Thursday, December 13, 2012

Cake Pops, Macaroons, & Candy Sushi, Oh My!

I recently had the pleasure of trying Maria's Mini Sweets' yummy cake pops. Mine was a yellow cake with chocolate fondant and cute flower decorations. I love supporting this small business, because all the desserts are delicious and very unique. 

Maria Hoagland began making French desserts soon after her honeymoon to Europe. "I wondered, 'Why is it so expensive for one macaroon? I can make that myself," Maria says. She soon began researching how to make macaroons and other desserts, with great success. The self-taught baker also taught herself how to make adorable Candy Sushi sets, using peeps, gummy worms, and other candies. 

Now, Maria makes custom cake pops, candy sushi, and macaroons for friends, and can make them for your holiday party, baby shower, birthday party, or special gift. I love the blue and white Cheesecake Pops she made for a Hanukkah get-together! Check out Maria's Mini Sweets Facebook page MariasMiniSweets for information on how to order and see photos from past occasions to get ideas! 

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Try New Food, Atmosphere at Bahama Breeze

Ahi Tuna Stacks. Photo by Shad Bookout
We thoroughly enjoyed our time at Bahama Breeze in Altamonte Springs, Fla., on a recent evening. It was not just because the renovated restaurant now has a better feel to it, but also it was because we were able to try some of the new appetizers, drinks, and entrees on the restaurant's extensive menu!

First, we took time to look around the beautiful restaurant. Some of the changes are more noticeable, such as the bar area, which is more open with beautiful shelving and bottles. Outside, flat screen TVs have been added, along with tables that have a granite finish and upgraded chairs. Other changes stand out less, but really upscale the place such as refinished woodwork throughout the restaurant and new artwork.

New bar area.
Photo by Shad Bookout

Now, to the two main reasons we like to visit Bahama Breeze: the food and the beverages. Florida stone crab is in season, so we tried the Stone Crab Appetizer ($23.99). It was served cold with lemon butter and a delicious sauce. I would recommend this dish, and you can upgrade to a Stone Crab entree portion for $1.99 more. Our favorite new appetizer is the Ahi Tuna Stacks ($6.99), which is delicate chopped Yellowfin tuna in Ponzu sauce, stacked between crispy wonton crackers. The accompanying pineapple salsa marries quite well with the tuna and wontons. I noticed more small plates on the menu than ever before, so everyone at the table can try a few different dishes, tapas style.

Our favorite new entree at Bahama Breeze is the Wood-Grilled Swordfish Steak, served atop Coconut-Ginger Sauce and with rice fritters. The swordfish was cooked perfectly and is so flavorful that it doesn't really need the sauce. The rice fritters were a fun, tasty addition to the meal - I thought they were corn fritters! The Wood-Grilled Chicken Sandwich, served warm inside Naan bread with arugula and tomato is very tasty and different from the normal sandwichThe new Curry Shrimp Rice Bowl (you can also order with chicken) has a really good, spicy curry sauce that I haven't had anywhere else. I would recommend trying this new dish for something different. Bahama Breeze also recently introduced several delicious burgers, including a Turkey Burger and the Portabella and Manchengo Cheeseburger.
Wood-Grilled Swordfish Steak.  By Shad Bookout

While we enjoy all of the tropical island-style drinks at Bahama Breeze, we especially liked the new Zombie, a mixture of three rums and Peach Schnapps, and the Havana Hotel Special, which combines rum, pineapple juice, lime, and a splash of Apricot Brandy into a very tasty concoction.

For dessert, the restaurant's Key Lime Pie is one of the best I have had. You can tell that it is made fresh daily in-house. The graham cracker crust really has a great, fresh flavor, and offsets the strong lime flavor of the pie. Two thumbs up! Let me know about your experience at any of the Bahama Breeze restaurants below!