Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Gavin DeGraw, Outstanding Food at Downtown Food & Wine Fest

Photo courtesy Downtown Food & Wine Fest
Gavin DeGraw is just a bonus when I visit the outstanding annual event, Downtown Food & Wine Fest, February 25 & 26 at Lake Eola in downtown Orlando.

For me, the main draw is the food. Last year, one of our favorite dishes was from Baoery Asian Gastropub, and I'm sure we will be wowed by the restaurant again this year. However, I am also looking forward to trying The Tipsy Cookie, Restaurant Ash, Siro Urban Italian Kitchen, Tapa Toro, Copper Canyon Grill and many other top Orlando eateries.
Me and Chef Ashley Nickell
of Hell's Kitchen in 2016

Of course, we will also check out some of the tantalizing wine options, including Fruits and Wine, Beso del Sol sangria and Kobrand.

In addition to DeGraw, other musical acts include: KC and the Sunshine Band, Spencer Ludwig, the Legendary JC's and Orange Avenue.

What are you most looking forward to seeing and eating at this year's event? Let us know in the comments below.

For more information, follow Downtown Food & Wine Fest on Twitter @DTFoodWineFest, Facebook or visit the web site:

Also see:

Top 5 reasons to visit Orlando's Downtown Food & Wine Fest

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Ace Cafe Orlando wants you!

Ace Cafe, the iconic London-based motor-diner, is coming to Orlando with the Ace Cafe Orlando slated to open this spring. 

Plus, the eatery is hiring for 175 positions at a job fair a job fair held January 27-30, 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. at the Courtyard Orlando Downtown, 730 N. Magnolia Ave., Orlando. "Talented bartenders, baristas, servers, retail sales associates and other foodservice industry professionals with outgoing and creative personalities are invited to apply in person or send an email to," the restaurant said in a statement.

A beacon to English motorcyclists for decades, the Ace Cafe has become a global cultural phenomenon, and is about to bring that same love of speed and adrenaline to downtown Orlando. The restaurant is under construction inside three historic buildings on a three-acre parcel located at the corner of West Livingston Street and Garland Avenue.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Flavorful, artsy brunch at 1921 by Norman van Aken

Looking for a different spot for Sunday brunch? I was too, and found a very delicious, unique and artsy brunch at 1921 by Norman van Aken in Mount Dora, Fla. 

We previously dined here for dinner and were incredibly impressed by the fresh, local seafood menu, along with dishes and pairings not found anywhere else. We also loved the art on display throughout the restaurant from the Modernism Museum across the street. Plus, we had the pleasure of meeting 1921's owner and author of Norman van Aken's Florida Kitchen, Norman van Aken. What a down-to-earth, wonderful person to get to know. Although he has had considerable success in Miami, van Aken's cuisine at 1921 has a unique Central Florida vibe with Asian influences.

Back to brunch. Everyone at the table was presented a special menu because it was my birthday - what a nice touch! The unique brunch menu has so much to choose from, including oysters and the restaurant's version of chicken and waffles. 

One of the favorite dishes we ordered was the Corn Tamale Scramble with chorizo sausage and tomatillo salsa. The flavorful and novel dish was delicious - and featured the artsy presentation you would expect from this eatery. The Eggs Benedict was different than any other Eggs Benedict I have tried, with pork belly and creamed spinach. All the flavors worked together very well, and I loved the pork belly and hollandaise sauce.

The Golden Pancakes with citrus curd and fresh fruit were also delicious. While the 1921 Burger with house bacon and horseradish cream was tasty, we were shocked at the price of the dish: $17.

Before or after brunch, take time to walk around downtown Mount Dora, where you can find some wonderful gifts for both human and furry friends!

Also see: 

An unforgettable dining experience at 1921 by Norman van Aken

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Don't miss new Star Wars event at Disney's Hollywood Studios

This is definitely one for all of my Star Wars geek friends - and there are a lot of them. Heck - I am one of them! Here's an exclusive event that Disney has never held before: Star Wars Galactic Nights will debut at Disney's Hollywood Studios on April 14.

Come dressed as your favorite Star Wars character and celebrate 40 years of Star Wars milestones. Fun happenings include: Imperial March and March of the First Order, Star Wars celebrity sightings in a motorcade down Hollywood Blvd. and the "Star Wars: A Galactic Spectacular" nighttime show that lights up the sky. You can also get your picture taken in front of cool Star Wars' movie backdrops.

For information on the special event, which requires a separate ticket, visit this web site.

Also see:

Top reasons to visit Disney's Hollywood Studios

The inside scoop on revised Star Tours 3D ride 

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Taste Buds Delighted at Houng Viet

Thanks to my niece for introducing me to a delicious Vietnamese restaurant in Orlando: Houng Viet Vietnamese Cuisine on Colonial Drive in Chinatown.

Every dish our group had was tasty and spicy, and absolutely the flavors I am looking for in Vietnamese Gumbo, pho and other dishes. We started with the egg rolls, which are different than any other restaurant I have been to: ground meat/ pork with such a nice kick of heat that I was not expecting. 

We all loved our entrees and would recommend them on your next visit. Hue Spicy Soup, with tendon, shank, special meat balls and thick rice vermicelli is similar to pho, but probably the spiciest soup we have had. If you like heat, you definitely need to order this dish! The Vietnamese Gumbo, with fermented fish vermicelli, fish, shrimp and pork, had such a depth of flavor. We loved it. 

The Fried Rice here is also tasty, with the addition of peanut, a little cilantro, and a hint of spice. There are so many other dishes we would have liked to order, including the Vietnamese subs. We will definitely be back!

For dessert, the Pineapple Boba Tea was delicious and had a hint of butterscotch or caramel flavor that we really liked. The Strawberry Smoothie was also very yummy.
Where: 5286 W. Colonial Dr., Orlando.

Also check out:

Hawkers sports cheap, tasty Asian food

Why you need to eat at Hemisphere restaurant

Friday, December 16, 2016

Gulfport Harbor Lights: Best Holiday Light Display in the South!

Photo by Shad Bookout
I have now seen the second best holiday lights display of my life. Nothing beats the Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights at Disney's Hollywood Studios, but the Gulfport Harbor Lights Winter Festival at Jones Park is my second favorite. 

This massive holiday lights display, which takes up more than a city block near the water, is unlike anything I have ever seen. This year's underwater theme sported huge displays of oysters, octopuses, crabs and other sea life. The beautiful ferris wheel at the center of all the action is very popular - as is all the fair-type food such as funnel cake.

But the centerpiece of this holiday light display is the 15 or so dancing and singing Christmas trees. Seriously, I don't know how the City of Gulfport pulled off this technologically-advanced and stunning feat, but you can watch a variety of Christmas pictures and designs displayed on these trees to the timing of a variety of Christmas songs. A set of bleachers allow you to sit there as long as you want - always with a different song and light display. 

The "dancing Christmas trees" and other fantastic attractions at the Gulfport Harbor Lights Winter Festival were made possible by a $2.5 million donation from Island View Resort and Casino, right next to Jones Park. "It is the largest light show in the state of Mississippi and maybe beyond," said Cathy Beeding, vice president and general counsel of Island View. 

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Delicious Seafood & More at Island View

Best of Three Worlds - Beach Blvd. Steamer
We recently had the pleasure of staying in the gorgeous, new modern rooms at Island View Casino Resort's South Tower in Biloxi, Miss., and dining at some the resort's outstanding eateries.

One of the best dinners we have had in a long time was at the Beach Blvd. Steamer. This beautiful restaurant across from the casino/ resort is known for its plates full of steamed Royal Red Shrimp, Alaskan crab and other delicious shellfish and accompanying vegetables.

We started with the housemade, warm bread, which is just to die for. We love the addition of cheese and herbs on this bread! Beach Blvd. Steamer's gumbo was one of the best we have had, with the most heat. Very comforting - especially on a chilly night.

For entrees, we would highly recommend The Best of Three Worlds Platter, with steamed Royal Red Shrimp, fried Gulf shrimp and Broiled Crabmeat-Stuffed Shrimp. The crabmeat stuffing is so scrumptious and the Gulf shrimp is fried perfectly. The Royal Red Shrimp is very flavorful and is best with lemon and dipped in drawn butter.

We will definitely be back for the Wood Fired Charbroiled Oysters - delicately cooked over pecan wood flame. Many meats and seafood served at the restaurant are cooked this way, and the flavor is just delicious.

Don't forget dessert here - the Chocolate Bombe was oh so decadent and our favorite, but we want to return to try the Key Lime Pie, the huge three-layer Strawberry Tall Cake and the Southern Pecan Pie.

Blackened Snapper - With Cream Sauce & Crab
We also had an impeccable meal - from start to finish - at one of Island View's other eateries, Beach Grill. When you visit, the Blackened Snapper with Cream Sauce and crab is a must as well as the restaurant's New Orleans-style Char-Grilled Oysters. Both were delicious! Also save room for dessert here - the warm Berry Cobbler is now one of my favorite desserts. I wish I could have it every day.

At both restaurants - and throughout our stay at Island View - we were so impressed by the friendly staff. Employees who are just passing you in the hallway are incredibly friendly! This definitely sets Island View apart from other hotels and resorts we have stayed at.