Fast Casual

*Secret Menu Item* The Mexican Pizza – A fried flour tortilla is topped with your choice of protein, cheese, lettuce, tomatoes, tomato sauce, jalapeño and a drizzle of sour cream.  This was my favorite!

 

We were invited to Tijuana Flats near Millenia Mall to try items from their “Secret Menu” as well as some classic items.

Tijuana Flats was was founded in Winter Park, FL in 1995 by University of Central Florida graduate Brian Wheeler with $20,000 in loans.  Tijuana Flats now has 136 locations in 6 states.

The Tijuana Flats Manifesto is their Declaration of Independence, their Dead Sea Scrolls.   It’s everything they believe in expressed in a single stream of madcap consciousness.  You’ll find it displayed in every Tijuana Flats location.

Tijuana Flats’ regional manger, Joey.  He has been with the company for 19 years.  He is super nice.  To the right is our wonderful host, Sarah.

The store manager for their Millenia location, Mike.  He is a super cool guy!

The talented kitchen staff!  They did a great job with everyone’s food!

Chips & Dip – A basket of warm chips, with a side of handmade salsa, queso or guacamole.

*Secret Menu Item* The Double Stack tacos is available in chicken or steak.  Queso is spread across a soft flour tortilla then wrapped around a hard-shell taco – filled with cheese, lettuce, tomatoes, jalapeño and sour cream.

*Secret Menu Item* The Bangin Chicken Tostadas – crispy fried chicken cubes tossed in a buffalo sauce with refried beans, tomatoes, cheese, and a drizzle of ranch.  Served with a side of salsa.

Cookie Dough Flauntas – Chocolate chip cookie dough loaded into a flour tortilla, lightly fried & topped with powdered sugar.  Served with a side of chocolate syrup.

I won a free bottle of sweet chili hot sauce during trivia!

Founder Brian Wheeler created his own line of hot sauces.  The “Smack My Ass & Call Me Sally” brand includes some of the hottest sauces in the world.

Be sure to check out the Tijuana Flats location near the Mall at Millenia!  They did a wonderful job hosting us and providing great Tex-Mex food!

(Source credit: Tijuana Flats)

Tijuana Flats
94693 Gardens Park Blvd., Orlando, FL 32839
(407) 965-5090
https://tijuanaflats.com

Happy 2018, Food Friends!

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

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

The Verdict:

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

HAWKERS Asian Street Fare – Kaleb Harrell 

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

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

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

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

Black Rooster Taqueria – John Calloway

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

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

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

K Restaurant – Michelle Hulbert

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

K Restaurant –  Ryan McLaughlin

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

Tapa Toro – Wendy Lopez 

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

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

Pizza Bruno – Bruno Zacchini

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

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

Valhalla Bakery + Valkyrie Doughnuts – Celine Duvoisin 

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

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

Hopefully an end to the gluten-free obsession.

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


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

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

+++

I’m an absolute sucker for a new menu launch. And an even bigger sucker for anything with Indian flavors. When I heard that Create Your Nature had both, I made it my mission to head over to sample some of the new dishes.

Back in October 2016, when the fruit-and-grain concept opened, I distinctly remember feeling that Orlando finally got a restaurant that it actually needed. Admittedly, this spot is one of my favorites in town. I truly believe that this summer should be all about healthy eats and consuming ingredients that are approachable, easy to pronounce, and super flavorful.

If you’re seeking a place with healthier options or if you’re working on a lifestyle change, such as going vegetarian or vegan, this is your new favorite spot.

During my recent visits (I’ve been six times in the last two weeks), I’ve tried many of the new items, and here are my favorites:

ROCK THE CASBAH – creamy, slightly sweet with a touch of heat

1.Rock the Casbah – Signature oat bowl – $5.5 / $8.5

Cashews, Raisins, Coconut, Coconut Milk, Turmeric, Cardamom, Harissa Oil

2. Cacao-a-Bunga – Smoothie bowl: $12 (Photo above) 

Blend: Blueberries, Banana, Cacao Powder

Toppings: Chocolate Granola (Bonus: It’s made with probiotics!), Almonds, Coconut, Banana, Cacao Nibs

3. Holy Frijole – Salad: $7.50 / Available over greens for $1 extra

Black Beans, Garbanzo Beans, Corn, Tomato, Green Bell Pepper, Cilantro

Dressing: Lemon Balsamic, Chipotle Olive Oil

HOLY FRIJOLE – savory and slightly sweet

Click here for the entire new menu.

Create Your Nature

1284 N Orange Ave, Winter Park, FL 32789

www.CreateYourNature.com

Snack on,

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

 

Churro Bread Pudding by Tapa Toro

Hi, food friends! Did you know that in August 2016, 7.1 trillion gallons of water fell during the Louisiana floods? Lives were lost, and more 140,000 homes were destroyed. I was deeply impacted and decided to create Good Through Food, a new Orlando-based organization that strives to make lives better through food-related efforts. This past Monday, we launched the first initiative to help called Project 001. Louisiana, which includes local restaurants creating and selling Louisiana-inspired dishes and desserts to help raise funds for those in need.

From October 24  through October 31, local restaurants are selling a Louisiana-inspired dish to help raise funds for the Baton Rouge Area Foundation, a Louisiana-based charity that seeks to assist South Louisiana residents, which make up the majority of the 30,000 people that were displaced from their homes because of the floods, only to return to neighborhoods they couldn’t recognize. Chefs and restaurants will donate 25, 50 or 100 percent of proceeds to the charity.

5 Participating Restaurants: (Eat one dish or eat them all to give back):

I-Drive

1. Tapa Toro: Churro Bread Pudding

2. Taverna Opa: Loukomades (Greek Beignets) — check out how to make them here!

Audubon District

3. P is for Pie: P is for Pecan Caramel Hand Pie + Coffee

Historic Longwood 

4. Collette’s Clean Eats: Shrimp, Blue Crab & Turkey Sausage Gumbo with Organic Brown Rice

Mills 50 District 

5. Black Rooster Taqueria: NOLA Pork Belly Taco

Please share your dishes on Instagram using the hashtag #GoodThroughFood. For more information, visit GoodThroughFood.com. Restaurants can still sign up, so spread the word.

Connect on social media on Facebook and Instagram. Check out the video below to learn more.

Thank you so very much for your support, it means everything!

Let’s do good together…

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

https://youtube.com/watch?v=kqslsT7W4IQ%3Frel%3D0%2520frameborder%3D0%2520allowfullscreen

Shareable Images for Social:do-good eat-and-give join-us lets-do-good

 

Kale yeah! Salads are no longer the side piece. As consumers become more ingredient conscious, chefs and restaurateurs across the globe are being pushed to think beyond traditional proteins, and experiment with ethnic flavors and greens-based dishes to accommodate varying palates. Caesar salad, move over and make room for quinoa and farro bowls topped with spicy broccoli, roasted chickpeas and basil.

This month happens to be National Salad Month, and thankfully, here in Florida, we’ve got an abundance of fresh greens and vegetables to mix and match to whip up amazing creations. We’ll start with three places in town to get your salad fix.

Forks up. . . let’s eat our way to summer.

1. The Sanctum Cafe

Sanctum

Dish: Savage Salad – Organic greens, cauliflower, brussels sprouts, eggplant and corn – all roasted and tossed with bell peppers, sweet onions, carrot ribbons, celery, jicama, zucchini, peas and pepitas. Served with rosemary dressing.

Local Fare: Corn from Long & Scott Farms (Zellwood, Fla.), Deer Park Peaches (Saint Cloud, Fla.) and salad greens and microgreens from The Greenhouse (Apopka, Fla.).

Favorite Salad Ingredient: “Roasted cauliflower is one my favorite toppings!” – Chef-Owner Chelsea Savage

2. The COOP

The COOP

The Skinny: The new salad bar costs $9.99 per person and includes an endless amount of offerings, such as locally-sourced greens and vegetables, proteins and house made dressings.

Local Fare: The COOP is trekking around the state and shopping with Alderman Farms (Boynton Beach, Fla.) and L&M Farms (Palatka, Fla.).

Favorite Salad Ingredients: “I like the grilled vegetables and the specialty salads that rotate daily at the end of the bar. One of my favorites is a Hoppin’ John Succotash that Whitney makes and a few more are grilled asparagus, roasted tomatoes and feta cheese.” – Chef-Owner John Rivers

3. Dixie Kharma
Photo Credit: LemonHearted.com
Photo Credit: LemonHearted.com

Dish: Hail Kale Salad – Garlicky kale, blackened corn, pickled beets and watermelon rind and smoked tempeh

Local Fare: In this salad, Dixie Kharma’s uses Florida-grown corn and watermelon. When available, they toss in baby kale grown in their pallet garden located in front of Market on South.

Favorite Salad Ingredients: “We love to mix it up. Local ingredients are our first choice. Everything from peppery greens and herbs are a must. Pickled veggies, fruits and roots, heirloom beans and grains are also great.” – Dixie Kharma crew

Greens Guide  

Here’s a handful of local shops to visit to stock up on greens, grains and vegetables. This list is in no way inclusive of our local offerings in Central Florida, so comment with your local go-to store! 

What To Buy Right Now

Bell Pepper | Blueberry | Cabbage | Cantaloupe | Carrot | Celery | Cucumber | Eggplant Grapefruit | Guava | Mango | Mushroom | Orange | Papaya | Peaches | Radish | Sweet Corn | Tangerine | Tomato | Watermelon

Seasonal Recipe – Taverna Opa Orlando’s Watermelon Feta Salad Pizza
Taverna Opa Salad

Ingredients:

  • 1 Watermelon slice
  • 1 Oz. Feta cheese, crumbled
  • 6 Kalamata olives, sliced
  • 5 Mint leaves
  • 1/2 Tbsp. Balsamic glaze

Directions:

  • On a cutting board, slice the watermelon in half
  • Place the flat side down, and cut a one-inch thick slice, then cut into five slices
  • Plate on a round dish and add feta cheese, olives, mint leaves and drizzle with balsamic glaze

Snack on,

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

+++

Sapporo Ramen is one of my favorite places for Japanese ramen noodle soup here in Orlando. After having visited Tokyo and trying some of the most popular ramen shops there, I can comfortably say that Sapporo Ramen is among the most authentic ramen in town, and rivals some of what I tasted in Japan.

Sapporo is a city on the northern Japanese island of Hokkaido, known for their cold weather, the home of the Sapporo Brewery, and the founding place of the miso ramen.

Miso ramen became popular around 1965, featuring a broth that combines copious amounts of miso and is blended with oily chicken or fish broth – and sometimes with tonkotsu or lard – to create a thick, nutty, slightly sweet and very hearty soup.

The Spicy Miso Ramen
The Spicy Miso Ramen

Miso ramen broth tends to have a robust, tangy flavor, so it stands up to a variety of flavorful toppings: spicy bean paste, butter and corn, leeks, onions, bean sprouts, ground pork, cabbage, sesame seeds, white pepper, and chopped garlic are common. The noodles are typically thick, curly, and slightly chewy.

Recently, Sapporo Ramen introduced a new spicy miso ramen along with a curry noodle ramen to their line up of ramen which includes tonkatsu, miso, and shoyu. I found it to be quite flavorful, with just enough spice to be not overwhelming, and great when paired with the sweet corn and salty bamboo shoots.

Another thing I like about Sapporo is their variety of Japanese street food items offered from the takoyaki octopus balls topped with quivering bonito flakes to the imagawayaki desserts, a pancake like bun filled with sweet bean paste.

Creamy Pork Tonkotsu Ramen
Creamy Pork Tonkotsu Ramen
The Kitsune Udon topped with fried tofu skin
The Kitsune Udon topped with fried tofu skin
Imagawayaki dessert
Imagawayaki dessert

Sapporo Ramen
5080 W Colonial Dr
Orlando, Florida
(407) 203-6777
Tue – Sun: 11:30 am – 8:00 pm
Check out their facebook page at Sapporo Ramen

Do you ever crave pasta? I’m talking about a giant bowl of pasta that could feed at least five people. Well, I recently had one of those days and decided to head to Italio in Winter Park. I’ve been to Italio twice in the past but never really paid attention to the food. The past few times were more  “Get food in my stomach and head to wherever in a hurry” instances. However, I never left fully satisfied and wanted to know why.

If you’ve never been to Italio, it’s a visual sensation, showcasing bold red tones and Italian embellishments. The concept is fast casual like Chipotle, but feels slightly nicer. At Italio, you are able to choose a piada (wrap), noodles, or salad bowl. There are three main sauces, and an overwhelming amount of toppings.

If you’re not a control freak, there are prefixed “Chef Selections” to choose from.

Chef

Chef’s Menu 

I ended up making my own pasta bowl, because that’s the true meaning of happiness. The Italio employee asked me to pick between two types of noodles: whole wheat or regular. I obviously opted for the regular. Next, I was asked to pick something from the grill. My options were steak, chicken, chicken fritte (breaded), shrimp, italian sausage, meatball, and veggie. As someone who doesn’t like complicated options, I chose the chicken. Selecting the sauce was a challenge since I had to try all three of them. Here’s what I thought:

1) Basil Pomodoro: Tastes like Tostidos Salsa. Bland and boring.

2) Artisan Alfredo: Creamy but lacks flavor. The claimed “garlic” does not exist in flavor.

3) Spicy Prima Rosa: This sauce is neither spicy or creamy, so it completely failed the taste test.
I ended up going with the Artisan Alfredo since it stood out from the rest.

Food

For the toppings, I ended up selecting mushroom, roasted red peppers, chickpeas, roasted garlic, and mozzarella.

Food2

Here’s the honest truth, and this is from eating here a total of three times:

– The food is NEVER hot; it’s always an awkward lukewarm. It would be great if my pasta was steaming!

-The Alfredo sauce is devastatingly boring. I tried using the roasted garlic and mozzarella to give it more flavor but it didn’t work. The sauce reminded me of my first time trying to make Alfredo when I was seven. 

– The assortment of toppings is amazing. I’m going to try a salad next time. Maybe it’ll be dynamic.

– The bowl is huge, so you will get full but you won’t walk out extremely impressed. However, the concept is fast casual and not a fine Italian restaurant. Don’t set your expectations high. 

– The staff makes me sad. When I asked to try the sauces, they acted like it was a huge burden.

 

On the bright side, Italio has one treasure I’ll keep coming back for.

CANNOLI. CHIPS. WOW. WOW. WOW. 

Cannoli

I’m not a cannoli person by any means. but their take on filled cannolis is really amazing. They are in the form of chips and are served with a creamy cannoli dip. The combination is mind blowing. However, the dip was slightly powder sugary on my  latest visit. Maybe it’s hit or miss? Either way, try the cannoli chips if anything!

Italio – Winter Park
276 S Orlando Ave, Winter Park, FL 32789
(407) 960-1860
www.italiokitchen.com

Chef's Spotlight

0 1618
“The world of sweets is for everybody. No matter your taste, you can always find something on the dessert menu that will make you...

Featured Articles

0 431
Hawkers Asian Street Fare was founded in Orlando's Mills 50 District by four friends, Kaleb Harrell, Allen Lo, Wayne Yung and Kin Ho, who...