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