Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Golden China Buffet: Decent Food, Great Prices!

I never expect to get the best Chinese food of my life when I visit a Chinese buffet. But I do know that I will have a chance to try a wide array of apps, entrees, and desserts for a great price. Instead of ordering take-out, next time I would suggest having a night out at Golden China Buffet. We recently visited the company's Lake Mary location for dinner. 

I was surprised and impressed by the variety offered at this fairly small restaurant, but was most happy with the prices. $10.95 for all you can eat dinner for adults and $3.99 for kids? Perfect for families!

We wanted to try everything, but settled on a few options including the traditional fried rice (very good!), sushi (pretty yummy!), and Shrimp with Onions and Bell peppers, which was also very tasty. Our crab rangoon was just okay, but I wouldn't expect this restaurant to have the best crab rangoon ever; that distinction goes to Imperial Dynasty in Longwood. The French fries were actually pretty good, as well as the pigs in a blanket-style hot dogs for kids.

Because I have food allergies, my favorite offering at this location is the made-to-order Hibachi grill. You can choose rice, rice noodles, or Soba noodles along with pork, shrimp, or chicken. Then you can choose from a wide variety of veggies. Give your plate to the chef and he will grill a fresh meal in front of you. This is a great way for people on special diets - including vegan or vegetarian - to eat out with friends.

Have you tried Golden China Buffet? If so, I want to hear from you. Please leave your comments below!

Where: 4225 W. Lake Mary Blvd., Lake Mary, Fla.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

A New Chance to Try Emeril's Orlando

Chicken Paillards. Photo by Steven Freeman
I distinctly remember a special meal I shared with business acquaintances a few years ago. It was one of the best meals of my life, and it took place at Emeril's Orlando. Not only was the food outstanding, but the service and ambiance of the dimly-lit, high-ceiling restaurant at Universal Orlando CityWalk made the occasion extremely memorable.

I haven't been back since, but obviously not because of the experience I had. I simply have not taken the time and, frankly, I worry about the cost of eating at a fine dining restaurant from one of the greatest chefs of our time, Emeril Lagasse. Now, I have a new reason to eat there! Emeril's Orlando is offering a special 3-course meal for $30 through June, July and August.

I am excited that a different menu is featured for each month. For June, the featured appetizer is Poached Oysters in Herbsaint Cream with Black Pepper Creme Fraiche. Then, you can choose one of two entrees: Poached Salmon with Mango Salasa, Coconut Rice Pilaf and Tortilla Chips or Braised Beef Short Ribs with Cheddar Polenta and Coleslaw. Dessert is a heavenly-looking White Chocolate Buttermilk Cake with Strawberry Sauce.
Grilled Peaches. Photo by Steven Freeman

The July 3 for $30 menu also looks amazing. Featuring recipes appetizer from Emeril at the Grill, the appetizer is a Watercress, Avocado and Mango Salad. Entrees include Salmon with Peach-Tamarind Barbecue Sauce and Chicken Paillards with Arugula, Roasted Peppers, Parmesan Cheese and Lemon. I want to try both! And now for one of my favorite desserts: grilled fruit. The dessert option for July is Grilled Peaches with Mascarpone and Local Honey.

I will unveil Emeril's 3 for $30 August menu next month. Meanwhile, get to Emeril's before the June deal is over! 

Where: 6300 University Blvd., #702, Orlando.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Update on Orlando's Food Truck Fight

Many of you were alarmed last week by the City of Orlando's proposed rules for food trucks - and you should be. The new requirements would drive many food trucks out of business or at the very least, push them out of the downtown area of Orlando. 

Food Trucks for Fairness is working with the City to revise the harsh rules. Here is an update from the organizaton:

"As you can see we have passed 1,000 'likes' on this page. We are encouraged and energized by the support for our businesses and this showing of community spirit. We don't want to constantly push out messages here and clog up your news feeds, but we want to keep you informed and let you know that we didn't simply put up this page hoping the issue would fix itself.

We have spoken to City or Orlando Staff and have met with two City Commissioners so far. Both commissioners have been receptive to the fact that parts of the pilot program would effectively force us to leave the City of Orlando to run our businesses. There a several requirements and restrictions that are overly burdensome and unfair.

We are asking the Mayor and Commission for reasonable changes and a seat at the table for discussions on the topic. We will make updates here and hopefully be able to report some good news, but if necessary we may use this page to ask all of you to email and call Orlando leaders and possibly to attend a City Council meeting.

Please keep an eye out for our messages and again we truly appreciate your support and involvement."

Follow Food Trucks for Fairness on Facebook at Express your concerns and solutions to this problem in the comments section below

Monday, June 10, 2013

Happy National Black Cow Day!

I can't believe there is a holiday named after the wonderful concoction that is a root beer float featuring chocolate ice cream instead of vanilla. My Southern husband introduced me to this treat, so I would like to share his recipe with you today:

Black Cow
Photo Courtesy Amy Kimball Events

Fill a tall water glass or sundae class about half way with Barq's root beer. It has to be Barq's, because Barq's is best!

Add 2 scoops of chocolate ice cream. After foam settles, add more root beer to fill glass to top.

Top with lots of whipped cream and chocolate sprinkles.

Add spoon and large straw and enjoy!

(Recipe courtesy Shad Bookout)

Note: To cut down sugar or dairy content, substitute Barq's with Zevia (stevia-sweetened) root beer and the chocolate ice cream with Tofutti or So Delicious ice cream (made from coconut milk. It is definitely yummy.)

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Open Letter to Orlando City Hall Re: Harmful Food Truck Regs

Those who know me well, know that it takes a lot to get me upset. However, I am livid after hearing about the new short-sighted reguations from the City of Orlando. Any time you make life more challenging for small businesses - in this case, my food truck friends - you threaten to harm the economic livelihood of the city.

The "pilot program" regulations would not allow food trucks to park on the sides of any streets and they would have to stay out of most of the downtown area, unless they get a concession license with the city. Food trucks that want to do business in Orlando - relegated to parking lots and food truck events - must obtain a mobile food vending permit and a license from the Flroida Department of Business and Professonal Regulation. These are all requirements that were not in place before, requiring the trucks to pay extra fees and, for many trucks, taking away the spots that their customers are used to finding them at.

Photo Courtesy Orlando's Food Trucks
Usually, "The City Beautiful" does a great job promoting itself to tourists, but not this time. Did you know that, not only are food trucks popular with so many people locally, but visitors seek them out as well? I can't tell you how many out-of-town people contact me to find out which food trucks they should try when they are in town. The trucks offer something unique to the Orlando food scene - something that many visitors cannot experience in their towns. 

Plus, food trucks bring millions of dollars into the City annually. I am not just figuring what locals and visitors spend at food trucks. I am considering all the people that food trucks hire. I am thinking about how those employees then go out and spend money in our community. I am also thinking about the other local businesses that food trucks benefit. Bars in the downtown Milk District, for example, benefit from the popular Tasty Tuesdays in the Milk District event. Event-goers buy their food and bring it inside to eat at the bar. Tasty Tuesdays has introduced many new people to this hip, urban neighborhood downtown.

Some say these regulations are being put into effect because restaurants and bars complained that food trucks are taking their business. Then do a better job with your food and your service! America was built on competition, and that system will remain in place as long as we live. Restaurants not only face competiiton from food trucks, but also from other restaurants, grocery stores that are selling better food-to-go, and even from convenience stores and drug store chains.

Bottom line: I don't believe food trucks - which add so much to the culture and livelihood of Orlando - should be the target of the City of Orlando, or of other food providers. What do you think? Sound off below.