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Move over Daenerys Targaryen, Mother of Dragons, there is a new Queen in town. Swords clanging, sparks flying, horses galloping – it is all a family-fun filled evening of gallantry and surprisingly good chicken.

Medieval Times Dinner & Tournament has ushered in a new royal ruler as the lead role at the wildly popular Central Florida production. This past spring on April 19th, Medieval Times broke from tradition with a QUEEN taking over the King’s 34-year reign over the Orlando Castle.

This matriarchal move comes as a positive result of guest feedback on the roles that women played within the fantasy story-telling production, and is accompanied by a new script and storyline, new costumes, new music and more. It has already been unveiled at Medieval Times castles in Dallas, Chicago, New Jersey and Buena Park, CA and will debut at four additional North American castles following Orlando’s launch.

Tickets for the dinner and show start as low as $36.95, making it an attractive alternative for families looking for an evening of fun, or even groups of adults celebrating everything from birthdays to corporate events.

“Our new female queen is a sign of the times and we couldn’t be more excited to bring her to Florida,” said Doug Dorn, Medieval Times Orlando, FL General Manager. “The queen is fully in-charge. Her authority is sometimes challenged, but she quickly asserts herself as a strong leader.

Medieval Times’ Orlando, FL venue is the first castle to open and has entertained more than 20 million guests since 1986. The iconic Central FL castle performs more than 600 shows per year, that’s a lot of chicken!

In addition to epic battles of steel and swordplay, to royal falconry and horsemanship, there is an elaborate four-course meal fit for royalty (including vegetarian options), and the wide variety of libations and spirits, make for a festive evening of food and fun.

Medieval Times’ noble guests feast on garlic bread, tomato bisque soup, succulent roasted chicken, sweet buttered corn, herb-basted potatoes, the pastry of the Castle, coffee and two rounds of select beverages. Of course, it is the middle ages, so you will be eating with your hands. Don’t worry – wet naps are available upon request.

Royal Court’s Vegetarian Meals includes hummus, warm pita bread, carrot and celery sticks, three-bean stew with fire roasted tomato and brown rice, fresh fruit or Italian ice, coffee and two rounds of select beverages. Vegetarian meals available upon request.

In addition to the debut of the queen character and storyline, the new production features:

  • More than 700 new costumes for all nine castles’ performers including horses, all of which are custom-designed and hand-made at a dedicated costume shop near the Dallas Design District.
  • Two hundred new suits of armor, shields and helmets, all custom-designed and hand-made at a dedicated armory in Florida.
  • More than 350 team members and 225 horses who have rehearsed new lines and fight scenes for three months while still presenting the current show.
  • This include the queens undergoing an intense two months of training to become experts at riding the impressive Andalusian stallion for the new show.
  • New music composed by Dr. Daniel May, the composer and jazz pianist who scored “Everest” and other films, and has worked with notables such as Sting and The Moody Blues. He directed and recorded Medieval Times’ new show composition in Kiev with the National Symphony Orchestra of Ukraine. This includes directing the choir in Ukraine with lyrics written by notable poet and choir member Solomia Gorokhivska.
  • A live-action film score precisely synchronized with every element of the show, from lights to fights; jousts to jabs; the Queen’s entry to curtain closings; and more.
  • A sound and light production featuring 120 hours of programming with 300 new music cues and 500 new lighting cues. Orlando, FL is one of several castles installing and programming a new LED lighting system that offers 256 colors versus the old 14-color system. The system is powered by 10 miles of cable and an estimated $1 million upgrade.

For more, visit www.medievaltimes.com.

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Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/MedievalTimes
Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/medievaltimes/

We were recently invited to visit Clearwater Beach by the lovely folks at Wyndham Rewards to check out their Ocean Hai restaurant at Wyndham Grand Clearwater Beach, recently awarded Four Diamonds by AAA.

The restaurant has a strong emphasis on seafood and pan-Asian cuisine featuring sumptuous sushi and sashimi platters to succulently pan-seared sea bass, all prepared under the culinary eye of Executive Chef Sean Ragan. Dishes are prepared with fresh, locally-sourced ingredients, including seafood and farm-raised meats and poultry.

Chef Sean Ragan has over 25 years of professional experience in the hospitality and restaurant industries, previously working at Caretta on the Gulf at the Sandpearl Resort.

Throughout his career, he had been handpicked to train with highly regarded chefs such as Julia Child, Paul Prudhomme and Martin Yan, and cooked for other top restaurants including Oystercatchers under Chef Hans Hickel and Innisbrook Golf Resort and Spa as Executive Sous Chef. Most recently, Chef Ragan was named the 2015 Best Chef of Clearwater Beach – and the fine dishes at Ocean Hai live up to his curriculum vitae.

Born in New York, Chef Ragan was exposed to a melting pot of flavors and cultures, developing a passion for cooking and global cuisine. He received his degree with honors in Culinary Arts and Hotel Restaurant Management in 1994 from Johnson & Wales University in Providence, Rhode Island. He is also ACF Certified, a recipient of the honored Le Cordon Bleu Medallion and belongs to the historic and distinguished Chaine des Rotisseurs and Societe Mondiale du Vin.

On our visit, we experienced the Omakase – “Chef’s Choice” – multi course tasting menu designed to allow guests to experience a sample of all of Ocean Hai’s cuisine. The cost is usually $75 per person with an optional $25 add on for wine pairings to go along with the dishes.

The first dish of the evening: Lobster Fried Rice, a decidedly elevated take on the traditional fried rice, with delicate pieces of lobster, saffron rice, crispy shallots, and topped with a sunny side up egg. I could not get enough of this dish!

Our second dish of the evening was the Tetsubin Miso Soup – the humble miso soup is brought to new heights here, with smoky charred tofu and smoked mussel, and finished tableside with a pour over from a hot kettle with dashi miso broth miso.

The next course, a delightful compressed watermelon salad that was truly a work of art – cubed, pressed watermelon, heirloom tomato, marinated feta cheese, slices of cucumbers, dollops of basil pesto, and some soy gastrique drizzle. It sings of summer.

To highlight their sushi, we tried their nigiri sushi sampler, with ultra-fresh slices of tuna, salmon, and yellowtail fish that had me reminiscing some time ago in Tokyo, Japan.

For the entree, my dining partner had the pan-seared then broiled Asian Sea Bass, a succulent flaky sea bass with a nice crisp from the pan sear, on top of black Forbidden rice with some sugar snap peas, shiitake mushrooms, and microgreens.

My entree was the Mongolian Lamb Chops, perfectly seared and delicious chops of lamb, accented by a dash of Chinese five spice, and served alongside roasted eggplant, baby bok choy, and crystalized ginger.

The evening ended on a high note – dessert that was playful and delightful – ube / purple yam “twinkie” and deconstructed strawberry cheesecake. Art on a plate. From start to finish, Ocean Hai soared to new heights in Asian cuisine.

Lobster Fried Rice | Saffron Rice | Peas & Carrot | Sunny Side Egg | Crisp shallot | Sweet Soy 20

Tetsubin Miso Soup | Dashi Broth | Smoked Mussel | Charred Tofu | Wakame 9

Compressed Watermelon | Heirloom Tomato | Marinated Feta | Cucumber | Basil Pesto | Soy Gastrique 11

Nigiri Sampler – Tuna, Salmon, Yellowtail Nigiri SushiAsian Sea Bass | Forbidden Rice | Sugar Snap | Shiitake Mushroom | Micro Green 38

Mongolian Lamb Chops | Roasted Eggplant | Baby Bok Choy | Edamame Yogurt | Crystalized ginger 42

Deconstructed Strawberry Shortcake DessertPurple Ube Twinkies

If you do come to Ocean Hai, make sure to plan to have dinner while the sun sets over the shimmering waters of the Gulf.

From Wyndham Rewards

  • Wyndham Rewards recognizes ordinary, hard working men and women for what they do every day. From the annual vacationer to the frequent traveler, no matter how often our members stay with us, they are all united under the same loyalty program.
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  • Wyndham Rewards: InstagramTwitterFacebookOfficial Website 
  • Wyndham Grand Clearwater Beach: InstagramTwitterFacebookOfficial Website 
  • Official Hashtags: #WyndhamGrand, #WyndhamGrandClearwaterBeach, #LiveGrand, #GrandLife

Stay and dinner at Ocean Hai provided by Wyndham Rewards and Wyndham Grand Clearwater Beach. All other views are my own.

You must check out Big Fin Seafood Kitchen this year during Magical Dining Month if you want a delicious meal for a great value.  Big Fin Seafood Kitchen, voted “Best Seafood Restaurant in Orlando“,  offers global, fresh seafood, steaks and pasta, on Sand Lake Road.  This is their 9th year participating in Magical Dining Month.

What is Magical Dining Month?

  • 3 courses – Appetizer, Entrèe, and Dessert
  • Price: $35 per person plus tax & gratuity
  • Over 100 + participating restaurants
  • Beginning August 24 through September 30
  • Through Visit Orlando, one dollar from each meal will benefit Best Buddies and Down Syndrome Association of Central Florida.
    Click here to view menu and make reservations

Choice of Appetizer

½ Dozen Freshly Shucked Raw Oysters – can be served raw (1st pic) or steamed (2nd pic)


Caesar Salad – Romaine, Parmesan cheese, garlic croutons

Cup of the Soup of the Day – Manhattan Clam Chowder

Choice of Entrèe


Shrimp Orleans – blackened shrimp, spinach, mushrooms, sun-dried tomatoes, crawfish Parmesan grits with a Cajun cream sauce

Broiled Main Lobster Tail – served with garlic mashed potatoes and French style green beans

Filet Mignon – served with garlic mashed potatoes and asparagus

Big Fin Trio – deep fried popcorn shrimp, bay scallops and catfish served with French fries and coleslaw

Upgrade: Add a 3 oz broiled lobster tail to any entree +$12

Choice of Dessert

“Apple Pie” Bread Pudding – braised cinnamon apples, salted caramel sauce, crumb topping, vanilla ice cream

Ooey Gooey – a gooey-layered pie cake topped with whipped cream, chocolate sauce and raspberry (ask your server for today’s flavor)

Key Lime Pie – a Florida favorite topped with whipped cream & a lime slice

Thank you Visit Orlando for hosting us and thank you Big Fin Seafood Kitchen for the amazing dinner and service!

Big Fin Seafood Kitchen
8046 Via Dellagio Way Orlando, FL 32819
(407) 615-8888

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: visitorlando.com/magicaldining/restaurants/The-Ravenous-Pig/44356/

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

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La Luce is Hilton Orlando Bonnet Creek’s signature restaurant created by famed Napa Valley chef and restaurateur Donna Scala. I first met Chef Donna Scala back in 2012 for a special dinner there – she was a breath of fresh air and always so full of light – La Luce.


Chef Donna Scala was an incredibly talented chef, gracious host and beloved friend who passionately operated La Luce in Orlando, Florida at Hilton Orlando Bonnet Creek and Bistro Don Giovanni in Napa, California. In 2014, she tragically passed away at the age of 60, but her spirit lives on through her recipes and her restaurants. If you look closely at some of the paintings here, you may see her favorite vespa featured – which she loved to use to travel around the wine country in California.

Chef Alberto Navarrete Arias, who trained under Chef Scala for over 20 years in California, continues to helm the modern Italian country kitchen here at La Luce serving up dinner nightly from thin crust pizzas, homemade pasta, Mediterranean-inspired drinks and a Trattoria-style wine program.

In 1993, when Chef Donna Scala and her husband opened Bistro Don Giovanni in Napa Valley, back before the “trend” of the farm-to-table movement, they installed a garden to supply ingredients for Mrs. Scala’s Italian dishes like Pasta Alla Gianni.

The menu here at La Luce continues that tradition of fresh, seasonal ingredients. This summer, they are featuring a wonderful stone fruit salad (for those that don’t know that means fruit with pitted seeds like peaches, figs, etc.), a wonderful fig and speck pizza baked in house in their wood oven with a delightful crustm and freshly grilled lamb chops.

Take a look at their newest Summer Menu below from our recent (superb) dinner visit:

Pesca “Mocktail” – Pasco Peaches, Pomegranate

ASPARAGI AL FORNO
Baked Prosciutto Wrapped Asparagus, Fontina, Parmesan Cream Sauce

STONE FRUIT
Local Greens, Shropshire Blue Cheese, Candied Hazelnuts, Moscatel Vinaigrette

PIZZE (PIZZA) – FIG and SPECK
Melted Leeks, Gorgonzola Dolce, Aged Balsamic – the proscuitto was crisp like BACON so good.

LINGUINI DI MARE
Roasted Mussels and Clams, Tomato, Garlic, Chilies, Pinot Grigio

AGNELLO AL SCOTTADITO
Grilled Lamb Chops, Warm Fregola and Kale Salad, Feta Cheese, Lemon

BUTTERSCOTCH PUDDING
HOUSE-MADE TOFFEE


La Luce at Hilton Bonnet Creek

http://www.laluceorlando.com/

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Urbain 40 American Brasserie and Lounge, the 1940s big band era inspired restaurant on Sand Lake Road in Orlando, recently updated their menu for the summer. Helmed by Chef Tim Keating, with an extremely capable line-up of sous chefs and pastry chefs, has unveiled their latest offerings based on the best of the season.

Though Chef Keating was out this evening, the team held the high standards for Urbain 40 and definitely made him proud

Take a look below at what is new as well as some classics to try on your next visit to Urbain 40.

Urbain 40 American Brasserie on Orlando’s Restaurant Row
House baked bread

The highlighted items are the new seasonal ingredients and dishes

The Classic Mussels in Lemon Butter

Chef’s Seasonal Salad with strawberries, red onions, radishes, aged feta cheese, greek olives Wild Red Argentinian Shrimp Cocktail with Tito’s Spiked Roasted Tomato Cocktail Sauce Campagna Flatbread pizza with stracciatella, fennel sausage, roasted peppers, arugula, parmigiano reggiano The Blended Burger – Umami Burger – and the Grilled Gulf Coast Grouper Filet Truffle pommes frites (truffle fries) so good! Grilled Gulf Coast Grouper Filet with Fingerling Potato – spring onion – tiny pepper and summer crop squash hash Orecchiette alla Campana – Italian Fennel Sausage, Eggplant, Rhapini

Desserts!!!

Urbain 40 American Brasserie and Lounge
8000 Via Dellagio Way, Orlando, FL 32819
urbain40.com

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What is this “Blended Burger” anyway?

According to the Atlantic, a team of scientists from Oregon State University, Bard College, and Loma Linda University calculated just what would happen if every American made one dietary change: substituting beans for beef. They found that if everyone were willing and able to do that—hypothetically—the U.S. could still come close to meeting its 2020 greenhouse-gas emission goals, pledged by President Barack Obama in 2009.

That is, even if nothing about our energy infrastructure or transportation system changed—and even if people kept eating chicken and pork and eggs and cheese—this one dietary change could achieve somewhere between 46 and 74 percent of the reductions needed to meet the target.

Urbain 40’s Umami Blended Burger

The James Beard Foundation’s annual Blended Burger Project is a nationwide initiative that challenges chefs to make a “blended burger” by blending ground meat* with finely chopped mushrooms to create a delicious, healthier, and more sustainable burger.

Now through July 31, 2018 locals can enjoy these blended burgers from the following participating restaurants, K Restaurant & Wine Bar, Urbain 40 and 310 Park.

Diners can vote and support the Blended Burger Project™:

· Visit jamesbeard.org/blendedburgerproject to view the gallery of blended burger photos, and cast their vote for the blended burger

· Visit the participating restaurant through July 31, 2018 and ask for the “blended burger”

· Post their burger photos to social media with the hashtag #blendedburgerproject

In August, a prestigious panel of judges on behalf of the JBF will review 20 restaurants receiving the most votes to select the five top winners, based on most creative use of mushrooms, best flavor profile and presentation.

The Judges are:

· Andrew Zimmern, TV personality, chef, writer and teacher.

· Antoinette Bruno, CEO and Editor in Chief, StarChefs.com.

· Susan Westmoreland, Culinary Director, Good Housekeeping.

Chefs from the top five restaurants will win a trip to New York City to cook their blended burger dish during a special fall event at the historic James Beard House. Visit jamesbeard.org/blendedburgerproject for a list of participating restaurants and follow #blendedburgerproject on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

K Restaurant & Wine Bar
1710 Edgewater Dr.
Orlando, FL
407.872.2332

“Blended Burger”
Ground Mushrooms and Beef, Topped with Melted Swiss Cheese, Mushrooms, Heirloom Tomatoes, Crisp Bibb Lettuce & Black Garlic Aioli Sauce $18

Urbain 40 American Brasserie & Lounge
8000 Via Dellagio Way
Orlando, FL
407.872.2640

James Beard Foundations Blended Burger Project “Umami Burger”
Ground Short Rib, White & Porcini Mushrooms & Bush Dreams Pepperberry Rub-laced Steak Burger, Brioche-Sesame Bun, Truffled Tomato-Bacon-Onion Jam, Melted Truffled Cheese, Arugula, Heirloom Tomato, House Pickles & Truffled Pommes Frites $18

310 Park
Lakeside, Park South, Lake Nona

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Cinco Tacos + Tequila offers total sensory experience, focusing on exceptional service, elegant presentation and a fun atmosphere. 

Located in Winter Park/Florida, Cinco Tacos + Tequila offers Cali-Mex dishes with a twist and artistic flair. Signature dishes include Adobo Fried Chicken, Cali-Mex Samosas, Pizza Stand Nachos and a variety of street tacos. There’s also a large selection of drinks to choose with some delivering an element of surprise to wow the table.

The restaurant would be a great place to have dinner or brunch with friends. The brunch menu has a wide selection of small plates and bottomless tableside mimosas and bloody marys. Brunch will only be offered on the weekends for $32. I loved trying out the brunch items and the Adobo Fried Chicken & Churro Waffle was my favorite!

Fun Fact: The restaurant concept is backed by Actor Mario Lopez, former NSYNC member Chris Kirkpatrick, local venture capitalist Michael “Q” Quatrini and restaurateur Greg Pranzo.

Cinco Tacos + Tequila **NOW OPEN**

Complimentary chips and salsa will begin every meal, and guests can add to the experience with Tableside Guacamole.
Jalapeno Rellenos // Blanched and battered jalapenos, cotija + avocado ranch dipping sauce
Queso Fundido Con Chorizo // Chihuahua cheese, white cheddar, sauteed peppers and onions, chorizo + warm flour tortillas
Ceviche de Camarones // Fresh shrimp ceviche served on sliced cucumber
**Brunch Menu** Guacamole toaste + patatas bravas
**Brunch Menu** Barbacoa Benedict
Korean BBQ Pork Belly // Pickled red onion, jalapeno + gochujang

 

**NOW OPEN**

Cinco Tacos + Tequila

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One of the first interviews I ever did on TastyChomps was with Master Sommelier George Miliotes, where he taught me some of the most basic things about wine, as well as his family’s history in Orlando.

Now, Mr. Miliotes, with more than 40 years experience in the industry, has opened a new concept at Disney Springs – the eponymous Wine Bar George. Disney Springs – formerly known as Downtown Disney – has exploded in recent years with a plethora of new dining experiences led by celebrity chefs and arguably home to some of the best eats in Orlando.

We were recently invited to visit the 200-seat, 6,000-square-foot space to learn more about the new restaurant as well as a first-hand lesson from the Master Sommelier himself on wine tasting.

The opening at Disney Springs is a kind of coming home event for Mr. Miliotes who was part of the opening team of the California Grill restaurant at Disney’s Contemporary Resort and managed the venue from 1995 to 2002. While there, he created an award-winning wine list and one of the first “100 wines by the glass” lists in the country.

As one of only 249 worldwide industry professionals certified by the Court of Master Sommeliers, Miliotes features wines from acclaimed and well-known wineries as well as growing regions and wineries that are up-and-coming. The location offers an unparalleled wine list including more than 130 selections by the ounce, glass and bottle. Wine Bar George is actually the only Master Sommelier-led wine bar in Florida.

“The wine list will feature more than 130 wines all served by the ounce, glass or bottle,” Miliotes said. “The list will include more than 40 varietals from regions around the world. We will use the Coravin, the Vinfinity system and wine on tap to ensure each wine is enjoyed to its fullest extent. Servers will adeptly pair a range of small plates, cheese and charcuterie, shareable entrees and dessert with each wine. If you are looking for an awesome $9 glass on tap or a few ounces of Château Margaux, we will have wines for you to enjoy.”

In addition to the extensive wine list, Wine Bar George offers a variety of cocktails, a selection of beer and cider and frosé.

Executive Chef Ron Rupert worked closely together with Mr. Miliotes to create a menu that would pair perfectly with the extensive wine selection, from small plates to artisan cheese and charcuterie boards, but also sharable entrées. The food here is definitely not an afterthought, but indeed is a part of what makes wine tasting such an enjoyable experience.

Upon arrival, we were treated with a selection of their craft cocktails including the American 75 and the New York Sour, with a board of select artisanal cheeses and charcuterie.

American 75 St. George Terrior Gin / Roeder Estate / Lavender

New York Sour Russell’s Reserve 10 Yr Bourbon / Venta Morales Tempranillo

The Big Board Chef’s selection of six artisanal cheeses & five crafted meats / condiments

Master Sommelier George Miliotes then gave us an education on wine tasting by giving us tips on the smells and tastes of wine, from dry to sweet, depth of flavor and taste, and how this all ties to the age and origin of the wine.

Taste Like a Master Sommelier Tasting of three wines led by George
Tasting:

Giocato Goriška Brda, Slovenia ‘17
Casas Del Bosque, Reserve Casablanca, Chile ‘16
Zuccardi Salta, Argentina ‘16

Our dinner included some small appetizers as well as family sized shareable entrees, all paired wonderfully with our wines. My favorites of the evening included the crispy mac and cheese bites (you will never guess what they are coated in!), the togarashi dusted chicken skewers, house-made meatballs, supremely tender skirt steak, and the wine braised chicken in mushrooms and vegetables.

Crispy Mac & Cheese Bites – tomato nage / pecorino

Chicken Skewers – togarashi / Asian slaw

House-Made Meatballs – triple cheese polenta / tomato sauce

Pairings selected by George Miliotes

First Wine: Selbach-Oster, Bömer, Zeltinger Schlossberg, Mosel, Germany ‘16

Second Wine: Foillard, Côte du Py Morgon, France ‘16

Grilled Whole Greek Sea Bass – cannellini bean ragout / seasonal vegetables / lemon

Wine Braised Chicken – mushrooms / Yukon potato hash / seasonal vegetables

Skirt Steak – roasted potatoes / chimichurri / seasonal vegetables

Desserts

Olive Oil Cake – candied olives / lemon mascarpone

Key Lime Pie – A Florida favorite

Follow George @WineBarGeorge on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook and join the #WineBarGeorge conversation. Visit WineBarGeorge.com for more news and updates.

Fried Chicken & Doughnuts – two pieces of Chef Art’s famous fried chicken served with house-made sugar doughnuts.

Home is where Chef Art is.  No matter how far his travels have taken him – from being Oprah’s personal chef to opening four incredible restaurants across the country – Celebrity Chef Art Smith calls Florida home. Now, Chef Art has returned to share his farm fresh Florida dishes with you.

A two-time James Beard Foundation award winner, was Oprah Winfrey’s personal chef for 10 years and cooked for two Florida governors in Tallahassee.

The name Homecomin’ Florida Kitchen is a nod to Chef Art’s return to Walt Disney World after his first cast role in The Magic Kingdom College Program in 1981, now known as the Walt Disney World College Program.” -Homecomin’ Kitchen

“Welcome home!”  We were invited to Homecomin’ Kitchen in Disney Springs to check out their new brunch menu that runs every Sunday from 10am – 2pm.  The manager Allen and our server Jesus gave us their full attention despite the restaurant being crazy packed along with long line.  With 13 servers running on floor and 1 bartender: our fabulous Florida Southern cuisine food came out timely and fresh.

Walk-ins accepted.  Reservations are not required but highly recommended.

Momma’s Mac and Cheese

Potato Gratin Mash

Cheddar Cheese Drop Biscuits With a Side of Hot Honey & Sawmill Gravy

Fried Catfish (from the main menu) – Accompanied by Hushpuppies, Grits & a Side of Remoulade

Florida Grouper (from the main menu) – Fresh Grilled Grouper, Braised Kale, Collard Greens with French Fries


Hummingbird Cake – The famous pineapple-banana cake with cream cheese frosting from Chef Art’s bestselling cookbook “Back To The Table”.  Served with a scoop of vanilla bean ice cream.

Beautifully painted wall.

The tree that was used for this table was struck by lightning so you can see lightning scars on it.

Chef Art Smith’s James Beard Foundation Awards

Be sure to check out Homecomin’ Kitchen soon for their new Sunday brunch!

Homecomin’ Kitchen
1602 East Buena Vista Drive, Orlando, FL 32830
(407) 560-0100
homecominkitchen.com

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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 traveled the world on a mission to curate an eclectic and memorable dining experience built on passed-down recipes and hand-picked popular street foods from all over Asia — Korea, China, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam, and Japan.

The brand’s name was inspired by street vendors that the friends encountered throughout the streets of Asia known as hawkers, who are famous in their own right and thrive off of locally grown ingredients to create dishes sold from mobile carts and stands.

I’ve been to Malaysian restaurants from Atlanta to New York City, and I have come to realize that our very own Hawkers serves up some of the best curry prawn mee noodle soups and roti canai in the United States.

They recently opened their second Orlando location in Windermere at The Grove (9100 Conroy Windermere Road, Suite 110, Windermere, FL 34786) and have announced their newest (seventh!!) restaurant will be coming soon in 2019 to Charlotte, North Carolina.

“For the last few years, we’ve watched Charlotte grow into one of the most dynamic urban markets in the Southeast,” said Kaleb Harrell, Co-Founder of Hawkers Asian Street Fare. “We absolutely love the culture, and the city’s investment into walkability and revitalization. It is an honor for us to open in Charlotte.”

The seasonal menu features house favorites such as Roti Canai (Row-Tee Can-Eye), a flaky Asian flatbread paired with Hawkers’ signature curry sauce, an award-winning Pad Thai, and other popular items such as Yi Yi’s Chicken Dumplings and Curry Laksa.

With all the growth recently at Hawkers, we wanted to chat with Kaleb Harrell, one of Hawkers’ founders, about the restaurant and where it’s all headed:

Tasty Chomps: What was it like in those very first days when Hawkers began?

Kaleb: It’s so different! The four founders were running the kitchen while we had a few servers running the front for us (including our wives after they left their day jobs at 5). I can remember opening around 9 a.m., working the entire day to close, cleaning the kitchen, then talking about building our systems until 3, 4, 5 a.m. some nights. Those were days that I’ll never forget and wouldn’t trade – it was a time when our partnership strengthened and we built the foundation of what Hawkers is growing to be. Most of all, I remember the guest reactions – excited that they had found this gem of a restaurant with a cuisine they had never tasted and an adventurous experience that would leave them wanting to show it off to their friends.

What will the new headquarters coming to downtown Orlando be like?

Designing that space has been very difficult. Of course, we have to make it a “functional” work environment (so says our architect 🙂 ), but we are really trying to create a space that is connected to our restaurants. There will be a workspace side that functions more like an office with heavy street art and some very creative elements, including our “rice bag room.” Then there will be the mock dining area that sits on the bridge – this is our opportunity to bring street culture into the space. We will have a fully functional bar, a few booths for flex space, and an instagram-worthy neon installation on the ceiling.

What can new visitors to Hawkers expect when they dine at Hawkers?

We love for our first-time guests to come in with an open mind, ready to be adventurous. There is always a little education upfront, because our service style is very different than a typical full-service restaurant. We have taken inspiration from eating at hawker centers on the streets of Asia, so our food comes out as it’s prepared, not as it’s ordered (no heat lamps), and everything on our menu is meant to be shared. You won’t find forks on the table or served with dishes (although they are available for our less chopstick-savvy guests). Lastly, our team will encourage our guests to be a little adventurous and try something new! Afterall, that’s what eating the streets is all about.

What are the upcoming plans for Hawkers?

Currently, there are three units under construction, Atlanta, Charlotte, and Delray Beach. We are launching an initiative titled “20 in 20” where our team has committed to having 20 units open by the end of the year 2020. All of our focus is in growing the brand in a meaningful way without diluting the what we have already built. It’s a challenge and requires intentionality with every decision, but our team is up for it and we are excited!

Why is Hawkers so delicious??

Haha. We just don’t cut corners. All of our sauces are made from scratch. We hand-cut vegetables every day. Dumplings are hand-rolled every day. It’s the difference in your grandmother making her meatballs and bolognese sauce from scratch and your roommate from college heating up Chef Boyardee… only in our case the meatballs are covered with an addictive curry sauce.

For more about Hawkers and their menu, visit eathawkers.com

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A few months ago, I had the honor of serving as a guest judge for Orlando Magazine’s Orlando Burger Battle. The competition took place at the newly opened Ace Cafe in downtown Orlando, known for their rock and roll and biker theme, renovated in the 91-year-old Harry P. Leu building at 100 W. Livingston Street, just across from the Lynx bus station.

The space is massive with a 14,000-square-foot restaurant space featuring bars, lounges and a stage. There are plans for a retail space, motorcycle dealer, and outdoor and indoor event space as well. Almost every day of the week there is a special event with meet ups for biker enthusiasts, car enthusiasts, and more (check their calendar online at acecafeusa.com)

If you didn’t know, Ace Cafe is actually a famous London diner founded in 1938, developing a reputation as a meeting and eating place for those passionate about cars, bikes and rock ’n roll culture. The original location on London’s North Circular Road began as a transport cafe for truckers, then evolved into a popular destination for rock ‘n roll-loving teens riding motorbikes during the ’50s and ’60s.

We were recently invited to check out the new things going on at Ace Cafe as they just hit their one year anniversary. The food is your standard American diner fare from burgers to sandwiches, but also a few nods to their British heritage like a very good rendition of the fish and chips.

The space is huge!


Buffalo Empanadas – Three Empanadas filled with Pulled Chicken, House-Made Ace Hot Sauce & Cheese. Served with Celery and Blue Cheese Dressing


Bonneville Bacon Cheeseburger – this is a half pound Angus beef burger topped with Hickory Smoked Bacon, Cheddar Cheese, Lettuce, Tomatoes & Onions & served on a toasted, buttered Brioche Bun with Fries & a Pickle Spear. It was one of the top ranking burgers from our burger battle as well, if my memory serves me correctly.


George´s Fish & Chips
North Atlantic Haddock dipped in House-Made Yuengling beer batter, fried to a golden brown. Served with Chips (Steak Fries) & Mushy Peas. Just like they serve in London!


Ace Cafe Super Food Salad
Healthy & refreshing Power Greens, Micro Sprouts, Feta Cheese, Tomatoes, Cucumbers, Guacamole & Candied Pecans tossed with Citrus Vinaigrette


For more information, visit www.acecafeusa.com, call 407-996-6686, and connect on Facebook, Twitter @AceCafeOrlando and Instagram @acecafeorlando_official.

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Anthony Bourdain passed away at the age of 61 on June 8th, 2018, from an apparent suicide. The death left many around the world who were touched by his work reeling. From giving the public an insider’s look into our “culinary underbelly” inside kitchens across America in his best selling novel Kitchen Confidential,  to opening our eyes to glimpses of far-flung kitchens and street markets around the world for many for the first time during his many food travel shows, Anthony Bourdian was a trailblazer for the food world in so many ways. Increasingly in recent years his shows have been more about the people behind the food than the food itself, showcasing that no matter where we are in the world, we all have many same commonalities.

I remember my first time seeing Anthony on TV, an episode of a Cook’s Tour on the Food Network. It was during college and I had just visited New York for the first time. Here he was in some pub in Tokyo, Japan eating sushi, drinking beer, and overall, having a great time. It was my first time seeing modern day Tokyo and probably was the first time for many other viewers as well, opening our horizons to new corners of the world. I think his adventures inspired so many others to travel, to see new things, to try new foods, and learn from new cultures not only around the world but maybe also down the street from our own neighborhoods, or on the other side of the tracks. For this, to inspire us all to see ourselves in the other, I will be forever grateful to Anthony and his work.

Recently, I asked a few of our local Orlando restauranteurs, writers, food publicists for their thoughts in memory of Anthony Bourdain. The impact he left on our own food scene in Orlando runs deep.

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“It was September of 2005. Janet and I had returned from Spain. Hurricane Katrina had spared Key West during this time but went on to wreak famous havoc on New Orleans. We had been invited by Tony to do a show with him on Key West. Janet and I were living there again with the belief we had re-settled ‘for good’. Tony was in great spirits. He was becoming quite famous by then and folks on the streets were eager to meet him as we walked Duval. Showing him the place that formed the roots of my cuisine was more deeply rewarding than I can convey. His pirate and writer spirits were perfectly aligned on the Island. As we waited to shoot one scene he asked me if I might help him find a house to rent for a few months. He wanted to write a follow-up to ‘Kitchen Confidential’. We joked about all of the fun+trouble we could get into together. It was a fantasy I shall keep forever now … in fantasy land. Rest in Peace my Friend.” – Chef Norman Van Aken, 1921 by Norman Van Aken

 

“Tony was 2 years older than I but we grew with quite similar backgrounds as he lived in in Leonia, New Jersey (one town over from my hometown of Bogota). He spent his summers 2 towns up from me & my family home at the Jersey shore where he & I started our culinary careers. He went on to the CIA to get serious about cooking (I couldn’t afford the $12K to go there so I took a scholarship to play Basketball @ William Paterson University in Wayne, New Jersey. Jumping forward, Reading Kitchen Confidential profoundly changed my outlook on Kitchen life & was a sheer delight as he shared all the experiences of growing up in Jersey.

In 2000, my first year of being nominated for a James Beard award, I walked into the Hall at The Marriot Marquis in NYC where the awards were held & after checking in the first people I ran into was Mario Batali who I had known for some years & Tony. It was then that I was introduced to Tony & was able to share all my Jersey stories & shared a lot of laughs & I then passed along my appreciation for all of his work thus far. He shared that he had heard of me & my Texas colleagues who had a Chef’s Band & how cool that was. Before I left them, both Mario & Tony put their hands on my shoulders & shared “don’t worry Tim, You’ve got this- we voted for you”. Soooooooo Cool.

I also ran into him the next 3 years that I was nominated at the awards & we shared similar moments. Needless to say, I was deeply moved & it remains one of the highlights of my career.

Being a Monster Fan of Tony & Parts Unknown & all that he had achieved, I must say that I was crushed when I heard of his passing. The World lost a great one. God rest his Soul!!” – Chef Tim Keating, Urbain 40

“There’s a lot I could say – but I’ll keep it simple. I never met Anthony Bourdain, but his outlook on the world really shaped me to who I am today. I didn’t grow up traditionally Thai. Like a lot of half-asian kids, I spent a lot of my early teens just wanting to fit in with the white kids. Tony’s outlook on the world and his shows like No Reservations helped me see the world differently, and largely made me see that my Thai heritage was something beautiful to be proud of. Not only that, his books and shows taught me that cooking was something honorable to do. I re-read Kitchen Confidential last year when I was staging in thailand. I would read 20 pages every day before I went into work. It made me excited about what I was about to do. It still does.” – Dylan Eitharong, Bangrak Thai Street Kitchen

Kitchen Confidential was published in 2000 and was a huge influence in our lives as we prepared to attend culinary school in New York. We’ll never forget the thrill of devouring the book and realizing there was a whole world of people out there having experiences similar to ours. It opened our eyes and was a catalyst that has everything to do with who we are today. ” – Alexia and Rhys Gawlak, Swine and Sons

“I have a fair amount I wrote down that day but to keep it short. Anthony was a voice that made us proud to cook and BE cooks or hospitality workers rather than be ashamed of our seemingly endless toil in uncomfortably hot and painful places. All in all, he was an inspiration and like a wise man who had seen it all from our perspective and told the world but also became a voice in the world telling everyone about the adventure, pain, camaraderie, and joy of it all. I’ll always feel very lucky he wrote what he did and became who he did because i feel like a whole generation of cooks owe him a lot of our success.” – Chef Bruno Zacchini, Pizza Bruno

“I have kept quiet on the Anthony Bourdain situation for the last few days now. While everyone else posted their pictures, memories and condolences, I decided I would like to reflect and figure out the right way to describe how his work has impacted me. Despite the incredible fame he received from his tv shows and the platform they extended to him, I never really watched them. That’s not to say I wasn’t a fan of Bourdain, that is just to say that, those shows were not why I was a fan of Bourdain. The thing I liked most about him was his unfiltered and completely real portrayal of kitchen life. He was completely transparent in his work whether through interviews, articles, or books about what life is like in the kitchen. He is probably one of the main characters who actually shed light on the barbaric personalities and lifestyle you must live to be in a professional kitchen, at least prior to recent times. Bourdain’s biggest contribution to my life was that he showed that a cook can have other talents as well. I have been writing for months now nonstop but have not found anything I wanted to publish. I find it very befitting that this piece might very well be the first thing that I do.” – Joseph Roberti, Pizzeria Roberti – read the full piece here: https://medium.com/@josephroberti/in-memory-of-anthony-bourdain-a94dcf14c51b 

 

“Hawkers’ entire concept was based on the idea that thanks to Anthony Bourdain and his loyal foodie community, Americans were finally ready to try, even embrace, flavors and textures from global cuisine that had been previously kept secret, shared only by locals. Chef Bourdain had a coolness about him that was palpable. His raw, bold, no-nonsense approach was the only fit for introducing the world to authentic food, cultures, and traditions – no one else could have done what he did. He taught me that pushing the envelope means more than just being adventurous. It means being appreciative and respectful of what other cultures have been enjoying for generations – flavors and foods that we are now lucky enough to enjoy, too. As my 71-year old mother said, “food today is what Rock N’ Roll was in the ‘60s. Everyone is talking about the next hot restaurant or flavors the same way we talked about bands back then.”

If that’s true, then Anthony Bourdain was our Elvis – an icon to be honored and remembered for his mark on foodie fans across the world. Our hearts go out to his family and friends.” – Kaleb Harrell, Co-Founder of Hawkers Asian Street Fare

“Chef Anthony Bourdain was one of the real ones. His passing reminds me of the importance of communing over food, and not just for food. Their are important stories of culture, injustices, and people that can be found in each dish that we consume. I’d like to think that uncovering these important elements of life was a big part of what Anthony advocating for. Sending love and prayers throughout the community. God bless, foodie fam!” –  Chauniqua Major, Publicist and Founder of Project Pop

“Anthony Bourdain, I’ve read all your books, seen all your TV shows, cooked from your cookbook and felt like I knew you. An unapologetic storyteller who told the stories of those who would have never been told. Shed light on issues others did not want to talk about. An inspiration to broadcasters, foodies and travelers around the world. I’ve worked in the restaurant industry entire life. 14 years as a server & a publicist for restaurants the last six years. You brought my worlds together as writer, telling stories of the industry which had never been done before like it was a underground world. You were a person who appreciated art, music and those who were different. Your words and thoughts have been a part of mine and my husband’s life so much. I’ll never forget driving through the countryside of Spain listening to your audio books and feeling so inspired. Your wit and sarcasm have become quotable one-liners in my home.

There is a chapter in“medium raw” called “I’m dancing.” It tells the story at your daughter’s dance class and being the only dad they are among a sea of nannies. You discussed that moment where you danced with you daughter for the first time. I can’t get that moment out of my mind because it changed you then. I am really hit hard by this and the world will not be the same. #RIPAnthonyBourdain

One of my favorite @Bourdain quotes from “Medium Raw: “If you are literally serving shit to American children, I’ve got no problem with a jury of your peers wiring your nuts to a car battery and feeding you the accumulated sweepings of the bottom of a monkey cage.” – Maria Wyatt-Uhl, Senior Account Executive, Publicity

“He possessed a disarming intelligence and a no-bullshit eloquence that spoke to many a quiet adventurer. He was our generation’s Hemingway. Sadly, both Hemingway and Bourdain died at their own hands at the age of 61.” – Faiyaz Kara, Orlando Weekly

 

“We’re not so different, you and I.”

Anthony Bourdain probably never said that. But he was a major cinephile, and he probably would have scoffed every time a movie or TV character uttered that cliche. The line makes me chuckle every time, but there is truth in it.

I loved the cinematic quality of Bourdain’s food and travel shows, especially Parts Unknown. A lot of episodes were homages to classic films, with the shooting, the editing, even his narration. Some allusions surely went over my head.

But that’s what Bourdain did best. He was a raconteur, an adventurer, a storyteller, a tour guide, a journalist. He was one of my favorite writers and personalities. Incredibly witty, insightful, charming, and “woke.” He took us places and taught us and fed us, at least metaphorically. He made me think more about food, and definitely made me want to write about food. (Sorry, not sorry!)

In so many brilliant books and three wonderful shows (A Cook’s Tour on Food Network, No Reservations on Travel Channel, and Parts Unknown on CNN), he brought us along to all kinds of exotic and not-so-exotic destinations and showed us that everyone has a story that’s worth listening to, especially if we stop to listen and talk over a good meal. I think in this isolating age where society feels more divided than ever, he was on to something. Listening. Empathy. Sharing cultures. Food breaking borders and boundaries. Chefs as ambassadors and anthropologists.

And he seemed like such a cool guy. Someone with demons for sure, which gave him an edge, but we thought he had them under control. Maybe he did too. Most people I know have fought with anxiety and depression. Dear friends, family members, people I love more than life itself. I have too. I have moments of pure happiness, but mostly I just shoot for being content, figuring that’s the best most of us can ask for. But I apologize more than I should. I walk on eggshells too often. I deal with impostor syndrome, self-doubt, self-loathing at times. Maybe Anthony Bourdain did too, even with everything he seemed to have going for him. You look at these celebrities who seem to have it all, and feel shock when they buckle under the pressure. (They’re not so different, them and us.) You wish they had asked for help.

I’m a librarian. My job is to listen and to help if I can. Ask for help, even if you don’t ask me. There’s no shame in it. You matter, and we don’t want anything to happen to you.

We’re not so different, you and I.” – Louis Rosen, saboscrivner.com

Photo by Chef Bruno Zacchini

“If I’m an advocate for anything, it’s to move. As far as you can, as much as you can. Across the ocean, or simply across the river. Walk in someone else’s shoes or at least eat their food.” – Anthony Bourdain

How to get help: In the US, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.

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The Glass Knife opened just a few months ago and is already popular among the “ladies who lunch” of Winter Park. They’ve learned from their first missteps and have continued to refine their processes – for example, a more prominent sign guiding new customers to the counters to take their orders.

The bakery/restaurant/cafe was developed by local entrepreneur Steve Brown, as a way to share his memories of baking alongside his mother, Jacque, who was a fond collector of Depression-era glass cake knives.


The culinary team is led by Executive Chef Stuart Whitfield, who has worked for Four Seasons, Le Cirque, David Burke & Donatella, and The Walt Disney Company.

The Glass Knife’s Spring debut lineup includes: new macarons, lemon and chocolate tarts, artisanal flatbreads, their newest doughnut, the PB&J, and their newest pastry, the Coconut Blackberry.

I enjoyed the PB&J donut, but the Coconut Blackberry was my favorite. An outstanding pastry with complex textures from crunchy to soft to sweet and citrusy – quite delicious.


Mediterranean Flatbread
Sweet fig butter, goat cheese, Neuske’s Applewood-smoked bacon and caramelized onions topped with arugula, shredded Gruyere cheese and finished with a mission fig balsamic drizzle and lemon creme fraiche


The PB&J
Filled with layers of the Glass Knife’s own peanut butter cream and tangy raspberry jam, touched with a vibrant purple, hibiscus glaze and topped with peanut butter stripes and golden, house-made peanut brittle


Coconut Blackberry
Intricate layers of aromatic blackberry pate de fruit, coconut dacquoise and zesty yuzu jam enveloped in a lush coconut mousse atop a buttery shortbread base finished with blackberry cream, touches of fresh blackberries, coconut, microgreens and edible 23-karat gold leaf.

 

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Black Bee Honey is a non-profit business founded by the youth in the Parramore Kidz Zone program. The business started with the dream of providing youth an opportunity to learn firsthand entrepreneurship skills while simultaneously enriching the lives of their community members by providing raw honey.

This start-up business, run by PKZ youth, will offer high quality honey for sale at the Parramore Farmers Market while providing work related educational and entrepreneurial experiences, further developing the youth of the Parramore Community into future workforce leaders.

Black Bee Honey comes from Dadant & Sons in High Springs, FL, one of the top businesses in the beekeeping field. PKZ are selling six different kinds of honey, including:

Wildflower
Saw Palmetto
Gallberry
Sourwood
Orange Blosom
Tupelo

Once the raw honey is purchased from Dadant and Sons, PKZ Inc. employees jar and label the honey at the Dr. J.B. Callahan Neighborhood Center in Parramore. The honey will be sold at a booth during the Parramore Farmers Market for $12.

BLACK BEE HONEY MISSION

The mission of Black Bee Honey is to provide Parramore youth an opportunity to operate and manage their own business while simultaneously providing the residents of the greater Orlando area high quality, nutritional, honey. These simultaneous provisions introduces an intangible wealth into the community by investing in underserved youth who will later invest in the community.

The mission stands on four pillars: Ethics, Education, Community, and Wellness.

These core values help communicate who we are and provide everyone here at Black Bee Honey with a sense of purpose and meaning to guide their work. We strive to have the highest possible ethical and moral standards for ourselves as we honor our commitment to serving our customers and our community.

Black Bee Honey isn’t just about how healthy our products are. It’s also about creating a healthy community, physically, socially, and economically.

Parramore Kidz Zone Youth Employment Program has created PKZ Inc. as an entrepreneurial enterprise. PKZ Inc. will function as a learning tool by giving students in the Parramore area a chance to start their own business. Their first venture is Black Bee Honey.

When and how did this program begin?
The PKZ Black Bee Honey program started in 2017 before the official opening of the Parramore Farmers Market. Students looking to learn entrepreneurial skills spent months before the farmers market debut working on a business plan, attending an online business course and developing marketing tools. When the market opened in January 2018, students shifted into sales and customer service, attending the market each Saturday to sell their product.

How is it impacting the community now?
The program has inspired the youth involved on an entrepreneurial level, demonstrating that it’s possible and obtainable to start a business, while also contributing to a larger picture issue – in this case, food deserts in our community.

What are some things students learn from the program?
Students are learning entrepreneurial skills relating to operating a business, including understanding profits, sales and management.

How can the community get involved and help?
Support PKZ by visiting the Parramore Farmers Market each Saturday! For a full schedule, visit: http://www.cityoforlando.net/economic/parramore-farmers-market/.

For more info, visit: http://www.cityoforlando.net/parramorekidzzone/black-bee-honey/

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Scenes from this month’s fabulous wine dinner presented by Chef Huy Tin at Seito Sushi Baldwin Park featuring Talley Vineyards wines! Delicious from start to finish!

Menu
Seafood Chawanmushi steamed egg custard with key west pink shrimp, pacific oyster, ikura, white tosa
Wines from Talley Vineyard
Sunomono salad – kyurizuke, salted european cucumbers, sea beans uni marinated scallop, octopus, white ponzu
Seafood Pasta – Homemade noodles, uni, mentaiko, ossetra aviar

Moriawase nigiri
Mushroom Gyoza with foie gras, shiitake and oyster mushroom and porcini dashi
Duck – Tokyo Turnips, chicken liver mousse, rillete of confit leg with asian pear compote
Hanger steak – rainbow carrots, purple osaka mustard greens, miso parsnip puree, five spice chocolate demi glace
Rice Pudding – mochi, dragon fruit, coconut ice cream, sesame cookie

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by Sarah Bolandi

Foxtail Coffee owners have officially announced the grand opening date for Foxtail Farmhouse (Instagram | Website) to be on Saturday, February 10th.

Doors will open at 8 a.m.–midnight; more specifically the sliding barn door that connects Foxtail Coffee to the new adjoining Farmhouse space. These will be the set hours for Farmhouse with the connecting door closing off Foxtail Coffee at 10 p.m. daily.

The long-awaited expansion aims to bring more seating to the adjacent flagship location of the local coffee shop. In addition to more space, Farmhouse boasts a siphon bar, a silo coffee bean bar, craft cocktails on tap, local bites and four new “experiential” coffee items.

Partners Alex Tchekmeian and Iain Yeakle, the brains behind Foxtail Coffee (Facebook Website) say that the Farmhouse features the world’s largest coffee siphon bar, equipped with 14 individual burners.

As a continuation of their existing partnership, DoveCote will manage the majority of their food items, inclusive of vegetarian and vegan-friendly recipes. Next to fresh bites and sandwiches, Farmhouse will feature items from local bakeries, Valhalla and Bluebird Bake Shop as well as Macaw! Foods.

Complementing the enhanced menu, guests can also enjoy wines, ciders, and bubbly options, all curated with the help of DoveCote and Courtesy Bar owner, Gene Zimmerman. Zimmerman’s craft cocktail inspirations are in the same spirit of his downtown speakeasy.

As for the experiential items, guests can find unique coffee-infused picks like a Shakerado and the Deconstructed Latté.

“The Farmhouse closes off completely for private events but still connects to Foxtail Coffee. This allows us to have private events [at the Farmhouse] and still have Foxtail Coffee open.”-Alex

Unlike any of their other locations, the Farmhouse will also cater to the after-hours crowd. Directly mirroring the coffee wall will be a wine bar featuring local wines, coffee and wine pairings as well as other specialty cocktails.

Foxtail Farmhouse is located next door to sister space Foxtail Coffee at 1282 Orange Avenue in Winter Park [GMap].

Here is a FIRST LOOK inside the gorgeous new Foxtail Farmhouse:

 

 

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It’s time again to cast your ballot for the best in Central Florida dining in Orlando Magazine’s Dining Awards 2018 Readers’ Choice Ballot! Poll Closes Feb 1!

Voting closes on February 1st, so the next two weeks is crucial to get your vote in. Bonus: a voter will be selected at random and win a dinner for two!

People can vote on their favorites or nominate restaurants. Winners will be revealed in the May Dining Issue, and celebrated at a private ceremony with a plaque and rowdy round of applause.

Make sure to vote LOCAL!!!!

Vote Here:
http://www.orlandomagazine.com/Orlando-Magazine/December-2017/Dining-Awards-2018-Readers-Choice-Ballot/

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“Where the Locals Eat”

Known as one of the best places for breakfast in Jacksonville, winning multiple accolades, Metro Diner has finally expanded further into the Orlando area near the always brunch-happy UCF area in East Orlando. The first Central Florida is in Altamonte Springs.

Founded in Jacksonville in 1992, over 25 years ago, Metro Diner specializes in breakfast specials and comfort diner food and was recently featured on Guy Fieri’s “Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives” on the Food Network. Let the flavor town train roll on!

On a recent visit, the place was packed with local professionals in from the cold on their lunch breaks. People love breakfast and brunch in Orlando and there seems to be more and more options each day.

I ordered their signature Fried Chicken and Waffle – the fried chicken was nice and crispy, but the waffle was the real star – light and fluffy yet also with a nice crisp. The strawberry butter was also a wonderful touch to this sweet and savory dish.


Fried Chicken & Waffle $15.49
Half a fried chicken and a Belgian waffle, topped with powdered sugar and sweet, strawberry butter. Served with their special honey tabasco, sweet and spicy sauce.


Metro Diner
11650 University Blvd
Orlando, FL 32817
https://metrodiner.com/locations/florida/orlando-university/

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Winter, brief it may be, has arrived to Central Florida with the latest frosty blasts covering most of our region this past week.

The Spanish-inspired Bulla Gastrobar has recently debuted their Winter Menu, featuring savory, hearty dishes that will certainly warm any foodie’s appetite this winter.

Here is the menu:

Sabores de Invierno
Winter Menu

Padrones Rellenos $8 – Shishito peppers stuffed with Mahon cheese, encrusted with panko crumbs and a spicy tomato dipping sauce

Caldo Gallego $8 – Galician Soup, White beans, pork shank, chorizo, kale

Piquillos a la Vizcaina $11 – Ground beef and pork stuffed piquillo peppers, bechamel sauce, black currants

Lechon Asado $23 – Slow Roasted Pig, Pork Demi, Panadera Potatoes

Chuletas de Cordero $23 – Lamb Chops, Honey Beer Reduction, Kale, Potato Foam

Some of my favorites from the menu included the:

Padrones rellenos, crunchy panko crusted, stuffed shisito peppers filled with mahon cheese – each bite oozes with warm cheese – perfect.

The Piquillos a la Vizcaina, stuffed piquillo peppers were both savory and sweet – savory from the ground beef and pork and bechamel cheese sauce but also a touch of sweetness from the black currant reduction and nutty sliced almonds.

If you are a fan of lamb chops, try the chuletas de cordero – subtly sweet from honey reduction, it’s a hearty dish with delicate potato foam and crispy kale.

My absolute favorite on the menu is the lechon asado, thrice cooked slow roasted pig with a pork demi sauce and panadera potatoes – thick and juicy, the pork just melts in your mouth with the crispy pork skin is a fantastic treat.

The menu lasts all winter until March so visit soon!

Bulla Gastrobar
110 S Orlando Ave #7, Winter Park, FL 32789
bullagastrobar.com

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Had a truly delicious lunch today at Sticky Rice Lao Street Food!

Located on the first floor of Bikkuri in Mills 50, the owners of Sticky Rice has transformed the small restaurant into something resembling an outdoor Laotian night market stall with dark ceilings and low, wooden tables.

The menu is very affordable with most dishes ranging from $4 to $5, perfect sizes for sharing over Laotian beers with friends if one chooses. You’d be tempted to order the whole menu. It reminded me of places my uncles would go to enjoy grilled meats and beers (they serve BeerLao here!) late into the night growing up.

Alot of the food had flavors that reminded me of my childhood, though Vietnam is a neighbor of Laos there are some similarities as well as differences in the cuisine. I loved the char on the grilled chicken wings seasoned in fish sauce and sugar, and the crispy pork rice lettuce wrap which had little crunchy bits and pieces of roast pork.

chicken laab
papaya salad – spicy!
cucumber salad – also spicy!
grilled wings
crispy rice with pork

It’s important to note that the sticky rice order is meant to be eaten with other dishes such as the pork sausages or beef jerky rather than alone – making a perfect combo of carbs and meat. They also had a delicious noodle soup that reminded me of Vietnamese banh canh or udon noodle soup called khao piek sen.

Beef jerky

khao piek sen noodle soup

Another favorite was the pork tapioca dumplings, sticky chewy white balls of tapioca stuffed with crispy pork and garlic!

pork tapioca dumplings

Save room for dessert like the sweet pandan jelly in coconut milk, mango sticky rice, and coconut gelato on purple sticky rice served inside bamboo. We dunked our sticky rice in the sweet coconut milk for that extra sweetness.

Overall very impressed by the food and the authenticity of flavors at Sticky Rice – definitely will bring my family back here to try.

Go soon and with friends and enjoy Orlando’s first and only Laotian street food restaurant!

They are open 11:30am to 10:00pm daily.

Sticky Rice Lao Street Food
1915 East Colonial Drive
Orlando, Florida
https://www.facebook.com/pg/StickyRiceStreetFood

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In a world where the customer is always right, is it no wonder that the chipotle style concept where guests get to customize and choose their own ingredients has become more and more popular?

Located in far flung Oviedo/Winter Springs – at the southwest intersection of Tuscawilla and Red Bug Lake – is Big Kahuna’s Island Style Bowl. It’s a chipotlified version of a poke joint where you can order your various raw fish topped with items such as avocado, fried onion chips, mango,  and more all on top of rice and a drizzle of sauce. They slice their fish fresh daily just like they do in the islands and it shows in the taste of the bowl. It’s a small place but the freshness in poke fish is critical for obvious reasons and in this regard Big Kahuna shines.

Make sure to save room for the insane $6 Pineapple Dole Whip Float, it’s essentially a pineapple soft serve paradise served inside a pineapple. Don’t worry they give you straws and spoons so you can dig at it.

Big Kahuna’s Island Style Bowl
1450 Tuskawilla Rd #108 · (407) 543-3700
http://www.bigkahunasbowls.com/

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Mai’s Bistro is a new fast casual restaurant that has opened up in Orlando’s Mills 50 District, specializing in Vietnamese street food such as banh mi, Vietnamese sticky rice, and banh cuon rice crepes. They bake their own bread and sweets and make everything in house.

On a recent visit, I loved their banh cuon rice crepes and their variety of both sweet and savory Vietnamese sticky rice (xoi). You could get bbq roast pork, chinese sausage, or shredded chicken for savory sticky rice and jackfruit for sweet sticky rice. They bake their bread from scratch on site and their grilled pork banh mi is one of the best i have had. Their staff was very friendly and hospitable. Will try again soon and update!

Mai’s Bistro in Mills 50
830 E Colonial Dr A, Orlando, FL 32803
Menu: maibistrousa.com
Phone: (407) 730-8538

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Pizzeria Roberti can be found tucked in a small corner on the east side of Orlando, off of Curry Ford and Chicksaw Trail.

Here you will find one of the best pizzas in Orlando – from the crispy, tasty house-fermented crust to the house-made mozzarella cheese, Pizzeria Roberti is the real deal.

Joseph Roberti, owner and chef of Pizzeria Roberti, takes a lot of pride in his work and it shows through the quality of the food here.

Roberti tells us, “Our pizza on the surface is a New York Style Pizza, but underneath it is much more complex than that. In reality it is a combination of Artisan style pizza, Neapolitan style pizza, and traditional New York style pizza.”

“Our dough is made from cultivated yeast produced in house similar to the production of artisan sourdough breads (Artisan characteristic). Our sauce is made from San Marzano tomatoes imported from Italy and less than a handful of all fresh ingredients (Neapolitan characteristic). We bake our pies in a traditional bakers pride pizza oven (New York characteristic), but we cook them at a high heat between 550 and 575 degrees Fahrenheit (similar to a Neapolitan characteristic). Our cheese is a combination whole milk and part-skim Grande Mozzarella (New York characteristic).”

Specialty – Breakfast Pizza – topped with egg, chives, ham, bacon, cheese

“Every ingredient of our specialty pies is produced in house. Our specialty slice pies are often garnished to order not unlike a dish coming out of a high end restaurant. And that is just the pizzas. We also have beer, wine, salads (all dressings made in house), subs, appetizers (such as our homemade fresh mozzarella), pastas (all sauces made in house), and vast catering menu. We are off to a great start in developing our concept and look forward to continually evolve as we grow.

Panko Crusted Mozzarella “Sticks”

“As a kid my father used to take me to a local pizza shop a few days a week and the cooks used to teach me little things here and there. By the age of 8 or 9 I made my first slice pie. Fast forward a bit to 14, I was now living in Orlando, Fl, and about to start high school. I was looking to get started in my cooking career and I got my shot at a neighborhood pizzeria & bar. I started as a prep cook, then learned the hot line, then pizza station, and even serving from time to time.”

Brined and Fried Chicken Wings with Garlic, Parmesan Cheese – Divine

“I liked my job but had ambitions for more, I wanted to pursue a career as a professional chef. As soon as I got my license I took a job on I-drive as a dishwasher in a much bigger and more known restaurant. It was a step backward, but it was also a foot in the door with a successful brand. Fast forward again about 3 years, I worked at few spots around Orlando, most notably the Citrus Club under chef Scott Haegele, and went to culinary school.”

“Upon graduating culinary school I decided to go back to New York to learn how to transition from a cook to a chef. I got my shot, this time with accomplished chef Hung Huynh who took me under his wing, trained me, and gave me the exposure and opportunity to work with many great culinarians.”

“Fast Forward another 4 years, I’m living in Miami, at this point a chef myself running various kitchens. In 2015 I created a company “Motion Hospitality Group” as a hospitality consulting business, with the intention of one day opening a place of my own. Fast Forward to today where Motion Hospitality Group currently owns and operates its first restaurant concept: “Pizzeria Roberti”.”

What are your first childhood food memories?

One of my first memories with food was when I was around 5 or 6, my parents weren’t home and my brother was watching me. He must have fallen asleep or something, and I made an apple omelet. The first thing I have ever cooked by my memory.

What are some of your favorite dishes at Pizzeria Roberti?

My favorite dishes at the pizzeria are the pesto & margherita pizzas, chicken marsala with farfalle pasta, and the pizza dough zeppoles.

What do you like to cook for “comfort food” at home with your family?

My Favorite thing to eat at home is Mom’s Lasagna.

Housemade meatballs – tender, braised, crisp on the outside

The Sauce

“Our pizza sauce consists of a combination of San Marzano tomatoes imported from Italy and all fresh ingredients including fresh herbs and garlic. San Marzano tomatoes are known for their natural sweetness and low acidity.”

The Dough

“Our dough is made in house with our specially cultivated yeast, which is fermented on premise. This is an important characteristic of our dough because it creates a more robust flavor and the natural fermentation of our dough, makes it healthier and more digestible.”

Zeppoli

Pizzeria Roberti
Address: 2751 S Chickasaw Trail Suite 107, Orlando, FL 32829
https://pizzeriaroberti.com

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On Monday, Dec. 11, K Restaurant launched their first, monthly, Yappy Hour. To inaugurate this series of tail-wagging fun they have partnered with Woof Orlando from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. Orlando locals are invited to bring their furry four-legged friends out and enjoy free spent-grain dog treats made from local breweries and enter-to-win two raffles with prizes including gift certificates for a free grooming.

We were able to experience what “Doggie chaperones” can expect when it comes to tongue-in-cheek Yappy Hour dishes from Chef Ryan McLaughlin as well as drink specials as K Restaurant is excited to share that they just received their full liquor license.

Crispy Pig Ears are fried with dates pepper hot sauce and herbs. The pig ears are sliced thinly to make them crispy like a chip. They are lightly salted and delicious with or without the hot sauce. Be careful, the hot sauce is thick and has a major kick to it.

“Pawsta” is fried ravioli with ricotta filling. Served on marinara with pecorino cheese and herbs. The fried version of ravioli is very airy like a puff pastry. Each ingredient subtly blends well together upon the palate.

“Milk Bones” are veal bone marrow bones with charred bread and radishes. The bone marrow is very smooth and works well with the bread and radishes. The charred bread adds a saltiness to each bite. We almost ordered a second round of this dish!

The Cosmo-paw-litan (left) is made with vodka, orange shrubb, lime, and cranberry juice. A simple drink to socialize with. The Snoop Dog (right) was our favorite out of these two. The Snoop Dog is made with gin and pineapple juice; it is like a tropical version of a Screwdriver.

Since we were still slightly hungry after all the samplings, we ordered the Ricotta Gnocchi off the main menu, which changes up from time to time so you can come back to try new items all the time. The Ricotta Gnocchi is made with duck confit, butternut squash, garden greens, brussel sprouts, and sage veloute. Everything is made in-house and as fresh as possible for each order. Our specific plate was a tad more salty than I would prefer, but the dish is still delicious nonetheless.

The Ricotta Gnocchi was paired nicely with a 2014 Carmenere made in Valle Del Maule, Chile. This wine has a smooth and solid flavor with notes of spices, black cherry and blackberries.

For more information, visit the K Restaurant & Wine Bar Event Page.

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

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

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


Bloody Mary and Mimosa Bar

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

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

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

Salad Course – Citrus Pistachio Salad

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

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

Chef Trina with her awesome wife, Va Propst.

The talented Se7en Bites staff

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

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

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

(Source credit: Second Harvest Food Bank)

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

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

 

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