Drinks

We were invited to attend the grand opening ribbon cutting ceremony of the new The H Cuisine, located in the Marketplace at Dr. Phillips.  The interior was stunning, the food was really good and the service was perfection!

“The H Cuisine offers a diverse Mediterranean menu prepared by chefs with international experience, gained from working at some of the finest restaurants around the world. Combined, they have traveled to more than 70 countries to learn about different tastes, foods and ingredients, and bring what they have learned from these culinary adventures to Orlando.

The open kitchen counter allows guest to enjoy different styles of fire cooking methods and feel the warmth of the live fire as they watch the chefs preparing exclusive menu items.  Guests can also enjoy table-side experiences with the chefs when they order select items from the menu.

The bar at The H Cuisine serves a wide range of domestic and imported beverages, including beer, wine, raki and cocktails with premium liquor options available.   Coffee enthusiasts will love another signature menu item at The H – Turkish coffee.

The H Cuisine is the perfect new spot for local and visiting foodies, business, convention and group meetings, and life celebrations.” -The H Cuisine


The H Cuisine offers indoor and outdoor seating.


The H Cuisine is owned by local entrepreneurs, Ahmet Ozhamurkar (left) and Fuat Hasaglu (right).




Co-owner Fuat Hasaglu with his son.


Chef Duran with the amazing wait staff.


Chef Duran with the talented kitchen staff.






Rack of lamb

Tenderloin

Music by the talented ladies of Vioelectric

Burrata with cherry tomato and micro greens

Steak tartare with bone marrow, so delicious.

Sweet bread with veal brains – incredibly healthy and good for you.

Amazing presentation from Chef Duran.

Lamb.

Steak spaghetti, so delicious and melts in your mouth.

Chateau filet – amazing!

We were invited back to The H Cuisine for a more intimate meal with Chef Duran.

Chateau filet


The complimentary house appetizer is Turkish yogurt with whipped fried mint, topped with olive oil and “gypsy bread”.

Strozzapreti – “The Priest Strangler” pasta recipe from Emilia – Romagna.  Served with “Flaming Parmesan Wheel” sauce.

I’m very excited to have this new food experience in the Central Florida area.  You must check them out soon!

The H Cuisine 
7512 Dr. Phillips Blvd, Suite #80, Orlando, FL
(407) 930-3020
thehcuisine.com

Fresh and delicious piña colada

We were invited to The Ritz-Carlton for an end of the summer pool bash at Bleu Pool Bar showcasing their new Latin & Caribbean inspired menu.  The food was excellent and the service was phenomenal.  The frozen drinks are always prepared with the freshest ingredients.

BLEU Nachos – Green Chile / Queso Blanco / Jalapeños / Cilantro Crema Guacamole / Pico de Gallo Roasted Salsa



Signature Tacos – Grilled Flour Tortilla / Cilantro Slaw / Roasted Salsa / Crema / Queso Fresco / Pique Verde

Carne Asada – Papaya-Marinated Skirt Steak

Chicken Verde – Roasted Chicken

Crispy Avocado – Tempura-Fried Avocado


BLEU Salad – Mixed Greens / Spiced Tostone / Heirloom Tomatoes / Feta / Crispy Quinoa / Breakfast Radish / Pickled Sweet Onion / Passion Fruit Dressing


Florida Tropical – 
Spinach & Lolla Rossa / Avocado / Mango / Pomegranate / Almonds / Creamy Coconut-Lime Vinaigrette


Conch Fritters – Homemade Jamaican Jerk Aioli


Ceviche – 
Ahi Tuna / Avocado / Mango Salsa / Plantain Chips



Make Your Own Sweet Taco – Assorted Toppings

Tada!!!  What a beautiful ice sculpture!

Be sure to check out the new menu at Bleu the next time you are at The Ritz-Carlton Orlando!

Bleu at The Ritz-Carlton Orlando
4012 Central Florida Parkway Orlando, FL 32837
(407) 206-2400
ritzcarlton.com/en/hotels/florida/orlando/dining/bleu

We were invited to The Alfond Inn for an exclusive press preview featuring a Hamilton’s Kitchen new menu tasting with Chef Stephen Doyle, a happy hour art tour of newly installed art as part of the Alfond Collection of Contemporary Art with new Cornell Fine Arts Museum Curator Gisela Carbonell, and a champagne toast finale in the Conservatory, in honor of The Alfond Inn’s 5th anniversary on Saturday, Aug.18.

In the last five years, The Alfond Inn has made it on:

  • Travel + Leisure Best 100 Hotels in the World
  • Travel + Leisure Top 15 Best City Hotels in the Continental U.S.
  • U.S. News & World Report Top Hotels in Orlando, Condé Nast Traveler
  • Readers’ Choice Awards Top 10 Hotels in the U.S.
  • Condé Nast Traveler Readers’ Choice Awards Gest Hotels in Florida
  • AAA Four Diamond Award
  • Trip Advisor Certificate of Excellence

Walnut Crusted Halibut – orzo pasta, petite spinach, lemon-dill Amish butter

Lemon Sage Chicken Gnocchi – Lake Meadows Chicken, basil-ricotta gnocchi, summer vegetables, lemon-herb butter sauce

Seared Grouper Papparadelle – housemade pappardelle pasta, fresh peas, asparagus, pecan bacon, parmigian cheese broth

Colorado Lamb Lollipop Chops – local mushroom risotto, balsamic maple bliss glaze, caramelized Brussels sprouts

Thank you for the invite, Kathy Hernandez & thank you for hosting us, The Alfond Inn!

The Alfond Inn
300 E New England Avenue, Winter Park, FL 32789
thealfondinn.com
(407) 278-8159

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We were invited to La Tavola, which are Italian dinners based on its culture and cuisine. Well- known local chef Kevin Fonzo, formerly of K Restaurant, prepared fresh cooked Italian dishes that were paired with Franciacorta – currently the best “sparkling wine” in Italy.

There were five flights of wine. The first four flights consisted of two wines and the fifth was a single wine. Here is the menu as follows:

Wine Flight 1– DOCG Franciacorta La Valle Naturalis Extra Brut 2012 & DOCG Franciacorta Ricci Curbastaro Extra Brut

Wine Flight 2– DOCG Franciacorta Lo Sparviere Saten & DOCG Franciacorta Villa Franciacorta Saten 2013

Wine Flight 3– DOCG Franciacorta Majolini Brut & DOCG Franciacorta Ronco Calino Brut 2010

Wine Flight 4– DOCG Franciacorta Bonafidini Opera Rose & DOCG Franciacorta Antica Fratta Essence Rose 2011

Franciacorta: Flight 5 – DOCG Franciacorta Ferghettina Pas Dosé ‘Riserva 33’ 2010

Cheese, pastrami,sliced bread, olives, and roasted peppers were set on the table as a warm up. 
Here is a look at the dishes that were prepared and served by Chef Fonzo.

The chef says he chose these dishes because it was more about feeling comfortable at the table and the food went with every kind of wine. It’s like going to an Italian grandmother’s house on a Sunday.  He wanted it to be casual and encourage conversation.

“To me all the food tonight was from the heart. It’s food I grew up on,” says Fonzo. He is from New York but his grandparents are from Italy. His favorite dish that he served was the the tomato sauce and meatballs because that’s his comfort food. 

 Rashmi Primlani, creator of The Primlani Kitchen and presenter of the dinner shares her thoughts, “Italy is an enchanting land of endless discoveries, dreams, & vino.  Like India, Italy is one country where regionality is not only accepted, it is encouraged, revered, and passionately pursued.”

“What makes Italy particularly alluring is unlike the yuppies of the west, who voluntarily surrendered tradition for consumerism; Italians, including the champions of change, the younger generation, confidently and with great pride wear their cultural identity as a comfortable cloak or second skin, while crusading their local region onto contemporary stature. Speaking of Italian Wine, Franciacorta – Italy’s leading sparkling wine region’s quality conscientious producers, driven by passion and unwavering pursuit of perfection, undeterred by the wind or fashion, are forging exhilarating beauties dipped in sensuality and finesse. The single recurring note that dance in our minds – Franciacortais so much more than simply a toasting wine, it indisputably belongs on the dining table as every day affordable luxury, that marries well with all international cuisines, be it a family style meal or 12 course gourmand culinary experience. It’s our duty to share the love for Franciacorta!”

At the end the night, Fonzo brought out some fruits and sweets along with different cheeses as something light on the stomach since we all ate until our bellies were full. There was no strict pairing as we could mix and match freely to our liking.

It was a night well spent with other local food and wine lovers. We laughed, mingled and shared moments together as we broke bread around the large wooden table. It was an intimate and homey experience. The wine had an approachable taste and it’s true, it can be served with anything or you can drink it alone. It is not too harsh and the sparkling aspect gives it an enjoyable bounce and personality that you’ll love.

 

Facts about Franciacorta Wine as provided by the Franciacorta Blend of Passions presentation – 

 

The 1st Italian Sparkling Wine
produced exclusively through
second fermentation in bottle
to gain DOCG in 1995.

As for its current market: 

  • 117 producers
    • 19 townships included in the Franciacorta area (including
    municipality of Brescia)
    • 2,800 hectares of vineyards producing Franciacorta DOCG
    • 82% Chardonnay, 14% Pinot Nero, 4% Pinot Bianco
    • 350 hectares of vineyards producing Curtefranca DOC
    • 16.5 million bottles sold in 2015, 1.5 million of them abroad
    • The leading export market was Japan, which accounts for
    22% of the total exports, Switzerland and USA.

Guy’s Award-Winning Burger!  Voted “Best Burger in Las Vegas“ by Seven Magazine & Won New York City Food and Wine Festival’s Burger Bash
Bacon Mac N’ Cheese Burger – Crispy smoked bacon, six-cheese mac ’n cheese, lettuce, tomato, onion, pickle, crispy onions, donkey sauce, garlic-buttered brioche bun

We were invited to Guy Fieri’s American Kitchen & Bar in The Villages to check out their revamped menu.  Some of the new menu items includes Baja Fish Tacos, Jack Daniels New York Strip Steak, Big Bite Burrito and the Old School Steak Sandwich.   Guy Fieri’s American Kitchen & Bar has also made several other improvements.  They have lowered everyday menu prices, introduced daily specials and rolled out a new Sunday brunch menu.

“On Sundays We Brunch” will be every Sunday from 10am-3pm with prices ranging from $5.95 to $12.95.   The new Sunday brunch menu includes Chicken Fried Bacon, Biscuits & Gravy, the All–American Breakfast Burger, as well as some of Guy Fieri’s signature dishes.  Guests also have the option to make their brunch bottomless with unlimited mimosas and bloody marys for only $15.  The bottomless option has a two-hour limit.

The restaurant’s owner Greg Pranzo is the same owner as the newly-opened Cinco Tacos & Tequila in Winter Park, FL which just celebrated their ribbon cutting ceremony on National Tequila Day this past Tuesday.

Pastrami Egg Rolls – House made pastrami, Swiss cheese, sweet & sour cabbage, Russian dressing

Trash Can Nachos – Warm corn tortilla chips, pulled pork, bourbon brown sugar, BBQ sauce, SMC (super melty cheese), cheddar, beans, jalapenos, crema, pickled red onion, cilantro, pico de gallo

Roasted Garlic Hummus – Scratch-made chickpea hummus, olive tapemade, fire roasted red peppers, herb grilled flatbread, fresh veggies

Guy’s Big Island Punch – Southern Comfort, Dragonberry Rum, Dark Rum, orange, pineapple, mango, lime, cherry

Tattooed Mojito – Coconut Rum, lime, blueberries, mint, ginger ale

*NEW* Baja Fish Tacos – Crunchy panko-crusted cod, cole slaw, chipotle ranch, pico de gallo on a warm tortilla

*NEW* Jack Daniel’s New York Strip Steak – 12 oz New York strip seared, mash potatoes, side of wonder fries, bacon, sour cream, cheddar, broccolini, mushrooms, scallions, Jack Daniel sauce  

Rockin’ the “Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives” shirt that I got from Guy Fieri himself last year during filming at Saigon Noodle & Grill!

(Source: Guy Fieri’s American Kitchen & Bar)

Guy Fieri’s American Kitchen & Bar at Lake Sumter Landing
1045 Old Camp Rd, The Villages, FL 32162
(352) 633-3018
guysvillages.com

We were invited to a media preview at the new Zero Degrees, an Asian-Hispanic fusion chain with unique drinks and snacks.  We tried a few of the menu items and my favorite one of them all was the Strawberry Milk Boba Tea topped with fresh chopped strawberries, pictured above.


Mangonada – Mango slush with chamoy, Tajin and fresh mango chunks

Spicy dole whip – Pineapple Dole Whip float with fresh strawberries, dressed in chamoy and Tajin

Matchata & Vietnamese iced coffee split cup

Zero Degrees
5282 W Colonial Dr, Orlando, FL 32808
(407) 487-4597
zerodegreescompany.com

I love nothing better than going to dinner with friends. Especially, a couple that both you and your partner mutually like, meaning all four people are happy and no one has to pretend to like someone for the benefit of their relationship. I know you understand what I’m talking about, we all go through it. Finding good friends, especially at the age I am now (a much wiser age), friends that my husband also enjoys being with, can be challenging. Thankfully, on this occasion, all was right in the world. Friday night, the kids are home with our amazing sitter (she paints my daughter’s nails and bakes), meeting terrific friends (a couple we both love to be with), for a casual, but classy dinner at RusTeak Restaurant and Wine Bar in Ocoee. One of my local favorites!

Mahogany walls, dark cherry wood bar and furniture, chrome fixtures, a perfect mix of trendy and casual, rustic, as the name of the restaurant implies…this is RusTeak. A seasonal menu of American, farm-to-table favorites with an edge, and a selection of over two-hundred wines from around the world, a large variety of craft beers, and handcrafted cocktails. RusTeak has an upscale feel while creating an atmosphere in which I feel completely at ease in, wearing shorts and flip-flops, as I did on this night. Walking in, I quickly realized that RusTeak is one of the many restaurants taking part in Bite30 during the month of June. During all thirty days of the month, RusTeak is offering a special prix fixe, multi-course dinner menu for a set price of $30. We didn’t partake in the Bite30 menu on this night, but I do plan to return and try it soon. With our friends running a few minutes behind, we had no trouble finding a seat at the bar for a little pre-dinner conversation and drinks (Ponga Sauvignon Blanc for me, dirty martini for my husband). My glass of wine was icy-cold perfection for this humid night (welcome, summer weather, can’t say I’ve missed you).

Bite30 Menu Now Offered
Sauvignon Blanc and Dirty Martini – RusTeak Bar

With our friends arrival, we sat down at the high-top table, each of us merrily looking at our menus, my legs happily dangling from my bar stool (short girl problems), finally settling on a few appetizers to share: Pumpkin Seed Edamame, Tomato Jam Jar, and Soft Jumbo Pretzel Sticks with two dipping sauces (mustard and cheese).

Tender edamame sautéed with butter, garlic, parmesan, and toasted pumpkin seeds…it’s one of the best edamame appetizers I have ever tasted. Savory, salty, fresh, and rich all at the same time. The buttery parmesan coated each piece of edamame so perfectly, it took all my willpower not to suck the pod after I had already eaten the soybean. Good thing I stopped doing that after the third or fourth one.

Pumpkin Seed Edamame

The Tomato Jam Jar is one of RusTeak’s favorites (always on the menu). A jar precisely filled with layers of house-made ricotta cheese, spinach almond pesto, and cherry tomato jam, served with toasted Naan bread. The cheese is creamy, the pesto is grainy and thick with herbs, while the jam is pleasantly sweet. A trifecta of velvety, earthy, and nectarous.

Tomato Jam Jar with Naan Bread

You can’t go wrong with soft pretzels, especially dipped in mustard and cheese. Doughy, salty pretzels at RusTeak, are a surprisingly perfect pairing with super Tuscan red wine (I should know, I had plenty of both).

Soft Pretzels with Mustard and Cheese

Moving on from our appetizers, and plenty of conversation, we ordered our main entrees. RusTeak offers flatbreads, salads, burgers, sandwiches, and entrees such as Pesto Salmon and Scallop Ratatouille. My friend ordered the Shrimp Tacos, my husband went with the Fig & Rib Flatbread, while two of us settled on an entree called Stay Gold Ponyboy. The name alone, caught my eye. The Outsiders! But, the dish itself did it for me: grilled flat iron steak, spinach-maple bacon yukon gold mashed potatoes, grilled asparagus, all topped with creamy gruyere mornay and two jumbo shrimp. My steak was tender, the potatoes were hearty, the asparagus crisp, and all of it nestled deliciously well with the sauce. I would order this again and again (and not just because of my childhood crush on Ponyboy).

Shrimp Tacos
Fig and Rib Flatbread
Stay Gold Ponyboy

Everyone at the table was completely stuffed…so, of course, everyone refused dessert…except me. In the name of journalism and foodies everywhere, I convinced my husband and friends that we had to try the Dulce de leche Bread Pudding served with a scoop of vanilla ice cream and caramel sauce. Wow! Spongy bread pudding made with sweetened milk and caramel, warm out of the oven plated with cold, rich ice cream. Everyone refused at first, but, they were thanking me in the end.

Dulce de leche Bread Pudding

RusTeak Restaurant and Wine Bar is a restaurant I frequent often and recommend consistently. I love that the atmosphere is comfortable, but also eye-appealing. It’s a place you can make as “dressy” as you wish. The staff is always polite and knowledgeable, and helpful when recommending a bottle of wine from the expansive list. The food is always freshly prepared and prepared with creativity. Every meal is fantastic, and even better when in good company.

 

RusTeak Restaurant and Wine Bar

 

 

 

 

When you combine excellent tasting beer from Orlando Brewing, with the delicious, farm-to-table food of American Kitchen Bar & Grill and Chef Venoy Rogers III, what do you get? A perfect pairing! We were invited to the American Kitchen Bar & Grill, located inside of the B Resort & Spa, for a special preview of the restaurant’s Tap Takeover. Beginning this Friday, May 25th, American Kitchen embarks on a new and exciting partnership with Orlando Brewing, “the only U.S.D.A. certified organic brewery east of Colorado”. The restaurant will now serve some of Orlando Brewing’s most popular beers on tap, while also incorporating the beer in a few new dishes. I had the fantastic, and most appreciated, opportunity to sample these dishes and beer a few nights ago, and now…I’m ready for the main event on Friday night! American Kitchen is hosting an open house with special drinks and menu items, plus, giveaways and raffle prizes. I don’t know about the rest of you, but I could sure use a spa treatment from Aveda Spa, located inside the B Resort. A spa gift certificate is only one of the terrific raffle prizes to be awarded on Friday night.

My night at the Tap Takeover Preview was only made better when I got the chance to meet and speak with Chef Venoy. Before coming to American Kitchen, Chef Venoy was the Executive Chef of Essensia restaurant, located inside the Palms Hotel & Spa in Miami. A San Diego native, Chef Venoy’s experience in the culinary world is expansive, but he always stays true to using fresh, local, farm-to-table ingredients in his menu. American Kitchen offers a variety of these dishes, including Tomato Tartare, Forest Mushroom Mac-n-Cheese, Blueberry Grilled Cheese, Grilled Fish Tacos, and Bourbon Chocolate Cake, just to name a few. When speaking with Chef Venoy, his passion, his love, for cooking, for using the best ingredients, for making food fun and creative, shines through immediately. It’s written all over his face…his dedication to creating unforgettable dishes for those who come to American Kitchen, sometimes at the sacrifice of time spent with his family for extra long hours in the kitchen. But, as he said to my husband and I, he does it all for the love of those he loves and for his love of food. How lucky for us patrons!?!

Here’s a glimpse of our night at the American Kitchen and Orlando Brewing Tap Takeover Preview:

Beers on Tap and Special Menu Items

 

Beers on Tap

Music Provided by DJD Entertainment Professionals

Specialty Drink: “Greg Norman”
Foie Gras Donuts with Fig Marsala Sauce
Short Rib Flatbread with Pickled Ramps and Manchego
Smoked Crispy Chicken Sandwich with House Aioli and Coleslaw
Crispy Fish “Chips” and Beer Battered Potato Sticks with Orlando Brewing Beer Vinegar

GM of B Resort and Spa: Michael Allen with Chef Venoy Rogers III
Chef Venoy Rogers III
Meeting Chef Venoy Rogers III

American Kitchen Bar & Grill is a must-try all on its own; but, with the addition of Orlando Brewing, it’s even better. I have to admit, my drink of choice is not usually beer. However, after tasting Orlando Brewing’s La Guera Blonde Lager and I-4 IPA, while enjoying salty and sweet Foie Gras Donuts and the tender, flavorful Smoked Crispy Chicken Sandwich, I’m hooked! But, don’t take my word for it. Enjoy the pairing yourself at American Kitchen Bar & Grill. I know I will again…and again…and again.

 

American Kitchen Bar & Grill 

Orlando Brewing 

B Resort & Spa

DJD Entertainment Professionals 

 

Martini Pop Band – Lindsey, Jeremy, Rachel

We were invited to indulge in some of the best flavors that Central Florida has to offer during the inaugural Orlando Sentinel Foodie Awards Celebration at Celine Orlando, located in downtown Orlando.  The Orlando Sentinel’s Foodie Awards program has been recognizing the best food and dining experiences in Central Florida since 1998, but this was their first-time kick off event, inspired by Orlando Sentinel food reporter Lauren Delgado and their passionate readers.  General admission tickets included access to the party, live entertainment, and food and drink tastings from over 20 Foodie Awards winners and finalists.

Palm Ridge Reserve owners Dick and Marti Waters.  I always enjoy seeing them!

Create Your Nature (Best Vegetarian/Vegan) – Blackberry crumble oatmeal

Create Your Nature (Best Vegetarian/Vegan) – Holy frijole salad

Kelly’s Homemade Ice Cream

Kelly’s Homemade Ice Cream

Kelly’s Homemade Ice Cream

K Restaurant – Duck breast, white beans, favs beans, English peas, rainbow chard, crispy pork, pea tendrils for a garnish.  (My favorite dish of the night!)

Dajen Eats – “Honey” Ginger Chipotle Cauliflower Bites.  She’s amazing!

1921 By Norman Van Aken – Florida fish & passion fruit ceviche with torched sweet potato and puffed sourghum

1921 By Norman Van Aken – Stone fruit gazpacho with peaches, pickled plums, buttermilk & basil

Maxine Earhart from Maxine’s on Shine

Maxine’s on Shine – “Chicken Maxine’s” – Diced chicken bread pan seared, roasted shallots, mushrooms, cherry tomato, marsala wine cream sauce, penne

Maxine’s on Shine – Rum balls – Classic cake with rum soaked raisins, covered in dark chocolate

Thai Island (Best Thai) – Pad Thai, Panang CK (Thai Curry), Tom Kona (Coconut Soup), Thai Custard (Dessert)

Tamarind Indian Cuisine (Best Indian) – Vegetable Samosa

Tamarind Indian Cuisine (Best Indian) – Tandoori Chicken Tikka

Tamarind Indian Cuisine (Best Indian) – Chicken Biryani

Border Grill Fresh-Mex (Best Mexican) – Carnitas tacos, grilled chicken tacos, shredded beef tacos, chips & house-made queso dip

Tapa Toro – Shrimp Causa – Peruvian style shrimp salad, potato salad, Aji Amarillo, cilantro, micro herb

Dunkin’ Donuts (Best Coffee)

Big Fin Seafood Kitchen – “Signature New Orleans-Style Shrimp” – Blackened shrimp on a bed of crawfish grits and New Orleans vegetables (sun-dried tomatoes, cremini mushrooms and spinach) topped with Cajun cream sauce.

Orlando Meats – Pork Rillettes – Olive oil, bread, Dijonnaise, hot almond

Orlando Meats – Gateux Matilda – blueberry cheese custard

Jeremiah’s Italian Ice (Best Frozen Treats)

Chef Eddie’s (Best Soul)

Grills Lakeside Seafood Deck & Tiki Bar – Tahitian Tuna Poke Cups, Grilled Filefish

Eddie V’s Prime Seafood – Pacific Ahi Tuna Tartar

Mynt Fine Indian Cuisine – Basil Malai Kabab, Chilly Baby Corn, Vegetable Pekora, Chicken Marsala (Nan & Rice)

Francesco’s Ristorante Pizzeria – Beef Tenderloin, Vegetarian Tortellini

Hollerbach’s Willow Tree Café (Best German) – Nurnburger Sausage, Heaven and Earth Potatoes, Sauerkraut

Jenn from DaJen Eats being interviewed by Orlando Sentinel reporters Sarah Espedido and Lauren Delgado.

For more information, visit: www.orlandosentinel.com/foodiecelebration

We were invited to the Pre-Opening Party for Wine Bar George at Disney Springs; and it was certainly a “magical night”. The rain stopped just in time for the party to begin, and a rainbow appeared. How perfect is that?

Wine Bar George officially opens Saturday, May 19th, and from my experience during the event, I only see a very busy future ahead for George and his amazing crew (I’m booking my babysitter in advance to return soon). George Miliotes, Master Sommelier (one of only 249 in the world), has personally hand-picked every available ounce of wine in the wine bar. Paired perfectly with small bites (such as house-made meatballs, jicama salad, grilled octopus), family-style platters (such as skirt steak and wine braised chicken), charcuterie and artisanal cheese boards, and desserts (olive oil cake and key lime pie).  One dessert is an event in itself: The Chocolate Experience (pairings of wines and chocolates). Plus, other amazing offerings of beer and cider, and specialty cocktails. Presently, Wine Bar George is the only Master Sommelier-led wine bar in Florida. George brings a lifetime of wine knowledge and education to his new venture. Practically growing up with a glass of wine in his hand (I like this family), working alongside his father (Chris Miliotes) at a young age in his father’s former restaurant off of John Young Parkway, Chris’ House of Beef, success with California Grill, Seasons 52, and Capital Grille, George Miliotes and Wine Bar George are truly special. George also has an amazing crew working by his side, and from what I saw, working extremely hard. All of them passionate about being an intricate part of Wine Bar George, and it shows with their every gesture and word, so quick to recommend the perfect pairing, and share what they know and love with guests. As if the fantastic staff, wine, and food isn’t enough to love this place, there is also the amazingly beautiful atmosphere of Wine Bar George. Soft lighting, large paneled windows overlooking great views of Disney Springs, oak floors, elements of stone and metal, brick walls, and hints of George’s personal wine collections and treasures, make up the two-story (a bar on both levels) wine bar with plenty of comfy seating. They say a picture is worth a thousand words, but I don’t think my pictures (taken on my iPhone) adequately do the beauty of this place justice. Until you can see for yourself, here’s a sampling of our night at Wine Bar George:

Meeting Chris Miliotes
Meeting George Miliotes

I want Wine Bar George to be my Cheers, where the staff knows my name, I have my very own bar stool in both the upstairs and downstairs bar, and my favorite glass (or glasses) of wine awaits when I enter. This was an event I will never forget and I loved the experience of trying new wines hand-picked by George, eating delicious bites, talking with the amazing staff and fellow foodies, and having the honor of meeting George Miliotes and his father, Chris (both completely modest and easy to talk to). I know you will enjoy Wine Bar George as much as I did…so, plan a visit soon…but, if I find you sitting in my stool at the bar…game on (who am I kidding…I’ll just smile at you and find another spot).

 

Wine Bar George

https://disneyworld.disney.go.com/dining/disney-springs/wine-bar-george/

 

Grilled center cut filet – filet mignon, grilled and seasoned perfectly, fingerling potato, radish, sugar snap peas, charred scallion oil & roast shallot sauce. (MY FAVORITE!)

Marlow’s Tavern is a bar & grill chain offering American pub fare in a classic setting with sports playing on the televisions.  The menu at Marlow’s Tavern changes three times a year.   We were invited to check out the new spring/summer menu at Marlow’s Tavern – Waterford Lakes (near UCF) and we really enjoyed everything we ate.  The food was delicious and the service was very welcoming and accommodating.  I highly recommend checking out Marlow’s Tavern – Waterford Lakes for any occasion.

That’s Not Mai Tie – Cana brava rum, raspberry syrup, orgeat, Myers dark rum & fresh lime.

Firecracker shrimp – Szechuan tempura shrimp, red & poblano peppers, peanut, cracklin spicy sauce. It was amazing!

Pastrami egg roll – Montreal smoked pastrami, Napa cabbage, sautéed onions, carrot, smoked thousand island sauce in a crispy egg roll.

Chicken tortilla – prestige farms chicken, sliced thin, crisp field greens, avocado, tomato, carrot, cucumber, fresh cilantro, tortilla, honey lime vinaigrette. One of the best salads I’ve ever had!

Side of fried okra.

Chicken salad wrap – house-made curry chicken salad, romaine, broccoli slaw, golden raisin, fresh cilantro, grilled tortilla.

Marlow’s special of the day – Blackened mahi sandwich – served on a ciabatta bun with a jicama slaw and house made citrus aioli.  

Grilled Atlantic salmon – jumbo cous cous, broccoli, carrot, red onion, golden raisin, parsley, toasted almond & port wine reduction.

Seared jumbo scallops – simply seasoned & perfectly seared, roast jalapeño corn grits, Spanish chorizo, poblano, roma tomato, roasted tomato fondue, palsied olive oil.

N.Y. style cheesecake – classic creamy vanilla cheesecake, strawberry, powdered sugar and cinnamon crisp.

Thank you Executive Chef Matt Tolson for an amazing nine-course meal and superior hospitality!  We really enjoyed everything that we ate and thank you Laura Richeson for hosting us!

Be sure to check out Marlow’s Tavern – Waterford  Lakes soon to taste their new spring/summer menu,  it is delicious!

Marlow’s Tavern – Waterford Lakes
547 N. Alafaya Trail, Building J1, Orlando, FL 32828
(407) 757-0606
http://marlowstavern.com

Double cut grinned pork chop – Charleston SC double corn grits, pork belly collards, fried super sweet onions

We were invited to a media dinner at a nice speakeasy on Sand Lake Road called Pharmacy Orlando,  a prohibition-chic haunt with a hidden door featuring craft cocktails, New American plates & pizza.

It took me a few minutes of wandering aimlessly around and asking a few locals where the speakeasy’s hidden entrance was located but I found it and it was totally worth the hunt.  Pharmacy Orlando is located on the first floor of a multilevel shopping/business complex, near Regions bank, behind secret elevator doors.  The inside is dim with an intimate ambiance and relaxing vibe.  The food (“medicine”) was delicious and the staff was knowledgable and attentive.

Classic cheese fondue – 100 year old sourdough crostini, spicy pickled green beans

Margharita – sciue-sciue tomato, green h2ouse purple micro basil

Half pound Cape Canaveral garlic & butter rock shrimp (this was my favorite appetizer!  In this picture we had already eaten half of our order)

Tomato & prosciutto bruschetta with burrata cheese & farm poached egg

Greenh2ouse romaine & kale green goddess caesar – house smoked bottarga, local tomato confit, parmigiana reggiano

Florida fresh tang fried chickens with lime, scallions & sesame

Meatball grandé with Nana’s spicy sauce and fried cheese polenta

Pharmacy Mac & Cheese – wild mushrooms, poached farm egg, 3 cheeses

Cape Canaveral roasted whole vermillion snapper – (delicious medium bodied white fish) Peruvian chimichurri, fried plantains, lime

Be sure to check out Pharmacy Orlando soon to pick up your medication and elixirs!

Pharmacy Orlando
8060 Via Dellagio Way, Orlando, FL 32819
(407) 985-2972
http://thepharmacyorlando.com

If you’re in downtown Tampa for Cinco de Mayo/The Kentucky Derby and don’t know what to do, definitely consider visiting the Westin Hotel’s Blue Harbor for their first event since their grand opening, Cinco de Derby, happening from 3PM-12AM! I previewed a few of the specialty drinks that they’re going to be featuring this Saturday. Nonetheless, they have their Happy Hour from 4PM-7PM with some amazing full-sized appetizers for you to much on while you sip away!

First we started off with their calamari and cheese sample platter. The fried calamari sat on top a bed of veggies and then topped off with what reminded me of shrimp chips! The seasoning and sauces of this dish was amazing and probably one of the favorite calamari dishes I’ve had so far. The cheese platter was great, as well! The fruits were so fresh and sweet, and there was a nice assortment of cheeses that paired very nicely with the salami and pepperoni. I really liked how they had a couple of jams on the side with honey too.

Tropical Fire Water (shown above.) This was probably one of my favorite drinks. Though it’s not a featured specialty drink for the event, you should still give it a try! Beware there’s a bit of added spice to it, so if you’re not really into spicy, you may not be a fan.

Passion Fruit Mojito with a Pea Flower Infusion

Featured below are their three specialty drinks that they will be having at the event for just $10 each! Each were so good, my favorite was the Spicy Mia-Rita! All of their featured drinks use fresh ingredients with some Don Julio, yummm!

Cucumber Agave Lime Margarita (shown above)

Hightailing Jalisco Julep (shown above)

Spicy Mia-Rita (shown above)

Meet Will! The man behind the geniusness of these creative drinks. Definitely stop by and say hi and try his creations and tag him on Instagram @cocktailsbyfrost, ask him from a Scorpion Sting (those are good, but beware they have a little kick to them!)

All in all, I had a really great time at Blue Harbor Bar & Eatery! Their drinks are definitely one of a kind with such creativity and thought put into them. Definitely something to check out! Happy eatings though everyone (or maybe in this case drinking), until next time!

I’m worried about my husband. A couple weeks ago, he ate at a vegan restaurant…and liked it. Last week, he made a sandwich with vegan cheese and vegan mayonnaise. But, it wasn’t until he came home with vegan bacon from Publix, that I knew he had truly gone to the dark side. This may not seem suspicious to most, but this is coming from a man who rolls his eyes when I suggest humus as an appetizer, and who proudly wears a t-shirt with the phrase Part Wolf embroidered on the front. So, twenty questions later, the five stages of grief behind me, I now accept the fact that my husband isn’t a complete traitor, he just simply likes eating vegan (on occasion). Hey, I can be vegan too (on occasion), and after eating at Dixie Dharma and Valhalla Bakery, I can eat vegan AND love it!

Dixie Dharma and Valhalla Bakery are both located inside Market on South in Downtown Orlando on South Street. I had the pleasure of trying Dixie Dharma’s Beet Tartare during the Beard in Baldwin event a few weeks ago, and I immediately knew I would visit the establishment soon (don’t tell my husband). To my over-joyed surprise, upon entering Market on South, I also found Valhalla Bakery (I stalk their donuts on Instagram). My vegan dreams came true: dinner and dessert! Now, this was by far not a date night. In a moment of sheer insanity, my husband and I decided to go as a family of four. Our ten-year-old son is an adventurous eater, but our seven-year-old daughter is not. Our chances of a happy dinner is always 50/50. Thankfully, Market on South is a kid-friendly environment with inside and outside seating, and tons of local craft beer and wine to choose from. Which is exactly what we ordered first: Quantum Leap Winery Kaley’s Rescue Red and Quantum Leap Winery Garda White. Both drinks were the rescue we needed. The red and the white are smooth and easy on the palate, with no bitter aftertaste. Thank you, Market on South, for a heavy pour (see…kid-friendly).

Quantum Leap Winery Garda White, Quantum Leap Winery Kaley’s Rescue Red

While we sipped on wine and the kids drank their Martinelli’s Gold Medal Apple Juice in the old-school glass bottle (the kids loved this), we decided on dinner. Thankfully, Dixie Dharma offers vegan hotdogs. A perfect choice for my picky-eater! But, will she be fooled…stay tuned. My son, a huge lover of chili, cheese dogs, ordered the HillBilly Chili Dawgs. My husband (#1 healthy eater) ordered four Nopales Tacos, and I ordered the Florida Fried Green Tomato (the secret’s in the sauce…get it?). Our meals would not be complete without sides. Dixie Dharma offers three different versions of mac and cheese: original, garlic, and buffalo. We decided on the original and buffalo, plus a side of Crispy Brussels and Cheesy Homies. Don’t forget: everything you are about to see is 100% vegan.

HillBilly Chili Dawgs with Cheesy Homies
Nopales Tacos
Florida Fried Green Tomato with Crispy Brussels and Original Mac and Cheese
Buffalo Mac and Cheese

My son’s chili dogs (of course I had a taste), were no ordinary hotdogs. Two vegan, not-dogs in pretzel buns, covered in house-made, Indian-spiced, chili and cheese sauce, with blackened onion and scallions. The chili alone was amazing! It was spicy but also sweet, and I loved the texture of the hearty beans. After two chili dogs, my son tapped-out (a win for my husband and I), and we finished off his side of Cheesy Homies. I need a bigger plate of these. Imagine a bowl of mini baked potatoes covered in cheese…and then imagine yourself smiling.

Tacos with jackfruit and cactus…any takers? I know that sounds crazy, but, it’s truly delicious, and it completely satisfied my need for meat. My taste buds were fooled! The Nopales Tacos are made with jackfruit carnitas, smoked Nopales cactus, blackened onions and corn, chili lime aioli, and pickled radish on a grilled corn shell. I love tacos: steak, chicken, fish, and now…jackfruit and cactus! I am simply amazed by the taste of these tacos. The jackfruit and cactus is tenderly cooked and shredded, creating a perfect bed for the crunchy pickled radish and tangy aioli. These are no dainty tacos, they are filling. We mistakenly ordered more than we had room for…but guess who is having them for lunch tomorrow…me (I bet you guessed my husband).

Finally, on to my dish: the Florida Fried Green Tomato. A delicious sandwich of Texas toast, thick-sliced green tomato, breaded, and deep-fried, with smoked, eggplant remoulade, toped with garlicky kale and the house chow-chow. Crunchy and tender at the same time. The tomato is sweet and lightly breaded, giving it an airy feeling instead of the greasy, fried food effect. My husband liked this sandwich so much, he finished one of my halves (and that’s why I’m eating his leftover tacos). My side of mac and cheese, made with creamy cashew, was silky and velvety, cheesy-perfection, with a crunchy, bread crumb topping. The Buffalo Mac and Cheese was just as good as the original, but with a spicy kick from the buffalo sauce. The Crispy Brussels were also outstanding! Charred in all the right places, mush-free (is that a word), without the bitter aftertaste some brussels sprouts dishes can have. Honestly, I know brussels sprouts get a bum rap, but Dixie Dharma does them proud.  So, did we enjoy our dinner? Was my daughter fooled by her vegan hotdog? What do you think:

Dinner is Done

Obviously, we loved our dinner at Dixie Dharma, and we will return, more than just occasionally. Dinner is done, but there is always room for dessert! My son, who couldn’t eat another bite, mysteriously had room for a S’mores Bar, while the rest of us shared Coconut Cream Pie and a Sprinkled Vanilla Cupcake. All egg free, dairy free, and vegan (not gluten free…that’s a whole other conversation). Thank you, Valhalla Bakery, for these fantastic goodies! I was shocked by the amount of sweets to choose from: cookies, brownies, blondies, doughnuts, pies, cakes, cupcakes, you name it!

Valhalla Bakery – Take Your Pick!
Coconut Cream Pie
S’mores Bar and Sprinkle Vanilla Cupcake

My poor son, we all had a couple bites of his S’mores Bar, which was chocolatey, chewy goodness. The Coconut Cream Pie was luscious and rich, and refreshingly not too sweet. Our Sprinkle Vanilla Cupcake had the perfect amount of thick, vanilla frosting, to match the spongey, vanilla cake. It had the ideal frosting to cake ratio. By the way, when it comes to sweets, my daughter is adventurous (she tried all three desserts without being asked, and loved them all).

No, I’m not a true vegan (neither is my husband, don’t let him fool you), but I am a fan of creative and tasty dishes…which Dixie Dharma and Valhalla Bakery have mastered with their vegan fare. Therefore, I am a huge fan of Market on South, and I am greatly looking forward to my next meal there (sans kids).

 

Dixie Dharma

Valhalla Bakery

Quantum Leap Winery

Market On South

 

There is nothing better than playing hooky.  Leave your responsibilities, your obligations, your worries behind and go play!  This is exactly what my husband and I did on a Friday afternoon while the kids were in school.  Granted, my husband took the day off from work and I work from home, but still, it felt delightfully naughty of us to take some time for just us two.  Especially, time spent at Disney Springs, “hiding out” at Enzo’s Hideaway. Sometimes you just need an escape, and that’s how we felt dining at Enzo’s, an old rum-running underground tunnel during the prohibition era, that was later turned into a restaurant by Enzo himself when he accidentally stumbled upon it. Maria and Enzo, a lovely, Italian couple, new to Orlando straight from Italy (Enzo literally flew in on his airplane), here to bring us three divine places to eat: Maria & Enzo’s Ristorante, Pizza Ponte, and Enzo’s Hideaway.  All three eateries located in Disney Springs, but Enzo’s Hideaway is not as obvious to find, given the mystery of its origins.  This “secret location” can be found below Maria & Enzo’s Ristorante, underground, giving it a very cozy and romantic feel, but also perfectly welcoming to families and friends of all ages.

Entrance to Enzo’s Hideaway at Disney Springs

Our amazing waiter told us this heart-warming backstory about Maria and Enzo, and how their three restaurants came to be.  Personally, I love when Disney does this with its establishments.  It makes the dining experience even more special (that might be my own opinion, but I am a storyteller after all).  Rumor has it that the original concept of this speakeasy included a password-only entrance; hence, the window in the top-center of the door.  The idea was scrapped, but the door remains.

Enzo’s Hideaway Speakeasy-Style Door

Once inside, diners are whisked away to another time period, listening to popular music by classic Italian crooners (Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, and more), seated under vintage-style Edison bulb lighting, at mahogany wood tables and booths with red-cushioned seats, while curiously reading the graffiti decorating the “tunnel” walls.  I couldn’t help but feel we stumbled upon an old, Italian restaurant on the streets of the Bronx or Brooklyn.  Any minute Martin Scorsese is going to walk in and start filming.  I can see my Italian relatives scurrying around their deli and restaurant in Toms River, New Jersey, while I hang-out behind the counter with my accordion-playing, great-grandfather who calls me bella.  I’m home.

Enzo’s Hideaway Mock Bar – Prohibition Style
Enzo’s Hideaway Dining Room
Enzo’s Hideaway Graffiti-Themed Walls
Enzo’s Hideaway “Gambling Room”
Enzo’s Hideaway Table Setting

Now, on to the best part of our secret date – the drinks and food!  I’m a sucker for anything with Prosecco in it (Prosecco by itself too), so, it didn’t take long for me to notice the Luciano Spritz on the menu, made with Solerno Blood Orange, Aperol, blood orange juice, and Villa Sani Prosecco.  However, the Sangria, also caught my attention.  What is a girl supposed to do with this dilemma?  Order two drinks when it’s barely past noon?  Sadly, this is not an option, when picking up kids from school is involved.  I got it!  Demand, no, politely ask my husband to order the Sangria – problem solved.  Enzo’s Sangria made with a house blend of Malbec, Burgundy, Apricot and Peach Brandy, seasonal fruits, and cinnamon spice simple syrup is refreshingly sweet and smooth. It complimented the bubbly, soured-sweetness of my Luciano Spritz nicely.  Both drinks were the perfect accompaniment to our appetizer – Salumi e Formaggi for two.  This antipasto platter is made-to-order, with fresh cuts of meat and cheese sliced in front of you at Enzo’s very own “deli counter”.  The platter consists of 24-month-cured Prosciutto, Salame Piccante, Finocchiona, 24-month-aged Parmigiano-Reggiano, Pecorino Romano, Fontina, olives, pickled vegetables, bread sticks, and a mustard fruit spread.  The meat, cheese, pickled vegetables, breadsticks were all delicious, but the mustard fruit spread really took me by surprise.  A spread I have never seen or tried before, but can’t wait to have again.  Sweet from the fruit, but spicy, almost like the taste of horseradish – a perfect pairing with each of the three cheeses.

Enzo’s Hideaway Luciano Spritz
Enzo’s Hideaway Sangria
Enzo’s Hideaway Salumi e Formaggi

As we fork-fenced over our antipasto, a truce was called just in time to peruse the lunch menu.  Another quandary – everything looks good!  My husband ordered the Polpettine – classic meatballs with polenta, and I chose the Porchetta and Provola Panini – pork roast, provolone, grainy mustard, pear aioli, spicy cherry peppers, and arugula.  If you like the combination of salty and sweet, this panini is for you.  The pork and provolone was tender, the aioli tangy, with peppery arugula, and a zesty kick from the mustard and cherry peppers.  As the loving wife I am (sharing is caring), my husband and I exchanged plates halfway through the course, as he finished my panini, I enjoyed the meatballs and polenta. The polenta was so soft it practically melted in my mouth, and the meatballs were delicate, yet hearty, gently swimming in a luscious tomato sauce.

Enzo’s Hideaway Porchetta and Provola Panini
Enzo’s Hideaway Polpettine

Our secret lunch almost complete, our waiter asks us if we will be having dessert.  As they say, when in Rome – yes! He recommends his favorite dessert on the menu – Maritozzi con Panna.  Imagine a sweet roll stuffed with cream and Nutella, sprinkled with powdered sugar – forget imagining it, have it now!  I don’t think my explanation can clearly justify how fantastic this dessert is, but, I’ll give it a try.  The bread reminds me of a dense dinner roll that has been dusted with powdered sugar, while the cream is velvety, but not overly-sweet, which makes sense when paired with the Nutella, whose job is to make everything sweet.

Enzo’s Hideaway Maritozzi con Panna

We left our secret rendezvous with huge smiles on our faces, and full stomachs to match.  I am absolutely in love with Enzo’s Hideaway and plan to return very soon.  The dinner menu has even more delectable entrees to pick from, including a pasta dish with a thick meat sauce made with beef short ribs (I’m having that).  Enzo’s Hideaway also offers a late-night dining experience on Thursdays through Saturdays through 2am, featuring prohibition-style cocktails and a special late-night menu (I’ll need an afternoon power nap to enjoy this).  In conclusion, whether you’re playing hooky or not, Enzo’s Hideaway is the perfect spot to get “lost”, leave the stresses of life behind, and unwind, speakeasy style.

 

https://disneyworld.disney.go.com/dining/disney-springs/enzos-hideaway/

https://www.patinagroup.com/enzos-hideaway

 

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

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.

I’ve heard about Tampa’s Busch Garden’s Food and Wine Festival over the years, but never had the chance to go until now! With it being my very first foodie festival, I was not disappointed. This year being their 4th annual event, Busch Gardens had an array of cuisines, wines, craft beers, and cocktails to choose from with vegetarian and gluten free options available, as well. Guests have the option of sampling a number of foods and drinks throughout the park, while enjoying the animals and rides too; a plus for parents and their kids.

To start off our evening, our eyes were caught by the Char Siu Duck on a Steamed Bun and the Grilled Lamb Chops with Tabouleh & Tzatziki at Field House Eatery. The grilled lamb was my favorite! The meat was cooked and seasoned nicely and wasn’t gamey at all, when paired with the tabbouleh and tzatziki sauce it balanced the dish perfectly.

Next, we visited Artisan Eats, there we sampled the Duck Fat Truffle Fries with Parmesan Truffle Aioli and the Fleur de Mer Rosé.

Coast to Coast Cookery’s Pan-Seared Steak with Chimichurri & Roasted Poblano Hash, Flourless Chocolate Torte with Raspberry Sauce, and Swamp Head Brewery, Wheat Night Honey Cream Ale.

Garden Gate Café’s Truffle Seafood Mac & Cheese with Shrimp, Scallops, and Cod in a Creamy Gruyere Bechamel with White Truffle, Hawaiian-Seasoned Tuna Poke, You’re My Boy Blue Blueberry Brew, and Graffiti Orange American Wheat Beers. I’m a huge fan of tuna, so that was definitely one of my top dishes.

Now by this point, we were already getting full but we decided to end our night with Chef’s Plantation’s Salmon Cake with Lemon Aioli, Comfort Kitchen’s Fried Plantain Cups filled with Stewed Chicken, and Tasty Taqueria’s Frozen Mojito! The salmon cake and lemon aioli was such a light and refreshing dish that regardless of how full I was, I couldn’t stop eating it.

There were so many other cabins and vendors we missed out on, but the ones we visited definitely didn’t disappoint. From food to entertainment, Busch Garden’s Food and Wine Festival has something for everyone! You can visit Busch Gardens and experience this all yourselves, every weekend from March 3rd – April 29th. Happy eatings, everyone! Until next time.

Author: Melissa Dam
Photo Creds: Cindy Nguyen

What pairs well with a great conversation? Great food, that’s fresh to order, and imported from Spain. Located in Winter Park, FL is an amazing restaurant called Bulla Gastrobar.

The chef described every dish to our table, and I found myself eating food and talking about it at the same time. That’s when you know you’re at a table full of foodies!

The Lemongrass Collins has easily become one of my favorite drinks of all time. It’s the right amount of refreshing, and as you can tell the bartender does not skip out on the rosemary.

Ingredients are St. Germain, Wint & Lila gin, lemongrass syrup, cucumber.

I also ordered the Proper Gin & Tonic. The star anise was a surprising touch!

Ingredients are Wint & Lila gin, lemon peel, lime wheel, star anise, Fever Tree tonic water.

First up was a meat and cheese plate. My favorite was the Manchego cheese and the fresh olives coming in every shape and size. You can just taste how fresh each ingredient is.

Cured Meat & Cheese Plate:
Jamon Serrano
‘Fermin’ Serrano ham, aged 15 months

Chorizo de Cantimpalo
Mildly spicy pork sausage from Segovia

Manchego
Sheep’s milk, nutty, sweet, tangy flavor, aged 6 month

Murcia al Vino
Goat cheese from Murcia, wine cured rind, sweet & smooth flavor

House Marinated Olives
Thyme, orange peel, garlic

Pan de Cristal con Tomate
Toasted crispy ethereal bread brushed with fresh tomato

Huevos Bulla
Eggs, homemade potato chips, Serrano ham, potato foam, truffle oil
The eggs come unbroken, until they get to the table! The server mixes up the dish before it’s served. The homemade chips add a perfect crunch to this savory dish.
Montaditos
Brisket, tomato marmalade, guindilla, tetilla cheese
My favorite dish of them all. The bread was toasted to the right second, the meat was tender, and the tomato marmalade was amazing. Also, the pepper is not spicy, it was delicious!

Sangria Blanca
Cava, peach schnapps, triple sec, strawberries, blueberries

Grilled Octopus Salad
Roma tomatoes, cucumber, croutons, lemon
The best part about the octopus was the charcoal edges. Absolutely delicious. And it was paired with fresh to order vegetables.
Paella
Valencia style rice, calamari, prawns, clams, shrimp, red sofrito, saffron
 
The rice and seafood complimented each other so well. Every last bit of the paella was eaten.
Fun fact: Tuesday, March 27th 2018 is National Paella Day! Scroll to the end of this article for special event details*
Bullfighter
Bulleit bourbon, Aperol, Dow’s Port, lemon juice, cranberry
Churros Con Chocolate
Traditional fried dough, chocolate sauce, dulce de leche
My favorite dessert of the two that I tried. The Churros are just a cute bite size,  fried to the perfect texture, and I’m obsessed with caramel, so the caramel dip won me over.
Torrija
Caramelized brioche, turrón ice cream, honey.

I left Bulla Gastrobar full and happy!

*In celebration of “National Paella Day,” the chefs at Spanish Winter Park restaurant Bulla Gastrobar will prepare massive paellas on the restaurants patio during happy hour. You’ll have the opportunity to observe how the paellas are made and will receive complimentary samples to enjoy on the patio, which will be decked out in festive decor! Bulla Gastrobar will also be offering $5 red sangrias all day long and will raffle off a $50 gift card to a lucky guest. Happy hour is between 4pm-7pm and 9pm – close!

 

By Gina Nguyen

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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Participating establishments included:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Lately there has been a lot of commotion downtown and sports bar, this could be frustrating when you just want to go out for a nice night of drinks whether by yourself or with a couple of friends. Luckily, Smokey Bones have been pouring out some new drinks to accompany their entrees- that way you can avoid all the heavy traffic of one way streets or overly dedicated sports fan.

I actually attended two different nights at Smokey bones to try out their new drinks, the first night was a intense show off game of Beer vs. Wine

Processed with VSCOcam with g3 preset Pretzel & Cheese Dip: Soft salty pretzel with beer infused cheese dip 
Harpoon IPA 
vs. Carnivor Cabernet Sauvignon
There was a little of a cheat for this one since the beer (of course) complemented the beer cheese very well. 

Processed with VSCOcam with g3 presetNutty Salad: Fresh greens with goat cheese, sweet apple slices, and pecans and walnuts – dressed in honey mustard dressing (my personal favorite)
Sierra Nevada Kellerweirs Vs. Kung Fu girl Riesling
I was pretty split between this decision, but in the end I went with the wine for it’s lightness didn’t overwhelm the salad.
Processed with VSCOcam with g3 presetBBQ chicken & Coleslaw: super juicy dark meat chicken smothered in the house BBQ sauce with a refreshing side of creamy coleslaw
Dogfish Head 60 minute IPA vs. Charles & Charles Chardonnay
Although the wine paired well with the coleslaw, the IPA just makes more sense with the BBQ sauce of the main component.
Processed with VSCOcam with g3 presetBrisket& BBQ beans: slow braised brisket that’s incredibly tender with sweet BBQ baked beans.
Rogue Dead Guy Vs. Velvet Devil
I, personally, preferred the merlot over the beer. However, the crowd went with the beer – I guess it also made sense.
Processed with VSCOcam with g3 presetDonut: house made dough nuts with chocolate and raspberry sauce. The dough nut was super light and fluffy!
Stone Imperial Golden Stout vs. Lunetta Prosecco
This could also be because of my bias but- I went with the beer for the desert. The stout was actually infused with (shhh) bananas! and I’m just not a big fan of bubbly wines/ Champagne so my heart immediately went with the beer for the desert.

 

On another night, I went back for more drinks!

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 Peach Buzz Margarita
1800 Silver Tequila & Chambord Black Raspberry Liqueur.
peach purée + lime sour + fresh red raspberries + a salted rim

DSC00477Cucumber Citrus Smash:
Hendrick’s & St-Germain Elderflower Liqueur
muddled cucumbers + lemon and lime sour + topped with soda.

DSC00488Purple Haze Sangria:
This was one of Smokey Bones’ special mixology recipes that they shared with us (it’s the also the one I made in the previous photo!)

1.5 oz of Viniq Shimmery Liqueur
0.5 oz PAMA pomegranate liqueur
4.0 oz Lunetta Prosecco Sparkling wine
0.5 oz Monin Red Passion Fruit syrup
1.0 oz Cranberry Juice
1 Orange Moon
2 Lime Moons
1 Cherry

Shake together the Viniq Shimmery Liqueur, PAMA pomegranate Liqueur, Monin Red Passion Fruit Syrup, and cranberry juice. Pour over ice. Top with Punetta Prosecco Sparkling wine. Garnish with the orange and lime moons and the cherry.

Smokey Bones Bar & Fire Grill
303 N. Alafaya Tr.Orlando, FL 32828
407-249-2009
407-249-2327

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Photos and Words by Unique Michael

“Men and girls came and went like moths among the whisperings and the champagne and the stars.” — F. Scott Fitzgerald, Author of The Great Gatsby 

Remember those magnificent parties Gatsby put on for Daisy in The Great Gatsby? On Saturday, March 8th 2014 Orlando Weekly hosted the largest cocktail party, The Great Orlando Mixer at The Cheyenne Saloon at Church Street Station. Hundreds of folks dressed in extravagant 1920s attire and partied to 1920 remixes of today’s pop hits.

If you’ve never been inside The Cheyenne Saloon, you’re missing out. The interior is reminiscent of a western saloon where the winner of a “showdown” drank to celebrate their victory. When you first walk in, you’ll notice the mirrors behind the side bars. They reflect the entire Saloon, showcasing the beauty in whole. As you move closer to center of the room, your eyes immediately float to the beautiful wood floors, paneling, and railings. If that isn’t reminiscent of a beautifully designed saloon, the stained-glass fixtures and windows bring out the real western appeal where folks would drink and smoke for hours.

Despite the photo of everyone dancing and socializing from the mass amount of alcohol consumed, hundreds of drinkers judged Orlando’s top bartenders by trying each of the bartender’s unique cocktails, ultimately crowning one bartender as the winner of The Great Orlando Mixer.

prato
Christina Eglin of Prato in Winter Park served up some truly dynamic vodka and moonshine drinks. Her original recipe for everyone to create at home is the Melone Picante.

Melone Picante Recipe:

-1.25 ounces Nolet’s Gin
-1 lemon wedge, squeezed
-0.75 ounces Canton Ginger Liqueur
-1 ounce fresh watermelon juice (adding simple syrup to taste)
-3 dashes habanero bitters

Luma
Jerid Johnston from Luma dazzled the crowd with his snazzy mustache and beautiful cocktails. His original recipe for everyone to create at home is the The Firm.

The Firm Recipe:

– 2 ounces Gentleman Jack
-1 ounce Blood Orange San Pellegrino
– 0.75 ounces soda water
-0.5 ounces agave nectar
-3 dashes grapefruit bitters

kasa
Alejanddro Munoz from Kasa wowed the crowd with their cocktails – one even had apple pie on the rim. His original recipe for everyone to create at home is the the Cinnamon Suspension Martini.

Cinnamon Suspension Martini Recipe:

-1.5 onces vanilla vodka
-2 ounces lemonade (homemade sour mix)
-Couple of dashes of cinnamon powder

dta
Michael Studley from DTA electrified the crowd with his refreshing cocktails – one had cucumber. His original recipe for everyone to create at home is the the Real Mccoy

Real Mccoy Recipe:

-1.5 ounces Nolet’s Finest Gin
-1 ounce lemon juice
-0.5 onces Grapefruit San Pellegrino
-1 sprig rosemary
-1 ounce simple syrup
-0.5 ounces egg whites

girls 
The dancers put on a show, the music grew louder, and laughter filled the air.

pastry
Among the many food vendors, German Backhaus, a German bakery and deli (formerly Yalaha Bakery) in the Lake Ivanhoe District, served up mouthwatering breads, apple strudel, and a black forest dessert.

rene

 

Photo by Orlando Weekly 

At the end of the night, the many revelers at The Great Orlando Mixer voted for Rene Nguyen of Hanson’s Shoe Repair as the Winner. His original recipe for everyone to create at home is the the The English Channel

The English Channel Recipe:

-1.5 ounces Plymouth Gin
-1.5 ounces Carpano Bianco Vermouth
-2 dashes orange bitters
-Cynar rinse

Specific Instructions:

1) Chill serving glass with ice. Combine gin, vermouth and bitter with ice and stir for 30 seconds.
2) Discard ice from chilled coupe glass and rinse with three dashes of Cynar.
3) Strain cocktail into Cynar-rinsed glass.
4) Take an orange peel and express oils over the surface of the cocktail, rim the glass using the peel and garnish.

Unique
Thank you Jessica Young from Orlando Weekly for inviting Tasty Chomps to The Great Orlando Mixer!

More photos of The Great Orlando Mixer by Kim Buttons of www.kimbutton.com

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From the same owners/chefs who brought you The Table Orlando, comes their latest restaurant concept—Pharmacy. This 1920s “speakeasy” is now open to the public—if you can find it.

Tyler Brassil, Loren Falsone and Dominick Tardugno have spent more than a year secretly planning this concept that would transport guests back in time to the 1920s Prohibition era. Pharmacy is their take on a modern day speakeasy. From its mysterious unmarked entrance to its celebratory menu of locally sourced ingredients and handcrafted proper cocktails, Pharmacy is a secret place where guests can come and escape to a comfortable/casual atmosphere with moderately priced appetizers, entrees and bar selections.

While the menu selections will change throughout the year, their founding principles remain constant with the use of local, seasonal, organic and most importantly sustainable foods. Some of their recently featured menu items include Clams Arrabbiata, Hudson Valley Foie Gras Torchon, Whole Garlicky Cape Canaveral Rock Shrimp, Roasted Whole Seeley’s Arc Thyme Chicken and a selection of their own Neapolitan Pizzas.

Behind the bar features full liquor, handcrafted proper cocktails, custom blended barrel aged classics, beer, wine, house-made tonics, sodas and fresh herbs, fruit and produce.

Pharmacy is open Monday through Saturday from 5 p.m. to 1 a.m. and is located at 8060 Via Dellagio Way in Orlando’s Restaurant Row.

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Columbia Crest is world renowned for crafting affordable, highly-acclaimed wines that consistently over deliver in quality. The winery’s portfolio includes Red Blends, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Chardonnay, all of which are perfect for holiday occasions.

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Founded in 1983, Columbia Crest has grown from a small winery in a relatively unknown wine region to
one of the most significant wineries in the U.S. and a major force behind Washington state’s emergence
as a world class wine region. One of the Northwest’s largest wineries, Columbia Crest is acclaimed by
critics and consumers alike for crafting wines that are food-friendly, approachable, affordable, and
consistently over-deliver in quality.

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Winemaker Juan Muñoz Oca comes from a long lineage of winemaking; and at the young age of 36, his winemaking experience spans 20 vintages in five world-class wine regions including Bordeaux, South Australia, Mendoza, Spain and Washington state.

Juan Muñoz Oca is the head winemaker at Columbia Crest Winery in Paterson, Washington. As Head Winemaker, Muñoz Oca is responsible for producing the winery’s portfolio of Reserve, H3, Grand Estates and Two Vines wines. He joined Columbia Crest in 2003 and was named head winemaker in 2011. Prior to 2011 he was dedicated to the winery’s red wine program where he worked alongside Ray Einberger whose 2005 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon became the first Washington wine to be named ‘Wine of the Year’ by Wine Spectator in 2009.

Raised in Mendoza, Argentina, Muñoz Oca came under the tutelage of his grandfather, cellar master at Bodegas Toso winery, at a young age. The older man instilled in him a love and respect for wine, as well as for his family’s Spanish culture, that was to become the root of a lifelong passion for winemaking. He picked his first grapes at the age of eight, later took an after-school job in a wine cellar, and spent his vacations helping his grandfather with harvest.

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Although his winemaking experience stretches across the globe, it is his time at Columbia Crest that has been the most meaningful.

“Washington state is a very special place to grow grapes for many reasons,” says Muñoz Oca. “The perfect grape-growing climate, the best viticultural practices and people committed to crafting the best bottle of wine vintage after vintage is what Columbia Crest’s winemaking is all about. My time in Washington has been the most meaningful to me, I fell in love with the wine and the people, and that’s why I’ve been here since.

According to local historical records in 1857 rancher James Kinney was camping in the range of hills in
south-central Washington. When he woke up to discover his herd had wandered up a mountainside
and into an upland plain where they were munching on succulent bunch grass. “surely this is Horse
Heaven,” Kinney commented. the area has been known as the Horse Heaven Hills (H3) ever since.

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Location south central Washington state along the columbia river in Paterson, Washington, home of columbia crest winery
Size – 570,000 acres
Planted Vineyards – 6,040 acres
Columbia Crest vineyards – 2,500 acres
First Planting – 1972, Mercer vineyard
Elevation – 200 feet at the area’s southern boundary to 1,800 feet at its northern boundary
Soil – loamy sands, sandy loams and silt loams
Climate – semi-arid; annual rainfall averages 9 inches
Vineyards – 20
Wineries – 5 – columbia crest, chateau ste. Michelle, canoe ridge estate, alder ridge, Destiny ridge and Zefina
Major Grape varieties – chardonnay, riesling, sauvignon Blanc, cabernet sauvignon, Merlot, syrah

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“ This Moscato from Washington state opens with aromas of lychee and white rose. Bright flavors of peaches and tangerine are joined by the youthful sweetness of ripe honeydew and are deftly balanced with acidity. This semi-sweet wine can be enjoyed as an aperitif or as a refreshing complement to fruit salad or light cheeses.” – Juan Muñoz-Oca

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Vineyards: Horse Heaven Hills
Blend: 97% Cabernet Sauvignon
2% Merlot
1% Cabernet Franc

Food Pairings: Tomato-based sauces
such as Bolognese and Puttanesca, intensely and richly flavored foods such as
grilled meats, braised lamb shanks or pot
roast, and strongly flavored cheeses

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“This elegant, medium-bodied Chardonnay opens with aromas of apple, pear, spice and a
typical Horse Heaven Hills minerality. Hints of toasty coconut join a host of orchard fruit
flavors, ending with a lengthy finish of vanilla and cream.” – Juan Muñoz Oca, Wine

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Interview with Wódka founder James Dale

James Dale, a native of New Zealand, and still giddy from his homeland’s recent win in the Rugby World Cup, sat down and talked to us at TastyChomps.com about the new Wódka, a cheap premium vodka that has made a big splash here in the states. The brand has recently been picked up by Publix here in Orlando, making it one of the newest and fastest growing markets for the new alcoholic beverage. I recently sampled some of the Wodka and I must agree that it is a very smooth, delightful vodka. Definitely going to go well to warm up those cold winter holiday nights.

Tasty Chomps: What inspired you to go into the business and what was the most important lesson you’ve learned from your time in the business?

James Dale: I’ve worked in the spirits business in some fashion for over 20 years and have always loved it (the business and the booze) – it’s a far more complicated business that anyone gives it credit for and there’s a tremendous amount of creativity involved at every level, but at the end of the day I’m a salesman, I love to sell my brands, even as the CEO of Panache Beverages. Lessons? Humility, toughness and respect, this business is tough and it will beat you up – you have to respect the business and the competition but believe you can do it better than anyone else.

T.C.: What are the origins of Wodka and how is it produced?

Wodka was actually owned by the polish government after the war – they stopped making it a long time ago.  We discovered it while we were at our distillery in Poland and brought it back to life. We have one of the original bottles and labels from the 1950’s – keeps us remembering the egalitarian roots of the brand. Wodka is distilled three times from quality rye – its smooth, really smooth.

T.C.: What inspired you to bring Wodka to America?

We’re actually in 5 countries so I’d like to think we’re bringing Wodka from Poland to the world. People have changed since 2008 – people need and appreciate true value. We felt we has something that people really wanted rather than launching something you have to convince people they need.

T.C.: How do you think Wodka tastes compared to its competitors?

Our quality and taste is unmatched in the industry for the price – we were the first brand you can purchase for under $10 that the Beverage Testing Institute awarded 90 points to. Take Wodka Vodka and then taste some cheap vodka – actually, scratch that – taste Grey Goose and then taste Wodka Vodka – you’ll be shocked.

T.C.: Why do you think Wodka is one of the fastest growing vodkas in America right now?

We’re offering something to people that they want and we’re not trying to be something we’re not – we’re a great vodka for a really low price that doesn’t take itself too seriously. People like the taste, it doesn’t kill their pocketbook and they get a laugh when they see the marketing. It’s a recipe that’s working.

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