Monday, March 31, 2014

Cheesecake Factory Has a Great Menu - and Cheesecake!

Obviously, everyone knows about The Cheesecake Factory's delicious array of 30 different cheesecakes, or whatever the number is. One of my favorites is Adam's Peanut Butter Fudge Ripple - it has everything I want in one dessert: cheesecake, chocolate, peanut butter and caramel. 

Still, I was reminded while dining there recently why I go there. I love the salads, apps, entrees, AND desserts. There is such a broad variety of dishes to order there, so it is hard to make up one's mind However, you cannot go wrong with any of the pastas especially the Farfalle with Chicken and Roasted Garlic, and my friends really like the restaurant's chicken dishes. 

Some of the entrees are pricey, so I tend to combine a couple different apps to make a great meal. My favorite app, hands down, is the Avocado Eggrolls. This seems like such a simple dish, but it is done perfectly. A great mixture of warm avocado and tomatoes rests on the inside of a crispy eggroll with a delicious cilantro dipping sauce. I get this every time I go. I also love the appetizer portion of the Belgian Endive and Arugula Salad with candied pecans. This is a simple dish, but is done well.

What is your favorite meal and dessert at The Cheesecake Factory?

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Visit Mikado Japanese in Lake Mary

I have finally found a sushi place in Lake Mary, Fla., that I am pretty happy with. I was sad when Fuji closed its Lake Mary location, and have been looking for a replacement. It just so happens that Mikado Japanese Cuisine took over the spot where Fuji used to be.

Mikado offers a huge selection of sushi rolls, hibachi and bento boxes. I have had both hibachi and sushi, and deem them to be "pretty good", or around 4 out of 5 stars. It depends on which rolls you order. Mikado's signature rolls are pricey, but they are more flavorful than many of their standard rolls. Of the signature rolls, the Volcano Roll has been our favorite so far. Nice kick of spice and beautiful presentation. The Drama Queen roll is also very interesting and different, with jalapeno slices adorning the outside. 

You can still get some good standard rolls for half the price, though. My favorite so far is the Voodoo Roll, which has spicy crawfish, tempura flakes and cucumber. I love the spice in this dish. The Spicy Crispy Roll with fried shrimp, avocado and spicy sauce is also delicious.

Mikado has a nice atmosphere, but it is much faster for me to pick up my order to go. Especially on a Friday or Saturday evening. The wait for our meal on one recent Friday night was a half hour! However, if you don't visit in person, you miss some really great happy hour specials. 

Where: 3899 W. Lake Mary Blvd., #117, Lake Mary

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

What to Order at Bahama Breeze

For the most part, I love Bahama Breeze. The restaurant has a wonderful atmosphere and staff, a wide variety of food, and the best Caribbean-style drinks (with late-night happy hour!). However, on our latest trip there, I was reminded of the few things I don't like about it. 

There is usually a long wait. Forget trying to go on the weekends. The parking and wait are horrendous. I thought a Tuesday night would be better, but no, still a 30-minute wait for seating and quite awhile for food. Plus, even though I had a great $10 off coupon, our dinner was still pricey. The quality and atmosphere are great, though, so I am willing to pay that once in awhile.

I do like that Bahama Breeze has added a lot of different small plates and apps, so I can have and share a variety of foods. On this visit, I ordered the Skillet-Simmered Jerk Shrimp appetizer, soaked in a garlic-thyme butter sauce. I love this sauce as well as the heat from the shrimp. Plus, a generous portion of shrimp are provided and - literally - a whole loaf of Cuban bread to dip in the delicious sauce. I also ordered the Truffled Yuca Fries, which were crispy and seasoned very well. I feel like I have had the best Yuca fries off the Twisted Cuban food truck, but these were very good.

Other small plates and entrees that I would recommend include: Seafood Paella, Key West Fish Tacos, Ahi Tuna Stack, and Jumbo Lump Crab Stack. Also, their burgers are very good.
What are your favorite dishes there?

Monday, March 17, 2014

Get Cajun Food & Drinks While They Last

You have heard me rave about Marlow's Tavern before. It is the Winter Park eatery (that has a sister restaurant on International Drive) that not only has great specialty drinks and beer, but also a food menu that goes above and beyond typical bar food.

Take its special Bayou 'n Bourbon menu, which is only available until March 31. Marlow's added some special Cajun dishes to its regular menu that you definitely want to try. Some of the standouts are: "Nawlins-style" po-boy, Bayou Burger, Fiercy Spice Lump Crab Cake, and Roast Chicken and Shrimp Gumbo.

Plus, Marlow's is featuring special New Orleans-style cocktails through the end of the month. One that sounds delicious is the Marlow's Hurricane, borrowed from Pat O'Brien's. The Ramos Gin Fizz, made with Van Gogh dry gin, house-made sour, light cream and orange flower water, also sounds delicous and unique. Don't forget to try Abita Restoration and Abita Amber at Marlow's as well as the Cajun Cosmo, made with Absolut Mango and Peppar, cramberry, triple sec and fresh lime.

If the Crab Beignets appetizer are still on the menu, you must try those. Most everything else - including pastas and seafood dishes - are great. The burgers at Marlow's are good, but not outstanding.

Where: 1008 S. Orlando Ave., Winter Park, Fla.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Wine, Ice Cream & Sandwiches, Oh My!

I am suprised more Central Floridians haven't heard of Eat More Produce in Winter Park. I used to visit the store that features local produce, wine, Boar's Head sandwiches and much more once in awhile. Now, it is part of my weekly grocery shopping trip.

That is, in part, because I have found such great deals on produce from Florida growers and elsewhere. For example, this week I got an overflowing pint of cherry tomatoes for $1.50, and Florida strawberries were 99 cents per pint. While they were pricier, I was happy to see a variety of lettuces and greens from an Apopka farm that were in great condition. Isn't it best to support the local economy?

Many people also know Eat More Produce for their great Boar's Head sandwiches and salads. There was a long line for the sandwiches when I was there the other day. Plus, the store recently hired a chef to develop new menu items such as soups. I can't wait to see what they come up with. You must check out Eat More Produce's granola, which is made locally. It is the best granola I have ever had.

Do you know what makes shopping for groceries more fun? Wine. Yes, Eat More Produce offers wine samples as you shop on Saturdays. I nearly bought a Blue Moon Pinot Noir the other day. Delicious! Plus, this Thursday evening, the store is offering wines by the glass for $3 while you shop. What a deal!

Another great part of shopping at Eat More Produce is that I get to stop by LuLu's Ice Cream Shop next door to grab a pint of their locally-made ice creams and sorbets. Truly, they make the best ice creams and sorbets I have had. Perhaps it is because they use fresh, local ingredients. Must try flavors include Salted Caramel and Strawberry Basil. They are always offering new flavors and specials, and the ice cream is really a great price. 

You can definitely make a fun afternoon out of visiting these two shops all while supporting local businesses and growers.

Where 1111 S. Orlando Ave., Winter Park. Fla.

Monday, March 3, 2014

The Top 6 Reasons to Visit Tibby's

Tibby's New Orleans Kitchen is the best place in Orlando to celebrate Fat Tuesday. I say this not only because of the two restaurants' Happy Hour all day and live music featuring Jeff Howell from 6-10 p.m., but also because Tibby's has the best atmosphere and Creole food to celebrate the start of Mardi Gras.

Many of us have been lucky enough to eat at the Tibby's on Aloma Ave. in Winter Park. But I was delighted to join friends for a fun evening recently at Tibby's new Altamonte Springs location. Here are the top reasons
Photo courtesy Tibby's
I love eating - and drinking - at Tibby's:

1. The atmosphere. You really feel like you are in New Orleans at both restaurants, but I especially love the decor at the Altamonte Springs Tibby's. The owners brought in huge decorations for the walls that were used on floats during Mardi Gras parades. If you are from the city or have visited there, you will recognize many of the banners and decorations at Tibby's.

2. The drinks. Where else can you get Abita Purple Haze on tap, served in an oversized glass goblet? Tibby's has a ton of a beers on tap plus a full liquor bar. And really great Happy Hour specials with great live music.

3. The Shrimp Alligator Cheesecake. If you have never had this appetizer before, run to your nearest Tibby's. My husband says he will go back just to eat as much of this as possible. Three cheeses, shrimp, alligator meat and bread crumbs make this a smooth, delectable, unusual, delicious thing to eat.

Seafood Gumbo. Photo courtesy of Tibby's
4. The Seafood Gumbo. Not as good as I have had in New Orleans, but as close to the real thing as you will get. It is very flavorful, spicy, and delicious. 

5. The Shrimp or Crawfish Etoufee. If you have never had it, etoufee is a tomato-based creamy seafood sauce that goes great over rice, seafood, or chicken. Tibby's version is truly delicous and spiced just right.

6. The beignets. These are different from the ones you get at Cafe DuMonde in New Orleans, but I really like the twist. They are more of a crunchy, fried doughnut with a ton of powdered sugar. The best dessert I have had in quite awhile!

Of course, there are a number of other Creole dishes on the menu that are amazing.  You need to check out Tibby's for yourselves. Why not start your culinary adventure on Fat Tuesday?