Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Lombardi's Opens Beautiful Winter Park Store

My husband and I know Lombardi's Seafood well. It is the fish market we have gone to for years when we want the freshest fish and shellfish, including live crawfish and blue crabs. It is exciting to visit the market's new store at 1888 W. Fairbanks Ave in Winter Park, Fla., and see even more fresh and frozen seafood selections.

The store itself is much bigger than the old location, and is bright and welcoming. Now, Lombardi's has room to carry many different types of fresh seafood, including live mussels, clams and lobster. The wild sockeye salmon looked beautiful when we visited this past weekend and was only $7.98 a pound. While some fish, such as snapper and grouper, are higher-priced, you can often save money when Lombardi's sells grouper and other fish pieces for a significantly discounted prices. The fish pieces are great sauteed on their own, or to add to a seafood chowder or soup.


While I have visited the store a couple of times, I have not yet tried the new Lombardi's Cafe. Everything on the menu looks delicious and interesting, especially the Lobster Mac 'N Cheese Egg Rolls, the Tuna Poke Chips, the Key West Pink Shrimp and the Pine Island Grouper Basket. If you have tried the new cafe menu, please let me know what you liked or didn't like in the comments section below.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

New favorite cupcake shop: Jillycakes

I am sorry I have waited this long to try Jillycakes, in the same shopping plaza as Trader Joe's in Winter Park. In the past, I deemed Sweet by Holly to have the best cupcakes in Orlando. These are on the same level. I was so impressed by the light, fluffy, flavorful cake and the tasty icing. it is rare that a cupcake baker gets both things right at once, and Jillycakes definitely does that. 

What I was most impressed by was that the flavor of the cake and icing tasted exactly like what the bakery promises. The Cherry Cola cupcake is spot-on like the soft drink - and of course the cola is included in the cupcake batter. Yummy. Our
favorite cupcake, though, was one of the bakery's most popular: Speculoos Cookie Butter. You get the cinnamony, nutty flavor of Trader Joe's cookie butter in both the icing and the cake. Inside the cupcake is some actual cookie butter and the cupcake is topped with one of the Speculoos cookies.

Another great thing about visiting Jillycakes is its location. In the same plaza with Trader Joe's and Shake Shack, you can eat a yummy dinner, and then enjoy cupcakes outside by the lake. And, of course, pick up your gourmet treats at Trader Joe's after.

Where: 125 N. Atlantic Ave., #5, Winter Park. Fla.

  

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Win Brunch for Two at Two Chefs Seafood

I am very excited to hear that Two Chefs Seafood & Oyster Bar in downtown Orlando is now serving brunch every Sunday from 11:30-3:00, starting July 12. I have had excellent food on two previous visits there for dinner, where I got to sample high-quality seafood dishes and the chefs' modern take on Southern cuisine (see review below). And Two Chefs is giving away Brunch for Two to two lucky Flavorful Excursions readers! Simply tag whom you would like to bring to brunch on our Facebook page or on Instagram at Flavorful Excursions, and we will randomly select one lucky winner on Friday, July 10, at 3:00 p.m. One entry per person, must live in Central Florida.

Of course, I would also highly recommend visiting the restaurant any day for lunch or dinner. Here is my recent review after my first visit to Two Chefs:

I had the best meal I have had in a long time at the new Two Chefs Seafood & Oyster Bar. I am usually very nervous when trying a brand new restaurant. It typically takes a while for management and staff to work out the kinks, and you really don't know if the food will be good. 

In this case, I had no worries at all. I had already heard that the two chef-owners are Bernard Carmouche, former culinary director for Emeril Lagasse's Florida restaurants and Larry Sinibaldi, former chef of The Palm restaurant at Hard Rock Hotel. Also, my friend Amy Gilbert, pastry chef at Emeril's Tchoup Chop, is a chef and pastry chef at this great restaurant.

Near the 7-Eleven on Colonial Drive, you almost miss Two Chefs, which is a small eatery in a renovated house. There is some parking in the back and on the side streets. The atmosphere is very inviting - not stuffy - with white butcher paper on the tables instead of white linen tablecloths. The atmosphere almost fools you into thinking that you will be getting casual,
everyday food. 

That is certainly not the case here. While there are familiar Southern items on the menu like baked oysters, Shrimp Po'Boy and macaroni and cheese, the chefs have taken a very unique and fresh approach to each app, side and entree. We started with the Chicken and Sausage Gumbo, which was full-flavored. I love the smokiness from the sausage and appreciate the huge chunks of tender chicken in the gumbo. After eating gumbo in New Orleans, it has been so hard to find one I like in Orlando and now I have! Instead of Oysters Rockefeller, the chefs offered a delicious Baked Oysters app, which my husband was a little leery of because it includes Brie cheese fondue, bacon and toasted Panko bread crumbs. He was pleasantly surprised when he realized that the oyster flavor pairs perfectly with both the brie cheese and bacon.

Of course we had to try the Shrimp Po Boy. This is one of our favorite things to get when we go home to South Mississippi. The chefs fly in bread from New Orleans for the Po Boys, so we knew it was going to be great. The plentiful, lightly-breaded shrimp paired perfectly with the mayo, lettuce and lightly toasted bread. We will definitely be back for that sandwich! We also had the Fish Sandwich of the Day, which was red drum. Chefs in New Orleans and Mississippi know how delicious this fish is, but I never see it featured in Orlando restaurants. I was so happy to have it, and it was cooked nearly perfectly. The sandwich was great, but the housemade remoulade sauce was even better. 

We also wanted to try the unique sides. We had the Crispy Pancetta and Jalapeno Mac n Cheese with toasted Panko bread crumbs. We liked the kick from the jalapenos, and the flavor and texture of the pancetta. I think a different cheese would elevate this dish further; the cheese reminded me of macaroni and cheese you make at home, which is likely what the chefs were going for. Our favorite side was the Charred Okra with oven-dried tomatoes, lemon and basil. And this is from someone who doesn't like okra outside of gumbo and the fried okra. I couldn't get enough of this dish! The beautiful, light tomato broth paired perfectly with the firm - not mushy - okra.

Of course, we had to try dessert. It was so hard to choose from Key Lime Pie, Chocolate Cake, Creme Brulee and others, but we settled on the Banana Bread Pudding. We are so glad we did! Each bite was a mouthful of bliss. The pudding doesn't look as moist as it actually is. Once you bite into it, you realize that it is soaked in a delicious whisky anglaise. We loved this decadent, but light dessert!

Where: 743 N. Magnolia Ave., Orlando, Fla.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Go to Shula's for Great Burgers, Happy Hour

hambuger, burger, Lake Mary restaurant, Orlando restaurant
What is the first thing my husband wants to do after getting off of a 10-day cleanse/ fast? Eat a hamburger, of course. But not just any burger. A lot of thought and planning went into where we could get the best burger in Orlando. Teak Neighborhood Grill was on the top of our list, and we have also been wanting to try Beth's Burger Bar. Still, we have always had great burgers at Shula's 347 Grill in Lake Mary and, since it is closer to us, the restaurant won out.

As usual, my husband's Shula Burger, which is made with 100% Angus beef, was cooked perfectly. At $11, we think it's a pretty good value, too. It was such a decadent treat after several days of no meat! And we love the fries. Meanwhile, I took advantage of the Happy Hour appetizer specials - filling enough for dinner and a value at $3.47 each. The Boiled Shrimp app is tasty but I like the mussels app even more. The wine, garlic and tomato broth is yummy.

mussels, seafood, Lake Mary restaurants, Orlando restaurants Cocktails - including some of Shula's signature martinis - are also a great value during Happy Hour (Monday - Friday, 4-7 p.m.) at $3.47 each. However, the regular cocktail, wine and beer prices at the restaurant are out-of-control. $14 for an Old-Fashioned in a small tumbler glass? Sheesh! Go during happy hour, if you want to enjoy a drink. We love all the desserts at Shula's 347 Grill, but we were sad to see the Apple Cobbler go. That was a perfect dessert.

Friday, June 26, 2015

White Castle Food Truck in Orlando this Sat.!

burgers
I didn't know until today that there are White Castle food trucks traveling around the country this year. And one of them is coming to Orlando! It will be serving delicious burgers and more to Orlando Predators' fans - and anyone else in downtown Orlando - this Saturday night!

The White Castle Crave Mobile 2 will be on Church St. in front of the Amway Center June 27, from 3 p.m. to 9 p.m. If you are lucky enough to visit the truck, let me know how the food is. I have never had a White Castle burger, but have heard wonderful things about them.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Goodbye, Funky Monkey Wine Company!

It's sad to see any restaurant close, but especially one that has had such an impact on so many people. Many of my friends have enjoyed a glass of wine and the delicious food at Funky Monkey Wine Company on Mills Ave., and now the owners have decided to close up shop. Instead, they are focusing on the company's Funky Monkey Pointe Orlando location - in a great position with all the new businesses and attractions on International Drive - especially The Orlando Eye.

"After eight amazing years, and over 100,000 friends served, we are saying goodbye to our Mills Avenue location," owner Eddie Nickell wrote on his personal Facebook page. "We opened this location against all odds eight years ago, and many people thought we were absolutely insane. Funky Monkey has won many awards over the years, and has donated to many amazing charities and benefits."

To say goodbye to the Mills Ave. location, Nickell invited Facebook friends to join himself, co-owner Nick and Chef Ashley Nickell to an event on Sunday, June 28 from 6-10 p.m. Guests pay $25 for food tastings and wine, and the restaurant will donate a portion of the proceeds to the Mills 50 organization. Email eddie@funkeymonkeywine.com to attend the exclusive event.

Thank you, Eddie, Nick and everyone at Funky Monkey for contributing so much to the Orlando community. Your Mills Ave. location will be missed!

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Why Pay More When You Can Pei Wei?

I heard loud and clear from Flavorful Excursions' readers earlier this year: you love Pei Wei. After finally getting a chance to eat there myself, I understand why! I can order some of the same dishes that I would order at P.F. Chang's for a great value. The prices are reasonable, the portions are big, and the food is made to order, just like at a full-service restaurant. 

Did I mention that Pei Wei's food is pretty tasty, too? We ordered the Kung Pao Chicken ($6.69 for a small portion, $8.69 for original) and really liked the flavor. It was not the best Kung Pao Chicken we have ever had, but it was good. We also liked the Ginger Broccoli Chicken, which we ordered without the sauce. It is great that you can modify dishes at Pei Wei if you are gluten-intolerant or have food allergies. Plus, there are several vegetarian options. 

The Thai Wonton Soup was not as flavorful as we would have liked, considering it contains scallions, lemongrass and Thai basil. It was also way too salty. The best part of the soup was the chicken wonton.

I ordered the Asian Chopped Chicken Salad to go, and thought the flavor and portion size were great. So, while it is not the best Chinese food I have had, I would recommend Pei Wei for a quick and enjoyable meal out. Plus, there are many healthy menu options. Let us know: do you like to order there?