. on March 16, where guests will find a newly designed, updated version of their favorite local BBQ joint.

The Archer Road opening represents the brand’s ongoing effort to providing guests with a local BBQ experience

The new brand direction will also remind guests of Sonny’s dedication to giving back to the communities it serves. The new restaurant plans to be an integral part of Gainesville through community outreach and recognizing hometown heroes through Sonny’s ‘Random Acts of BBQ’ program, which recognizes those who selflessly give their time and spark the spirit of BBQ in their communities.

This is just the beginning of Sonny’s BBQ efforts to update the brand. Over the next several years, the barbecue chain plans to update as many locations as possible.

Sonny’s BBQ
3635 SW Archer Road
Gainesville, FL 32608

Upcoming Events

The 6th Annual RP Funding Orlando Chili Cook-off Turns Up the Heat on Saturday, March 7, 2015

The 6th annual RP Funding Orlando Chili Cook-off will heat up again at Orlando’s Festival Park Saturday, March 7 starting at noon. New to the event this year is a kick-off concert which will be held Friday, March 6 at 6 p.m. The RP No Fee Concert will feature Vertical Horizon. The free night of music precedes a day for chili-lovers on Saturday, March 7 with the RP Funding Orlando Chili Cook-off.

General admission tickets are now available for presale at www.orlandochilicookoff.com. Presale tickets are $10 for adults, $5 for children ages 6 – 12 and children 5 and under are admitted free. Same-day general admission tickets are $15 for adults.

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The world’s best competitive eaters will once again descend on Orlando as part of the third annual World Chili Eating Challenge. Featuring six-minutes of jaw-dropping eating skills, the world’s top eaters will participate including Joey “Jaws” Chestnut, currently ranked the world’s No. 1 competitive eater. Other top ranked competitors include No. 4 ranked Miki Sudo, No. 6 ranked Erik The Red Denmark, No. 7 ranked Adrian Morgan and No. 15 “The People’s Champ” Badlands Booker. Joey Chestnut will be defending his world record set last year. The event will also feature an appearance by Chili Appreciation Society International (CASI) World Chili Champion Jason Goaines.

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The RP Funding Orlando Chili Cook-off has raised more than $200,000 for Special Olympics Florida, placing the Orlando Chili-Cook-off among their private donors. The event also raises funds for Kiwanis Clubs of Greater Orlando and several other local charitable organizations.

Visit www.orlandochilicookoff.com for tickets or call Events for Change at 407-777-8309 to learn more about vendor, musical performance, cooking, sponsorship and volunteer opportunities.

Top Local Chefs to Join Ronald McDonald House Charities of Central Florida at 2015 Appetite for the Arches Gala

Oldfashioned

On Saturday, March 7, at the Orlando World Center Marriott, top local chefs from acclaimed restaurants and resorts will showcase their creativity to help raise funds at Ronald McDonald House Charities of Central Florida’s Appetite for the Arches benefit. This is a culinary event with a twist — one that has a little something to do with the Golden Arches.

Chefs will use fresh McDonald’s ingredients to create one-of-a-kind signature dishes. Guests will have the opportunity to interact with participating chefs while sampling the gourmet creations at this free-flowing event.

Participating restaurants include:

4 Rivers Smokehouse
Blue Bird Bake Shop
Cask & Larder
Chef’s Table at the Edgewater
Cuisiniers Catering
Emeril’s Tchoup Chop
Hamilton’s Kitchen
K Restaurant
Kabooki Sushi
LUMA on Park
Orlando World Center Marriott
Paxia Modern Mexican & Tequila Lounge
Pig Floyd’s
SeaWorld Parks & Resorts Orlando
The Ravenous Pig
The Rusty Spoon
The Smiling Bison
Txokos Basque Kitchen

Julie Petrakis, who owns The Ravenous Pig and Cask & Larder with her husband James, sits on the planning committee for the event and was in charge of organizing chef participation. “Appetite for the Arches unites Central Florida’s best chefs and the community on a night of culinary surprises and delight for a special cause. All proceeds from the gala help Ronald McDonald House keep families together when they need it most —during the treatment of a critically ill child.”

For additional information about Appetite for the Arches including ticket information, please visit www.appetiteforthearches.org.

Join the conversation on Twitter: @RMHCCF #AppetiteOrlando

About Ronald McDonald House Charities of Central Florida: Ronald McDonald House Charities of Central Florida finds, creates and supports programs that directly improve the health and well-being of children and families. The cornerstone program, the Ronald McDonald House®, provides a home away from home that offers comfort and care to families with children receiving treatment at local hospitals and medical facilities in Orlando. The two Ronald McDonald Houses in Orlando serve over 1,800 families each year.

First annual 5 Chefs 5 Courses 5 Charities event at The Alfond Inn (hashtag #5Chefs5Charities)

The Alfond Inn will host on March 15

Executive Chef Marc Kusche from Hamilton’s Kitchen, The Alfond Inn, has invited a group of Central Florida’s finest chefs to join him in raising money for each of their chosen charities. Each chef will prepare one of the 5 courses for a family style, farm to table dinner accompanied by live music and fine spirits. The prestigious culinary lineup and charities include:

· Marc Kusche. The Alfond Inn. Chosen Charity: Harbor House

· Fabrizio Schenardi. Four Seasons Resort. Chosen Charity: The St. Jude Mission

· Henry Salgado. Txokos Basque Kitchen. A James Beard Nominee. Chosen Charity: Pace Center For Girls

· Kathleen Blake. The Rusty Spoon. A James Beard Nominee. Chosen Charity: Edible Education Foundation

· Kevin Fonzo. K Restaurant. A James Beard Nominee. Chosen Charity: The Kevin Fonzo Foundation

Tickets are $150 per person. Cocktails served 5:30 p.m., dinner at 6:30 p.m. Advance reservations required by calling (407) 645-6604.

Artegon

Artegon Marketplace to feature The Art of Beer Featuring Orlando Brewing and Toby Keith’s I Love This Bar & Grill on March 10; Spring into Spring Art, Food & Wine Stroll on March 21; Food Truck Fridays starting March 27 … and More!

In addition to experiencing Orlando’s most unique shopping, visitors to Artegon Marketplace Orlando are also treated to a busy schedule of special events and activities. From the permanent Sky Trail ropes course to weekend entertainment and seasonal events, there’s always something happening at Artegon Marketplace. Here’s a look at line-up ahead:

SIGNATURE SPECIAL EVENTS
THE ART OF BEER – TUESDAY, MARCH 10 AND APRIL 14, 5:00-8:00 P.M.
Mark your calendar to join ??Artegon Marketplace for The Art of Beer on Tuesday, March 10 from 5:00-8:00 p.m. Enjoy a night of craft beer plus live music and tantalizing treats from Toby Keith’s I Love This Bar and Grill, all for FREE (while supplies last). Relax on the patio while enjoying freshly poured, hand-crafted ales from Orlando Brewing. Mingle with the artisans from The Village at Artegon Marketplace and discover a new way to shop local. This special event makes a repeat performance on April 14.

SPRING INTO SPRING – SATURDAY, MARCH 21, 6:00-8:00 P.M.
Guests can “Spring into Spring” on Saturday, March 21 from 6:00-8:00 p.m. at this FREE art, food and wine stroll through the Village at Artegon Marketplace. Mingle with artisans displaying their hand-crafted items and art while enjoying complimentary bite-sized treats, wine and the jazz jams of a live three-piece band.

FOOD TRUCK FRIDAYS – FRIDAY, MARCH 27, 5:00-9:00 P.M. (RECURRING)
Artegon Marketplace’s “Food Truck Crazy” truck rally held on the fourth Friday of every month kicks off on March 27. Gather on Artegon’s front patio for live music, entertainment and a kaleidoscope of food options, plus savor a unique deal: bring a purchase receipt from The Village at Artegon Marketplace to guest services and redeem for $5 in Food Truck Bucks.

WEEKEND ENTERTAINMENT
Check here for the most up-to-date list of upcoming events:
http://www.artegonmarketplace.com/things-to-do-in-orlando/

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I tend to break down Chinese restaurants into three categories:

Chinese take outs (you’ll see the neon signs saying New York Style Chinese Takeout at these places – New York meaning “Americanized – often a miss in terms of quality and a menu full of general tso’s chicken and pork fried rice with chicken wings combos ),

Traditional Cantonese sit down restaurants (you’ll find some form of beef chow fun, salt and pepper squid, and possibly dim sum at these establishments),

and the increasingly less rare,

“Other Chinese cuisine” restaurant (Sichuan, Shanghainese, Taiwanese, etc).

I’d file Chan’s under traditional Cantonese sit down restaurant —
1. Dim sum on the weekends? Check.
2. Lazy susans on the tables for family style banquets? Check.
3. Seemingly callous waitresses? Double check.

The decor is rather minimal, like walking into someone’s house for a dinner party and there’s not really enough space for everyone.

The food here is solid Cantonese fare – you’ve got your pan fried noodles to dim sum via cart on the weekends. For dinner, it gets a bit fancier with dishes like Cantonese style pan fried steak, salt baked chicken, sweet and sour pork chops, and even abalone, the exceptionally pungent mollusk that the Cantonese go crazy for.

I was at Chan’s recently for a banquet with some friends – the brothers of Pi Delta Psi Fraternity at the University of Central Florida to be exact – who held an end of the semester banquet at the restaurant with quite a list of about 7 banquet dishes for just $25. Call ahead to find out if you can organize something like this there because it’s got great value if you have a group of 10 or so per table.

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Seafood Pan Fried Noodles
Seafood Pan Fried Noodles
Sweet and Sour Peking Pork Chops
Sweet and Sour Peking Pork Chops
Fried Crispy Chicken
Fried Crispy Chicken

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Chan's Chinese Cuisine on Urbanspoon

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There’s a new place in Orlando that will have your personalized pizza ready in just five minutes.

Pie Five Pizza Co. is the place – opening up just outside of UCF on University Blvd.

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You might be familiar with the concept – made popular by Chipotle and Subway.

Order at the counter and the folks prepare it assembly line style as you go down the line. They use a super hot oven to heat the pizza and have it ready for you by the time you finish paying at the cash register.

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At Pie Five, guests can create personal pizzas and a variety of specialty pie choices, all for one price. Typically a pizza, any way, is $6.99. Meaning a specialty pizza or a pizza with anything you want on it – all $6.99. Same goes with the salad. If you want to add an extra side salad and drink, it’s $2.99 more.

They offer 4 crusts (including pan, thin crust, gluten-free & whole grain) and have hand-made salads made from a pizza crust.

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Everything is prepared right on the spot and the entire meal will be ready in less than five minutes. I checked – it was under 5 minutes.

Pizza was good for $6.99, ingredients were fresh, and I really liked the customization. One thing that I thought could use improvement – the crust – a little bit too pedestrian, ho-hum, and if they can update that and make it tastier, it would be a really good pizza. For the price, it can’t be beat.

Blaze Pizza, another “chipotle” style pizza joint will be opening soon near by in the UCF area at the Plaza, so it should be interesting to see how business goes. It’s definitely a food trend to watch- custom pizza joints.

Let us know what you think – have you been to Pie Five? Is it something you’d try? Comment below!

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Pie Five Pizza Co. on Urbanspoon

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I was first introduced to Sushi Kichi by a Japanese friend.

She told me, “you have to go check this new place out – it’s authentic!”

Lots of sushi restaurants dot the Central Florida landscape, but not all are equal. Some are certainly better than others, particularly with their care for sourcing and execution of technique. Sushi Kichi falls into the group that does sushi well.

The chefs at Sushi Kichi, I found out, actually once worked at the popular Shin Japanese sushi restaurant in downtown Orlando. On this night, the chef was manning the sushi bar with his son.

I ordered a sashimi and nigiri plate which I found to be quite fresh and delicious. The fried squid that we ordered was a bit too rubbery and bland for my tastes. Definitely needs work. The gyudon (beef rice bowl) was a bit too sweet, but was good overall. The sushi rolls that my fellow dining partners ordered were all very good as well. Overall, a positive experience, particularly for sushi rolls.

Visit them at:

Sushi Kichi
5386 Central Florida Pkwy, Orlando, FL 32821, USA
407-778-1953
http://www.sushikichi.com/

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Chef Owner of Sushi Kichi with his son

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Interior of Sushi Kichi – sleek, modern, though feels a bit empty

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Side salad with ginger dressing

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Fried squid – a bit too tough to chew, least favorite of the dishes. Seasoning was off as well. Basically tasted like rubber.

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Gyu-don – a popular beef bowl – made with mirin, sugar, soy sauce, and some dashi broth

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Shrimp udon noodle soup

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Fresh sushi rolls

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Green tea sponge cake

Sushi Kichi on Urbanspoon

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The Downtown Food & Wine Fest at Lake Eola – Orlando is going all weekend long from Saturday, February 21, 2015 (noon to 9 p.m.) to Sunday, February 22, 2015 (noon to 7 p.m.).

The festival features “mouth-watering dishes from 30 of Orlando’s premier restaurants, domestic and international wines, and live entertainment.”

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It’s like a mini Epcot Food and Wine Festival with a local Orlando flair – there’s an admission price as well as food tickets to purchase.

And the food was wonderful – from veal meatballs and cannoli gelato cones from Primo at JW Marriott to the cajun bratwurst from Hollerbach’s Willow tree – the quality that I encountered today was just excellent.

It’s all in all a great idea for family and friends to check out and get a taste of local Orlando flavor.

Visit www.DowntownFoodandWineFest.com for more details.

Exclusive Restaurant News

Some interesting restaurant news, while talking to a few of the owners, chefs, and managers at the festival this weekend:

Hawkers Asian Street Fare is poised to open their newest restaurant soon in the St. Pete / Tampa area
- Jeremiah’s Italian Ice is looking to expand not only in Orlando but also possibly the St. Pete area as well in the coming months
The Smiling Bison’s stolen food cart had been “found” at a “junkyard”. The owner of the junkyard turned it in as well as a few other stolen items after the police came by. No charges filed due to lack of evidence.
– Chef Alexia Gawlak has left her position at Siro at Orlando World Center Marriott to team up with her husband Chef Rhys Gawlak of Cask and Larder to head the new Swine and Sons Provisions project from the Ravenous Pig team, soon to open, overseeing “Swine & Sons Provisions’ delectable pastry and dessert items.”

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The Fest is presented and produced by CBS RADIO, led by Orlando favorites MIX 105.1, 1059 SUNNY FM, and 1019 AMP Radio in partnership with the Florida Restaurant & Lodging Association.

General Admission – Online tickets are $15 per person per day presale only. Food & Beverage tickets sold separately inside the event. Tickets at the door are $20 per person per day. Food & Beverage tickets sold separately inside the event. Wine Tasters Club Lanyard + General Admission: $30 for (5) 2 oz fine wine samples. Children 12 and under are FREE.

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Restaurants featured include:

The Smiling Bison
Hollerbach’s Willow Tree
Siro at World Center Marriott
Primo at JW Marriott
Marlow’s Tavern
Old Hickory Steakhouse at Gaylord Palms
The Knife
Hawkers
Sushi House
Kobe Steakhouse
The Pub at Pointe Orlando
Shari Sushi
Morton’s Steakhouse
Jeremiah’s Italian Ice
Christner’s Prime Steak and Lobster
and more

Check out our video from day 1:

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by Mike Cho of ImpressInk.com

On Saturday, March 7, at the Orlando World Center Marriott, top local chefs from acclaimed restaurants and resorts will showcase their creativity to help raise funds at Ronald McDonald House Charities of Central Florida’s Appetite for the Arches benefit.

This is a culinary event with a twist — one that has a little something to do with the Golden Arches.

Chefs will use fresh McDonald’s ingredients to create one-of-a-kind signature dishes.

Guests will have the opportunity to interact with participating chefs while sampling the gourmet creations at this free-flowing event.

Julie Petrakis, who owns The Ravenous Pig and Cask & Larder with her husband James, sits on the planning committee for the event and was in charge of organizing chef participation. “Appetite for the Arches unites Central Florida’s best chefs and the community on a night of culinary surprises and delight for a special cause. All proceeds from the gala help Ronald McDonald House keep families together when they need it most —during the treatment of a critically ill child.”

Hosted by Chefs James and Julie Petrakis, Appetite for the Arches media preview was a preview showcase of culinary creativity.

Two signature cocktails

Vodkalemonade

Vodka Lemonade
Strawberries, lemons, balsamic vinaigrette and sugar from McDonald’s

Oldfashioned

Old Fashioned
Hazelnut Syrup and Cherries from McDonald’s

ChickenTerrine

The first entrée, created by Chef James Petrakis was a Chicken Terrine with bacon jam and picked apple. It used chicken, bacon, onions; apples, apple juice, balsamic vinaigrette and brioche roll from McDonald’s.

Meatball

The second entrée, created by Chef Kevin Fonzo from K Restaurant was a Cola BBQ meatball. The smoked meatball was made using McDonald’s steak hamburger, bacon, pork sausage and white onions. The Cola sauce was made with McDonald’s tomatoes, ketchup, coke and mustard.

ChickenBiscuit

John Rivers, Chef and Founder of 4 Rivers contributed a Southern Chicken ‘N Biscuits. Using McDonald’s chicken breast and maple syrup created these tasty chicken biscuits combined with 4Rivers Buttermilk Biscuit.

Creamsicle

For dessert, Chef Julie Petrakis from Cask & Larder contributed a delicious and decadent Creamsicle Parfait. The parfait was composed of a vanilla bean Panna Cotta, mandarin compote and granola. McDonald’s supplied the oranges, yogurt, granola and vanilla syrup.

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It was a great experience seeing these Local chef’s transform McDonald’s ingredients into gourmet creations. You can have the opportunity to experience these and more on March 7th at the 2015 Appetite for the Arches Gala.

Participating restaurants include:
4 Rivers
Blue Bird Bake Shop
Cask & Larder
Chef’s Table at the Edgewater
Cuisiniers Catering
Emeril’s Tchoup Chop
Hamilton’s Kitchen
K Resturant
Kabooki Sushi
LUMA on Park
Orlando World Center Marriott
Paxia Modern Mexican and Tequila Lounge
Pig Floyd’s
SeaWorld Park & Resorts Orlando
The Ravenous Pig
The Rusty Spoon
The Smiling Bison
Txokos Basque Kitchen

Proceeds from Appetite for the Arches will contribute to Ronald McDonald’s House of Charities of Central Florida, which keeps families close to their critically ill children receiving treatment in local hospitals.

To find out more information about Appetite for the Arches including ticket information, please visit www.appetiteforthearches.org

Join the conversaion on Twitter @RMHCCF #AppetiteOrlando

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Mardi Gras is Tuesday February 17 this year, and if you can’t make it down to Universal Orlando Resort’s Mardi Gras celebration – there’s quite a few places to get your bayou bites on here in Orlando.

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Mardi Gras, French for “Fat Tuesday”, refers to “events of the Carnival celebrations, beginning on or after the Epiphany or King’s Day and culminating on the day before Ash Wednesday, reflecting the practice of the last night of eating richer, fatty foods before the ritual fasting of the Lent season.”

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King Cake

One of the most popular foods of the season is the “king cake” -a sweet, sugary and iced Danish type cake that is braided with cinnamon inside and a plastic baby doll underneath (said to represent Jesus). The finder of the baby Jesus is said to be made King or Queen for the day and is also responsible for buying the King Cake for the next year. The three colors of the sugar are Purple (representing Justice), Green (representing Faith) and Gold (representing Power).

For King Cake in Orlando, contact:

 Olde Hearth Bread Company
at East End Market
3201 Corrine Dr
Orlando, FL 32803
(407) 834-8881
$12 each starting Friday!!! Call ahead to order

Here’s what they look like:

Charlie’s Gourmet Pastries
3213 Curry Ford Road, Orlando, FL 32806
(407) 898-9561

http://www.charliesgourmetpastries.com/

Cajun vs. Creole

Louisiana Creole cuisine is a style of cooking originating in Louisiana, United States which blends French, West African, Amerindian, Spanish, Portuguese, and Italian influences, as well as general Southern cuisine. Cajun cuisine is named for the French-speaking Acadian people deported by the British from Acadia in Canada to the Acadiana region of Louisiana, USA. Creole is more known as “city” food while cajun is more “rural” – and a big difference often is that Creole cuisine has tomatoes in it. Popular dishes in both cuisines include gumbo, jambalaya, boudin sausage, and crawfish boils.

Key Terms

Gumbo – typically consists primarily of a strongly flavored stock, okra, meat or shellfish, a thickener, and seasoning vegetables, which can include celery, bell peppers and onions. Gumbo is often categorized by the type of thickener used: the African vegetable okra, the Choctaw spice filé powder (dried and ground sassafras leaves), or roux, the French base made of flour and fat. The dish likely derived its name from either the Bantu word for okra (ki ngombo) or the Choctaw word for filé (kombo). Several different varieties exist. In New Orleans, what is known as Creole gumbo generally ranges from house to house though still retaining its African and Native origins. The Creoles of Cane River make a gumbo focused much more on filé. After the base is prepared, vegetables are cooked down, and then meat is added. The dish simmers, with shellfish and some spices added near the end. Gumbo is traditionally served over rice. The dish combines ingredients and culinary practices of several cultures, including West African, French, Spanish, German, and Choctaw. The dish is the official cuisine of the state of Louisiana.

Jambalaya – a Louisiana Creole dish of Spanish and French influence. Jambalaya may have been created in Louisiana and may have its origins in Spanish paella, even if there is a dish also called jambalaia in Provence, southern France, that is also a mash-up of rice, chicken and saffron. Jambalaya is traditionally made in three parts, with meat and vegetables, and is completed by adding stock and rice. Creole jambalaya originates from the French Quarter of New Orleans, in the original European sector. It was an attempt by the Spanish to make paella in the New World, where saffron was not readily available due to import costs. Tomatoes became the substitute for saffron. As time went on, French influence became strong in New Orleans, and spices from the Caribbean changed this New World paella into a unique dish.

Roux – a substance created by cooking wheat flour and fat (traditionally butter) as the thickening agent. A roux is used in three of the mother sauces of classical French cooking: béchamel sauce, velouté sauce, and espagnole sauce. Clarified butter, vegetable oils, bacon drippings or lard are commonly used fats. It is used as a thickener for gravy, other sauces, soups and stews. In Cajun cuisine, roux is made with bacon fat or oil instead of butter and dark brown in color, which lends much richness of flavor, albeit less thickening power.

Crawfish – Crayfish, also known as crawfish, crawdads, freshwater lobsters, or mudbugs, are freshwater crustaceans resembling small lobsters
Po-boy – A po’ boy (also po-boy, po boy, or poor boy) is a traditional submarine sandwich from Louisiana. It almost always consists of meat, usually roast beef, or fried seafood. The meat is served on baguette-like New Orleans French bread, known for its crisp crust and fluffy center.

Beignet – synonymous with the English “fritter”, is the French term for a pastry made from deep-fried choux pastry. Beignets are commonly known in New Orleans as a breakfast served with powdered sugar on top. They are traditionally prepared right before consumption to be eaten fresh and hot. The most famous place to get these are at Cafe Du Monde in New Orleans.

Upcoming Events

Celt Irish Pub Louisiana Fat Tuesday Party
February 17, 2015 @ Harp and Celt Irish Pub and Restaurant
11a – 7pm
Menu:
Crawfish Poorboys
Crawfish Ettouffee
Chicken Jambalaya
Red Beans and Rice

25 South Magnolia Avenue
Orlando FL 32801
407-481-2928

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 Tibby’s New Orleans Kitchen
http://tibbys.com/

Two Locations:

2203 Aloma Ave
Winter Park, FL 32792
407-672-5753

494 West SR 436
Altamonte Springs, FL 32714
407-951-6928

Favorite dishes: Fried oyster remoulade, seafood gumbo – shrimp, oysters, andouille sausage simmered with fresh vegetables, okra topped with rice, and the 12-napkin Fried Roast Beef Po-boy. Great beignets as well.

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Belle Isle Bayou
5180 South Conway Road, Orlando, FL 32812
(407) 250-6763
http://belleisle-bayou.com/

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The Big Easy
15502 Stoneybrook West Parkway, Winter Garden, FL 34787
(407) 654-3279
https://www.facebook.com/whodatbigeasy
http://www.thebigeasyfl.com/

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Voodoo Kitchen Food Truck
http://www.voodookitchenfoodtruck.com/

For Crawfish, Shrimp, Crab, Seafood boils -

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King Cajun Crawfish
914 North Mills Avenue
Orlando, FL 32803
(407) 704-8863
http://kingcajuncrawfish.com/
Great po-boys as well

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New Orleans Cajun Seafood
5503 West Colonial Drive, Orlando, FL 32808
(407) 293-2719
7325 Aloma Avenue, Winter Park, FL 32792
(407) 678-5700
http://neworleanscajunseafood.com/

Hot N’ Juice Crawfish
7572 West Sand Lake Road, Orlando, FL 32819
(407) 370-4655
http://hotnjuicycrawfish.com/

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LA Boiling Seafood Crabs and Crawfish
1242 East Colonial Drive, Orlando, FL 32803
(407) 898-7770
http://www.laboilingseafood.com/

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Affordable

Barnie’s CoffeeKitchen 
– Includes complimentary Framboise Champagne cocktail to celebrate with dinner on Valentine’s Day.
– Includes dessert – Venezuelan Chocolate soufflé  with a Mexican Vanilla Bean Creme Anglaise and a Sweetheart Latte, made with special sweetheart blend coffee – a mix of Chocolate and Cherry flavors
– $95 per couple

COURTYARD-crop

Marlow’s Tavern Winter Park and Marlow’s Tavern at Pointe Orlando
– Valentine’s Day 4-Course Specialty Dinner
– $35/person

Mynt Fine Indian Cuisine at Winter Park’s Hannibal Square
– 4 course meal with a glass wine
– $100/couple

Moderate

American Gymkhana 
– Modern Indian experience to Valentine’s Day.
– Six-course tasting menu for $65 per person; wine pairings available for an additional $35 per person

Soco in Thornton Park
– Southern Aphrodisiac menu, featuring items like Potato Chip Crusted Chocolate Cake, with peanut butter brittle and salted caramel.
– Wash it down with a Valentine’s Day-exclusive Frisky Whiskey cocktail filled with Four Roses Whiskey, chocolate bitters and a cherry heart.
– About $60 per person

Txokos Basque Kitchen

Barefoot Farmer Farms has some beautiful veggies coming off the farm this weekend. Our guests should look for Golden and Candy Cane Beets (local goat cheese and EEM dill), Romanesco and Vita Verde Cauliflower (wood roasted with Marcona almond gravy)

Grilled White Asparagus, poached Lake Meadow egg, Salbitxada and tint

Caramelized Onion Soup (blue crab & truffle)

Mary Ann (pastry chef AKA Dragon Lady) and I are making a Trio of Chocolate for two (chai macaron & ancho ganache, chocolate cherry cake and chocolate caramel mousse & feuilletine

Four Seasons Resort at Disney World

Capa – Spanish-influenced steakhouse
– Five-course prix-fixe menu for USD 85.00 per adult.
– Fresh oysters, Wagyu beef, and a choice of veal, arctic char or an expertly cut filet.
– Top off the night with a glass of Champagne and toast to love while watching the Wishes nighttime spectacular at Magic Kingdom Park from the terrace of Capa.

Expensive

Norman’s at Ritz Carlton
– Four-course menu is $150 + tax and gratuity, wine pairing is $75 + tax and gratuity.
– Requires a $50 per person deposit.
– Fried oysters, pan seared scallops, strawberry creme fraiche sorbet.

Puff n Stuff Catering at your Home 
– 3 hour dining experience,  Order by Wed. Feb 11
– Salad, Jumbo Scallops, Lamb Chop, Dark cherry and chocolate tarte
– $280 per couple
– Add One Dozen Roses for $85
– Call 407-629-7833

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Kappo at East End Market is one of Orlando’s best sushi restaurants, yet also one of the most hidden.

Founded by college friends Mark, Lo, and Jen – all graduates of UF – they all traveled the world from New York to London to Tokyo to learn from the masters and now, they are back here in Orlando, having opened up this small 7 seat sushi bar inside the wonderful East End Market in Audubon Park.

The 7 seat bar is intimate – you can watch each of the chefs work attentively on their dishes, giving great care and respect to each piece of nigiri sushi.

Dinner is reservations only, while lunch is available for walk-ins.

The dinner experience is unique – omakase style, which means chef’s choice, with the best fish of the day prepared piece by piece like a scene out of Jiro Dreams of Sushi. Sushi as art – and it is as delicious to eat as it is beautiful.

For lunch, we recommend their transcendent chirashi bowl, or a plate of nigiri sushi, ending with a savory cup of miso soup or some house made Japanese inspired ice cream.

I made a short film of a recent visit here:

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This past weekend, the Vietnamese Catholic Church of Orlando, St Philip Phan van minh hosted their annual Vietnamese New Year Festival at the Central Florida Fairgrounds for 2015 – the year of the goat/sheep. The actual Lunar New Year is not till Thursday February 19th this year so there are still lots of great events to come. (See Guide to Celebrating Chinese/Vietnamese New Year Festivals in Orlando Post for the lowdown).

Here are 39 photos showing why the Vietnamese New Year Festival rocks:

Entrance to the Festival
Entrance to the Festival – here, a recreation of the famous Cho Ben Thanh market in Saigon, Vietnam
The festival is fun for the entire family - here in the background, a recreation of Cho Ben Thanh Market in Saigon, Vietnam
The festival is fun for the entire family – here in the background, a recreation of Cho Ben Thanh Market in Saigon, Vietnam

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Shout out to the Orlando Foodie Forum on facebook for coming out to the event!

Church Festival Volunteers snap a quick photo
Church Festival Volunteers snap a quick photo
Inside the festival building
Inside the festival building – some families stay all day watching the shows, eating their way around the building halls
Inside the festival building
Inside the festival building
Serving chao long, rice porridge with offal
Serving chao long, rice porridge with offal
Chao long, rice porridge with offal
Chao long, rice porridge with offal
Goi cuon, summer rolls
Goi cuon, summer rolls
Bun rieu, a seafood crab and pork noodle soup
Bun rieu, a seafood crab and pork noodle soup
Curry goat and sauteed boar
Curry goat and sauteed boar
Bun Bo Hue Spicy Beef Noodle soup
Bun Bo Hue Spicy Beef Noodle soup
A Vietnamese Catholic boy scout buys some banh tieu
A Vietnamese Catholic boy scout buys some banh tieu
Banh tieu, Vietnamese hollowed donut fry bread topped with sesame seeds
Banh tieu, Vietnamese hollowed donut fry bread topped with sesame seeds
Grinding sugarcane to make sugarcane juice
Grinding sugarcane to make fresh sugarcane juice
Hu Tieu Mi, a pork and chicken noodle soup
Hu Tieu Mi, a pork and chicken noodle soup topped with hard boiled quail eggs
Steaming  pots of bun rieu pork and crab noodle soup
Steaming pots of bun rieu pork and crab noodle soup
Rolls of banh tet, kind of like Christmas yuletide logs, but with sticky rice and beans to celebrate the new year
Rolls of banh tet, kind of like Christmas yuletide logs, but with sticky rice and beans to celebrate the new year
Lion dancers scare away evil spirits and welcome in the new year
Lion dancers scare away evil spirits and welcome in the new year
Scenes from the street food
Scenes from the street food

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Hot Vit Lon - the fearsome Duck fetus eggs
Hot Vit Lon – the fearsome Duck fetus eggs
Sauteed goat
Sauteed goat
Scenes from the street food
Scenes from the street food
Scenes from the street food
Scenes from the street food
Fried Eggrolls and pork sausage meatballs on a stick
Fried Eggrolls and pork sausage meatballs on a stick
Scenes from the street food
Scenes from the street food
Banh Cuon rice crepes
Banh Cuon rice crepes
Scenes from the street food
Scenes from the street food
Bun thit nuong
Bun thit nuong
Banh Xeo Vietnamese pan cakes
Banh Xeo Vietnamese pan cakes
Carnival games and things for kids area
Carnival games and things for kids area
Pew pew - Carnival games and things for kids area
Pew pew – Carnival games and things for kids area
Bounce area
Bounce area

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Orchids for sale
Orchids for sale
These Vietnamese ladies are getting ready for a cultural performance on stage
These Vietnamese ladies are getting ready for a cultural performance on stage
Pearl White Events, a local wedding planning business, markets their services
Pearl White Events, a local wedding planning business, markets their services
State Farm Insurance
State Farm Insurance is a sponsor, too
Mai tree, the symbol of spring for the Vietnamese
Mai tree, the symbol of spring for the Vietnamese

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Restaurant Openings

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Red Mountain BBQ
3020 Lamberton Boulevard #110 (off of Curry Ford and Dean)
Orlando, FL 32825, United States
(407) 270-4621
www.redmountainbbq.com

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Wlad Bladi Moroccan
2934 Vineland Rd
Kissimmee, FL 34746
Phone number (407) 507-2696

http://www.yelp.com/biz/wlad-bladi-kissimmee

Courtesy of Disney
Courtesy of Disney

Trattoria al Forno at Disney’s Boardwalk
(taking over Cat Cora’s Kouzzina location)
https://disneyworld.disney.go.com/dining/boardwalk/trattoria-al-forno/

East End Market on Cooking Channel – Emeril’s Florida
http://www.bizjournals.com/orlando/blog/2015/01/east-end-market-local-eateries-featured-on-chef.html

Upcoming Events

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Check out our segment on WESH 2 News Sunrise on CW 18 with Chef John Rivers of 4 Rivers Smokehouse and the Coop and all their Superbowl Eats

Four Seasons Superbowl party and US News ranking

U.S.News & World Report today announced its Best Hotels rankings and Four Seasons Resort Orlando at Walt Disney World Resort was ranked the No. 1 hotel in Orlando. http://travel.usnews.com/Hotels/Orlando_Walt_Disney_World_FL/. FourSeasons Orlando is also listed on the Best Hotels in Florida and the Best Hotels in the USA lists.http://travel.usnews.com/Hotels/Florida-r59/

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Super Bowl party at Orlando’s Teak Neighborhood Grill

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Winter Park Sip, Shop & Stroll -Thursday, February 5, 2015
The Winter Park Chamber of Commerce and Park Avenue Merchants Association invite you to sip, shop and stroll with your sweetheart! Experience the charm and romance of Park Avenue on this uniquely Winter Park wine walk. Spend the evening visiting your favorite Park Avenue area shops and restaurants. Discover new merchants, check out the latest fashions, gift ideas and seasonal menu items and enjoy wine and hors d’oeuvres along the way.

When & Where
Thursday, February 5, 2015
5 – 8 p.m.
Park Avenue area in downtown Winter Park
Cost: $25 each

Cattle Baron’s Ball Orlando 2015

The Cattle Barons’ Ball is a unique Western-themed evening of live entertainment, a dine-around, dancing, live and silent auctions and
more. And as we come together to party for a cause, the American Cancer Society will continue to save lives and create more birthdays by helping people to stay well and get well, find cures, and fight back against a disease that has taken too many lives.

This one of a kind event allows cowboys and cowgirls to dust off their denim to kick cancer out to pasture once and for all!

Saturday, February 7, 2015
6:00 pm – midnight
Rosen Shingle Creek, 9939 Universal Blvd., Orlando, FL 32819

The event features a dine-around with culinary creations from local restaurants. Entertainment includes Western-themed activities, silent and live auctions and a live performance by great western entertainers.
Valentine’s Day at Barnie’s CoffeeKitchen
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Barnie’s CoffeeKitchen on Park
Valentine’s Weekend Couple’s Prix-Fixe Dining Experience
February 13 & 14, starting at 6pm each night
$90 per couple
Call (407) 629-0042 To Reserve (reservation only, limited availability)

Menu:
Framboise Champagne Cocktail
Amuse
Appetizer: carpaccio of grass fed beef, with radicchio, pickled beets, and crunchy red quinoa, dressed in a sherry-paprika vinaigrette.
Entree: Stew of Florida shellfish and fish with a saffron, star anise, and tomato broth.
Dessert: Venezuelan chocolate soufflé with blackberries and a Mexican vanilla creme anglaise.
Sweetheart Latte

Wine and beer list available. Not included in the Prix-Fixe menu price.

Restaurant News

Urban Tide

The former Napa restaurant at Hyatt Regency Orlando (formerly Peabody Orlando) has transitioned into Urban Tide which offers diners a modern twist on local Florida seafood favorites.

Highlights from the new menu include a selection of “Starters” like Ceviche with citrus marinated Florida sea bass and serrano spiked rock shrimp and Grouper Cheeks with shishito peppers, cilantro, and creamed Zellwood Farm corn. Seafood selections include Gulf Grouper, Sea Bass and Whole Red Snapper, which can be prepared blackened, grilled, or sautéed. All seafood dishes are served with a trio of house made sauces.

Other “Favorites” include Grilled Domestic Lamb Rack with tomato farro risotto and baby zucchini, and a classic Cioppino.

Further food and beverage developments include a new kosher kitchen which will be completed for events and meetings use by Passover this April.

“As Hyatt Hotels’ largest meetings property, we’re constantly evaluating how we can best accommodate our many diverse groups during their stay,” said Nate Hardesty, Director of Sales and Marketing. “Orlando continues to raise its profile as an ideal destination for meetings and leisure travel, and we want to ensure our offerings are evolving in order to provide the best possible guest experience.”

For further information, or to book a stay at Hyatt Regency Orlando, please visit www.orlando.regency.hyatt.com.

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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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