Thursday, June 23, 2016

Top 5 ways to dine out and support Orlando

The outpouring of love and support for victims and others affected by the Orlando tragedy has been heartwarming. Let's keep the good vibes going and support these restaurants that are donating a portion of their proceeds to the OneOrlando Fund and other funds:

1. Dine Out for Orlando United. Several Florida restaurants will be donating proceeds on June 30 to the OneOrlando Fund, designed to respond to the needs of the local community, now and in the time to come. Participating restaurants in the Orlando area include: A Land Remembered at Rosen Shingle Creek, Baoery Asian Gastropub, BJ's Restaurant and Brewhouse, Bonefish Grill, Boston Lobster Feast, Christner's Prime Steak and Lobster, Funky Monkey Bistro & Bar, Hawkers, Krispy Kreme Dougnuts, Morimoto Asia, Miller's Ale House and many more. See the full list on the web site. 

2. Benefit Barbecue for the GLBT Community Center of Central Florida on July 10. Hosted by Chef Kevin Fonzo of K Restaurant Wine Bar and Jamie McFadden of Cuisiners Catered Cuisiner and Events, it will be held at East End Market from 4-8 pm.

3. 4 Rivers Smokehouse and The Coop are giving guests the option to round up their purchase or donate any dollar amount to the victims and families affected by the Orlando tragedy. "Our thoughts and prayers go out to everyone involved," the restaurants said. 

4. The Sanctum Cafe: During June, the vegan eatery's Karma Bowl will be offered for $5. Any proceeds donated above that, will go directly to the GoFundMe account benefiting victims who have been affected by the tragedy. 

5. The Osprey Tavern has added the Orlando Strong cocktail to its menu, and 100% of the sales of this cocktail will be donated to Equality Florida's Pulse Victim Fund.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Support Orlando restaurants helping our city

Sanctum Cafe
I, for one, am not going to hide in my house after the crisis in Orlando. Now is the time to get out and be social with friends and family, celebrating the lives that we have. Several Orlando restaurants are donating a portion of their sales to help families of the victims. I have included a few examples below, and I hope you support these businesses:

4 Rivers Smokehouse and The Coop are giving guests the option to round up their purchase or donate any dollar amount to the victims and families affected by the Orlando tragedy. "Our thoughts and prayers go out to everyone involved," the restaurants said. Plus, 4 Rivers is opening its Winter Park location on a Sunday for the first time in its history this Sunday, June 19, from 11 am to 3 pm. Proceeds from the day will go toward the One Orlando Fund to benefit victims and their families. 

The Sanctum Cafe: During June, the vegan eatery's Karma Bowl will be offered for $5. Any proceeds donated above that, will go directly to the GoFundMe account benefiting victims who have been affected by the tragedy. 

K Restaurant continues to donate a portion of its sales to benefit the family of Cory Connell, an Edgewater High graduate who was killed.

The Osprey Tavern has added the Orlando Strong cocktail to its menu, and 100% of the sales of this cocktail will be donated to Equality Florida's Pulse Victim Fund.

Sweet by Holly in Orlando and Jacksonville will donate 50% of the sales of its Orlando Pride cupcakes (available in regular and gluten-free via special order) to Equality Florida.

Also kudos to the Waterford Lakes Chik-fil-A, which stayed open on Sunday to pass out water to those donating blood. There are a number of other restaurants that donated food and water - and continue to help during the aftermath. Please let us know about other Orlando restaurant benefits and fundraisers in the comments section below!

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Enjoy outstanding food & more at Beau Rivage

When visiting Biloxi, Miss., recently, I was so impressed with the hospitality, food, decor, guest rooms and casino at Beau Rivage Resort and Casino. I cannot say enough great things about this gorgeous facility.

From the moment you walk in, you realize that you have employees who really care about Beau Rivage. Thousands of fresh flowers line the walkways around the lobby and, on this visit, a bicycle of fresh flowers had been built. What a unique touch! 

I like to gamble a bit - just slots and roulette - and this casino has so much to offer. You can choose from a variety of card games, poker tables, and slot machines. But, if anyone goes here just to gamble, they are seriously missing out. First, from Orlando, you can catch an inexpensive direct flight to Biloxi via Allegiant Airlines. So, this is  fun, easy trip.
By Shad Bookout

Plus, I would stay here again, just for the food. It is seriously some of the best food I have had in a long time - and I have been lucky enough to dine at the top restaurants in New Orleans, Orlando and elsewhere. There are five outstanding restaurants on property, including an endless buffet. When we dined at the buffet, we enjoyed fresh boiled crawfish, filet mignon, snow crab legs, a huge assortment of Italian and Asian food, a number of desserts (including sugar-free options) and the list goes on and on. I was impressed how each type of food was high quality and tasted so fresh - not like typical buffet food.

We also got to try the new menu at Coast restaurant, which will be unveiled soon. The revamped menu features a lot of small plates, along with entrees, that are mostly from local food and seafood, in season. We sampled the unique and scrumptious Crawfish Deviled Eggs, as well as a whole snapper cooked on rock salt with star anise and Indian spices. The raw and stuffed oysters here are not to be missed. The restaurant buys only top-notch oysters from places like Murder Point, Alabama. Some of the stuffed oysters are topped with house-made bacon, which you will love. 
Photo by Shad Bookout

Other favorite dishes include the Fried Oyster Slider and Shrimp and Oyster Po' Boy sandwich.The gumbo at all the restaurants on property also has the perfect amount of heat and is truly delicious. 

The Beau Rivage guest rooms are also luxurious, including a huge sunken tub and a comfy bed. Of course, the views of the Gulf from your room are outstanding. I even spotted dolphins on my walk on the beach near the resort!

Thursday, June 2, 2016

Don't miss pop-up Tennessee Truffle in Sanford

Only 10 minutes from my house and getting great reviews, I couldn't resist trying a pop-up restaurant in Sanford that has only been open for two weeks. While one of the owners, Nat Russell, originally said that The Tennessee Truffle would only likely be open for a month, he is hoping to extend that after a great reception from the community.

I can see why. This small restaurant in downtown Sanford has a great vibe, friendly owners and staff, and delicious Southern food. "I grew up in Memphis, and I love the grittiness, the music and the food," the chef said of his inspiration for the restaurant. Plus, he generously greeted every customer and explained their dish to them. 

A mainstay of The Tennessee Truffle's menu is the biscuits, so they have to be very good. I am happy to report that the chefs produce very delicious biscuits. They are airy and tasty, but dense enough to hold together to be used as bread for sandwiches. I ordered the Chicken Sandwich with Pickled Zucchini. I got the perfect bite: the combination of scrumptious biscuit, perfectly-cooked and flavored chicken (not fried!), along and sweet and tangy zucchini. 

The side was also tasty: Macaroni and Roasted Tomatoes. No cheese, and still very yummy. I also wanted to try the Anson Mills grits, which have received rave reviews, but was too full. I will get to taste those when I return for breakfast. 

I got to try the house-cured bacon and am a huge fan. I think the Bacon, Egg & Cheese Biscuit will be my next breakfast order! I also need to try the desserts, including homemade ice cream and Chocolate Gravy Biscuits. 

Also try:

Top reasons to visit The Smiling Bison - Sanford

Monday, May 16, 2016

Cupcake ATM and much more at Sprinkles

By Guest Blogger Sarah Hawthorne

Wouldn't it be great if, with a push of a button, you could get a freshly-made gourmet cupcake any time of day or night? Ten years ago, you might have thought this type of machine was only available to The Jetsons, but today it's a reality at Sprinkles, the newest addition to the Disney Springs family. 

This is the nation's 20th cupcake ATM, offering all of Sprinkle's cupcake flavors made fresh to order, along with their dog-friendly cupcakes (not for human consumption). The cupcakes are $3.95 for mini-cupcakes (offered in four traditional flavors) and $4.95 for full-size.

Touted as the first cupcake bakery by the Food Network, Sprinkles is much more than a cupcake ATM. Open 10 a.m. to midnight, the beautiful shop has dozens of cupcake flavors, including Banana Peanut Butter, Cuban Coffee, Sprinkles, Dark Chocolate and Red Velvet. Additional offerings include sugar-free, gluten-free, and vegan cupcakes; ice cream (Cap n Crunch was my fave); cookies and a cupcake decorating center. 

But what you really want to know is, "How do they taste?" Simply amazing. Personally, I'm not a huge cupcake fan. A mini cupcake is usually all I can handle, before I lunge for a glass of milk. What sets them apart from every other cupcake bake shop is balance and quality ingredients. First, their flavors taste exactly how they should. You aren't getting a typical overly-sweetened, artificially-flavored cupcake. Sprinkles gives you something more like a moist, natural, perfectly-sweetened muffin. 

Sprinkles Disney Springs, Walt Disney World, Orlando
Second, the icing complements the cupcake without overpowering the other flavors and again, it is creamy and flavorful - not overly-sweetened. At Sprinkles, I never bothered to check their menu for milk. I am a huge ice cream fan and I did find their ice cream to be on the sweeter side. So, if you do prefer a sweeter flavor, I recommend their sundae. It is a cupcake with the top cut off and ice cream put in the middle for between $5.50 and $9.95.

According to one of the super friendly employees, Grace, the cupcakes will last approximately two days and should not be refrigerated. Her favorite flavor is Red Velvet with Red cupcake with Red Velvet ice cream. Sprinkles will offer seasonal flavors such as Key Lime and Gingerbread.

One of the biggest selling points for sprinkles is their rewards program, which steps up the rewards for frequency. When you sign up in-store or online, you immediately receive a free cupcake and you receive points for every cupcake you buy. The more cupcakes you buy in a year, the more points you earn per purchase and even bigger rewards for the following year. You also get a free cupcake on your birthday!

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Sweet & Savory Yogurt is in

Why have I never tried Noosa Yoghurt before now? Friends rave about it, and I recently was sent some of their innovative new flavors. First, the texture of European-style yoghurt is thicker, creamier and - in my humble opinion - more flavorful than regular U.S. yogurt. I even love the plain Noosa!

Plus, Noosa has different yoghurt flavors than what you typically see on the shelf (such as Vanilla or Strawberry Banana). The company recently launched Blackberry Serrano, Key Lime and Blood Orange flavors, as well as 4-packs of its Salted Caramel flavor. 

Of course I tried the weirdest first: the combination of sweet and savory with blackberries
Blackberry Serrano Yoghurt
and serrano peppers. It's not for me. I guess I don't want spice with my dessert, even though I love hot peppers and appreciate that this yoghurt had a fair amount of heat. The friends who tried it were pretty evenly split: half loved it and half hated it.

Same with the Blood Orange: half of my friends loved it and half hated it. However, the Key Lime has a strong lime flavor and is delicious. And the Salted Caramel is so yummy. I think I will stick with the sweeter flavors! 

In Central Florida, you can find Noosa at Publix, Fresh Market and other stores.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Helps Kids and Eat Pie this Weekend!

Every year, I anticipate the National Pie Championships in Orlando, Fla. Our city is so fortunate to host this great event that recognizes national bakers, and is televised on Food Network. The National Pie Championships, which are open to the public, will be held April 29 and April 30 at Caribe Royale Hotel.

This year, the Championships are even better because they include the American Pie Council's "Pie Party" to benefit Give Kids the World. Tickets for the event are only $5 for two slices of pie, plus several fun activities will be held. You can challenge the pros in an Iron Chef-style competition, watch a 200-pound pie being built, and of course, enjoy pie. 

If you go, please post photos and comments of your favorite pies!