Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Top Reasons to Visit Disney Hollywood Studios in December

Disney's Hollywood Studios, Walt Disney World Orlando, Orlando
The two top reasons I wanted to visit Disney Hollywood Studios this month were to see the Osborne Family Spectacle of Lights - sadly, for the final time - and to see the new Star Wars attractions that opened earlier this month.

The lights, as usual, were spectacular. Plus, Disney's Hollywood Studios added new features this year that took the attraction over the top. First, the lights are timed to so many different holiday music themes that you are constantly entertained as you walk through the expansive attraction. We also marveled at the tunnel of LED lights that displayed very unique dancing shapes.

The new Star Wars Launch Bay did not disappoint. First, you watch an interesting 10-minute documentary of the making and importance of the Star Wars movies (albeit a promotional push for Star Wars movies and video games). Next, you get to see cool props from Star Wars: The Force Awakens, and even get your picture taken with them.

Star Wars Launch Bay, Disney Hollywood Studios, Orlando, Walt Disney WorldWe were also thrilled that the Star Tours sim ride included scenes from the new movie and an appearance by BB-8. We didn't check out the other new Star Wars attraction, which is sort of a Jedi training camp for kids.

So, make sure to visit the park before January 3 to see the Osborne Lights - and get to all the new Star Wars happenings before they get too crowded!

Also see:

Inside Scoop on Revamped Star Tours 3D

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Top reasons to visit The Smiling Bison - Sanford

The Smiling Bison's food, drinks, service and atmosphere make me, well, smile. We had a fun, relaxing time on a recent visit to the Orlando eatery's new Sanford location, and would recommend the top notch food to anyone.

The appetizers, or "bar snacks", were inventive and delicious. You must order the Chorizo Scotch Egg. It was unlike any scotch egg I have had, with a light, crispy exterior, paired with a delicious sauce and avocado puree. The Rye "Corn Dog", with rye-battered house-made beer brat, pickles and coriander mustard, is also tops on our list. I could eat the full-flavored brat by itself, but really loved the corn breading as well. 

My favorite entree was the Shrimp & Grits, a different take on the classic dish than I have ever seen. The delicious, local Bradley's stone ground grits were topped with Gulf Shrimp, corn, okra, tomato and tasso ham. The dish featured a nice, light sauce that brought all the flavors together. At first I was concerned about the $17 price tag, but let me tell you, this Shrimp & Grits is definitely worth that. Smiling Bison also serves a "Spaghetti and Meatballs" unlike any I have had. The dish doesn't use a tomato-based sauce; instead it is cheesy, with tomatoes sprinkled throughout. The quality of the house-made noodles and delicious cheesy flavor hooked us. Of course, we loved the bison, pork and ricotta meatballs too.

We are very impressed with the local sourcing at The Smiling Bison, and the fact that all the
meats are cured and prepared in-house. We also loved the atmosphere - which has been significantly modernized and upscaled from the former Italian-style eatery. Since it was an Italian restaurant, The Smiling Bison is utilizing the pizza oven, with several deep dish offerings, and more to come.

We also had wonderful dessert - Banana Cream Puffs with chocolate and rum sauce - and cocktails - including the yummy Gargleblaster - with dinner. Special thanks to co-owner Ron Thomas for his hospitality, and for Sous Chef Jessie for taking great care of us at the chef's table!

See also:

Corner Cafe a Hidden Gem in Sanford

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Orlando's Best Comfort Food

The Coop in Winter Park, Fla., is one of those restaurants that frustrates me. Not because of the quality of food, service or anything like that. Rather, I am irritated with myself for waiting so long to try it! I have now found my new favorite spot in Orlando for reasonably-priced comfort food.

Led by Chef John Rivers, which operates the 4 Rivers Smokehouse chain, The Coop's lineup features Fried Chicken (which you can purchase by the bucket), New Orleans Po-Boy, Chicken Pot Pie, Mom's Meatloaf, Chicken n' Dumplings, Fried Catfish & Grits, and a number of other Southern-inspired apps, sides and salads. The atmosphere is decidedly casual. You order at the counter, and servers pile up your food on a tray. I was worried about our food being cold by the time we got our drinks and sat down, but it wasn't!

First, let me tell you about the yummy Fried Chicken. It came out looking dark, so I was worried about the taste. I shouldn't have been. The breading was tasty and crispy, and the inside was surprisingly moist. We loved the coleslaw and homemade mashed potatoes, but the gravy - we could eat that by the gallon. However, the accompanying biscuit - billed as "the best in Orlando" - was not, in my opinion. I have had better Southern biscuits at many restaurants in North Carolina, Georgia and elsewhere - biscuits that are lighter and not so dense.

The Chicken Pot Pie was our other favorite dish. While the crust was a bit tough, we loved the flavor of both the crust and the filling. It had all the essential ingredients of a perfect pot pie - plus a kick of heat. I am still thinking about it. I would also highly recommend the Organic Roasted Chicken, which is very moist and flavorful. It may simply be seasoned with salt, but that is fine in this case. You must also try the Anson Mills Creamy Grits. We loved both the flavor and the texture.

We also love the value The Coop provides. Nearby Rollins College students could eat here, and it wouldn't break the bank. Most entrees with two sides are priced between $8.99 and $9.99.

If you are looking for other top Winter Park restaurants, see:

Yummy TV Dinner and More at The Porch
Go to Blu for Upscale Food, Great Service
Excellent Food, Wine and Atmosphere at Carmel

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Delicious, Authentic Fare at Greek Village

I love the small, independent restaurants that have been around for years - for a reason. Greek Village in Lake Mary is one of those. It has the trifecta of food done right, a beautiful atmosphere and excellent service. The staff is extremely friendly and was very accommodating when I needed a dish made over because of a food sensitivity.

Our food on both visits was very tasty. The chicken in the Chicken Gyro, marinated in wine and Greek spices, was very tender. The Lamb Gyro was also very flavorful and tender. I love the seasoning on the Greek Fries, and will be likely be back just for those. The Lamb Slouvaki was very tasty but the lamb was tough and chewy.

If you love Greek cuisine like I do, I recommend trying this place out.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Our Best Day in Cocoa Beach

Beach helicopters Merritt Island, Cocoa Beach Florida
To celebrate our anniversary, my husband and I decided to take a helicopter ride and spend a relaxing day in Cocoa Beach, Florida. While I was extremely nervous about flying on a helicopter for the first time, I knew that seeing the beautiful shoreline and ocean from above would make it all worthwhile. 

I was not expecting, however, for the owner and pilot of Beachside Helicopters in Merritt Island to make the flight so comfortable and fun. He explained everything about the helicopter before we took off, and, once we were in the air, acted as our personal tour guide. We saw the Cocoa Beach pier, a hospital that looks like it is floating on the water, cruise ships and the Kennedy Space Center. Plus, the 15-minute flight was affordable at $49 per person. You can take longer flights and see different views at varying rates. I'm glad I overcame my nerves to try a helicopter ride - we can't wait to go back!

Jazzy's Cocoa Beach, Cocoa Beach Florida, helicopter ride, Beachside helicoptersAfter the fantastic helicopter ride, we ate lunch at Jazzy's Mainely Lobster and Seafood in Cocoa Beach. A fellow food blogger recommended this spot, which reminds me of a small outdoor seafood shack. Perhaps we should have ordered the Maine Lobster Roll - one of the dishes the restaurant is known for. Our meal was very tasty, but nothing that made it stand out from other seafood restaurants. We both ordered the special of the day: Grilled Snapper Sandwich. The snapper was cooked perfectly and was delicious.

We spent the rest of the afternoon relaxing on Cocoa Beach. I would highly recommend a similar day for a date, fun with family or friends, or to give as a Christmas gift.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Don't Miss Scrumptious Pumpkin Yogurt

Yes, I know. I am obsessed with anything pumpkin and pumpkin spice this time of year. That's why I was excited when Chobani Greek yogurt offered to send me samples of their limited-time fall flavors:

My favorite was the Pumpkin Spice Greek yogurt with pureed pumpkin, cinnamon and nutmeg. It tastes like pumpkin pie, and not like yogurt at all. So I felt like I was eating a healthy dessert! I also loved Pumpkin Harvest Crisp "Flip" Greek yogurt, which features low-fat yogurt with a side of pie crust pieces, pecans and glazed pumpkin seeds.This also tastes like healthy dessert, and I love having the "crunch" and texture with the yummy yogurt.

Believe it or not, I do not just eat pumpkin-flavored things! So I had to try Chobani's new Cinnamon Pear Greek yogurt, with small bits of pear. Again, it tasted like exactly what the company said. It is very delicious and smooth, without that strong Greek yogurt flavor.

If you wan to enjoy these tasty yogurts too, they are available at most supermarkets. Just don't wait too long!

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Newfound Love for Asian Cuisine at Tabla

Indian food Orlando, Orlando, Orlando restaurants, lamb, lamb chops
There are some Indian dishes that we never knew we liked until the skilled chefs at Tabla
Cuisine made them for us with the highest quality ingredients, including meat, herbs and peppers. The Chinese and Thai dishes at this restaurant are also spot-on.

But, before I address food, I must brag that Tabla displayed the magical trifecta of a quality restaurant: great service, atmosphere and food. The hospitality displayed by management and servers was outstanding, taking care of our every need - including food sensitivities. The atmosphere - the restaurant recently underwent a major renovation - is gorgeous. We loved the modern decor and the artistic china that our delicious food was served on.

Orlando, Orlando restaurant, Asian food, Indian food, Indian restaurant OrlandoHere are the top dishes you should try at Tabla:

1. Tabla Lamb Chops. The flavor and cook was perfect on these juicy, tender chops, which were served over a serving pot with burning charcoals. The presentation was impressive.

2. Lamb Biryani. The succulent Tandoori lamb is mixed in with a deeply-flavored rice, steeped in saffron and other herbs and served with quail egg.

3. Hara Murgh Kabob. Marinated with green chilies, mint and cilantro, I could eat these chicken kabobs every day.

4. Red Curry with Fish. The fish was cooked perfectly and the flavorful red curry sauce was much lighter than other Thai curries I have had. I would have enjoyed this dish a bit spicier. 

Indian food, Asian food, Orlando, Orlando restaurants
Sugar-free Kheer
5. Chocolate Samosa with Masala Chai Latte Ice Cream. We wanted to lick the plate.

6. Pineapple Kheer. A sugar-free rice pudding with cardamom and pineapple. This was such a nice, refreshing treat to end our meal.

7. Mango Lassi. The mango yogurt drink was well-balanced, light and refreshing.

8. Naan and Garlic Cilantro Naan. The breads were toasted to perfection and had a wonderful flavor.

We loved our experience at Tabla, and cannot wait for our next meal there. The best part was this classy introduction to certain Indian dishes which we now love.

Where: 5827 Caravan Ct., Orlando.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Food and Service Fit for Royalty at Spencer's

Hilton Orlando, Orlando restaurants, scallops, ham, seafood, Orlando, Shad BookoutWe often forget that some of the finest restaurants in Orlando are located in hotels and resorts. My husband and I were looking for a special place to celebrate our anniversary, and we chose Spencer's for Steaks and Chops in the Hilton Orlando, right off of I-4 near the Orange County Convention Center. We would highly recommend this upscale eatery for your next special night out.

Spencer's Orlando, Hilton Orlando, Orlando, Orlando restaurants, Hilton, Shad Bookout, steak, dry-aged steakThe atmosphere in Spencer's is beautiful and modern. The food is truly outstanding, and so was our service. We were treated like royalty by our server, Scott, and the rest of the staff. Chef Kevin Spencer even made us a special amuse-bouche of Elk with raspberry, which was decadent and flavorful. The Chef also brought out a special Wahoo tasting plate with probably the best, creamiest polenta I have tried. The andouille sausage and pan gravy also corresponded nicely with the very tasty fish.

The apps we ordered were so unique. The Roasted Bacon with hot honey, boiled peanuts and herb salad was so flavorful. We loved the sweet and spicy combination, and would definitely order this again. The Country Ham Wrapped Scallops, served with gorgeous edible flowers, was also delicious. The scallops were cooked perfectly and the ham is a wonderful complement. There was just a bit too much ham, which slightly overpowered the delicate scallops.

Orlando restaurants, Orlando, seafood, wahoo, polenta, Shad BookoutWe could not possibly find anything wrong with our entrees: New York strip steak, aged 21 days, and Swordfish with Creamed Field Pea and Heirloom Hominy Ragout. The steak was so flavorful and tender, you could practically cut it with a fork. We suggest pairing it with the delicious, buttery mashed potatoes. The swordfish - also beautifully presented with edible flowers - was seared perfectly and tasted delicious. 

We ended this delightful meal with a very tasty chocolate cake, paired with passion fruit puree.

The only complaint I have - and Spencer's is not alone in this - is restaurants that overcharge for certain dishes. Certainly, the dry-aged steaks are wroth their price. But I don't believe Sweet Corn Bisque should be $12 nor should Hand-Cut Spencer's Fries - which I didn't really enjoy - be priced at $14. The side of Mac & Cheese was $11! Perhaps the sides are meant to be shared and, in that case, the price would be understandable but still on the high end.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Yummy TV Dinners & More at The Porch

The Porch restaurant, tv dinner, fried chicken, chicken fingersThe great prices. The excellent food. The casual sports bar atmosphere. All these qualities make me mad that I didn't find out about the excellent The Porch restaurant in Winter Park until recently. A friend recommended it, and we have dined there twice.

Almost all the food we had was very high quality, and huge portions for the price. This, of course, is surprising for Winter Park. Similar to many Lake Mary eateries, I find that Winter Park restaurants typically jack up their prices, knowing that they have clientele who will pay. While The Porch positions itself as a sports bar, it has food that is more delicious than any sports bar I have been to in Central Florida.

Sweet Potato tots, tater tots, french fries, Winter Park Fla.We have tried quite a few different dishes at The Porch, and I would recommend them all. But here are Top 5 favorites:

1. The Porch TV Dinner ($9.99), which includes chicken fingers, mashed potatoes and gravy, mac 'n cheese and corn on the cob. While we weren't blown away by the sides, we love the chicken fingers. The crispy breading has a wonderful cayenne flavor, and the chicken is tender. You get a huge amount of food, and we love how many dishes are presented on metal TV trays - comfort food like mom used to make.

2. Sweet Potato Tots ($3.50). These are the best thing I have had in quite awhile. I love sweet potato fries, but these go beyond. Trust me; order them.

Winter Park sports bar, sports bar, Orlando
3. Rise 'n Shine sandwich. I can't find it on the menu now, but judging by this sandwich, you should order any of the restaurant's sandwiches or burgers. This included fried chicken, egg and bacon. It was very huge and very juicy, and we loved it.

4. Giant Cobb Salad ($10.99). I had no idea that "giant" meant my salad would be served in a 70s-style wooden salad serving bowl that is enough to feed a family of four. In addition to the huge portion, all the ingredients were fresh and delicious. I highly recommend this salad.

5. Fish Tacos ($11.99). Three blackened fish tacos with lots of yummy stuff. I realize this is a simple dish, but they do it better than other restaurants. All the ingredients are fresh and the tortillas are grilled.

Where: 643 N. Orange Ave., Winter Park, Fla.

Go to Blu for Upscale Food, Great Service

Excellent Food, Wine and Atmosphere at Carmel Winter Park

Stellar Food, Drinks and Atmosphere Await at Marlow's Winter Park

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Top 10 Favorites at 2015 Epcot Food and Wine

Epcot Food and Wine Festival, truffle, chocolate, Epcot, Food and WineWell, we ate nearly all the way around the world at this year's Epcot Food and Wine Festival! As always, the outstanding chefs at Walt Disney World and Epcot got it right. Nearly every dish we had was creative, perfectly seasoned and executed and gave us the opportunity to try another country's cuisine. For example, my husband discovered that he may like African food, based on the very spicy and flavorful Buttered Chicken with Micro Cilantro and Naan Bread. 

We tried so many dishes - and a few drinks and desserts too - and narrowed them down to our Top 10 Favorites, to save you time and money. 
Ireland, fishermen's pie, Epcot Food and Wine Festival, Food and Wine

1. Lobster and Seafood Fishermen's Pie at the Ireland pavilion. This was my personal favorite meal of the Festival. The lobster, tiny scallops and shrimp were not overcooked, and we loved the flavor of the sauce. The only complaint: the mashed potatoes were so smooth, I wondered if they were fake. This was also the most filling dish I had, compared to other dishes that seem so skimpy.

2. Liquid Nitro Almond Truffle at the new Chew Lab pavilion. While the outside of this scrumptious dessert is "frozen" with liquid nitrogen, the inside is the most delicious dark chocolate mousse I have had. The crispy, crunchy almond sprinkles on top pair perfectly with the mousse. Don't waste your time on other desserts; get this one.

3. Croissant with Escargot in France. I love that the France pavilion switched it up this year from the traditional escargot to baking the snails in a croissant. The croissant was delicious, but the herb garlic butter inside and on top of the croissant made this dish.

croissant, escargot, Epcot Food and Wine Festival, Flavorful Excursions4. Loaded Mac 'n Cheese with Pepper Bacon. While we were too full to try this dish, I have heard so many good things from others that I can safely recommend this! Some even say it is the best mac 'n cheese they have had. 

5. Buttered Chicken with Micro Cilantro and Naan Bread in Africa. Let me tell you, this one was a surprise for us. The sauce was so spicy and flavorful, and the buttered, lightly toasted bread was a perfect accompaniment.

6. Tequila flight - in Mexico of course! Tequila is not my thing, but the people I was with loved the dark gold tequila, saying it tasted better than Patron!

Epcot Food and Wine Festival, food and wine festival, epcot, walt disney world
7.  "Le Cellier" Wild Mushroom Filet Mignon with Truffle Butter Sauce in Canada. The beef was cooked perfectly and this dish was very flavorful.

8. Lamb Meatball with Spicy Tomato Chutney in New Zealand. The spicy tomato chutney was a nice surprise, and paired perfectly with the lamb.

9. Roasted Verlasso Salmon with Quinoa Salad and Arugula Chimichurri in Patagonia. The salmon was cooked perfectly, and we liked the light salad and flavorful chimichurri.

10. Crispy Pork Belly with Black Beans and Tomato at the Brazil pavilion. We featured this one last because ours was slightly overcooked. Still, it was very flavorful and delicious.

Also see:

Top 8 New Dishes at Epcot Food and Wine

The Best Dishes at Epcot Food and Wine Festival

Thursday, October 8, 2015

A tale of two Lake Mary French bakeries

croissant, French pastries, danishes, baked goods, chocolate, fruit tart
Friends have raved about the authentic French pastries at Croissant Gourmet in Winter Park for quite awhile, so I was excited to finally get to try them at the opening of the new Croissant Gourmet in Lake Mary this week. I was certainly not disappointed. I was like a kid in a candy - er, bakery - store when I saw all the delectable offerings: danishes, huge fluffy croissants, chocolate eclairs, fruit tarts, pumpkin tarts and a myriad of other pastries. I chose to sample a croissant, a coconut macaron and fruit tarts.

I will let you know how those tasted soon, but first I need to compare Croissant Gourmet Lake Mary with Chez Jacqueline. I just can't help but compare. The two are virtually across the street from each other, which bothers me. I hate to see Chez Jacqueline, which has been at that location for around five years, lose business. Croissant Gourmet could also lose customers who prefer Chez Jaqueline's treats, and have been loyal for years. 

However, I bet people who loved French baked goods will love both shops. There are some similarities between the two, but they both offer many different items than the other. Croissant Gourmet has bigger croissants - the one I had filled a small plate! - than Chez Jacqueline, but they also cost 50 cents more at $3 each. I actually really enjoy both shops' croissants, but I have to give Chez Jacqueline a slight edge because the croissant is so moist inside and fresh/ flaky on the outside. After it is warmed in the oven, it is a perfect treat.

We also tried Croissant Gourmet's vanilla and lemon tarts, items that Chez Jaqueline does not carry. We loved the sweet crust and the delicious filling, along with the fresh fruit. These are also pricey - large tarts are $4.50 each - so I opted for the smaller ones. The coconut macaron is absolutely delicious, but unfortunately, I have tried Chez Jacqueline's coconut macarons fresh from the oven and they are the best I have had. Crispy on the outside, and moist/ chewy on the inside - unlike any coconut macaron I have tried. They are also more affordable than Croissant Gourmet's. 

Chez Jacqueline also has a variety of macarons, such as raspberry, lemon and pistachio (our favorite!), while Croissant Gourmet does not. Chez Jacqueline features cheesecake, chocolate cake and other refrigerated desserts, along with different French pastriest, such as King Cake and Apple Croissants. Meanwhile, Croissant Gourmet has a variety of danishes, fruit tarts and other pastries that are different than Chez Jacqueline. Both offer a variety of crepes. Chez Jaqueline offers more quiches, and they are truly delicious.

I think the best thing that Croissant Gourmet has going for it - which will differentiate it from Chez Jaqueline and other competitors in the area - is its ability to offer breakfast and lunch. It has a full breakfast menu that includes Breakfast Croissant Omelette, French Toast, Quiche and Croque Monsieur. There is no place that offers breakfast near City Hall/ Central Park, so I think this will be a huge draw - especially for the Farmer's Market on Saturday mornings. Croissant Gourmet also features many different sandwiches and salads for lunch. 

I can't wait to try more items on the menu at Croissant Gourmet. 


Croissant Gourmet - 124 N. 4th. St., Lake Mary
Chez Jacqueline - 101 N. Country Club, Ste. 126

Also see our review on Chez Jaqueline:

Where to find real French pastries in Orlando

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Easy Sugar-Free Pumpkin Pie Tarts

sugar-free dairy-free pumpkin pie
Everyone knows I love pumpkin pie - and anything pumpkin-flavored, especially at this time of year. However, I recently found out I have an allergy to cane sugar and a sensitivity to dairy, so I had to find an alternative to the traditional pumpkin pie recipes that often include sweetened condensed milk and sugar. 

Luckily, I found this great recipe for Pumpkin-Coconut Pie from the Food Network Kitchen. I simply made a few adaptations. Instead of coconut milk, I used the Coconut Cream from Trader Joe's, which is a bit thicker so I used slightly less than the recipe called for. And I replaced the sugar with Sweetleaf powdered stevia. Just sprinkle in the mix to taste. I also bought a pre-made, sugar-free Pillsbury crust to cut down on preparation time.

Dairy-free, sugar-free, sugar-free pumpkin pie, coconut whipped creamI was so excited that these sugar-free, dairy-free tarts turned out so moist and flavorful. There was not a strong flavor as coconut, as you might expect; it simply tasted like really good pumpkin pie. I topped the tarts with whipped coconut cream, again sweetened with Sweetleaf, and then dusted the top with cinnamon. I know that diabetics and many others need to watch their sugar intake. I hope this recipe allows you to have a delicious and healthy dessert!

Friday, October 2, 2015

Why You Should try Burger King's Spooky Halloween Whopper

by Guest Blogger Sarah Hawthorne

For something that's been reinvented so many times, it never ceases to amaze me how innovative one can get with a hamburger. Using A1 on a burger is nothing new, but Burger King found a winner by baking the A1 INTO their bun with their new Halloween Whopper.  

Burger King, whopper, burgers, McDonald's, Red Robin
While the black bun may seem offsetting at first, you can clearly taste the A1 flavor infused throughout. If you are already fan of Burger King, this limited-time menu item is worth the extra $1.50 or so over a traditional Whopper combo. As an added tip, be sure to check your teeth in the bathroom mirror before leaving the restaurant because the remnants of the black bun will leave your grill looking a little "spooky".

Have you tried the Halloween Whopper? If so, let us know your thoughts in the comments section below.

Also see:

Why We Love Red Robin's Fruffles

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Top 8 New Dishes at Epcot Food and Wine

Epcot International Food and Wine Fest, Epcot, Walt Disney World
Loaded Macaroni and Cheese
Every year, there are a ton of new events that are offered as part of the Epcot International Food and Wine Festival. However, I don't want to pay for those pricey events with celebrity chefs. I just want to try the new food dishes at all the different countries around Epcot. 

This year, the Festival features 30 new dishes. Here are the ones I am most excited about trying:

1. Loaded Macaroni and Cheese with Nueske's Pepper Bacon at the new Farm Fresh Pavilion. Of course, bacon pairs perfectly with mac 'n cheese!

2. Seared Venison Loin with Wild Mushroom Marsala Sauce in the New Zealand pavilion. I pretty much always love what New Zealand has to offer!

Epcot Food and Wine Festival, Epcot, Walt Disney World
Grouper with Coconut Sauce
3. Pesado con Coco - Seared Grouper with Pigeon Peas, Rice and Coconut Sauce in the Dominican Republic pavilion. I love grouper...and coconut! This pavilion also has a new Yucca Souffle with Griddled Cheese!

4. Liquid Nitrogen Chocolate-Almond Truffle with Warm Whiskey Caramel at the new Chew Lab pavilion. It will be my second dessert made with liquid nitrogen! Plus, it contains most of my favorite dessert flavors combined into one scrumptious mouthful.

5. Croissant Aux Escargots: Escargot Croissant with Garlic and Parsley in the France pavilion. I always get the escargot dish here. I am curious to see what a combination of escargot and croissant taste like - I am sure it is delicious!

6. Pork Spareribs with red wine, fennel and cheesy mascarpone grits in the new Sustainable Chew pavilion.

7. Layered Meat Pie with Mashed Yucca in Brazil. I have never tried this, but it sounds delicious.

8. Miso Udon with steamed shrimp, vegetables and noodles in a spicy broth in the Japan pavilion.

I also want to try the new liquid nitrogen cocktail - Smoking Hibiscus. I will visit the Food and Wine Festival soon, and let you know the best - and worst dishes - we ate. Watch for more details. 

*Sign up to receive emails on new Flavorful Excursions' posts, so you don't miss our review!

Related posts:

What's new at Epcot Food and Wine Fest


The Best Dishes at Epcot Food and Wine Fest


Thursday, September 24, 2015

What it's Like to Dine at Commander's Palace

New Orleans restaurant, New Orleans, seafood
It has been a dream of mine to dine at Commander’s Palace in New Orleans – a historicrestaurant that dates back to 1893 – for many years. The only other one that I HAVE to visit sometime in my lifetime is Le Bernardin in New York.

More famous chefs – including Emeril Lagasse and Paul Prudhomme– have come out of Commander’s Palace than any other U.S. restaurant. So I was basically like a giddy schoolgirl when I arrived, and insisted that my husband take my photo outside the restaurant. When you walk in the building, you also sense the history of dining at such a fine establishment.

Plus, the service is outstanding. Three different servers are working with your table at any one time. Our appetizers were delicious. We would suggest the Butcher Plate with foie gras, hog’s head cheese and Muscadine honey chutney,  as well as the Shrimp and Tasso Henican with 5 Pepper Jelly and Tobasco Buerre Blanc. The ham and lightly breaded shrimp are a perfect combination for this tasty and different appetizer.

Commander's Palace New Orleans restaurant
The star of our two entrees was the Chicory Coffee Lacquered Quail, which is stuffed with boudin. We loved the perfectly-cooked quail and the deep flavors of the sauce. The boudin is overpowering if you eat it alone, but pairs well with the quail. The Yellowfin Tuna, served with yellow tomato coulis, was also delicious. I would have liked a touch more salt to draw out the flavor of the beautiful fish. My favorite part of this dish was the Pistachio Pesto Popcorn Rice, which sported a nice kick of heat and a strong fresh basil flavor that I would not have previously thought would be so delicious paired with rice.

I have heard Commander’s Palace desserts – including the Bread Pudding with whiskey anglaise – are to die for, but we simply had no room left after our outstanding meal. If you haven’t dined at Commander’s Palace, you must visit to try their one-of-kind, upscale take on Southern cuisine.

Friday, September 18, 2015

Outstanding Food and Service at Brennan's

It is difficult to describe how exciting it was to visit such an iconic New Orleans restaurant as Brennan's. The restaurant opened in 1946 and was a successful upscale restaurant until 2013, when Brennan family conflicts over ownership resulted in the French Quarter landmark closing. However, restaurateur Ralph Brennan purchased the restaurant and it underwent a $11 million renovation, re-opening in 2014.

The eatery has certainly been restored to its former glory - and then some. Brennan's will soon open a wine room to complement its 300-plus dining room seating and dining rooms for private parties.

Now to the important part: the delectable food and experience we had at Brennan's. First, the servers, dining room captain and management make you feel like royalty, and take care of your every need. This is definitely the place to go if you want to feel special. 

The food, of course, was outstanding. We started with the Turtle Soup, which sported deep layers of flavor. Its kick of spice really made the dish. The appetizers you should try at Brennan's include the Blue Crab Remolaude and Veal Sweetbreads. The slightly sweet
sauce was a wonderful complement to the tender sweetbreads. They were one of the best - and most light sweetbreads - we have ever had. The New Orleans BBQ Lobster was also delicious - we have never tried a BBQ sauce like that - but the lobster was slightly overcooked and I would have loved more fresh thyme.

For entrees, the Smoked Pepper Seared Tuna was outstanding. We loved the barbecue/ smoky flavor to the tuna, which was the best tuna we tasted while in town. The black-eyed peas served with the dish had a wonderful smoky flavor as well. The Sauteed Flounder with Israeli cous cous was also perfectly prepared and the cous cous was delicious.

Now to dessert. Brennan's is the birthplace of Bananas Foster. Literally. Our server explained the history of the dish as he was preparing it table-side. I may have zoned out, as I was too busy drooling over the bananas being carefully heated in a sea of melted butter, brown sugar and banana liqueur to pay attention. Served with vanilla ice cream, this is the most outstanding dessert we have had in quite awhile.

Where: 417 Royal St., New Orleans. 

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

GW Fins Features One-of-a-Kind Seafood

halibut, scallops, seafood, New Orleans restaurant, New Orleans
GW Fins' signature "Scalibut"
I HAD to dine at GW Fins in New Orleans. I am a lover of fresh seafood, and knew that the executive chef and owners at GW Fins work directly with fishermen to bring in fresh Gulf seafood daily. The menu, printed daily, features 10 to 15 different fresh seafood items. Plus, my friend told me about their Sizzling Oyster Appetizer, truly a unique dish that combines cold-smoked raw oysters on oyster shells heated to 400 degrees and topped with rock salt. 

The appetizers we tried were equally as unique and delicious. The Yellowfin Tuna Tartare, which was served with avocado, wasabi and mango, was so delicate. It truly honored the taste and texture of the tuna, without adding strong sauces to mask the flavor. The avocado-wasabi mixture complemented the tuna perfectly. We also highly recommend the Lobster Dumplings, topped with fennel and served atop a lobster butter. The lightness of the dumplings was surprising and we loved their mild flavor.
New Orleans seafood restaurant, New Orleans, fish, seafood
Wasabi Crusted Wahoo

The Firecracker Tuna Tacos with pickled ginger slaw and avocado aioli were very unique, and made for the perfect bite. The fresh fish, mixed with the spicy heat, was a nice surprise, and the aoili was a delicious addition. The Crispy Pork Belly with compressed watermelon and ginger slaw was lighter than expected and the subtle sweetness of the pork belly glaze made it truly unique in a world that loves pork belly.

We were even more impressed with our entrees. We had to try the house specialty, the "Scalibut". This one-of-a-kind dish features seared, thinly-sliced scallops, arranged like fish scales, atop a perfectly-cooked, moist halibut. The delicate Pea Shoot Butter is a perfect companion to the fish - and the snow peas. We would highly recommend this dish. 

The Wasabi Crusted Wahoo, seared rare and served with pickled ginger slaw, sticky rice, bok choy and sweet soy butter was a revelation. First, we have never tried wahoo rare, and now we must have it this way all the time. The ginger slaw sounds simple, but it was complex. It tasted like high-end fried rice and was the perfect companion to the wahoo. We could have licked the plate.

The dining experience was second-to-none. The professionally-trained servers are very friendly and take care of your every need. The only caveat: this restaurant is in high demand, even during the week. Open only for dinner, you must make your reservation days or weeks in advance.

Where: 808 Bienvelle St., New Orleans. 504-581-3467.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Go to Crepevine for Yummy Brunch or Dinner

By Guest Bloggers Shelby Lynn Gurley and Sarah Hawthorne
The Crepevine in Altamonte Springs, Fla., is a place where you feel welcome right when you walk in with a friendly staff, a clean look to the restaurant and 90's music playing overhead. And the restaurant stays true to its tagline: fast, fresh, friendly. The Crepevine is open from breakfast to dinner, so we tried them for dinner.
In a sub-style ordering process, you can pick from one of the crepes suggested on the menu behind the counter or design your own. Every crepe is made fresh to order right in front of you. 

If you like Caesar salad, the Czar Crepe is the way to go. The ingredients are fresh, the chicken is amazing, and it's ooey gooey yummy with cheese. The Shoeless crepe is a mouthwatering assortment of roast beef, ham, bacon, cheese, romaine lettuce, tomatoes, and ranch. They certainly don't skimp on the meat in this crepe. 

If you still have room for dessert, we recommend the Gilberto. This sinfully delicious, sweet crepe features fresh strawberries, bananas, whipped cream, nutella, and chocolate syrup. You can order it with your savory crepes and they will wait until you are ready for dessert to make it, so it's hot and fresh. It's the perfect dish to share between four people, but they won't judge if you order one just for yourself.

The restaurant focuses mainly on crepes, but they also make excellent fresh salads and have a few other offerings such as Hummus & Carrot Dip, yogurt parfait, and even mimosas. 

Crepevine just makes you all warm and cozy inside, from their bright smiles to the fancy but heartwarming food. It's the perfect place to end a long day - surrounded by friendly people.

Related post: Top 3 Brunches in Orlando...So Far

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Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Unique Brunch Fare at Another Broken Egg

As you all know, I could eat breakfast foods for breakfast, lunch and dinner. That is one of the reasons I was happy that Lake Mary has another brunch restaurant that we can enjoy during the week. Peach Valley Cafe has some good dishes, but service is very slow. I am hoping for a different experience at the new Another Broken Egg at 920 International Parkway.

My first visit was a preview - the restaurant was not officially open yet - so there were still some service and food kinks to work out. But I love that the dishes we tried were unique to other breakfast/ brunch chains and most were very tasty. I also love the atmosphere of this location - the orange and brown tones are very welcoming and the decor is modern. Everyone - from the manager greeting us at the front door to the servers - were very friendly.

We started with the City Grits, creamy grits with roasted garlic, onions and smoked Gouda, topped with bacon, tomatoes and green onions. This was a different take on grits than we had before, and was very good. Stan's Mardi Gras omelette was also different than anywhere else. It includes yummy andouille sausage, crawfish and shrimp and is topped with a tomato Hollandaise sauce. The omelette itself was yummy - and huge - but I didn't really like the sauce or think it was necessary. I would suggest asking for it on the side, and then just add a bit for flavor. Our pancakes were tasty but a little dense, which may be the restaurant just working out the kinks before opening.

All-in-all, I would definitely recommend breakfast or lunch at Another Broken Egg!

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Blu on the Avenue Adds Sushi Happy Hour

You have already heard us rave about Blu on the Avenue's scrumptious food and Happy Hour specials in this previous post. So you will understand why we are excited to hear that the restaurant has started a Sushi Happy Hour! $6 sushi rolls and $3 sake shots are available from 4 p.m. -7 p.m. weekdays, 11 a.m.-4 p.m. on weekends and from 11 p.m. -1 a.m. Thursday through Saturday. I love that the special is available on weekends, when people are out brunching.

Last time we visited, we got a dozen huge, fresh raw oysters for $10, because we went during the 11 am - 4 pm Happy Hour on a Saturday.The drink specials were also great: $5 Old Fashioneds (throwback cocktails are so en vogue), white sangria, and select wines, along with $4 Stella draughts and $4 well drinks. My husband opted for the Old Fashioned, and was so impressed that the restaurant used top-shelf liquor for his drink. 

Read our full review of Blu on the Avenue's food and drinks

And watch for next week's review of another great Winter Park restaurant and bar, The Porch!