American

Recognized as the region’s premier food and wine pairing event, the 26th Heart of Florida United Way Chef’s Gala at Walt Disney World Resort featured unlimited sampling of signature dishes prepared by 23 of Central Florida’s top chefs, along with thoughtfully paired fine wines.  The evening also included a sparking wine reception, live music and a silent auction filled with unique items and trips. 

This year they served over 460,000 individuals and raised a record-breaking $300,000+ towards the fight for the health, education and financial stability of every person in Central Florida.  95 cents of every dollar raised is invested back into the community to fund critical programs.

Chef’s Gala – what a tasteful way to make a difference in the world!

All beverages were generously donated.

All silent auction items were generously donated.

Live performance by an amazing band

Flying Fish – Disney’s BoardWalk: Chef LT Majoras
Cool Water Lobster and Slow Poached Shrimp, Spring Melon, Hearts of Palm, Shaved Serrano and Cava Vinaigrette

SLATE: Chef Jacob Woolf
Smoked Brisket, Jalapeño Creamed Corn, Charred Scallion Vinaigrette and Annatto Oil

Artist Point – Disney’s Wilderness Lodge: Chef Michael Gonsalves
Sweet Maiz Soup – Dungeness Crab, Avocado, Spring Radish, Ramp Mole, Greens

Urban Tide – Hyatt Regency Orlando: Chef Chef Jared Gross
Plantain-Crusted Atlantic Cod, Roasted Red Beet and Crème Fraiche Mash, Kumquat Mostarda

Todd English’s bluezoo – Walt Disney World Swan & Dolphin Resort: Chef Jason Wiggin
Crispy Puffed Rice Shrimp, Wasabi Pommes Puree, Sweet Thai Chili

Shutters – Disney’s Caribbean Beach Resort: Chef Mark Donovan
Caribbean Goat Curry with Fragrant Island Rice and Cilantro-Lime Crema

Hemisphere – Hyatt Regency Orlando: Chef Jeffrey Powell
Chilled California-Style White Fish Ceviche with House Fried Corn Chips

Ale & Compass Restaurant – Disney’s  Beach Club Resort: Chef David Hutnick
Slow Smoked Pork Tenderloin, Bacon Jam, Vermont Cheddar Grits, Barbecue Gastrique and Herb Salad

The Turf Club Bar and Grill – Disney’s Saratoga Springs Resort & Spa: Chef Dan Marozzi
Pan Seared Salmon Slider – Seared Ora King Salmon, Horseradish Pickled Cucumber Slaw, on a Dill Gougère

blu on the avenue: Chef Tony Krueger
Hot Smoked Scottish Salmon, Dukkah Drop Biscuit, Bacon, Pickled Serrano, Aged Maple Syrup, Flowers

Morimoto Asia – Disney Springs: Chef Yuhi Fujinaga
Foie “PHO”, Kona Kanpachi, Shiso

Latitude and Longitude – Orlando World Center Marriott: Chef Kyle Anderson
Low-Country Perloo Carolina Gold Rice, Chicken Thighs, Andouille Sausage, Florida Rock Shrimp

The Hollywood Brown Derby – Disney’s Hollywood Studios: Chef Craig Schleider
Spicy Togarashi – Crusted Ahi Tuna, House-Made Kimchi, Bamboo Rice and Ginger-Soy Glaze

STK Orlando – Disney Springs: Chef Aaron Taylor
Goat’s Milk Ricotta with Crushed Peas, Mint and Charred Spring Onion

Jiko – The Cooking Place – Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge: Chef Eddie Mendoza
Mandazi

Jiko – The Cooking Place – Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge: Chef Eddie Mendoza
Isitambu – Zulu-Style Samp, Beans with Oxtail and Quail Egg

Tiffins – Disney’s Animal Kingdom® Theme Park: Chef Robby Sayles
Blanquette de Veau, Crispy Sweetbreads, Forest Mushroom Ragout and Charred Pearl Onion

 

Le Cellier Steakhouse – Epcot®: Chef Kevin Downing
Lamb Loin, Confit Marble Potatoes, Spring Vegetable Vinaigrette and Pinot Noir Syrup

Primo by Melissa Kelly – J.W. Marriott Orlando, Grande Lakes: Chef Eric Santiago
House-Made Casarecche Pasta, Lake Meadows Duck Confit, Local Mushrooms, Ramp Pesto and Shaved Pecorino

Bull & Bear – Waldorf Astoria Orlando: Chef Richard Brown
Seared Shrimp Scampi with Pinot Grigio Butter, Black Venus Rice Risotto and Parmesan Cheese

Cinderella’s Royal Table – MAGIC KINGDOM Park: Chef Axel Martinez
Blood Orange Braised Beef Short Rib, Melted Leek and Kohlrabi Puree and Sweetie Drop Peppers

Joffrey’s Coffee & Tea Company: Roast Master Chris DeMezzo
Made-to-Order Specialty Coffees

Amorette’s Patisserie – Disney Springs: Pastry Chef Yoly Lazo Colon
Amorette’s Petite Signature Cake – Chocolate Chiffon, Raspberry Pate Fruit, Red Velvet Cake, Chocolate Biscuit, Dark Chocolate and Cherry Mousse

Gideon’s Bakehouse: Owner Steve Lewis and Chef Nicole Beebe
Classic Chocolate Chip Cookie and Pistachio Toffee Chocolate Chip Cookie

Epcot® Bakery Team: Pastry Chef Noah French
Meyer Lemon Tart with Mandarin Orange Jam

Beautiful and breathtaking fireworks are the perfect way to end an amazing night.  Be sure to check out this amazing event next year!

(Source credit: Chef’s Gala)

Chef’s Gala – Epcot Showplace
200 Epcot Center Dr, Orlando, FL 32821
(407) 939-5277
ChefsGala.org

Kevin Pabis, son of local food bloggers Richard and Irina Pabis (@celebritychef4u).

We were invited to Main Event Entertainment to eat, bowl, and play!  The food offerings were all delicious!  You have to try their Skillet Mac & Cheese which consists of cavatappi pasta, grilled chicken, applewood smoked bacon, creamy blend of melted cheeses, green onions topped with CHEEZ-IT crumbs.  CHEEZ-IT are one of my life-long favorite snacks.  Throw some of its crumbs on top of a loaded-baked chicken/bacon mac & cheese and you’re golden.

Tomato Caprese Skewers – served with balsamic drizzle (these were super popular at our table, a blogger’s son said that it was his favorite dish!)

Calamari – zesty marinara sauce and fresh shaved parmesan cheese

Chicken Quesadilla – grilled chicken, jack & cheddar cheese, chipotle mayo &fresh made pico de Gallo (this was my mom’s favorite dish!)

Roast Beef Dippers– shaved roast beef, horseradish mayo, lettuce, tomato, red onion served on buttery garlic knot bun

Italian Pesto Pizza – fresh basil, roasted potatoes, caramelized onions, creamy basil pesto,feta, mozzarella & provolone cheese

Assorted Dessert Bars – lemon, raspberry rhapsody, pecan chocolate chip, & caramel, oatmeal

Cinnamon Sugar Donuts – with salted caramel and raspberry sauce

A variety of gelato.

Billards.

VIP bowling lanes.

Bar area with alcoholic beverage options.

Bowling alley.

A variety of arcade games.  Everyday deal:  1/2 price games 10pm to close.

Local food bloggers Ashelyn Vazquez (@orlandomag) with her guest, and Sean (@orlandofoodguys).

Samantha (@samantheah) & Mattia Joyce Castellano (@mattia_joyce) racing on the motorcycles

Carolina Grabova (@carolinagrabova) plays a racing game for her instagram story.

My favorite game at the arcade was their zombie-killing game in the first ever roam-free virtual reality room.  I don’t have a photo of it but I do have a video clip of it on my instagram (@bytiffanynguyen). Imagine a game that doesn’t feel like a game.  Where your body is the controller and your mind believes it’s real.  It was so realistic that other attendees were seriously spooked after they finished playing!  I enjoyed playing it though and I am looking forward to coming back and playing it again.  Be sure to check out Main Event Entertainment next time you are in the I-Drive area to experience the zombie-killing game for yourself!

(Source credit: Main Event Entertainment)

Main Event Entertainment – Pointe Orlando
9101 International Dr Suite 1032, Orlando, FL 32819
(407) 352-3300
mainevent.com

At Duffy’s Sports Grill, Chef Eric Parker allowed us to have a sneak peak of his new healthy spring menu insert at Duffy’s Sports Grill and I am more than happy to share it with you all. The new menu will launch in April and it includes Orange Ginger Mahi, Tuna Poke Stack, Burrata Salad, and Tequila Lime Shrimp Tacos.

Burrata Salad – Burrata cheese served with local vine-ripe tomatoes and power greens, finished with balsamic and fig dressing. The greens and tomatoes are very fresh while the balsamic and fig dressing adds a sweet note to the dish. The Burrata cheese is a nice creamy touch and ties all of the flavors together.

Tuna Poke Stack – Ahi Tuna tossed with Duffy’s signature poke sauce stacked with freshly made pineapple salsa and mashed avocados, dusted with nori and tossed sesame seeds, Sriracha smear. Although Duffy’s is known as a sports grill, they do not hide from adding new and unique dishes, such as this. I thoroughly enjoyed this fresh dish and would come back for more!

Tequila Lime Shrimp Tacos – 3 mini flour tortillas loaded with marinated grilled shrimp, shredded cabbage, homemade pico de gallo and guacamole. Make sure you ask for lime as it adds a nice citrus touch to the dish and we all know I love lime.

Also, you can’t have your Tequila Lime Shrimp Tacos without some tequila!

It was great having a sit down with Chef Eric Parker and a shot of tequila.

Orange Ginger Mahi – is a sweet and lean Mahi Mahi with an orange ginger glaze over stir fried Soba noodles with broccoli, red bell peppers and onion, finished with pineapple salsa. I am not too fond of the Soba noodle flavors, but the Mahi Mahi was pretty great.

Key Lime Pie – cool and creamy key lime filling in a rich graham cracker crust. Duffy’s mentioned how it is an oversized piece of tropical bliss and they were not wrong.

Red Velvet Mini Donuts – red velvet mini donuts spun in sugar and served warm with cream cheese icing for dipping.

The donuts are very fluffy and moist.

As you can tell, this dish is one of my favorite items on the menu.

Duffy’s wouldn’t be Duffy’s with some delicious drinks. They are adding Effen Cucumber Martini and St-Germaine Cooler to their drink menu. Pictured is the Effen Cucumber Martini, which is a refreshing take on a classic cocktail, Effen Cucumber Vodka, agave syrup, mint, and a splash of lime.

Visit a nearby Duffy’s Sports Grill this month to experience the new healthy dishes yourself.

Second Course: Black sesame and vanilla cake with amaretto infused ganache (moist & delicious, my favorite!)

Have you heard of the new vegan bakery CayCakes Bakery?  They’ve only been open for half a year and are quickly becoming one of Orlando’s popular vegan bakeries.  Superstar soccer player Alex Morgan recently tweeted that CayCakes Bakery is one of her favorite spots in Orlando for vegan food.

We were invited to their inaugural “Last Course Dinner” this past weekend and we really impressed with their vegan desserts and their venue at Lake Eola Heights was perfection.

The First Course:  Crème Pâtissière with sou vide pineapple infused with vanilla and star anise

Third Course:  Activated charcoal chocolate cake topped with powdered matcha and lavender


Last Course: Grilled oats with macadamia nuts and agave topped with a grilled peach drizzled with olive oil and star anise, vanilla and cinnamon infused oatmilk ice cream

Co-owner of CayCakes Bakery, Cayden Fielder

Be sure to follow them on IG at @LastCourseOrlando for more information and tickets to their upcoming dessert dinners!

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We were invited to experience the Arnold Palmer Invitational on St. Patrick’s Day and we were treated to a BBQ lunch at their main hospitality during Saturday’s event. The “Birdies & BBQ” luncheon was located at the scenic 9th hole and featured a variety of food from nationally-recognized 4 Rivers Smokehouse from 12-3pm.

Beer from Anheuser-Busch
Whole Pig Pickin’
Carved Beef Brisket
Smoked wings with celery & BBQ beans
Mini cupcakes
Tiger Woods
Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill Club and Lodge
9000 Bay Hill Blvd, Orlando
http://arnoldpalmerinvitational.com/special_events/birdies_and_bbq

Peanut Pad Thai With Seasoned Grilled Shrimp
Do you love delicious food, crafty cocktails, and fun games?  If your answer is yes, than KINGS Orlando is the perfect place to be any day of the week!

We were invited to check out KINGS Orlando, an upscale dining and entertainment venue.  During our visit we got to try a few items from their Asian-inspired menu (pictured below) and we also got to bowl.  We had so much fun cannot wait to go back! Our server Kimberly was super friendly, engaging, and down-to-earth.  Her communication skills were on point so we always knew what was going on at all times.  Kimberly was the best server that I’ve ever had and I know she is going to go far in the KINGS company one day SOON!

Free game on Sunday with lunch reservation
Fried Bang Bang Calamari
Buffalo Chicken Wontons
Peanut Pad Thai With Seasoned Grilled Shrimp (my favorite!)
Baja Street Tacos With Seasoned Grilled Shrimp
Private room
Be sure to check out KINGS Orlando soon for food, fun, and more!
Kings Dining & Entertainment
8255 International Dr, Orlando, FL 32819
(407) 363-0200
kings-de.com/orlandokings-de.com/orlando

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1st : Smores/Boardwalk/Key Lime with Coconut
2nd: Glaze with Spring Sprinkle/Vanilla with Spring Sprinkle/Strawberry with Spring Sprinkle
3rd: Lemon with Coconut/Blueberry Pancake/Chocolate with Spring Sprinkle
4th: Key Lime/Bacon in the Sun/Key Lime with Graham Crackers Crumbs & Marshmallow Drizzle

Today, Duck Donuts nationwide released a NEW seasonal flavor and topping: Key Lime Icing & Spring Sprinkles, available for a limited time only.  Duck Donuts is my best friend & I’s favorite place to get donuts because all of their delicious vanilla cake donuts are served warm, fresh and made-to-order with a variety of flavors, toppings, and sauces so the possibilities are endless.  We were invited to try their new seasonal flavors, new breakfast, and donut sundae and we enjoyed our food and experience.  My donuts were made by an amazingly nice employee named Princess and when she brought out my beautiful donuts on a donut stand I genuinely felt like a princess.  Princess’ superior customer service will make you feel like royalty.

NEW Breakfast Sandwich – Sausage, Egg & Cheese with Chopped Bacon. I really enjoyed the spiciness from the sausage and the sweetness from the donut!

S’mores Donut Sundae – vanilla ice cream, melted chocolate and graham cracker crumbles onto a classic donut.

Be sure to check out Duck Donuts – Kissimmee next time you’re in the area!

Duck Donuts
710 Centerview Blvd, Kissimmee, FL 34741
(407) 350-5832
duckdonuts.com

Duffy’s Sports Grill invited us to check out some items from their menu, new and old. Duffy’s Sports Grill consists of 35 locations throughout Florida (including Orlando!) and more than 80 TVs in each location. It is the perfect place to catch your favorite team game or sit back and enjoy a great meal.

Of course, it was after work and the weekend began so we decided to check out some drinks. We discovered with delight that ordering the S’mores Girl Scout Cookies specialty Martini comes with cookies. Who doesn’t like an adult version of milk and cookies? The martini is very tasteful and nice for a night with the girls.

If you are not too fond of a milky liquor, how about Pear…fect Martini? Or two because Duffy’s Sports Grill offers 2 for 1 drinks all day every day. Music to your ears, right?

Loaded Potato Skins include bacon, scallions, jack & cheddar cheese, and sour cream. Textures ranging from smooth/creamy to crispy creates a nice touch to the savory flavors.

Crispy Calamari is dusted in seasoned flour and garnished with crispy cherry peppers, served with marinara and spicy kickin’ bayou sauce. They weren’t kidding when they said the spicy kicking’ bayou sauce had a kick to it, but is nice with the appropriately seasoned calamari.

Seasame-Crusted Ahi Tuna is seasoned, seared in sesame oil and served with cucumber salad and Soba noodles in Asian dressing. Each item on this plate is chilled and has its own flavor unique to one another. I’m not mad we ordered this dish and would order it again!

These ribs are dressed with Duffy’s Sports Grill’s new Korean BBQ Sauce. The ribs have tender parts and crispy sections depending on where you take your bites. The delicious sauce has a balance between sweet and spicy. Also, I hear it is great on wings when it comes to watching a game or in general.

Of course, I can’t go to a sports grill without ordering wings. This is a plate of hot boneless wings served with blue cheese and celery. The hot sauce here is on the vinegar side of the hot sauce spectrum.

Blackened Beef Tenderloin Tips served with Horseradish cream sauce and the options of two sides. Here, we decided on grilled zucchini and sweet potato fries as our sides. The tips were room temperature, but delicious; it would be a greater delight if they were hot. The grilled zucchini were fresh and had a crunch to them, which was to my liking. The sweet potato fries were made well and sapid.

As there is the S’mores Girl Scout Cookies specialty martini mentioned above, there’s a S’mores Girl Scout Cookies specialty involving cupcakes that you could order for dessert. $1 from each order of the cupcakes and/or martinis will go towards Girl Scouts of Southeast Florida!

For more information  check out the Duffy’s Sports Grill website.

Our delightful feast was prepared by Chef de Cuisine, Ryan McLaughlin

We were invited to K Restaurant in College Park to preview a few dishes from their new Brunch menu which will launch this Sunday, January 21 from 10AM-2PM and includes carafes of Mimosas & Bloody Marys. We also got to try dishes from their dining menu which changes daily according to the availability of fresh ingredients from locally sourced Central Florida farms and artisans, so be sure to check out their website beforehand for their updated menu. We enjoyed meeting the owner Chad Phelps (pictured above) and his wonderful team. The restaurant is quaint and dreamy, making it the perfect spot for a date or a casual meet-up with good friends trying out great fresh and local food. You must check out K Restaurant in College Park soon if you have not already! It is incredible.

The talented kitchen staff

The amazing serving staff

Pork Belly Benedict

Chicken and Biscuits with Sausage Gravy

Fried green tomatoes

Shrimp and Grits

Basket of Biscuits and cinnamon maple honey butter

The following dishes are from their dining menu of the night:

Arancini

Oysters with champagne

Oysters with herbs

Charred Octopus – Waterkist Farm tomatoes and peppers, olive oil, lemon

Wild Mushroom and Caramelized Onion Toast

Duck Cassoulet – great northern and cranberry beans, chard, pork belly, duck confit

Shared Vegetable Platter

K Filet – smashed red bliss potatoes, rainbow carrots, truffle oil, veal demi-glace with a serving of vegetables

Lemon Meringue Tarts

French Toast Bread Pudding – cinnamon anglaise, caramel

Plated dessert course by the lovely Pastry Chef, Michelle Hulbert

Chocolate Orange Grand Marnier Pistachio Layer Cake (my favorite!)

Chocolate Mousse Torte

Almond Cake – fresh blackberries

Their beautiful outdoor patio

Be sure to check out K Restaurant soon!  Stop by K Restaurant this Sunday,  January 21 from 10am-2pm to kick off their new Brunch with them!

K Restaurant
1710 Edgewater Dr, Orlando, FL 32804
(407) 872-2332
http://krestaurant.net/

Happy 2018, Food Friends!

Can we all agree that glitter and unicorn desserts are so 2017? Well maybe not, but a girl can dream.

I caught up with some of Orlando’s coolest chefs to find out what they see coming to a table near you in 2018, and here’s what they had to say.

The Verdict:

  • Crazy desserts are out; smaller, savory sweets are in
  • Asian eats are here to stay
  • RIP to unnecessary gluten-free dishes
  • Say hello to veg cuisine, it’s here and it’s not playing

HAWKERS Asian Street Fare – Kaleb Harrell 

“Ethnic desserts – We are revamping our entire dessert line because we feel customers are ready. Desserts that have a savory edge, are fruit-based, or just have ingredients outside of mainstream will gain popularity as the size of desserts decreases. Today’s customer would rather have a few bites of something amazing to end their meal than a bowl of corn syrup.

Savory cocktails – This one has been on the fringe for a while, but I think 2018 is the year for savory cocktails to take hold.  Think meat stocks, dry rub ingredients, and vegetable instead of fruit juices. 

Fast and fresh – This is the mecca for market share in lunch business.  A few companies are doing well and expanding quickly, but it’s a race to see who keeps consistency. Virtually every diner is looking for a fast, and ultra fresh lunch option. How many days can you eat a Chick-fil-A salad for lunch?

Vinegars and sours – Fermented flavors are gaining more popularity and will continue in the next year. Look for pickling, fermenting, gourmet mustards, and generally bold flavors in small quantities to continue.  Cheese and charcuterie are amazing, but the accoutrements are starting to take center stage.”

Black Rooster Taqueria – John Calloway

“I think we will see a lot of cauliflower. Gluten-free has reached its peak, so we will see more artisan and/or rustic breads and people milling their own flours.

Mexican will still be everywhere, but I believe Indian food is the next big cuisine.

Food as medicine will also be a big focus. From all of the juice bars to doctors and nutritionists prescribing specific foods and diets, we’ll be getting back to our roots with the earth healing our bodies.”

K Restaurant – Michelle Hulbert

“I think there will continue to be interest smaller desserts – that are portion-control friendly. Over-the-top, gigantic desserts will be a thing of the past. The healthier sides of sweets will include more seasonal fruits.  I think in general we will see a larger focus on vegetables as the star and less starch-heavy dishes.”

K Restaurant –  Ryan McLaughlin

“I think in 2018 we will see a continued movement toward more vegetable-forward dishes, a dedicated focus on limiting food waste, and an even stronger movement within the chef community to support small, sustainable farms that are focused on the ethical treatment of animals.”

Tapa Toro – Wendy Lopez 

“I see familiar foods becoming more prominent on menus at restaurants. Think pork rinds and hot dogs. They will be reimagined with new ingredients and presentations.

I think we’ll start to see lesser-known cuts of meat appear on menus around town – like Vegas strip and Oyster steak. We’ll start to see more family-style dining options at restaurants. At Tapa Toro, we see groups of people passing plates around the table. Why commit to one entree when you could try a little bit of everything?”

Pizza Bruno – Bruno Zacchini

“I’ll start with pizza! For me, I see Neapolitan pizza still going strong but new styles and types will become the next thing from Detroit squares to Roman thin crusts and artisan slice pies with farm-to-table ingredients. Pizza has so many styles most people have never seen so it’s really wide open.

Overall fast casual is going to keep happening and moving forward with counter service places and places focusing on singular dishes done extremely well.  Flavors for me are Middle Eastern, more regional Asian (think Bangrak), and Italian, of course! I also think that in 2018 we’ll continue to see veg-centric cuisine making its way onto more menus.”

Valhalla Bakery + Valkyrie Doughnuts – Celine Duvoisin 

“I see a bubble bursting of the stuff on stuff on stuff on stuff. (Not that I’m not going to do excessive shit until it dies.)

I think that more Asian popularity will happen, I foresee a rise in proper ramen coming to town and possibly Asian desserts. We’ve hit this wall of sugar hell, with no one hitting the less sweet almost savory desserts.

Hopefully an end to the gluten-free obsession.

My fingers are crossed for more Mediterranean-type places that focus on macro-based foods as fuel instead of insanely over designed places that don’t have the food to seal the deal.”


Is this roundup missing something, or are you seeing a trend worth sharing? Comment below and cheers to new year!

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

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Pitmaster Brandon Manly teaching us how to make some delicious eats for the holidays.

We were invited to check out this free and public event hosted by Sonny’s BBQ last Saturday at Williams Sonoma on Park Avenue in partnership with Peterbrooke Chocolatier.  I loved that the event landed on a Saturday afternoon because I frequent the popular Winter Park Farmers’ Market on Saturday mornings so I was able to pick up a few things and walk over to the cooking demo afterwords.  During our cooking demo we learned how to make Stuffed Pork Loin with Cranberry Agave Glaze, Smoked Turkey, Gruyère Potatoes, and Chocolate Bacon Holiday Bark.  Everything was delicious!

Sonny’s BBQ – Winter Park
3390 University Blvd Winter Park, FL 32792
(407) 671-2002
sonnysbbq.com

Peterbrooke Chocolatier of Winter Park
300 S Park Ave, Winter Park, FL 32789
(407) 644-3200
http://peterbrookewp.com

Williams Sonoma – Park Avenue
142 S Park Ave, Winter Park, FL 32789
(407) 628-5900
williams-sonoma.com/stores/us/fl/winter-park-park-avenue

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Chef Trina Gregory-Propst is amazing.  She was the one who recommended my family’s restaurant, Saigon Noodle and Grill – Bumby to the Food Network producers when they asked her if she knew of any good Vietnamese restaurants in Orlando to be featured on an episode of “Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives”.  My family had no idea that Triple D was coming to our city (for the first time ever) so we did not expect to be contacted by them, however, when they reached out to us we knew that it was truly a blessing sent from God.  We accepted the offer to film an episode of “Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives” and it has changed our lives for the better.  We are now recognized worldwide and we have met so many loyal Triple D fans from all across the world.  Chef Trina’s restaurant SE7EN BITES was featured on “Diners, Drive-Ins and Drives” and both of our restaurants are located in the Milk District, so we are actually neighbors.  What an honor it is to put our city and district on the Triple D map with Chef Trina.  My family cannot thank her enough for what she has done for our small restaraunt business.  We are so grateful for her and her awesome wife’s friendship!

Chef’s Night is an evening at the food bank featuring some of Central Florida’s best chefs and cuisine, all to benefit their Darden Foundation Community Kitchen’s Culinary Training Program.  The Culinary Training Program provides qualified, at-risk and economically disadvantaged adults with the culinary and life skills training needed to pursue a sustainable career in the food industry.  When you support Chef’s Night, you are helping to change lives, and help pull your neighbors in need out of poverty.

SE7EN BITES specializes in nostalgic southern comfort food with a modern twist.  Chef Trina has loved to bake since her Grammy first introduced her to baking when she was a child.  Grammy helped develop Trina’s love for all things sweet.  Add in a professional culinary education, talent and passion and the result is a great recipe for local Orlando Goodness.  Chef Trina created a 5-course “Brinner” menu, a delicious combination of breakfast served at dinner.  Special thanks to SYSCO for donating all of the food to Chef’s Night to make the event a success.


Bloody Mary and Mimosa Bar

Deviled eggs with candied bacon (best deviled eggs that I have ever had in my life!)

Pimento Cheese Biscuit bites with sweet red pepper butter (so yummy!)

Appetizer Course – Fried grit cake with tomato jam, Andouille and dressed Arugula

Salad Course – Citrus Pistachio Salad

Main Course – Colonel Marmalade in the Kitchen with a Knife.  Biscuit stacked with Pimento Cheese, Buttermilk Fried Chicken, over medium egg, sausage gravy and finished with a dollop of Orange Blossom Marmalade (so delicious!)

Dessert Course – Cinnamon Roll Sundae Grammies, Cinnamon Roll topped with Vanilla Ice Cream Espresso Maple Caramel, Garnished with Milk & Salted Caramel Crumble

Chef Trina with her awesome wife, Va Propst.

The talented Se7en Bites staff

This lovely lady just got hired by Chef Trina to work at her restaurant, SE7EN BITES!  Big congratulations!!  (P.S. – She looks familiar.  I think we went to high school together.  So cool!)

Follow @themichaeljavier on instagram – he’s a cool dude, I want his charisma!

If you missed out this year, be sure to join us at the next Chef’s Table at Second Harvest Food Bank!  Details will be posted on their website so keep an eye out for it.

(Source credit: Second Harvest Food Bank)

Second Harvest Food Bank
411 Mercy Drive Orlando, FL 32805
(407) 295-1066
feedhopenow.org

Se7en Bites
617 N Primrose Dr, Orlando, FL 32803
(407) 203-0727
se7enbites.com

 

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The most popular and most requested burger, Drunken Monk – Angry Orchard onion jam, roasted cherry tomatoes, smoked bacon, herb mayo, provolone cheese & Teak chips topped with melted white cheddar cheese served on a pretzel bun.  It was fresh and savory.  Whenever I order burgers I never eat the entire bun but I ate both pretzel buns on the Drunken Monk and I was craving for more.

We were invited to check out the new Teak Neighborhood Grill – Maitland in the Village at Lake Lily and as soon as we arrived we were immediately impressed with how gorgeous the restaurant was, it is a certainly a great addition to the Maitland area. We chose to sit in the outdoor patio which was clean, crisp and overlooks the breathtaking Lake Lily nearby. The quality and presentation of our food was top notch. The service was friendly and attentive and management was knowledgeable and flawless. We highly recommend this new restaurant and we will be coming back to try the other dishes.

We ordered some of their popular menu items such as the Drunken Monk, Garlic Bistro Side Winders, Cedar Plank Scottish Salmon and The Ultimate Cronie for dessert and they did not disappoint.  Other popular dishes include: loaded peirogies, veggie burgers, flatbreads, and mussels.

They also have a secret burger menu called the “Underground Menu” which you need a password to obtain.  You can get the password (it changes every month) on their facebook page here.  Both menus has a combined total of 40 creative and delicious burgers.

Food & drink specials are available from open to close on Teak-uila Tuesdays and every Saturday and Sunday they offer a brunch menu.

The pet-friendly outdoor patio that overlooks Lake Lily.

Garlic Bistro Side Winders – with a side of marinara-based ketchup (Very tasty and addicting!  We could have eaten this all day!)

Caesar Salad

Cedar Plank Scottish Salmon – roasted garlic mashed potatoes, asparagus, lemon dill Buerre Blanc sauce. (Gluten-free and healthy!)

Scalloped Potatoes

The Ultimate Cronie – French doughnut deep fried then tossed with cinnamon-sugar topped with vanilla ice cream, caramel sauce & powdered sugar. (Cronie burger also available!)

Be sure to check out the new Teak Neighborhood Grill – Maitland at the Village in Lake Lily soon!  You will love it!

Teak Neighborhood Grill
901 S Orlando Ave, Maitland, FL 32751
(407) 335-4835
http://teakorlando.com

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SEARED DIVER SCALLOPS – Simply Seasoned & Perfectly Seared, Carrot Puree, Roasted Parsnip, Bacon and Sweet Pea Hash, Roasted Tomato Fondue, Parlied Olive Oil (MY FAVORITE!)

We were invited to the media preview of the new menu items at Marlow’s Tavern – Winter Park and we absolutely enjoyed every single thing we ate, and that’s rare at a media preview dinner.  As a health conscious food blogger I dread media preview dinners that consist of mostly carbs but Marlow’s Tavern – Winter Park did an amazing job hosting a dinner that was on the healthier side and packed with lots of protein and vegetables.  The toast appetizers were added last minute, but I still enjoyed tasting them and I don’t think I will ever find toasts as good as the ones at Marlow’s Tavern – Winter Park.  Each piece was delicious with the perfect ratio of bread to topping.  They would be a hit at any party.  Their seared diver scallops dish stole the show and were the fan favorite of the night at our table.  The scallops were the best scallops that I have ever eaten in my entire life, the dish had the perfect amount of mixed vegetables and bacon, and the carrot puree changed my life.  I actually craved MORE of the carrot puree because it was so creamy and delicious.  The service was very welcoming and accommodating.  I highly recommend checking out Marlow’s Tavern – Winter Park for any occasion.  We will definitely be returning soon.

MARINATED OLIVES – Cold Pressed Olive Oil, Lemon, Rosemary

OH NUTS! – Cashew, Pecans, Almond, Filbert, Peanut, Candied, Rosemary, Caribbean Spice

ARTICHOKE & ARUGULA – Toasty Rosemary Ciabatta, Whipped Ricotta, Artichoke, Baby Arugula, Balsamic, Lemonette

FIG & BACON – Toasty Rosemary Ciabatta, Whipped Ricotta, Black Mission Figs,
Caramelized Onion, Apple-Wood Smoked Bacon, Balsamic Glaze

ROAST TOMATO – Toasty Rosemary Ciabatta, Whipped Ricotta, Pomodoro Sauce, Parmesan, Parslied Olive Oil

STEAK FRITES – Bavette Steak (The Butchers Favorite), Tiny Green Beans, Steak House Fries, Roasted Mushroom & Caramelized Onion Peppered Gravy

CHICKEN STACK – Prestige Farms Chicken, Roasted Mushrooms, Fingerling Potatoes, Blistered Grape Tomatoes, Green Beans, Roasted Chicken Glace, Fines Herbs, Parslied Olive Oil

Prickly Pear Margarita & Carbernet Sauvignon

Be sure to check out Marlow’s Tavern – Winter Park soon for their new menu items and pick up a gift card before December 31, 2017 to score a complimentary bottle of Michelle Brut holiday champagne!

Marlow’s Tavern – Winter Park
1008 S Orlando Ave, Winter Park, FL 32789
(407) 960-3670
http://marlowstavern.com

 

We were invited to Holler & Dash’s one year anniversary event at their only Florida restaurant located in Celebration and we loved it.  The food came out impressively fast and it was tasty but the staff, service and ambiance were the biggest highlight.  They treat you SO GOOD over at Holler & Dash with their Southern hospitality and they really have a passion for creating great food and memorable experiences.

Their biscuit-inspired menu pays tribute to the South in a fresh new way with chef-driven recipes, fresh ingredients, and layers of flavors like you’ve never tasted before (plus a few you know and love).  Now would be a great time to check out Holler & Dash if you are ever in the Celebration area since they have recently added new items to their menu such as: sandwiches, egg plates, salads and toast.

Blueberry & whipped ricotta, mint toast (NEW!)

Avocado Smash, watermelon radish, lemon toast (NEW!)

Pig In The Garden – Smoked bacon, sweet gem lettuce, fried green tomatoes, pimento cheese, green goddess (NEW!)

Kickback Chicken – Fried chicken, goat cheese, green onion, sweet pepper jelly with a kick with fruit

Chicken. Set. Go. – Fried chicken, pimento cheese, jalapeno, sorghum with tots


Be sure to check out Holler & Dash soon for breakfast or lunch (or breakfast for lunch!)

(Source credit: Holler & Dash)

Holler & Dash
6268 W Irlo Bronson Memorial Hwy, Kissimmee FL
http://holleranddash.com
(321) 204-1445

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TR Fire Grill in Winter Park is sweetening up the fall season with its all-new, Pumpkin Spice Cheesecake.  Guests can take advantage of one of the most beloved flavors of fall by heading to the restaurant and taking a slice out of seasonal comfort.

Guests can also pair the decadent dessert with a favorite entrée of their choice including the new seasonal menu items such as: Smoked Pork Tenderloin topped with cherry pinot wine sauce, Wood-Roasted Lamb Chops, or Smoked Boneless Beef Short Rib.  New drinks with catchy names such as “Doctor’s Note” and “Fire In The Apple Tree” are now available.

We were invited to try the classic menu items, seasonal menu items and new drinks.  The food was good, the interior of the restaurant is phenomenal and the service was great!  More pictures from our experience below.

Smoked Pork Tenderloin – Red and green apples, cider & moonshine reduction, cauliflower purée and bacon cannelloni beans. (Seasonal)

Wood-Roasted Lamb Chops – Minty salsa verde, Asiago risotto, maple glazed carrots. (Seasonal)

Smoked Boneless Beef Short Rib – (All-Natural Beef) Cabernet wild mushroom ragu, Asiago risotto, maple glazed carrots. (Seasonal)

(NEW) Fire In The Apple Tree – Ole Smoky Apple Pie moonshine, Fireball cinnamon whisky, apple cider, cinnamon simple syrup, fresh lemon juice, Angostura orange bitters, Four Roses “Yellow Label” bourbon float

(NEW) Doctor’s Note – Courvoisier V.S. cognac, Four Roses “Yellow Label” bourbon, strawberry simple syrup, Fee Brothers rhubarb bitters, fresh mint

Bacon & Eggs – Mustard glazed pork, jalapeño deviled eggs, barbecue potato chip dust, pickled red onions

Fried Okra – Peppercorn ranch dressing (available during Local Hour)


Jalapeño Soup – Chipotle sour cream (It’s amazing!)

Market Salad – Glazed star fruit, grapes, balsamic glazed grilled Bosch pears, tangerines, cucumber, roasted walnuts, feta cheese, focaccia crouton, guava raspberry dressing (Great salad!)

Espresso

Strawberry Lemonade

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The production crew shooting a video with executive chef Bob Gallagher.

TR Fire Grill is conveinently located across the street from the new Whole Foods Market in Winter Park, FL.  Be sure to check out the new pumpkin spice cheesecake, seasonal menu items and new drinks at TR Fire Grill soon!

(Source credit: TR Fire Grill)

TR Fire Grill
1035 N Orlando Ave, Unit 101
Winter Park, FL 32789
(407) 708-3600
trfiregrill.com

We were invited to a media event at a new lakefront restaurant named The Waterfront.  This American restaurant was bought in February and opened in April.  Everything is made in house except the bread.  It is important to support independent restaurants in Orlando, Florida so make sure you check them out!

Adult Swim Saturdays every Saturday in August at 2pm.


Outdoor patio with a roof to protect you from the sun or rain.  Or both.  Florida weather.



Food, brews, and views.

Chips & Pimento Dip – Salsa, Jalapeños, Corn Tortillas.  The pimento dip is prepared with pimento cheese, poblano peppers, garlic, and baked in the oven.

Wings – House Hot

Paired with the “Florida Crush” – Effen Blood Orange Vodka, Triple Sec, Fresh-Squeezed Florida Oranges, Lemon-Lime Soda

Crab Cake Sliders  – Arugula, Tomato, Pickled Red Onion, Avocado, Remoulade.  The blue crab is from Gulf of Mexico and they use the meat from its claws.

Tuna Poke Salad – Ahi Tuna, Seaweed Salad, Arugula, Romaine, Cucumber, Tomato, Radish, Avocado, Sesame Seeds, Sweet Onion Vinaigrette

Paired with the “Jennie Jewel” -Effen Cucumber Vodka, St. Germain, Fresh-Squeezed Lemon, Simple Syrup and Lime, Mint

The Waterfront Burger – Ground Chuck, Swiss, Blue Cheese, Caramelized Onions, Bacon, Arugula

French Dip – Roast Sirloin, Swiss Cheese, Caramelized Onions, Au Jus, Horseradish Mayo

Paired with the “Dixie Belle” – Jim Beam Black, Muddled Mint + Cucumber, Simple Syrup, Fresh-Squeezed Lime

Pan Roasted Catfish – Sautéed Kale, Cheddar Grits, Remoulade, Pickled Red Onion
Fried Chicken Thigh – Hot Honey, Cheddar Grits, Pickled Green Beans


Steak Frites – Pan Roasted Sirloin, Cut Fries, Blue Cheese Butter

Paired with House Red Wine – 2015 Drumheller Cabernet Sauvignon

Chocolate Peanut Butter Pie  – Whipped Cream
Bread Pudding – Key Lime Syrup, Whipped Cream

Paired with a sampling of the “Margaret” – Jim Beam Vanilla, Butterscotch, Cocoa, Licor 43, Irish Cream

The Waterfront
4201 South Orange Ave
Orlando, Florida, FL 32806
(407) 866-0468
@TheWaterfront

This new, exclusive, and interactive bourbon pairing dinner takes fine dining to a whole new level.

The Capital Grille, a fine dining American restaurant, recently hosted an exclusive, interactive, and educational bourbon pairing dinner with Buffalo Trace at their Millenia Mall location in Orlando, Florida.  We were invited for a media preview and was highly impressed with what the culinary staff, bar team, and Buffalo Trace representative brought to the table.  Here are some scenes from our flawless five-star dinner.  The Capital Grille will be having more special dinners like this in the weeks and months to come so be sure to contact them soon about the next one happening in October!

First Course
Authentic A5 Wagyu Carpaccio
Chive Oil, Sea Salt – The highest premium cut of steak.


Eagle Rare 10 Year – This whiskey is masterfully crafted and carefully aged for no less than ten years.  This drink contains complex aromas of herbs, honey, hints of orange peel, leather, toffee, and oak with a bold and dry finish.


Assorted Breads


Second Course
Seared Scallop and Foie Gras, Sherry Vinaigrette
Wild Mushroom Sauté


Buffalo Trace Bourbon – The Capital Grille culinary & bar team’s take on the Manhattan.  This drink is strong, aromatic, and not much is added to it to keep it pure and simple.


Third Course

Berkshire Pork BBQ with Charred Vidalia Onion
And Caramelized Peach Glaze
Late Summer Succotash


E. H. Taylor Bourbon


Fourth Course

Dry Aged Sirloin, Roasted Bone Marrow
And Short Rib Ragout
Shaved Summer Truffle, Asparagus, Cabernet Reduction – 35 day aged sirloin.


Blanton’s Bourbon and Blanton’s Infusion with figs, blackberries, and thyme.

Dessert
Spiked Root Beer Float
Bourbon Cream
Taste: sweet, vanilla, bubbly soda, and then bourbon.

Be sure to check out The Capital Grille – Millenia Mall soon.  They plan on making these special dinners a regular occurrence featuring different spirits & wine in the future.  Cheers!

The Capital Grille – Millenia Mall
4200 Conroy Road, Orlando, FL 32839
Phone: (407) 351-2210
http://www.thecapitalgrille.com

“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.

TenderApp

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.

Bar

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.

IMG_1848 ENDIVE & WATERCRESS SALAD
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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