Friday, May 31, 2013

Beautiful Plates, Scrumptious Food at The Ravenous Pig

Painted Hills Striploin - Photo by Shad Bookout
Even though The Ravenous Pig in Winter Park, Fla., has been around for a few years, I so enjoyed re-discovering it on a recent special night out. The ambiance is perfect for a special occasion, or even for a quick lunch of one of the best burgers in Orlando. At night, the food created by James Beard Award nominated chef-owners James and Julie Petrakis is complemented by low lighting and antique-looking ceiling tiles. This place has character. 

Even more importantly, the unique food is reflective of the caliber of chefs preparing it. There were so many dishes recommended to me by friends and loyal customers, including the Florida Black Grouper, the shrimp tacos appetizer, and of course, the House-made Charcuterie and Artisan Cheese plate. The Ravenous Pig has a charcuterie in-house and prepares and smokes all of its meats.

On this evening, we wanted to try a couple new entrees: the Painted Hills Striploin and the Loch Duart Salmon. The steak-sauce rubbed striploin was accompanied by soudough gundi, smoked bone marrow, royal trumpets and tomato bearnaise sauce. First off, the presenation is top-notch. The tender bone marrow has a wonderful smoky bacon flavor. When you take a bite of everything together - including the bitter greens on top - the flavors complement each other perfectly. The salmon was cooked absolutely perfectly, but I was most impressed by the multi-layered bacon-tomato soffrito sauce accompanying the fish. It is wonderful to taste the smoky bacon flavor alongside fresh tomatoes and other vegetables.
The Turtle Tart - Photo by Shad Bookout

Because The Ravenous Pig's entrees are light, we actually had room to try some of the restaurant's amazing desserts. We are so glad we ordered The Turtle Tart - where has this been all our lives? Every bite of this chocolate ganache tart served with dark chocolate sorbet, salted caramel custard and cashew brittle was absolutely heavenly. That house-made brittle is to die for! We also tried the Crisp, a cobbler-type dish featuring Florida peach and blueberry, oatmeal streusel and accompanied by tarragon ice cream. My first encounter with tarragon ice cream was a pleasant one! The fruit was seemed overly sweet, but I was enthralled with the oatmeal streusel on top of the dessert.  

Among the drinks we suggest you try include the Gin & Jam, which features house-made peach jam, gin, and house-made sour. It is perfect you like cocktails that are on the sweeter side. The Los Coast White Ale is a nice, mild, ale without a strong citrus flavor. We really enjoyed both drinks.

Bottom line: visit The Ravenous Pig as soon as you can. Just be sure to make a reservation. And don't forget about their special events like pig roasts and clam bakes.

Where: 1234 N Orange Ave., Winter Park

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

The Flap Over Fast Food on Park Ave.

Have you heard the flap over the type of restaurants that are making their way to Park Avenue in Winter Park? BurgerFi opened at the end of Park Ave. near Rollins College last year and has been hopping ever since. Now, Firehouse Subs is planning to open an eatery there later this year. To get around Winter Park regulations on only having "fine dining" restaurants on Park Ave., the sandwich shop will have wait staff and menus on its tables. "They're going to be the only Firehouse Subs in America that provides waiter/ waitress table service," said Jeff Briggs, Winter Park's development director, in the Orlando Sentinel.

However, to keep up Park Ave.'s atmosphere of upscale, independently-owned restaurants, city officials are trying to tighten regulations to keep out fast food-style restaurants in the future. If the regulations don't change, we could see Burger King or McDonald's making their way to Park Ave. for the first time, according to Briggs. Technically, you can't disallow chain restaurants. For example, Starbucks is a prominent fixture on Park Ave., even though it competes with the smaller, independent Barnie's Coffee Kitchen.

Do you agree with keeping fast food and chain restaurants off of Park Ave.? Why or why not? Sound off in the comments section below.