Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Top Orlando New Year's Eve Celebrations

There are all types of concerts and huge parties in and around the
theme parks in Orlando, but I prefer the more intimate and unique events - as well as the gatherings that foodies would appreciate.

Here are some of Flavorful Excursions'  top New Year's Eve events in Orlando:

1. Enzian Theater's annual James Bond New Year's Party. Come "dressed to kill" as James Bond or your favorite Bond girl and you could win a fabulous prize. "Diamonds are Forever" starts at 5:30, and the New Year's Eve party with champagne, signature cocktails and a DJ begins at 8.

2. The Orlando Museum of Art is holding its first New Year's Eve party! It features red carpet entry and valet, live music by Soul Funktion, yummy food and drinks and fireworks.

3. Rangetsu Japanese Restaurant and Bar. This year, the restaurant is featuring taiko drummers at 9 p.m. and midnight, along with its delicious sushi and special dishes.

4. Sam Snead's. Enjoy prime rib, Grouper Oscar, and other special New Year's Eve dishes while listening to Mudel & Co.

5. Carmel Kitchen Winter Park. Enjoy a special menu, including cold water lobster tails, and 90+ point rated wine for $10 per glass. This is the atmosphere for a fun but laid-back New Year's Eve!

Where will you be ringing in 2015? Leave your suggestions for us in the comments section below!

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Don't Miss Crane's Roost Christmas Lights...and Pizza

One of the must-visits this holiday season is Cranes Roost Park's Christmas light display. It is probably the best non-residential display in town. Kids and adults love walking the mile around the lake to see the oversized animal displays and lit arches. My favorite part, though, is the massive Christmas tree near the "dancing fountain".

Before we went to see the great lights the other night, we ate at the nearby Tuscan Pizza (formerly Red Brick Pizza) near Marshall's, so we could easily walk to the lights. Tuscan Pizza is a very family-friendly place that has pretty good food (not excellent, but pretty good). There are flat-screen TVs and remote controls at each table, which I don't like, but I guess it helps keeps kids occupied. You order your pizza, salads or sandwiches at the counter, and they are made-to-order in front of you.

We tried the Mushroom, Hamburger and Mozarella pizza which was fairly good. Not the best we've ever had, but some good flavors. We were suprised that the Chinese Chicken Salad was so good, with fresh ingredients including mandarin oranges. Our favorite part was the dessert, with several gelatos and sorbets to choose from, at a reasonable price. The pistachio gelato is a must-try, as is the strawberry sorbet.

While I wouldn't make a special trip to Tuscan Pizza, it is definitely a fun, convenient place to dine when visiting the magnificent Christmas lights at Crane's Roost.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Where to See Awesome Christmas Lights

This Winter Park family must be fans of the Osbornes, the famous family in Arkansas that added so many Christmas lights to their house that they had to buy houses around them to expand their light display. Finally, they were shut down by the city and donated their lights to Walt Disney World, which now features the Osborne Dancing Lights at Disney Hollywood Studios.

Every year around this time, my family makes the short trip to Winter Park to view not only the main house in this neighborhood that is covered with lights, but also the other houses in the neighborhood. Two houses feature garages full of mini town displays, complete with bridges, waterfalls and even mini hot air balloons. These houses have become a tourist attraction, and one offers the ability to donate to disabled veterans. 

Back to the main house that drew us to the area in the first place: something like 800,000 lights are used on the outside of the house. But we also love the garage display with life-size Santa and Mrs. Claus and the beautiful window displays with working toy trains. The front yard is covered with lit mechanical Christmas displays, such as teddy bears riding a ferris wheel. I can honestly say I have never seen anything like this.

Make sure to take your family to this amazing sight this year. And let us know which other neighborhoods have great Christmas lights displays in the comments section below!

Where: Garden Grove Circle, Winter Park, Fla.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Peach Valley Cafe: Yummy Breakfast/ Brunch

Apple Fritters with 3 Dipping Sauces
Peach Valley Cafe in Orlando and Lake Mary is the perfect brunch spot. It has such an extensive menu of breakfast and lunch options, that everyone in the group is bound to be happy. I will say this up front, though: while the quality of food is 4 out of 5 stars, the service has been very slow any time I have visited. I have only eaten there during slow times, so I am not sure why it takes 25 minutes to get breakfast food and a sandwich.

On to the food: we opted for some unusual menu items. Instead of the typical Eggs Benedict, I ordered the Vegetable & Egg Croissant Benedict, with grilled tomato, asparagus, red onion and hollandaise sauce. It was much more exciting and delicious than it sounds. The hollandaise sauce was creamy and flavorful, the croissant was moist yet toasty on the outside and the asparagus added a nice crunch and flavor to the dish. Plus, I loved Peach Valley's roasted potatoes: not many restaurants get those right, in my opinion. I love them crispy and flavorful, and these were both.

The Lemonberry Pancakes - which were seasonal and may no longer be there - were moist and delicious. The flavor combination works very well, surprisingly. Next time, I want to try the Pecan Cinnamon Roll Pancakes. Those sound divine. We also had the French Dip sandwich, which had a delicious au jus dipping sauce, but the sandwich itself was just okay. 

One mistake I made was not ordering the hot Apple Fritters. I have heard great things about these little bites of goodness, and will definitely pick up a bag on my next visit!

Monday, November 10, 2014

Where Veterans Can Eat for Free

I have such admiration and respect for every veteran who has served in the U.S. military,
especially my niece, a veteran of the U.S. Marine Corps and my dad, a U.S. Army vet. It seems only fitting then, that many restaurant chains across the country are honoring our nation's vets by offering them free meals, appetizers and more.

Here are some of top restaurant chain deals for Veterans Day on November 11:

* Applebee's: Veterans and active duty military can get a free Signature Entree, including the American Standard All-in Burger, from the restaurant chain's Veteran's Day menu.

* Red Robin:a free Tavern Double Burger and Bottomless Steak Fries.

* Olive Garden: a free meal from a limited menu.

* Outback Steakhouse: Free Bloomin' Onion and soda, and 15% off for active and retired military for the rest of this year!

* Denny's: free all-you-can-eat pancakes.

* Krispy Kreme: free doughnut and small coffee.

* California Pizza Kitchen: one free pizza for active military and vets.

* Chili's: one free entree all day from its special Veteran's Day menu.

* Menchie's: free 6-ounce frozen yogurt.

Plus, Bed Bath & Beyond and World Market are offering veterans 20% off their purchase through November 11. And Home Depot and Lowe's both offer a 10% discount to veterans on November 11.

These are great deals, and I hope everyone who can takes advantage of them! You certainly deserve it, and I thank you for your service.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

What I Love about Yard House

I love the bar/ restaurant atmosphere at Yard House, including large silver pipes from the ceiling to the bar, carrying some of the 120+ brews on tap at this newer restaurant on International Drive in Orlando. Even though it is a Darden Restaurants brand, Yard House only came to Orlando earlier this year. I've heard people in other areas of Florida and the U.S. rave about this restaurant.

I can see why. The staff is well-trained and friendly. And I mentioned the atmosphere. Plus, the food and drinks are really good. We had the House Honey Blond Ale, and would definitely order it again. Yard House is known for their great burgers - including its Black Truffle Cheeseburger - but there are so many different dishes and flavors from all over the world. 

We tried the Fish and Chips and the Blackened Swordfish Tacos. The Fish was crispy and flavorful. We haven't really found Fish and Chips we like around Orlando, so it was great to find one that is perfect. The Blackened Swordfish Tacos had a lot of flavor, thanks to the addition of cilantro, cumin crema and a mango papaya chutney. The side of rice was also delicious.

One other note: our server and management went above and beyond to ensure that my meal did not contain any of the ingredients that I have intolerances to. It made for a relaxing, worry-free meal!

Where: 8367 International Dr., Orlando, Fla.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Get Your pre-Halloween Freak On

Orlando Zombie Ball
Where are you going to get your fright on? While many people love Universal Orlando's Halloween Horror Nights, there are so many other smaller, not-as-flipping-crowded events where you can have a blast this month. 

Here are some of our favorites:

1. A Petrified Forest: this longtime Altamonte Springs favorite is back this year and features twice the trails. In addition to ghouls, goblins, and other scary creatures along this trail, food and entertainment is provided. There are even overnight camping options! This attraction is only available on weekends, so hurry and enjoy it.

2. Orlando Zombie Ball is THE place to be on October 22 at Firestone Live. Costumes are mandatory and the best costume wins $1,000! Phantasmagoria will be performing live, and VH1 celeb DJ Brian Dawe will be spinning.

3. Halloweenfest is back October 31 in downtown Winter Garden. The free event includes family activities, live entertainment, and several vendors.

If you have attended these events in past years or this year, leave your comments and suggestions below!