Thursday, February 20, 2014

Where to Celebrate Natl. Margarita Day

I love that there is a National Margarita Day! I don't know whom invented these drinks, but they rock. Central Florida restaurants and bars are going all out for the special day this Saturday, February 22.

Here are two events we think will be a blast:

Jimmy Buffet's Margaritaville
1. Cocina 214 in Winter Park is holding its annual Margarita Madness recipe contest on Saturday starting at 6:30 p.m. Competitors can submit their innovative margarita recipes for a chance to win a $100 Cocina 214 gift card. Plus, their recipe could be featured on the restaurant's menu.

If you are lucky enough to be at this competition, you will get to sample these recipes throughout the evening.

2. Jimmy Buffet's Margaritaville Orlando at Universal Orlando Resort will host a complimentary Margarita-making class from 3:00-4:00, where guests will learn the art of shaking and mixing. Plus, Jimmy Buffet's is taking part in a nationwide recipe contest. Make sure to be there at 5:00 p.m. for the National Margarita Day Toast!

Have fun celebrating!

Monday, February 10, 2014

Top Orlando Restaurants for Valentine's Day

Bone Marrow App - K Restaurant & Wine Bar
This is one of my favorite times of the year. While it is best to keep the romance alive year-round, it is also great to celebrate your loved ones (whether it is a spouse, girlfriend/ boyfriend, family or friends) on Valentine's Day.

Here are suggestions for special Valentine's Day dinners at restaurants that I have dined at or want to try soon:

1. K Restaurant & Wine Bar:  Recently voted one of the most romantic restaurants, K Restaurant in College Park is known for its farm-to-table cuisine. I know the executive chef and owner, Kevin Fonzo, and I can vouch for the high quality of his food and the type of atmosphere he creates. The seasonal menu changes daily, and Chef Fonzo uses as much local meat, seafood, produce, and dairy as possible. Here's a romantic dish to try if it is on the menu when you visit: the Bone Marrow appetizer. The creamy, smooth marrow is complemented perfectly by the sauteed onions and jus. Any fish dish you order - I had the cobia - is sure to be cooked perfectly. And the desserts are to die for. The French Toast Bread Pudding was light, unique, and very flavorful. With two separate dining rooms, couples can definitely get some alone time here.

Christner's Prime Steak & Lobster
2. Christner's Prime Steak & Lobster: Formerly known as Del Frisco's, this beatifully revamped restaurant on Lee Rd. is perfect for date night, or any special occcasion. For Valentine's Day, Christner's is offering a special menu for $200 (tax & gratuity included), featuring an 8-ounce filet, a 12-ounce prime strip, a 16-ounce ribeye or salmon, a bottle of champagne, chateau potatotes and other vegetables, and two decadant desserts. 

3. If you are looking for delicious food AND a different type of experience, check out The Enzian theater in Maitland. On February 15, Enzian is featuring a speical event with with a huge buffet spread, live entertainment, and a showing of the movie, Ghost. 

4. Kasa Tapas and Raw Bar in downtown Orlando is featuring a Cupid's Adventure Dinner on February 14. Sweets are provided afterwards at Ghost Bar & Lounge, and the afterparty is at Avenue Gastrobar. Sounds like a fun night!

5. Taverna Opa Orlando on I-Drive is another exciting place to celebrate with your love this Friday nihgt. The restaurant is featuring a special $65 prix-fixe dinner for two with drinks and live entertainment. 

Where do you plan to celebrate Valentine's Day? Let me know your favorite romantic restaurants in Orlando and around the world.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Have an Unforgettable Meal at Emeril's Tchoup Chop

Robata Grill Skewers & Dipping Sauces
My husband and I had an unforgettable meal at Emeril's Tchoup Chop inside the Loew's Royal Pacific Resort at Universal Orlando recently and you can too. The ambiance, unique and perfectly prepared food, and impeccable service make for a perfect romantic meal or night out.

You might think it is difficult to park at such a popular resort, but that is not the case. You can drive right up to Emeril's Tchoup Chop and receive free valet parking. Walking in, I was struck by the beauty and grandeur of my surroundings. A huge square pool with lily pads sits in the middle of the room, while the walls are backlit with blue lights and huge bamboo. You are transported to a Polynesian world.

Sesame Ahi Tuna
The theme of Emeril's Tchoup Chop menu is Asian fusion, and the new chef de cuisine, Ryan Vargas, takes Asian fusion to a whole new level. After living in Hawaii for many years, Chef Ryan has infused popular Hawaiian cooking methods and flavors into many of Tchoup Chop's dishes featured on its new menu. 

We started with two of Tchoup Chop's signature cocktails, La Floridita (the Hemingway) and Mai Tai, and both were delicious. For appetizers, we were excited to try meat skewers and vegetables from the restaurant's new Japanese Robata Grill, which quickly sears meat and veggies at a high temperature and locks in their delicious flavors. While the preparation of the meats and vegetables is so simple, the results are outstanding. You don't want to miss this experience at the restaurant - and it is affordable. The cauliflower tasted like popcorn, and we also really enjoyed the Japanese peppers and asparagus. Both the lamb sausage and lamb skewers were also very flavorful and perfectly prepared.

One of the most popular dishes at Tchoup Chop is the Sesame Ahi Tuna, so we tried that. It is prepared with a thick sesame crust and lightly seared, and served with a Quinoa Tropical Fruit Tablouleh and a Wasabi Ogo Vinaigrette. The top-quality tuna was so smooth and flavorful, and the crust and vinaigrette complemented it nicely, not overpowering the fish. The Quinoa Tabouleh had such a nice, bright flavor.

Arguably one of the best fish entrees I have ever had, we also loved the Hawaiian Style Local Snapper. It is prepared with a light Sesame Soy broth and is served over baby bok choy and mushrooms. The fish was cooked absolutely perfectly, and the broth paired perfectly with the fish. Did I mention "light"? All the dishes we had felt light and healthy. "It's a reflection of how I changed my lifestyle and how my family eats," Chef Ryan told us.

After that light, healthy dinner, we of course had to try many of Tchoup's Chop's desserts, including Emeril's Signature Banana Cream Pie. That thing should be illegal. I tried to stop eating it, but couldn't.. There was something different in every bite. We would also highly recommend the Crispy Guava Dumpling, with guava and cream cheese filling. The dumpling is delicious on its own, but it is elevated to a new level when you pair it with the accompanying mango dipping sauce. I would also recommend the creme brulees, and the Chocolate Kamora Cake with Peanut Butter Mousse.

If you are planning a special Valentine's Day dinner for your sweetheart, you are in luck. Chef Ryan has put together a special menu for the day, at $75 per person. 

Where: 6300 Hollywood Way, Orlando, Fla.