Thursday, February 11, 2016

Top 5 Reasons to Visit Orlando's Downtown Food and Wine Fest

Orlando, Downtown Food and Wine Fest, Flavorful Excursions
The 8th Annual Downtown Food and Wine Fest returns to Orlando on February 27 and 28, and I am not going to miss it. Why? Here are the top 5 reasons you want to attend the Downtown Food and Wine Fest:

1. Michael Franti. Sorry that I put him ahead of the excellent food and wine, but I have been a fan of his music for years and am thrilled to watch him perform in person!

2. The food. Where else can you taste scrumptious food from 30 leading Orlando restaurants, including Primo Restaurant, Siro Urban Italian Kitchen, Hawkers, Hard Rock Cafe and TR Fire Grill?

3. The wine. I relish the chance to taste several different wines from Little Black Dress Wine, Jackson Family Wines, Cupcake and many more.

Orlando, Downtown Food and Wine Fest4. Excellent entertainment. In addition to Franti, American Authors, Mud Flappers, Firefall and several other groups are performing. American Authors have several hits and we love the Mud Flappers after seeing them perform live.

5. Lake Eola. The entertainment, along with food and wine tasting, is all taking place at the picturesque Lake Eola. It will be great to spend a day outside in this beautiful setting.

To purchase tickets, visit this link.

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Top 3 Sweet Gifts for Valentine's Day

There are plenty of amazing Central Florida restaurants and bake shops where you can eat incredible desserts. But do you know where you can find unique sweet treats for your love? 

Here are our top picks for best sweet gifts for Valentine's Day in the Orlando area:

1. Le Macaron Melbourne. The shop not only has the most delicious macarons, but is also a great place for you to pick up high quality chocolates (with heart and lip shapes) for your significant other. 

2. Babycakes Arrangements. This company makes custom cupcake bouquets - which look like real flower arrangements! -  along with custom cookies, cake pops, cakes and more. I know I would rather receive a scrumptious edible bouquet than real flowers!

3. Peterbrooke Chocolatier. Like Babycakes Arrangements, I like that Peterbrooke makes all sorts of custom chocolates. Would you like your love's name in chocolate? They can make it. Is your wife a shoe lover? They can make chocolate heels that look like the real thing. Also be sure to try their Chocolate-Covered Bacon and Chocolate-Covered Oreos.

Have you tried these desserts? If so, let us know your review in the comments section below. Which sweet shops should we add to the list?

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Why This Orlando Resort is My Favorite Staycation

Hyatt Regency Grand Cypress poolEarlier this week, I told you about the new LakeHouse restaurant at the Hyatt Regency Grand Cypress in Orlando. I think this restaurant - or the classy, unique Hemingway's restaurant at the resort - would both be a special spot to celebrate Valentine's Day.

Now, I want to tell you what it is like to enjoy a staycation at Hyatt Regency Grand Cypress for Valentine's Day - or anytime. This is a resort where my family has stayed many times over the years - including celebrating every Father's Day here. That is because we not only enjoy great accommodations and food, but there are so many things for families to do here. 

I literally feel like I am in a different world when my family and I stay here. I lay in the hammocks, dip my toes in the sand and look out on the lake. We use paddleboats and canoes for free. We go rock climbing as well as bike riding and walking along the resort's beautiful trails. The best part is the pool -three huge areas for families and couples. There is not another like it in Orlando. The pool area features waterfalls you can swim under, a water slide, a cool wooden bridge and a hot tub. We often just lounge by the pool - what a relaxing staycation!

Of course, the entire grounds are just beautiful, and include bronze statues, bridges and fountains. You really do feel transported to another area of the world - say Southeast Asia. 


Eggs Benedict, eggs, Orlando, Orlando resorts, LakeHouse
And, when you rise in the morning, you can choose a casual, quick breakfast or take advantage of LakeHouse's many options - which my husband and I did on our last visit. The Breakfast Buffet - $24.95 - is pricey, but there is so much delicious food to choose from. Omelettes, waffles and pancakes are cooked to order. But there is also a broad array of fresh fruit, cereals and pastries. We loved the buffet. I also ordered the LakeHouse Benedict ($16), which features poached eggs with avocado on Ciabatta bread, along with Canadian bacon, roasted tomatoes and Hollandaise sauce. This dish was outstanding.

Let me know if you have stayed at the Hyatt Regency Grand Cypress - or have any questions on staying there - in the comments section below

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Top 5 Reasons to Try New LakeHouse Restaurant at Hyatt Regency Grand Cypress

Orlando, Orlando resorts, LakeHouse
Those who follow this blog know that my favorite Orlando staycation spot is the Hyatt Regency Grand Cypress. I truly feel like I am in another world - say, on a private island - when I vacation at the resort. I will tell you more about what it is like to stay at HRGC in my next blog. First, I want to focus on the incredible new LakeHouse restaurant inside the hotel.

LakeHouse is the renovated version of the previous restaurant, Cascades. Man, it is starkly different than its predecessor. Missing is the huge mermaid fountain, which will be made into a bronze statue, and out-of-date decor. This place has been completely transformed into a modern, hip place to dine or simply meet for cocktails. When I am looking for a good restaurant in the attractions area - for a special occassion or every day dining - I will now consider LakeHouse first. 

And that is because of the stellar menu - basically comfort food with a twist. Plus, the food is fresh, seasonal and local - and I can enjoy my food in a beautiful atmosphere, with a view of a lake, a fountain, greenery and an expansive herb garden. Even though I have dined at many different restaurants, I tasted some cocktails and dishes that I have never had before. Here are a few of our favorites: 
Flavorful Excursions, HRGC, Hyatt Regency Grand Cypress, LakeHouse
1. Almond Filled Dates wrapped in Bacon. First, I never thought about pairing dates and crispy bacon before now. I wish I had, because I would be eating this daily at home! This small plate is a perfect app, and the Sriracha dip brings the perfect amount of heat.

2. Margherita Pizza. Simple but delicious pizza with sliced Roma tomatoes, Mozzarella, torn basil and parmesan. We also loved the House Pizza (Chef's Special), which featured peaches and goat cheese on this occasion.

3. Filet Mignon with Herb Bread Pudding, Port Wine Sauce, Beech Mushroom and Asparagus. You had me at Herb Bread Pudding. I could have eaten this - and the Port Wine Sauce - all day. I was also impressed that the filet was perfectly cooked and seasoned.

4. Grilled Shrimp Cocktail with Spicy Bloody Mary Sauce. Wow. The shrimp were grilled and seasoned perfectly, and we love the corresponding sauce with a kick of heat. This is much different than your average Shrimp Cocktail dish - and tastes much better.
Orlando resorts, Filet Mignon, steak
Filet Mignon with Herb Bread Pudding

5. Sushi, sashimi and nigiri. All of the options we tried were delicious, but the HRGC roll was our favorite. The roll features krab salad, avocado, sliced mango and eel sauce. Yum!

There were also a variety of beautiful desserts. We weren't blown away by the taste of some, but we loved the presentation of Milk & Cookies, which can be ordered for an individual or the whole table.


Thursday, January 28, 2016

Try This Healthy, Delicious Bread Recipe

I have been enjoying experimenting with the bread machine I received for Christmas. My latest experiment, Oatmeal Bread, was both healthy and delicious.

Containing oats, King Arthur organic bread flour and honey, this is a light, white bread that can be used for sandwiches or just snacking. I am sharing the recipe from Food.com, in case you would like to make this yourself:


Bread Machine Oatmeal Bread

1 C. water (I added about 1/8 of a cup to make it more moist)
2 T. honey
1 1/2 T. butter 
2/3 quick-cooking oats
2 1/3 c. bread flour
1 T wheat germ (optional - I didn't try this but it would be healthier!)
1 1/4 t. salt
2 1/4 t. active dry yeast (1 package)


Directions:

1. Put ingredients into the bread machine according to manufacturer's directions.
2. Bake on Basic White 1, 1.5 loaf size

If you try this recipe, let me know your feedback on the comments section below! 

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Fresh food, but high prices at Seasons 52

I love the atmosphere and fresh/ seasonal food offerings at Seasons 52. I always seem to leave there feeling light and not too stuffed. However, I believe the prices for the portion size guests receive are too high.

I am also torn because the service is excellent. I didn't know until my recent visit to Seasons 52 Altamonte Springs how well you are treated when it is your birthday or anniversary. I received a rose for my birthday, complimentary champagne and a photo of myself and my dinner companion. Now I will have a keepsake from my great dinner! Our server was not only friendly and attentive, but also made sure our dishes were prepared without items that would trigger my food allergies.

Speaking of that, the Gluten-Free Flatbreads are very delicious. We had the Chicken Pesto Flatbread and really enjoyed it the flavors. We also had the Warm Beet Salad, made with golden beets, goat cheese and pistachios. It was sweet and healthy, and the Chive Oil made this dish.


Our entrees were also delicious, but not the best I have had. For example, the Chilean Sea Bass, accompanied by black rice and a delicious soy sauce, was cooked perfectly. It was moist and delicious. However, it was a small portion size for its $31 price tag. The Southern Shrimp & Grits was also very tasty - we loved the sauce that goes with this dish. Again, this dish should be a value - not the $19.50 that Seasons 52 is charging. I have had better Shrimp & Grits - most recently at The Smiling Bison -Sanford. The Carmelized Sea Scallops were very yummy and worth every penny. We also loved the accompanying butternut squash risotto.

We were too full for dessert on this visit, but we love all the mini desserts here! Let us know if you agree with our review in the comments section below.

Also see: 

Seasons 52's Summer Menu

Top Reasons to Visit the Smiling Bison - Sanford


Friday, January 22, 2016

Top 5 Rolls at Fuji Sushi

The myriad of specialty rolls at Fuji Sushi in Winter Park is overwhelming. Therefore, after a few visits under our belts, we want to tell you about some of our favorite rolls. Even though Fuji's specialty rolls can be pricey, they are huge, so I typically only order two rolls. I believe you get a value for your money here.

Some of our favorite rolls include:

1. Dynamite Roll: Crab, avocado & cream cheese, topped with mixed seafood. The topping is divine.
2. Black Widow Roll: Fried soft shell crab with scallion, spicy mayo and eel sauce.
3. Super Spider Roll: Fried soft shell crab, tempura batter & scallion. Topped with eel sauce and roe.
4. Ribbon Roll: crab and avocado inside, topped with raw tuna, cooked shrimp & eel sauce. Yummy!
5. 2011 Roll: Fried lobster and scallion, topped with avocado and buttery garlic sauce.

What do you think of Fuji Sushi? Let us know in the comments section below.