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! 

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Where to Find Bacon-y Goodness in Orlando

Happy National Bacon Lovers Day! I could eat bacon for breakfast, lunch and dinner. But I believe the best bacon has to start with a high-quality product, such as Boar's Head, and then be cooked to its crispiest. It must be crunchy; not limp. Above all, it must not be greasy.

I have eaten many breakfasts and brunches out, and the best bacon I have had recently was at Artisan's Table in downtown Orlando. The crispy, flavorful bacon was crumbled - in a healthy serving - on top of Breakfast in Bread, a puff pastry tart with medium cooked egg, parmesan cheese and queso blanco. The Breakfast Potatoes on the side were perfectly seasoned and fried to the right amount of crispness, and I loved the garnish of scallions.

Read more about Artisan's Table and other top brunch spots: The Top 3 Brunches in Orlando...So Far


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Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Best Fries: Shake Shack or In-N-Out?

Shake Shack burgers Fries shakes
There is an ongoing argument: who has the better fries - Shake Shack or In-N-Out Burger? I've never had the pleasure of visiting In-N-Out, but Shake Shack in Winter Park has one of my favorite French fries in Orlando. The crinkle-cut fries are fried nice and crispy. There is not a lot of unique or spicy flavor, but that is fine. Just yummy, crispy fries.

Unfortunately, we did not get a chance to try a hamburger on this visit, but my friends rave about all of the restaurant's burgers. We did have the chocolate malt, which was a bit chalky, but the flavor was great. Shake Shack has several other old-fashioned shakes and floats to choose from.

Jillycakes Trader Joe's
One of my favorite things about visiting Shake Shack, though, is the environment. It is so nice to sit out in back of the restaurant, especially at sunset. Next to a lake, the entire area has been landscaped beautifully, so individuals and families can relax and hang out. I love going to Jillycakes after for dessert and to Trader Joe's for our new obsessions: Speculoos Cookie Butter and dehydrated strawberries, among other things.

Who do you think has the best French fries in Orlando?

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Top 3 Things We Love at F&D Kitchen and Bar

Finally. A restaurant that we believe has long-term staying power has set up shop in a location in Lake Mary/ Heathrow that was doomed for many other restaurant concepts, including most recently Chavo's. We had a wonderful experience at F&D Kitchen and Bar at 1541 International Parkway (near Applebee's and Moe's) and believe the restaurant will continue to be successful for these reasons:

1. The atmosphere. Whoever designed the interior knew the right mix of brick, dark woods, dark leather upholstery and modern lighting that would make guests feel like they are enjoying cocktails with friends in a modern gastropub. The bar seating is expansive, with both bar stools, tables and couches, which makes me feel like I could hang out here for awhile, especially during happy hour, which runs from 3:00-6:30 p.m. Monday through Friday. Restaurant seating is also expansive, with room for big parties. The place was packed on a recent Saturday night.

2. The food. Executive Chef Pete Morales developed a Southern-inspired menu that utilizes local produce, meat and seafood whenever possible. The restaurant cures its own meats in-house, including bacon. The level of care that goes into food preparation here is undeniable. The decadent Pork Belly app is brined for several hours, until it is simply falling apart and melts in your mouth. It is paired with a smoked bean puree (mimicking pork-and-beans), spicy honey, salted almonds and pickled red onion and peppers. Eaten as a composed bite, the flavors pair very well together. We would highly recommend this dish, but just know that it is a small portion for $13. The Grouper Tacos - a special that night - were also tasty with a very flavorful grilled corn tortilla and fish that was cooked perfectly. The Double Standard
burger ($14) was also delicious, but we probably should have ordered it with a fried egg to make it more unique than other gastropub burgers. 

3. The drinks. Craft cocktails are delicious here. We preferred the Sazerac, with rye, bitters and a twist over the Lavender Blue, which contained vodka, blueberry, and lavender. We couldn't taste the lavender in this drink. However, F&D is known more for its local craft beers and wine selection, so we will try those on our next visit.

The menu had a great a great variety, and there were so many other entrees and desserts that we would like to try, including: Southern Fried Green Tomatoes, Spicy Rock Shrimp Mac 'n Cheese, Strawberry Corncake and Bag of Donuts. We only wish the restaurant was open for lunch and brunch. However, it has only been open for around two months, so we are sure hours will be expanding soon.

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Top 3 Brunches in Orlando...So Far

In my quest for the best brunch offerings in Orlando, I have been fortunate to enjoy three delicious brunches recently. These are the top three I have tried, but there are so many more restaurants that I have been told have great brunch, including Soco Thorton Park, Hash Hash a Go Go, Briar Patch Winter Park and White Wolf Cafe. I hope to try them soon. Let me know your favorite brunch spot in the comments section below. Meanwhile, try not to drool over the scrumptious dishes that made it into Flavorful Excursions' Top Brunches list:

1. Two Chefs Seafood & Oyster Bar: Although Two Chefs began serving brunch only a few short weeks ago, the chef/owners got the menu and execution right from the beginning. $8 unlimited mimosas and a massive Blood Mary Bar are enough to draw diners in. Then, they will be delighted to find an extensive menu that features sweet and savory items, and both breakfast and lunch fare. We recommend the Rosemary Parmesan Waffle with Fried Chicken, the Duck Confit Hash with Fried Egg & Truffle Oil, the Cinnamon Roll and the Banana Bourbon Bread Pudding.

2. Artisan's Table: Like Two Chefs, the brunch menu at this beautiful, buzzing downtown eatery has everything you would want in a brunch: inventive plates that are both sweet and savory, and a wide array of breakfast and lunch items. I knew I was in for a treat when brunch started with a friendly server and classy tea presentation. The dish I had was heavenly, and I would highly recommend it: Breakfast in Bread, a puff pastry tart with medium cooked egg, crispy crumbled bacon, parmesan cheese and queso blanco. The Breakfast Potatoes on the side were perfectly seasoned and fried to the right amount of crispness, and I loved the garnish of scallions. Bonus points: General Manager Monica McCown was very accommodating with my food allergy substitutions. 

3. Dexter's: The restaurant chain has been offering great brunch for years. But I re-visited the Dexter's Lake Mary recently for brunch and was reminded that the local restaurant chain offers a unique take on traditional brunch dishes - and executes them well. My favorite brunch dish there is the Dexter's Benedict. I really like the addition of smoked turkey, along with tomatoes and spinach, as well as the flavorful hollandaise sauce. We also really liked the Country Style Chicken & Biscuits, Waffles and Blackened Mahi & Grits. The mimosas come in so many different flavors - including mango and yummy peach - and are inexpensive at $2.96 each or $12 for unlimited.