Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Cask & Larder: Now Serving Delicious Lunch

Where else can you find Rabbit Meatloaf with Pickled Green Beans and Nashville Hot Chicken Sandwich for a business lunch in Orlando than at Cask & Larder? The "Southern public house" eatery, which has been operating for nearly a year, is known for its pig roasts, its outstanding upscale Southern comfort food dinner, and its scrumptious Sunday brunch.

Now, the restaurant has expanded to offer lunch on Wednesdays through Saturdays, from 11:30 a.m. - 2:00 p.m. If you have never had the opportunity to try Cask & Larder - the brainchild of James Beard-nominated chefs James and Julie Petrakis - the reasonably-priced and eclectic lunch menu is the perfect chance.

When I previewed the menu last week, I was pleased to see some Southern favorites, such as Po'Boy and Muffuletta, with Cask & Larder's special twist. "Everything is Southern inspired. We do our own picking and meat curing, and use our smoker in back daily," chef de cuisine Rhys Gawlak, told Flavorful Excursions. The Po' Boy ($13) is served on a celery seed hoagie with crispy oysters and bacon, and green tomato chow-chow. All the snacks look amazing, including the Basket ($7) which includes hush puppies, fried garlic-dill pickles, okra, and savory scones, served with hot sauce aioli. My dining companion tried the Crostini ($13), which includes blackened Royal Red shrimp, red pea hummus, and frisee slaw. He said it was delicious.

Now on to the entrees that I truly enjoyed and would recommend that you order. The Peel-n-Eat Shrimp ($15), swimming in a sauce of wit beer, orange juice, fennel pollen and spicy peppers, and served with a baguette, was so delicious. I loved how all the flavors worked so well together and appreciated that the shrimp was not overcooked. The Rabbit Meatloaf ($14), served with potato puree, marinated mushrooms, crispy haricot verts and picked quail egg had a very interesting flavor. It provided just the bit of gaminess that rabbit provides without hitting you over the head with it. I am not sure the quail egg is needed, though.

I would also highly recommend the Bibb Lettuce Salad ($12), which is served with spiced pecans, candied squash, watermelon radish, and buttermilk dressing. The heat from the radish and pecans pairs perfectly with the delicate Bibb lettuce and candied squash. Next time I visit Cask & Larder for lunch, I plan to try one of the restaurant's unique cocktails, including C & L Lemonade, which consists of Enlightened Grain Tea and Sage infused vodka, house-made pink lemonade, and Fever Tree ginger beer. Plus, Cask & Larder also offers an extensive selection of its House Brews for $6.

What do you think of Cask & Larder's lunch, dinner, brunch and pig roasts? I would love to see your review below.

Where: 565 West Fairbanks Ave, Winter Park. Fla.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Gigi's Cupcakes Orlando Overrated

I have been dying to try Gigi's Cupcakes since the chain expanded to Orlando a few short months ago. The gourmet cupcakes look so delectable on the brand's Facebook page and a friend has recommended Gigi's gluten-free cupcakes.

I tried three of Gigl's cupcakes and one if its many cheesecakes. First to the cupcakes: I tried Wedding Cake first (the gluten-free version) because it is one of the chain's top sellers. I am not sure why. They have so many more interesting flavors, such as Blueberry Lavendar and Margarita. The cupcake was good and moist - just not different and interesting. However, the overly sweet, artificial-tasting frosting turned me off. Especially when it is piled high on the cupcake. Although Gigi's cupcake frosting looks beautiful in photos, you only need a third of it with each cupcake.

The gluten-free cake was so light and fluffy, but still had a bit of the grit that gluten-free baked goods sometimes have. Even though they are denser, I prefer Raphsodic Cooperative Bakery's gluten-free cupcakes.

Gigi's Pina Colada cupcake's frosting and cake was more interesting. Still, there was way too
much frosting on top. Likewise, the White Midnight Magic cupcake was very yummy, but we don't need all that sweet frosting. Overall, I much prefer the gourmet cupcakes from Sweet! by Holly in Waterford Lakes and Jacksonville. At Sweet!, I love the cake itself, the frosting, and the interesting crusts and fillings that many of the cupcakes feature.

But wait, there is one piece of good news: Gigi's Turtle Cheesecake is amazing. I love the tangy New York-style of cheesecake that is both flavorful and moist. The caramel frosting on top with mini chocolate chips is one of the best frostings I have had. When you go to Gigi's, stick with the cheesecakes.

If you have visited Gigi's, do you agree with my review? Please comment below.

Where:  2562 E. Colonial Dr., Orlando, Fla.