American

“I’m going on an ice cream diet.”

Those are the words I remember most from my recent chat with Nathan Clark of Wondermade.

You see, Nathan is a very special man. Blessed with creativity, he is always positioned to proposer. He also happens to be a business role model of mine.

Back in 2013, Nathan had the bright idea to make hand-crafted marshamallows for his wife,  Jenn, for Christmas. It turns out that the Central Florida local made a really good marshmallow. Once friends got a hold of them, he and his wife found themselves with a marshmallow company. Today, Wondermade runs with the best of them. Inclusion on TheHuffingtonPost.com and a partnership with Martha Stewart are just two of the many great accomplishments under the brand’s belt.

And the beauty in it all is that it’s done in a storefront and kitchen in Sanford, Florida.

Next up is ice cream. Creamy goodness is what I like to call it. It’s currently available at the shop, and can be found in 12 flavors with one new flavor of the week called the Taste Adventure Flavor. To accompany the ice cream, a marshmallow of the same flavor rolls out simultaneously for the week.

On a side note, did you know that there’s a Museum of Ice Cream in New York? OK, back to writing.

Last week, I sat down with Nathan, whom I’ve had the pleasure of knowing for years, to talk about his next big move. Blueberry Cobbler was the flavor of the week. And man, it was good. What I like most about Wondermade’s handmade, no-churn ice cream is that it has a whipped-cream base, which makes it creamier and allows the scoops to melt evenly.

Nathan Clark

I found out that Nathan has a true affinity for ice cream. Turns out, he’s eaten a bowl a day since the age of 13. “I can’t think of the day that hasn’t included ice cream,” Nathan shared. “The decision to start making ice cream is phase two of the Wondermade brand.”

The Clark’s traveled up and down the East Coast, and tasted more than 100 different flavors. “We found that a lot of ice cream shops only have one good flavor. We aim to have a lot of them,” Nathan shared. Nathan went on to compare his ice cream flavor strategy to art using the word “tryptych.” Dictionary.com defines the word as a set of three panels or compartments side by side, bearing pictures, carvings, or the like.

“We have tryptych flavors like Avocado, Lavender and Maple Bacon. We also have less adventurous flavors like Triple Chocolate, Honey Cinnamon and Salted Caramel,” said Nathan. “They’re awesome together and their awesome by themselves.”


 The Cream + Crunch

Handmade Flavors: Lavender // Peanut Butter Cup // Mint Chocolate Chip // Cake Batter Confetti // S’mores // Cookies & Cream // Maple Bacon // Coffee Chocolate // Avocado // Honey Cinnamon // Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough // Salted Caramel

Handmade Cones: Brownie // Graham Cracker // Confetti


Back to this ice cream diet.

Chocolate Ice Cream

It only took a car ride with their kids for Nathan and Jenn to decide to launch a Kickstarter campaign to raise funds to ship packaged pints all over America. That was a Thursday. The video was taped on a Friday. It was live on Saturday.

To show his commitment, from July 14-21, Nathan is eating Wondermade’s ice cream for breakfast, lunch and dinner. That’s serious business. (If anyone is down to join, we can do it together.)

For locals, we’re in for a treat. You can order online and pick up order in Sanford. Nathan shared that locals will be spoiled with other goodies including marshmallows, coffee and swag.

So what’s next?

Celebrate National Ice Cream Month with me and visit the Kickstarter to get the details about the campaign, and to learn how you can help. I’m over the moon about the Cornbread ice cream that’s coming this summer!

Apple Pie Ice Cream

Store Must-Haves
  • Smoresicle: The bottom half is a pudding pop rolled in crushed graham cracker. The top half is toasted marshmallow.
  • Avocado Ice Cream: It’s smooth. It’s creamy. It’s perfection.

Address: 214 E 1st Street, Sanford, FL | Wondermade.com

Snack on,

Chauniqua Major, but we’re friends so call me Major!

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It’s the start of a new year – and time for a scratch-made meal at Cheddar’s Scratch Kitchen after the holiday season. They’re based out of Texas and have been widely popular here in Orlando since opening their new locations on Semoran Blvd and also near UCF in East Orlando. Almost every time we’ve visited it’s had a line out the door.

They specialize in home-style cuisine like baked chicken pot pies and burgers, but also great fried dishes like fried chicken and fried shrimp.

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The folks at Cheddar’s Scratch Kitchen recently invited us to try some of their dishes as part of the media. We’ve been several times before and were glad to be back.

You start with the honey butter croissants – buttery, sweet, honey fresh goodness that is baked to order.

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For those who enjoy onion rings, their onion ring stack appetizer is a mountainous treat to behold.

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I’ve really enjoyed their fried items as well – from the chicken fried tenders to the chicken fried steak and fried shrimp. It’s all quite affordably priced and in large quantity making for a satisfying meal.

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All that cooking over the holidays – makes you want some time for a break and savor the length of preparation time done in the early morning hours, the quality of scratch made goodness, and a rare moment for hosts to enjoy precious family time in a warm and inviting environment – with absolutely little work at Cheddar’s Scratch Kitchen – made from scratch without the mess at home.

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Everyone has a host in their family who makes guests feel like family – they’re genuine, warm, and welcoming. Hosts often go above and beyond as they prepare for visits with family and friends, spending countless, selfless hours to ensure everything is done the right way, not the easy way, with grace and ease.

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At CSK, we know hosts spend much of their time preparing for visits with family and friends that it’s often hard for them to enjoy the season of giving. Visit them soon!

Locations

Cheddars
6650 S Semoran Blvd
(407) 438-8878
Open until 11:00 PM

Cheddars
875 W Osceola Pkwy
(407) 348-2159
Open until 11:00 PM

Cheddar’s
12201 E Colonial Dr
(407) 282-8100
Open until 11:00 PM

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North Quarter Tavern in the North Quarter District in Downtown Orlando will start lunch service this Tuesday August 11th.

The team from Citrus Restaurant developed the concept and the kitchen is under the direction of Executive Chef Matt Wall.

Some of their new lunch menu items include:

bartlettimage-7421Fried Chicken, beer brined chicken thighs, buttermilk dredge, Potato salad, house hot sauce, mixed pickles
bartlettimage-7456Tavern Burger, house ground beef, American cheese, bread & butter pickles, onion
bartlettimage-7249Charcuterie & Cheese Board house cured &smoked meats, artisanal cheese, mustard, pickled veggies
bartlettimage-7280House Ground Meatballs fresh cheese, tomato ragout
bartlettimage-7370Hand-Cut Wagyu Steak Tartare duck fat crostini, tarragon mayo, local egg yolk

Photos courtesy of North Quarter Tavern

The address is 861 North Orange Avenue. For more information, please visit www.northquartertavern.com or call 407-757-0930.

Last Wednesday, we decided to visit Kings Bowl on International Dr. in Orlando, FL. It was a spacious venue with plenty of bowling lanes, pool tables, and bars. What’s more is that they also have a restaurant inside of Kings Bowl. This summer, Kings Bowl decided to add around 14 dishes and 5 drinks to their menu. Fair warning, the lighting wasn’t great for photography so we may not have photos for every dish and drink. Also, many of their 14 dishes are meals split up separately (i.e. a chicken dish may also have the quinoa salad, but the salad is also sold on its own); therefore, grouping will occur in this post.

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The Drunken Bear Martini is a sweet drink that contains raspberry vodka, peach liqueur, sour mix, lime juice, and it is garnished with gummy bears. Along with it is an Orange You Old Fashioned?, which is a bourbon drink with orange liqueur, simple syrup and orange bitters.

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The Apple Raisin Chicken Salad and sandwich contains mostly the same ingredients plus or minus the toasted multigrain bread. Instead of bread, the sandwich can be served as a lettuce wrap instead. The salad is very delightful as the mixture of apples, raisins and chicken is always refreshing.

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The Turkey, cranberry and brie sandwich contains toasted multigrain bread that may have a weird smell because the oil it was toasted with was cooked incorrectly. I couldn’t get past the smell to enjoy the sandwich.

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The chicken wings can be Teri-Dactyl (Spicy BBQ and Teriyaki sauce) or Kings’ Famous Baked Caribbean Jerk wings. I prefer the Caribbean Jerk sauce over the Teri-Dactyl because the latter is very sweet and overpowering. Nevertheless, the wings themselves are very moist and cooked well.

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There wasn’t anything specifically special about the BBQ Pulled Pork Wontons. They were tasty, but oily.

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The Mango Lime Grilled Chicken Breast is served with a mango salsa, avocado, sour cream, Southwestern quinoa, and steamed broccoli. The Southwestern quinoa can also be ordered as a salad and the only difference is that it includes kale, Feta, carrots, and a cilantro lime vinaigrette. The chicken breast is cooked well and is still juicy on the inside. There isn’t anything really special about the quinoa side or salad.

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The Turkey and Hummus Wrap is packed with protein and veggies. It’s a nice item if you’d like a refreshing dish on a hot summer day.

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The Ginger Soy Glazed Salmon is a bit dry, but the flavors are delicious. The baby bok toy is extremely salty and the brown rice is ok. However, the glazed baby carrots are delicious and I could eat them all day.

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The marinated artichoke and spinach pizza was interesting and delicious. The downside is how oily the pizza and the crust was.

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This pizza is basically an Americanized taco spread out. Another way of thinking is if Taco Bell made a pizza. My favorite part of this dish is the crust, which is more crunchy as well as still a bit chewy.

The burgers weren’t photographed, but they are essentially the same thing with one or two different items switched around for each burger. The most interesting is the burger that contains peanut butter, bacon, grilled pineapple, and Sriracha. The peanut butter works well with the beef where the bacon adds a salty and savoriness to the burger. The grilled pineapple is new and adds a sweetness to it as well.

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The “homemade” health bar cake is served with whipped cream and a rum caramel sauce. The lower portion of the cake is dense and chewy, while the top is creamy and smooth. I prefer the top portion as it isn’t as sweet as the cake portion. Eating it together is the best way even though it is fun to dissect it and take it apart.

Feel free to visit Kings Bowl America – Orlando for more information on their menu and summer bowling deals.

In preparation for National Beer Day, I was invited to enjoy some grub and friendly conversation at Toby Keith’s I Love This Bar & Grill in Orlando’s Artegon Marketplace.

The restaurant is known for its trademark 95-foot guitar-shaped bar, a stage for live country music concerts, Whiskey Girls, beer in mason jars, and a VIP “gazebo” for private parties as well as their smokin’ meals, entertainment and hospitality.

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At Toby Keith’s I Love This Bar & Grill, they like to make everything on location and in-house. This means that they make their own pasta, smoke their own meats and cheese, create their own sauces, etc fresh right in the kitchen.

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We started with Slow Roasted Pulled Pork Sliders with country slaw and crispy onion strings on the side. The sliders were easy to bite into and may leave some of its tasteful yet lightly sweet BBQ flavor on your taste buds. The coleslaw stacked on the pulled pork balances the sweetness of the BBQ sauce. The subtly spiced onion strings were crunchy, but dense because it isn’t similar to large strips of onions smothered in batter before being deep-fried.

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Toby’s Wings can be made with Traditional, Honey Gold, or Savory Dry Rub sauces/seasonings. They can be traditional or boneless and are served with Served with celery, carrot, and ranch or bleu cheese. Our Honey Gold Toby’s Boneless Wings were sweet, but were a little spicy from cayenne and chipotle mixed into the mustard-based sauce. These wings aren’t drowned in sauce and just how I liked them.

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The beer served with the sliders and wings was Oskar Blues Dale’s Pale Ale 6.5% ABV made by Oskar Blues Brewery in Lyons, CO. It has a hoppy note and is assertive but balanced flavors of pale malts and citrusy floral hops from start to finish. I normally don’t drink pale ales, but if I did, this would be the one I sip on when out and about with friends! It is super light and smooth to the palate.

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The American Soldier Burger is one of Toby’s classics. It is fire-grilled and topped with American cheese. It is free for active military with ID. The burger can be made to your liking (ie well-done, medium, rare, etc). It’s a nice item to have when you’re in the mood for a quick and easy bite. It was served with fries cut and made fresh with every meal, which you can tell once you bite into them.

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From the smoker, guests can choose one meat, two meats or three meats.

The Meats: pulled pork, beef brisket, baby back ribs (1/2), smoked turkey breast, spicy sausage links, smoked pulled chicken. At the event, we were served baby back ribs and they were smoked in one of the largest smokers on International Dr. in Orlando, FL. The meat was covered in a mellow sweet BBQ sauce, but the sweetness doesn’t overpower the taste of it being smoked. The meat is mostly lean and falls off the bone really easily.

The baby back ribs were served with creamy coleslaw, sweet potato tots, calico baked beans, and creamy mac & cheese.

  • The mac & cheese had a lot of cheese, stringy and topped with basil. The noodles were super soft.
  • The coleslaw was refreshing and cool compared to the other warm sides and dishes served.
  • The calico baked beans were made with bourbon. These weren’t bad, but wouldn’t be one of my choices for a side.
  • Last but not least, the sweet potato tots! These were fabulous and my favorite. The outside was crunchy, while the interior was very smooth and velvety.

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The entrees were paired with Dogfish Head 90 Minute Imperial/Double IPA 9% ABV made by Dogfish Head Brewery in Milton, Delaware. 90 Minute has a great malt backbone that stands up to the extreme hopping rate and packs a punch. The first beer Dogfish Head continuously hopped, allowing for a pungent, but not crushing, hop flavor.

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For dessert, we decided to split two delicious sweets. The Hot Caramel Apple Tart is an American classic made with Granny Smith apples, salted caramel, cinnamon and a hint of brown sugar. This was another favorite of mine to have at Toby Keith’s I Love This Bar & Grill. Let’s just say that I’d order this every time I visit although it could a bit more ice cream.

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A popular item of Toby Keith’s I Love This Bar & Grill is the Deep Fried Strawberry Twinkie “Shortcake”. The Famous Hostess Twinkie is deep-fried and served warm with a berry sauce and sprinkled with sweet powdered sugar. For us, the sweet berry sauce was replaced with chocolate and caramel. This isn’t my favorite because it is super sweet, but now I can see why everyone likes Twinkies so much, especially when they’re fried because I was able to share my first Twinkie experience with Toby Keith’s I Love This Bar & Grill.

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Before we finished up the evening, we were introduced to the American Girl Cocktail, which requires 1oz Wave Blue Raspberry Vodka, 0.5oz Blue Curacao, 0.5oz Grenadine, and ½ a bottle of Smirnoff Ice. This can be a nice pink drink for anyone who needs a light social drink.

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Toby Keith’s I Love This Bar & Grill is open

  • Sunday – Wednesday – 11am – midnight (kitchen open until 10pm)
  • Thursday – Saturday – 11am – 2am (Kitchen open Fri-Sat until 11pm)

Toby Keith's I Love This Bar & Grill on Urbanspoon

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Take a step inside Highball & Harvest, Orlando’s newest Southern-cuisine inspired restaurant at the Ritz Carlton at Grande Lakes Orlando resort, and you might think you’ve been transported back to a 1920s style speakeasy – dark wood decor, a craft bar, and a lively atmosphere that may be one of the best kept foodie secrets in town.

We first introduced you to the new concept taking place of the Vineyard Grill at the Ritz back in February, and now the plans have come to fruition.

Intricate details and meticulous planning went into the creation of Highball & Harvest, right down to the custom logos imprinted on the napkins and dining ware.

Near the entrance, a new, expansive bar greets you.

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Here expert bar chefs serve up signature seasonal hand-crafted cocktails and there is even an interactive cocktail bar “chefs table”, where the bar chefs can instruct while muddling tableside and handcrafted cocktails are infused with seasonal fruits and herbs.

The ambiance at Highball & Harvest is rustic, yet refined, definitely a suitable place for an after hours cocktail or meeting with friends for some fine Southern inspired cuisine.

The restaurant emphasizes farm-to-fork dining led by rising young Chef de Cuisine Mark Jeffers, a Daytona, Florida native who pulls his culinary inspiration from his hometown as well as his extensive travels around the South, from Low Country-infused Charleston to Cajun-spiced New Orleans.

Chef Jeffers’ dishes are hyper local, infused with Floridian citrus and ingredients from nearby purveyors and the resort’s own 7,000-square-foot Whisper Creek Farm, which opened in October 2012 and continues to expand.

“The dishes we create at Highball & Harvest are designed to give restaurant-goers a sense of nostalgia while enjoying southern classics infused with regional flavors,” says Chef Mark Jeffers. “We start with locally sourced products and allow the quality of the ingredients speak for itself.”

At a recent media preview, I was delightfully surprised, and at times enchanted, by the restaurant’s modern take on traditional Southern offerings.

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Chef Mark Jeffers of Highball & Harvest with the Southern Spreads “tackle box”

Take for example, The Southern Spreads ($16), consisting of chunky pimento cheese dip and smoked fish dip served with pickled veggies, benne seed lavash, and grilled sourdough presented in a kitschy, converted metal tackle box. The pimento cheese, which we lathered across pieces of lavash bread, was velvety smooth and satisfying.

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One of their signature cocktails, the dill or no dill ($11), is a refreshing and cool libation crafted with Sipsmith gin, elderflower liqueur, cucumber, dill and lemon – perfect for hot Florida summer days.

The pastry team’s presentation of the Parker House Rolls, made from Khorasan wheat, an ancient grain from Egypt and the fertile crescent of ancient Mesopotamia, is heavenly and almost didn’t need any of the herb and apple butters that it came with. Truly one of the best breads I have ever had and a must seek out item when you visit Harvest & Highball.

Crab cake and Fried Green Tomatoes Appetizer
Crab cake and Fried Green Tomatoes Appetizer

Drawing from both Chef Jeffer’s New Smyrna Beach and Southern upbringing, the crab cake and fried green tomato appetizer ($16) is a unique, yet delicious take on the traditional fried green tomato dish – the textures of the tender jumbo lump crab and the crispy fried green tomatoes worked very well together, especially when served together with the corn chow chow and the cajun remoulade sauce.

Other notable appetizers include Dale’s Deviled Eggs, named after the proprietor of local Lake Meadow Naturals Farms from whence the eggs come from, as well as the pork belly sliders and the playful chicken biscuit with pickled watermelon rinds.

Booker's Skirt Steak
Booker’s Skirt Steak

For our entree, we chose the Booker’s Skirt steak ($30), marinated overnight in Booker’s bourbon whiskey and served with grilled corn and tomato salad, potato puree, and a dash of charred onion vinaigrette. The steak was perfectly seared and had a wonderful flavor to it thanks to the whiskey marinade.

The pastry team, led by Executive Pastry Chef Stephane Chéramy, is highlighted once more for the desserts section – truly divine pastries from the key lime tart to strawberry shortcake with bubblegum marshmallow showcase the true depth of culinary skill possessed by the food and beverage team at the Ritz Carlton.

Highball & Harvest’s most unexpected offerings:

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  • Parker House Rolls, made from Khorasan wheat (Egyptian old-world grains) and served warm and moist with less gluten than typical bread, a complimentary bread presentation made from scratch by the resort’s 30-person pastry team.
  • Signature dishes: Pig-n-Potatoes, an all-day breakfast dish of poached egg, potato hash, and tender pork cheeks with sweet peppers, caramelized onions, H&H Hot Sauce, and hollandaise sauce. The Southern Spreads, pimento cheese dip and smoked fish dip served with pickled veggies, benne seed lavash, and grilled sourdough presented in a metal tackle box. Smoked Lamb Brisket with boiled peanut “baked beans” and collards.
  • Raw Oyster Bar with signature house-made H&H Hot Sauce. Chefs shuck oysters by hand and teach diners all-things-oysters.
  • Signature cocktails include: “The Last Wish” served over an ice sphere with orange peel, the “Doc Holliday” with house ginger beer and blueberry jam, and the “Back 40 Punch”, a refreshing take on a bourbon cocktail mixed with sweet tea and lemon.

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SHRIMP & GRITS
Canaveral Red Shrimp / Anson Mills Grits /
Charred Tomato BBQ / Arugula / Fennel / Crisp Onions 16/25

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H&H PIMENTO CHEESE BURGER
Double Short-Rib Patties / Bacon /
Mustard / Pimento Cheese / Spicy pickles 18

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CHICKEN FRIED CHICKEN
Potato Puree / Garlic Kale / Watermelon 27

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GRILLED LINE-CAUGHT SWORDFISH
Beluga Lentils / Cilantro Coulis / Mango 32

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BLACKENED GROUPER
Hominy Ragout / Andouille / Pickled Okra 29

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H&H PIG-N-POTATOES
Poached Egg / Potato Hash /
Pork Cheeks / Hollandaise 17

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STRAWBERRY SHORTCAKE
Strawberry Sorbet / Poached Rhubarb / Bubble Gum Marshmallow 9

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BABY DONUTS
Cappuccino Ice Cream / Chocolate Hazelnut Spread 9

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WARM CHOCOLATE CAKE
Bourbon Pickled Apples Chutney / Madagascar Vanilla Ice Cream 9

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H&H KEY LIME TART
Winter Park Honey Infused Oranges / Margarita Sorbet 9

The opening of Highball & Harvest at The Ritz-Carlton Orlando, Grande Lakes marks a series of improvements and renovations to the resort in the coming months. JW Marriott Orlando will open Whisper Creek Farm: The Kitchen in Spring 2015 spotlighting charcuterie, Whisper Creek Farm ingredients, and beer from Whisper Creek Farm: The Brewery opening in September 2014.

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Executive Pastry Chef Stephane Cheramy
Executive Pastry Chef Stephane Cheramy

Highball & Harvest
(407) 393-4422
The Ritz-Carlton, Grande Lakes
4012 Central Florida Parkway Orlando, FL
www.highballandharvest.com
HOURS
Daily – 6:30 a.m. – 10 p.m.
Bar – Daily – 11 a.m. – Midnight

Highball & Harvest on Urbanspoon

For 27 years, The Peabody Orlando hotel was connected to the Orange County Convention Center on International Drive. In late 2010, a $450 million renovation of the hotel added a 32-story wing that doubled the number of rooms and an expansion tower that stands as the second tallest building in Orlando (behind the SunTrust tower in Downtown Orlando).

On October, 1 2013, The Peabody Orlando was sold to Hyatt Hotels and renamed Hyatt Regency Orlando.

With the change to Hyatt Regency, the Peabody’s trademarked Capriccio Grill was transformed into Fiorenzo Italian Steakhouse, with a new menu and a new chef de cuisine.

Fiorenzo, which means blossoming or flourishing in Italian, brings together the flavors an authentic Italian restaurant in Orlando and the tradition of a great American steak house. The restaurant is elegantly decorated, with dark black marble table tops and champagne gold touches accenting the dining room, and an open kitchen with a pizza oven operating to full capacity. The black and gold give it an almost Gatsby-esque feel, dapper for a hotel restaurant, a little old fashioned yet modern at the same time.

Looking inside Fiorenze Italian Kitchen
Looking inside, decor, at the Fiorenzo Italian Steakhouse at the Hyatt Regency Orlando

Chef Jimmy Stafford, the new Chef de Cuisine at Fiorenzo, has been a part of Hyatt Hotels Food and Beverage team for the past nine years. A graduate of Hyatt’s Culinary Training Program, Stafford has served as a chef at Manchester Grand Hyatt in San Diego, Calif., Chef de Cuisine at Grand Hyatt Kauai Resort and Spa, and Sous Chef for Andaz Wall Street in New York, N.Y.

Chef Stafford has created Fiorenzo’s brand new menu with his own creative twist, featuring signature dishes such as chocolate papardelle, 20oz prime bone-in rib eye, and bison carpaccio.

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Chef de Cuisine Jimmy Stafford carving out slices of cured Spanish Iberico ham in the Fiorenzo kitchen

The new menu is composed of prime steaks, seafood entrees, creative pizza and pasta dishes, as well as select wines from an extensive wine cellar.

Our waiter, a Mr. Gokhan, is the definition of great service, offering helpful suggestions and checking up on our dining experience throughout the evening, making sure our drinks were full without being too intrusive. He actually had quite a resume as well, having worked as a head waiter on the Royal Caribbean cruiseline.

We started our dinner with the bison carpaccio and the endive and watercress salad.

Carpaccio is the Italian dish consisting of raw meat or fish (such as beef, veal, venison, salmon or tuna), thinly sliced or pounded thin and seasoned with lemon, or vinegar, olive oil, salt and ground pepper. The dish was named carpaccio after Vittore Carpaccio, the Venetian painter known for the characteristic red and white tones of his work.

The Bison Carpaccio here at Fiorenzo, like many of the dishes crafted by Chef Stafford and his team, are no less a work of art – beautifully red, thinly sliced cuts of bison drizzled with tangy, sweet juniper lemon vinaigrette and topped with a dollop of house-made cucumber yogurt, crispy julienned strips of green apple, kohlrabi cabbage, and fresh horseradish. The bison itself is delightfully refreshing and reminded me a lot of tuna, not too gamey but distinctly different from beef. I also enjoyed the crunchy texture of the green apple when eaten together with the tender bison slices.

BISON CARPACCIO

BISON CARPACCIO
Green Apple, Kohlrabi, Fresh Horseradish, Cucumber Yogurt, Juniper Lemon Vinaigrette – $17

My dining partner similarly enjoyed her endive & watercress salad, a refreshingly creative and unique combination of endive, watercress, golden delicious apple slices, watermelon, feta cheese, and candied pistachios all topped with a sweet pistachio dressing. The salad was at once sweet and tart with the combination of apple and watermelon fruit, and also savory with the nutty pistachios. I would definitely call this one of the best salad dishes here in Orlando today and enjoyed it even more than the bison carpaccio.

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Golden Delicious Apple, Watermelon, Feta Cheese, Candied Pistachios and Pistachio Dressing – $14

Fiorenzo also has a nice selection of cheese and cured meat plates. The cheeses range from Smoked Scamorza, to Gorgonzola Picante, Truffled Pecorino, and Burrata alla Panna while the cured meats include Finocchiona, Bresaola, Wild Boar Salami, and Jamon Iberico.

IMG_1881 CHEESE & CURED MEATS – Served with Condiments & Crostini
Cheese: Smoked Scamorza, Gorgonzola Picante, Truffled Pecorino, Burrata alla Panna
Cured Meats: Finocchiona, Bresaola, Wild Boar Salami, Jamon Iberico

One of the strongest points at Fiorenzo is their list of house made specialty pasta dishes unlike any others found in Orlando. Take the Vesuvio pasta dish, a fabulous dish made with vesuvio pasta served with a Butternut Squash sauce base and topped with fresh sauteed spinach, sweet pear, shaved ricotta salata cheese, and roasted pine nuts. These curvy, spirally, squiggly pasta are shaped to resemble Mount Vesuvius, the famed Italian volcanic mountain, and its sea-shell like shape helps scoop in the delicious butternut squash sauce. The dish really makes Fiorenzo an exciting stand out among all the other Italian restaurants out there.

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VESUVIO PASTA – Butternut Squash, Spinach, Fresh Pear, Ricotta Salata, Roasted Pine Nuts – $12/$22

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RISOTTO OF THE DAY – Local Corn Risotto

My dining partner thoroughly enjoyed her grilled branzino, a European seabass fish, served with roasted cauliflower, parsnip puree, and cured orange salmoriglio, while I chose the more traditional, but no less impressive, 20 ounce prime bone in ribeye steak, grilled to perfection to a requested medium rare.

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GRILLED BRANZINO 
Roasted Cauliflower, Mache, Parsnip Purée, Cured Orange Salmoriglio – $36

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20oz PRIME BONE IN RIB EYE – $57

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We did not get a chance to try the pizzas at Fiorenzo, but the selection looked great and from where we were sitting, we could see the chefs preparing the pizza orders for other patrons at the restaurant that evening, hot and fresh out of the oven.

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PIZZA SELECTIONS 
PEPPERONI – Mozzarella Cheese, Pepperoni, Parmesan Cheese – $15
MARGHERITA – San Marzano Tomatoes, Fresh Mozzarella, Basil, Sea Salt, Olive Oil – $15
FUNGI – Mixed Mushrooms, Arugula Pesto, Truffled Pecorino Cheese – $17
BLANCO – Roasted Garlic, Grilled Zucchini, Smoked Scamorza, Calabrian Chili – $15
SALSICCE – Lamb Sausage, Bitter Greens, Cured Olives, Ricotta, Mint

Chocolate Molten lava cake dessert at Fiorenzo
Chocolate Molten lava cake dessert at Fiorenzo
Mango fruit sorbet with blackberries
Mango fruit sorbet with blackberries

Fiorenzo Italian Steakhouse’s private room accommodates 50-100 people and the main dining room accommodates up to 200. Each month, Fiorenzo also hosts a wine dinner with a four-course menu. My dining partner and I were so impressed that we can not wait to return, especially with a group of our friends for a special occasion.

Patrons of Fiorenzo Italian Steakhouse enjoy complimentary valet parking (valid for visits 4 hours and less). Serving dinner daily from 6p – 10p. To make a reservation call 407-345-4570 or click here.

Fiorenzo Italian Steakhouse at Hyatt Regency Orlando
9801 International Drive,
Orlando, Florida, USA, 32819

Fiorenzo Italian Steakhouse on Urbanspoon

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The Osprey Tavern will open in Baldwin Park at 4899 New Broad Street, Orlando, Florida 32814 this fall, according to sources.

It will be run by the owners of the sleek Seito Sushi, the wildly popular Japanese restaurant, also in Baldwin Park.

Jason Chin, owner, tells us, “The place will be featuring seasonal new American cuisine, a raw bar, charcuterie and cheese, craft beer, fine wine and scratch cocktails featuring small batch spirits. The chefs will be announced soon and we hope to be opening around October of this year.”

The restaurant will take over the place once occupied by Bullfish, a merchandise and post office store on the corner. There have been quite a few closings along the New Broad Street corridor in Baldwin Park these past few years, but Seito Sushi has been one of the few restaurants able to remain very popular with the local residents for its quality sushi and sophisticated atmosphere.

You can follow The Osprey Tavern on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/pages/The-Osprey-Tavern/459200480850163.

This is a developing story. Check back for more details.

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The 1,500 acre Hyatt Regency Grand Cypress first opened its doors in 1984 along the sandy shores of Lake Windsong just outside of Disney World.

This year, the hotel celebrates its 30th anniversary and begins a process in renovating a few of the hotel’s restaurant spaces, including the much lauded La Coquina, home of the award winning Sunday brunch. Included in the updates is a new company wide philosophy among the Hyatt hotel’s food and beverage team of “thoughtfully sourced, carefully served” food.

Cascade, named after the eponymous cascading falls sculpture, a centerpiece of the restaurant.
Cascade, named after the eponymous cascading falls sculpture, a centerpiece of the restaurant.

Cascade American Bistro at the Hyatt Regency Grand Cypress is one of the restaurants on property that is undergoing a transformation in both its menu and setting, decidedly for the better. I sat down with Executive Chef Kenneth Juran and Cascade’s sous chef Shelby Farrell to talk more about the changes and the direction that Cascade American Bistro is headed in.

Sous Chef Shelby and Executive Chef Kenneth at Cascade American Bistro
Sous Chef Shelby and Executive Chef Kenneth at Cascade American Bistro

Chef Kenneth Juran came to Hyatt Regency Grand Cypress in 1994, after 7 and a half years as Executive Chef at Park Hyatt in Washington, D.C, and Sous Chef Shelby Farrell, a recent graduate of Valencia College’s Culinary Program, who brings a fresh outlook to the new menu and a raw passion for food.

“The menu at Cascade has completely improved in the past few years since the new philosophy of “thoughtfully sourced, carefully served” was rolled out. We have ingredients from local farms like Lake Meadow Naturals and herbs from our own on site garden.” said Chef Kenneth.

“From our coastal waters, to our very own garden, our Chef strives to bring you the freshest ingredients Florida’s farms & waters have to offer. We offer locally produced, sustainable and/or organic when possible.” – Hyatt Regency Grand Cypress Chef Kenneth Juran on the menu at Cascade American Bistro

The restaurant itself will be undergoing some renovations to be completed by next year as well. Many of the furnishings appeared to be a bit dated, as were the servers’ uniforms, and definitely would welcome the update to match the new philosophy. As it stands, it appeared like the place hadn’t had much of an upgrade since the early 1990s.

Chef Shelby, who joined Cascade just as the new food philosophy began implementation, found her passion for cooking from growing up in a food loving Italian/Gulf Coast Southern family, where her maternal grandmother from Naples, Italy taught her to roll gnocchi as soon as she was tall enough to reach the counter from on-top of a chair – one of her earliest memories. In college, she joined Valencia’s Culinary Program and was introduced to many great chefs, ultimately leading her to Hyatt today.

“The culinary program at Valencia College was great for me – I hear a lot of people complain about its lack of complexity and limited resources and I’m sure if I had gone into it with the experience I have now I would have thought the same thing but as someone who had a lot of raw passion but limited experience it was great and I was able to learn so much.” she said.

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Local Farms and Purveyors at Cascade American Bistro include:

Lake Meadows Naturals – Chicken, Duck, Eggs
Gary’s Seafood – Line Caught Fish, Shellfish
Cahaba Club Farms – Micro Herbs, Lettuces
B&W Growers – Lettuces
King Farms – Tree Fruits, Garden Vegetables
Ashley Farms – All Natural Chicken
Sweet Grass Dairy – Cheeses, Dairies
Palmetto Creek Farms – Hereford Pork

Chef Kenneth preparing for a banquet at the Hyatt
Chef Kenneth preparing for a banquet at the Hyatt
Chef Shelby working in the Cascade kitchen
Chef Shelby working in the Cascade kitchen

During my visit, I got the chance to sample a few of the new signature items on the menu and was pleasantly surprised. The shrimp cocktail featuring shrimp from Pine Island, Florida was a nice starter, but it seemed to be missing some flair overall. The Burata and Frisee salad was much more delightful, topped with fresh Burrata mozzarella, candied pumpkin seeds, baby beets, toasted pumpkin seed dressing – I couldn’t get enough of this tasty salad.

The creative Lamb Burger was tasty and a favorite, sufficiently moist and tender, full of spiced flavors like dill, topped with goat cheese, arugula, and house made pickles on a soft dill roll. Another favorite was the signature Crab Stuffed Flounder entree – generous amounts of luscious lump blue crab, stuffed inside fresh flounder and topped with paprika and glorious melted lemongrass butter from Lake Meadows Naturals.

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Classic Shrimp Cocktail/ Bloody Mary spiced cocktail sauce, shaved celery – Pine Island, FL shrimp

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Burrata and Frisée / fresh Burrata mozzarella, candied pumpkin seeds, baby beets, toasted pumpkin seed dressing

Steamed Clams with bacon small plate
Steamed Clams with bacon small plate
Frito Misto of Calamari / baby artichoke,  button mushroom, fennel and lemon aioli
Frito Misto of Calamari / baby artichoke,
button mushroom, fennel and lemon aioli
Bistro Rustic "Hearth Bread" pizza - 4 local farms cheese, pulled chicken,   garden herbs and olive oil
Bistro Rustic “Hearth Bread” pizza – 4 local farms cheese, pulled chicken,
garden herbs and olive oil

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Lamb Burger/ goat cheese, arugula, spicy bread & butter pickle on a soft dill roll, house made chips

Chicken Fried Chicken Thighs/ sautéed spinach and  kale, spoon-drop biscuits, Yuengling mustard sauce
Chicken Fried Chicken Thighs/ sautéed spinach and
kale, spoon-drop biscuits, Yuengling mustard sauce

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Crab Stuffed Flounder/ lump blue crab, olive oil, crushed potatoes, paprika, lemongrass butter from Lake Meadows Naturals (Ocoee, FL)

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Overall, the menu at Cascades is steadily improving, and I can’t wait to come back, especially once the renovations and transformations are complete. Prices were on the higher end of acceptability, however, and I would recommend lowering them just a tad to encourage more locals to come.

A pleasant surprise at Cascade American Bistro, is that it is also the home for Chef Yoshi, formerly of the acclaimed Sushi Man restaurant on Sand Lake Road. On the back side of the regular menu is an extensive sushi menu…more on that next time.

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Over the years, the Grand Cypress has added a free-flowing lagoon pool, Rock Climbing Station, new interactive Water Jet Splash Zone, rope bridge, walking paths, and expansive, wrap-around sundecks. New features complement the resort’s favorite activities including; S’mores pit, beach volleyball, tether ball, hammocks, watersports and marked jogging, walking, and biking trails.

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Hyatt Regency Grand Cypress Special Promotions

Known and awarded for its long-standing grandeur, pristine outdoor recreation, privacy, and uncompromising standard of service, Hyatt Regency Grand Cypress celebrates 30 years of grand excellence throughout 2014. The celebration continues with the 30th Anniversary Grand Experience Getaway with room rates starting at $198.40 per night to include a $30 food and beverage credit, based on availability through December 20, 2014.   Use special offer code RTRO.

For more information; call 407.239.1234; visit GrandCypress.Hyatt.com; like Hyatt Regency Grand Cypress on Facebook; and follow on Twitter at @HRGrandCypress.

Cascade American Bistro on Urbanspoon

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Siro Italian Urban Orlando

On Saturday January 26, 2013, Orlando World Center Marriott opened their newest restaurant, Siro: Urban Italian Kitchen, which takes the place of their previous Italian restaurant Ristorante Tuscany. I recently re-visited the restaurant through a contest that I won via twitter and was delighted that my first impressions were still correct this second time around.

From artisan cured meats and cheeses, small plates (“Assadare” (shearable) style) and fresh market vegetables, dishes served on oversized wooden planks, thin-crust pizzas and house-made pastas to various meats and fish selections, Siro has made a strong emphasis on quality sourced food.

This is immediately evident in the quality and the freshness of the vegetables and ingredients used in the dishes we tried this evening – everything was like it was picked today straight off a farm from the corn to the arugula in the salads.

The meal, overall, was fantastic. Photos follow —

 

 

Siro Italian Urban Orlando
Brudo’s Famous Veal Meatballs in Pomodoro tomato sauce

Siro Italian Urban Orlando
Tuna two ways – Ahi Tuna Crudo

Siro Italian Urban Orlando
Octopus Salad with Garbanzo Beans – perfectly sliced and prepared

Siro Italian Urban Orlando
Siro’s Seasonal fresh salad

Siro Italian Urban Orlando
Bone Marrow with toasted bread – nutritious, tasty and soft, reminiscent of the texture of egg and oysters

Siro Italian Urban Orlando

Local Catch of the Day – Corvina in lemon caper sauce

Siro Italian Urban Orlando Marriott World Center
Ricotta Gnudi – Braised Local Chicken Ragu

Siro Italian Urban Orlando

Beef tenderloin roast of the day with potato fries

Siro Italian Urban Orlando

This young gentlemen chef came from New Orleans and brought a very unique technique from his experience there in preparing the potato fries that give it a very special airy puff – the potatoes are cut very thin and then blanched and quickly fried, allowing for a crunchy, airy potato fry.

Siro Italian Urban Orlando

Dessert spread – Zeppoles, Italian cookies, cannoli, gelato, tiramisu

Tiramisu
Tiramisu

Siro Italian Urban Orlando

The view of the grotto pool at the Marriott Orlando World Center – beautiful!

 Big thank you to the folks at the Orlando World Center Marriott for the wonderful stay and the fantastic chefs at Siro for a lovely meal.

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Disney California Grill 2013 New renovation
Disney California Grill 2013 New renovation

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California Grill opened on the 15th floor of Disney’s Contemporary Resort in 1995, starting a dining evolution for Walt Disney World Resort, with seasonal dishes, fresh sushi and flatbread pizzas as their staples.

After a major makeover, California Grill opens its doors on September 9 with the same sweeping sunsets and night time views of Magic Kingdom fireworks from atop Disney’s Contemporary Resort but with a new design inspired by 1950s modern California, and a new menu showcasing seasonal ingredients and a lighter touch.

The chandeliers at California Grill are reminiscent of diagrams of molecules and harkens back to memories of nuclear research in the American southwest during this era of American history.

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Known for its stellar wine list and staffed with over 60 sommeliers, California Grill now with over 250 wine selections, 80 by the glass, an expanded sake list, eight kinds of craft beers and ciders and signature cocktails created by staff mixologists.

New wood fired ovens are utilized to move beyond flat breads and allow more creativity.

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Chef de Cuisine Brian Piasecki and his team have worked on new menu updates for longtime favorites, such as Pork Two Ways, now grilled tenderloin and lacquered pork belly with goat cheese polenta and mushrooms.

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Three Meat Signature Meatballs . . . Picholene Olives, Herbed Orzo, Chimichurri, Lavender Mint

From the wood-burning oven, a “Surf & Turf” includes New Smyrna, Fla., clams, saffron-infused fennel, chorizo butter and bone marrow. Baked local prawns are served with charred lemon, arugula, and tomato and cippolini onion relish.

Popular sushi expands with a 12-course omakase (chef’s choice tasting menu) that includes a tasting of the restaurant’s freshest ingredients (not just fish and seafood). Omakase means “to entrust,” and there’s no menu. “You just let the chef prepare fresh sushi dishes for you, perfect for sushi fans who want to try new tastes,” says Piasecki. The menu might include ama ebi (sweet shrimp) tempura, lobster sashimi, crunchy Japanese bone marrow with sesame beef tartare and red onion marmalade, and spicy-crusted oysters.

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Chef de Cuisine Brian Piasecki

Pastry Chef Jeff Barnes has a whole new menu of sweet endings, such as a light, refreshing Meyer Lemon cheesecake, chocolate pudding cake with banana fritters, and his favorite, the Sundae Sampler, a trio with a Coke float, strawberry sundae and caramel popcorn sundae.

The lacquered pork belly is my favorite item that I tried on a recent visit for a media night at California Grill, cooked 4 times to perfection – house cured, braised, smoked, and grilled in a sweet and salty sauce, crunchy yet tender at the same time.

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House smoked Duck, duck pate platter

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Spicy Kazan Roll . . . Crab, Shrimp, Scallops, Tuna, Fireball Sauce

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Dragon Roll . . . Spicy and Tataki Tuna, Shrimp Tempura, Bell Pepper, Avocado, Chili-Soy Glaze

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Pork Belly Nigiri . . . House-cured Pork, Bacon and Yuzu Rice, Spicy Teriyaki

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Pork Two Ways . . . Grilled Tenderloin, Goat Cheese Polenta, Mushrooms, Lacquered Belly, Applesauce

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24 hour Short Rib “Filet” . . . Caramelized Root Vegetables, Olive-Oil Potato Puree, Red Wine Butter

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Heirloom Squash Ravioli . . . Root Spinach, Salsify, Petite Herb Salad, Sage Brown Butter, 15 year Balsamic

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Pacific Halibut . . . Parsnip Silk, Roasted Heirloom Beets, Arugula, Macadamia Vinaigrette, Beet Syrup

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California Grill on Urbanspoon

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Disney Boardwalk’s Flying Fish Cafe is a “Coney Island” styled restaurant specializing in seafood and steaks – and locally sourced ingredients – and may be one of Central Florida’s best kept secrets.

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Flying Fish Cafe Chef de Cuisine Tim Keating is a 4-time consecutive James Beard Foundation finalist (Best Chef – Southwest 2001-2004) and a big proponent of locally sourced Florida ingredients.

The menu here changes frequently to showcase the seasonality of these ingredients but some dishes, like the Idaho Potato-wrapped Red Snapper over a Leek Fondue and the Angus steak, are mainstays.

From Sunday-Thursday, the Chef’s Tasting Wine Dinner, hosted at the Chef’s counter directly in front of the kitchen at Flying Fish Cafe, features a savory 5 course prix fixe menu paired with expertly chosen wines. The Chef’s Tasting Menu changes daily featuring dishes such as miso-cured yellowfin tuna with shirred quail egg or ginger-laced Maine lobster ravioli. Reservations must be made at least one day in advance – 407-939-2398.

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Chef Keating explains that his kitchen philosophy is “close to the product – Farmers, Ranchers, Fish Mongers, Wine makers, Cheese makers . . . seasonality is a huge part of my world of capturing products at their utmost perfection of freshness & ripeness.”

On Friday, May 31st, 2013, I was honored to be invited to attend an evening of The Flying Fish Café’s ever-changing Winery Series Events featuring Copain Wines from Healdsburg, California with Mr. Tony McClung, General Manager. Copain Wines is best known for its cool-climate Pinot Noir and Syrah.

This dinner was truly one of the most memorable, most delicious dinners I have had in my life – in my life – and I’ve experienced quite a few “great” dinners.

From start to finish, the great service, the warmth of the chef and team, the wonderful dishes and paired wines…truly all a culinary masterpiece.

The meal began with a plate of amuse bouches – salume, prosciutto, Marcona almonds, and crispy rillette-stuffed olives – each item a wonderful, savory salty delight. The 1st Course was a smooth, creamy Roasted Triple Sweet Zellwood Corn Bisque served with little chunks of corn and bacon beignets, Florida rock shrimp, and a nice piece of Serrano ham cracklin. Fennel Pollen and Herb-roasted Maine Lobster with a Saffron Arancini Torta, “Teriyaki” Yellowfin Tuna with Confit Moulard Duck Legs, Asian Mushrooms and Golden Beets, Super Slow-Cooked Kurobuta Pork Belly & Sliced Tenderloin with Berkshire Bolognese-laced Gnoccchi – all just so divine.

The most sincerest compliments to Chef Tim Keating and the team at Flying Fish Cafe for producing such wonderful, delicious food.

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Mr. McClung with Chef Tim Keating of Flying Fish Cafe at Disney’s Boardwalk.

Degustation Menu

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Amuse Bouches:

Tastino of Artisan Salume, Prosciutto,Marcona Almonds & Crispy Rillette-stuffed Olives

Tous Ensemble Rosé 2011
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1st Course: Roasted Triple Sweet Zellwood Corn Bisque

Corn and Bacon Beignets, Florida Rock Shrimp & Serrano Ham Cracklins

Tous Ensemble Chardonnay 2011
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Second Course: Fennel Pollen and Herb-roasted Maine Lobster

Saffron Arancini Torta, Spiced Nebrodini Bianco and Fennel

Brousseau Chardonnay 2010
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First Entrée: “Teriyaki” Yellowfin Tuna

Confit Moulard Duck Legs, Asian Mushrooms and Golden Beets

Monument Tree Pinot Noir 2010
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Second Entrée: Super Slow-Cooked Kurobuta Pork Belly & Sliced Tenderloin

Berkshire Bolognese-laced Gnocchi, Pecorino Toscano Stagionato

Halcon Syrah 2009 along with Special Surprise Selection from the Winery

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“Cheese as Dessert”: Poached Pear, Fresh Chèvre & Kiln-dried Fig Creation

Aged Chèvre Frico, Truffled Balsamico and Honey

Arrowhead Mountain Library Selection Zinfandel en Magnum 2000

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Chef Emeril Lagasse initially gained fame in the culinary world as executive chef of New Orlean’s Commander’s Palace in the 1980s and later opened his first restaurant, Emeril’s, in 1990, which went on to winning “Restaurant of the Year” in Esquire magazine that very year.

Chef Emeril Lagasse today is probably most known for his TV shows Essence of Emeril and Emeril Live! on the Food Network where his colorful personality and catch phrases “Kick it up a notch!” and “Bam!” could be heard throughout TV land, bringing the term “celebrity chef” a whole new meaning.

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In 1999, he opened Emeril’s Orlando at Universal Studios’ CityWalk and later Emeril’s Tchoup Tchoup at Loew’s Royal Pacific Hotel.

Most recently, he launched Emeril’s Florida, which airs on the Cooking Channel, and this year, the Emeril Lagasse Foundation won the James Beard Award for Humanitarian of the Year 2013, supporting non-profit organizations that provide educational programs, life skills development, culinary training and cultural enrichment, creating opportunities in the communities where Emeril’s restaurants operate, including locally here in Orlando.

Emeril has received two previous awards from the James Beard Foundation: He was inducted into the Who’s Who in 1989 and won the Best Chef: Southeast award in 1991.

I’d never been to Emeril’s Orlando before and was recently invited to check out a new promotion going on this June: 3 courses for $30 June Menu featuring recipes adapted From Emeril’s Kitchens: Favorite Recipes from Emeril’s Restaurants and found myself wishing I had visited sooner!

from_emerils_kitchen

Emeril’s Orlando is located on Universal’s CityWalk at 6000 Universal Blvd, with free self-parking for Florida residents at Universal Studios garage after 6 p.m.

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The building is a beautiful, modern building with large windows giving the restaurant a lot of natural sunlight as well as an airy open feeling. White linen tablecloths adorn the dining room tables and waiters and waitresses hurray about the rooms with orders and freshly prepared dishes. To one side, a bar area overlooks the kitchen giving an almost chef’s table feeling to diners.

We start off with a sample tasting of Emeril’s New Orleans barbecue shrimp made with Florida white shrimp in a tangy, Creole brown sauce served with petite rosemary biscuit.

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Our appetizer is  a dish of plump, juicy poached oysters in a green, creamy anise-flavored herbsaint cream and spinach sauce with a dollop of black pepper crème fraîche and a little sprinkling of flash fried spinach. The textures of wet oysters with cream and crunchy spinach pieces went well together and the flavor was very nice as well – I think it was one of my favorite dishes from the whole set, so don’t be afraid of eating the oysters even though it’s not a month ending in “-er”.

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Poached Oysters in Herbsaint Cream, Black Pepper Crème Fraîche, Flash Fried Spinach

For my entree, I ordered the poached salmon topped with smashed avocado and a side of mango salsa, coconut rice pilaf and black bean sauce, with a little bit of tortilla chips on top. The salmon, avocado, and mango salsa went together beautifully and the coconut rice and black bean sauce altogether reminded me of a dish I might find in the islands of the Caribbean…very fresh and tropical tasting, and yet not too heavy. The salmon, I found, could have used some salt or seasoning, though the mango salsa did hel photo DSC00889_zpsf99271d5.jpg

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My dining partner ordered the Braised Beef Short Ribs on top of Cheddar Polenta with Cole Slaw.

For dessert, we had a very nice White Chocolate-Buttermilk Cake in a Strawberry Sauce, sprinkled with powdered sugar. The cake was absolutely delicious and tasted so very fresh and home made…it was hard to stop ourselves from ordering another to go!

Despite being in the middle of a tourist mecca, I am glad Chef Emeril and Culinary Director Bernard Carmouche continues to provide a strong reason for Emeril’s Orlando to be such a bright spot in the central Florida culinary landscape.

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Dessert – White Chocolate-Buttermilk Cake, Strawberry Sauce

3 for $30 June Menu

Featuring recipes adapted From Emeril’s Kitchens: Favorite Recipes from Emeril’s Restaurants.

Appetizer – Poached Oysters in Herbsaint Cream, Black Pepper Crème Fraîche, Flash Fried Spinach

Entrees – Choice of One – Poached Salmon, Mango Salsa, Smashed Avocado, Coconut Rice Pilaf, Black Bean Sauce, Tortilla Chips or Braised Beef Short Ribs, Cheddar Polenta, Cole Slaw

Dessert – White Chocolate-Buttermilk Cake, Strawberry Sauce

3 for $30 July Menu

Featuring recipes adapted from Emeril at the Grill.

Appetizer – Watercress, Avocado, Mango Salad

Entrees – Salmon, Peach-Tamarind Barbecue Sauce  or Chicken Paillards, Arugula, Roasted Peppers, Parmesan Cheese, Lemon

Dessert – Grilled Peaches, Mascarpone, Local Honey

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Emeril's Orlando on Urbanspoon

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The Avenue Gastrobar is a new restaurant opened by The Bento Group in downtown Orlando at 13 South Orange Avenue. The menu is very reasonably priced, especially for the downtown locale, with most items under $10, and the most expensive dishes at $12 for the steak frites and the shrimp and grits. The space is open and airy with lots of dark woods and modern yet rustic lighting and a huge bar flanking the left side. The restaurant is having their grand opening this Friday May 24, 2013 downtown.

Below are a few sneak peek photos from a recent visit:

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Deviled eggs with bacon bits

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Crispy Pork Belly BLT on sourdough bread – a bit too dry for me

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Panko fried chicken and pumpkin waffles

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 Mac and cheese topped with bacon bits – A crowd favorite

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Marlow’s Tavern is a modern American style tavern restaurant in Pointe Orlando that opened in 2012.

After retiring from Darden Restaurants as executive VP of operations in the Specialty Restaurant Group, Alan Palmieri decided to bring the Marlow’s Tavern brand from Atlanta to Orlando.

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“The decision to partner with the Marlow’s Tavern team was an easy one,” says Palmieri. “After working in this industry for my entire career, I have not seen a concept with this much passion around its quality food, creative beverages and attention to developing relationships with the staff, guests and neighborhoods. It is a concept that will give those discerning guests the exceptional hospitality that they deserve and expect daily,” adds Palmieri.

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Marlow’s Tavern opens its second location in Central Florida this June in Winter Parkat 1008 S. Orlando Avenue, just north of the intersection of S. Orlando Avenue (17-92) and N. Orange Avenue in the heart of Winter Park and just a stone’s throw from The Ravenous Pig and Winter Park Fish Company.

Recently, I was invited to a media dinner to try some of their items and came away thoroughly impressed with their quality of food, especially given the fact that all the menu items are under $20.

marlows tavern pointe orlando photo DSC09543_zpsd52aec6a.jpg Ahi Tuna Poke – Ahi Tuna, Hawaiian Style Sauce, Avocado, Teriyaki Sauce, Scallion and Crispy Wonton

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Infamous Fish Tacos – Blackened Tilapia, Shredded Romaine, Black Bean Corn Salsa, Smoked Chili Cream, Warm Tortillas

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Shrimp and Crab Nachos – Rock Shrimp, Crab, Pepper Jack Cheese, and Fresh Jalapeño

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Alan Palmieri, Partner

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Tony Eachus, Beverage and Hospitality Manager
Blake Upchurch, General Manager
Matthew Tolson, Chef de Cuisine

The restaurant will serve lunch, happy hour, and dinner daily Sunday through Thursday 11:30 a.m. to 11 p.m. and Friday and Saturday 11:30 a.m. to midnight.

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The Crimson Tavern – a new contemporary American restaurant – recently opened inside the Orlando Airport Marriott off of Semoran Blvd with a focus on sourcing local ingredients. This is a worldwide theme among the Marriott hotel restaurants, as those who are familiar with Siro: Urban Italian Kitchen at the World Center Marriott and Primo at the JW Marriott Grande Lakes know, there has really been a big push in the past few years to source higher quality, local ingredients. Primo is one of the first to lead the way here in Central Florida in that philosophy.

They take the locally sourced concept up a notch here at Crimson Tavern, under the helm of Executive Chef Tony Hull, with a 5000 square foot chef’s garden at the back of the hotel near the pond.

Where there used to be a mostly unused volleyball court, now sits a space that could be used for events as well as rows of chard, peppers, herbs, mango and other delightful and surprising vegetables and fruits. These greens are then picked to be used as ingredients for the night’s specials or other dishes, whatever mother nature allows.

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Chef Tony Hull inspects some of the greens in the garden at the Orlando Airport Marriott

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Peppers growing in the chef’s garden

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Squash blossoms in bloom

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 Chards and greens

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For those ingredients not found in their garden, they source heavily from a list of local farms and companies such as:

Winter Park Honey
Satur Farm
Long & Scott Farm
Lake Meadows Naturals
Palmetto Creek
Creekstone Natural Angus
Tanglewood Farms Poultry
MyYard Farm
Loch Duarte Salmon
Uncle Matts Citrus
Muse Gelato
Orlando Brewing Company

As a part of a recent media dinner at The Crimson Tavern, I was able to experience some of the offerings found here at the new restaurant. Inside the hotel, the restaurant takes over the space previously occupied by the Porterhouse steakhouse and is now refurbished with dark reds and grays, giving it an almost American colonial feel.

The dinner menu is comprised mostly of small plates and appetizers conducive as accompaniments to drinking, but there is also a list of heartier entree items like steaks, fish, burger and pork dishes if you so choose.

For a tavern, I would have expected more than 6 of the craft beers listed on their menu, in addition to the usual line up of domestics and imports, but maybe they will be adding more in the future to their drink offerings. There is however a very nice selection of cocktails and wines along with the beers that guests can enjoy.

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Starting off at the top of the menu is their selection of cured meats and cheeses entitled “Room & Board” with plates like salumi, Benton ham, and cheeses.

The salumi plate was a favorite, coming with sopressata molinari, spicy coppa, speck, mortadella, served with bread selection, house pickled trio and mustard.

The Benton ham selection is a colorful board with cured Tennessee country ham with a side of pepper jelly and delicious warm baked biscuits.

Also, the Australian goat feta cheese with olive oil cheese plate selection was savory and decadent – I wanted to finish the whole plate of cheeses. I think I would have been satisfied with just these three dishes for the meal.

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Salumi 16
sopressata molinari, spicy coppa, speck, mortadella, served with bread selection, pickle trio and mustard

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Benton Ham 9
tennessee country ham with a side of pepper jelly, warm biscuits

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Cheese 8
served with specialty bread and cracker selection
creamy goat feta, australia – extra virgin olive oil, pistachio

Other satisfying appetizers and bites from the menu included a fantastic house baked Soft Pretzel, served warm with beer-smoked cheddar dip and Fried Green Tomatoes, with black pepper aioli.

The African and southern influenced Black Eyed Hushpuppies, served with a cilantro chutney, was a delicate, interesting take on the usually boring appetizer.

The House Burger, made with juicy, tender beef and topped with caramelized onion, gruyere cheese, house made bread & butter pickles, on sesame bun was one of my favorite burgers that I have had this year but may be a bit pricy at $16.

The ribeye steak with house mustard greens was also a favorite, very tender and flavorful with a nice sear at the perfect requested medium rare temperature.

There were a few items that I weren’t such a big fan of like the Smoked Trout Rillette, which needed a little more creamy texture and flavor, and the Boudin Noir Sausage with apple slaw and the beef cheek empanadas which both had some flavors that I personally disagreed with.

Make sure to save room for dessert though, as the Crimson Tavern’s specialty “Knickerbocker Glory” is definitely something to try. The Knickerbocker Glory is named for the traditional british ice cream sundae, made with locally crafted milk gelato from Muse Gelato layered extra high with decadent toppings, creams, crumbles and drizzles. The choices come as:

Key Lime, tangy graham cracker crumbs, toasted marshmallow
Warm Butterscotch, salted peanuts, whipped cream, crumbled ginger snaps
Brownie, dark and white chocolate, brownie bits, chocolate cream, piroutte cookie
Classic, mixed berries, raspberry puree, whipped cream, gaufrette wafer, cherry on top

Overall, the Crimson Tavern left me with a very favorable impression, with dishes that aren’t afraid to push the bounds of every day fare found in Orlando, yet also quite tasty and fun to eat. I can imagine myself coming here often after work to share a few drinks with friends and bites, especially as there are so few good options in the Orlando International Airport/Lake Nona area. Hopefully they can continue to improve on their menu and will become a popular spot among not only those flying in and out of the airport, but with local Orlando denizens as well.

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Soft Pretzel, served warm with beer-smoked cheddar dip 8

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Anthony Hull –  Executive Chef

Inspired by both his English born grandmothers, at the age of 13, Anthony began cooking by their side in their kitchens in England. His “hands on” experience baking, pickling, making jams from fruits harvested from the garden created a passion for cooking that is still strong 30 years later.

Turning his passion into a career, Chef Hull studied in London, England before beginning his first culinary position at the Café Royale in London. To gain as much experience as possible Chef Hull then took a position as a pastry cook at the Sheraton Skyline Hotel, London under Executive Chef Uwe Zander

Seeking International experience, Chef Hull accepted a position in the Cayman Islands with the Hyatt Regency Resort and then The Westin Cauarina Beach Resort and Spa overseeing Casa Havana the only four star restaurant located on the island at the time.

A proven accomplished chef, he accepted an opportunity in Tampa, Florida and then in 2002 joined Marriott International.

Trained in classical French cooking. Chef Hull takes these basic fundamentals and techniques and applys them with a modern twist to showcase the ingredient in its purist form embracing the seasons and local artisans.

When he is able to take time away he enjoys spending family time teaching his children to cook or exploring new restaurants and cuisines with his Wife

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Lake Meadows Deviled Egg 8

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Fried Green Tomatoes, black pepper aioli 6

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Black Eyed Hushpuppies, cilantro chutney 6

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manchego, spain – quince paste, fig jam

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Boudin Noir Sausage, apple slaw 11

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Beef cheek empanadas

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Chicken liver mousse

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Ribeye steak with house mustard greens

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House Burger, caramelized onion, gruyere cheese, bread & butter pickles, sesame bun 16

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Warm Butterscotch Knickerbocker Glory

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Luma on Park recently announced that they will now be offering lunch on
Fridays, Saturdays, & Sundays
from 11:30 am-3:00 pm
starting December 8th, 2012

The restaurant, located on Winter Park’s Park Avenue, is bringing back lunch for the first time in over 5 years. There has been a lot of buzz lately about its sister restaurant Prato, located further north on Park Avenue, and I believe it’s definitely time for Luma to get some renewed loving.

Executive Chef, Brandon McGlamery, and the rest of Luma on Park‘s culinary team have created a new menu that focuses on seasonal ingredients, sustainable seafood, and responsibly farmed meats. They will feature some familiar offerings, such as our oven roasted pizzas and housemade pastas, while introducing newer creations including beautiful, local lettuce salads, Carolina Style BBQ Ribs and Grilled Organic Salmon with farmer’s market vegetables.

My friend Mike and I decided to venture out to Winter Park on Friday for lunch and scope out the new menu. The prices ranged from $8 to $21 on the high end.

The visit was pleasant and the lunch menu was found to be delicious. This is not surprising as Luma holds a very high standard in terms of quality ingredients used in their dishes as well as the degree of skill and care that their chefs take in their dinner menus.

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The first dish that we had was the Grilled Pine Island Shrimp, served with a citrus nuoc mam based dipping sauce with a carrot and cilantro salad. The large, head on shrimp was slightly grilled, not burnt, and succulent. It was a refreshing and light course to start, bringing back to me memories of summertime in Vietnam or Key West.

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Grilled Pine Island Shrimp with carrot and cilantro salad

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The acorn squash, herb ricotta, and sage pizza – full of fall flavors. This pizza is a flatbread pizza and was also very enjoyable yet not too heavy.

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The spicy grouper sandwich is grilled and served with lettuce, tomatoes, potato chips and a sesame bun with a garlic remoulade sauce. Always the avid fisherman, you can tell Chef McGlamery takes care in the sourcing of his seafood and the quality of the fish with each bite.

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Spinach and Burratta Mozzarella Ravioli with grilled artichoke and black olives – Handcrafted ravioli with spinach folded into the dough, absolutely transcendent. This gorgeous pasta dish tastes as delicious as it looks, with the flavors of black olives, mozzarella, spinach, ravioli, all coming together as one harmonious dish. One of my favorite dishes in Orlando at this time.

Overall, I think lunch at Luma on Park will be quite a hit. I know I am already looking forward to dinner there the next time I am out.

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The Fifth opened this past May of 2012 – in the heart of Downtown Orlando on Orange Avenue – by the proprietors of The V Group – Vintage Lounge, Vixen Bar and NV Art Bar. “The Fifth” is located at 112 S. Orange Avenue adjacent to Vintage Lounge. I was recently invited to a media preview of their items and have to say I was thoroughly impressed.

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Right when you walk through the door, you could feel practically transported to a city like Miami or downtown Manhattan: sleek, modern designs, glowing dynamic lights, and beautiful white rock encapsulate the restaurant. The setting is upscale yet relaxed. The staff are all unpretentious and warm to guests. At the front is a retail space with liquor and various goodies stocked for customers on the go. The real star of the place, however, is the food.

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Led by Chef Dean Holland from Le Cordon Bleu, The Fifth features a menu of familiar, yet creative favorites from gourmet burgers to mac and cheese and I can see the items being popular for the busy Downtown professional’s lunch hour, dinner date or late-night food craving.

During my lunch visit, I tried some of their V potato chips as well as the signature V Chopped Steak burger. The V potato chips were dusted with white truffle and sea salt, crispy and delightful and altogether prepared very well. I noshed on them all throughout lunch. The V Chopped Steak burger was also expertly prepared with very high quality grade beef, cooked perfectly to my desired medium, and topped with caramelized onions, tomato, arugula, and an alioli sauce. The burger probably ranks up among the best I’ve had in Orlando. The prices are a bit higher here than others, but the ingredients and flavors warrant the premium.

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The V Potato Chips with sea salt

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The V Chopped Steak Burger with caramelized onions, tomato, arugula, ale-oli sauce

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Mini chicken sliders drizzled with a Maple Bacon Aioli

 

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At the front is a retail space with liquor and various goodies stocked for customers on the go.

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The Capital Grille is one of my favorite high-end restaurants in Orlando, it’s a place where I can go where I know the service and the food will all be top notch, a testament to managing partner Randy Cook and executive chef Matthew Price’s dedication to excellence. I’ve never been disappointed there.

The interior is a bit clubby, you could imagine executives or politicians, people with power and money dining here, probably on the corporate account card for their visit to the nearby Orlando Convention center. They are probably most known for their excellent steaks and a wine selection hand picked by Master Sommelier and Orlando local George Miliotes.

Luckily there is a menu during lunch that is pretty affordable for locals.

The Capital Grille recently launched their Spring “Plates” menu, featuring three new selections: Asparagus Soup, Shrimp and Piquillo Peppers with Crisp Bomba Rice and Grilled Spring Vegetables. Guests of The Capital Grille can customize their lunch, choosing from nine “plates” offerings – soup or salad, sandwich and a side – all for $18.

If you visit for lunch, make sure you sit out on the gorgeous patio outside and enjoy the relaxing Florida breeze and sun.

According to Executive Chef Matthew Price, “The new Spring “Plates” lunch menu really highlights some of the crisp, garden-fresh ingredients that are in-season now.”

I recently made a visit to sample the menu. One of the first things I noticed was that the wagyu cheeseburger with egg on top was missing from the winter plates menu last season. I had just loved the way the egg yolk topped off the burger, oozing, yellow, delightful. The lobster roll and the mini tenderloin sandwiches stayed on the menu this time, but I think the lobster roll should have left instead of the burger. We’ll see how next season goes!

For starters, the asparagus soup is chicken broth based, made with fresh shavings of asparagus on top, and was creamy, hearty, yet also flavorful. The soup was fun to eat for me because it was the first time I had asparagus as a soup.

Next, Sous Chef Jason O’ Neill explained the creation of the Shrimp and Piquillo Peppers with Crisp Bomba Rice, “First the rice is prepared, risotto style, with butter heated up in a pan to make the rice crisp and not stick, while the peppers and shrimp are sautéed on the side and topped.”

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The Capital Grille’s wonderful Sous Chef Jason O’ Neill

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Shrimp and Piquillo Peppers with Crisp Bomba Rice

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Asparagus Soup

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Spring Vegetables: Zucchini, Squash, Carrots with herb infused oil

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Truffle Fries

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Crab and Lobster Burger

The Capital Grille on Urbanspoon

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Fin.esse is one of those rare gems in Central Florida’s sometimes barren foodie landscape that you can bring out to your friends in a conversation as an example of what great food can exist Orlando, outside of the chains and fast food joints (Orlando recently earned the dubious distinction of ranking number one for the fast food market in QSR magazine).

Fin.esse, located in Lake Mary off of CR 46A, is owned and operated by a partnership of chef-owners Alex T. Brugger, and Autumn Mccoy. At the helm is Chef Alex and his lovely wife Autumn. Chef Alex is a former Executive chef at the award winning Citrus restaurant in downtown Orlando as well as concept chef for Timpano, Samba Room, and more. He started at 16 as a dishwasher for acclaimed celebrity chef Norman Van Aiken and worked his way up to the top. The inspiration for the food at Fin.esse comes from French, Spanish (many of the dishes are odes to Chef Alex’ grandmother’s home recipes), and American influences.*

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Inside the restaurant, the decor is very modern and clean, similar to a city back drop. Definitions of cassoulets and confits adorn the walls at Fin.esse, a theme that gets carried away all the way down to the list of items on the menu.

For appetizers, the crowd of bloggers and media folk sampled an assortment of offerings from Fin.esse including the Oxtail Marmalade, made with succulent, meaty chunks of simmered oxtail, hints of thyme, port wine, shallots, carrots, topped with a sweet & spicy vinaigrette and served with delicious bread. The pork belly n’ eggs was spiced & slow roasted, made with two farm fresh sunny-side eggs, topped with a marsala demi-glace was excellent: the pork belly was crispy and flavorful and the eggs were delicious alongside the pork belly. A favorite was the Hawaiian poké made with diced pieces of ahi tuna, toasted coconut, avocado créma, soy, sesame, onion, and served with tostones, green plantains. They also whipped out the delicious signature duck confit puffs, a kind of duck pot pie made with maple leaf duck, fork tender 12 hour roast inside a puff pastry.

For entree, I had the paella risotto, a dish inspired by Chef Alex’ Cuban grandmother, made with tiger shrimp, chorizo, lobster, chicken, all in a saffron-shell stock with mussels and arborio rice ($24). The lobster was tender and cooked well on top of the flavorful arborio rice, probably one of the best renditions of paella I have had in Orlando. My partner enjoyed her smoked bacon scallops made with bacon wrapped diver scallops and served with a sweet potato-corn hash and a pom-port glaze ($22).

For dessert, I sampled the fried banana cheesecake, made with a banana cheese cake wrapped in a tortilla, sugar & cinnamon dusted, and fried with a side of caramel ice cream. The dessert was fun to eat, though I had a bit too much of the carbs for me that night, and anyways I wanted to save room for the lovely dessert that was said to have been what made Chef Autumn fall in love and eventually marry Chef Alex (ask about its nickname): the chocolate oranje molten cake  a decadent and delightful molten cake made with ghirardelli chocolate, a ganache center, and served table side with  the pour of the peanut butter anglaise. Magnificent.

The dictionary definition of Finesse is “refinement or delicacy of workmanship, structure, or texture.” Fin.esse in Lake Mary tries and succeeds at this refinement in its delightful culinary creations, truly something not to be missed and definitely a place to try again and again with friends. At Fin.esse, where they recently won “Best New Restaurant 2011” by Seminole Magazine, you can tell the owners have a passion for food and it shows.

Fin.esse also hosts their famous Chef’s Table 12 (call for reservations) and also serve artisan “craft” beers, independent and interesting wines and hosts a full bar.

Website: http://finesse-therestaurant.com/

Address: 7025 County Road-46A (also known as H.E. Thomas Parkway) in Lake Mary, located in the Park Place Plaza at International Parkway, near the Marriott Hotel.

Hours: Lunch 11 a.m.-3 p.m. Tuesday-Friday, dinner 5-10 p.m. Tuesday-Sunday, brunch 10:30 a.m.-3 p.m. Sunday

Photos:

 

 

 

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Grouper cheeks, tender, flaky, perfect with the aioli sauce

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Hawaiian poké made with diced pieces of ahi tuna, toasted coconut, avocado créma, soy, sesame, onion, and served with tostones, green plantains

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Oxtail Marmalade, made with succulent, meaty chunks of simmered oxtail, hints of thyme, port wine, shallots, carrots, topped with a sweet & spicy vinaigrette and served with delicious bread

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Paella risotto, a dish inspired by Chef Alex’ Cuban grandmother, made with tiger shrimp, chorizo, lobster, chicken, all in a saffron-shell stock with mussels and arborio rice

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Smoked bacon scallops made with bacon wrapped diver scallops and served with a sweet potato-corn hash and a pom-port glaze

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Sweet flan, a family recipe?

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Fried banana cheesecake, made with a banana cheese cake wrapped in a tortilla, sugar & cinnamon dusted, and fried with a side of caramel ice cream

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Chocolate oranje molten cake  a decadent and delightful molten cake made with ghirardelli chocolate, a ganache center, and served table side with  the pour of the peanut butter anglaise. Magnificent.

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Hillstone’s in Winter Park recently released a few new menu items and the pr folks at Wellons Communications invited us to showcase it here on TastyChomps. It was my first time to the restaurant, originally called Houston’s until they changed their name to Hillstone’s in 2010. Hillstone’s name derives from the hillside vineyard in the Napa Valley which produces Cabernet Sauvignon grapes.  Executive General Manager Todd Martin opened the Winter Park branch of the national high-end chain in 1996 and continues to oversees operations here at Hillstone’s today.

The restaurant is most known for its beautiful view on Lake Killarney, with tall windows facing the lake and a nice sized outdoor dining area, the view is rather stunning, especially on those cool central Florida afternoons. They have a strict no cell phone policy in the dining room in order to sustain a focus on the dining experience, but I wonder how long that will last as our society becomes more and more digital oriented, for better or for worse, with all the tweeting, facebooking, foodspotting, e-mailing, texting, etc. that goes on with our smart phones as the world becomes more and more interconnected. We’ll have to see, but until then I think the no cell phone policy is a brief, maybe soon to be antiquated, but welcome respite from that brave new world.

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The dining menu recently came out with their new deviled eggs, made from a classic Texas family recipe served with Crystal’s hot sauce and topped with cracked pepper and parsley.

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They also released their new banana cream pie, made with a vanilla custard filling base, and includes a walnut and graham cracker crust. This treat is topped with fresh bananas, homemade whipped cream, caramel sauce and chocolate dust.

The prices are a bit high here but the food was decent and it’s worth it if you have the discretionary income needed to eat out often or for that special night out .

Photos from the event:

 

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The new Deviled Eggs at Hillstone’s

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The new Banana Cream Pie at Hillstone’s

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Stone Crab

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Brussel Sprouts

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Hawaiian Rib Eye, reminiscent of the Korean kalbi barbecue short ribs, this steak is marinated for 48 hours in pineapple juice, soy sauce and is hardwood grilled, served with a baked potato.

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Their infamous wood grilled artichokes (don’t eat the whole artichoke, just bite and pull the flesh off)

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Famous French Dip Au Jus
Roasted prime rib thinly sliced and piled high on a toasted house-made French roll

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The spinach and chicken Waldorf salad
with Julienne apples, bacon, cashews and chopped egg

 

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Hand filleted salmon, wood grilled and served with seasonal vegetables (grilled asparagus)

Hillstone is located at 215 South Orlando Avenue in Winter Park  and is open Sundays through Thursday from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m., and Fridays and Saturdays from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m.

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I was invited to attend a dinner recently at The Table, the newly-opened creation of husband and wife team Chefs Tyler Brassil and Loren Falsone. Located on the far west side of the Dellagio plaza on Sand Lake Road, near the Regions Bank, it is a bit easy to miss. Beneath the large “Taste & See Catering” sign,you might be able to make out the words “The Table” printed ever so lightly on the door.

You may have heard about it through the grape vine: The Table is unique in Orlando as it is a restaurant that solely features 22 seats together around one beautiful, magnificent table for Friday and Saturday nights only. The menu is prix fixe at $100 per person, tax and gratuity included, consisting of hors d’oeuvre and five courses with wine pairings.

There is a certain feeling when you enter The Table, like you just walked into someone’s living room for a secret foodie dinner party. The dining room, designed by Chef Tyler Brassil himself, resembles much like a modern home decked out with a large painting of a foggy bridge passage hanging on one wall, a large mirror and candles on another, and a beautiful hanging chandelier in the center over the large, black dining Table. On one corner of the room is the bar area where mixologist and partner Dominick Tardugno tended to the wine and champagne for the evening.

The crowd on this night is diverse, ranging from young professionals to families going out for a birthday, an elderly couple celebrating an anniversary. You are seated next to strangers who grow to become good company throughout the evening. It’s interesting to see people of different backgrounds come together in a common bond, for the shared love of food, as a community around The Table.

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Chef Loren Falsone, explaining the freshness of ingredients, like this lobster, at The Table

The menu here is local, sustainable, and seasonal New American cuisine. Chef Loren Falsone, featured as one of the Top Ten New Chefs in 2000 by Food and Wine Magazine and also a former executive chef at Seasons 52, explained that the ingredients all come fresh from local farms and local fishermen who bring whatever they caught that day and the kitchen then uses these items to makes their dishes for the meal. As of January 2012, there have yet to be one meal served twice the same way yet at The Table.

Each course is presented by Chef Tyler Brassil, a winner of the Top 10 Bertolli Sous Chef Awards, or by his wife Chef Loren Falsone and the drinks are explained by Mr. Tardugno. Service, just like the food here, is exemplary.

The Table after all was conceived after Tyler and Loren, who still teach classes at Le Cordon Bleu culinary school here in Orlando, began an experiment in inviting friends over to their home for dinner. The dinners grew and grew, eventually overfilling their home and selling out. That’s when they decided to get a bigger place, and hence the Table was born.

You can really feel their passion for food flowing into The Table. It calls to you, to sit, to relax, and to enjoy the epicurean journey with them.

The experience begins at 7:00 pm with the bites at the bar and end around 11:00pm. Reservations are a must. The Table is also available for private parties or corporate events on other evenings.

The Table
8060 Via Dellagio Way, Suite 106 (across from Regions Bank)
Orlando, FL 32819
407-900-Dine
http://thetableorlando.com/
Reservations are required

 

Photos of the Table Orlando


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 Russian caviar , smoked salmon, creme cheese

 

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Hummus octopus amuse bouche served in Asian soup spoons

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Fois gras with kumquat and relish

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Local Three Boy Farm Greens and Three Baby Salads
made with black beans, pickled red cabbage, purple Peruvian potato, and herbaceous shallot vinaigrette with a Domaine Gullarman 2009 Colombard Ugni-Blanc

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Lobster and local head on shrimp with chanterelle, royal trumpet, yellowfoot mushrooms, calamarata, fava beans paired with a glass of The Scholium Project 2008.

 

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Aged Local Wagu Beef with Three Boys first red peppers algro dolce, and mashed celeriac
with Domaine Du Grapillon D’or 2009 Gigondas

 

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The Table’s Cheese Course with Asiago, Truffle Tremor, Aged Gouda, Bellavitano, Empire apple butter, paired with Capital de Roari 2008 Amerone from Italy

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Freshly squeezed Blood orange curd merengue tarts with chocolate ganache with Rudera 2008 Noble Late Harvest from South Africa

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