Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Orlando's Best Comfort Food

The Coop in Winter Park, Fla., is one of those restaurants that frustrates me. Not because of the quality of food, service or anything like that. Rather, I am irritated with myself for waiting so long to try it! I have now found my new favorite spot in Orlando for reasonably-priced comfort food.

Led by Chef John Rivers, which operates the 4 Rivers Smokehouse chain, The Coop's lineup features Fried Chicken (which you can purchase by the bucket), New Orleans Po-Boy, Chicken Pot Pie, Mom's Meatloaf, Chicken n' Dumplings, Fried Catfish & Grits, and a number of other Southern-inspired apps, sides and salads. The atmosphere is decidedly casual. You order at the counter, and servers pile up your food on a tray. I was worried about our food being cold by the time we got our drinks and sat down, but it wasn't!

First, let me tell you about the yummy Fried Chicken. It came out looking dark, so I was worried about the taste. I shouldn't have been. The breading was tasty and crispy, and the inside was surprisingly moist. We loved the coleslaw and homemade mashed potatoes, but the gravy - we could eat that by the gallon. However, the accompanying biscuit - billed as "the best in Orlando" - was not, in my opinion. I have had better Southern biscuits at many restaurants in North Carolina, Georgia and elsewhere - biscuits that are lighter and not so dense.

The Chicken Pot Pie was our other favorite dish. While the crust was a bit tough, we loved the flavor of both the crust and the filling. It had all the essential ingredients of a perfect pot pie - plus a kick of heat. I am still thinking about it. I would also highly recommend the Organic Roasted Chicken, which is very moist and flavorful. It may simply be seasoned with salt, but that is fine in this case. You must also try the Anson Mills Creamy Grits. We loved both the flavor and the texture.

We also love the value The Coop provides. Nearby Rollins College students could eat here, and it wouldn't break the bank. Most entrees with two sides are priced between $8.99 and $9.99.

If you are looking for other top Winter Park restaurants, see:

Yummy TV Dinner and More at The Porch
Go to Blu for Upscale Food, Great Service
Excellent Food, Wine and Atmosphere at Carmel

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Delicious, Authentic Fare at Greek Village

I love the small, independent restaurants that have been around for years - for a reason. Greek Village in Lake Mary is one of those. It has the trifecta of food done right, a beautiful atmosphere and excellent service. The staff is extremely friendly and was very accommodating when I needed a dish made over because of a food sensitivity.

Our food on both visits was very tasty. The chicken in the Chicken Gyro, marinated in wine and Greek spices, was very tender. The Lamb Gyro was also very flavorful and tender. I love the seasoning on the Greek Fries, and will be likely be back just for those. The Lamb Slouvaki was very tasty but the lamb was tough and chewy.

If you love Greek cuisine like I do, I recommend trying this place out.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Our Best Day in Cocoa Beach

Beach helicopters Merritt Island, Cocoa Beach Florida
To celebrate our anniversary, my husband and I decided to take a helicopter ride and spend a relaxing day in Cocoa Beach, Florida. While I was extremely nervous about flying on a helicopter for the first time, I knew that seeing the beautiful shoreline and ocean from above would make it all worthwhile. 

I was not expecting, however, for the owner and pilot of Beachside Helicopters in Merritt Island to make the flight so comfortable and fun. He explained everything about the helicopter before we took off, and, once we were in the air, acted as our personal tour guide. We saw the Cocoa Beach pier, a hospital that looks like it is floating on the water, cruise ships and the Kennedy Space Center. Plus, the 15-minute flight was affordable at $49 per person. You can take longer flights and see different views at varying rates. I'm glad I overcame my nerves to try a helicopter ride - we can't wait to go back!

Jazzy's Cocoa Beach, Cocoa Beach Florida, helicopter ride, Beachside helicoptersAfter the fantastic helicopter ride, we ate lunch at Jazzy's Mainely Lobster and Seafood in Cocoa Beach. A fellow food blogger recommended this spot, which reminds me of a small outdoor seafood shack. Perhaps we should have ordered the Maine Lobster Roll - one of the dishes the restaurant is known for. Our meal was very tasty, but nothing that made it stand out from other seafood restaurants. We both ordered the special of the day: Grilled Snapper Sandwich. The snapper was cooked perfectly and was delicious.

We spent the rest of the afternoon relaxing on Cocoa Beach. I would highly recommend a similar day for a date, fun with family or friends, or to give as a Christmas gift.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Don't Miss Scrumptious Pumpkin Yogurt

Yes, I know. I am obsessed with anything pumpkin and pumpkin spice this time of year. That's why I was excited when Chobani Greek yogurt offered to send me samples of their limited-time fall flavors:

My favorite was the Pumpkin Spice Greek yogurt with pureed pumpkin, cinnamon and nutmeg. It tastes like pumpkin pie, and not like yogurt at all. So I felt like I was eating a healthy dessert! I also loved Pumpkin Harvest Crisp "Flip" Greek yogurt, which features low-fat yogurt with a side of pie crust pieces, pecans and glazed pumpkin seeds.This also tastes like healthy dessert, and I love having the "crunch" and texture with the yummy yogurt.

Believe it or not, I do not just eat pumpkin-flavored things! So I had to try Chobani's new Cinnamon Pear Greek yogurt, with small bits of pear. Again, it tasted like exactly what the company said. It is very delicious and smooth, without that strong Greek yogurt flavor.

If you wan to enjoy these tasty yogurts too, they are available at most supermarkets. Just don't wait too long!

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Newfound Love for Asian Cuisine at Tabla

Indian food Orlando, Orlando, Orlando restaurants, lamb, lamb chops
There are some Indian dishes that we never knew we liked until the skilled chefs at Tabla
Cuisine made them for us with the highest quality ingredients, including meat, herbs and peppers. The Chinese and Thai dishes at this restaurant are also spot-on.

But, before I address food, I must brag that Tabla displayed the magical trifecta of a quality restaurant: great service, atmosphere and food. The hospitality displayed by management and servers was outstanding, taking care of our every need - including food sensitivities. The atmosphere - the restaurant recently underwent a major renovation - is gorgeous. We loved the modern decor and the artistic china that our delicious food was served on.

Orlando, Orlando restaurant, Asian food, Indian food, Indian restaurant OrlandoHere are the top dishes you should try at Tabla:

1. Tabla Lamb Chops. The flavor and cook was perfect on these juicy, tender chops, which were served over a serving pot with burning charcoals. The presentation was impressive.

2. Lamb Biryani. The succulent Tandoori lamb is mixed in with a deeply-flavored rice, steeped in saffron and other herbs and served with quail egg.

3. Hara Murgh Kabob. Marinated with green chilies, mint and cilantro, I could eat these chicken kabobs every day.

4. Red Curry with Fish. The fish was cooked perfectly and the flavorful red curry sauce was much lighter than other Thai curries I have had. I would have enjoyed this dish a bit spicier. 

Indian food, Asian food, Orlando, Orlando restaurants
Sugar-free Kheer
5. Chocolate Samosa with Masala Chai Latte Ice Cream. We wanted to lick the plate.

6. Pineapple Kheer. A sugar-free rice pudding with cardamom and pineapple. This was such a nice, refreshing treat to end our meal.

7. Mango Lassi. The mango yogurt drink was well-balanced, light and refreshing.

8. Naan and Garlic Cilantro Naan. The breads were toasted to perfection and had a wonderful flavor.

We loved our experience at Tabla, and cannot wait for our next meal there. The best part was this classy introduction to certain Indian dishes which we now love.

Where: 5827 Caravan Ct., Orlando.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Food and Service Fit for Royalty at Spencer's

Hilton Orlando, Orlando restaurants, scallops, ham, seafood, Orlando, Shad BookoutWe often forget that some of the finest restaurants in Orlando are located in hotels and resorts. My husband and I were looking for a special place to celebrate our anniversary, and we chose Spencer's for Steaks and Chops in the Hilton Orlando, right off of I-4 near the Orange County Convention Center. We would highly recommend this upscale eatery for your next special night out.

Spencer's Orlando, Hilton Orlando, Orlando, Orlando restaurants, Hilton, Shad Bookout, steak, dry-aged steakThe atmosphere in Spencer's is beautiful and modern. The food is truly outstanding, and so was our service. We were treated like royalty by our server, Scott, and the rest of the staff. Chef Kevin Spencer even made us a special amuse-bouche of Elk with raspberry, which was decadent and flavorful. The Chef also brought out a special Wahoo tasting plate with probably the best, creamiest polenta I have tried. The andouille sausage and pan gravy also corresponded nicely with the very tasty fish.

The apps we ordered were so unique. The Roasted Bacon with hot honey, boiled peanuts and herb salad was so flavorful. We loved the sweet and spicy combination, and would definitely order this again. The Country Ham Wrapped Scallops, served with gorgeous edible flowers, was also delicious. The scallops were cooked perfectly and the ham is a wonderful complement. There was just a bit too much ham, which slightly overpowered the delicate scallops.

Orlando restaurants, Orlando, seafood, wahoo, polenta, Shad BookoutWe could not possibly find anything wrong with our entrees: New York strip steak, aged 21 days, and Swordfish with Creamed Field Pea and Heirloom Hominy Ragout. The steak was so flavorful and tender, you could practically cut it with a fork. We suggest pairing it with the delicious, buttery mashed potatoes. The swordfish - also beautifully presented with edible flowers - was seared perfectly and tasted delicious. 

We ended this delightful meal with a very tasty chocolate cake, paired with passion fruit puree.

The only complaint I have - and Spencer's is not alone in this - is restaurants that overcharge for certain dishes. Certainly, the dry-aged steaks are wroth their price. But I don't believe Sweet Corn Bisque should be $12 nor should Hand-Cut Spencer's Fries - which I didn't really enjoy - be priced at $14. The side of Mac & Cheese was $11! Perhaps the sides are meant to be shared and, in that case, the price would be understandable but still on the high end.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Yummy TV Dinners & More at The Porch

The Porch restaurant, tv dinner, fried chicken, chicken fingersThe great prices. The excellent food. The casual sports bar atmosphere. All these qualities make me mad that I didn't find out about the excellent The Porch restaurant in Winter Park until recently. A friend recommended it, and we have dined there twice.

Almost all the food we had was very high quality, and huge portions for the price. This, of course, is surprising for Winter Park. Similar to many Lake Mary eateries, I find that Winter Park restaurants typically jack up their prices, knowing that they have clientele who will pay. While The Porch positions itself as a sports bar, it has food that is more delicious than any sports bar I have been to in Central Florida.

Sweet Potato tots, tater tots, french fries, Winter Park Fla.We have tried quite a few different dishes at The Porch, and I would recommend them all. But here are Top 5 favorites:

1. The Porch TV Dinner ($9.99), which includes chicken fingers, mashed potatoes and gravy, mac 'n cheese and corn on the cob. While we weren't blown away by the sides, we love the chicken fingers. The crispy breading has a wonderful cayenne flavor, and the chicken is tender. You get a huge amount of food, and we love how many dishes are presented on metal TV trays - comfort food like mom used to make.

2. Sweet Potato Tots ($3.50). These are the best thing I have had in quite awhile. I love sweet potato fries, but these go beyond. Trust me; order them.

Winter Park sports bar, sports bar, Orlando
3. Rise 'n Shine sandwich. I can't find it on the menu now, but judging by this sandwich, you should order any of the restaurant's sandwiches or burgers. This included fried chicken, egg and bacon. It was very huge and very juicy, and we loved it.

4. Giant Cobb Salad ($10.99). I had no idea that "giant" meant my salad would be served in a 70s-style wooden salad serving bowl that is enough to feed a family of four. In addition to the huge portion, all the ingredients were fresh and delicious. I highly recommend this salad.

5. Fish Tacos ($11.99). Three blackened fish tacos with lots of yummy stuff. I realize this is a simple dish, but they do it better than other restaurants. All the ingredients are fresh and the tortillas are grilled.

Where: 643 N. Orange Ave., Winter Park, Fla.

Go to Blu for Upscale Food, Great Service

Excellent Food, Wine and Atmosphere at Carmel Winter Park

Stellar Food, Drinks and Atmosphere Await at Marlow's Winter Park