cafe

Today, I was humbled…inspired…by coffee. Axum Coffee in Winter Garden, to be exact. It’s hard to believe, but it’s true, one-hundred-percent of Axum’s profits are donated “to make a better world” (as clearly defined on their coffee menu above the counter).

Insert on Coffee Menu

Being the sometime skeptic I am, I needed further proof. I spoke to the charming and intelligent, young girl behind the counter who spilled the beans (get it…coffee beans…moving on). No lie, it’s a true statement. Profits go to the city of Axum, Ethiopia (hence the name of the coffee), a city void of clean water, adequate medical care, and streets over-crowded with orphans and beggars, most of which are physically-impaired in some way. For over ten years, since the coffee shop opened, Axum has been supplying the means necessary to help this community. However, their charity extends to other non-profit organizations as well (locally, nationally, and internationally). Organizations that fight human trafficking, aid women and children in need, place children in need of homes with loving families, and so on. Axum wants their coffee shop to be a place of openness in which people come together, to share ideas, in order to help those in need and our world as a whole, “We had been envisioning a gathering place for the community to do life together.  Not just a place about the coffee, tea, smoothies, pastries, panini and desserts, but rather a place about people in the community coming together around a cause.  A place about helping those in need: locally, nationally and internationally.  A place about giving instead of taking.  A place where guests are not just numbers, but people with stories to tell.  We wanted to find a way to tangibly touch the lives of people in need: orphans, human trafficking victims, the poverty-stricken, those without potable water, etc while creating a place that unites the local community.” (http://axumcoffee.com/our-story/)

Humbled by the giving attitude of Axum as I am, fantastic tasting coffee and food can’t hurt, right? First, I love the feeling of Axum in Winter Garden (Axum coffee can also be found in other locations in Clermont and Dr. Phillips), the industrial feel of the piping that covers the high ceilings, over-sized windows that gladly welcome in the Florida sun, plenty of comfy seating inside and out, with painted walls in tranquil hues of blue and mahogany.

Front Corner Seating in Axum

With so many specialty coffee combinations to choose from (plus the usual favorites), thankfully, I had a good friend with me who suggested I order the Creme Brûlée. So glad I did! Made with espresso, caramel sauce, vanilla syrup, your choice of milk, and topped with foam and sugar in the raw…this is my new favorite! I felt like I had dessert before lunch. Axum coffee is beyond smooth-tasting to begin with, but this drink takes it to a-whole-nother level. Not to mention, it’s pretty. Expertly decorated topping like a piece of art.

Creme Brûlée Espresso

Of course there are many other drink options to pick from: black, green, and herbal teas, smoothies, cold drinks like Italian soda, hot chocolate, and several types of coffee/espresso drinks (cold brew, french press, manual brew, Americano, Cappuccino, etc.) You can also take some delicious Axum coffee home with you (perfect for those days when you can’t make it out of the house because of some menial task like laundry, or your daughter is sick, you know…life…or, is that my life?).

Coffee To Go

As if my Creme Brûlée espresso wasn’t treat enough, of course, my hungry eyes had to try more. Not just pastries, muffins, and other sweet favorites, but Axum also offers savory bites (panini, quiche, bagels, etc). Now, you tell me your will-power is strong enough to resist these goodies:

After much back-and-forth with my friend (what do you want? – well, what do you want? – you pick – no, you pick…you know how that story goes, got to be polite and all), we settled on the Caprese Panini and Bacon Quiche to share. They were hard to share, but, we kept our cool. The Caprese Panini was perfectly toasted, buttery, with soft mozzarella, sweet tomatoes, and zesty pesto. Not heavy or dense, the Bacon Quiche tasted light and airy, but also had a perfect combination of savory and salty from the cheese and bacon.

Caprese Panini
Bacon Quiche

Cozy spot, heart-warming talk with an amazing friend, and delicious food, what could be better? How about something sweet to only confirm how much I love Axum?! Thankfully, my friend and I didn’t do the “what do you want” dance, and we quickly decided on what to order. We are smart women…we know our desserts. Next up – the Coconut Creme Bomb and Peanut Butter Pie. No lie, at first bite of the Coconut Creme Bomb, I rudely interrupted my friend’s story and said, “What is this? Why does it taste so good?” Simply fantastic! Imagine, if you can, your best Pina Colada flavor and favorite yellow cake, got together, and well, you get it. A perfect amount of white icing with flakes of coconut adorn the outside, and sweet, coconut cream nestled between two layers of soft, yellow cake on the inside. Heavenly. However, the Peanut Butter Pie is no slouch, and also deserves a bow. If you love the combination of peanut butter and chocolate (as I do), this pie is perfect for you. The chocolate pie crust is rich and the peanut butter is velvety.

Coconut Creme Bomb
Peanut Butter Pie

Axum also offers vegan sweets from CayCakes Bakery. If you read my last blog (of course you did), you will remember my husband is now on a vegan kick (no joke, we had vegan burgers last night for dinner), and after a brief phone conversation while I was enjoying my lunch at Axum, in which he told me he ate avocado with salt and olive oil for his lunch, I figured, I better bring something home for him. My husband was very happy with his vegan cinnamon bun and vegan cinnamon, brown sugar pop tart.

CayCakes Bakery Items Sold at Axum

I would say, after our two desserts, our lunch date was complete. It was exactly what I needed – a good cup of coffee, terrific food, and conversation with a loving friend. Also, in a comfortable and inviting spot – Axum Coffee in Winter Garden – doing “good” for the community here and far.

 

Axum Coffee

CayCakes Bakery

 

 

We were invited to a media preview at the award-winning nightlife and entertainment destination on International Drive “Mango’s Tropical Café” to try the new à la carte menu prepared by Executive Chef Angel Ramirez and to watch their sensational live entertainment.  It was my first time at Mango’s Tropical Café and I cannot wait to go back.  Their venue is spacious, the food was great, and the performers were all amazingly talented.  It was the best dinner show that I have ever witness in my entire life!

One of the many private rooms at Mango’s Tropical Café.  The Voodoo Room was where our media preview event was hosted.

Mango’s Cuban Sandwich – Slow roasted pork, tender ham and Swiss cheese, served with fries and/or gourmet onion rings

Rosa Vieja Tacos – Three large soft tacos with their homemade all beef “Rosa Vieja”, shredded cabbage, tomato, red onion, sharp cheddar cheese and drizzled with a cilantro aioli.  Served with yellow rice, sour cream, salsa and guacamole

Pico de Gallo, guacamole and sour cream

Lobster Ravioli – Ravioli filled with lobster meat topped with Mango’s homemade creamy pink sauce, served with a fresh baked garlic roll

Prime rib sliders – Three Prime Rib sliders topped with caramelized onions and horseradish cream sauce, served with au jus for dipping

Chicken Parmigiana Sliders – Three sliders served on homemade garlic bread with marinara sauce for dipping

Mango’s Tropical Ceviche – Tender fish ceviche in fresh lime juice, served with chips

Wild Mushroom Pizza – Sautéed portobello and button mushrooms in garlic, olive oil and rosemary, topped with caramelized onions and mozzarella cheese

Mango’s Chicken “al Ajillo” – Tender chicken strips sautéed in a garlic, white wine and lemon sauce, served with white rice, black beans and maduros

Tradional New York Style Pizza – Classic thin crust pizza with mozzarella cheese and our homemade marinara sauce

Caribbean Creole Chicken – Tender chicken breast sautéed in a garlic, onions, peppers, tomato, cilantro, white wine, paprika and lemon, served with white rice, black beans and maduros

Brett’s Southwestern BBQ Burgers – Topped with sharp cheddar cheese, Applewood smoked bacon and gourmet onion rings, topped with Mango’s homemade BBQ sauce and your choice of French fries of gourmet onion rings

Passion Fruit Mojito

Coconut Mojito

Mango Mojito

The upstairs bar

Celia Cruz experience

Michael Jackson Tribute performance

Be sure to check out Mango’s Tropical Café soon for the new à la carte menu and amazing live entertainment!

Mango’s Tropical Café
8126 International Dr, Orlando, FL 32819
http://mangos.com/orlando
(407) 673-4422

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I previously visited Peach Valley Café in the Dr. Phillips area a few years ago and had a lovely breakfast of Belgian waffles and sausage. The restaurant, based out of New Smyrna Beach and part of the Stonewood Restaurant Group, recently expanded to the SoDo District (South of Downtown Orlando), the third in the Orlando area after the aforementioned Dr. Philips and Heathrow locations.

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I was recently invited by the folks at Peach Valley to a media brunch event to sample some of their menu items. The restaurant is located in a plaza, tucked away from Orange Avenue near a Publix. Large open windows along the building give the space a lot of Florida sunshine and light, providing a bright, airy feeling inside. Surprisingly, I was told that they are busiest during rainy days compared to sunny days, maybe because there are so many things to do in Central Florida when the sun is out and there is more of a need for comfort food in those down weather days.

Peach Valley Cafe specializes in brunch and breakfast items, all prepared in house with fresh ingredients, with many healthy and light options for those new year’s resolution conscious diners. However, I am not one of those diners.

The first thing we had were the apple fritters, a popular mainstay at Peach Valley, served tableside with a shake of brown sugar and cinnamon and a side of strawberry or pumpkin yogurt dip. The fritters were good, fresh and fluffy, lightly sweet and fun to dip. I can see why so many people rave about these little apple cinnamon bits of joy.

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Peach Valley Cafe’s Apple Fritters – served tableside

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Peach Valley Cafe’s Apple Fritters – with their dipping sauces.

One of our favorite items was the Chicken and Waffles, prepared with fried chicken, pillowy Belgian waffles, and blueberry butter and cajun syrup. Though the fried chicken may have needed some more seasoning, the waffle, chicken, and cajun syrup made for a winning combination of texture and tastes.

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Chicken and Waffles, prepared with fried chicken, pillowy Belgian waffles, and blueberry butter and cajun syrup

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Stuffed French Toast was another highlight here, made with a creamy peach and strawberry filling, and housemade blueberry syrup.

 

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For those veggie lovers, try the vegetable and egg croissant benedict, made with flaky croissants, beefsteak tomatos, asparagus, spicy red onions, and poached egg with hollandaise sauce and breakfast potatos.

 
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Peach Valley uses a state of the art Kindle Fire based ordering system that allows the waiters to quickly send the orders over to the kitchen.

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Our waiter, a young gentlemen studying to become a doctor at UF, suggested to us the delicious Santa Fe Chicken Salad Wrap, a wrap stuffed with corn and black bean salsa, pico de gallo, fresh mixed greens, and a creamy ranch dressing. It was refreshing and tasty, and maybe one of my favorite wraps ever.

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Santa Fe Chicken Salad Wrap

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Peach Valley’s Shrimp and Grits, New Orleans inspired

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Home made peach cobbler a la mode!

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Hours
Monday –Friday 7am-2:30pm, and Saturday and Sunday 7am-3:30pm

Peach Valley Café on Urbanspoon

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I recently took my significant other out for her birthday and treated her to a nice day out at the spa at the Ritz Carlton Orlando Grand Lakes. The Ritz Carlton Hotel is located off of John Young Parkway just south of SR 528. This spa actually placed in the top ten best resort spas as part of a recent Conde Naste Traveller magazine survey. Inside the Ritz Carlton just downstairs from the spa is the Vitale Spa Cafe, where one can enjoy some very delicious offerings while sipping tea with a beautiful view of the pool side.

The Vitale Spa Cafe offers some very healthy dishes ranging from salads to wraps and sandwiches, and also surprisingly, bento boxes. If you choose the bento box, you can have your pick of one protein from the list:

Citrus Marinated Grilled Chicken
Grilled Shrimp
Teriyaki Glazed Salmon
Grilled Snapper
Grilled Marinated Tofu
Filet Mignon Brochette
and also a Choice of 3 Sides:
Soy Glazed Mushrooms
Indian 3 Bean Salad
Soba Noodles
Mixed Greens
Tomato & Avocado
Fresh Fruit
Citrus & Hearts of Palm
Farro Salad

My partner chose the bento box with the Grilled Snapper with Fresh fruit, soy glazed mushrooms and mixed greens. The snapper was grilled to perfection, tasty and not too dry or too flaky. It reminded me of the way my dad used to grill fish in the backyard on summer afternoons when I was a child.

I chose to get the Seared Ahi Tuna with Heirloom Tomato and Baby Arugula, Soba Noodles, with Wasabi-Sherry Vinaigrette. The tuna was seared just right and was extremely fresh and red, just the way I like it. The tomato, arugula, and soba noodles all went well together with the wasabi sherry vinaigrette.

What I enjoyed most about my experience at Vitale Spa Cafe was its emphasis on fresh, healthy ingredients while also making the full flavors of the ingredients jump out in their dishes. The ingredients all went very well together and I was very pleased to find this unexpected gem of a cafe inside the Ritz Carlton hotel.

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A look inside the Vitale Spa Cafe
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Bento Box with Grilled Salmon and soy glazed mushrooms, fresh fruit, mixed greens.
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The Seared Ahi Tuna with Heirloom Tomato, and baby arugula, soba noodles, with a Wasabi Sherry Vinaigrette 
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Bon Apetit

The Vitale Spa Cafe is open 10 a.m. – 4 p.m. from Sunday – Thursday and 10 a.m. – 5 p.m. on Friday & Saturday. Located inside of the Ritz Carlton Hotel at Orlando Grande Lakes at 4012 Central Florida Parkway, Orlando, Florida 32837 USA.

Vitale Spa Cafe on Urbanspoon

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