Friday, August 24, 2012

Pizza, Beer & Music This Weekend

The Mellow Mushroom - which some people feel is the best pizza in Orlando - is holding a fun "Shroomstock" Festival this Saturday at their Orlando location. "Shroomstock" features pizza, local bands, and craft beers. Plus, the event is reasonable at $5 in advance or $7 at the door.

For $3 each, you can buy pizza slices from the Mellow Mushroom Bake Bus, while listening to local or homegrown bands Casey Brents, The Hip Abduction, and Spiritual Rex. Craft beers include Dogfish Head, Abita, Orange Blossom Pilsner, and Holy Mackerel. This is a great cheap "date night" or night our with friends.What is your favorite Mellow Mushroom pie?

Where: 11680 East Colonial Drive, Orlando

When: Saturday, Aug. 25. Starts at 5:00 p.m.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Check out Ga. Shrimp and Grits Festival

Shrimp and grits have got to be among the best food pairings in history. I love the taste of tender, spicy grilled shrimp, combined with creamy corn (or cheesy) grits. I just recently discovered that there is a festival devoted to all the possible variations on shrimp and grits: "Shrimp & Grits: The Wild Georgia Shrimp Festival". Held September 14-16 in Jekyll Island, Georgia, the Festival includes both amateur and professional shrimp and grits cooking competitions, cooking demos, and craft brew tasting.

While you are in Jekyll Island, I would recommend staying at one of the top-rated hotels there: the Jekyll Island Club Hotel. This place is palatial and there are a ton of activities to do at the property and nearby. It is directly across from the Jekyll Harbor Marina, where boats can take you on shrimping tours or dolphin-spotting tours.
Jekyll Island Club Hotel

Even though the resort looks grand inside and out, it does offer specials and packages. To celebrate its 25th anniversary, Jekyll Island Club is offering rates of $125 per night for certain rooms in August, and has 25 percent off deluxe suites from Sundays through Thursdays. In its Grand Dining Room, diners can enjoy the daily lunch special and an ice cream sandwich for $12.50.

I am looking forward to visiting Jekyll Island soon, and will give you my review on the glorious Jekyll Island Club Hotel, the infamous Driftwood Breach, and all the best places to dine there.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Try Fast-Food Sushi. Really.

I was definitely skeptical as I walked up to the small restaurant located in a mini-mall near UCF. I had looked over Sus Hi's (pronounced High) web site and I could not tell whether the food would be good by the funny ninja anime character on the screen.

When I walked in the restaurant, though, it was clean and had a fun Ninja painting across one wall. I noticed that the food ingredients are set up like a Subway for sushi: you can see all of the proteins (including vegan options), veggies, and fun toppings that you would like to have made into a sushi roll, a rice bowl, or a wrap. We ordered the Spicy Chicken and Loaded Shrimp Sushi and the Fried Chicken and Fried Shrimp Wrap.

The sushi comes with a spicy sauce, but we kicked it up a notch with Sriracha sauce. The sushi was moist and flavorful, and really didn't taste like fast food-style sushi. The fried chicken and shrimp in my wrap had a light, crispy breading and I was surprised it was not greasy. I also opted to add lettuce, avocado, and asparagus, and everything came together to make a fresh, flavorful wrap. And the prices were reasonable at $5.99 for a roll (check out the photo for the size of one roll!), wrap, or bowl.

I love Sus Hi's Japanese sodas too. They may be somewhat sweeter than American sodas, but have a lot less carbonation. The only draw-back to this place? Making decisions. You can't just say, "I want the California Roll". The staff want you to pick what goes inside your roll. If you are indecisive, this is not the place for you.

Where: 4498 N. Alafaya Trail, Orlando.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

What's Good About Sweet! Cupcakes

Unique flavors. Yummy icings. Moist cake. What else do you need in a cupcake? Sweet! By Good Golly Miss Holly - a cupcake shop in Oviedo and Jacksonville, Fla. - delivers all this. Many people tell me that Sweet! has the best cupcakes in town. I am not sure I agree, but it is definitely at the top of my list.

I have been dying to try them out for myself, ever since I saw Miss Holly - Hollis Wilder - win an episode of Cupcake Wars on The Food Network. I was impressed when she won with delicious vegan cupcakes, while competing with bakers who prepared traditional cupcakes. I was looking forward to trying out some of her vegan cupcakes on a recent visit to Sweet!, but was unable to. I didn't realize those have to be ordered in advance.

However, I got to try out many other popular flavors at Sweet!s Oviedo location. The staff behind the counter said that Cookies n' Cream and Red Velvet were the shop's most popular flavors. So, I tried those, along with: Chocolate Peanut Butter, Black Out, S'mores, Creamsicle, and Toasted Coconut. The Toasted Coconut was nearly perfect - with a delicious frosting, moist cake, and coconut filling. To be picky, the cake batter had a bit of a baking soda taste, but was very minor. Chocolate Peanut Butter was not as good as I expected, but the S'Mores and Black Out (dark chocolate cake and frosting) were. Creamsicle and Toasted Coconut were probably my favorites, but I can also see why Cookies n' Cream and Red Velvet are the biggest sellers. That Red Velvet icing was delicious!

I like the fact that Sweet! sells mini cupcakes, along with regular-sized ones, so you can try a few different flavors and not feel stuffed. However, the minis are priced at four for $6. This reminds me of a general gripe that I have with gourmet cupcakes: the price. At Orlando's cupcake shops and food trucks, you pay between $2.00 and $2.50 per cupcake. That just seems too steep to me.

Back to what I like about Sweet!. In addition to cupcakes, there is a variety of self-serve frozen yogurts and a bar with tons of different toppings. This is such a fun place to take kids for a treat. And, there are so many different cupcake flavors to choose from - 30 to be exact - that you should be able to try a new one every time you visit. Overall, I would highly recommend Sweet!'s moist, delicious cupcakes topped by spot-on icings. Which flavors are your favorite?

Where: Waterford Lakes Town Center, 711 North Alafaya Trail, Orlando.