Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Gourmet Food at Lake Mary Food Trucks

It was a cool, rainy day here in Central Florida this past Sunday. But that did not keep a motley group of food trucks from serving up their delicious wares at Central Park in front of City Hall in Lake Mary. Families came out and were having a great time as well. The park has plenty of seating and natural beauty, so it beats some of the other food truck stops in parking lots.

I was excited to try new food from unique trucks I haven’t seen at other food truck events. Fork in the Road and Nubu Grill did not disappoint. Fork in the Road, started by Lake Mary chef Bryce Balluf, offers up gourmet plates such as Scotch Quail Egg, Toasted Tomato Mac ‘n Cheese Pops, and Elvis Cookie-wich.

Nubu Grill also had tasty dishes such as Lemon Pepper Flounder and Polynesian Beef. I had the Coconut Curry Chicken from Nubu Grill, and was really impressed with the homemade curry and spicy peanut sauce on this dish. Plus, I got a big serving of rice, chicken, and fresh vegetables for $7.

Central Park - Lake Mary
Some of the other food trucks that I was not able to try but that looked great were: Louis Bistro, Kona Dog, and Firehouse BBQ. If you have tried these food trucks or the Lake Mary food truck event, what did you think? Comment below.

When: The last Sunday of every month.

Where: Central Park, 100 North Country Club Rd., Lake Mary (on the corner of Lake Mary Blvd. and Country Club Rd.)

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Eat & Drink for Good Causes, Orlando!

Two Orlando events – both on Friday, March 2 – will allow you to try tasty local food and help out important causes.

The Sit, Stay, Sip & Save a Life event, from 4:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m., features food and wine samples from top Seminole County restaurants. It benefits TEARS, an organization for homeless pets in Seminole County. Tickets are $35 in advance and $45 the day of the event.
Where: The Courtyard at Park Place at Heathrow Center.

Spanish River Grill
Another mouth-watering event, Slow Down, includes cocktails and beers from Florida distillers and local, seasonal food tastings from Spanish River Grill, The Rusty Spoon, and Dandelion Communitea Café. It runs from 5:00 p.m. - 8:00 p.m. Tickets are $15, and the event benefits Slow Food Orlando. Call 407-648-7060 for more information. 

Where: City Arts Factory, 29 South Orange Ave., Orlando.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Celebrate Mardi Gras at Tibby's

I love the atmosphere of Tibby’s New Orleans Kitchen in Winter Park, Fla., and how it reminds me of a nicer version of the many neighborhood bars and seafood eateries in New Orleans. This is such a fun, busy place, and I’m glad I went there to celebrate Mardi Gras.

Tibby's sports a vibrant bar and the seating area features a high ceiling – painted purple, no less - and authentic New Orleans décor. Plus, there are few places in Orlando where you can get real Cajun food. While the dishes we tried were close the real thing, they stopped short. The Crawfish Etoufee was flavorful and I loved the overflow of crawfish in the mix. Still, the etoufee was over-salted and not the best I have ever had. Same with the Seafood and Andouille Sausage Gumbo: it  was good, but I have had a few better versions.

The Shrimp Po’ Boy was pretty good, though. To make a good po’ boy, you need the right bread, and Tibby’s definitely has it. I'm not a beer lover, but those who are appreciate the fact that Tibby's has a wide variety of Abita beers on tap and bottled. You can find Purple Haze here! Happy Hour is every day from 4:00 to 6:00 p.m.

I would give the overall experience four stars out of five. Tip: don’t go during dinner hour: you will likely have a 30 minute to 1 hour wait.

Where: 2203 Aloma Ave., Winter Park. 

Friday, February 17, 2012

Bring Your Dog Out to Eat

Finally! While Orlando cafés and restaurants have allowed dogs at outdoor cafes and restaurants for years, Seminole County is finally getting in on the act. Seminole County commissioners just enacted a “dog-friendly” ordinance that would allow restaurant-goers to bring their pets along when eating in the outdoor sections of restaurants and cafes in the county.

This seems like a great fit for a county that is known for its beautiful nature and scenery. Now, I need help from you: which are the best restaurants in Seminole County to take advantage of this new option? Winter Park, downtown, and other areas are more well known for their outdoor eateries. I blogged about a few of the top outdoor spots last year, including: White Wolf Café, Spice, RelaxGrill at Lake Eola, and Pisces Rising in Mount Dora.

I know that Lake Mary has fun outdoor dining restaurants too, including Dexters, Liam Fitzpatrick's, Pattiserie Caffe, the new Menchies frozen yogurt, and several other cafes and wine markets. Which are your favorites?

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

The Love of Photos

Seared Ahi Tuna Appetizer
Season's 52, Alt. Springs, Fla. 

Isn’t it amazing how a beautiful photo of say, a juicy steak or a three-tired, delicious tiramisu can get your mouth watering for that food? The great food photographers out there can get us to buy a new product or visit a local restaurant just from one perfectly designed photo, down to the steam rising from a plate of Prince Edward Island mussels or the fresh-looking shiny-ness of that plump tomato. They can even make the whipped cream on a dessert look fluffier!

I was thinking about the power of photos the other day as I perused some of the delectable-looking food photos on Google+ and Pinterest. There is something about how the food photos are displayed on these two social media sites that can really get foodies – and everyone else – excited about food, restaurants, and trying new recipes.

Chocolate Key Lime Tart
Fulton's Crab House, Disney Marketplace
Wine & Mini Pumpkin Pie Indulgence
Season's 52, Alt. Springs, Fla.
Included in this post are a few of the top restaurant food photos from Flavorful Excursions’ photographer, Shad Bookout.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

The Most Fresh, Local Food - at Audubon Market

Some of the most unique, fresh, and local food in Orlando can be found every Monday night at the Audubon Community Farmers Market near Winter Park. This market is “legit”, as one vendor told me: only local growers, fishermen and producers are invited here. There are number of organic fruit and veggie growers, along with bakers and other food makers.

Wild OceanSeafood Market of Titusville, Fla., brings its fresh catch – everything has been caught within two days of the market off the East Coast of Florida – weekly. Its smoked mullet is so delicious, and I can’t wait to try the over-sized Royal Red and Canaveral White shrimp I bought . I like how you can ask the staff any question about preparing seafood or what a particular fish tastes like, and they can answer it.

Another unique vendor at the market is Atomic Kitten Provisions, which makes cupcakes, cookies, and other baked goods using organic eggs from Ocoee, oranges from Winter Park, and other local ingredients. Happy Rolls provides hand-made vegan and meat egg rolls and dumplings. And Yum Yum Pops produces hand-made popsicles in the most unusual flavors - Key Lime Avocado, Chocolate Banana Sea Salt and Hibiscus Carambola (star fruit) – all using local, organic ingredients.

Where: 1842 E. Winter Park Rd., Orlando, in the Stardust parking lot. 
When: Mondays, 6:00 – 10:00 p.m.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Stories of Food & Fun Are Back!

Sunset Sam's at Gaylord Palms Orlando
I am so happy to be back blogging about food, travel, and fun. I have missed all those who follow and interact with this blog, and would appreciate your feedback. Let me know the type of food, restaurants, hotels, travel, and entertainment that you would like to see covered in the Orlando area and throughout the U.S./ world. 

Let's chat on FacebookTwitter @FlavorfulExcurs, or Google + (Christine Blank). Keep up with the latest posts at the bottom of this page or subscribe by email. 

Meanwhile, I will continue to regale you with stories of my visits to food trucks, restaurants, hotels, theme parks, and more. I will also let you know about all things foodie and crazy new hotel and restaurant trends and deals.

Grove Park's Sunset Terrace Restaurant Delights

Our honeymoon dinner at the Sunset Terrace at Grove Park Inn in Asheville, N.C., was quite an experience. Normally, the Sunset Terrace – ranked one of the top 20 sunset views in America – serves dinner outside. But because of cold, rainy weather, we ate indoors. 

No matter – our seats by the oversized stone fireplace and Christmas tree provided the perfect atmosphere for a romantic dinner. We started with tomato basil bisque soup that was very yummy. I had the catch of the day – the N.C. grouper that came in from the coast that day – with lobster risotto. It was cooked to perfection and had wonderful, light flavoring. 

My husband had the surf and turf filet with lobster. His steak was also cooked perfectly – he literally cut it with a regular butter knife. For dessert, we tried the chocolate mousse (even though there were so many delectable desserts to choose from), and we were glad we did! The mousse was light, fluffy, and delicious! I would definitely recommend dining at Sunset Terrace, especially if it is a special occasion. Tell the server when you are celebrating a birthday, anniversary, or other special event, and you may get a nice surprise.