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Napa at The Peabody Hotel – International Drive

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I had always thought it was a bit odd for a restaurant named after the famous wine country in California to be specializing in “local, fresh” Florida dishes, but Napa, located inside the Peabody Hotel next to the Orange County Convention Center, brings not only an extensive wine list but also the sustainable farm-to-fork cuisine first popularized by the Napa Valley region.

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Napa brings the local, organic, sustainable movement to Florida with dishes like steamed Cape Canaveral Clams in an Orlando Brewing Red Ale broth, whole fried Yellowtail Snapper with escabeche rice and fried plantains, and Florida Heritage chicken confit quesadillas.

The restaurant itself is very modern, with a beautiful bar area and earth toned fittings, and wine bottles lined up along the walls and around the restaurant. I recently visited Napa to take advantage of the Visit Orlando Magical Dining Month specials. The prices here typically are on the level of fine dining, but the Magical Dining special this September enables locals to try the restaurant out and experience three courses with the high quality of food for a very reasonable price point of $30.

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For appetizer, I ordered a very fresh, very delicious orange braised Heart of Christmas beet salad, made with arugula, Winter Park bleu cheese, candied pecans, and balsamic orange beet vinaigrette, featuring local vegetables from Heart of Christmas farms. The little orange pieces just bursted with flavors, and everything was very tasty, as if they were picked off the farm just this morning. If only the produce at local supermarkets tasted the same I think we would have a much easier time eating our veggies. My partner chose the tangy, tart Fire roasted Waterkist Farm Heirloom Tomato soup, made with tomatoes from local Waterkist Farms of Winter Park, and a dollop of basil creme fraiche.

For entree, I chose the Meyer Ranch Natural Beef Filet (typically $42 alone on the regular menu), a hearty piece of filet mignon steak, seared to perfection and the exactly requested medium rare, served with fingerling potatoes, fall vegetable hash in a salty red wine reduction. The beef filet was very filling and savory, and the accompaniments tasted great as well. My partner chose the Cioppino, a southern twist on the California favorite, composed of a spicy stew of mussels, calamari, lump crab, rock shrimp, mahi mahi, fennel, leeks, spicy tomato broth, and paprika rouille.

For the dessert, I chose the Amaretto Dark Chocolate Bar, a creamy, sticky, decadent, yet surprisingly light chocolate dessert served with a side of cafe latte gelato and topped with caramelized popcorn. This is probably one of my favorite desserts of all time after this experience. My partner chose the likewise delicious rustic apple tart, served with vanilla ice cream and roasted pecan.

Service here was good, but not the greatest, and certainly not what I expected from a fine dining restaurant. Our server was friendly, but disappeared for rather long lengths of time. I noticed that it may have been due to a staff shortage, as there were several other parties around us that were waiting for service as well.

Overall, I thought Napa at The Peabody Hotel executes the philosophy of Napa Valley, of local, fresh, and sustainable fare whenever possible with great flair and is definitely worth a try, especially if you love fresh, delicious tasting food.

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Blistered tomatoes, basil crème fraiche, napa extra virgin olive oil

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Arugula, winter park blue cheese, fiery candied pecans, balsamic orange beet vinaigrette

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Mussels, calamari, lump crab, rock shrimp, mahi mahi, fennel, leeks, spicy tomato broth, paprika rouille

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Fingerling potato and fall vegetable hash, red wine reduction

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Café latte gelato and caramelized pop corn

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Burnt vanilla ice cream, roasted pecan

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