We were invited to a media event at SUSURU, a retro Japanese izakya (gastropub) located in Lake Buena Vista near Disney Springs to preview the new space and unique food & drink menu.  We were very impressed with our visit.

SUSURU will feature a yakitori grill that will cook meat over a Bincho-tan charcoal.  The restaurant will also feature a sake bar with Japanese unique craft cocktails created by Nadine Rodriguez, also known as “Typsy Gypsy”, a very talented and worldly mixologist in Orlando.  Guests will be able to experience a Japanese gastropub, something Orlando has not experienced before.  The goal of SUSURU is to recreate the “fun, friendly atmosphere with communal eating” that the owner experienced while living and traveling in Japan.

SUSURU is the sister concept of College Park’s Jade Sushi & New Asian owned by Lewis Lin and managing partner Kenny Ly.  They are anticipated to be open in early October 2018 at 8548 Palm Parkway, Orlando, FL, with dinner only service to start.

(Source credit: SUSURU)

Astro boy mule

My Kewpie boba tea – garnished with Kewpie baby, cotton candy, pocky stick

Tamagoyaki (Japanese rolled omelette)

Yakitori (chicken)

Radish salad


Grilled mushrooms

Yakitori (chicken)

Grilled brussels sprouts

Tori paitan ramen – chicken chashu, creamy double chicken broth, fried burdock root, shoyu soft egg, scallions

Tsukune – Japanese chicken meatball, yakitori tare. sauce: orange, miso, wasabi, spicy mentaiko, cheese

Matcha tiramisu

Thank you SUSURU for the gifts!  You must check out SUSURU for a one-of-a-kind experience when they open in late October!

8548 Palm Parkway, Orlando, FL
Instagram & Facebook: @susuruorl

Pork Chop – sweet potato puree, collard greens, onion jam

Visit Orlando’s Magical Dining Month is fast approaching!  We were invited to James Beard Award nominee, The Ravenous Pig to preview their 3-course (appetizer, entrée and dessert) Magical Dining Month menu.  The menu is available to the public Friday, August 24 through Sunday, September 30 for $35 plus tax & gratuity. This year, through Visit Orlando, one dollar from each meal will benefit Best Buddies and Down Syndrome Association of Central Florida.

Choice of Appetizer

Steak Tartare – capers, egg, shallot, toast

Shrimp & Grits – Cape Canaveral shrimp, Anson Mills grits, green tomato chutney, chorizo oil

Gatherer Salad – baby greens, avocado, pickled beets, radish, goat cheese, pistachio granola, herb vinaigrette

Choice of Entrèe

Mushroom Risotto – summer mushrooms, parmesan broth, chili oil with black truffle supplement

Black Grouper – chana masala, cucumber raita

Pork Porterhouse upgrade

Choice of Dessert

Coffee Panna Cotta – persimmon sorbet, chocolate cardamom shortbread, compressed persimmons

Spiced Citrus Cake – elderflower chantilly, bay leaf crumble, poached pears

Thank you Sweet Rockaway PR for the invite and thank you Chef James Petrakis and The Ravenous Pig for the amazing service and dinner!  Be sure to check out The Ravenous Pig this year for Magical Dining Month!

For more information, please visit:

The Ravenous Pig
565 W Fairbanks Ave, Winter Park, FL 32789
(407) 628-2333

The Osprey Tavern recently began Sunday brunch service in sunny Baldwin Park.

The restaurant  by owners Jason and Sue Chin, is led by an impressive team of acclaimed pedigree including Executive Chef Joseph Burnett, Executive Sous Chef Elek Kovacs, and Kristy Carlucci, Pastry Chef.


WAFFLE 11 – caramelia cream, salted caramel, toasted peanuts

The decor and interior was designed by owner Sue Chin and it deserves to be praised as one of the most gorgeous new restaurants in all of Orlando – a truly breathtaking, rustic, yet refined Southern feel to it. It’s like walking into a page of Southern Living magazine.


My dining companions and I were in the mood for brunch and so decided to drop by the Baldwin Park location to try out the new menu.

During brunch hour, they have a little charming push trolley full of pastries that get rolled around – kind of like at a dim sum restaurant, known as gueridon service by the French – filled with wonderful house made scones, coffee cakes, chocolate hazelnut turnovers, and more made by the talented pastry team led by chef Kristy Carlucci.


First, we started with some seasonal oysters – all very fresh and delicious, with some house made cocktail sauce accompaniment. I also enjoyed the crunchy shisito peppers, lightly seasoned with salt and pepper, served with a tarragon aioli sauce for dipping.



OYSTERS 11/21 – cocktail sauce, crackers


FRIED SHISHITO PEPPERS 5 – tarragon aioli

If you are in the mood for something light, but are tired of the “usual” salads, try the farm stand crudite – a colorful and unique arrangement of the season’s freshest vegetables and produce, featuring some of the most vibrant colored veggies we’ve ever seen – and they are as delicious as they are beautiful to look at.


FARM STAND CRUDITE 9  – creamy herb & french dressing

For my entree, I chose the porchetta with eggs, a healthy slab of pork served with roasted potatoes and an Italian red eye gravy. The nido, a house cured ham with manchego cheese, egg, and tomato sounded tempting but the last one had just been ordered before we arrived, so my dining partners chose the tavern sausage burger and the spicy egg pizza, both very delicious from what I had sampled. I liked the meatiness of the sausage burger and how well all the components went together – a perfect “breakfast” item. The spicy egg pizza was savory and had a sunny side up egg baked right into the middle, perfect for dipping


sunnyside up egg, italian red eye gravy, roasties


beef summer sausage, english muffin, avocado, fried egg, roasties


spicy marinara, snow peas, manchego, bantam egg

Overall, one of the best brunches we’ve had in Orlando so far – and I really think you should try it soon. Truly, a favorite.


The Open Kitchen
The Open Kitchen
The Chef's Table area
The Chef’s Table area


Wood fired oven
Wood fired oven
House cured meats in process
House cured meats in process


The Osprey Tavern
4899 New Broad Street
Orlando, FL 32814 407-960-7700

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Crimson Tavern at the Orlando Airport Marriott – A Six-Course Nose-To-Tail Tasting Menu Featuring Whole Local Lamb, Craft Beer & Cocktails

With a 2,500 square foot Chef’s Garden, Executive Chef Anthony Hull of Crimson Tavern works hard to continue the “farm to table” culinary movement.


The team has even started to make the most of the fruits and vegetables on hand, by jamming and pickling, making hot sauce, pickles, jams, and chutneys from their garden and seasonal offerings. As the BBQ program grows, (the restaurant offers seasonal Friday Night Barbecues), a line of rubs and sauces will also become available.


According to Chef Hull, “The main reason we are producing these products is to control what goes into them — not just from a flavor standpoint — but also a wellness aspect by eliminating additives and unnatural ingredients. And if we have a really good harvest, it is also a way to preserve the extra product.”

Executive Chef Anthony Hull also pulls from his own roots back in England and resurrects many old school cooking techniques to prepare much of what diners see on the menu.

We’ve always been fans of Crimson Tavern, especially their burgers and creative, seasonally changing dishes.

This past week, we were invited to check out what the team is capable of with an “Everything Lamb” dinner.

Some of my favorites included the chickpea fritter, crispy on the outside yet delicate and flavorful on the inside, and the pickled lamb tongue on arugula with pumpkin blossoms and apple vinaigrette. The meat balls were good, but the sauce could have used some more depth. House pulled ramen with lamb breast and belly was a nice touch, as was the roasted saddle and loin. Each item was paired with an appropriately complementary or contrasting wine.

Inside the Crimson Tavern
Inside the Crimson Tavern


* * * *

Everything Lamb Dinner at Crimson Tavern – Orlando Airport Marriott


Chickpea fritter (olive oil, chickpea flour, ras al hanout)


House smoked trout, horseradish garden chives, crostini


Head Cheese – Lambs head, shanks, lamb stock, aromatics


Meat Balls – Ground lamb leg, mortadella, house pomerola, tarentaise alpine cheese


Peak organic simcoe spring ale


Pickled lamb tongue – Hydroponic arugula, garden pumpkin blossoms, granny smith apple vinaigrette


House pulled ramen, lamb breast & belly, lamb dashi, Kissimmee river oyster mushrooms, poached lake – Ramen Bowl, meadows pullet egg, crispy taro paired with St Supery unoaked chardonnay


Roasted Saddle & Loin – Charred baby artichokes, cannellini beans, lamb reduction, arbequina olives paired with True Grit Petite Sirah


Parksdale farm Strawberry Gelato – House spun gelato (house preserve, cream, whole milk), cardamom shortbread, strawberry basil flower salad

For additional information on Crimson Tavern, visit or call (407) 851-9000. The restaurant is located at 7499 Augusta National Drive in Orlando.

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The Smiling Bison’s Chef / Owner Joshua Oakley has quite the resume – formerly a chef at The Ravenous Pig and the Enzian theater, he has brought his skills for making house made charcuterie, sausages, and meats to the menu here at The Smiling Bison.

Locals may remember this location on Bennett Road across from Roxy Nightclub as the former home of the wildly popular Redlight, Redlight Beer Parlour (which recently moved to larger digs on Corrine Dr in Audubon Park).

There have been some very nice upgrades to the interior, with the place appearing more like a nice home in suburbia rather than a hipster watering hole. Dark browns and woody colors give it a nice warm, autumn vibe – perfect for drinking some ale and enjoying the wonderful food coming out of The Smiling Bison’s kitchen.

One thing though I do wish was upgraded was the parking situation, which remains a bit limited and difficult to maneuver due to the odd location and sparse parking spots.

Nonetheless, it’s worth the trip and parking issues to travel to the Smiling Bison.



The bar area at The Smiling Bison


The menu at The Smiling Bison, which changes, of course, seasonally


My dining companions and I start off with the Smoked Fish Dip – house smoked flounder caught along Cocoa Beach, pumpernickel toast from local Olde Hearth Bread Company. I enjoyed the subtle spices layered within the dip, but ultimately, I think it needs a little more of a kick.


 Our second appetizer was much more of a crowd pleaser – the Crispy Pork Belly, cooked sous-vide style till buttery softness, and layered on top of creamed zellwood corn, smoked tomato, and onion jam. The pork belly  was tender, soft, and had the slight slippery texture that is often the result of the sous vide process – very delicious.

Sous-vide (French for “under vacuum”) is a method of cooking food sealed in airtight plastic bags in a water bath for longer than normal cooking times—72 hours in some cases—at an accurately regulated temperature much lower than normally used for cooking, typically around 55 °C (131 °F) to 60 °C (140 °F) for meats and higher for vegetables. The intention is to cook the item evenly, and not to overcook the outside while still keeping the inside at the same “doneness”, keeping the food juicier.

Cooking meats sous-vide also breaks down the muscles and tissues into a gelatinous like texture and the pork belly could have used some finishing “crispy” texture to give the dish name its due.

I ordered the WITBEER GLAZED HAM STEAK ($14) – house cured kurobota pork served with sweet potato fries and a house made dijonaisse. The hamsteak was fantastic, prepared sous-vide  as well, with such a tender, wonderful texture and sweet and savory flavors from the witbeer glaze. It’s interesting to note that the witbeer used tonight was provided by the local brewery at Cask and Larder. The house made sweet potato fries really shined as well – such an interesting crispy texture on the outside yet light and airy on the inside – totally unlike any other sweet potato fries I have ever tried before.




wagyu eye round, cheddar, horseradish,
pretzel kaiser, caraway


Garlic puree, duck confit, duck ham, duck egg,
monterey cheese, pea tendrils


6 oz. natural bison, garlic aioli, mushroom ketchup,
smoked provolone, house bacon, texas toast

I sampled one of my dining companion’s Smiling Bison Burgers and thought it to be truly delicious – very flavorful, savory, juicy, cheesy, and all in all one of the best burgers I have tried in recent memory. Compliments to the crew at Smiling Bison!


Overall, I came away very impressed by both the great service and the quality food at The Smiling Bison. I hope they continue to improve on their dishes and become one of the best restaurants in Orlando. They are well on their way.

The Smiling Bison Restaurant & Bar on Urbanspoon

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Chef Steve Saelg is trying to bring forth the art of cooking and eating at the new Crooked Spoon Gastropub in his hometown of Clermont, Florida.

Well, the restaurant itself is kind of new – more like an evolution of sorts.

After years in the finance industry on New York’s Wall Street as well as in Central Florida, Chef Saelg made the decision to explore his passion in the culinary arts.

The Crooked Spoon Gastropub Clermont

A 2005 graduate of Le Cordon Bleu, he honed his skills by working alongside notable chefs in restaurants such as the Tavern on the Green in New York city, and then in College Park’s K Restaurant and Wine Bar, and the Citrus Club in downtown Orlando.

In 2010 Chef Saelg made the decision to steer his skills into the food truck race and brought to Orlando one of its first gourmet food trucks: The Crooked Spoon. It was one of my personal favorite food trucks, especially for their absolutely perfect Crooked Spoon Burger, “life changing” 420 Burger, and creamy, decadent Six Cheese Mac & Cheese dishes.

The buzz for The Crooked Spoon food truck was so great, Chef Saelg was approached by the Cooking Channel’s Eat Street to showcase a couple of his dishes on one of their episodes, and his recipe for Swordfish and Grits was ultimately featured in the official Eat Street cookbook.

Chef Steve commits to supporting local farms and ranches whenever possible by purchasing their products for his restaurant. He believes that ”it is important for us to source fresh and local ingredients to support our ever-changing menu, which consists of unique takes on traditional and not-so-traditional pub food.”

On my recent visit to the new brick-and-mortar restaurant in Clermont, my dining companions and I found the food to be quite good, and would warrant multiple trips back, especially for the staple menu.

Our waiter CJ seemed to be a seasoned veteran of the restaurant industry, very great service for him as he was attentive and was able to suggest quite a few great items for us this evening. I did notice however that there seemed to be a few too many staff wandering about almost aimlessly, hopefully they will find direction from management soon.

The Crooked Spoon Gastropub Clermont

We start with the very enjoyable and fun to eat Duck Confit tostadas ($12), two piled on high crispy tortillas (reminiscent of Mexican sopes), with layers of Anasazi bean puree, tasty duck confit, farmer’s cheese, spring greens, and just a dollop of avocado creme fraiche. The duck confit tostadas definitely whetted our appetites, wanting for more.

The Crooked Spoon Gastropub Clermont

Next we tried some of the sweet hickory and pecan Smoked Chicken Wings, slathered with a 3-chili glaze, and overall delicious with a nice smokey seared taste.

The Crooked Spoon Gastropub Clermont

One of my dining companions ordered one of their signature burgers – the Cocoa and Coffee Crusted Burger, a really fantastic burger made with fresh from Florida Angus Beef, topped with Boursin cheese, spring mix, marinated tomato, and a raspberry chipotle bbq sauce served with a batch of house-made chips. I’m glad the burger quality is at and even above what was available when The Crooked Spoon was a food truck and I believe this is due in part to their expanded kitchen capabilities.

The Crooked Spoon Gastropub Clermont

Another dining companion ordered the Double Cut Chamomile Brined Pork Chop, a huge yet very tender and succulent brined pork chop finished with a Bourbon glaze and served on top a medley of fingerling potatoes, house made sausage and Brussels sprout hash. This was one of my favorite dishes that I tried at The Crooked Spoon Gastropub this evening as the flavors were rather delicate yet luscious at the same time.

The Crooked Spoon Gastropub Clermont

Specials are written on the black board towards the back of the restaurant, and though the specials that we tried were good and passable, they seemed to be missing something. Maybe too much was going on or some ingredients could have been used better to make the dish really stand out.

The Crooked Spoon Gastropub Clermont

My dining partner ordered the Tom yum special, described as consisting flank steak, pickled daikon carrots, rice noodle, spinach, Chinese sausage, fried dumpling, and shrimp cracker. Well, maybe it wasn’t a great idea to order a Thai dish in an American gastropub, but we expected more flank stank for the Tom Yum, traditionally a sweet and tangy Thai soup. The soup was good, but the flank steak serving was a bit paltry and the rice noodles were slightly undercooked. My partner enjoyed her dish nonetheless despite the few missteps.

The Crooked Spoon Gastropub Clermont

My dish was the Smoked porkloin special with mushroom gravy, boursin and mushroom bread pudding, topped with arugula on top of a smoked grape mustard. I was a bit disappointed that the porkloin was more like a ham steak, a little chewy, but with a nice smoky flavor. The bread pudding and the grape mustard was good but it was a tad too sweet for me and so there was maybe too much going on here in this dish.

For dessert, a tasty chocolate brownie.

The Crooked Spoon Gastropub Clermont

Overall, a wonderful experience at The Crooked Spoon Gastropub, and we will be back – but more likely for the staples like the burgers and the pork chop rather than some of the specials, until they are a little more refined at least.

The Crooked Spoon Gastropub Clermont

Citrus Tower, Clermont, Florida

The Crooked Spoon Gastropub on Urbanspoon

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I recently visited Bull and Bear as part of a media event to feature the ongoing Food and Wine Weekends at Waldorf Astoria and Hilton Bonnet Creek. In addition to trying out some of the special menu for the weekend events, my dining companions and I also had the chance to try some regular staples at Bull and Bear.

As I have said before, the Bull and Bear Restaurant at the Waldorf Astoria Orlando is one of the finest restaurants in Orlando and is probably one of the most overlooked.


Bull and Bear’s Executive Chef Massimo Falsini

The restaurant is led by Executive Chef Massimo Falsini, a world class chef who has served as Executive chef at Hilton in Dubai along with Sous Chef Daniel Tederous, a former executive chef at The Capital Grille, Tampa, along with a list of fine restaurants in Atlanta.

If Orlando had a Michelin guide, the Bull and Bear at the Waldorf Astoria Orlando would be one of the few restaurants in Orlando I could see making the list.

Pasta Explosion at Bull and Bear, Waldorf Astoria Orlando
Pasta Explosion at Bull and Bear, Waldorf Astoria Orlando

One of the standouts from many standouts was the Pasta Explosion, house made ravioli stuffed with an airy carbonara mousse, parmegiano reggiano cheese, and serrano ham in a white sauce. The name may sound a bit ostenatious, but it aptly and succinctly describes this wonderful dish that just explodes in your mouth with an array of delicate, layered flavors from the serrano ham and parmagiano reggiano cheese filling.

Escargot & Gnocchi – Shimeji mushroom, black garlic

The escargot and gnocchi dish was also a huge favorite among my dining companions – very nice flavors with the shimeji mushrooms and escargots complementing each other in texture, and perfectly seared gnocchi that will make you dream about this dish later on, wishing there was more.

Roasted Colorado Lamb – Ras al Hanout tagine, Beluga Lentils, Jamon Serrano

The roasted Colorado Lamb dish is inspired from Chef Massimo’s time in the middle east, serving as executive chef at the Hilton in Dubai. It was one of the most requested dishes from the wife of a sultan who would often visit his restaurant.

The roasted lamb features a Ras el hanout spice, a spice mix from North Africa is Arabic for “head of the shop” and implies a mixture of the best spices the seller has to offer. Commonly used ingredients for the spice mixture include cardamom, clove, cinnamon, ground chili peppers, coriander, cumin, peppercorn, paprika, fenugreek, and turmeric.

The lamb is just melt in your mouth tender and delicious, placed on top of cooked beluga lentils and topped with a sprig of rosemary.

The pastry team at the Bull and Bear is legendary, no doubt with some influence from Francis Metais, food and beverage director at the Waldorf Astoria Orlando, also a pastry chef by training.


The signature dessert is the “Lemon”, made from a hollowed out casing of a lemon. The lemon fruit is then used to make a lemon curd, cream, and sorbet – all edible and very unique – and then filled back into the lemon casing.


Chocolate Bar. The Chocolate Bar is decadence defined – creamy, smooth Valrhona Carmelia Chocolate with a vodka infused chocolate syrup and a rice krispies center.



All in all, Bull and Bear is one of the best restaurants I have tried in Orlando and think they are definitely worthy of more awards. I think it has got to be one of my favorite restaurants that I have visited this year along with Flying Fish Cafe at Disney’s Boardwalk. The prices are a bit more on the fine dining end, but very much well worth it.

Photos taken by Krystle Nguyen with the Nikon D5000 DSLR

Bull & Bear Steakhouse on Urbanspoon

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Siro Italian Urban Orlando

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

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

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

The meal, overall, was fantastic. Photos follow —



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

Siro Italian Urban Orlando
Tuna two ways – Ahi Tuna Crudo

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

Siro Italian Urban Orlando
Siro’s Seasonal fresh salad

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

Siro Italian Urban Orlando

Local Catch of the Day – Corvina in lemon caper sauce

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

Siro Italian Urban Orlando

Beef tenderloin roast of the day with potato fries

Siro Italian Urban Orlando

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

Siro Italian Urban Orlando

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


Siro Italian Urban Orlando

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Peppers growing in the chef’s garden

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Squash blossoms in bloom

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 Chards and greens

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Anthony Hull –  Executive Chef

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Lake Meadows Deviled Egg 8

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Fried Green Tomatoes, black pepper aioli 6

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Black Eyed Hushpuppies, cilantro chutney 6

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manchego, spain – quince paste, fig jam

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Boudin Noir Sausage, apple slaw 11

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Beef cheek empanadas

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Chicken liver mousse

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Ribeye steak with house mustard greens

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

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Warm Butterscotch Knickerbocker Glory

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Crimson Tavern on Urbanspoon

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On Saturday January 26, 2013, Orlando World Center Marriott opened their newest restaurant, Siro: Urban Italian Kitchen, which takes the place of their previous Italian restaurant Ristorante Tuscany. I was recently invited by the team at Siro’s to sample some of their dishes during a media event. The space has undergone major renovations, now highlighting a more warm, wooded and industrial atmosphere…which reminded me of a particular favorite restaurant of mine in Winter Park.

I was delighted to find that the new philosophy for the restaurant was an emphasis on seasonal, local ingredients. More and more restaurants are turning toward local and seasonal and I wholeheartedly support this movement, particularly because the food tastes so much better when it isn’t being shipped from halfway across the world.

The list of local farms and ingredients include:

Lake Meadow Farms – eggs and honey
Harvest Moon – produce
Seely’s Ark – chicken thighs
Dansk Farms – honey
Waterkist Farms – heirloom tomatoes
Cedar Creek farms –little neck clams
Infusion Tea- hot tea
Oyster Island mushroom company- asst. mushrooms
Monroe Ashby- pig
Coffee Roasters’ Alliance -coffee
Two Doves Organic Farm- lettuce, Swiss chard, kale.
Cigar City Brewing – craft beer

They will start using Palm Ridge whiskey in the next few weeks as well.

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Aged Italia – Breckenridge bourbon, blood orange aged balsamic, blackberry syrup

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Beer flights featuring craft beer and imports

From artisan cured meats and cheeses, small plates and fresh market vegetables, dishes served on oversized wooden planks, thin-crust pizzas and house-made pastas to various meats and fish selections, Siro has made a strong emphasis on quality sourced food.  Some of my favorites included the  Green, eggs & ham pizza with arugula, prosciutto, sunny side egg, the housemade burger, Chef Burdo’s veal meatballs, and the zeppole donuts for dessert.

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Executive Chef Burdo at the helm of Siro: Urban Italian Kitchen

These signature dishes enhance the restaurant’s extensive drink menu, as bartenders and mixologists prepare handcrafted Italian classics from the Negroni and Aperol Spritz to the “The Artisan,” Lemoncello Martini – complete with fresh squeezed juices and fragrant herbs.

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Chef Burdo’s Famous Veal meatballs in a pomodoro tomato sauce

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Siro’s Charcuterie boards of cheeses, olives, and cured meats

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Eggplant Caponata served with whipped ricotta cheese on bakehouse bread

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Arborio fritters, made with rice robiola, black garlic, and a spicy arrabiata sauce

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Margherita Pizza

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Bucatini pasta with the red lead, a traditional sunday gravy

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The BuRGeR – oWC bakehouse bun, house pickles

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Preparing the whole Grilled Grouper, served with braised fennel, peperonato

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Braised pork shank on top of white beans

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Aged Italia
Breckenridge bourbon, blood
orange aged balsamic,
blackberry syrup

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Desserts, like this panna cotta – milk chocolate, berries, are led by award winning pastry chef Ramon Perez

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Chocolate Cake

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Siro accommodates 199 guests – 143 in the main dining room and 56 on the patio – for everyday dining and special events. The early-evening menu, from 4 – 6 pm, features Antipasti, small plates, pizza and blackboard specials, in addition to a full bar. Dinner, from 6 – 11 pm, features a full menu.

For additional information on Siro, call Orlando World Center Marriott at 407-239-4200 or visit and

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Anna of the Zimmerman Agency with Mark Baratelli of and Rachelle Lucas of Visit Florida Dining and

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The wonderful staff and chefs of Siro: Urban Italian Kitchen at Orlando World Center Marriott

Siro: Urban Italian Kitchen on Urbanspoon

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Cask & Larder, in Winter Park, Florida, offers southern-sourced seasonal, changing dishes, craft beers brewed on-site and fresh-shucked oysters from their oyster bar. The restaurant is owned by James Beard Award nominated Chefs James and Julie Petrakis of The Ravenous Pig. Dennis Bernard leads as Chef de Cuisine/Partner for Cask & Larder with his wife Tracy Lindskoog as Managing Partner. Ron Raike is Cask and Larder’s Brewmaster, a pioneer of the Craft Beer movement in Orlando and a Certified Cicerone (kind of like a Master Sommelier for Beer).

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The brewery, which can be seen towards the back of the bar area, is a beautiful sight to behold full of metallic tubs and parts. Guests can also reserve this area to host small private dining parties and even use it when ordering whole roast animals (reserve in advance).

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The beers here are pretty fantastic. On a recent visit, I hung out in the bar area with a few friends and sampled a beer flight of crisp lone palm golden ale, blueberry wit, Florida Tripel with local palm honey, among other craft beers brewed on site at Cask and Larder. The beers paired well with the little bites and dishes that we ordered to share. There is also quite the sizable Southern inspired craft cocktail list available as well with highlights such as the C & L LEMONADE made with tea and sage infused vodka, house pink lemonade, and fever tree ginger beer.

The waffle fries, topped with a chicken liver gravy, buttermilk cheese curds, and pickled scallions were a tangy, tasty treat. Definitely a more sophisticated version of the nacho fries you may see at every day pub houses and bars. Other favorites included the savory mac and cheese, topped with pickled mustard seeds and a ham-cheddar crumble, and the smoked wings which were fall of the bone tender.

On a previous occasion, I had sat at the oyster bar and enjoyed a selection of their smoked oysters with a special house made vinegar chili sauce that was quite excellent. My only complaint was that the barstools were a bit uncomfortable, but I suppose they’re made that way.

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Though I enjoyed most of my experiences at Cask and Larder, there is room for improvement. The short rib tamale with carmelized onions, havarti, and topped with parsley was a bit bland for my tastes and was in need of salt. The suckling pig boudin was also not very memorable.

One of my favorite things that I had at the Cask and Larder was the cured Country Ham platter with biscuits and jelly. The ham is sliced fine much like prosciutto and was salty and delicious.

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Country Ham Platter

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Short rib Tamale 12
caramelized onions, havarti, parsley

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Waffle Fries 11
chicken liver gravy, buttermilk cheese curds,
pickled scallions

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Mac & Cheese 10
pickledmustard seeds, ham-cheddar crumble

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Smoked Wings

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suckling pig Boudin 14
dijon chantilly, fried okra

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Cask & Larder on Urbanspoon

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American Food. European Roots. Locally Sourced. – The Rusty Spoon

How many of us can say we know where our food comes from? How it’s made and how it’s transported to us? In our increasingly globalized world, more and more of our food is being sourced farther and father away and processed in a factory somewhere with who knows what type of chemicals to the point where we don’t even recognize it anymore. The freshness, taste is all but gone for the sake of cheaper products at greater yields.

The farm-to-table movement has become something of a rallying call for chefs around the country to bring the food back to the local community in a sustainable, natural way. In the 55 West building in the heart of the Church Street district, The Rusty Spoon is trying to bring that movement to the forefront here in Orlando, using locally sourced ingredients from local area farms like Deep Creek Ranch and Waterkist Farms in Winter Park.

The Rusty Spoon’s Owner/Chef Kathleen Blake, formerly of Primo, has been one of the fore-bearers of the Local “Slow Food” movement here in Orlando, as one of the first chefs to use local Ocoee farm Lake Meadow Natural’s for their tasty, natural eggs with orange-tinted, flavorful yolks. The restaurant also likes to change the menu and ingredients depending on what’s in season.

I had trouble spotting The Rusty Spoon at first – if I hadn’t been looking for it, I may have just walked on by to the Amway Center with nary a thought that there was a restaurant at the base of the 55 West Building. Maybe they should get a sign up to replace the banner at the front.

Self-described as a gastropub, there is a sizeable bar at the front of the house, though I did not feel most comfortable sitting there to eat and drink. There is a nice drink selection with craft beer, though not as extensive as some other places downtown.

In the dining area behind the bar, a menagerie of farm animal portraits watch over you as you dine, hanging on a brick wall. The decor is modern and the ambience is more like a city art gallery than a homey pub, though it was nice and open.


Inside The Rusty Spoon

Our waitress was fairly new but I wouldn’t have guessed it. She was attentive and knew the menu and recommendations like the back of her hand. The prices here were all very reasonable with most of the dishes under $20.


Stuffed Eggs – Lake Meadow Eggs Stuffed With olive tapenade, herbs & Oven Dried Tomatoes.

These deviled eggs were quite a delicious start to the meal, creamy and slightly salty with a nice tartness in the tomatoes.

Rusty O-Rings – Buttermilk Soaked Sweet Vidalia Onion Rings with Black Water Porter Dipping Sauce

This dish was dusted with powdered sugar like at the carnival fair. Though playful, definitely something I would expect from a regular ale-house rather than a gastropub. I enjoyed them nonetheless.

“Haystack” – Shoestring Potatoes with Three Homemade Sauces including barbeque, ketchup, and an aioli sauce.

These fries were topped with some parmesan cheese, and though they were tasty, I did not find them to be memorable or distinguishable from most other fries.


Shiitinonion Soup – 5 Onions, Roasted Double Chicken Stock, Topped with croutons & Melted Gruyere. The “55” Burger – 1/2 lb of Grass-Fed Beef Stuffed with Bacon & Gruyere, Smothered with Onions, Rusty Aioli, House-made Pickles on a Soft Roll

Shiitinonion SoupThe Rusty Spoon’s version of the French Onion soup, a very enjoyable, hearty soup that I wish did not have such a foul sounding name. The “55” burger was a bit of a disappointment for me as I really enjoy burgers, but alas the patty was too soft and wet on this occasion, maybe it was undercooked but definitely too mushy of a burger for me.

Slow Braised Lamb – Jamison Farm Lamb, sweet onion & golden raisin jam with House Made Ricotta Salata on Toasted Moroccan Bread

This lamb sandwich was a favorite of the group, the lamb had almost like a pulled pork texture and the onions and ricotta all went very well together with the sandwich.


“Dirty South” – Stew Of Cape Canaveral head on Shrimp, Local Snapper, Cedar Creek Clams With Tomato & Peanuts In A Rich Shrimp Broth

The “Dirty South” was hands down the favorite dish here at The Rusty Spoon, signature local snapper from Cape Canaveral, shrimp head-on just the way I like it, delicious creamy southern grits all on top of a rich broth. I would go back to The Rusty Spoon again just for this one dish and would probably recommend it you go.

Adult S’mores
Graham cracker crust, a chocolate-mousse cake filling, and melted marshmallows with a touch of caramel.

From The Rusty Spoon – Local Farmer Partners:

Palmetto Creek Pork – Avon Park Jim Wood uses the natural method of farming where his hogs are maintained outside in the fresh air. Jim raises small herds of the Heritage breed of Herefords hogs. They are kept outside everyday of their lives. No antibiotics or animal by-products are in his feed. Palmetto Creek’s goal is to not only provide us with natural pork but to provide us with the best possible natural pork through selective breeding. Check out Jim’s website-

Waterkist Farm, Winter Park is a family owned and operated farm using hydroponic growing methods. Melani and Roger’s produce is clean and delicious and includes heirloom and beefsteak tomatoes as well as several different varieties of living lettuces. Melani also grows our sprouts, peppers, Mediterranean cucumbers and herbs. Look for Melani at the Winter Park Farmer’s Market every Saturday.

Lake Meadow Naturals is home to a variety of Heritage breed of chickens and ducks that lay brown eggs in various shades. Dale Volkert’s happy hens are cage free, free range and free roaming. The hens have access to grass, sunshine and fresh air on Lake Meadow, right outside of Orlando. The chickens eat only wholesome grains that include corn, soybeans, wheat, millet, and various multi grains, oyster shells, and all the fresh well water they want. Lake Meadows offers soy-free eggs and duck eggs as well. Check out Dale’s happy hens-

Deep Creek Ranch is home to David Strawn and his 100% grass fed beef. Grass fed is significantly healthier beef and is more beneficial as food than confinement beef. It also tastes delicious! Their diet is what nature designed them for and they stay healthy. The Strawn family never use growth hormones or any pharmaceuticals that persist in the animal. You can learn more about grass fed beef and the Deep Creek family-

The Rusty Spoon on Urbanspoon

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