Tuesday, March 7, 2017

New fave Orlando seafood eatery: Reel Fish

Photo by Shad Bookout, OpinionsVary
We finally have a real beach seafood restaurant in Orlando! Now, I know what you are thinking, and you are right. There are plenty of seafood-focused restaurants here - from independent standouts like Two Chefs Seafood in downtown Orlando to chains such as FishBones and Bonefish Grill. 

However, Reel Fish Coastal Kitchen + Bar in Winter Park is the first seafood restaurant I have seen in Central Florida that has the quality, service and decor of a beach seafood restaurant - done perfectly. "We have the fish camp culture in a coastal kitchen in an inlet setting," Owner Fred Thimm told Flavorful Excursions when the restaurant invited us for a media review. "We have great fried fish and other fried items; then, on the other hand, there is fresh local fish every day."

In addition to the "Daily Catch" specials, such as Yellowtail snapper, corvina and hogfish, you will find Southern specialties such as Shrimp 'n Grits, fried green tomatoes, and collard greens - prepared extremely well. You would think you're in your grandma's Southern
Photo by Shad Bookout, OpinionsVary

Here are just a few of the dishes that we recommend you try when you go:

1. Raw oysters and Oysters Rockefeller: You can choose from whichever high quality oysters are in season, including James River, Blue Point and Gulf. Very fresh and high quality. 

2. Shrimp or Oyster Po'Boys. Using bread flown in from a New Orleans bakery, as well as perfectly breaded and lightly fried shrimp and oysters, makes these sandwiches taste truly authentic.

3. Mayport shrimp: This sweet Florida shrimp is excellent served boiled (regular or spicy) and fried. This shrimp from near Jacksonville Beach is used in all Reel Fish's shrimp dishes. And most dishes don't cost more than at restaurants serving farmed shrimp from Asia.

4. Smoked Fish Dip: We love the heavy smoke on this fresh dip, as well as the crunch of green apples.

5. Shrimp & Avocado Louie Salad. The crispy bacon pairs perfectly with shrimp, avocado, hard-boiled egg - and such a delicious vinaigrette. This is one salad you don't want to miss out on!

6. Southern Green Beans with smoked bacon onion broth. Drooling just thinking about the bacony goodness of these beans!

Truly, everything we had was outstanding, which is quite outstanding for a restaurant that has been open less than a month. And, now that the restaurant is open for lunch and Sunday brunch, we have plenty of opportunities to return. And we will!

Also see: 

Mouthwatering Reel Fish photo album on Facebook.

Win brunch for two at Two Chefs Seafood

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Top reasons to visit new Planet Hollywood Observatory at Disney Springs

High Roller App Platter,
Photo by Shad Bookout
It was very exciting to revisit the newly-renovated restaurant, Planet Hollywood Observatory at Disney Springs in Orlando, Fla. 

For those who have visited before, one of the first things you will notice is the upgraded entertainment aspect: this is not just a place to eat; it is a great place for family entertainment. Eight video projectors light up the massive sphere that is Planet Hollywood, streaming popular Disney pop videos and other music. Some tables even feature the same videos - what a fascinating option for kids! 

Soon, a D.J. will interact with guests, and those interactions will be displayed on the screen. "We are fun dining. We appeal to all ages, as well as couples," General Manager Mark Ehrli told Flavorful Excursions. Large groups will also love the new restaurant, since there is seating for 650 people, including at an expansive, covered outdoor terrace.

As for the food, it is a fun, whimsical menu of with a multitude of choices, including specialty Guy Fieri burgers, traditional Planet Hollywood dishes like L.A. Lasagna, and milkshakes like you have never seen before, featuring cake and candy toppers. 

Morgan Veggie Burger, Photo by Shad Bookout
On our first visit, we were guests of Planet Hollywood, and had a much better food and service experience than the second visit, when we came on our own. The service was outstanding on our first visit: everyone from managers to servers were passionate about where they work and assisting guests with their every need. 

The specialty cocktails are delicious, as was the mojito we tried. Some of our favorite apps were: Texas Tostadas, Hummus Trio and Five Cheese Dip. For entrees, we recommend the Bacon Mac-n-Cheese Burger, an award-winning Guy Fieri burger that we were not able to try but others loved it; L.A. Lasagna (stuffed pasta with ricotta and Bolognese meat sauce that is fried); the scrumptious and healthy Shrimp Florentine Pasta; and Morgan's Veggie Burger. Also designed by Guy Fieri, the veggie burger is a very flavorful treat for non-meat eaters, but doesn't hold together well.

Our favorite dessert was the Planet Meltdown, a chocolate sphere melted table-side by hot
Planet Meltdown, Photo by Shad Bookout
chocolate sauce to reveal a decadent fudge cake, fresh strawberries and whipped cream. The Supernova Shakes look delicious, but really aren't that tasty. The Strawberry Big Bang shake we tried didn't taste like it was made with real strawberry ice cream, and the cake topper was not great. However, I am sure that kids will go crazy for any of the shakes offered here.

As I mentioned, there were some food and service flaws on our second visit. For example, the flavor of our Prime Time American Kobe Burger was just alright, and it was overcooked. Our server did not ask how we would like the burger cooked. For a $19.99 burger, I really expect the food to be outstanding. Likewise, the Pimento Grilled Cheese Sandwich looks outstanding, but is just alright. 

The bottom line: I still highly recommend Planet Hollywood Observatory for families, as well as couples and groups meeting for drinks and apps or dessert after a movie. There is a great management team in place, and I am quite sure that any service kinks will be worked out soon. Let me know your experience in the comments below.

Also see:

Cupcake ATM and much more at Sprinkles

Top reasons to visit Disney Hollywood Studios

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: www.DowntownFoodandWineFest.com.

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 jobs@acecafeusa.com," 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